I wanted to make sure I recorded some 2005 FOs that were lying around that I never blogged about, for my own knitting journal purposes.
Fiber Trends Felted Clogs: Two balls Lopi, knit single strand, then felted. I made the Women's Large, and even with much felting, they came out a bit large. I skipped the double sole. I'll make these again, in a Women's Medium, and add the double sole this time, although these are perfectly functional, just not perhaps as comfortable as written. It is a fun pattern to knit--it does require trusting and paying attention to the directions, but if you trust them, it turns out remarkably well.
And, of course, a DW cloth! This and a smaller cloth went with some Red Dirt soap to a friend in St. Louis as well. I was able to finish up a leftover skein of Sugar and Cream with this set.
My favorite knitting project? I think it has to be Clapotis. There were a couple of false starts, but once I actually got going, it was fun. It is simple but it looks so sophisticated, undulating there on the bias. Yay for Kate Gilbert's pattern, and a shout-out to the Clapotis Knitalong Yahoo Group, for helpful tips, a yarn database, inspiring photos and best of all, a spreadsheet to keep track of all those rows.
Knitting project in the frogpile? Actually, I have the back of a crochet cardigan in the frog pond, a big pile of pretty Patons Katrina. I'll turn it into something knit.
I'll remember 2005, knit-wise, because this was the year my skills took a giant leap. I was still pretty timid at the end of 2004, but thanks to a class with Beth in January of '05, I started to pick up confidence. (Beth? That sweater? A very lovely woman is going to finish off the left side for me, where I got frustrated after a few times with getting the sleeve to fit properly. But I am determined to wear it THIS WINTER, if we ever have winter again here in OKC).
The Horseshoe Lace scarf was a real turning-point. I did lace, I read charts, it's a lovely piece, but after that, I really didn't want to use acrylic much anymore. I was avoiding the "real stuff" out of fear of, I don't know, wasting it? Hurting it? Spending that much $? Afraid of building a stash, then abandoning knitting like other hobbies? All of the above? But afterwards, I kind of knew I was committed, or that I should be committed, and I've been more willing to let others know I was knitting, to knit in public with other knitters, and to invest in good yarn. It's worth it to me.
I found that as much as I'm glad I know how to crochet, knitting just seems to fit my hands better. With crochet my gauge was always off, and my tension would change dramatically from the first row to the fifteenth. I could never make a perfect square. For whatever reason my tension is much more even and constant with knitting. So it goes.
I discovered that the company of knitters could help make transitions easier, and I'm so thankful to the Oklahoma knitters who have been so welcoming. Moving in the middle of life is tough, and I am so grateful for your company and inspiration.
Knitting has made me more conscious of the choices we make with what we wear, and what we buy, and how we buy it. I have no desire to live some sort of "back to the land" life, I'm thankful for good mattress, and indoor plumbing, and microwave ovens. But I do think as a culture we have gotten a little too far from the basic production of everyday items, and it's good to be reminded of what working to clothe oneself and one's family might feel like. It's hard work, but satisfying in a way that I don't much get in an automated, takeout, ready-to-wear kind of world.
Blessings to my fellow knitters and may your yarn skeins be easy to wind and free of knots in 2006!
Because, like this week, when there doesn't seem to be a safety pin anywhere in the church, and you desperately need to pin up the deacon's Eastern style stole, which will otherwise slip off her shoulder in an unattractive and distracting way during a solemn service, you can run out to your car, pull out your Lopi sock you are Magic Looping on your 40" Addi circular needle, and retrieve the coilless safety pin you have been using to mark the center back heel stitch that is the end of the round.
Barbara tagged me for this a couple days ago. The kids' stuff is out, obviously, but here are my answers.
(Barbara and I got to have a knitter's day out together last week--I meant to take a picture but didn't get around to it. It's so much fun to hang out and have people ask "how did you meet?" and to say with a grin, "we met online."
1. Do you go to the brick and mortar store or use it online? I enjoy both. If I'm looking for something specific, know what I need, and it's unlikely the local brick and mortar will carry it, then it's time for Powells or Amazon. Spontaneous purchases more likely at the local bookstores.
2. Do you think "This is mine, all mine!" or "I've been wanting such-and-such read aloud for the kids?" Well, adjusting that for husband, mostly I buy what I enjoy, but have been known to buy books I think we will share.
3. Do you buy yourself a nice B&N coffee from the cafe, or consider that a waste of good Book Money? I've really not much been a coffee drinker, and not much of one at the bookstore. Java Dave's Black Forest Mocha is a treat for coffee with a colleague. But I'm not one for spending $$ on hot drinks. Or pop/soda, either.
4. Does a $50 value on the card mean A)Spend as close to $50 as possible without going over. B)Buy one book and save the balance for next time. C)Take $50 off a purchase of $100 or more.
I try to do A) but I have been known to do C).
5. Do you take the children and consider it a fun family outing, or plan your trip for when your hubby can watch the kids? Well, I like to browse by myself and there are times when husband and I make it an evening date. The cats mostly do fine on their own .
6. And finally, do you make a beeline for your favorite section (and what section is that?) or do you browse the new releases and recommendations up front when you walk in the door? I browse magazines first, usually hit knitting at some point, often browse the religion section (and mourn not being close to a good seminary bookstore), check out what's in the new nonfiction category and others in those front sections.
I know you're having a hard day. I wanted you to know that in a case of feline solidarity I fought all the way allowed myself to go to the vet this morning for my daily dose of food and fluids while the humans try to cure me of my cold disrupt my daily napping.
In sympathy with my friends down south, I howled all the way at the outrage of going to the vet. My female human seemed only to be concerned with the quantity of my sneezing, and she wouldn't allow the other cats to play with me at the vet.
She also told the other humans in the waiting room that I had a finely tuned sense of injustice. What nerve. Also she mentioned that at home they're starting to call me "Baby Darth" because of the breathing noise I make with all the congestion. Hmph.
Still, the food tasted good to me today and I even ate some when we got home. The female human said things like, "finally!" and "good job." She gave me lots of love and made sure I had nice warm places to sleep in this afternoon.
I know you'll be back on your feet in no time and that your human staff will take very good care of you.
This was finished a while ago and then it went to St. Louis, so now I can post details for the record:
This was my first cable project and I was very pleased with it. I picked out the color (or lack thereof) right after I finished my black purse. Having dealt with the joys of knitting black yarn (did I drop a stitch? did I add a stitch? how do I pick up the #+%*$! stitches at the base?) the cream color looked very soothing.
Pattern: Yours Truly Cabled Scarf from the one and only Jennifer P. at Gourmet Yarn Needles: Size 15 Denises Yarn: 2 skeins Crystal Palace Iceland
This year we seemed to have the theme of "lighten our darkness, we beseech thee. . ."
I gave husband a lamp (rechargeable). He gave me the daylight lamp. Some dear friends gave us the wind-up flashlight (they know us too well, and wouldn't want us to depend on having working batteries in a storm), and our brother-in-law gave us sets of flashlights for key rings.
It will be a little harder to hide the Matthean lamp under the bucket around here these days.
1. What is the best gift you received this year? (Tangible gifts only, please!)
Let's just say that husband did a really nice job with the wish list at the yarn shop. I have to say that the little Lantern Moon sheepie tape is terribly amusing: pull on its tail to get the tape measure, press its fuzzy stomach to pull it back in. I am SO easily entertained.
2. What is the best gift you gave this year? The upgrade to the 10th edition of Chessmaster for the husband. Actually, I enjoyed giving the Branching Out Scarf, two DW dishcloths and Red Dirt soap, the Yours Truly Cabled Scarf (which I need to post a pic of here), and a children's book called "S is for Sooner." To a grownup.
3. When did you do most of your shopping/creating? I started working on scarves and stuff in the fall. I spent some hours online in the early morning on a couple of occasions, and made a couple trips to Borders and Barnes and Noble--that was pretty much it. I stayed out of the holiday shopping madness as much as possible, and only set foot in Penn Square Mall once, in the evening, to see what was to be seen.
4. Did you go shopping the day after Thanksgiving (U.S.)? Online only Today? Um, the yarn shop had a sale, and as the Harlot would say, um, my credit card "fell" out of my wallet, and, er. . .but hey, some of it's for a charity auction in the spring.
5. What stands out already about Christmas 2005? My sermon plopping, like a gift, onto the keys. Driving through an Oklahoma evening between Clinton and Guthrie, listening to Garrison Keillor and humming Christmas carols. The stars in the bright sky after church. Singing with the choir at husband's church. Houdini's congestion, which is producing noises unlike which you have never heard--the vet said, "he's the snottiest cat I've ever seen."
And strangely enough, it involved no elaborate meal, no large gathering of family or friends.
It was the humans and the cats (one still severely congested and on his way back to the vet), a Stouffer's casserole and the tree.
But I had my joyful Christmas celebrations around the Holy Table in 3 different locations so to just be with husband and felines, lolling around, opening presents and making phone calls, knitting (me), playing with updated Chessmaster (him), being oddly intimate with a plastic stocking full of pet toys (Wilbur), and finally going out for Indian buffet and a trip to the lights in Yukon, where we walked among lights and ducks in Chisholm Trail Park, was just perfect.
We don't have a lot of holiday traditions that are set in stone yet. We've often had invitations on Christmas Day to be with parishioners or friends, and those have been lovely occasions. But this Christmas felt right and good. I have baked no cookies this year, I'm going to stick the meats for potential roasting in the freezer, the house is really either going to have to get cleaned or condemned, but we are full of the Christmas spirit around here.
I preached this twice yesterday, in two different congregations 110 miles apart. Then crawled up into the choir loft at my husband's church, because apparently I hadn't said the Nicene Creed enough for one day. This morning I'm home, husband's off to do Christmas morning, I'm claiming 220 miles and 3 services as a Sunday exemption, Hootie is looking miserable from his cold, and I have to wrap husband's presents before he gets back from church. Happy Christmas!
Christmas Eve, 2005 Luke 2
One of my Christmas jobs as the only child in our house growing up was to set up the crèche. Each December, we would bring out the tattered cardboard box, and remove the figurines from the fading egg crate foam that cradled each piece, and I would set them up one by one, in the lean-to that came with this nativity set, under the tree. Cattle and shepherds, and the Holy Family itself. My final touch, every year, was to hang a few strands of tinsel over the top edge of the lean-to, you know, for the realism of winter in the desert. I looked forward to it every Christmas, as I looked forward to going to Midnight Mass with my parents, and the utter stillness that hushed even a busy city like Chicago on Christmas Eve. The story and the night seemed like magic, like anything was possible in our little family and our little church.
A lot has changed in my life since then, and I’ve actually spent Christmas in the desert, and I know that there probably weren’t any icicles, tinsel or otherwise. And I know now that there are four gospels, each one with a slightly different perspective on Jesus, and that the Christmas story we think of, thanks to pageants and all that, is actually a mishmash of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and that even the details are different between the Gospels—that it’s only in Luke’s Gospel that Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem for the census. It’s only in Luke that we have shepherds and angel choirs, swaddling clothes in the stable because there was no room at the inn.
I know all those things, and I’m an adult now, with grownup concerns and cares, and lists, and sermons to write, and I’m well-educated about Scripture, and savvier about the ways of the church, but the power of this night, of this story, of that crèche, hasn’t gone away for me at all. But, it’s not magic that entrances me now, it’s not just a charming little story with a newborn sleeping among softly mooing cattle and fuzzy warm sheep.
Because now I have some understanding of what Luke was trying to tell us in this story. The powerful Roman emperor orders a census to be taken, and probably revels in the fact that at his word, people will travel just because he said so. But for all his power, it’s not in Rome that God is choosing to break forth. It’s not even in Jerusalem. It’s in a tiny country town of Bethlehem, in a stable, among the animals.
And those who attend his birth—it’s not the finest doctors money can buy. It’s not the cream of Judea’s social crop. There will be no pictures taken of those who gathered for his birth, no baby showers. The Messiah was born among the poorest of the poor, the lowest of the low. Shepherds were invited to attend to this baby—homeless, and dirty, and smelling of sheep and the outdoors. God chose the homeless shelter instead of the birthing suite to bring the salvation of the world into our midst.
And now I understand that the baby figure I put in the crèche every year wasn’t just something cute and tiny, but the fullness of God poured into the human body. Our God loves us so much, was so desperate to bridge the gap between human and divine, that God was willing to take God’s very self, divine being, and risk it in pregnancy, and childbirth, and infancy. God was willing to take on all our joys and sorrows, our sickness and health.
This story has such power that it has survived everything we have thrown at it, Frosty the Snowman, the Grinch, and Santa Claus at every mall, and badly rehearsed Christmas pageants, and stuffy piety. It has survived those who want to say it’s not true, and those who try to preserve it in some sort of treacly Norman Rockwell pose. The power of this story is because it could only come from God. Left up to us it would be a magical fairy tale about princes and princesses, with castles and fairy godmothers, and at some point we would leave it behind with the tinsel icicles and the tooth fairy.
This story tells us something about the kingdom God intends to build, about the places God can be found in, about who God will invite first to the table. And this is the God I want to follow; this God is worth everything I can give him, not just tinsel and presents, but all of me, as God is giving all to us in Jesus, at this table, in this bread and wine.
Christina Rossetti’s poem, set to music in our hymnal, says it best: Love came down at Christmas,Love all lovely, love divine;Love was born at Christmas,Star and angels gave the sign.
We have a loving God who chose to born into our disappointments and our dark corners, into our losses and fears. A God who is full of wonder and mystery, and yet literally down to earth. And so, even though the crèche is buried somewhere in my parents’ basement, and I haven’t draped a tinsel icicle in years, I will gaze in wonder and awe at the babe in the manger, rejoicing with shepherds and angels at the glory of his birth.
I know you think the humans of this household love the chocolate, and that maybe the female human might like some yarn, and the male human would like Universal to stop dinking around with the subpar quality ot its DVD releases, but if you think of us this weekend--
A Meowy Christmas from the Wilbur and the Hootie (who now has caught Wilbur's cold and is sitting around sniffling and indulging in feline self-pity, and who cost the humans $XX at the vet to make sure that he wasn't going to get sicker over the holiday weekend).
Merry Christmas to all our friends in the blogosphere!
1) If you had to choose CDs as a soundtrack for the Christmas season, what would they be?
The Miserable Offenders' Christmas album. Sweet and spicy. And it has an Advent hymn for full seasonal coverage.
2) How do you feel about singing all the verses of "The First Noel?" (Six in our hymnal, but apparently there are nine.) I don't have the Episcopal hymnal close at hand, so I can't check how many verses. I believe in all the verses, especially on a big day like Christmas.
3) "O, Come All Ye Faithful" has a lot of verses, too. Which is your favorite? The first one, because I always think of starting down the aisle and the opening of the Christmas Eve service
4) What music do you play while opening presents? I don't know that we have an established family tradition on that, yet. Will report back!
5) Which carols do you consider to be Christmas Eve essentials? "Away in a Manger," "Joy to the World," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Angels We have Heard on High," "Greensleeves," "In the Bleak Midwinter," "Go Tell it on the Mountain," oh, dear, frankly, forget the homily and the prayers, let's just sing and celebrate Eucharist.
and a Bonus Question:
6) What, if any, is your favorite secular Christmas song? I have a soft spot for secular Christmas music, too, it just hits a different note. I am fond of John Mellencamp's cover of "I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." I love his arrangement of it, with percussion and fiddle. I have a twisted sense of humor, so I love all the funny Christmas songs--including those Canadian comics' version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
a nun, a preacher and the Attorney General of Oklahoma walk into a bar. . .
Oops, actually it was an ordination.
Last night, at the Cathedral in OKC, Bishop Moody ordained three new priests in a joyful celebration for the feast of St. Thomas.
I was in a number of spiritual and emotional places throughout the evening, worthy of a later blog post. The whole thing was a delight.
We got there kind of rushed and just in time for the line-up. (Of course, if you know clergy, the "line" at an ordination starts off more like an amoeba, yet somehow magically transforms itself into a dignified procession as we hit the head of the aisle). And I opened my order of service and looked at who was preaching, expecting to see the Bishop, or another local priest, and I almost fell over.
It was the Rev. Dr. Eugene Peterson.
Yes, folks, as in "Under the Unpredictable Plant," and of course, "The Message" and a few other books we may have stumbled on during seminary.
Well, when I finished making sure my jaw was shut it was time to go in. Before we went in the bishop said to us, "I'd tell you all to behave, but I know you all too well." Oh, I knew this was going to be fun. Then somehow a number of us who share a wry sense of humor ended up in the same corner of Oakerhater Chapel for the service and of course, we behaved ourselves very well. Ahem.
Of course the best part of priestly ordinations in the Episcopal Church is the bit where all the priests come over and join the Bishop for the ordination, laying hands on the new priest. There were many, many priests there last night, and we were all smushed together in a clump of white albs and red stoles--truly marvelous.
I'm sorry I can't remember much of what Dr. Peterson had to say--I was sorry I didn't have a pen in my pocket. It involved Thomas and Jesus and "I am the way" and that the job of priests and people is to listen together.
The rabbi and a Benedictine nun (RC) came up to vest one of the priests, and the Bishop invited the rabbi to give a rabbinical blessing at the end of the service, before the episcopal blessing. Shivers, to hear the Hebrew, especially in the context of some discussions over at See-Through Faith. Why the peoples of the Covenant can't have more sharing is beyond me.
So we went out to "Lift high the cross," with another priest friend and I descanting the refrain in the courtyard, and I headed into the reception only to be introduced to the Attorney General of Oklahoma, who was in the OK legislature with one of our ordinands years ago.
Really, the whole evening was like a joke, but not a mean joke, but like the kind with surprising twists and unexpected characters, and you end up laughing in delight at the end.
The package that arrived with the circular needle organizer that was so very desperately needed.
Sitting with husband in front of lighted tree.
Dinner at the buffet at our favorite Indian restaurant, where we are so well known that they bring us our glasses of water without asking and brought husband extra naan when it was hot out of the oven.
My Oklahoma knitting friends. Thanks for making a move to a new home so much easier. (For photos of our Knitting Guild Meeting, check out the blog at Gourmet Yarn.
Some of these new friends have blogs, too: check out Addicted to Knitting and Knitters Wonderland over there in the sidebar.
Wilbur has had a cold, but his sneezes seem to be fewer and further between. This makes me happy. (Although the sneezes were sort of cute).
Hiding presents for husband in my secret spot in the closet.
A satisfying supply experience at Holy Apostles', OKC, whereupon I was also introduced by a parishioner to the new Bread Company souffles.
Finding the Christmas CDs. The first edition of "A Very Special Christmas." (Still can't find the Nakai tape).
Oh, yeah, the Incarnation and all that Good News! The reading from Luke last Sunday, which becomes more beautiful and layered with meaning over time. Singing Advent hymns. Realizing more and more the power of this God who was willing to come among us.
It started as a little tickle after our Saturday at Guthrie, and filling out various RevGalBlogPal Friday Fives, but my friend Jane and I launched ourselves into it full tilt while I was in St. Louis.
These are the lights at Tilles Park in St. Louis County. As you can tell from the taillights, we were not the only ones who had the idea of going to look at lights on a Friday evening. (Hey, buddy, the sign said parking lights ONLY.)
We topped off our weekend (oh, yeah, there was that little Congregational Studies class we had to go to, wasn't that the whole purpose of the trip?), with malts at Crown Candy Kitchen, searching North St. Louis for the infamous St. Stanislaus Kostka (a Polish Catholic church that is in such deep disagreement with its archbishop that the church governing board has been excommunicated, along with the priest they recently hired), circling the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in search of a way into their Christmas light display, and a brief trip through downtown to see the lights at Kiener Plaza, before I finally collapsed at the airport with a California Pizza Kitchen salad to counteract the aforementioned cherry malt.
We were sadly disappointed that there were a) no protests at St. Stanislaus and b) no open gate at the brewery. Despair over these setbacks was held off via the Crown Candy sugar high.
(It's also possible that some yarn from Knitorious and Myers House, along with chocolates from Cost Plus and Crown Candy Kitchen came home with me).
We are going to put up our artificial, pre-lighted Christmas tree this afternoon, fluff the branches and hang the ornaments.
1) Have you ever gotten a really good kiss under the mistletoe? Tell the truth. Spare no details. Was the mistletoe real, because kisses under the fake stuff do. not. count. I'm sad to say, I have no good mistletoe stories.
2) Do you know anyone who makes real eggnog, not the stuff from the carton? And if so, do you actually like it?
I currently know no real eggnog makers. My dad always used to bring home the stuff from the store, and husband and I have sampled soy nog. Eggnog (a word that gets weirder each time you type it in, have you noticed?) is a standard holiday feature, but I've never tried to make it from scratch.
3) What's your favorite Christmas party album/CD ever?
The one with Sting's cover of "The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came. . ." It was post Band Aid. Closely tied is the Miserable Offenders' Christmas album. And a Carlos Nakai Christmas album CD, I wonder where that went to? Oh, and I used to put John Mellencamp's cover of "I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" on my outgoing answering machine message every Christmas. And I loved Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas album.
4) Does your office/workplace have a party? Do the people there ever behave the way people in movies behave at office parties, which is to say, badly? Not working full-time in a parish this year, so no office party this year, and I'm afraid that church office parties do not look anything like a holiday party on, say "Ally McBeal."
5) If you have to bring something to a party, what is it likely to be? Do people like it?Let me explain. No, let me sum up. Husband and I have always worked in different churches. When we got married, we were working in different dioceses, in different states, on different sides of the Mississippi River. So we would divide up party responsibilities: if it was from my church, it was "my side of the river," and I would be responsible. Same for "his side of the river." We still use that phraseology among ourselves, so I'm afraid we don't have a standard party food. Although I have loved making a buttermilk chocolate cake out of Laurie Colwin's "Home Cooking," because it was easy and fast and yummy.
Husband and I took an evening drive up to Guthrie on Saturday evening for one of their holiday walks. The historic downtown was packed with visitors and locals, many dressed in vintage costumes, either frontier or Victorian. Many of the windows had live performers, either doing things like winding WWII bandages, or rocking a baby, or baking. There were also cloggers and square dancers, and the above performers, the Okie Dokie Banjo Band.
The community spirit was effervescent and infectious. There were carriages, and hot cider, and music streaming from many buildings.
(Hootie and Wilbur register a mild protest that something that doesn't involve them can't be that fun).
or, my Laura Ingalls Wilder moment with the General Ordination Exams:
) Snow: love it or hate it?
Love it, love it, love it. Well, except for the driving.
2) First snow memory
I'm from Chicago, so it's hard to identify a first. I grew up next door to a park along the lake, and remember especially walking along the beach with all the snow and ice in the winter.
3) Best Snow Day ever (actual or imagined)
I'm going to add a memory below, perhaps not "best" but certainly "most memorable."
4) Best use of snow in a movie, song, book or poem
How about a TV episode? The 3rd season Buffy episode where the First tries to get Angel to kill himself? And then it snows in Sunnydale and so the sun never rises so he can't.
5) What you are planning to do today, with or without snow Work on a sermon. Work on a meditation for tomorrow's ECW Regional Meeting. Odds and ends. Knit.
Ok, now for the memory. Seminarians of the Episcopal Church know that in one's senior year one faces the dreaded General Ordination Exams, or GOEs, in the beginning of January, and that one's Christmas break is pretty much ruined by either a) the fretting or b)the organizing of notes and books or c)all of the above.
I had a desk space in the basement of the Seabury dorms. This study area contained a number of workspaces and was delightfully referred to as Purgatory. I was living in one of the apartments on the block so I could have my cat with me, and thought it would be a brilliant idea to lay out my notes in some kind of order down in Purgatory. Then, so my plan went, in the morning, when I went to pick up the day's GOE questions from the inimitable Newland Smith in Seabury Lounge, I would take a brief detour down to Purgatory and pick up the appropriate class notes, thereby keeping the amount of note clutter in the apartment down to a dull roar.
This was a fine plan, and I spent Christmas break rereading my notes, and making little indices for certain dense classes. I lined up my notebooks the Saturday before GOEs and walked back over to my apartment. (This pretty much exhausted whatever store of organizational skills this ENFP could muster at this time in her life.)
All was well until the snow started falling early Sunday. And falling. And falling. It got so deep I could no longer see Floyd the bike locked to the bike rack under my windows. It got 20 or so inches deep (anyone who remembers the exact total, feel free to comment). A few hardy souls (non-GOE takers) got out to break some paths around the parking lot, but it was still pretty deep around the Block.
Monday dawned. GOEs finally here. I received my questions from Newland, and sure enough, those notes in Purgatory would be helpful. And so I had to break a path down to Purgatory to get those notes. This was in the days of "the construction" so one could not just pop across the driveway or through the nice shiny new building to get to the basement of the dorms. No, it required going all the way around every time. Every morning. Through the fresh snow.
GOEs were fine in the end but I still laugh at the memory of trudging through the snow to fulfill my fine organization plan.
Continuing on with the final meditation from last week's Quiet Day, despite another "Whoops" moment last night when I accidentally disabled my internet connection while trying to network with husband--and I don't mean that in some metaphorical innuendo kind of way, but in trying to connect our laptops, oh, never mind. Anyway, while writing this I was significantly helped by a lecture I discovered on the Internet originally given at Seattle Pacific University by the one and only N.T. Wright, now Archbishop of Durham, England, which is found here..
As before, a poem.
A Better Resurrection (Christina Rossetti)
I have no wit, no words, no tears; My heart within me like a stone Is numbed too much for hopes or fears. Look right, look left, I dwell alone; I lift mine eyes, but dimmed wiht grief No everlasting hills I see; My life is in the falling leaf: O Jesus, quicken me.
My life is like a faded leaf. My harvest dwindled to a husk: Truly my life is void and brief And tedious in the barren dusk; My life is like a frozen thing, No bud nor greenness can I see: Yet rise it shall--the sap of spring; O Jesus, rise in me.
My life is like a broken bowl, A broken bowl that cannot hold One drop of water for my soul Or cordial in the searching cold; Cast in the fire the perished thing; Melt and remould it, till it be A royal cup for Him, My King: O Jesus, drink of me.
Now we come to the 'so what' portion of our time together. So what? What does it matter what kind of Messiah we imagine.
Jesus keeps saying, "the kingdom of God has come near to you." But he's not always very explicit about what that kingdom is like. He keeps using these parables--imaginative stories designed to provoke the reader into a new way of thinking--a change of mind.
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which when sown upon the ground is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."
And later, "let the little children come to me, do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly, I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."
The small, the weak, those who have no say, those who don't seem to amount to much, those who are at the bottom of the social totem pole--in this is the kingdom of this Messiah. The kingdom of God continually turns our expectations upside down.
When we are baptized, we accept God's invitation to start living into that kingdom here and now.
In what ways do we need to be turned upside down by this Messiah? How might we become partners with the Messiah in this kingdom?
Here are some statistics about those little children here in Oklahoma (readers of this blog will have seen them before--they are from the Children's Defense Fund Oklahoma site):
A child is abused or neglected every 38 minutes--and we've seen the terrible consequences in the news. A child in Oklahoma is born into poverty every 49 minutes. A child in Oklahoma dies before his or her first birthday every 24 hours.
21 percent of our children are poor.
We are 27th in low birthweight babies, 29th in infant mortality, 41st in children who are poor, 45th in per pupil expenditure in oru schools and 47th in percent of babies with mothers who received early prenatal care.
Is this the kingdom of God? Is this the kingdom of a Messiah who came to us as a baby? Who proclaimed good news to the poor?
I suspect God's imagination has a different vision for our lives here.
Poverty of imagination doesn't just mean boycotting the Harry Potter books. Povery of imagination leads to actual poverty.
N.T. Wright gave a speech on Imagination at Seattle Pacific University--he focused on John 20 and 21, on Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and Peter by the shore of the Lake. Beginning with Mary, who mistakes him for a gardener--no mistake, Wright points out--this is the new creation.
He pointed out that in this new creation that God has imagined for us, each one of them is given a task. Mary's going to tell everyone about the resurrection. Thomas gets to articulate his faith--my Lord and my God--the first one of the disciples to say that. Jesus asks, "Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep."
We are called to those same tasks as Mary and Thomas and Peter. Proclaiming and believing and feeding. And those tasks require imagination. They challenge us to be alert and awake to God's call, and then to use our imagination to enter God's imagination.
So I'd ask you to close your eyes and picture your congregation as it gathers. Who's there? Who's not there? Whose voices aren't being heard?
Stnading on the corner outside your church, picture the neighborhood. Imagine your drive home. What do you see? Where might there be new opportunities, new ways of mission you've never imagined before?
You are interchangeable. Fun, free, and into everything, you've got every eventuality covered and every opportunity just has to be taken. Every fiber is wonderful, and every day is a new beginning. You are good at so many things, it's amazing, but you can easily lose your place and forget to show up. They have row counters for people like you!
I'm continuing to post the notes from the St. Paul's Cathedral ECW Quiet Day from last week. This is the second in the series of meditations I gave. Again, some are notes rather than complete sentences. The Anchor Bible Dictionary was most helpful on the topic of Messiah
(I discovered this poem in seminary and was pleased to be able to find it so easily on the web last week. I opened the second meditation with it. Until last week, I didn't know there was a companion poem, called "Nativity").
Annunciation (John Donne)
Salvation to all that will is nigh; That All, which always is all everywhere, Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear, Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die, Lo, faithful virgin, yields himself to lie In prison, in thy womb; and though He there Can take no sin, or thou give, yet He will wear, Taken from thence, flesh, which death's force may try. Ere by the spheres time was created, thou Wast in His mind, who is thy Son and Brother; Whom thou conceivst, conceived; yea thou art now Thy Maker's maker, and thy Father's mother; Thou hast light in dark, and shutst in little room, Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.
Read twice. During the second reading, imagine yourself in the scene with the crowd and John the Baptist. Who are you? Are you in the crowd? Are you John? What are you wearing? What does it look like? What does it sound like? What do you smell? What do you taste? What do John's words means to you? Who are you expecting? When you think of the Messiah, who are you imagining?
Messiah. From the Greek messias, a form of the Hebrew masiah (note--forgive any misspellings)--an anointed person.
In Scripture, who gets anointed? Kings. Think of the scenes in 1 Samuel--Saul, David. Kings are anointed by the initiative of Yahweh--divine election and commission.
Priests are anointed, especially in the P section of Torah.
Prophets--not anointed in the strict sense, but certainly call scenes have anointing like moments--the coal touching the prophet's lips, Elisha picking up Elijah's mantle.
Hebrew Scriptures don't necessarily contain an image of one person to come and be God's instrument of righting the world. Christian writers combed them, looking for an understanding of the events that surrounded Jesus' life and death. But certainly there was an expectation of God's action in the future, of someone anointed in the David dynasty, of a future high priest and of a righteous king.
Jesus does enact all the roles of an anointed one. Matthew and Luke carefully connect Jesus to Bethlehem, and to connect him to the genealogy of David. Jesus acts in priestly ways, declaring things clean and unclean, and interpreters see him as the great High Priest. Jesus also takes on the role of prophet.
I have this idea, that the Spirit, not being bounded by time and space as we are, dropped hints in the mids of those who wrote Hebrew Scriptures, to use certain language and themes, and then whispered into the ears of the Gospelers to find them and expand upon them.
In fact, the Gospelers and other New Testament authors showed that they could use Hebrew writings imaginatively, taking out of them new ideas, purposes for which they were not originally intended, even changing words and phrases to suit their own purpose. It's hard for me to be 'literal' interpreter of the Bible when I know the Gospel authors didn't perfectly copy the Scriptures they use to "fulfill the prophecy." So I think we could all use a lighter and more imaginative approach to Scripture.
Jesus as Messiah comes to us directly from God's imagination. Who could have imagined a Messiah, an anointed one, being fully human and fully divine? What kind of Messiah would be born among a family that included a woman pregnant before marriage and a carpenter? Surely a Messiah, a royal anointed one, would be born among kings, in a comfortable house, educated by the best scholars, and cared for by the best nannies the ancient world could offer.
God's imagination keeps turning the whole program upside down. People in Jesus' time were hoping for a great leader to help them. They were hoping for a military intervention to get rid of the Romans. Or someone who would say "this is right and this is wrong," hoping of course, to confirm that they were already right.
Instead, we have a baby, who spends some time as a smart aleck adolescent (Mom, Dad, you should have KNOWN where I was). Then he allows himself to be baptized, even though your real Messiah should have been the one doing the baptizing. Then he starts wandering around Galilee instead of Judea--Galilee, home of people whose faith and ancestral origin were uncertain, and not exactly the center of power.
This Messiah isn't doing real world expectations. He didn't go to prep school and Harvard, he wasn't the star quarterback, he's not making any commercials--in fact, in the Gospel of Mark, he tells people to keep what he does a secret. He doesn't always follow the Law the way people think that he should, and he thinks he has the authority to forgive sins the way God does.
He spends all day dealing with those who get left out and left behind. Women, demoniacs, lepers.
He doesn't get a book deal with movie rights and an invitation to Herod's court. He gets himself crucified.
The Gospels are all trying to answer the question, how can he be the Messiah, and die in such a humiliating manner?
Is this the Messiah of your imagination?
What are you hoping for? What are you longing for? Where is your spiritual hunger? This Advent, where does your inagination need to stretch to make room for this kind of Messiah?
Before I went to St. Louis I started posting the meditations I gave for the Cathedral ECW Quiet Day last week. I posted the first half of the first meditation (split it up to break up the wordiness). Some of these are notes, not full sentences, so bear with me. I have expanded them in some places where I realized it needed a little filling out.
The question I posed was "why do we need our imaginations?"
I've been working in parishes since 1999--over the years I've started to understand that the most important task facing the parish priest, the prophetic part of the calling, is to imagine and envision ways of looking at the tasks of a congregation. It's not that this is exclusive to the priesthood, but I do think it's an integral part of our calling. And the priest offers this to the community as a way of leading those who gather not just to reconsider how to live together in the owrshipping congregation but also to go out to the communities that are part of--the binesses, the clubs, the schools, the families--and find opportunities to exercise prophetic imagination in those arenas.
We've come to associate prophetic preaching with social justice preaching from the liberal side of the fence. Brueggemann was really helpful to me in understanding that prophecy is using one's imagination to connect with God's vision for a community. In his book The Prophetic Imagination, he talks about Moses in the Exodus envisioning an "alternative community." Not one of slaves, but of a people who willingly enter into a covenant relationship wiht God, who take on the keeping of the Law as a way of building a just society in right relationship with each other and with God. Later prophets criticized the culture that developed, the royal culture that replaced marraige with arems, community leadership with taxing districts and bureaucracy, a stnading army which connotes reliance on self and not on God.
In this light, all that bizarre stuff in the prophetic books starts to make sense. The weird language--the use of imaginative language criticizing reality as we have constructed it.
Why are we afraid of imagination? Because imagination can lead us to understand the darkness in humanity and the dangerousness of God. Our willing naivete--"that can't happen here," "people can't do something that bad," leads us to overlook signs of evil in our midst. We find out things about colleagues and friends, and realize the signs were always there, but we shrugged them off. "It's just so-and-so, it's ok." We don't want to imagine the dark side, how we might have to confront and cope wiht it.
Even on the side of light, imagination can reveal things about God we don't want to know. I have a friend on the Internet (see-through faith over there on the sidebar) who recent read a book called Your God is Not Safe , which reminded me of the wonderful description of Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. God's imagination takes us to all sorts of places that are not safe, if we choose to follow.
Let me sum by telling you a little about my journey in faith. I grew up in an AngloCatholic parish on the North Side of Chicago--if the term biretta belt means anything to you, that's where I was. And I had two different faith experiences growing up--the rhythm of the liturgical year, which was wonderful and life-giving, and is a bedrock part of my faith formation, and hte life of the congregation itself, which was pretty dead, holding on against change and even, sometimes, laughter. I wanted more. I wanted more from God. I wanted to be more connected.
I was fortunate to stay connected with the church in college, but it was in graduate school that the real opening up of my faith began. Because I was in a church that was very much alive. We talked about our faith. And my life wasn't going so well--the drive I had to be a curator in a museum didn't seem to inspire me that way I thought it would. And I took EFM (Education for Ministry, a four year study program for laity), and started really studying scripture for the first time in my life.
And on Sunday--I was sitting in the subdeacon's chair during Sunday service, and listening to some one read from Ezekiel. And it was like I heard and understood Scripture for the first time. And I literally had an experience of something being lifted from my eyes. Of being able to see things I had never seen before. And then I started to noticed on Sundays, when I was a chalice bearer, it was like I was seeing people in a way I didn't see them the rest of the time. There was one woman who didn't like me--her son was in my youth group, and I think she didn't like that we had a good relationship, and she kind of irritated me, too--but when I gave her the chalice I realized I didn't think of her that way. And the only way I can describe that experience is that on Sundays at the altar, for a brief moment, I get a glimpse of people the way God sees them, the way God holds them in the divine imagination.
That experience fills me in a way no Spiritually Themed Product ever could.
One of the gifts we have of our Anglican heritage is that we have a tradition of theological imagination. Julian of Norwich (who I claim as Anglican even if she does predate the Reformation), to the imaginative language of Cranmer which permeates our worship, to the poetry of George Herbert, the alternative community envisioned by Deacon Nicholas Ferrar at Little Gidding in England. Using the imagination, especially in language, is in our religious DNA.
So here are some question to ponder:
What keeps you from being imaginative? What gets in your way? What ways of imagination are easiest for you? Is it with language, or visual arts, or something else? What kinds of ways of imaginative work have you always longed to do? How have you experienced the divine imagination?
Aww...you are the plant of love! You are the mistletoe! You are a loving, romantic person who likes to do what is best for the one or ones you care about mostly. You are very affectionate and enjoy being close to people. You believe that love brings you together, which is a wonderful thing. You are most likely going to have a very nice and marvelous season. Your inventive mind could come up with anything interesting to do. Merry Christmas =)
Advent 2, Year B, December 4, 2005 Mark 1:1-8 St. Augustine's, OKC
Two hat tips: one to Crossmarks for the Fowler quote, and to Dylan for the idea about this lectionary only being the beginning of the story.
These chocolate biscuits were the subject of a profound spiritual epiphany this week.. (I held up a package of German cookies).
A friend and I had gone to a store that carried all sorts of imported goods to look for some presents, and as we wandered through the store I found myself in the aisles devoted to imported foods, especially the aisles and aisles devoted to chocolates from other countries, Cadbury and Lindt and Milka and these little cookies, and a host of others were tempting me in full color, three D surroundsound..
I was standing there, dizzy from the overwhelming emotions I have about these sweets. Because these are chocolates from my childhood, and not only do they represent something that tastes pretty yummy, they also represent our family history, my father’s longing for his Austrian childhood and his British adolescence, and my complicated relationship with him, when sometimes a love for Viennese pastries and Cadbury fruit and nut bars seemed to be the only thing we might share.
And I was stuck in the aisles, torn between the feelings of desire for, well, everything that was on those shelves, and trying to decide what I really wanted to buy, and completely forgetting about the fact that I was shopping for holiday gifts for other people, and losing track of where my dear friend was in the store.
It suddenly hit me how much power and control these candies had over me. And I was almost sick from realizing how much I was possessed by the feelings and desires I had for them. (Obviously, that realization didn’t stop me from buying a few). As we returned to the minivan in the parking lot, I was still processing what had happened, the revelation of how much I could be controlled by my sweet tooth. The chocolate had made me forget what I was doing, set aside my project of thinking about gifts for other people, forget that I was in the store with someone else. My relationship with food had the potential to interfere with my relationships with others, and therefore, there’s a pretty good chance that it is not part of a right relationship with God.
So the Gospel for this week took on a new cast. “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ. John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
Repentance is one of those words that’s kind of tricky. We think we know what it means, but the more one digs into its real meaning, the deeper a word it becomes. Sometimes people say it means “turn around” but I have also heard that the Greek word, “metanoia” from which it derives means, “change of mind.” To repent then is to “change your mind.” And I don’t think this is the changing of mind whereby one picks out a different dress to wear to a cocktail party, or even changing your mind on a hot button political issue. I think “change your mind” really means to have your mind transformed, to look at those things which possess your mind in unhealthy ways and keep you from a right relationship with the rest of humanity and from God. It means understanding your place in the kingdom—that we are all creatures and not the Creator.
My seminary sent out a brochure a few years ago with this passage from Mark as the title, using ‘change your mind’ instead of repentance, and with a picture of a brain with a screw driven into it, and with a little screwdriver cleverly included in the packet. We joke about having a screw loose, or having our heads screwed on right , but the truth is our heads our pretty screwed up, and we do need the Good News of God as some kind of metaphorical screwdriver to not just adjust our brains, but to literally transform them, to conform them more and more to the mind of Christ.
We are at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, which in the words of a scholar (Robert Fowler) is a Gospel that is “designed to elicit belief, a belief that bids to have a profound and lasting significance for the reader’s life and to persist long after the initial encounter with the story.” The Gospel of Mark is the shortest gospel, a story of few words, an explosion of incidents and stories strung together at high speed, until we are at the empty tomb, not entirely sure how we got there, or what to do next. It is designed for a change of mind.
We are at the beginning of the story. John has appeared with his camel’s hair robe and bad locust-eating breath to point us to those places where we need to have a change of mind, a transformation of our brain. But this isn’t the whole story, there is more to come, a journey of baptism and teachings and temptation and crucifixion, for a little baby to be born in Bethlehem, to grow up and to die and to restore us to new life in God. John is the splash of icy cold water that wakes us up to the realization that we do not live in healthy, life-giving ways, that in our screwed up ways we live in exile from God’s kingdom.
1) Do you display a nativity scene, and if so, where?
We own a couple of nativity scenes, although I think the little ceramic Nativity set I bought in Nogales, Mexico during graduate school may be missing a few pieces--or pieces of pieces. I haven't found a good place to set it up yet.
2) Do you put a skirt under the Christmas tree? If so, what does it look like?
yes, sort of a folk art one from Cost Plus in dark green and burgundy colors.
3) Do you hang lights on the house or put them in your windows?
When I was in college I loved hanging lights in the windows. And when I lived in Arizona, we had them up in a festive way year-round. I'm not sure if we'll get any up on windows around our new place this year, too much going on.
4) White lights or colored lights on the tree? Big bulbs or the small, pretty ones? (I'm not biased...much.) We have softly blinking colored lights on the tree. I have bad memories of the big ones as a child--they got so hot! Although now I might enjoy them as a memory of childhood. I'm equally fond of white lights myself--truthfully, my favorite lights are the chile pepper ones I like to hang in my office year-round.
5) Do you have a tree topper? What sort? Who puts it on top of the tree? We have an angel that I bought at a church bookstore fair that sort of perches dangerously on top--it's not really meant as a topper. (Maybe that would be a good present for this year. . .) Husband and I together sort of aim it at the top of the tree and hope it stays on.
I'm actually thinking about getting a small live evergreen for our patio--maybe I'll get some white lights for that!
"And in this the Lord showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand. . .In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third is that God preserves it." Julian of Norwich