Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Advent Peace

Advent, in the Christian tradition, is a time of getting ready to receive Jesus, the Christ. It is a time of remembering to always be ready for Jesus to show up anywhere, at anytime, not just in December. It is a time to prepare our hearts for the celebration of his birth on December 25th. It is a time to empty out some of the junk in our minds and hearts and spirits to make a little more space for God to get in and have a conversation with us.

I usually choose a discipline of scripture readings, devotional readings, and art to help me make that empty space in which God can take up residence, at least for awhile, until I fill that space up again with junk.

My Advent discipline this year is different from other years. Inspired by the Practicing Prayer group at my church, Grace Episcopal in Norwalk, Connecticut, I pledged to go without internet or computer from dark until full light each night and morning. This includes doing work on the computer - bulletins, sermons, etc.

Of course, I forgot my pledge, but mi esposo did not. He asked me about it last night at 8 p.m. as I sat down to do some computer stuff. And so, I finished what I was doing, hit "send" and walked away until 6:45 this morning.

And that was hard. When I get bored I head straight for the computer. Being bored is code for I don't want to do any other things that I might be doing, especially tending to my spiritual life. Last night I got out my 8 1/2 by 11 spiral school notebook, which I use for journaling, and began to write. Then I prayed compline and went to bed. This morning I began with journaling three pages of stream of consciousness stuff - mostly about a weird dream about being at a conference in England with Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury doing a series of talks, talks, talks - and then read Morning Prayer, did my exercises, made my tea, fed the dog, and then it was full light and I went straight to the computer to check emails!

Of which there were two. One of them "junk mail".

This discipline, or rule of life for Advent, includes no checking email or social networks on my iPhone. Meanwhile, the iPhone of mi esposo kept blinging every time he got mail and it was all I could do to not automatically reach for my own phone and check if I had anything.

So, this morning, my question is this: I'm an old person. I didn't grow up with electronic media except black and white television and the radio and a telephone on a party line (which means one line for several households!). So while I have grown accustomed to - some might say overly dependent on - the computer, it won't be quite so cutting as it might to a 20-something year old.
So I ask, if there is anyone who is has grown up totally connected who is reading this blog, what would it be like for you to totally unplug for, say 12 to 14 hours every night?

Of course, older people may also answer this question!

Blessed Advent to all, and to all an unplugged night!

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Christmas! Isn't it?

Today lighting decorations went up on my street. I first noticed it on the house just opposite - a very tasteful single strand of multicolor lights outlining the roof of the front porch.

And I like it.

Yes, it's Advent. Yes, I know about how early "secularization" decorating for Christmas robs Advent of its meaning, or so some think.

No, it doesn't do that for me. I still observe Advent. I love Advent. Early decorating won't make any difference to me.

Now, I may have written something like this in previous years, but this year it feels different. I realize how much I love lighting displays in this darkest time of the year. I realize that by October, when it's night, and I'm driving in the rain, and I approach the traffic lights and their reflections off the wet road, I feel Christmasy, and I like it. I know that the decorations and lights my neighbors put up today will be gone by Christmas day.

And if I get scroogy about those early lights, if I twist myself into a knot about the violation of Advent, I'll miss entirely something I love. My neighbors won't be celebrating Christmas for twelve days after the 25th. They've already had four weeks of it. So I will enjoy them now.

And so, I'm enjoying the lights. I'm enjoying extending my Christmas joy and mixing it with my Advent anticipation. And today I replied to the first "Merry Christmas", with a Merry Christmas of my own. And yes, we are going to light up a small fir tree in the front yard this week.

Slippery slope? Only if my mind allows it. And it won't. Because I love Advent, and the dark, and lighting small lights in the dark, to remind me of what it is for which I'm waiting.

What are you waiting for this end-of-the-year?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Eve

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I'm not cooking this year. We're going out to a restaurant and supporting the waitstaff, of which I was once one.

From the sermon Monday night at the Norwalk Interfaith Community Thanksgiving Service:
Thanksgiving isn't about how thankful you are for what you have. Thanksgiving is about what you have done or been that people are thankful for you, or what you have done, or been. (That's a paraphrase but that's the jist.)


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Xena blogging

I knew it was there before my human caretaker.

She had let me out into the backyard and I knew right away there was something back there. I took off, but it had the advantage over me. It can fly. I can't. A delicious squirrel was in its claws. It cleared the fence, turned left between the garage and the church, flew through the stand of red maples and perched way on the other side of the property. All I could do was watch.

My human was way behind. She didn't see it until it was in the air, after I had already realized I had lost the race to catch it on the ground.

Unfair. I've been trying to catch a squirrel for two years. I wonder how I can get wings and drop down on one and fly away with it.

Now, here's the mystery. I found the kill spot. Just a few fluffs of fur, and only one drop of blood, just starting to set up. How can that be?

Note from the human: It took me a few seconds to realize why Xena, Warrior Labrador Retriever Princess of All Norwalk, was running hell bent for leather off the porch and into the yard. I got to the deck and it was low off the ground and rising, with the squirrel dangling from its claws. All I could get for identification was it was a hawk the size of a buteo and had a heavily barred tail. For a birder, that's frustrating. Immature Red Tail? Red Shouldered? Or did I have it all wrong? Was it the Goshawk that breeds along the Rte 7 connector? It all happened so fast. I saw it land. By the time I went into the house for field glasses, it was already gone.

Mind you, this is in the middle of a city in Connecticut. 4:00 on a Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A path through the leaves

This morning I was walking the prayer labyrinth painted on the Grace parking lot. As I walked, my mind was trying to untangle the best way to present the new Multicultural Ministry we are founding in a way that people would understand why, and to what purpose.

I looked over toward the part of the labyrinth where one of the Japanese maples had dropped nearly all its beautiful red leaves overnight, and I realized that part of the labyrinth was completely covered. I laughed, because, from where I was standing, I saw I would not be able to find the path when I got there.

However, I walked on, concentrating on my feet, and, I hope, God, and when I got to the part of the labyrinth that was under leaf cover, I realized that bits of the painted path peaked through the leaves just enough so I could see the path and its directional breaks.

And I thought, "Aha! such a metaphor!" And so, we proceed on the path toward being one of the few places in Fairfield County, and in Connecticut, where the Episcopal Church has a presence among Hispanic/Latino people. Even though we have no money to do so. Even though the path appears to be totally obscured.

But maybe not so obscured as we think.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cross posted from Episcopal Cafe - The Church has left the building

Go to Episcopal Cafe through this link and watch this video. It is very thought provoking.

I wrote down four phrases while I watched the first time.
"Hebrews and Brews" Bible study
"The church has left the building."
"Think outside the box.
Where are the people?"
"Collaborate and possibly fail."

Hey out there, to those who read here and belong to other churches or institutions. How can we collaborate for the good of all?
Those of you in churches on the edge of closing: Are you willing to take risks and fail and try again and again?
Would any of you out there go to a Bible study if it was held at Dunkin' Donuts or O'Neill's Pub?

Thought for the day, from my cousin

My cousin Linda Jennings Wilk posted this on facebook.

"We are blessed to be gathered as a people who are called to listen deeply to the Word: as it was spoken to those who came long before us, who ministered and wrote what was told to them, as it comes to us when we are gathered in worship and waiting for revelation, and we must especially be alert to remember that God will continue to reveal the Truth to us ongoing, so that nothing will be set in stone. Just as our lives continue to unfold, so God is still speaking."

Your comments are invited.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The forgotten?

Every Veterans' Day I remember those who served democracy and did not fight.

This year I remember my father, William Paul Thien. He served as a civilian working for Douglas Aircraft in Eritrea and Ethiopia during WWII.

While en route east on the U.S.S. Chateau Thierry, between May 29, 1942 to July 24, 1942, he assisted the ship's company in "operating, maintaining and protecting this vessel...during which time the ship passed through hazardous waters."

"The United States then being in a state of war, this voluntary service on his part was in accordance with the best tradition of the United States Navy, therefore, as Commanding Officer of this vessel, I take great pleasure in commending and thanking him for his services as a member of the lookout and plane watch, which were beyond the normal call of his duties".

The commendation for my dad, dated July 24 1942, is on the letterhead of the U.S.S. Chateau Thierry and signed by B.W. Cloud, Commander, U.S. Navy, Commanding, and attested by G. F. Prestwich, Lieut. Commander, USNR, Executive Officer.

After Africa, my dad was transferred to Wendover Air Base, Utah, to complete some modifications to the B29s. The war ended shortly after I was born in Wendover.

Thank you to all the civilians.

November 11 - St. Martin of Tours

Today is the feast day of Martin of Tours. You can read his bio and legend, by James Kiefer, here.

The core story is that, as a young man, Martin was a soldier. One day he encountered a beggar at a city gate. It was a freezing cold day and Martin, in a fit of compassion, took off his cloak, cut it in half and gave half to the beggar.

That night Martin dreamed that he saw Jesus wearing the half of his cloak, and heard Jesus saying that it had been given to him by Martin, a soldier and a non-Christian.

Shortly after, Martin was baptized and became a Christian.

As Kiefer writes, today being Veteran's Day in the U.S., and Armistice Day elsewhere:
"The Feast of Martin, a soldier who fought bravely and faithfully in the service of an

earthly sovereign, and then enlisted in the service of Christ, is also the day of the

Armistice which marked the end of the First World War. On it we remember those

who have risked or lost their lives in what they perceived as the pursuit of justice and peace."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Faithful Departed

This evening I was posting my sermon from this morning on the Sermon Blog and I decided to follow up on someone from my past who I had named as one of the faithful departed ones who bequeathed to me gifts that have made me who I am.

The person I named in my sermon was my music teacher in junior high school. When I was older I learned that he had become a woman, at a time when that was just not done. She lost her job and never worked as a teacher again because of being true to herself as God had intended her to be.

When I looked her up online I found this article. My music teacher was more of a hero than I had thought. She wrote a book titled A Handbook for Transsexuals.

When we were kids in Mr. Grossman's music classes, we made fun of him. He was a little, round man who wore patent leather Italian shoes that came to a point at the toes and he had a way of conducting that was eminently mockable for ten and eleven year olds. We had no idea what we were doing.

In my sermon this morning I credited Miss Grossman for giving me the gift of bravery.

Paula Grossman died in 2003, eight years ago. Thank you, Miss Grossman.
Rest eternal grant unto her, O God, and may light perpetual shine upon her.
May her soul, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

O Happy Day!

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
to thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed. Alleluia!

Happy All Saints' Day! ¡Feliz día de todos los santos!