Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Poetry Blogging

It's spring plowing time in Outer around and you'll see the local Amish farmers driving their four- and sometimes even eight-horse teams around the fields. This photo is obviously not of the Amish -- it's from the Willamette Valley back in the 1930's -- but it still looks very familiar.

And also familiar is the image captured in this contemporary haiku:

spring plowing
a flock of blackbirds
turns inside out

-- Tom Painting

Friday Five: Fantasy Meet-Up

This week's Friday Five asks the RevGalBlogPals to imagine their ideal future meetup. While I suspect I would have to participate in such an affair in spirit but not in body, here are my thoughts:

What would the meeting be like? (Continuing Ed? Retreat? Outside Speakers? Interest Groups? Workshops? Hot Stone Massages? Pedicures? Glorified Slumber Party?)

When in 2008 might you be able to attend? January? Shortly after Easter? Summer? Fall? Some other time?
When I'm much richer and much less busy. (For some reason those two things don't seem to mesh, do they.)

Where would your dream meeting location be? (Urban Hotel? Rural Retreat Center? New England Camp? Southwestern Fantasy Hotel? Far away from civilization? Nearby Outlets or Really Great Thrift Stores?)
While I know that the Upper Midwest isn't represented all that strongly in the group, a really great retreat center is The Kettunen Center in Tustin, Michigan. It has all the rustic charm of a camp, with many wonderful and actually surprising amenities, including room options that rival that of many area motels. For RevGals desiring some sort of big-city distraction, the Traverse City area -- major upscale shopping and eating opportunities, as well as beautiful lakeshore scenery -- is a little over an hour away.

On the other could all come to Outer Podunk and camp out in the city park. Dining amenities include the lake perch fish fry down at the local golf course; a flashing-neon 50's-repro diner in the next town, run by collectors of 50's-60's memorabilia, serving great burgers and shakes; and excellent Buffalo wings with bleu cheese dressing from a tavern down the street. If you're a vegan you're pretty much out of luck in rural Michigan, but we could whip you up a bowl of hummus or somethin' at Cold Comfort Cottage. (Which, sadly, only sleeps maybe three -- four counting the La-Z-Boy and five-and-a-half if I'd ever clean out the scary middle bedroom. Camping on premises would require multiple immersion baths in DEET -- probably not a strong selling point.)

Who would make a great keynote speaker? (That's if #1 leads us in that direction.)
I could be partisan and suggest Kelly Fryer -- someone who has been and should again be free to engage in pastoral ministry in the ELCA. For those of us who feel a need to mindfully form our spirituality in ways that better hold us up through the day and through the week, Margaret Guenther -- one of my favorite authors -- might be an interesting choice.

Did I leave out something you want to suggest?
No karaoke. Please.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jerry Falwell

Last night the ABC evening news carried a story about the plight of the small, furry and utterly adorable pica, the smallest member of the rabbit family, which is disappearing from much of its favored mountainside habitat due to global warming, and may be headed for total extinction.

In all seriousness, I felt more genuine sorrow over this story than I did over the demise of Jerry Falwell. That's just me being honest.

Which begs the question of how one should deal with the death of someone like Falwell, whose legacy -- at least from where I'm sitting -- is one of hatred; of division; of distortion of the Christian message; of ignorance; of diminishment of the quality of public discourse in this country.

I remember Falwell's rise, during my teen years. He, like Richard Nixon, seemed to tap into the fears and discomfort of working-class white people -- people like my parents -- who'd been broadsided by the cultural revolution of the 60's: people appalled by race and anti-war riots; by the hippie culture; by Tillich-quoting white clerics in turtlenecks walking arm in arm with civil-rights activists; by uppity women questioning their traditional roles. My Missouri Synodian father, who wouldn't have given two cents for Falwell's theology, was in Falwell's amen corner when it came to sec-u-lar hu-man-ists and fem-in-ists and ho-mo-sexuals and the ACLU and everyone else who was, in his eyes, running this country into the ground.

Even in those days I thought Falwell was an oaf, a redneck cariacature right out of the Dukes of Hazzard. Later on, Falwell came to represent everything about American pop Christianity that disgusted me; when I went on my Christianity vacation in my 30's, he and his ideological kinfolk were the Christians in my rear-view mirror I was happiest to disassociate myself from.

But that was then, and this is now. And the question becomes: What do you do with the death of a Christian whom you feel spent his time on earth not "mending the broken places" but wilfully breaking them?

And then I have to go back to something my pastor once said. He was talking about his decision to conduct a wedding for a couple he knew -- one partner was a friend from his campus ministry days, and still an active Lutheran layperson, while the other was an atheist. The atheist fiance had agreed to a church wedding out of deference to his significant other and her family, whom he loved; but he requested that my pastor remove any mention of the G-word from the actual wedding vows; because, he pointed out, he did not want to begin his married life in a state of damaged personal integrity by being compelled to make vows to a God in whom he did not believe.

My pastor decided to conduct the wedding with the groom-to-be's proviso. Because, as he asked our congregation afterward, "Have you ever been wrong about anything before?"

I'm sure I have been wrong and will continue to be wrong about a great many things, and do not relish the prospect, even as I rest in the loving and forgiving arms of God, of reviewing all the things that I did get wrong in this life. If there's such a thing as purgatory, I'm guessing this is it. Death is the great leveler, the thing that brings us all to that same place of what my 12-Step friends would call the fearless moral inventory.

So even if I can't think of Falwell's passing with a sense of affection or loss, I can think about it with the empathy of a fellow sinner, getting it wrong in my own ways, saved in the end by grace.

Friday, May 11, 2007

As Long As We're Talking Pizza...

The Friday Five pizza question made me, unsurprisingly, hungry for pizza.

If I had thought about my answer more, I probably would have noted that I tend to go in for the unusual when it comes to pizza. A couple of years ago I came up with this idea, and I enjoy it a lot:

Ratatouille Pizza
a mess of zucchini, yellow squash and, if you like them, eggplant, in whatever proportions you favor, sliced very thin
one large onion, sliced very thin
1 red bell pepper, sliced very thin
two (or more) garlic cloves, minced
olive oil
a couple of fresh tomatoes, diced
mushrooms, if you like them
mozzarella and Parmesan/hard-cheese blend of your choice (I like the parm/romano/asiago
herbs of your choice
Boboli or other premade pizza crust

Place squash/eggplant slices, bell pepper, onion and garlic in a large covered frying pan to which you've added a generous sploosh of olive oil. Heat on high; stir occasionally; when things start really cookin' in the pan, add the mushrooms and turn the heat down to medium. Keep the pan covered; keep stirring. (You're basically half-sauteeing, half steaming the veggies.) After about 15 minutes, the veggies should be tender, with a lot of the vegetable liquid at the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and cook for maybe 5 mintues more, until the tomato has integrated into the rest of the vegetables. Drain the veggies well.

Meanwhile, place some mozzarella cheese on the bottom of the pizza crust. Spread a generous portion of vegetables atop the cheese. Add more mozzarella and the hard cheese(s) of your choice, plus any herbs that you might enjoy, and maybe a few grinds of pepper.

Broil pizza until cheese is melty.

Friday Poetry Blogging

This poem, by Kristin Berkey-Abbott, had me laughing in the car on the way to work this morning.

Incidentally, if Jesus shows up at Cold Comfort Cottage tonight he's getting Morningstar Farms chicken-ish quesadillas with cheese and choice of salsas, and maybe Edy's lime pops for dessert. And we'll break open our new pack of SkipBo cards.

Friday Five: Either/Or

This week's RevGalBlogPals challenge:

There are two types of people in the world, morning people and night owls. Or Red Sox fans and Yankees fans. Or boxers and briefs. Or people who divide the world into two types of people and those who don't. Let your preferences be known here. And if you're feeling verbose, defend your choices!

1. Mac? or PC?
I've always used a PC, by default. Is this a bad thing?

2. Pizza: Chicago style luscious hearty goodness, or New York floppy and flaccid?
This is interesting: I've always been a deep-dish, thick crust, pile-on-the-toppings kind of gal...but lately I've been intrigued by the concept of the simple sidewalk slice. One of these years we're probably going to NYC to visit our kids/in-laws, so I will have the opportunity to try real Brooklyn-style pizza.

3. Brownies/fudge containing nuts:
a) Good. I like the variation in texture.
b) An abomination unto the Lord. The nuts take up valuable chocolate space.
[or a response of your choosing]

Oh -- gotta have the nuts. But they have to be fresh nuts. There is nothing worse than having a delicious fudgy brownie ruined by a funky, rancid chunk of walnut in it.

4. Do you hang your toilet paper so that the "tail" hangs flush with the wall, or over the top of the roll like normal people do?
Under. Under is the way my mother would always hang TP. Under is the civilized way. In my opinion.

5. Toothpaste: Do you squeeze the tube wantonly in the middle, or squeeze from the bottom and flatten as you go just like the tube instructs?
Much to the consternation of family and close personal friends...I am a wanton tube squeezer. It's just more fun. And you still wind up, a month or so later, with a flattened tube.

Bonus: Share your favorite either/or.
Black ink. I just can't write longhand for extended periods of time without a black-ink inkpen. Blue is so...well...not black.

Monday, May 07, 2007

And They Blog, Too!

John, one of my Beliefnet buddies, has his own blog. Check it out at Progressive Involvement.

And -- I can't remember if I've listed this before, but another Beliefnet friend of mine, Dan, blogs at Culture Choc .

Sigh. One of these days I need to update my blogroll.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Bloom Blogging

Now you see 'em; now you don't. Our very brief springtime here in Michigan is coming to an end, and with it comes an end to the spring bulb flowers. But I did manage to get a photo of these flowers before they fade away.

Friday Five: Party Down!

The RevGalBlogPals' Friday Five this week is all about partying down.

Would you rather be the host or the guest?
Maybe this is a little control issue thing, or because of the many parties where I've sat uncomfortably, like Ugly Betty at a Mode soiree'...but I'd rather be the host. Imagine that.

When you are hosting, do you clean everything up the minute the guests go home? Will you accept help with the dishes?
It depends on what time it is; and I hate doing dishes -- make that HATE -- so any help is more than appreciated.

If you had the wherewithal, and I guess I mean more than money, to throw a great theme party, what would the theme be?
Well, we like wine-and-cheese tasting, so I might be inclined to do that in a thematic way -- Michigan wine and cheese, or Spanish wine and cheese, with appropriate nibbles. On the other hand, a friend of mine once dreamed of throwing a kind of northern-Michigan-redneck party -- as one of our local radio personalities calls our populace, "jackpine savage" -- with cheese doodles, pickled gizzards, blind robins and jerky, and other local-party-store fare. Flannel attire requested; chainsaw optional. (Lest you think I'm joking, there is never a time during the day in my neighborhood where you cannot hear a chainsaw in the distance. I was home the other day after work to pick up my mail and look for sprouting morels...and there was that buzz again. Think Possum Lodge on The Red Green Show.)

What's the worst time you ever had at a party?
That would have to be my high school graduation party. My friends all had parties with their friends. My parents insisted that my relatives -- mostly people I didn't care for, and who didn't care for each other -- needed to be invited. I didn't want to invite my friends then, because I didn't want them to meet my relatives. In the meantime my dad had gotten into a huff about something and decided to go fishing; and my mother developed a "sick headache" and spent much of the day throwing up in the bathroom, leaving me to entertain the people whom I didn't want to be there in the first place; sort of an instant-karma thing, I think, in retrospect.

And to end on a brighter note, what was the best?
When I was in college, my gang -- these were my churchy friends from the local LCMS and ALC/LCA student parishes; we all, unlike our denominations, got along -- decided to throw an end-of-school-year party. The hostesses, who had a duplex in the campus neighborhood, decided upon a bordello theme. (Now, you have to remember that we're talking some of the most white-bread, pure-as-the-driven-snow, repressed, pious college students you can imagine, give or take the collective Lutheran fondness for elbow bending. Several of the participants, by the way, are now pastors. But they'll remain nameless here.) The hostesses dressed up Mae West style in feather boas and bling-bling and decorated their abode like...well, you know. It was quite the evening. Highlights included a unique commode-based "Hit the target" game for male revelers in our bathroom, a Motown singalong and a future-pastor-guest's jug of homemade wine from a relative in Arkansas. (A vintage that probably would not show up at one of my middle-aged wine-and-cheese parties.) A good time was had by all; many of whom spent the night crashed in the living room. I had such a good time that my the very roots of my hair hurt the next day...which also happened to be Sunday, when we all still managed to show up at church. I don't think I've ever been to a party quite like that, before or since.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wednesday Poetry Bloggery

I drove home yesterday at lunch -- to my house; I stop by every other day to pick up the mail and make it look like someone is at home -- and spent a few minutes walking around the backup in my driveway where, every year, I harvest a small crop of morel mushrooms that seem to thrive in the gravelly margins.

No 'shrooms yet. We've had a lot of rain, but not, apparently, the proper mix of rain and warm weather to pop the morels.

Oh, well.

In the meantime, here is a a poem about mushrooms.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Thank God Someone Has Finally Explained It To Us!

Headline seen on my Yahoo! homepage:

"Vacation homes and a third car may hold you hostage and deprive you of real wealth."

Ever feel like you're dwelling on a different planet than everyone else?

Priests For One Another

The concept of “priesthood of all believers” so beloved of us Reformation types has, frankly, always been something of an abstraction for me; and I suspect for a lot more of us as well. Another abstraction – probably due to lack of opportunity as much as lack of understanding or immediate relevance – was the idea that persons in committed relationships are called to be priests for one another.

But it came home for me last week, during the hospital drama in our household, when Fellow Traveler asked me if we could pray together before her surgery.

I grew up in a household where “Come, Lord Jesus” around holiday dinner tables pretty much constituted family prayer. So despite my churchy interests and experience front and center in worship, praying with loved ones has always felt a bit odd and uncomfortable to me. I remember when my pastor came to the ICU after my mom’s heart attack to commune us – he was en route from somewhere else, and didn’t have all his chaplain gear, so I let him borrow my little pocket-size Book of Common Prayer that I sometimes take with me on anxiety-provoking trips, and we read aloud from it together – and how relieved I was that at last someone “official” was here to provide spiritual comfort to my mother.

But, anyway: FT and I agreed that praying together before her operation was a good thing to do. So we did. We prayed over the phone together while she was on the VA bus en route to Ann Arbor, and we prayed again over the phone after the surgery. I can’t exactly remember the words I used – I had a BCP-ish outline in my head, and just riffed from that – but it was both a powerful and an intimate experience, even over a distance, over the phone. There are times when I'm assisting in worship, and praying the Prayers of the Church, where I have a strong sense of carrying others with me in my petitions -- where the prayers that I treated, frankly, as a writing assignment the evening before are transformed into something much bigger; and that is how I felt at these times, but in an even more intense way.

But FT also provides spiritual care for me. It’s usually in the form of encouraging me in pursuing my lay ministry education and in helping lead worship; prodding me when I’m procrastinating in things like writing my Prayers of the Church or faith-blogging; and keeping the spiritual side of our relationship front and center when I get distracted by other things – which is a lot of the time. The other day she said, “You know, I think we ought to pray more together,” and of course she’s right. I’ve always wanted a spiritual director; well, now I have one.

So I think I’m kind of “getting” the priests-for-one-another thing now, in a way I never have before.