Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday five

From Revgalblogpals

Oh no! I can't find the font color changer! Oh well, here goes.
Here is your chance to get it out into the open and OWN your Big To-Do! Who knows? Maybe making the list will help you move the Big To-Do to the Big Ta-Da!

1) What home fix-it project is on your Big To-Do?
The one thing I'd like to get done is (like everyone else who has one) organize my garage. Then clean out my closet.
2) What event (fun or work) is on your Big To-Do?
I'm having some folks over for dinner on June 19. They are my favorite folks in Memphis, so I'm looking forward to it (though one of my favorite couples is spending the summer in Santa Fe).
3) What trip is on your Big To-Do?
Assuming I get my visa, which hasn't be approved yet, though my son's has, I'm off to China for about three weeks, then a week long cruise to see the eclipse (6 minutes 39 seconds of totality--a very long time) and then for a few days in Japan. If the visa is denied, then I'll have to rearrange my plane tickets and we'll spend more time in Japan and then catch the ship in Korea.
4) What do you wish was on someone ELSE's (partner, family member, celebrity, etc...) Big To-Do? I'd love for my son to come see me, but his calendar is as booked as mine.
5) Getting inspired? What may end this summer having moved from the Big To-Do to the Big Ta-da? Well, I am still hoping to compete in a triathlon, but that is looking dimmer as I struggled to jog 22 minutes today. I have this month and August and a week or so in September to get ready. Getting old is a real bitch. It is just so hard for me to build up my strength and endurance.

Now, this has been a great time waster to avoid today's to-do: weeding the yard, fertilizing the plants, cleaning up the mess I have created in the kitchen and unpacking.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Longer posts and pictures to follow.

Some thoughts and highlights from England and Wales.

I read Losing Julia on the way back. A depressing, but from my perspective realistic, view of old age. Sitting around in a nursing home. All the smells and sounds. The longing for the touch of someone. The desire to be with someone. The younger person trapped in an aging, failing body. Life is finally tragic. That's why we search for meaning, for something larger than ourselves.

I am mindful that a year ago I was mostly in bed, sick and tired from chemo. The times I felt good were windows of hope. Now I feel good most of the time. I'm stronger, but not as strong as I'd like to be. But, I have no great words of wisdom from cancer; I'm not sure it has changed my life in the meaningful way that I see that it changes others' lives.

Our adventure. On Sunday we decided to see if we could canoe on the Wye river. The Wye is sometimes the border between England and Wales and further down from where we were, flows by Tintern Abbey. So, we arrive at the canoe livery. Lots of folks are waiting around. We ask if we can rent a canoe. A young man intervenes and arranges to have another canoe put on top of the van for us. The woman owner is not terribly happy, but goes along with the young man (her son?). We take off on the bus. We avoid the safety talk and jump on the river. We float and paddle way ahead of the rest of the group. There is a rowing regatta in town and the normal take out is unavailable. So we are going to take out further upstream. We manage to survive the level 2 rapids (yeah, I know). I got splattered. My son got a little wetter. As we neared the town, we were rudely pushed over to the far right. And so we watched for the take out. We arrived at the town and the Wye bridge. We decided we had missed the take out. Fortunately, there was a stairway leading down to the water from the roadway above. I grabbed hold of the stairs. My son fished out my cell phone. We got a signal and called the canoe livery. No answer. Tried again. No answer. I looked and saw a second number which looked as if it were the fax number. Called that. Someone answered. We said we thought we had missed the take out. The woman suggested we try to row up stream or across the river. We decided to row upstream where we could see the take out. And so up under the bridge. Bernouli's principle in full effect. The water, its channel narrowed by the bridge's pier, sped up in its flow. We made it! We pulled the canoe onto the steps of the take out. My son found a young man to help, who turned out to work for the livery. And I got really, really sunburned. I hadn't taken sunscreen to England, because who gets sunburned in England? I looked like an American Indian preparing for war. I had bright red streaks on my cheekbones. Really red. And my forehead was red. It is beginning to fade. I hope to have normal skin for Pentecost. Otherwise, I suppose I'll let the congregation think I've made myself up for Pentecost.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


the place where I am staying is in a strategic location on the road between the Old City of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The Pope is going from Jerusalem to Bethlehem this morning. So, we are surrounded and surmounted by IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). They arrived around 4 am with much chattering. Everything is so quiet. The Bethlehem checkpoint has been closed since 4 am, so there are no Palestinians coming through to go to work in Jerusalem. There is no traffic along the road.

I am off to Temple Mount this morning to see the Dome of the Rock. I hope. It is now closed to non-Muslims, so I won't be able to do anything but walk around it and (I hope) take pictures.

Home tomorrow. I'll post pictures sometime.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Thursday May 7 2009. This morning I decided to walk into Bethlehem. I asked around and found a Catholic brother who wanted to go this morning. So, we started off. Of course, he has a map, but it's a map to the Old City. We start asking people. And someone says to take this road. I see this huge wall ahead of me, gray concrete. With lovely pictures on it. We walk up a road and then the guard tells us there is another entrance which we finally find. We make our way to the check point. There are wood and plexiglass booths for the soldiers. Each soldier persons a booth that monitors both an exit from Israel and an entrance to Israel. Of course there are tons of people queuing up to come into Jerusalem to work. We finally get the attention of one of the soldiers and he says we should go through the blue door. Now, I had been told that all we had to do to get to Manger Square was to walk on the main road about 45 minutes. I have to tell you that about every five minutes we had to stop and ask someone how to get there. We decided to walk through the Old City, which really wasn't very old. I was expecting something like the Medinas in Arab cities I have visited: windy narrow alleys, with fast motorbikes whizzing by. The buildings seemed newish, which may be because they are all Jerusalem limestone. We went through one tunnel. But is was really short. There wasn't the inpenertrable maze I was expecting. We kept asking and asking and finally made it to Manger Square. On the Square, they were building a huge platform. The Pope is coming and so they are readying the place for him. We went into the Visitors' Center and had a long conversation with the women there. They talked about how awful the wall is, how they are not able to go to Jerusalem at all except at Christmas (for the Christians). Sometimes a wife will get a pass to visit family there and her husband
After that, we walked to the Church of the Nativity. We finally found the entrance which is a door about four feet high. We walked in and found ourselves in the sanctuary. There were places in the floor with wooden doors that were open. Below were the mosaics that were the original floor. The floor we were standing on was stone. Since the original floor was about three feet lower, I then understood why the door was so short. The sanctuary is a bit disappointing. It is huge, but not very elaborate. We saw an entrance to the area below the chancel and went down. There was the spot where Jesus was born. I realized down there that we had come down the exit side. In a lower area were some priests and nuns singing. I recognized Adeste Fideles. We came back and then wandered a bit. One of the women at the visitor's center had given us the name of a schwarma place. And so we went in search of it. Although we asked directions, we were on the wrong road. We wandered around for almost an hour in search of the place and never found it. No schwarma for me! We got a taxi back to the check point (I would have walked back, but the poor Catholic brother was exhausted).

I'm not terribly happy with my photos. I hope to get better ones for the rest of the trip. Still no luggage.


I'm at the Tantur Institute in Jerusalem. Sans luggage of course. Continental doesn't have a clue where it is. I am convinced it never left home. But that's a whole 'nuther long post, a big whine.

Tantur is a lovely place. The buildings are all Jerusalem limestone (as are all buildings in Jerusalem) Roses are blooming everywhere. It sits on a hill overlooking both the Old City and Jerusalem.

We are a 7 minute walk from the check point. And then it's another 45 minutes or so into Manger Square. I'm hoping to walk. I've found someone who will go with me this morning.

I am excited.

I learned this morning that although the Institute is ecumenical, the property is actually owned by the Vatican. So, our schedule is being revised so that there is no formal program here while the Pope is in Jerusalem (bad form or something). So we have an overnight trip to Northern Israel leaving Sunday and returning Monday. I think on Friday, we have a visit to the Old City and then Tuesday a trip into Bethlehem. I'm coming home on Thursday.

There are folks from all over the world for this conference. I've met several people from Ireland and one from Australia. The conference actually begins tonight. So I have today free to wander around.

We are going through the checkpoint that most West Bankers use to come into Jerusalem to work. I am told that when there was a big ecumenical conference here with the Archbishop of Canterbury and a lot of other big muckety-mucks they walked to the check point to show solidarity with the Palestinians and the Israeli soldiers wouldn't let them enter there. They had to go through the car check point (which obviously almost no Palestinians use).

I hope to post more and pictures.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I Shall Not Want

I Shall Not Want
Margaret H. Jorgensen
May 3, 2009

Psalm 23
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;*
3 he restores my soul.*
He leads me in right paths*
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,*
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely* goodness and mercy* shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
my whole life long.*

I was in Schnuck’s the other day, pushing my cart down the grocery aisle. As I was trundling down the cereal aisle, I saw a young girl, about five or six shopping with her father. "I want this" she said pointing to the box of Captain Crunch. Then, "I want this" pointing to the Fruit Loops. A few minutes later, I spotted them on the soft drink aisle. "I want this" she said tugging at her father's jacket and pointing to the coke bottles. A few minutes later in front of the bakery, she was again tugging at his jacket and pointing to the chocolate doughnuts. "I want this."
What do you want? Close your eyes for a minute and think, "what do I want." A new video game? A new car? A skinnier body? I know one person in the congregation wants a new computer. Do you want your son or daughter to visit more often? Or your parents to nag less often? What do you want?
Chaucer's character in Canterbury Tales, the Pardoner tells a story about three men who wanted, well listen to the story and you'll see. Once upon a time there were three young men. These were the sort of young men I think we hear about a lot today. They were interested only in eating and drinking and having fun. So, there were in the bar one day, in the morning for heaven's sake, drinking and playing pool. They heard a bell ring, signaling that someone had died. They said to the bar tender, "Send someone outside to find out who died." The bartender replied "Sirs, there is no reason to do that. I heard only a few minutes ago that Sam, your friend, was sitting on a bar stool in the bar across the street, and death came and took him away." "No! the young men said." Now they were beyond a little drunk, and remember this tale is from 700 years ago, so bear with me a little here. So the men say to each other "Let us go and kill this Death that kills so many of our friends and relatives." And so they leave the bar, stumbling a little and weaving a little. They walk out of town in search of death. They come upon an old man. He's dressed in dirty robes and he is covered from his head to his foot, except that his old wizened face peeks out from under his hood. They begin to rough him up and he protests that they should treat an old man better. He asks "what are you doing here anyway?" and one replies, "We are looking for Death. We are going to kill that old so and so who has killed so many of our friends." "Ah." the old man says, "I have seen Death. Do you see that big oak tree off in the distance? You will find him under that tree." And so the three men start off towards the tree, still a little wobbly on their feet. Under the tree, instead of Death, they find a huge pile of gold coins. More than 8 bushel baskets they decide. They sit under the tree and celebrate their good fortune. Then the oldest one says, "You know, if we try to carry this fortune into town now, during the day, everyone will think that we have stolen it. Let's one of us go into town and get some more to eat and drink and the other two will guard the treasure." "Well, says the second, how shall we decide who will go and who will stay?" "Let's draw lots says the third." And so they draw lots. The youngest gets the short straw and walks back into town. And so the two that are left sit down and play with all the gold coins. And then the older one says "you know there would be more for us if we'd didn't have to split this three ways." The other agrees. The older says, "here's what we'll do. When Bill comes back you begin to tease and wrestle with him. Then I'll come from behind and stab him in the side. You then do the same." And so they agree.
Bill walking back into town decides that there will certainly be more for him if he can get rid of the other two. And so he visits the drug store. He says to the pharmacist, "I've got rats that I need to get rid of. I've got a skunk too that's eating all my chickens. What do you have? " The Pharmacist says, "I've got just the thing. A little bit of this, just the size of a grain of wheat will kill anything living almost instantly." Bill said "Ok, I'll take it" And then he goes to the liquor store and buys three bottles of wine. He puts poison in two of them, leaving one for him to drink. And so he returns. The two put their plan into action and kill young Bill. And then they settle back with the wine to wait for nightfall so they can carry the gold into town. And they begin to drink the bottle of poisoned wine.
Greed was their shepherd. They wanted more and more gold.
But greed isn't the only shepherd out there. Do you remember the story of Cinderella? What happened to Cinderella [she went off to live with her wicked stepmother and wicked step sisters]. And what did they make her do? [Clean up the house.] Why did they make her do all the house work? [They were jealous of her.] And what happened one day? What came for the sisters? [An invitation to the ball that the prince was having]. And so what did the sisters do then? [Made Cinderella make them ball gowns and work her so hard that she didn't have time to make one for herself]. And then what happened when it was time to go to the ball? [The sisters went off without her.] And then what happened? [Cinderella's fairy godmother made her a beautiful ball gown and Cinderella went off to the ball in a carriage] And what did her fairy godmother tell her she must do? [Get home by midnight or everything would turn back to what it had been before, the carriage would turn back into a pumpkin and the horsemen would turn back into mice, and so on.] And what happened at the ball? [The prince fell in love with her] And then what happened? [The clock began to strike 12] And then? [Cinderella ran out of the castle but leave one glass slipper behind.] So what happened next? [The prince wants to see all the young women in the kingdom to find the mysterious woman who had captured his heart.] When the wicked stepsisters try on the slipper what happens? [It doesn't fit] And what do they do? [They begin to cut off their toes to make their feet fit in the slippers.]
Jealousy and envy were their shepherd. They wanted to make Cinderella miserable.
And there are other shepherds. Did you see the Lion King? Remember Simba? Mufasa is his father, the king of the pride lands. He is responsible for making sure that life in the lands stay in balance. He has a brother Scar, who is a manipulator and schemer. Scar wants to be king. When Mufasa has a son, Simba, Scar realizes that his chances for becoming king are getting smaller and smaller. And so he manipulates Simba into the wildebeest migration: tens of thousands of wildebeest, thundering hooves across the savannah. And Scar stampedes the wildebeest. Mufasa rushes in to save Simba. Mufasa is trapped in a gorge and Scar takes the opportunity to kill him. Simba finds his father's body and pushes it, but Mufasa is dead. Scar appears. Simba believes that he is responsible for his father's death. Scar tells the young lion that he must run away and then send the hyenas off to kill him. Simba makes it safely away, though. He finds some friends and is content wasting his life. A young lioness who was his best friend stumbles upon him. She has come for help. Scar has let the hyenas run wild and the balance in the pride lands has been upset. There is no more food. She begs Simba to return and help restore the balance, but Simba is afraid and refuses to return.
Fear and guilt are Simba's shepherds. He wants to avoid responsibility.
When the Psalmist says "I shall not want" it is a two edged statement. On the one hand, it is a promise that God will supply our needs, but it is also a promise by the Psalmist that he or she will be content with what God has provided. Our wants are a window onto who our Shepherd really is. Our acceptance of what has been provided for us can transform our lives into lives of richness and depth beyond what can be provided by our wants. I ran across this prayer by a confederate soldier:
I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I had asked for,
But everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered;
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.


Wondering about congregations

A friend was lamenting her congregation's treatment of her during several crises in her life that have just occured. She was criticized by the clerk for taking time off during Holy Week (her associate handled everything). The congregation I serve was wonderful to me during my cancer and chemo, but were unforgiving of the previous pastor during her crises.

I wondered this morning if congregations expect pastors to be impervious to crises. If God will not protect the pastor during a crisis, then certainly God will not protect me from the horrors that life inevitably brings to all but the most lucky (and death comes to all of us). Does this make some in congregations less willing to be compassionate? I'm not exactly clear in the connections, they seem to be there to me, intuitively.

I think my cancer was not subject to this because many in the congregation had survived cancer and everyone, though concerned, was convinced that I would be OK once I got through everything.