Saturday, December 30, 2006

Amie's adventure

This is our church's week to participate in Family Promise, which we do four times a year. Check out the link for details on this practical, faith-based outreach to homeless families. When our church has guests, the Scientist and I usually serve as overnight hosts on Friday night. This week we are hosting a hardworking single mom (who had to get up by 6:00 this morning to go to her job), her sweet teenage daughter, and her lively, happy five-year-old son.

Violent storms were in the forecast for last night (part of the same system that sent President and Mrs. Bush fleeing to the storm shelter on their ranch earlier in the day). Our precious old dog is terrified of thunder, and we hated to leave her alone overnight with a bad storm approaching. So, since Amie is gentle and well-behaved...we did what you might expect us to do...we decided that Amie would help us host last night. She's gone to church before, but not overnight!

I was touched by how thrilled five-year-old Lee was to have the chance to pet and play with a dog. Our sweet girl was, of course, very patient and tolerant (I only had to admonish him once that she was too small for him to ride), and, to his delight, decided they were friends and gave him several kisses. There was a lot to sniff and explore, but after everyone went to bed Amie settled down on her familiar bed next to our pallets, and was content.

The storms never came, or if they did we never heard them. But we were glad we brought Amie with us, just the same. And I know Lee was glad, too.

Monday, December 25, 2006

God With Us

Break forth, O beauteous heav'nly light,
And usher in the morning;
Ye shepherds, shrink not with affright,
But hear the angel's warning.
This child, this little helpless boy,
Shall be our confidence and joy,
The powers of hell o'er-throwing,
At last our peace bestowing.

A blessed and happy Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Come, Lord Jesus

We who must die demand a miracle.
How could the Eternal do a temporal act,
The Infinite become a finite fact?
Nothing can save us that is possible.
We who must die demand a miracle.

W. H. Auden

Saturday, December 23, 2006

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, ruler and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.

Friday, December 22, 2006

O Rex Gentium

O Ruler of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of humankind, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

O Oriens

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

O Clavis David

O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

O Radix Jesse

O Flower of Jesse's Stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

Monday, December 18, 2006

O Adonai

O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain; come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

O Sapientia

O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.

(The first of the O Antiphons.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Five: Yuletide Favorites

1. It's a Wonderful Life--Is it? Do you remember seeing it for the first time?
I love this movie. I don't remember when I saw it the first time, but there was a memorable time: We were flying home from California for Christmas one year when the flight attendant announced, with apologies, that the in-flight movie had malfunctioned, so there would be no movie. No big deal. But in a minute she returned to announce that a passenger with a tape of "It's a Wonderful Life" had offered it for viewing--and that's what we watched. That whole planeful of people was in a festive mood by the time we landed.

2. Miracle on 34th Street--old version or new? Definitely old, and Ted Turner had better keep his colorizing hands off of it.

3. Do you have a favorite incarnation of Mr. Scrooge? My immediate thought was Mr. Magoo! But, to go in a completely different direction, some years ago we had the great pleasure of seeing Patrick Stewart's one-man show of A Christmas Carol. How could there be any other Scrooge after that?

4. Why should it be a problem for an elf to be a dentist? I've been watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for years now, and I still don't get it. Well, um, for some unknown reason I've NEVER watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, so I have no idea what this is about. After extensive research (meaning, I've looked at three or four people's responses), I'm inclined to go with Chicago Rev's theory.

5.Who's the scariest character in Christmas specials/movies? For me it was the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol". If you are too young to remember that, imagine the one from the Muppet version as a cartoon. Now imagine seeing it as a hypersensitive six-year-old! Nightmares for weeks!

You don't think ANY Christmas characters are particularly scary? Think you're tough? Check out Will Smama's site, if you dare.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Brought to you today by the letter N

This is Mindy's alphabet meme: she will assign you a letter, and you think of ten things you love that begin with that letter. Go see Mindy if you want to play. My letter is N, and here's my list:
1. Nights at home, spent quietly with my little family (human and canine). Those are in short supply this time of year, and all the more precious when we do have one.
2. Night, O Holy. We are rehearsing a lovely choral arrangement of it for Christmas Eve (both morning and midnight), and have a wonderful soprano on the solo, who will sing it just right. My mother, who died in 1991, loved this song, and whenever we sing it I remember how much she enjoyed it. Like Dogblogger's Typist, I know something about trying not to choke up in choir.
3. Nuts, especially our own pecans. Try this if you're getting tired of sweets: Melt a stick of butter or margarine and add 4 tsp. Worcestershire, 1 T. garlic salt, and 1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce. Mix well and stir into 4 c. pecans. Spread the pecans out on a rimmed cookie sheet or large flat pan and toast at 300 degrees for about ten minutes. Watch closely and stir occasionally; they can burn quickly. As soon as they darken, you can take them out. Cool on paper towels. I plan to make several batches of these for the neighbors.
4. The Scientist's 1999 Nissan pickup, still going strong at 108,000 miles.
5/6. Willie Nelson and Nanci Griffith. It's a Texas thing.
7. The Neverending Story, one of our favorite movies. A couple of weeks ago we watched it for the first time in about twenty years. Oh! That reminds me of:
8. Netflix!
9. News of faraway friends and family. I love reading all of those Christmas letters--really.
10. Me, usually. My name starts with N. I'm still learning to love myself.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

End of a brief era

Yesterday I attended my last meeting as an elder member of our Presbytery's CPM, or Committee on Preparation for Ministry. For you non-Presbys, this is the committee that shepherds and monitors the progress of inquirers and candidates as they move through seminary and ordination exams, toward being ready to receive a call. It's supposed to be a three-year commitment, but I've been there for four. I'm tired.

No one feels neutral toward the CPM experience. I would bet that someone reading this has just had a visceral reaction to the idea of CPM and now feels a bit less kindly disposed toward me because I've served on one. Seriously. I have read a sermon by one of our candidates that discussed the dark valleys God leads us through, including "sickness, death of loved ones, and CPMs."

I am well aware that--as PC(USA) materials advise us--that to these folks we represent the Church, "with the authority and power to ordain and not to ordain". And I have some other ideas about people's projection onto us of their experiences with withholding parents, etc. But I admit I was stunned recently when a candidate complained about how cold and uncaring we are, how critical, etc. That just doesn't match my experience of the people I've served with on this committee, their love for Jesus and for the church, their compassion, and their dedication to this shepherding task. The majority of our candidates have not given us that sort of feedback--in fact, a number have expressed appreciation--but the ones that have felt hurt are the ones I remember most clearly. Now, granted, some of them have been angry because we would not countermand parts of the Book of Order or toss PC(USA) polity out the window at their request. I think we have stuck to our guns pretty well at times when that mattered.

Gee, do you think I may have some issues to look at, too?

The vast, vast majority of the women and men whose progress I have been privileged to oversee in these years are intelligent, energetic, creative servants of Christ and the Church. They are the future of this denomination, and we are blessed in them. One is even a RevGalBlogPal! (Maybe more than one, for all I know!) I am glad I had this opportunity, and I have loved getting to know the ministers and elders with whom I have served. But frankly, it's time for a break.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fa-la-la-la-la, la Friday Five

1. A favorite "secular" Christmas song.
James Taylor's version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is nice. And Chuck Berry's "Run Run Rudolph" always makes me smile.

2. Christmas song that chokes you up (maybe even in spite of yourself--the cheesier the better): That would have to be "Mary, Did You Know?" Our youth choir sang it at our Christmas concert last year, and I think we were all boo-hooing by the time they'd finished. "The Child that you delivered/Will soon deliver you." No, it's not Donne, but it gets me every time.
My favorites choke me up, too: "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing", and hearing a boy soprano open "Once in Royal David's City".

3. Christmas song that makes you want to stuff your ears with chestnuts roasted on an open fire: I did a postdoc fellowship in a large pediatric hospital. Secular Christmas music assaulted us over the hospital PA system for four solid weeks. Since disabling the loudspeaker in our department was strictly forbidden, we taped several inches of foam rubber over it, which helped a bit. But we still could not completely escape the Carpenters' version of "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays." From Atlantic to Pacific, gee, the traffic is terrific...Nearly twenty years later, it still makes me cringe.

4. The Twelve Days of Christmas: is there *any* redeeming value to that song? Discuss. Hmm. If it were appropriately normed, perhaps it might have some utility as a verbal learning test.

5. A favorite Christmas album. Bruce Cockburn's Christmas is my very favorite. Second place would be a tie: the Chieftains' The Bells of Dublin and, although some of the arrangements seem a bit dated now, Joan Baez's Noel.

Later: I just went and read the lyrics of "Christmas Shoes", because I had never heard of it. Oh, ick.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Getting down with the sound

Sitting right up front in the chancel every week, the choir takes seriously our responsibility to set a worshipful and respectful tone for the congregation. No yakking during the prelude, no whispering, snorting or snickering during the service. Our resolve was severely tested at the end of today's service when one of the elders (usually a rather sedate gentleman) stood in the narthex, boogieing and shimmying to the postlude in an attempt to crack up his wife, who sits on the front row in the alto section. She maintained her composure, but alas, several of us did not. We will probably be chastised at rehearsal this week.

I never knew that Bach's Little Prelude in D Minor was such a rocker.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Five: Adventually

1. Do you observe Advent in your church?
Yes, and I love it. I'm kind of an Advent geek. I really try to observe Advent, and would be content (well, probably...OK, make it mostly) to sing no carols until Christmas Eve.
2. How about at home?
Not so much, except in personal devotions. We don't have a wreath or anything. The hardcore theology/liturgical geek in me would like to wait until Christmas Eve to put up the tree, but it is no match for the Christmas-loving romantic in me. (We generally do wait until around Advent 2.) Several years ago I came across An Advent Sourcebook, published by Liturgy Training Publications, and I highly recommend it both as a source of personal Advent devotions and a treasure trove of poems and meditations you can use at church or in small groups. Their Christmas and Easter sourcebooks are excellent too.
3. Do you have a favorite Advent text or hymn?
I love the O Antiphons. Every year I tell myself I am going to make an effort to go to services at the convent/retreat center in town, or some other place where I can hear them sung. Maybe this year.
4. Why is one of the candles in the Advent wreath pink?
Hmmm...because a baby is pink? No, that can't be it. Actually I think it has something to do with the festive nature of our waiting and hoping, mingled with the solemn purple (which also reminds of Lent, another time of waiting and repentance). I have some vague recollection of something about the Pope giving out pink roses...can't remember just what that was supposed to be about....
5. What's the funniest/kitschiest Advent calendar you've ever seen?
Oh good grief, the ones for dogs and cats. Can we please not even call those Advent calendars? (said Ms. Crankypants Theology Geek) How about "Countdown to Santa" calendars? Come to think of it, there are plenty of "Advent" calendars for humans that fall into the same category.

Well, I'm off to pick up the Scientist for one of our much-loved evenings at the ballet. Tonight will be our last opportunity to see the fabulous Lauren Anderson (shown here with the equally fabulous Carlos Acosta) who is retiring after this season's round of The Nutcracker. Brava! We'll miss you!