This Journey

Thoughts, rants, prayers, sermons I'll never give and other stuff gathered as I make my way through this life.

January 20, 2015
by Not Fainthearted
Comments Off on The one where DS2 can’t keep up

The one where DS2 can’t keep up

DS2 has been visiting us here for the last couple of weeks. Before he left the Frozen Northland I warned him that we were going to be getting the edge of the Polar Vortex of Doom so he should bring his winter weather clothes. I also told him to bring his swim trunks and workout clothes because we could get him in on a few day passes to the gym.

For the last two weeks he has promised to come to the gym with me and then bailed. First it was a headache, then a sore back from sleeping on the floor (long story), then too tired from staying up playing Minecraft or something. Anyway, he goes back north today (Tuesday) so yesterday was his last chance.

It was MLK day so I didn’t schedule too early with my trainer; 9:45 is a civilized time, in my opinion. At 8:45 I let him know that I wanted to leave the house in 30 minutes. At 9:00 another “warning”. At 9:10 I figured he was going to blow me off again, but out he comes.

Doesn’t want breakfast. Doesn’t want coffee. Let’s “just go”

We get to the gym – which is fairly busy because of the holiday – and I point him to an elliptical and I hop on another and we get going. We’re there only about 5 minutes before the appointment – I usually like a little longer warm-up but 5 minutes is better than nothing.

C finds me and I introduce her and DS2 and back to the back corner of the gym we head. We start with the ropes. Then bench presses, TRX rows, squat jumps. Two cycles of that. Then 15 (each side) passing a 10 lb. medicine ball while half sitting with your feet not touching the floor. (I forget what that’s called. Besides “hell” I mean.) And 15 reverse crunches. Then walking lunges and tricep dips. 2 cycles of all that.

About the time I finish the first hallway of lunges and am starting my tricep dips, DS2 asks if “it’s alright to sit and catch my breath for a second.” I look at him and his lips are turning grey. C goes off and brings him back a gatorade and he heads off to the bathroom. I finish the second set of all that by myself and then go up near the desk to wait for him.

At some point I send a male trainer into the locker-room to check up on him. “He says he’s ok but he’s in a stall.” is all I find out.

He came out saying he was fine but came home and I made him eat a whole wheat tortilla and some scrambled eggs and then he went back to bed while I took a shower.

The last time I could best them physically was when they were about in 3rd grade. I never thought my 21 year old son wouldn’t be able to keep up with my workout.

I think he regrets not eating breakfast now.

January 19, 2015
by Not Fainthearted
Comments Off on 2015 Music Monday

2015 Music Monday

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Start around 3:30 if you’re tight on time. Like the rest of the world, I always thought this song was more than a bar closing song but never listened closely enough to figure it out. But my eyes always leak when I listen to this song. This morning was no different. That may be about many different things. One is that my heart misses making music and watching this makes that ache come alive.

January 18, 2015
by Not Fainthearted
Comments Off on 2015 – a bit of a late start

2015 – a bit of a late start

Well. Here we are. 10 years and a bit after I started this blog. I’ve thought for a while that it was dying. Now I’m not so sure.

I’m nostalgic for the “old days” of a few regular commenters; folks who are people I consider friends now. Maybe the similarity is that back then I was rebuilding circles of support. Crawling out of a deep dark hole and clutching at straws.

Things aren’t dire now. But I am rebuilding circles of support. DH and I moved 800 miles away last July (2014 was a busy year and maybe I should have blogged it but, oh well.) 800 miles is a long way. Culture changes and not by a little bit.

Someone mentioned the other day that we really know a lot of people in the area. And it’s true. It’s not like we moved somewhere and know NOBODY. But there’s a familiarity to the smallness of the circle. A familiarity I’m not comfortable with and I’m not sure is all that healthy.

What about Facebook? you might ask. Great question. Several of the folks I met here I’ve been connected with on Facebook and we’re finally (I think) getting a handle on the difference between FB and blogging. I don’t know that blogging will ever be what it was. And I know that I don’t want to chase hits, or deal with the “monetization” monster anymore (Neil was so right on that front.)

Maybe one of the charms of this platform is that it’s more anonymous (although not completely). And that there isn’t that pesky algorithm to deal with. Mark Z and his gang aren’t deciding what you “want” to see here. Which suits me just fine. Look or don’t. Read or don’t. If you don’t like what you read, go away. Seriously. I’m another 10 years older and so I give even less of crap about pleasing the court of public opinion. Playing it safe hasn’t gotten me anywhere.

Who knows. Maybe I’m really too busy to write here anyway.

Oy. So much ennui.

October 4, 2014
by Not Fainthearted
Comments Off on Lectionary 27A – October 5, 2014 The one about the crazy tenants and the crazy landowner

Lectionary 27A – October 5, 2014 The one about the crazy tenants and the crazy landowner

Lectionary 27 — October 5, 2014

Let us pray.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable to you, O God, our rock and our redeemer. Amen

Good morning. I’m delighted to be with you today and bring greetings from your brothers and sisters in Christ in the ELCA.

In order to eliminate a distraction this morning I’ll tell you just a little bit about why I’m called “Sister” Becky. I am consecrated in the ELCA and a member of the Deaconess community. My community has it’s roots back in early 1800’s Germany when there was a revival of diaconal ministry in the protestant churches. Our call and focus of our ministry is to what we call Word and Service – in contrast to a pastor’s call to Word and Sacrament. Our consecration and call to ministry is not located in a single congregation; like pastors, we are set apart by the wider church for our work and so we can change calls and move and all that. A somewhat unusual aspect of the deaconess community is that we are a roster and community of only women – so if you’re thinking “They’re sort of like Lutheran nuns” that’s actually pretty close. Some significant differences are that we don’t take vows and we can be married. We are members of two international diaconal organizations called World Wide Diakonia and the other a regional group called DOTAC which stands for Diaconia of the Americas and Carribean. It is a blessing and inspiration to participate in those groups and see all the ways the Holy Spirit is calling and equipping women and men from all denominations of the church around the world to calls of service and servant leadership.

My new call is as Assistant Director of Contextual Education at Trinity Lutheran Seminary over in Bexley. I work in placing students in contextual learning sites and internships as they prepare to be pastors and diaconal ministers in the ELCA. I started my new call in July, I have just recently moved my family to Columbus from Minneapolis – in fact the moving truck arrived just two weeks ago – so the house is still mostly unpacked boxes!

So. That’s a little about me and my story. Let’s turn our attention to Jesus and God’s story and how that might intersect with ours.

I’m not sure if you noticed but we have a bit of a vineyard theme going on this morning. Ok, really it’s hard to miss. We started with Isaiah’s love song for his beloved (God) and the beloved’s vineyard (the people of Israel), the psalmist remembers the good old days when the vineyard was this giant behemoth thing but now wild boars have destroyed it with a the refrain begs God – the landowner – to pay attention and tend to his vineyard again – restore us to the good old days.

So it’s really not surprising when Jesus tells a lot of vineyard parables too. It’s a well-known theme among Jesus’ first century hearers. Everyone knows that the vineyard is Israel and the landowner is God.

Of course, Jesus tends to turn things on their heads as he describes the Kingdom of God. Isaiah’s song has a prophetic turn, calling Israel to account for how they were not living up to being God’s people. Jesus’ parable this week focuses just a little differently.

In this story, Jesus adds the characters of the tenant farmers.

Vineyards don’t grow without being tended by farmers – whether the landowner him/herself or hired hands or tenant farmers – the vines need to be taken care of. The vines need to be pruned, and weeded, and fertilized, and watered. In order to get really good wine the fruit needs to be thinned and you need to watch for disease and protect the fruit from animals and birds that find it as delicious as we do. Once you harvest the grapes it’s not all stomping and fermenting and sitting on the patio sipping the results. You have to protect the vines over their dormant period so that you can start it all over again in a couple of months. It’s all a lot of work. Just like sheep need a shepherd, vineyards need farmers to produce.

In this parable Jesus doesn’t say there’s anything wrong with the vines or the harvest – in fact the harvest is great. In this story, there’s a problem with the tenant farmers. For some reason they’ve decided they don’t want to pay their rent – a portion of the harvest. So when the servant comes to collect they beat him and kill him. The tenants here are interesting folks because when the son comes, they say “Let’s kill him too, and get his inheritance.” This sounds a little odd to us. How could that happen – that a renter inherits the estate after killing the heir. They seem to be a little optimistic at best – and demented at worst. But it turns out that in first century Palestine it was possible for tenants to inherit if the owner never came back.

So there’s an underlining assumption or implication in the tenants’ behavior that says, “God- the landowner – has abandoned this vineyard. God has left – if God was ever here in the first place – and is never coming back.” This perhaps defines sin as not just a turning away from God but an active disregard for God’s faithfulness to promises.

Everyone hearing Jesus knew that the vineyard was Israel and God was the landowner. And everyone also understood that meant the tenant farmers must be the religious leaders. This was not a subtle point Jesus made.

The vineyard is producing a good harvest, but the tenants have come to believe that the owner is never coming back and that all of the harvest somehow belongs to them.

It would be easy to use this story to vilify the Jews and temple leadership. And in fact, the Christian church has used this story to do just that. But I don’t think it takes a great deal of imagination or effort to see ourselves and the church in the role of vineyard and tenants.

Jesus’ isn’t calling in this story for the restoration of the vineyard’s domination over the earth; Jesus is telling this story to highlight what GOD and GOD’s kingdom is like. Jesus’ point is that God will do anything to stay in relationship with us– even with murderous and slightly demented, self-absorbed us.

He is teaching about our sin in thinking that the fruits of the harvest are for our benefit alone. The fruit of the harvest is for the benefit of the whole world.

But it’s clear in Jesus’ story that the tenants aren’t going to figure that out on their own. And the most surprising, upside-down, crazy thing is this landowner who keeps sending servants; who is so unceasing in his attempts to reconcile with these tenants that he sends his son. He doesn’t seem to inclined to bring an army, or rain down fire and brimstone – despite the Pharisees answer that that is just what he should do. No, this landowner gives everything to try to get these tenants to live up to the covenant they have with each other – even sending the heir.

And we know how this part of the story goes, right? God sends his only begotten Son, he is beaten and killed – and God raises him; death doesn’t win. Sin doesn’t win. And through that death and resurrection God gives us the kingdom anyway.

We don’t have to rely on our reputation and performance anymore – which is ultimately a pretty good thing because even the “good” ones – the effective tenant farmers, the zealous religious leaders – we don’t always get it right.

Paul is talking about this when he says that all of his accomplishments, all of his success in following the rules and being a “good” Pharisee, a “good” religious person, a “good” husband, father, son, brother, community member; it all means nothing anymore. In fact it means less than nothing! Our translation says “rubbish” but the greek word Paul uses is closer to “dung.” Substitute whatever anglo-saxon word you might use for excrement.

Paul is writing to people in an honor/shame culture where who you know and what you do is closely watched and measured and accounted for and determines whether you have worth or are worth-less. And Paul says all those points he racked up, some by accident of birth and some by his strong will and determinism, all of it is nothing compared to his identity in Christ.

Some say that 21st century America is no longer a honor/shame/caste culture, but I’m not so sure.

We obsessively focus on whether we’re working hard enough, accomplishing enough; as a culture we make sweeping generalizations about people’s worth based on their job status, their accumulation of wealth, who they know or where they live.

Maybe you know this already. Maybe you are hounded by the idea that your boss doesn’t think you work hard enough; maybe you don’t have a boss because you’re unemployed – and you’re feeling the judgment of the neighbors and the family. Maybe it’s grades you’re chasing; or a position on the team. We do it in the church too. The constant focus on how big our church is or whether the church is dying – as if we were solely responsible holding it together and making it “succeed!”

The Kingdom of God does not work like the reign of the marketplace. What you do, who you are, is not for the sake of yourself, but for the sake of something beyond yourself. Who you are is not so much a totaling of what you do or what you have, but whose you are.

Can we, like Paul, let go of our credentials and recognize that pasts don’t define us? This is part of God’s promise to us – that we are no longer defined by our heritage or our transgressions but now we are defined by our adoption as a child of God. Only God can tell you who you are – and God calls you beloved child. Beloved child can you use your gifts and talents not in service to yourselves but in service to God and others? Can you recognize God’s beloved in the Other? Even when that other person doesn’t agree with you, or their past doesn’t measure up? This is not as easy as it sounds.

And God knows this. As a beloved child, our heavenly parent calls us to this table of forgiveness – where Christ is both host and feast – and we can have a foretaste of the banquet; fruits of the kingdom both for this world and the next. Come. Taste and see the goodness of God.

Let us pray.

Dearest Lord Jesus, you have endured the doubts and foolish questions of every generation. Forgive us for trying to be judge over you, for trying to steal the harvest for ourselves and grant us the confident faith to acknowledge you as Lord.

 

January 10, 2014
by Not Fainthearted
Comments Off on Borne on the wind

Borne on the wind

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Image Public Domain via Pixabay

The other day I was talking about what it’s like to be without call right now. I used the image of a dandelion seed on the wind. There’s been a lot of prep before getting to that stage. The plant had to wake up from it’s winter hibernation, avoid getting pulled or poisoned by the Great Lawn Farmer, put forth a flower – which then relies on some pollinator insect to have sex and produce a seed with this fancy delivery system. Finally, after all that, the wind comes along and rips the seed away from the stamen and it lands somewhere where it can germinate and do what it needs to do to start the whole process over again in it’s species’ genetic imperative for world – or at least garden domination.

Anyway – I feel like this last round is ripping me off the flower head, sailing free on the breeze waiting to land someplace.

One of the interesting things in this little metaphor is that the dandelion seed doesn’t have any agency about where it lands. I think humans do have agency. We have to make decisions – day by day, moment by moment. Each of those decisions has consequences.

Still, it feels like the decision to resign my call launched me off the edge to be borne somewhere on the wind.

One of the Hebrew names for God “Ruach” generally is translated Holy Spirit but also means wind or breath. Think of the poetic Genesis description of creation “The Spirit of God was over the face of the deep” and God breathing life, or spirit into Adam and Eve. Maybe part of faith right now is trusting that the breath of God, the Holy Spirit will blow me along, like a dandelion seed, to where I can sprout and take root.

One of my favorite prayers is the one used at Holden Village to say goodbye to guests and staff who leave the village – and each day during the summer that can be a hundred or more people at a time. It’s known as the “Good Courage” prayer by some.

O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Stay tuned. You know it won’t be boring.

January 7, 2014
by Not Fainthearted
Comments Off on Buying Boots

Buying Boots

From the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” file:

I’m hoping to borrow most of the gear I need to go to Nepal in March but the one thing I know I need of my own are hiking boots. There is no way I can enjoy this trip if my feet are in agony and I’m at an age that if my feet aren’t well supported everything else is going to hurt too.

My current boots were purchased in 1987 and have served well as I have hiked around Holden Village, gone camping in Minnesota and also some hiking in Arizona and a few other places. But 25 years is a long time in the scope of hiking boots and while these were good boots at the time they’re canvas uppers and medium soles and really just not suited for this trip.

So. Off to the outfitting stores I go. I tried on a pair at Midwest Mountaineering before Christmas. Wide enough but not enough room to wiggle my toes.

Saturday, DH and I went to REI on this end of town and tried on a brand recommended by someone at the New Years Eve party. Narrow and again not enough room to wiggle. But the sales person recommended another model and another brand and said the store across town had my size in stock. So off we went. By the time we got to that store it was early afternoon and a lot more crowded so I had to wait for a bit for a sales associate.

“My boots are 25 years old and I need some new ones.”

“Your foot changes a lot in 25 years.”

Me, laughing “Yes, they’re a lot wider now and it’s hard to find something that fits. I get to go to Nepal in March and I feel like I should give myself enough time to get used to them.”

“Oh. I’m from there.”

Seriously? He used to guide in both Annapurna, where we will be, as well as in the east – to Everest. I didn’t even ask him about the Everest work; I suppose that is what most people would have most questions about. But I’ll be walking between Pokhara and Jomsom and he guided that area as well.

We talked for a few minutes about how long he’d been in Minnesota, whether he’d been back to visit and a little about my trip – that it’s not just trekking but visiting the villages where the artists and women’s economic development projects are and refugee villages and such. He shared some bits about the trail – that one path “has like an unending staircase but there’s another way, too” and as we approach Jomsom and cross the river, off to the right there’s a beautiful Buddhist monastery up on a hill. It’s a beautiful place to visit, not just for the monastery which is really old but also for the views. He said a couple of times how beautiful that region is. He spoke warmly about the culture and how easy it is to just visit with people in the villages along the way.

If the store hadn’t been so crowded I’d have pressed for even more information. I almost felt like throwing out my plan of “borrow everything except the boots” and having him outfit me from the skin out! Luckily, I had enough reserve of self control and didn’t do that. He encouraged DH to join me and that he could “sit in the cafés in Pokhara and wait there for her.” Maybe next time.

I bought the boots.

January 6, 2014
by Not Fainthearted
Comments Off on Funding the Nepal Trip

Funding the Nepal Trip

Well, I’ve truly jumped off the cliff. Today I launched my Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for this trip to Nepal. Within a couple of hours several friends have already stepped up and contributed. So thankful and humbled already – I can’t imagine what the next three months are going to be like!

January 5, 2014
by Not Fainthearted
Comments Off on Grateful: 12th Day of Christmas Edition (2014)

Grateful: 12th Day of Christmas Edition (2014)

Some of the things for which I’m grateful this week (in no particular order):

  • That DS2 has the opportunity to study abroad – and that he has a friend to travel with him and that they have landed safely.
  • For time this week to do some strategic planning for 2014.
  • For time with friends and family over the holidays.
  • That my dad’s surgery went well and he’s home recovering.
  • That he is well cared for by his 2nd wife and I don’t need to visit with her that often.
  • For a warm place to live, inside out of the elements and the profound cold – which is only going to get colder in the next several days.
  • For the ability to say “thank you” to so many people this week.
  • That DH, DSS2 and DIL2 were able to drive down to the Milwaukee area to tell his mom that she’ll be a great-grandmother again this summer. (I stayed home to put DS2 on the airplane.)
  • For paid work coming in for January and February – even if it’s not a call.

May we all see many opportunities to give thanks this coming year.

January 4, 2014
by Not Fainthearted
Comments Off on 11th day of Christmas

11th day of Christmas

I spent some time yesterday afternoon doing some annual review and planning with a group of women with whom I am only tangentially connected. The person who was leading us through the time had a plan, and enthusiasm and knowledge – but I felt as if we were skimming across an infinitely wide topic without getting any real depth.

Part of the problem certainly was within myself. The Coach would set up a reflection assignment and the time to write would begin and every time it seemed like I would sit there staring out the window watching the wind blow the snow off the drifts into veils of white around the trees and shrubs. Or watching the cars on the highway through the little copse of trees. Or watching the color of the sky change as the sun moved down towards the horizon and finally sunk beyond view – a daily event that right now still happens too early in my opinion. Or searching the pristine expanse of snow for tracks of rabbit, squirrel, bird – or some other wildlife.

And suddenly I would realize I had only a couple of words or incomplete thoughts on my paper while everyone else was finishing up.

Still, I managed to haul my exhausted mind along and I came up with a theme for 2014 and at least two steps on an action plan toward it.

It attempts to encompass three areas of activity of my life – certainly not all-inclusive or holistic by any stretch. And it’s not a “feeling” word. Good grief – there’s only so much an exhausted ENTJ can be expected to do and digging down and finding the “feeling” words wasn’t on the list yesterday.

I think (heh, see what I did there?) that it needs a little more reflection and thought because I FEEL like it’s a little off the mark.

One thing I did say yesterday that I think gets to the heart of the issue is this: I’m tired of living in a continuously liminal state. I’m tired of all this transition and the energy it takes to imagine a direction and what I want for the future and plan and strive and struggle toward it. I don’t want to be in between anymore. I want to be somewhere finally. I want to arrive. To be. But it doesn’t look like that happened in 2013. There’s more – much more – path to travel in 2014. But I feel like all of these years has been a preparation for something. I thought I knew what it was but now I realize that I don’t. And I don’t even know where to look. I simply don’t know what’s around the next corner but I hope it’s not too far off.  I’m tired and I just want to get there.