Thursday, November 30, 2006

Advent B

I am really liking my pre-Advent Advent. I have a bright and shiny new journal (the kind you write in with a pen LOL!) and I have a candle on my desk and it's dark when I get up in the morning, so I have a lovely space and time before the day takes over.

And the
Ephesians readings this week are perfect. Never in a million years would I have chosen Ephesians for the week before Advent, but I am completely absorbed by the wideness and wildness of their call. We squabble with such smallness in the church ~ when we are urged to a faith of such abundance.

There's some good online stuff available for Advent, most of which I have found via the
Presby bloggers site . I already love the Creighton Praying Advent site (Jesuits, of course) and I'm looking forward to reliving Iona via the Celtic and Nature Advent Calendar, which apparently won't open until Sunday ~ some folks just can't get into the pre-Advent Advent spirit. And today I bought a King's College Choir Lessons and Carols CD, which I guess is more Christmas than Advent, but I'm obviously working on avoiding rigidity.

The end of my teaching day was focused on the First Crusade ~ but in my interior world the focus was on the abundance reflected by the lights of Chanukah and Christmas, rather than the violence that persists in their wake. Wisdom and revelation.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Advent A

I decided to start Advent today.

I am really grateful for Advent this year. I need a long period of introspection and time to pull myself inward and together. I need to find a way to be quiet and at peace during this season when the malls jump up and down and beckon, when I am surrounded at work by Chanukah, and when my dining room wall lies bare to the studs. You would think that I would be well practiced in those activities, after a year's Ignatian Retreat and months of writing my way toward seminary. But for the past four months I have had to share so much of whom I am in ways that have pulled me in so many directions, always knowing that the resolution still lies months in the future, that I feel quite at odds with myself.

So I decided that I could not wait until Sunday for Advent to start.

One of today's lectionary readings is
Ephesians 1:3-14. The mysticism of Paul has somewhat recently been brought to my attention, and here it is. To us through Christ, outside space and time. A good place to start Advent, even though it isn't Advent yet. A place for internalizing Presence and coming to terms with fragments of plaster. A place from which to look out and beyond as a way of moving inward.

A place from which to launch preparations.

Gratitude (Round Robin Photos)

Today's Round Robin Photo Challenge asks us to “Show us what you are thankful for. Show us what made this year special. Family, an inspirational person, a place you got to visit, a new family addition. Show us what made you thankful this year.”

I have a lot of possibilities for such a list, but this morning I'm limiting myself to Chartres Cathedral. As far as I'm concerned, a cathedral has everything ~ God, us, faith, history, prayer, war, music, light, darkness, joy, despair, clarity, chaos, solidity, spirit ~ and Chartres is the best one of all. I still can hardly believe that I had the good fortune to spend two days there in July, wandering around the village, along the river, and in and out of the cathedral, trying to soak up every image of stone and glass and light and color that I could possibly absorb. Some of the links to my visit still work, I think, but here is a repeat of a few of the images.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lions and Tigers and Bears

I'm not sure I will ever again be capable of stringing more than two words into any sequential sense. I am that tired.

Our Chicago accomodations were rather, um, spartan, given the cost. We had to wait half an hour on the dinner reservations so carefully made and confirmed. Our Ohio State Son succumbed to the effects of the previous week-end's partying and slept for two days. I stayed behind in Chicago Son's apartment Saturday night where the word "spartan" hardly does justice to what I encountered. As far as I can recall, we did send all of our children off to college with a full complement of towels, bedding, and other life basics, of which one graying towel seems to be all that remains.

On the plus side, we met Chicago Son's charming girlfriend and on Friday we went to the Shedd Aquarium and on Saturday Chicago Son and I made the seven-or-or-so mile walk from Hyde Park to downtown (something I have wanted to do since my first look at that path along Lake Michigan on my first trip to Hyde Park a few years ago) and on Sunday we found a fabulous Italian restuarant for dinner.

I spent Monday visiting Windy City Seminary, and came home somewhat overwhelmed by the combined sense of what a spectacular privilege it would be to spend three years immersed in life at either of the two seminaries I have visited and what a daunting task it would be to reorganize my existence to embrace that new life.

My mixed feelings of elation and apprehension merged into complete exhaustion on the flight home. I can't claim to have been revived by the discovery that, with exactly four weeks to go before Christmas and absolutely nothing done in preparation and nary a vacation day ahead of me and a house in desperate need of a thorough top-to-bottom scrub with a Brillo pad, my husband had decided to use his free time on Sunday to rip off the wallpaper and knock out the damaged plaster from an entire corner of the dining room. Down to the studs. Wallpaper that was damaged by a leak oh...maybe a decade ago. In a room where thirty or forty people will gather in EXACTLY TWENTY-SEVEN DAYS.

My husband does not know how to plaster. Neither do I.

I am dealing with my complete disorientation, and with the fact that in a little while I have to prepare and teach four classes, by playing with my new images from Chicago. The one above was taken near the Bond Chapel on the University campus. There is something about those twisty arches and sharp points and the stark backlighting that exactly reflects my mood at this precise moment.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Plimouth Plantation

Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

Edward Winslow ~~~ 12/12/1621


It wasn't the "First Thanksgiving," which you can read about in some detail
here, and the Pilgrims were hardly Pacifists or purveyors of the benefits of multicultural diversity, as you can read here. But one of them,Digory Priest, was my ancestor and, although he didn't last long, he more or less got me here, and leaves me today with the sense of the Pilgrim journey, any pilgrim journey, as one of faithfulness to relentless challenge. So while our family celebrates tomorrow in Chicago and Portland and Cincinnati, we'll raise a glass to Mr. Priest and his family and friends, who could never have imagined what they were setting in motion.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Blogging Thanksgiving

A great idea from elsewhere: Thanksgiving Delurking Week! Leave a comment ~ just say hi, or Happy Turkey Day, or something. It really is an amazing thing that we can all read and write to each other this way -- a dimension of life unimaginable a few years ago, and something for which to be grateful.

We'll be hanging out in Chicago with our sons, and then I'm staying an extra day to visit Windy City Seminary ~ assuming (I know, always a foolish approach) that no sidetrip to the ER will disrupt my plans this time around.

Have a GREAT holiday, everyone!

Techie Questions

OK, everyone out there: have you switched over to the new Blogger accounts? Did all go well, i.e., did everything remain intact?

As usual with internet transitions, I have understood very little of what I have read. Most of the Blogger info, in my face everytime I sign on, is gibberish, so the advantages of switching over remain a mystery to me.

I still don't know what a "feed" is so I don't know why I want more of them.

And the last thing in the world I want is yet another email account.

But apparently if I want to stay with Blogger, I am going to have more feeds and another email account whether I want them or not.

So...any advice? Is this just an easy thing to do and I should go with the flow? Or am I going to be sorry?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Saturday Surfing

I spent some time last night visiting some blogs in a way for which I've had little time lately, and I have some good stuff to pass on:

The Funniest Thanksgiving Story Ever

Cynthia's Poetry

Maryanne's New Paintings

Lisa wrote a great entry about how the Real Lisa is once again emerging as her new buiness settles into her soul, but I can't find it. Private journal, maybe? (ah, she reposted!)

I also realized that, like Cynthia, I have been on Blogger for just about a year, having arrived in the wake of the Great AOL Advertising Debacle. So I looked back at November '05 and discovered that
the move wasn't easy (and I still have no idea what RSS feed means), that we did the same Thanksgiving in Chicago that we're planning for next week, that we saw sandhill cranes and their friends on the way home.

Then, of course, I took a look back at November '04 as reflected in my old AOL journal. Chicago again. The Lovely Daughter working on college applications ( which would take her to NOLA and Oregon, but who knew?). The Dismal Election. And a personal reminder to me that No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.

I see as I look back over past entries that November has been a prime procrastination month for me. And here I am again, right on schedule!

Not My Thing -- But That Was Pretty Cool. . .

and those are two INCREDIBLE football teams!

Halftime: So Far, So Good (Sorry, Laurie)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Giving Thanks

I so don't want to go to work today. Therefore, I am going to procrastinate further by doing the RevGal Friday Five. The procrastination has to do with the time I am about to spend figuring out how to do a link. I can see that it must be really easy, but I cannot for the life of me comprehend the instructions. It should delay the inevitable by at least half an hour.

Herewith, five people/things for which I am thankful this year:

My family, in all its complexities and frustrations.

HGSJ, who guided me through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius this past year.

Chartres Cathedral.

All the friends and family members who have been so unwaveringly supportive of me over the past several months as I try to make new plans.

Sunshine over the Irish Sea.

A Word

1. Yourself: Scattered.
2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend: Nope.
3. Your hair: Glimmery.
4. Your mother: Gone.
5. Your father: Grumpy.
6. Your favorite item: Camera.
7. Your dream last night: Cynical.
8. Your favorite drink: Water.
9. Your dream car: Beetle.
10. The room you are in: Library.
11. Your ex: Nope.
12. Your fear: Lost.
13. What you want to be in 10 years: Contributing.
14. Who you hung out with last night: Myself.
15. What you're not: Diplomatic.
16. Muffins: Chocolate.
17: One of your wish list items: Camera.
18: Time: 8:38.
19. The last thing you did: Hair.
20. What you are wearing: Orthodox.
21. Your favorite weather: Sunshine.
22. Your favorite book: Choose?
23. The last thing you ate: Breakfast.
24. Your life: Changing.
25. Your mood: Sad.
26. Your best friend (s): Supportive.
27. What are you thinking about right now: Xeroxing.
28. Your car: Red.
29. What are you doing at the moment: Listening.
30. Your summer: Europe.
31. Your relationship status: Married.
32. What is on your tv: Nothing.
33. What is the weather like: Improving.
34. When is the last time you laughed: Grey's.

Lifted from the
Kitty Blog.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Long Week

Too much to do.

Parent conferences for four hours last night (35 sets of parents?) and another four next Tuesday night (followed in each case by full teaching days managed by largely comastose teachers). Alexander Hamilton and the origins of the American financial system for the 1oth grade. References to write for students and applications of my own to do. A One Church, One Book study (over dinner in various homes) of Mere Christianity next Sunday night ~ accidentally let myself be roped into leading one of the discussions so I have to reread the book, which I am re-remembering I do not much care for. Can't figure out why that is. Colonial America projects for the 8th grade. Teacher's lounge arguments about whether Israel should accept money from American evangelicals whose vision of a Jewish future differ rather decidedly from the Jewish one. The Abassid Caliphate and the Goldern Age of Baghdad for the 9th graders. Lost debit/credit card. Three college tuition payments coming up. Gee, I wonder why that second floor toilet has never been repaired.

Salvation! ~ it's time for Grey's.

I depart with a photo of the beloved Lovely Daughter pondering the Oregon coastline.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


One of the most intriguing, unsettling, and exciting things about pursuing a call to ministry is the role that community takes on in your life.

So unlike my past experience.

When you decide to become a lawyer, that's what you do. You apply to law school and you go there and you graduate and you take the bar exam and you find a job. There is no advance crowd of men and women decked out in black gowns, three purple stripes on the sleeves, questioning or challenging or nurturing you. (In fact, in my own medieval time period, there was no crowd of women at all.)

The only attorney I knew before I went to law school at the ripe old age of twenty-three was my uncle, the senior litigation partner in a major corporate firm. And, while he complimented my abilities and potential, he never invited me down to the firm or offered to take me to a pretrial, and it never occurred to me to invite myself. It sounds ludicrous now, but at the time it seemed normal. I'm not sure that any of my law school peers had seen the inside of a real live courtroom until we went downtown for our initial moot court experience in the spring of our first year.

When I began to practice law, as a infintesimally junior associate in the litigation department of a large firm and, later, in other positions, I was almost immediately surrounded by mentors -- whom I did not recognize as such. I tend now to think of that as a woman thing, a woman thing of that generation, although I'm not entirely sure about that assessment. But it does seem to me that many of us who were young women venturing into new territory had no idea, no idea at all, with respect to how the professional world functioned or with respect to our need to find older, wiser, more experienced practitioners from whom to learn. So we tended to go it alone, sucking up our blunders, unsure how to react when our elders would point out alternative approaches and assessments. We didn't know how to take advantage of the guidance and opportunities they had to offer, or that they were eager to train us because they imagined us as the inheritors of what they were building.

Eventually, of course, we did grow up. And now here I am, a real grown up (sometimes in disguise), venturing into a new arena. The course of action is dramatically different.

First, I had to ask for a lot of help. This time I knew that. I wasn't much more comfortable with the whole enterprise than I had been thirty years ago, but at least this time I knew enough to do it. I needed the accountability and opportunities for exploration afforded by spiritual direction, I needed lots of advice, I needed explanations of "the system," and I needed recommendations.

What I found was generosity beyond measure. Nearly a year's worth of very early morning meetings with a priest who has no spare time in his life, at least none that has been apparent to me, but gave me space and time for breathing and talking and listening to God every week without the slightest indication that he had another care in the world. Countless breakfasts and lunches and hallways conversations with people who tolerated my endless barrage of questions and commentary. Genuinely gracious willingness to write letters.

And then there was all the other stuff, the official stuff. In the Presbyterian Church, at least, one does not just run off to seminary, become magically ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament, and find a job. It's not like lawyering or teaching: school, license, work. The community is involved from the outset, first in the form of the Session (the governing body) of your own church and then in the form of the Committee on Preparation for Ministry of the Presbytery, the next-up regional governing body, both of whom have to approve your becoming an Inquirer, the first step in the process.

As an active member of our Session, I found the first meeting mostly fun -- with the lengthy fill-in-the-blank form and the eight single-spaced pages of essay writing needed to get there finally behind me, the meeting itself was a chance to talk with people with whom I work, some of them closely, all the time. A couple of people said some astonishingly lovely things to me. But probably the most meaningful moment for me occurred a few days later. We have a youth elder on our Session; this year, a young lady who is a junior in a local high school. On the Sunday following our Session meeting, her mom told me that her daughter had had a lot of homework that night and was planning to skip Session, but decided to come because she had been so interested in what I had written and wanted to hear more and provide some support. One of the things that never fails to amaze me in the context of church is how often you learn, after the fact, and sometimes long after the fact, that you have made some sort of connection with someone of which you were completely unaware.

I was a little more apprehensive about the CPM meeting. I only knew one person on the Committee, a representative from my own church, and I had every reason to believe that the committee membership would run the gamut of opinion in a church that, as a nationwide entity, is at present divided over a couple of significant issues. But what I found again was support, interest, and a bit of competely legitimate challenge in the friendliest kind of way. On the whole, ministers and elders are excited to welcome someone into the process, into the community in a new way.

I left the CPM meeting, which ran pretty late that evening, and drove home in a downpour, thinking over the entire process. Wouldn't it be something, I wondered, if you had to engage in something similar before beginning law school, or business school, or med school, or music conservatory, or an apprenticeship as a plumber or carpenter, or a training program to become a bank teller or an office worker, or anything at all? If you had to look back at your life, write your way through your reasoning process, think about your role models and experiences (which for a young 20-something, might mean finding role models and experiences in the first place), and articulate the joy unearthed in the sense of call?

I have no idea what the ultimate outcome of all this will be. I am no longer the 23-year-old who can go where the wind blows her, with little regard for other people, financial arrangements, and the livelihood of my plumber. But my own 22-year-old sons are seniors in college, and I would so wish this kind of a process on them.

Image (An unexpected mentor) : Brigid Window. Iona Abbey. Scotland. July 2006.

(*And yes, you may have read this elsewhere. I don't know what possessed me to think I could keep two blogs going. I concede defeat.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

0-0 So Far

Just talked to my brother, whose politics differ from mine.

(I love my brother very, very much.)

Me: I've done my duty today. I've done everything within my personal power to replace Republican officeholders with Democrats.

Little Brother: And I've done mine. I've done everything I can to ensure Republican victories across the board.

Me: So we've cancelled each other out?

Little Brother: Guess so! (Pause) If Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker, I am not going to be able to stomach the news for the next several years.

Me: Oh, goodie! I'll be sure to call you to remind you to watch the news everytime she says anything reportable!

Groan from the Red part of the state; laughter from the Blue.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Little Week-end Community

Add Image

Lakeside is one of the religious summer camp communities that popped up in the context of the Chautauqua Movement of the late 19th century, and one that survives today. While not as large, elaborate, or ecumenical as Chautauqua, Lakeside is still charming in its distinctly Methodist way, with 100+-year-old guest houses like the one in which the eight of us stayed, buildings that tend to look like churches even when they aren't and, of course, a lake.

We stayed up until 2:30 the first night, discussing The Election. We walked all over the place (several times) on Saturday. We went out for dinner and watched The Witches of Eastwick, a fairly ridiculous movie that fit our mood well. We drank very moderately and talked excessively.

horned grebes and bufflehead and hooded mergansers came to visit. There is nothing that cheers me up quite like the appearance of bufflehead in November.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Off for the Week-end

Well. There is snow on the ground and the skies are gray. The sparkling sunlight on the cemetery pond is now a sight of the distant past. (A few days ago, actually, but gray days have a way of making sunshine seem like it made its last appearance during the Neolithic Age.) So we will probably not be sitting out on the cottage porch tonight, sipping hot cider and whatever.

And I still have essays to edit and first-of-the-month bills to pay, all of which I was planning to finish by November 1st. But piles of paper on the dining room table have a way of staying put.

And I am thinking that it seems that I probably did crack that bone just below my thumb when I landed on my hand the other night, because the pain will not go away and my entire arm aches. Sometimes. And I can't put any weight on my thumb, which I have discovered is what one usually does when grabbing a bag of groceries or pulling a wet bedspread out of the washing machine. I have diagnosed this little problem as a scaphoid fracture and have been ignoring it, since several websites say that it often takes several days to appear in an x-ray. But I think I will have to walk gingerly this week-end to avoid further slip-and-falls and then -- GIGANTIC SIGH OF AGONY -- I will have to go see a bone kind of doctor next week.

And I cannot figure out why it takes a group of women more than an hour to get out of the house. I am driving two of my friends tonight and I am glad that the gray skies preclude the lake sunset I was planning on photographing, because no way are we getting there until after dark.

But we are going! And by the time we come back, we women, who have known each other for years, will have solved all the problems of the world and there will be no need for next week's elections.

Or we will have at least commiserated over the challenges posed by young adult children and laughed at how we once thought preschool choices were matters of earthshaking importance. Just as long ago we predicted we would. And therein lies the good fortune: we have lasted as friends long enough to see our futures come true, one way or another.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tomorrow I am off for a week-end with a group of women friends for whom that time away together has been an annual enterprise for probably fifteen years. We've rented a guesthouse in a lakeside resort community and will talk and eat and talk and walk and talk and stay up late and just generally celebrate who we are together.

With one exception. The only one of us who has moved away in all those years, thousands of miles away (divorce followed by new life), the one around whom this particular week-end was timed, announced two days ago that she would not be coming. The reasons are complex, the ostensible one being unexpected demands of family, the murkier ones having to do with those issues of obligation, guilt and freedom with which we all struggle. The result is some major hurt all around, and apparent oblivion to it on her part.

I've had some relationship highs and lows over the past few weeks, and this is certainly one of the lows. I'm beginning to wonder if we ever have much sense of how we affect one another. I've experienced a tremendous swell of support, encouragment, and generosity in the past several weeks as people have learned that I am applying to seminary, but I've also experienced a number of frustrations and disappointments in other areas of my life.

And ironies. Another friend and I were discussing some of our struggles on Iona this past summer, where we were immersed in a sort of "instant community," to which many of our church friends took like ducks to water and to which a couple of us responded with somewhat more reticence. "Ruined by boarding school, " I said. It has not escaped my understanding, in my adult life, that my expectations of community are somewhat unusual. Unrealistic, perhaps. I expect it to take much longer to unfold and create itself than others seem to, and I expect the results to be on a level of far more depth and intimacy than others seem even to know exists. It's hard for me to be satisfied with what's possible in only a week's time, or to identify the participants at the end as "good friends." I would be more likely to say "promising acquaintances." And I'm pretty sure that my response is a consequence of those six years in boarding school, when I moved through ages twelve through seventeen. Adolescent community is an intense enterprise under any conditions, and when it exists in close quarters 24/7, it's especially formidable. I find that as an adult, I often have to check my expectations of friendship and understanding at the door.

The most immediate irony is that only a couple of days after the aforesaid conversation, I found myself carelessly agreeing to make an hour-long presentation on the concept of community as a spiritual practice. I don't know whether to groan or to laugh. We are studying the spritual practices of the life of faith as our adult education program at church this year; we had just decided to talk about community in terms of the importance of opening ourselves to the "other" and to invite Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu speakers; and we had decided that we needed an introductory session on the mutual concepts of hospitality and openness and, especially, community. "Sure, I'll do that," I said.

I can't believe I said that
, I grumbled an hour later. I am an idiot.

Well, this week-end will be grist for the mill.