Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This is a true story: Death and resurrection

There was once a parish whose worshipers had dwindled to five souls. The bishop came to see them, bringing with him a priest. The job of the priest was to be the closing of that parish.

The bishop told the faithful remnant of five the facts of life. After some silence, one of the five stood up and said, "Well, then. I guess we're dead."

And the bishop smiled.

Do you know why he smiled? He smiled because he knew this truth: There is no resurrection without death. And there can be no resurrection for those who are dead and do not realize it. These five knew they were dead.

The little parish had nothing left to lose. They started to take chances. In their last weeks, the five decided to give themselves away to the neighborhood in which their church stood. They stood out in the cold nights with a meager few bags of groceries and gave them away to anyone who went by. After awhile, they had to build collaborations with neighbors because the number of grocery bags needed to give away were beyond the resources of the five.

By the time the line of those in need of groceries was so long it reached down the block and around the corner, the neighborhood had begun to make common cause with the five, who were no longer five, but more.

The church I serve is not dead, in the sense people mean when they say dead. A way of life is dead. The church of decades ago is dead. Those who remain are healthy and struggling. Having looked death in the eye, they may rise again, and they will rise again, if they will focus on the one true question: What is God doing? And am I willing to follow Christ into that thing God is doing?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Xena Princess Hero

You're not going to believe me. You're going to say it's all a coincidence. You had to be there.

Yesterday a new dog crossed the church parking lot with its human in tow. Xena was in the rectory back yard at the time and barked the dog its place in the scheme of things here on this corner of Norwalk.

Late last night I was in the upstairs office of the rectory with Xena sleeping on the rug at my side. Suddenly she starts barking, vigorously, warning, almost angry. I followed her as she ran downstairs. I let her out into the back yard and she streaked, barking, for the back chain link fence. I could see a slim human figure there in the shadows. It just stood there. Xena commanded with her barking and the person began to move on. By then I was with Xena and the woman, for this is what the figure was, was saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" as she moved away. I asked what was wrong.

She said the dog got away from her. She's dog sitting for a friend and the dog got out of the house and she couldn't find him. She was, by now, almost across the parking lot and heading out to the street.

Meanwhile, Xena is barking, not at the woman, but off to the right, barking with great command, like I've never heard her.

And here comes the big white dog from this afternoon. Chastened. Not bounding, but coming up to Xena, at the fence, a little ashamed of himself. I called the woman back. Xena held that dog with her will, right there at the fence, barking at it, until the woman got to the dog and tied this pathetic little string she was using as a leash onto its collar.

Then the dog timidly moved its nose close to the fence and Xena let it to the greeting thing.

I have been on the receiving end of the herding instinct of whatever other breed Xena is mixed with, but I've never seen her heard another animal. And what I saw was just that - from a distance, and through a fence, Xena herded that dog, held it, and then, only when all was well, she released it.

That's my Xena! Labrador mix breed warrior princess of all Norwalk indeed!

And now I await Mad Priest, premier herding dog guru (border collies), to set me straight and I'll take it like a man. And still, I know what I saw.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Moving on

The hurricane is over. Irene is gone. There is plenty of rebuilding and cleaning up and restoration of utility services to be done. I rejoice that elderly parishioners I could not contact yesterday had their phones restored to I could do so this noon. Take a deep breath. Rest, relax and restore after carrying so much tension and anxiety (unbeknownst to my conscious self!).

Meanwhile, the "moving on" thought for today is:
What does it mean to be called as a people by God into new community and to be broke?
What are the implications?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cross Posting ramblings

I posted this in the comments at Episcopal Cafe under "Hurricane Check-in":

I'm in Norwalk, CT, on Long Island Sound. Grace Church was flooded out in the 1954 hurricane, when it was located on the Norwalk River. We relocated further away but who knows - it's still only a few blocks away. We in town have not been ordered to evacuate.

Preparations have gone as far as they can. Cloudy. Occasional drizzle. No wind yet. It feels strange - disorienting - like I can't tell what day it is since life does not seem to be carrying on in the neighborhood the way it usually does on a Saturday.

Service cancelled for tomorrow. Elderly all checked up on. Keeping iPhone charged. Sent the bulletin - always full text English and Spanish side by side, with readings - to those who have email. Have already planned a post hurricane Service of Thanksgiving, bilingual, with my Hispanic Missioner counterpart for Thursday evening at 7.

The porch rockers have been lashed to the railings, the hatches battened down next door at the church, and now we wait.

And so, to bed.

Hurricane watch Saturday

Took the dog for her usual 5:00 a.m. walk down the bike trail. On the return it was beginning to spit rain out there.

I have two brothers who live in the evacuation zone in Delaware. The one who lives right on the beach has, according to the other brother, probably (probably!) already left for inland Maryland. The other brother and his rescue greyhound King Charles, are "probably" going to stay put. He's not on the beach. I'm trying to remember if he's near marsh land. Oh bother. My anxiety level is rising. Must remember to breathe.

Today I will tie the porch rocking chairs to the railing. And I'm going to cut myself a big bouquet of zinnias. I'd rather cut them all since they're going to be pummeled to the ground anyway so might as well enjoy them inside. Can't do anything about the green zebra stripe heirloom tomato plant. I might pick some of the larger fruits - not really large enough yet, but still...better than not enjoying them at all.

Later today my partner in ministry, the latino missioner, and I will plan a thanksgiving service for later in the week, for the passing of the hurricane. I look forward to that.

Friday, August 26, 2011


'Nuff said.

When I was a little girl, growing up in a bungalow across the street from the Passaic River in smalltown Millington, we kids loved hurricanes (of course!), especially when we lost electric power.

Daddy would bring out the kerosene hurricane lanterns and we'd all sit around the big four foot square heating vent (the only one in the house) between the living room and the dining room.

We heated with coal, so power outages didn't keep us from being warm and cooking. Yes indeed, the top of the coal furnace was just below the level of the floor. Daddy took the grate off the vent opening and Mom cooked on top of the furnace.

For us kids, power outage storms were an adventure, camping out without the inconvenience of nature.

Now I am old. I've prepared without being panicy. If things cut loose outside and fly around, well, they do. Meanwhile one of the newly fledged redtail hawks is perched on the crossbar of the steeple cross on the Catholic Church cattercorner from our house, and the other one is perched on the microwave - what are they? antennae? - on top of the office building across the street from our back yard. Calling to one another. I wonder what they are saying.

I shall announce church services are cancelled for Sunday. Better safe than have people worrying up to the last minute. Leaving me with only one worry I can't do anything about: What happens to Xena, labrador retriever warrior princess of all Norwalk, on Sunday when she has to go out and attend to business during the storm?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August's strange treasures

For the past few weeks I have been finding the sheddings of cicadas around the pine trees in the back yard of the rectory. At first, I just noticed that the holes in the ground - early in the spring the exit/entrances for burrowing bees - were more numerous and much larger. Then I started to see a few sheddings near the holes. Now the ground is littered with them! They lie about in piles of six to ten, and more. Here's a link to someone else's photos of cicadas - not my cicadas nor my yard, but easier than doing my own photos!

Miss Xena has had her own cicada incident. She took one on this afternoon. It was still in the grass, probably drying its wings. I rescued it and tossed it over the fence into the next yard. I have no idea if it will survive Xena's exploratory playing.

Meanwhile, yesterday late afternoon, I saw my first warbler in the city since I moved here five years ago, and certainly the first in the three summers we have been in the rectory. It was a black and white warbler (black and white is its name - here it is). Not to be confused with the blackpoll warbler.

Also, the tomatoes are bearing fruit, against all odds (planted in soil undercut by pine tree roots). The prize is an indeterminate heirloom, green zebra. It just wasn't setting fruit. Finally, Newlin restaked it and, voila! Fruit galore!

I'm also trying to sprout some Italian green beans and some Italian green summer squash seeds for a late planting. We shall see.

And the glory of it all - the zinnias are really taking off.

If I had gone away for vacation, as I was going to, I would have missed all this. It's not quite so relaxing, vacationing in the rectory, next to the church and its parking lot. Newlin and I have screened off much of the fence so I can have a little privacy.

Vacation bonus: I have been drawing something, anything, and often some things almost every day for three weeks. I am very proud of myself. And let's not forget, I am still on target for reading at least one complete murder mystery every day!

A good vacation. I will miss it. And I will still have zinnias, birds, tomatoes, and drawings to remember it by.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vacation Treasure Hunt

I was watching History Detectives on TV and found, on their website, that you can submit a family mystery to them to research so I dove into the Thien Family Archives, of which I am the caretaker, to see if I could find the stuff I knew I have on my Dad during WWII with Douglas Aircraft and Wendover Utah.

Well I found it, but not until I found his father's birth certificate, giving his father's father's and mother's names. And, just for a bonus, my mother's father's geneology from Norway (in Norwegian but with translation, thank God!). AND, the Goodrich family photo from the 1800's of the "Goodrich Drum Corp" with names. Hidden gold!

Tomorrow, a day with updating the old family tree with solid info. I love this stuff.

And I'm still going to write to History Detectives to see if they can verify my dad's part in certain aspects of WWII which have been part of the family lore but with little detail. Bonus there: a commendation for Daddy, a civilian, aboard a ship attacked at sea, for his service above and beyond.

And then there's "Aunt Alma" (Daddy's aunt), the artist and genealogist, but that's another story, for another day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Right on!

"If you want to create jobs, CREATE THEM!" Rep. Jan Schakowsky (d - IL) "If you want to create jobs, HIRE PEOPLE!"

The purpose of wealth - including church endowments and the profits of business BEFORE taxes and dividends to stockholders - is to provide jobs for people, AT A LIVING WAGE, so that there is no person who is not employed at a living wage. Lois Keen, jobbing priest (TEC)

Just do it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Question of the Day

I just watched, for the second time today, a commercial on TV for Kindle - an electronic book/print media library storage system - and the method for selling this Kindle is to demean those who carry books around instead of storing them in an 8 oz Kindle.

So my question is this: When did it become okay to put down people who prefer the alternative to the product being advertised? Why do we put up with this negative comparative advertising? About the same time we gave positive reinforcement to negative political advertising?

The companion to negative comparative advertising is the violence based advertising. For instance, the antacid commercial that has the food beating up the person who wants to eat it, making the antacid necessary in order to tame the food.

Another sign that I am a dinosaur is that I refuse to buy anything, even if I want it, that relies on negative comparison - no, put down comparison that demeans the other - or violent advertising hiding behind puerile attempts at humor. I find it killing to the collective soul of humankind. I realize, too, this is all wrapped up with our need to bludgeon one another over ideas, opinions and beliefs.

So, Kindle, so what if I prefer a book to a Kindle? I don't need a reason. It's an aesthetic thing. Like preferring to draw with a pencil rather than a computer program. This is why I seldom give reasons for my likes or dislikes, my preferences, and decisions. We live in a culture of overcoming objections. There is no more "let your yes be yes and your no be no" (James 5:12).
It's "let my yes be your yes and my no be your no".

Finally, Kindle, how about changing from comparative ads to just stating the features and benefits of a Kindle without comparing it to books and people who prefer to lug books around in book bags? People like me. Who find it comforting to spend a vacation pouring over my stacks and piles of books, handling them, and just enjoying looking at them in every room of the house. Take me as I am, Kindle. And I'll do the same for you. Not better or worse, just different.

Thought for the week

On Sunday, July 31, with the Hungarian Grand Prix over, Formula 1 began their three week holiday. NO work to be done on the cars during this time.

On the same day, after watching the Hungarian Grand Prix - Jensen Button took the checker and won! - I began my three week vacation.

Coincidence? I think not.