Monday, December 10, 2007

Advent, Week 2: Monday

Isaiah 11:1-5 (NRSV):

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

We who are the body of Christ can take a profound lesson from this prophecy of his coming. How should we reflect the likeness of the Branch of Jesse? What spirit rests on us? How do we judge? How do we treat the poor and the meek? Are we clothed in righteousness? Is it by what we do with the might of our arms, or rather the justice of our Spirit-inspired words, that the wicked are rendered no longer wicked?

Such a comparison makes me hang my head in shame. I have so much growing up still to do, and such a shortage of time in which to do it! But if I am faithful, if I permit God full control, I will progress in this "going on to perfection" that is sanctification.

Today, Lord Jesus, just for today: I choose to be more like you. May your Holy Spirit rest on me and may I then reflect you in all that I say and do.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Second Sunday in Advent

For this week's full texts, visit the Vanderbilt Divinity Library's Lectionary page for this Sunday's readings here.

Old Testament: Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm: Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Epistle: Romans 15:4-13
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Text: 12th C. Latin, tr. by John M. Neale, 1851

Tune: VENI EMMANUEL, arr. Thomas Helmore, 1856
For more information and/or to listen to the tune, visit the Cyberhymnal.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Advent, Week 1: Saturday

Matthew 24:36-44 (NRSV):

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

This is one of the passages of Scripture that has given rise to some pretty awful concepts, such as cars suddenly having their drivers be "raptured." I find it amusing that so many Christians expend so much effort on "decoding" the apocalyptic portions of the Bible (especially the Revelation) and claiming to know for certain that we are in the "last days," while here Jesus makes it crystal clear that we do not know the hour or the day when Jesus will return.

My pastor occasionally makes reference to a bumper sticker she saw some years back: "Jesus is coming: Look busy!". It makes me laugh, but there's an ugly truth about it concerning how the church behaves. We are far more willing to engage in "busy work" than to be consistently, faithfully busy doing the actual work the Lord has given us. Some of us are extremely proud to picket abortion clinics, for example; why, Jesus would be so proud of our opposition to abortion! But just what are we doing besides a cheap protest that mainly just irritates people? Not much, at least not much that matters in the lives of women who seek abortions. We refuse to even consider educating our children and youth about human sexuality; we condemn and shun young women who become pregnant outside marriage; we piously condemn the government for doing for single mothers what the church refuses to do: provide them with some financial and housing assistance so that they and their children don't end up homeless and starving to death. Even more telling is our self-insulation from "that kind" of person: someone who's never known a stable family, perhaps infected with a sexually-transmitted disease, who has no stable job and who is now bewildered when faced with the consequences of settling for a sexual relationship while actually seeking love. Have we given her, or her partner, any love as the church? Sadly, no. We make fun of how they dress (droopy pants or pants that don't quite cover midriff and upper hips), we express our distaste for their music, we despise everything they stand for and make no secret of the fact. But hey . . . we get in their faces when out of desperation the pregnant women seek an abortion. (Actually, we get in the faces of any women who go to the clinics, because we don't know if they're there for abortions or for something else, such as contraception, HIV testing, or low-cost Pap tests. We just assume the worst and who cares if we're wrong?)

And that's just one example of how we're doing busywork instead of Kingdom work. Busywork means we never get our hands dirty. Busywork keeps us smug and self-righteous. Busywork is safe.

Kingdom work, however, involves risk. We actually have to get involved in people's lives and meet them where they are. It's messy, it's inconvenient, it's heart-breaking. But it's also the most glorious self-expenditure there is. Really, nothing else has any eternal value.

God makes it clear that our outward piety means nothing if we do not humble ourselves and walk in our Savior's footsteps. Christ loved us so much that he emptied himself, took on human flesh, was born into poverty, all so that he could become sin for our sakes on the cross. He was absolutely, vitally involved in our lives. How dare we settle for outward, meaningless forms of self-congratulatory piety when we're called to be the body of Christ, alive in the world, touching and healing and loving and teaching those Christ died to save?

That is what it means, in my opinion, to be ready for Christ. And isn't it interesting that when we do these things, we see the face of the Savior in those we serve?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Advent, Week 1: Friday

Romans 13:11-14 (NRSV)
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

I love the word "now" in this passage! That is so NOT how I tend to wake up! Wake, be ready, clothe and equip myself, and live a life that (literally) becomes the gospel of Jesus Christ (as it is phrased in my denomination's traditional baptismal vows).

This Christian life is not for the faint of heart. Or, if I am faint of heart, I have a Savior who has promised to be the strength in my weakness. Now. Not tomorrow, not in an hour, but NOW, I WILL be a disciple of Jesus Christ, proclaiming and eagerly anticipating his coming.

Advent, Week 1: Thursday (late)

Psalm 122:6-9 (NRSV)

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers." For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, "Peace be within you." For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good."

Peace...peace within. Within the city of God. Peace, which the Lord gives but the world cannot even understand.

Advent celebrates the promised coming of the One who is called Prince of Peace. Lord Jesus, whose reign is peace, rule in my heart, my home, my church, my city, my world.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Advent, Week 1: Wednesday

Psalm 122 (NRSV):

I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!" Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem built as a city that is bound firmly together. To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. For there the thrones for judgment were set up, the thrones of the house of David.

Psalm 122:1 is one of the first verses of Scripture that I learned as a child. Of course, as a little child I believed it meant that I should be glad to go to church, which makes sense because I always was glad to go to church. Church was one of the places where I knew I was loved and cared about, where I knew I belonged.

I've learned a lot more about the celebratory Psalms since my childhood. Now I marvel at how these dear, familiar words were almost certainly sung by pilgrims making their way up to Jerusalem for the festivals. I'm also reminded, in verse 5, that Jerusalem was a new city in the time of David, in some senses a neutral one, designed specifically to be the capital, where all twelve tribes remembered their commonality and renewed their unity.

The coming of Christ as Messiah was not to the throne city, which was already reduced to being capital of a divided mishmash of a conquered, occupied nation. Instead, the Son of David came to reign among the poor, as one of them. From his borrowed makeshift feed trough of a crib to his borrowed grave, the King of kings' earthly life was marked by embraced poverty. What few possessions Jesus owned, he held very lightly. Even his clothes were taken from him and divided by his executioners. Jesus came in such a way that we could -- indeed, we must -- accept him as he is, not for what he has. He permitted nothing to come between him and people, and though he no longer walks this earth in his human body, there is still nothing in the way of approaching him.

As Michael Card put it in his song,"Jubilee," we can "look into our Judge's face and see a Savior there." Jesus is our Jerusalem, he is our Jubilee, he is our Salvation! I am glad whenever I hear, "Let us go to Jesus."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Advent, Week 1: Tuesday

Isaiah 2:2-3 (NRSV):

"He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!"

Again today, I find myself wondering how this text might read had Isaiah written it to a 21st century audience.

"God shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples: they shall melt down their missiles into farm machinery, and transform their weapons of mass destruction into disease-ending vaccines; nation shall not invade nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."

Not nearly so poetic, nor I suspect would it be very religiously popular. "But Lord! We NEED war. That's the only language these international bullies understand. We have to protect our strategic neighbors, or they'll import more terrorists and we'll have to defend our own shores."

Yes, Lord, we do need to walk in your light. This exportation of war is not your will; the soil on which we send our youngsters to fight is called home by brothers and sisters you died to save. I love my country, Lord, and my heart breaks that we settled so hastily for years and trillions of dollars of war instead of daring to humbly submit to your arbitration. Help my dear people seek your way of peace.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Advent, Week 1: Monday

Isaiah 2:2-3 (NRSV)

"In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem."

I've been thinking today about what "Zion" and "the mountain of the Lord's house" means to us Christians in the West, at the close of 2007. It's not my intention to get into all the possible details of the historical context of Isaiah's message concerning Judah and Jerusalem, but simply to outline a few thoughts about how that message intersects with where and how we live now as Christians.

First of all, if we consider the actual city of Jerusalem, it 's interesting that nations do stream to Jerusalem. Peoples of three different world-wide faiths claim Jerusalem as a (or the) capital of their historic faith. Unfortunately, this has resulted in fierce contention for occupation of it. This is sadly ironic, considering the prophecy of verse 4 which follows. Some people come to the earthly, physical Jerusalem today to pray, some to see the sights, and some to learn. Some come, and even stay, to foment further discord among the very uneasy truce that often holds there. But when we think of Jerusalem, we don't see it as the supreme center of learning from the Lord that Isaiah prophesied it would be. It's simply an interesting, old, important, but mainly violent place that most people never visit.

So I began to wonder, what are the "jerusalems" of the world?

  • For "what happens there, stays there" naughtiness, we have Las Vegas.
  • For fashion and style, we have Paris and Milan.
  • For celebrity and conspicuous consumption, we have Los Angeles.
  • For the hub of world commerce and finance, we have New York and Tokyo.
  • For history and tradition (with a fair bit of funkiness in the mix), we have London.
  • For more history and tradition, especially religious-style, we have Rome.

There are many, many more "centers" and I'm certain my list could be improved. What I could not really come up with, however, was a modern-day equivalent of Isaiah's visionary city of God's own instruction. We have no one place where all the world knows they can go to learn from God.

What this tells me is that we have to settle for smaller, more intimate "centers" of godly learning. We grafted branches -- Christians -- have received precious instruction from God. According to Jesus the Christ, we are to "teach [all nations] to obey all that [Christ has] commanded [us]." When we've been taught, we're expected to teach others. (As with anything, learning that is hoarded and kept to oneself quickly becomes ingrown and does no one else any good.)

I believe that our churches, our communities of worship, learning, and service, are supposed to be "little jerusalems" to the world. We should be living, 24-7 examples of the teaching of God, reflecting the richness of God's wisdom and practicing the grace by which we have been saved.

As Advent begins, I hope to be that kind of beacon toward God for those who are dying for what only God can provide. I pray that I may be a channel through which God can work to draw others to the divine heart. The first candle is lit. I pray that I, too, may shine brightly for Christ.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

First Sunday in Advent

My format for this Advent season will be to list the readings for each Sunday, along with a hymn for the day, then refer to the previous Sunday's readings with meditations throughout the week. This was a blessing to me last year and I trust it will be again. If you find blessing from it, my joy will increase.

For the full texts, visit the Vanderbilt Divinity Library's Lectionary page for this Sunday's readings here.

Old Testament: Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm: Psalm 122:1-9
Epistle: Romans 13:11-14
New Testament: Matthew 24:36-44

Wake, Awake, For Night Is Flying
Text: Philipp Nicolai, 1599; tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1858
Commonly sung to WACHET AUF, Nicolai, 1599; harm. by J. S. Bach, 1731.

For more information and/or to listen to the tune, visit the Cyberhymnal.

Wake, awake, for night is flying;
The watchmen on the heights are crying:
Awake, Jerusalem, at last!
Midnight hears the welcome voices
And at the thrilling cry rejoices;
Come forth, ye virgins, night is past;
The Bridegroom comes, awake;
Your lamps with gladness take;
Alleluia! And for His marriage feast prepare
For ye must go and meet Him there.

Zion hears the watchmen singing,
And all her heart with joy is springing;
She wakes, she rises from her gloom;
For her Lord comes down all glorious,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious.
Her Star is risen, her Light is come.
Ah come, Thou blessèd One, God’s own belovèd Son:
Alleluia! We follow till the halls we see
Where Thou hast bid us sup with Thee.

Now let all the heavens adore Thee,
And saints and angels sing before Thee,
With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone;
Of one pearl each shining portal,
Where we are with the choir immortal
Of angels round Thy dazzling throne;
Nor eye hath seen, nor ear hath yet attained to hear
What there is ours, but we rejoice and sing to Thee
Our hymn of joy eternally.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Holy Submission

(This entry is prompted by a discussion at "Complegalitarian" called "Biblical Submission Illustrated.")

One of my earliest memories is of bathtime with my Grama. It is a happy one.

Grama was the mother figure in my life; I went to live with her from the time I was about 15 months old until I was nine. She remains the only family member who mothered me, despite there being a mother and two step-mothers in my family. Grama, quite simply, loved me. It was mutual.

The last time I was able to visit my grandmother, who lived half-way across the country from me, she was in her late eighties and well into the Alzheimer's disease process. She was in "assisted living," but no one got close enough to really notice that Grama wasn't bathing. (My uncle visited her each month to take care of her business affairs, but just didn't notice the gradual decline). I met her at breakfast time and once she figured out who I was (between the dementia, legal blindness, and significant deafness, it took a while), I went back to her little apartment and spent the rest of the day and the next several with her.

One task that first afternoon was to get her bathed. I had to soak her feet in warm epsom salt water in order to get the shredded nylon knee-highs off her edemic feet and ankles. She had to have been wearing them, day and night, for at least a week. At first, I was afraid it would take a trip to the doctor because they strands were so embedded and causing sores, but after a while, it worked. Her foot bath took over an hour. Later, I ended up having to get into the shower with her, bathing her very much as she bathed me as a little child. We even shared her "pet names" for various body parts, to her delight that I even remembered. My childhood bathtimes were in that long-term memory that still functioned.

The "hired hands" at Grama's facility, in all fairness, weren't expected to bathe or perform other hygiene tasks for their residents. Grama had slipped past the point where her independence was too limited to belong in that level of care. But the needs were real and someone needed to meet them.

To me, submission is about meeting others' needs (which are quite different than wants). Grama, for example, wanted to go back to living in her house (it was being sold to finance her end-of-life care). She didn't especially want me to wash her feet or dry her hair. I couldn't accede to many of her wants, but I could meet several of her immediate needs. As a person who loved her, I saw it as both my responsibility and my privilege to do that. Just as she submitted to me in my early childhood by caring intimately for my body, I did so for her (for far too brief a time) in her old age. I've never done anything holier than bathing and tending my grandmother for those precious days.

The more I consider the relationship teachings of Scripture, the more I see them rooted in the submission we all owe to one another. I had never, before that visit to Grama, thought about the fifth commandment's connection to submission. I had known for many years by that time, that honoring one's parents was not simply a matter of a minor child's obedience to them. We submit to our parents as they age, in a manner similar to how they submitted to us in our childhood: We are to care for them when they cannot care for themselves. Our aged relatives are not to be cast out and allowed to die, as is the way of things in most of the rest of the animal kingdom.

Just as biblical submission is not about wives being subordinate to their husbands, it is also not about obeying or placating our parents. It's not about bowing down to authority figures. It's all about taking up the authority we have as Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to serve one another according to the other's needs. Husbands and wives are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, according to the apostle Paul. Parents quite obviously submit to their children during their childhood. The fifth commandment makes it clear that children also ought to meet their parents' needs, particularly as this commandment was given to the adults of the community, consequently referring to elder parents. If children are brought up to obey this commandment, it truly WILL go well for them and they will live long in the land: They'll teach it to their own children, who will honor them in their old age . . . and on and on, down the generations. As I think about it, this submission to one's elder parents is just as mutual as marital submission is; it's merely delayed a generation to allow for the children to mature into adults equipped to do for their parents what their parents once did for them.

I love you and I miss you, Grama. Perpetual light shine upon you.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Guest Bloggers: Rosie & Jenny, Thankful Singing Cats

We composed a Thanksgiving hymn for our human's blogfriends last year at this time. It seemed good to us that we should do so again this year. We remain grateful cats, regularly praising our Creator by living exemplary feline lives. We hope our musical efforts spur you good humans on to gratitude of your own.

Rosie & Jenny
Thankful singing cats

Come, ye thankful felines, come,
Raise the song of "Human's home!"
All our food is gathered in,
E'er our human's work begins.
God our Maker doth provide
For our wants to be supplied.
Come to our apartment, come,
Raise the song of "Human's home!"

All the house is God's own field,
Food unto our dish to yield.
Food and Greenies are our own;
"Human, NOW!" we now intone
When she tarries slow. We fear
Breakfast may never appear!
But our purrs and chirps of glee
Greet a full bowl happily.

Even so, now quickly come,
Psalmist! Hear our "Human, HOME!"
Gather thou our goodies in,
Free from hunger, free from thin.
Here, forever satisfied,
Human will with us abide.
Lord, with thankful voice we come,
Raising now our "Human's home!"

P.S. Our lazy human STILL has not photographed us so that you may be blessed by our beauty here on her blog. These two cats, however, look a bit like us and appear to enjoy one of the same hang-outs as we do.




Saturday, November 17, 2007

Another fell-apart suit, and job hopes

OK, at the outset, let me say that I do not normally have this problem with clothes. Normally, I keep garments long past their usefulness, either in fit, fashionability, or serviceability.

Nevertheless, I'm having to return my second suit in one month. Both were made of the same type of fabric, by the same manufacturer, with the same label.

Yes, the red-and-black tweed suit I found at Ross to replace the original black-and-white fell-apart suit from Jacques Pennee, also started to fall apart after only one wearing last Sunday. I can only hope that Ross accepts the return as easily as Penney's did.

I have not yet returned the lovely blouse to Talbot's, and have reluctantly decided to keep it and use it for the still-awaited interview. (It looks a bit like the blouse pictured here. Again, this is most decidely NOT me in the picture!) I'm simply not willing to do any more shopping; it's all I can do to keep up with two jobs and squeeze in the returns from previous shopping! (I won't even get into the impulse purchase of a beautiful skirt on clearance sale at Chico's, when I already have a perfectly good skirt in the same colors...)

Speaking of the interview, I'm getting a little antsy. The position announcement closed on Monday and I have not heard anything from the non-profit agency yet. I still think I will, but knowing that the position has been vacant since before it was advertised, I'm a little surprised to hear nothing yet. I want to be very careful, since a member of my church is one of the agency's VPs and is the boss of this position's boss. She's a woman of great integrity and I don't want to give even the appearance of asking her to pull strings on my behalf. So I'll probably send an e-mail follow-up to the agency contact (her subordinate) on Monday evening if I haven't heard anything on Monday.

Anyway, beware of Donny & Nicole tweed suits, ladies. Even if it fits you loosely, the seams are likely to disintegrate on the first wearing. It's happened to me twice now. I always have been a somewhat slow learner.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Retail Therapy, or "Shopping as It Should Be"

Warning: This is a totally fluffy entry! (But there IS a theological observation about half-way into it.)

For the one or two of you who read my rant about the fell-apart suit, here is the "rest of the story."

My current day job assignment is just a few blocks from a fun shopping venue that includes a Talbot's store. Now that Talbot's has for a few years recognized that there are short women who wear sizes larger than 14, I can find things that fit me there (though not usually any that I can afford except on their clearance racks).

Well, I still had no replacement for my fell-apart suit come 5:00 on Friday. So rather than just go home, I decided to head on over to Talbot's and see what they might have on sale.

When I got there, I was greeted warmly by a saleswoman worthy of the title. She asked intelligent questions concerning what I was looking for (replacement for my interview outfit) and accepted on face-value my condition that, though I love the "look" of their full-priced suiting separates, I could not afford them.

Jill noticed that I was wearing a black travel knit outfit (3/4 sleeve longish jacket worn open, swingy mid-length skirt, with a deep purple shell) and asked if I had considered wearing the jacket and skirt for an interview. I told her that I had it as my "stand-by," but thought travel knit was too casual a fabric. Jill disagreed, especially since it was a solid black and a classic pattern. She showed me a gorgeous white blouse, asked me to try it on just to humor her, and she'd fix it up with my skirt and jacket.

Did she ever! She pulled the cuffs back over the jacket sleeves and dressed it up with a long black, gray, and white scarf worn straight down the jacket facings. The blouse is the most unusual weskit style I've ever seen and if Talbot's had it available online, I'd post the picture. It is straight across the bottom, not "pointy." It has mitered-style pleating trim down the sides of the button placket and a horizontal panel of matching pleats at the bottom hem. The two-button cuffs can be worn as-is or with cuff links. The collar is what I think of as a modified portrait collar; it's a fairly long single point on each side (not notched) and is designed to stand up in the back and fall to the sides in front. The collar has a lacy white-on-white embroidered pattern to it. Since it was a petite length, both the sleeves and the overall length fit me perfectly.

I was already wearing a silver pearl-style bead necklace and silver hoop earrings. She said the jewelry was even ideal and invited me to look at myself as though I were an interviewer meeting me for the first time.

I have to admit, Jill was right. I looked SHARP.

I passed on that specific scarf, since it was over $70 with tax, but bought the blouse, which was significantly more than that. In fact, it was significantly more than the cost of the fell-apart suit that I returned. I've never spent so much money on a blouse in my life!

When checking out, I told Jill how much I appreciated her respectful, creative approach to selling flattering clothing. She said she just couldn't approach her job any other way, since she's been on the receiving end of awful service so often herself. She says she puts herself in her customers' figurative shoes and helps them as she'd like to be helped. (I've always thought that there aren't many jobs that the Golden Rule wouldn't apply to, but it's nice to hear it expressed that way.)

Now, all that said, I'm going to return the blouse. Here's why: After attending the birthday party of one of my preschool choir children this afternoon, I had some discretionary time and decided to check out a couple of stores in a town I almost never get to (it's close to the church but not close to where I live). I was actually looking for a scarf to go with the new Talbot's-enhanced outfit. What should I find at Ross, but the exact same suit in a different color, for $30?! But believe me; I checked every blessed seam in the suit with minute scrutiny. They're OK. It's a red-and-black tweed instead of black-and-white. Still looks good on me, though. And if the unthinkable does happen, I'll return it, too. Meanwhile, I'm going to wear it just once--to church tomorrow, to "test drive" it--and then hang it back up and hope for an interview.

What I intend to do is treat myself to that beautiful blouse as a Christmas gift, once I've re-built my financial situation a bit after spending so much of October out of work. When I CAN afford it. And when I do, it will look smashing with the travel knit combo and the wonderful red-white-and-black Oscar de la Renta silk scarf I just remembered I have in my closet, bought almost a year ago for $10 at Steinmart on a whim. I have to talk my anti-dry cleaning, anti-ironing self into the fact that since it's 100% cotton, it WILL require one or the other. My willingness to do these things should be taken as an indicator of how gorgeous the blouse is. (Please don't misunderstand me: If a garment requires ironing, I buckle down and do it. More than I hate ironing, I hate rumpled, wrinkled clothing. But whenever possible, I purchase clothing that doesn't require more than a little steaming, so my closet is mainly no-iron stuff. I actually cried a couple of months ago when I discovered I'd ripped my only white blouse, a truly no-iron gem ordered from Eddie Bauer. How DOES a grown woman tear clothes? I truly don't know how I did it! I've been MISSING that blouse. What a staple it was! Now if I could just get that Talbot's blouse in no-iron, I think I'd die of happiness.)

Oh, a note for anyone within a reasonable driving distance of a Liz Claiborne shoe store: Check them out! Just down the walk from Talbot's is our local LC store. I found that they were selling absolutely classic, impeccably styled square-toe high-heel pumps in black, navy, and pearlized taupe, at $29.99 per pair, with the second pair 50% off! And they're also having a very good sale on boots and handbags right now. Most are classic and all are at rip-off prices. But I'm content with my black and navy pumps for a total of $45. When I find well-made, classic pumps in basic colors at an excellent price, I make it a point to buy them if at all possible. I'm glad I found these; now I won't have to wear sling-backs in November for an interview.

Yes, I admit it...I have my moments of extreme shallowness. I call it "retail therapy."

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Our Church's Newest Banners

We displayed these wonderful new banners, commissioned from Jenny Gallo at Carrot Top Studios, throughout September and October. Aren't they gorgeous?!

Back again

Hello. It's the amazing disappearing Psalmist, re-emerging from blog silence.

I thought about concocting a story about a top-secret mission to eradicate some evil or other, but then realized I wouldn't be able to say anything about it if it were so, so that's out.

I thought about being humorous, but I'm not especially funny these days.

I thought about just yanking down the blog altogether because I obviously am not spending any time with it. But I don't really want to do that, either.

The truth is, a lot of "stuff," some of it good, has been happening, and I'm simply overwhelmed.

I've added an additional ensemble with rehearsal on another weeknight. This means I have three weeknight rehearsals, with a fourth ensemble/rehearsal once per month. My official lineup is:

Early service with ensemble warm-up prior
Warm-up rehearsal between services when "extra" group(s) sing/ring
Late service with choir warm-up prior
(Give a private voice lesson right after lunch; GOOD student)
Evening service - no music responsibilities except putting out books
(Half-hour for community supper)
Pre-school choir rehearsal
School-age choir rehearsal
Lock-up/close-up facilities

Day job (more about that below)
Adult handbell rehearsal

Day job
Youth handbell rehearsal

Day job
Adult choir rehearsal
(Private voice lesson -- for a flaky student)

Day job
Monthly early service ensemble rehearsal
Semi-monthly administrative council meeting

Day job
OFF! in the evening

OFF! (Except when something's going on at church)

There is a lot going on. Sometimes it helps to see it in a list like that.

As for the day job, it's really in flux. I was out of day-job work for most of the month of October. I applied for unemployment benefits, but though my church income doesn't "count" toward qualifying for benefits, I'm still required to report it so that the state can pay me less. I am getting a little bit -- I say am getting because I haven't got it all yet. I've applied for a position at a local non-profit agency and I'm rather excited about it. One of the members of my church, whose daughter's wedding I coordinated this summer, suggested I apply. She's a VP of the agency. There is hope...

Meanwhile, I reluctantly accepted a receptionist position through an agency at the company where, the first of the year, I fully expected to temp into a dream job. That ended when my boss there was suddenly and unexpectedly fired. Anyway, the regular receptionist, who's been there over 15 years, had major surgery. I could have turned down the assignment, as it pays less than the minimum the state said I had to accept, but the receptionist was extraordinarily kind to me on a number of occasions and it's a way to both work and do something good for her. I don't like the work -- busy telephones take way too much out of me and make me super-nervous -- but it IS work. Bummer, though...the agency originally called me frantic for a same-day beginning to the assignment and said it was for just a few cents per hour lower than I made there the last time, which was fine. So I accepted and was getting dressed to go in, then I got a call and they were reducing the rate to more than $1.50 an hour less. That's where I got reluctant. Unprofessional, on both the agency's and the company's part. I let stuff like that get to me.

During my unemployment, I had several interviews. One was for a hospital system and I decided I needed to splurge on a suit, because all of my suits are many years old and/or don't fit me very well. Found one on sale and snapped it up; I've gotten a lot of compliments on it. (A classic look with some updated details. See photo image. And no, it is NOT a photo of me. It's the model in the online catalog of a store that begins with the same initials as Jesus Christ's, and ends with a homophone of the smallest denomination of American coin.)
Anyway, I've worn it exactly three times, and was going to take it to be cleaned, only to discover that the side seams of the skirt are disintegrating. That is, the fabric is fraying out into the body of the skirt from both sides of the seam. It is beyond repair. This was a well-fitting suit. In fact, it was slightly on the loose side; not tight in any way. I did nothing to cause this problem. But now I have to go back to the store to do battle and see if I can return it after three wearings...then wonder if there's ANYTHING that will not fall apart that fits me for anywhere near the same price...since I have very little money at this point to spend on something more expensive. And I do want to dress impeccably for the non-profit agency interview. I'm a class act and I want to dress that way, too.

(Warning to the women out there, considering buying garments made of the new synthetic loose-weave tweed stuff: DON'T BUY IT, at least not until you've checked the construction very carefully and tested the durability of the seam areas.)

Meanwhile, back at the interviews: I didn't get the new suit hospital position. I also didn't get one I applied for on my own, at a WordPerfect law office. I let the person who gave me their proof-reading test take it from me before I was finished and therefore I missed too much on it -- duh! It was not a good experience and showed me that the attorney, who wasn't even there that day, let someone totally inept screen his applicants in a very unprofessional way. Probably just as well, but that second "wearing of the suit" went the way of the first. (Another agency underbid mine on the hospital job, and my agency didn't even bother to call me to tell me. It took me three calls to them to find out.)

And on top of everything else, there have been trials here at my apartment complex. It's an older complex and getting less and less safe. With no warning, the management changed the first of September and it wasn't until this past Thursday that I found out the municipal housing authority had purchased the property. With being out of work, the money I'd been hoping to accumulate so I could afford to move the end of this month (when my lease was up) got spent to pay bills instead. I lost the $50-off any month's rent voucher that was part of my last renewal incentive because there was no notice of the pending sale. They were going to renege on my reserved parking place that it took me 4 1/2 years to qualify for and which is a safety issue for me. But finally, because my options were limited, I met with the new manager Thursday right after work and she discussed the issues. She decided she would keep the existing reserved spaces and was negotiating with the towing company on authorizing towing when others park in the spaces (an ongoing problem, especially since the office personnel were telling new residents they COULD park in them). But my rent went up significantly, though it's still very reasonable for the size of my unit in this market. The handwriting's on the wall, though. I need to move next year, before I'm forced to because of income restrictions they're almost certainly going to impose in 1-2 years. But I signed a new lease. There's something oddly reassuring about that. (In my first phone conversation with the manager, after I learned about the pending elimination of reserved parking, I said I'd have to re-think living someplace where a valuable "perk" of being a long-term resident was not going to be honored, she said she'd be glad to let me out of my lease with no penalty so I could move immediately. That did NOT leave me feeling like she valued long-term tenants on the property. Fortunately, she had a very different attitude when I visited in person.)

Well, that's WAY more than I planned to blog about. But it's the stuff that's been distracting and troubling me.

What I do want to be sure to include is this: Tomorrow we celebrate All Saints' Sunday. In addition to Holy Communion and remembering our departed saints, we're also celebrating the baptism of our newest child, the little sister of one of my favorite children, a four-year-old boy who makes me smile every time we meet. (He's also the boy who ran to his Nana and mom very upset last Saturday night at Trunk or Treat, because he'd seen me fall on the parking lot and hurt myself, saying "Miss [Psalmist] is hurt! Mom, is she going to be OK? I'll miss her if she can't come to choir." --How sweet is that?!) I love the reminder that all of life is a cycle of birth and death, that we're surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses as we run our race to obtain the prize.

Our God is VERY good!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thank You, Friends

I appreciate your concern, more than I can say.

Things have been difficult lately. I'm not willing to blog about them just now, but will try to do so soon.

But meanwhile, church is THE BEST. We're super-busy making music to the glory of God, we've added a musical ensemble, finished up our fall festival and a revival, and are in the midst of a very good stewardship campaign (no, I don't believe that's an oxymoron). Wonderful things are happening in our fellowship of believers and it's a joy to be a part of it all.

Your prayers for me would be appreciated. God is good and I know, however things play out, that I am in the best of hands.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Sermon Final Draft

[I'm preaching tomorrow, or rather, this morning. This is the final draft. Constructive comments are welcome.]

Sunday, September 2, 2007
Luke 14:1, 7-14

“Honored Guests”

Anybody ever play “musical chairs”? You marched around not quite enough chairs while the music played, then scrambled to get a seat once it stopped. The one left standing was “out,” and everyone else was glad not to be that one and hoping not to be the one on the next round. Finally, it was down to two left standing on the final march-around and a battle to the finish for that final chair. And all for what? Some trinket or other. Anyone remember what the winner’s prize was? No, I didn’t think so. I don’t, either.

We play musical chairs a lot in our society, come to think of it. Long lines for concert tickets (well, for some kinds of concerts!), for movie opening shows, the latest book release, even to change lanes or get onto the exit ramp before somebody cuts you off. In fact, with all the commuting I do, it seems to me the majority of North Texas drivers have an attitude of, “I get to go first. The rest of you losers, fend for yourselves and don’t tick me off.”

We’re a nation of competitors for the best place. Jobs, homes, cars, the appearance of success and status. We want to be recognized as worthy of all that we manage to achieve, and we especially want to be considered more worthy than our neighbors and coworkers. The church isn’t immune from this, though it can look a little different. If we’re not careful, we start equating the number of people who attend worship and Sunday School and events with our success as a church. We raise “the way we do it” to a measuring stick to judge everybody else. Personally, we might number the notches on our spiritual belts: how many people did “I” save, how many years have “I” taught Sunday School, how many committees do “I” serve on, and so forth. (True confession time...) In my "normal" sphere of ministry, I'm tempted to measure my success by how close to perfection the choir gets on the anthem each Sunday morning. Some Christians measure their success by how differently they consider men and women and the work they think pertains to one or the other. Others measure it by how many social causes they support. Still others consider themselves successful by how far they isolate themselves from non-Christians. Usually, those who do things differently are judged less faithful or maybe not even Christian at all.

Jesus addressed this human tendency in this morning’s lesson. In his day, you showed your status by giving feasts–if you could afford it–and inviting the most important and influential people who would condescend to attend your feast. You did this if you were a man (or the family of a man) getting married, if your daughter was being betrothed, perhaps to mark the birth of a son, or for no special occasion if there were alliances to be forged or social climbing to be done. Among wealthy households, it was expected that you would give banquets periodically. You could even win some points for generosity if you let the beggars have the left-overs.

The part we often don't "get" is that in Jesus' time and culture, if you invited someone to your table, that automatically meant two things: First, that you accepted that person as family, and second, you were responsible for them while they were under your roof: their comfort, their well-being...and their behavior. So you didn't take chances with inviting "questionable" people to your table. Your honor and that of your family was at stake.

As usual, Jesus challenged the sensibilities of his hearers. In fact, he got downright offensive. First of all, if you were the guest, he told you to take the lowest seat at the wedding banquet. Be self-effacing. Let the host move you to a place of higher honor according to the host’s assessment of where you belonged. Save the better, higher status seats for others. That was a risk; what if the host DIDN'T elevate your status? What if everyone began to treat you as the low-status person your place implied? The humiliation of it!

Then, to the potential hosts of banquets, Jesus gave even more unthinkable advice: Don’t invite people of high enough status that you would expect a return invitation, like your friends–your social peers–or your relations, or the folks further up the status ladder. Instead, invite people who never get invited to banquets: the poor, the physically infirm, the outcast. Offer to these people the places around your banquet table. They’ll never repay you with a reciprocal invitation. Instead, your reward will be from God.

Unthinkable! was the probable reaction to these words. That’s not why you entertained! (It’s still not, is it?) You entertained to get ahead in society, to congratulate yourself on your achievements. The thought was, if people were poor or outcast, it was their own fault; they were sinners. Their low status was said to be God’s judgment on them. You just didn’t mess with that. You shared your leftovers with them; you went above and beyond. You are a good person! How DARE Jesus claim that these lowest members of society have a legitimate place at your banquet table! How dare this Galilean teacher expect you to shame yourself and compromise your honor by inviting socially unacceptable guests!

In fact, there were people who would rather have starved than to dine at that kind of banquet. Jesus was criticized for accepting the hospitality of people whom society judged to be sinners. His reply was a further rebuke: “I came not to save the righteous, but the lost.” Jesus knew that anyone who believed themselves to be righteous, saw no need of the salvation and wholeness Jesus could offer them. He made it clear that they were being selfish in their self-righteousness, hoarding a religious status for themselves and doing nothing to bring others into right relationship with God. In fact, Jesus knew none of us can save ourselves or anybody else, despite our self-important efforts to do so. His radical, upside-down teachings were merely leveling the playing field, showing us that from great to small, rich to poor, we all need a Savior. And there are people even today who hate him for that. So Jesus’ style of all-comers banquets and taking a lower place than one merits, were and are witnesses to the spiritual hypocrisy of considering ourselves worthy of a high place and offering hospitality only to those who can offer it back to us.

You see, we now know that there’s another banquet coming. Heaven, eternity, is likened a number of times in Scripture to a great banquet. The apostle Paul wrote that those who belong to Jesus Christ are his Bride. John of Patmos, in the Revelation, wrote that we will celebrate with our Bridegroom at the great Wedding Feast of the Lamb. No scrambling for places. We, together, are the Bride, the honoree along with the Lord himself, at the feast. It doesn’t get any better than that.

How do we merit that kind of honor? It’s easy enough to simply say, “we don’t,” and leave it at that. But let’s think about what it means to not deserve the honor, but to be elevated as the honored guest anyway.

Please understand: I rarely lose an opportunity to tell folks that some of the finest people I’ve ever known are a part of this congregation. But as fine as you are–and I truly believe you are–there’s not a one of you who has earned your place at the Feast of the Lamb. I know I sure haven’t! No, our place is secured for us by virtue of Jesus’ righteousness. He bought our place–with him, now and forever–through his love for us. A love that compelled him to die in our place, to wash away our sins, to MAKE us righteous, to make us one with him, the Bride with the Bridegroom. From the greatest sinner to the holiest saint and all of us in between, we merit no place at the table apart from the love of Jesus Christ. With Jesus, however, we share the highest place.

I think it is for this reason that Jesus told his parable of lower seats and lower guests. He told it when he was on his way to Jerusalem, where he knew the outcome would cost him his life. He knew that his followers would not immediately understand. But he also knew that his death and resurrection would open his own heavenly feast table to any and all who would accept his invitation. His followers would, in the years and centuries and millennia following his earthly ministry, remember his teaching about taking the low place and inviting the lowest as honored guests. We can now see that doing these things illustrates for others what God’s Reign is like. WE are the guests who cannot repay Jesus for his lavish hospitality–life now and forever in his company, feasting at his side at his never-ending feast! As with all his teachings, he is telling us to “go and do likewise.” When we show hospitality based on God’s lavish love for all, rather than basing it on who’s worthy and who can repay us, we are showing that love of God to those who need to experience it.

Jesus taught us that there’s no ultimate difference between the rich and powerful in this world, and the poorest beggar. At Christ’s banquet, all of us are poor and unable to repay our Lord. The miracle is, he doesn’t ask us to! How often do we think we’re doing Jesus a favor with all the good things we do? There’s a big difference, at least in our spirits, between working for God in order to pay down our debt–as a duty, and working out of pure gratitude, knowing that God delights in our gratitude rather than our sense of obligation. There are joyless Christians laboring away because “duty demands it.” I find that tragic. I read a book many years ago and can’t even remember which one or who wrote it. But I’ll never forget a line in it: “Is that how you define friendship? A series of sacrifices equally repaid? Accept that you cannot repay what your friend has done for you, and let that be the basis of your love.”

Today, we gather at the Lord’s Table, as we do each month, to remember and be grateful for what the Lord has done for us. In this meal, we anticipate the heavenly feast to come. We give thanks for the priceless gift Jesus has given us: his own life, and his ongoing fellowship with us. He promised never to leave us, and he never has and never will. Poor and undeserving though we are, nevertheless he invites us to share in his feast, giving himself as the food and drink. He knows we can’t repay him and he doesn’t ask us to. Instead, he tells us, “I give myself to you, and I want you to give yourself to me.” That is the good news. That is the news we show in tangible ways every time we take a lower place, putting someone else first. When we practice hospitality to people this world rarely takes the time or effort to honor. When we embrace as honored guests any and all who accept the invitation. When we offer the cup of cool water, or visit the sick or imprisoned, or clothe the poor, or house the homeless, in the name of the Lord who became poor for our sake. When we share the bread and the cup at the table of the One who simply says to us, “Come.”

In a few moments, we will again be invited to share the Lord’s table. This meal is not about this congregation, or The United Methodist Church, or any earthly organization. It is about Jesus Christ, who issues the invitation to you. We all simply get to be a part of that invitation and celebrate it together. There’s only one kind of seat at this table: the seat of the Honored Guest. That’s you, and me, and all of us and all those we can gather in for all the celebrations to come. So when we rise from this table and re-enter a world that looks for rewards instead of opportunities to share hospitality, let's all remember that we share the best place of all, at a table with enough seats for everyone. Let’s issue the invitation to God’s own honored guests in the days to come.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thank you, Bishop Willimon

If I ever needed a kick in the spiritual pants, this address by Bishop William Willimon fits the bill. In the midst of my recent (and ongoing) wrestling, I needed to hear this message.

No coincidence, I'm sure, that I'm scheduled to preach a week from Sunday. The miracle is that rather than feeling discouraged by such a masterful message, it has energized me to dig in and allow God to use the best I can prepare, as God will choose.

Anyway, please read the Bishop's address, even if you're not Methodist or Wesleyan. If you've ever wondered what a quaint little old-fashioned historical figure like John Wesley could possibly have to offer the 21st-century church, Bishop Willimon gives a powerful summary--and a challenge to all of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ.

(h/t to Dr. Platypus)

Monday, August 13, 2007

And one last post for the evening

I wonder if I'm doing all these funsy quizzes in order to keep from processing something more important?

Meh...who cares? They're fun. I had a long day yesterday, followed by a real day-job Monday. A little fluff isn't that terrible for me. (Not all terrible, only mostly terrible. There's a big difference.) --With apologies to Miracle Max.

One Last Quiz: Not too inconceivable!

And how fitting for a Methodist to score as...

You Are Westley

You are very independent and strong! People are attracted to you because of your loyalty and devotion to those you love or care about. You have a bit of a temper, and can be hurt only by those you care about the most. You are very outgoing, couragous, pretty/handsome, and caring!

You Are Westley 95%

You Are Fezzik the Turk 65%

You Are Buttercup 55%

You Are Inigo Montoya 55%

You Are Vizzini 50%

You Are Miracle Max 45%

You Are Prince Humperdink 5%

Created with
What Character Are You From The Princess Bride?

This one does, too

This fits, too

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Saturday, August 11, 2007

INFP All the Way, Baby

No surprises here:

Click to view my Personality Profile page

An Update

Zorra at Red Heeler Ranch has kindly asked me how I'm doing. It finally dawned on me that it's been nearly a month since I posted anything. So thanks for "checking up" on me, Zorra. Here's an update for you and my other readers.

I did not get an interview for the position I was looking into. Well, that's not quite accurate. During a follow-up call to be sure my resume was received, the pastor conducted a telephone interview. He didn't call it that and it was not at all formal, but questions asked and answered fit that description. A few weeks later, the church decided to expand their organist's duties to include leadership of the music ministry and direction of their chancel choir. Having been in their sanctuary, I see this as a recipe for disaster, unless their pianist does all the accompanying, speaking from an architectural perspective. (The choir cannot see the organist on the bench at all.) So whatever their goals in filling this position, hiring a skilled, experienced choral conductor and proven builder of music ministries was not at the top of that list. And I suppose it's a bit of a relief for me to not be answering to a pastor of my own generation who thought "I need to know, are you one of those women's libbers?" was an appropriate question to ask a professional candidate, even in jest. "I simply believe that all people should be treated with dignity and respect" was my answer, by the way. (And for what it's worth, the organist is a woman, also, who's been on their staff for ten years.)

We're beginning to gear back up for fall at church. It's somewhat of a relief to know that I'm there long-term. Our worship calendar is set through the first half of January, I have a lineup of anthems for the adult choir through the end of Ordinary Time, and I've settled on an adult Christmas cantata, which we'll present in the evening and during which the children will act out their annual pageant. I'm praying right now about whom to ask to be director for the children, since with the combined forces it's too much for me to do. Delegation is NOT a detestable word! Really, it's not. (I keep telling myself this.) No more sewing of extra costumes at the last minute when I could be attending to other equally important details. Two are better than one, as the Good Book says...

I'm in long-term limbo with my current day job situation. I like it pretty well. I'm supporting the property management department of a locally-headquartered national commercial realty firm. They're still one admin support person down from full-strength, and even so, there is no sign they're going to hire me. One property manager in particular has clicked with me quite well and makes no secret of wanting me hired permanently, so perhaps there's some hope. Still, it's difficult to be in the position of not being able to go to the doctor without taking unpaid time off, not having a retirement plan to join, having no long-term disability plan, and knowing that if I were to get seriously ill, I'd lose my job. Adds to the stress in a big way. (The lack of these things is one reason I was motivated to go after the full-time church position. Believe me, it was NOT the warmth of the congregation when I visited...BRRRRRR! --I can say these things now that I'm not in the running anymore.)

But we've started adult rehearsals again...what a joy to have a solid bunch of singers leading on the hymns again! We're starting "light" so that we have time to prepare some of our more challenging anthems properly. But I can hardly wait for Alice Parker's arrangement of "Be Thou My Vision" tomorrow...heavenly!!!

Still tired, but two consecutive weeks of vacation from church did help considerably. All in all, I'm OK. Actually, I'm more than that. God is with me, so how could I be anything BUT well?

"No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I'm clinging.
Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?"
(Robert Lowry)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What Ancient Language Are You?

I'm "Older Futhark," the language of the ancient Norse. Supposedly the most violent, fearsome language ever spoken, but it died out over 800 years ago.


If you want to take the test, here's a link: What Ancient Language Are You?

(hat tip to Dr. Platypus)

Wrestling, revisited

I've been off the blog here lately, dealing with a pretty major issue (actually two related issues). I've decided to write about it here.

The friends who've been keeping up with my employment situation are aware that, as things stand now, I have two disparate areas of work: my position as part-time minister of music at my much-loved church, and my scrambling efforts to stay employed in the secular business world as an administrative support worker. The former is very stable; I find a great deal of satisfaction ministering in an area in which I'm technically very competent and which is a good match for a number of my strongest gifts. The latter, unfortunately, is sapping much of my strength and energy. The work isn't; here again, I'm more than competent and bring a lot of good skills to the positions I've filled. The problem is that over and over again, the positions that could have/were supposed to result in a job offer, have fizzled or shifted or been eliminated. As much as I try to tell myself it's no reflection on who I am, each disappointment rips out a piece of me. I suppose that's because I don't just show up and work like an automaton; I put a lot of myself into my work and take pride in the excellence of what I do. When the job goes away, it's difficult not to see that as a negative judgment of the value of who I am and what I can do.

The obvious answer (for quite some time now) is to work full-time at the part-time job. That would be great, if I could only afford to stop doing secular work. But I am my own sole support. A pitifully small retirement fund is my only "nest egg." Other than marrying for money--something for which I have had exactly zilch offers--there's no way to make ends meet if I ditch the secular employment. This is not whining, this is fact.

(It's this reality that makes me laugh sometimes at the patriarchalists' pontifications that claim a woman's only godly option is to "be a keeper at home." That's all well and good and should be a viable, honorable choice--for those women who are truly called to minister primarily to husbands and children. Those of us who have neither, simply don't exist in their myopic little world. But I digress...)

A United Methodist church the next county over is searching for a full-time music minister. After much prayer and consultation with the dear friend who is also my pastor, I've applied. After speaking with the pastor to follow up on sending my resume, it appears I'm a strong candidate. (This was confirmed by my pastor, who also spoke with him.)

The thing is, I hate to even think of leaving my church. It's a seriously painful prospect. However, the ongoing pain (to say nothing of the financial uncertainty) of never knowing if I have a job to go to that will pay the bills, has become overwhelming to me. With every assignment I accept, it has become harder and harder to psych myself up to be perky and optimistic and positive. (I'm not genuinely any of those things even at my best! So I'm doing a whole lot of faking of it now.)

(Note to my readers: If you have an administrative assistant or associate with anyone who does administrative support work for you, PLEASE don't treat such people as disposable, as though there's ten more just like 'em where they came from. That's a unique, gifted child of God who is doing a valuable job for you, probably for pay most other people would laugh at. Cherish that person as an intelligent employee. They're not human wallpaper, even if they're "just a temp." Too many people have no concept just how poorly they treat administrative support personnel. That's somebody's life they're messing with. If they're not doing things up to snuff, talk to them! They are probably capable of a lot more and with a little encouragement could end up being invaluable to you. End of rant/suggestion/encouragement to keep on loving your admin support folks.)

A full-time position like this is what I earned my degree to do. It was a cold blow to learn, upon searching for a full-time music ministry position, that that degree would have to be a stepping-stone to an advanced degree if I ever wanted to work in such a position. It was when I was doing just that that my marriage failed, my money ran out, and God seemed to be moving me toward a different kind of ministry. I'm still not out of that bewildering territory. Just what AM I called to do? In answer to that ongoing question, this door seems to be opening. Is this going to be the means by which I eventually return to school and finish SOME master's degree? I don't know. I do know that I'm called to be faithful, trusting God to reveal enough of the way so that I may follow. My heart's been in the desert for a long time, ever since leaving pastoral ministry six years ago. During those four precious years, I knew without doubt that I was where God wanted me to be, doing what God was callign me to do. My soul almost died when I left. Now, the grace and love that surround me part of the time, at my church, serve to underscore just how lacking in grace and love much of the business world is. I have tried, very hard, to be faithful in that desert, offering God in whatever ways I could to those with whom I've worked. But that's very different from the clearly ongoing call to help equip the saints to minister in the world.

Is this possible return to full-time church ministry God's supply of a field in which to labor? I don't know. I suppose I'll know when and if the position is offered to me. All the experts say to do what you love, and the money will follow. I don't know about that. I do know that I've longed for a very long time to do what I'm passionate about: helping fellow disciples to grow in Jesus Christ and to develop and use their own gifts for ministry. It's what I'm gifted to do. It's what I'm called to do. It's what I want to do. Dear God, you know it's what I've been trying to do for all these years.

I'm trying to trust you.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Guest Bloggers: Rosie & Jenny, Feline Diggers of Jesus

Our human slave, Psalmist, has already posted five things that she digs about Jesus. We happen to dig Jesus, too.

1. We dig that Jesus loves cats, especially us.

2. We dig that Jesus never made any rules requiring cats to be subservient to humans.

3. We dig that Jesus promises heaven to those who love him. Since we dig (and love) Jesus, we look forward to getting to live with him forever. That's what Psalmist says heaven means, getting to live forever with Jesus.

4. We dig that Jesus teaches humans to be servants of all. Left to her own sinful tendencies, we think Psalmist would neglect us terribly, so we're glad that she follows Jesus and serves us.

5. We dig that Jesus forgives even self-centered, egotistical cats. He must; he forgives Psalmist of her sins, and she's only a human.

We forego all the formalities that Psalmist did. She even invaded our territory by tagging Whistle, Fish, and Sister. However, should Littlemankitty and Girlkitty; Molly the Dog of the World; Patches; Tygger, Rhianna, Prince Aiden and Midnight; Polgara and Tiria; Josie and Boudreaux; or Melech want to do this meme, we'd be glad to read what you say. (Hope we didn't miss any of the dogs and cats who've commented on our entries). But any of the cats or dogs of the human readers here are welcome to blog about how they dig Jesus. Your humans are welcome to play, too.

Five Things I Dig about Jesus (Meme)

Oops, it wasn't Singing Owl, it was P.S. who tagged me for this meme!

So first, here are the five things that at this moment I dig most about Jesus:

1. Jesus considered each and every one of us well worth the sacrifice of his own life.

2. Jesus, being God, still willingly experienced what we do by being born and living life to the fullest.

3. Jesus did not reduce the gospel of God to a formula; he met each person where he or she actually was, and lived the gospel (in word and actions) as each person could understand it. (IOW, Jesus wasn't lazy or careless with spreading the gospel, he instead invested some of himself in a relationship with those he met.)

4. Jesus fully respected the dignity of all people, while he himself willingly embraced the role of a servant to them. (And I particularly "dig" that he told us we should do the same.)

5. Jesus calls me--and all of us--by name and trusts us to work faithfully in his Reign, even here, now, on earth. Isn't it great how we don't have to wait for "the sweet by-and-by" to experience heaven on earth? (Not that heaven won't be much more than we're capable of imagining now...)

Here are the rules for this meme, as P.S. posted them:

a) Those tagged will share "Five Things They Dig About Jesus".

(b) Those tagged will tag 5 people.
Here we go:
April; Dr. Platypus; Paisley; St. Inuksuk; and Whistle, Fish, and Sister (at Whistle's Catblog), because I think almost everyone their Mom knows, has already been tagged. Rosie and Jenny will soon post their responses to the meme, though none of their blogfriends has tagged them. They like being the initiators of new trends; besides, Jesus does love all the little kitties and puppies and chinchillas and bunnies and other animals of the world.

(c) Those tagged will leave a link to their meme in the comments section of [the blog of the person who tagged them--meaning THIS] post so everyone can keep track of what's being posted.
Getting on it now.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Catching Up

At least, I hope I'll be catching up. Soon. As it is right now, I feel as though I could sleep right through the weekend and never catch up (on sleep, anyway).

We finished Vacation Bible School last night (can I get an amen--about the finishing part, if not the VBS itself?). It was not well-organized (someone else's responsibility) and was put together much too late for me to get all the necessary music things done properly. So I worked all day long at the day job, then each night raced across town to church, went non-stop for three hours with VBS music, then spent hours getting ready for the next night. Tonight will be the first night since last Friday that I will have gotten to bed before 1:00 in the morning.

So at the moment I have no profound thoughts except how heavenly my pillow will feel.

This humor thing, however, sent to me at work by my supervisor, gave me a much needed chuckle a couple of days ago. She's a dog-lover and I, ever the cat fancier, think it's heavy on propaganda and light on facts (the girls have just seen it, and they heartily concur.

Rosie: "That's. Not. In. The. Least. Bit. Funny." Jenny: "Where are our La-Z-Cat chairs? Get mine custom-upholstered in a tasteful blue damask, and be quick about it."

Don't get it? You will, if you read/view to the end. Enjoy, and I'll think of something more meaningful to say in the near future.

(Oh, and Singing Owl, I know you tagged me for a good meme. That's on my list to do, when I can do it justice. Been praying for you, sis!)

If you want someone who will eat whatever you put in front of him and never says its not quite as good as his mother made it...

Then buy a dog.

If you want someone always willing to go out, at any hour, for as long and wherever you want ....

Then buy a dog.

If you want someone who will never touch the remote, doesn't care about football, and can sit next to you as you watch romantic movies ...

Then buy a dog.

If you want someone who is content to get up on your bed just to warm your feet and whom you can push off if he snores ...

Then buy a dog.

If you want someone who never criticizes what you do, doesn't care if you are pretty or ugly, fat or thin, young or old, who acts as if every word you say is especially worthy of listening to, and loves you unconditionally, perpetually ...

Then buy a dog.

But on the other hand, if you want someone who will never come when you call, ignores you totally when you come home, leaves hair all over the place, walks all over you, runs around all night and only comes home to eat and sleep, and acts as if your entire existence is solely to ensure his happiness...









Then buy a cat!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How Nerdy Are You?

I'm "somewhat nerdy." How 'bout you?

I am nerdier than 52% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

(hat tip to Paisley!)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Happy First Blog Birthday to The Psaltery!

I began blogging here exactly one year ago.

Still don't have anything profound to say today, but I thought I should mark the anniversary.

Comments are appreciated; gifts are optional.



Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Banners & Stole!

OK, look at 'em and covet, my friends! (Seriously, didn't I tell you they are gorgeous??)

At the left is one of our photos of the banners. But much better pictures are at the artist's studio:

Our church's new Carrot Top Studio wedding banners and stole

Now, go give Jenny some business. She truly deserves it, and you're not going to find better quality or better prices.

Monday, May 28, 2007

"Seven Things You Don't Want to Know" Meme

Sorry, Singing Owl; I forgot I told you I'd do this meme. But I'm still not going to tag anyone. But (hint, hint) if you read this entry, consider yourself tagged!
  1. I am double-jointed in several toes.
  2. I am directionally challenged.
  3. My favorite beverage with pizza (preferably sausage and olives) is milk.
  4. Even though I grew up less than an hour from Mt. Hood, I did not learn to ski until I had lived in Texas for years, and had to go to Colorado to do it.
  5. I received a commendation in Army Basic Training for "maxing" my physical fitness tests (but don't expect me to repeat the performance lo these thirty years later).
  6. My life of crime began and ended when I was about five, when I stole a pair of Barbie sunglasses from the dime store. I wasn't caught, but the guilt I felt made me keep them hidden. Poor Midge (I didn't have a Barbie) never even wore her ill-gotten booty. I still half-expect to be asked about this when I reach heaven.
  7. I am allergic to ingested alcohol, including the small amounts in cough medicine, sauces, and other foods.
There, now that you know far more about me than you ever wished to, why don't you tell all on your own blog?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Wrestling with Daddy Charles

I read this hymn of Charles Wesley periodically, and it's especially appropriate for me right now, though I prefer to keep the reason to myself. If you're unfamiliar with this seldom-sung hymn, I commend it to you. According to Charles' brother, John Wesley (the two much-beloved of us Methodist people), the hymn writer Isaac Watts claimed that this one hymn was worth all the verses that he (Watts) had written.

This entry at the Cyber Hymnal gives MIDI files for a number of tunes to which it can be sung. Myself, when I sing it I prefer CANDLER, a traditional Scottish melody.

"Wrestling Jacob"

Come, O thou Traveler unknown,
Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with Thee;
With Thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.

I need not tell Thee who I am,
My misery and sin declare;
Thyself hast called me by my name,
Look on Thy hands, and read it there;
But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?
Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.

In vain Thou strugglest to get free,
I never will unloose my hold!
Art Thou the Man that died for me?
The secret of Thy love unfold;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

Wilt Thou not yet to me reveal
Thy new, unutterable Name?
Tell me, I still beseech Thee, tell;
To know it now resolved I am;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

’Tis all in vain to hold Thy tongue
Or touch the hollow of my thigh;
Though every sinew be unstrung,
Out of my arms Thou shalt not fly;
Wrestling I will not let Thee go
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

What though my shrinking flesh complain,
And murmur to contend so long?
I rise superior to my pain,
When I am weak, then I am strong
And when my all of strength shall fail,
I shall with the God-man prevail.

My strength is gone, my nature dies,
I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
Faint to revive, and fall to rise;
I fall, and yet by faith I stand;
I stand and will not let Thee go
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

Yield to me now, for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
Be conquered by my instant prayer;
Speak, or Thou never hence shalt move,
And tell me if Thy Name is Love.

’Tis Love! ’tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal love Thou art;
To me, to all, Thy bowels move;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

My prayer hath power with God; the grace
Unspeakable I now receive;
Through faith I see Thee face to face,
I see Thee face to face, and live!
In vain I have not wept and strove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

I know Thee, Savior, who Thou art.
Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;
Nor wilt Thou with the night depart.
But stay and love me to the end,
Thy mercies never shall remove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

The Sun of righteousness on me
Hath rose with healing in His wings,
Withered my nature’s strength; from Thee
My soul its life and succor brings;
My help is all laid up above;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Contented now upon my thigh
I halt, till life’s short journey end;
All helplessness, all weakness I
On Thee alone for strength depend;
Nor have I power from Thee to move:
Thy nature, and Thy name is Love.

Lame as I am, I take the prey,
Hell, earth, and sin, with ease o’ercome;
I leap for joy, pursue my way,
And as a bounding hart fly home,
Through all eternity to prove
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More Braggin' Rights

Oh, do I ever wish I had permission to post some pics! We just received our commissioned banners and stole from Carrot Top Studio - Owner/Artist Jenny is a RevGalBlogPal and I've got to say, she does EXQUISITE work! We could not be happier. She designed and made a wedding set for us, just in time for this coming weekend's wedding of a third-generation member's wedding. Sister Pastor and I have been turning back our wedding fees from church-related weddings (when people have insisted on our accepting them) so that we had just enough in the fund for Jenny's VERY reasonable prices, and she whipped them out in next to no time.

Super, super beautiful! If your church needs/wants either of these items (stoles or banners), you really MUST contact Carrot Top Studio! Don't go anywhere else. I mean this--can you tell?

As soon as Jenny posts the pictures on their website, I'll link to them.

(Trying very hard to remain mature here and not do the "nanny-nanny-boo-boo, we have pretty church things and you don't" dance. --GRIN!)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

So proud!

(Gush alert!)

My babies (choir children) did SO WELL today! I've never been so proud of them. Everyone loved the concert and most stayed to enjoy banana splits or ice cream sundaes with us afterward.

And the school-age children were thrilled with their end-of-year gifts: hymnals of their own, imprinted with their names. Harder to tell with the pre-schoolers, who received beautiful enamel choir pins (blue with red singing birds), nearly an inch in diameter, which they can wear each time their choir sings in the coming year. The children also presented me with a small white bear, proudly "bearing" the United Methodist cross and flame, with a collection of small business-card sized photos of each child and adult worker, double-sided (reverse sides were various photos of things like our Christmas program, Sunday morning singing, our sanctuary windows, etc.) A keepsake of our year together--something I'll treasure the rest of my life.

Fun, fun, fun!

I SOOOO love my job!

I'm going to miss these young ones this summer. Oh, I'll see them in church and they'll give me leg hugs (the youngest ones) when we meet. And some of the older ones will tell me where they're going on their vacations or their latest swimming achievements or Six Flags visits and so forth. But working with them each week, and especially praying with them (my favorite part of each rehearsal--ever heard a three-year-old praying for a sick sister or a pet who died? No guile, just trust...) yes, that's what I'll miss the most. I need the break, but my heart's already looking forward to the fall.

I don't know how I avoided crying as the older children sang "Feed My Lambs" (Sleeth) this afternoon. (It was one of their choices of favorite pieces from this year.) Somehow it took until today for it to sink in that God was reminding me of my own calling through this text:

"Feed my lambs, tend my sheep,
Over all a vigil keep;
In my name, lead them forth
Gently as a shepherd."

Thank you, Good Shepherd, for the gift of these your children in our church family. Keep me faithful to you as I help to shepherd them in your way. Let my love for them show them, in some small way, the boundless love you have for them.