Friday, December 28, 2007

An "Auld Lang Syne" Friday Five

Singing Owl says:

It is hard to believe, but 2007 is about to be history, and this is our last Friday Five of the year.

With that in mind, share five memorable moments of 2007. These can be happy or sad, profound or silly, good or bad but things that you will remember.

Bonus points for telling us of a "God sighting"-- a moment when the light came through the darkness, a word was spoken, a song sung, laughter rang out, a sermon spoke to you in a new way--whatever you choose, but a moment in 2007 when you sensed Emmanuel, God with us. Or more particularly, you.

1. I could fill this whole meme with memorable moments from our spring trip to Italy. I'll just list a few right here:
--Standing in an olive grove outside Sorrento as the young woman whose family has produced olive oil there for five generations told us about the olive harvest, then showed us her great-grandfather's millstone before contrasting that with their modern production facility.

--Wandering down a side street in Rome, gelato in hand, turning a corner--and there was the Pantheon.
--Walking into St. Peter's, turning right--and there was the Pieta. It is only slightly larger than lifesize, which makes it more powerful than it would be if it were larger.
--A three-course meal at a Tuscan winery, gazing out at the green hills and vineyards as the exquisite food and wine just kept coming.
--Standing on the Accademia bridge in Venice, looking down the Grand Canal toward the domes of Santa Maria della Salute.
I could go on....

2. Celebrating the Scientist's 50th birthday on April 16--our celebration overshadowed by the tragedy that took place at Virginia Tech that day.

3. Celebrating 25 years of marriage in July. Considering how blessed we are, not just in having each other, but in having all of the friends who came to celebrate with us.

4. This year I have enjoyed conducting psychological evaluations of potential candidates for the priesthood, by arrangement with our local Roman Catholic archdiocese. After we had discussed the results of his evaluation, an African seminarian prayed with and for me, asking God to place a "wall of fire" around me and my work.

5. Opening Christmas presents in my mother-in-law's hospital room. She has just had her third spinal surgery. Please pray that this fusion will help to relieve her pain. The Scientist and I have spent a lot of time on the phone since she was abruptly released on Wednesday with no aftercare plans in place--but that's another story. (The home health nurse did come today.)

I can't think of any earthshaking revelations or epiphanies that have been distinct from the daily events I recall. God has been present to me in all of these events, in quiet worship with my friends on Wednesday night and in corporate praise and worship on Sunday; in our everyday life together; in the fact that we can get up on an ordinary day and go to work--and that we have work to go to; in quiet assurance that God still has a plan for my life and is still working within me. I look forward to this New Year and hope that 2008 will be a blessing to all who read these words.

Monday, December 24, 2007

"Christmas calls a community back to its origins by remembering Jesus' own beginnings as a human child, a prophet of God's reign, a judgment on the world and its projects. What the parish celebrates during this season is not primarily a birthday, but the beginning of a decisive new phase in the tempestuous history of God's hunger for human companions. The social concerns of the season are thus rooted in Jesus' proclamation of God's reign: the renunciation of patterns that oppress others (holding, climbing, commanding) and the formation of a new human community that voluntarily embraces those renunciations. It is an adult Christ that the community encounters during the Advent and Christmas cycles of Sundays and feasts: a Risen Lord who invites sinful people to become church. Christmas does not ask us to pretend we were back in Bethlehem, kneeling before a crib; it asks us to recognize that the wood of the crib became the wood of the cross."

Nathan Mitchell
from Liturgy, vol 1. no. 2, 1980.

A blessed and happy Christmas to all!

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's almost Christmas, Friday Five!

From Revhrod:

1. What was one of your favorite childhood gifts that you gave?
I must have been ten or eleven years old when I found a small quail figurine I was sure my mother would love. I was right, and it graced our coffee table for many years.

2.What is one of your favorite Christmas recipes? Bonus points if you share the recipe with us.
Here's the recipe for my mother's fruitcake cookies, much loved in our family. Even people who claim not to like fruitcake seem to enjoy these. The Scientist and I first made them for what turned out to be my mother's last Christmas; all of the ingredients were in the house, but she was too ill to make the cookies. We have made them ever since, in her memory.

Drop Fruit Cakes
1 lb. fruitcake mix
1 c. raisins
14 oz. dates (Note: I can't find 14-oz. packages of dates here. I use two 6-oz. packages and add an extra 2 oz. raisins.)
1 1/2 lb. pecans, chopped
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
4 eggs
3 c. flour
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda, dissolved in a little warm water
3 T. milk
Flour fruitcake mix, fruits and nuts with some of the flour. Make batter with the remaining ingredients and add to the floured fruit and nuts. (This requires a very large container--we have always used my mother's old Dutch oven--and the only way to mix this is with your hands, so have fun!) Drop from a spoon (or pinch off little pieces and roll into balls) onto greased cookie sheets. They don't spread as much as most cookies do. Bake at 250 degrees (yes, 250) for an hour; cool completely on racks before packing into tins. If desired, you may sprinkle them with 3 T. whiskey. (Since we don't like whiskey, ours are the teetotaling variety.) Makes 6 or 7 dozen, depending on how small they are.

3. What is a tradition that your family can't do without? (And by family, I mean family of origin, family of adulthood, or that bunch of cool people that just feel like family.)
The first one I thought of is actually rather recent. Two years ago, this delicious recipe for banana pancakes with caramel-banana syrup appeared in Bon Appetit. It became our standard Christmas morning breakfast! I'm hoping to start another tradition this year: tamales on Christmas Eve. That's very traditional in south Texas, and we love tamales but have never had them for Christmas Eve supper.

4. Pastors and other church folk often have very strange traditions dictated by the "work" of the holidays. What happens at your place?
We love the candlelight service on Christmas Eve. Since I am always singing and the Scientist is nearly always an usher for that service, we have to wrap up our Christmas Eve festivities at home in time to get to church early! The Scientist's family always opens all of their gifts on Christmas Eve (after 25 years I'm still not used to that, but oh well), and because of our schedule we have to eat dinner fairly early to have plenty of time for "Christmas tree".

5. If you could just ditch all the traditions and do something unexpected... what would it be?
I would love to have Christmas somewhere in Europe and enjoy the holiday traditions of whatever country we were visiting. Alternately, a secluded cabin with a fireplace, a well-stocked kitchen, and lots of books sounds good--especially if we could bring Amie with us!

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Up to my ears in Advent, PNC, preparing for choir concert (tomorrow night!), a party or two, the rest of Christmas planning/baking, attending to the spouse and the dog, sparring with insurance companies, testing kids, writing reports--the usual.

I've missed having time to just sit and maybe even think about a Friday Five for a few minutes. Ah well, the time will come again.

Thursday night we made time to attend the candlelight service at Big 'n' Rich Episcopal Church/School where our choir director's day job is directing the school's choral music program. Lots of candles, lots of poinsettias, many lovely carols, and the gorgeous Schubert Magnificat. We had to stand in the balcony, being jostled by restless small children who were waiting for their siblings to finish singing, but it was worth it.

Our own concert will include two fine contemporary pieces, Randol Alan Bass' Gloria and Conrad Susa's A Christmas Garland. As the Scientist says, they're "contemporary, but not unpleasantly so." These will bookend selections by the handbells and youth choir. I look forward to the Christmas concert all year.

Enjoy Advent 3. Catch you later.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Be careful what you pray for

I'm on the Pastor Nominating Committee.

Ten or twelve months from now, remind me that I really wanted to do this.

We humbly request your prayers.