Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Spell Check is my friend

I have never been able to get the spell checker on blogger to work, and have lamented my poor spelling skills, often returning to posts after the fact to fix my mistakes. But bad spellers of the blogesphere UNTIE!

Mozilla Firefox 2.0 has a built in spell checker that actually works on any online input, including the blogger post composer.

My readers thank you.

Can't get that song out of my head

You know when you get an ear worm? That's when a song just keeps playing over and over in your head, tormenting you.

Well, the whole communion/chalice thing has been like that for the last couple of days. I am starting to see it as a great metaphor for all kinds of things, and keep coming across situations that remind me of it. It's not that I feel guilt, either. It is more like God is using this experience to open my eyes to other things.

Today, during bible study, we were talking about all the ways that we, as Christians, are asked to straddle the two worlds. This world in which we live, and God's world. Jesus spent much of his ministry showing that the laws of our world don't always apply to his world. He paid a heavy price for that teaching, as do we, sometimes, when we choose to follow him.

It struck me that the sharing of the chalice is an example of us having to eschew the normal rules and do something outrageous because Jesus asks us to. We share a cup with dozens or hundreds of strangers and friends each Sunday. How nuts is that? Can you imagine? In my past life, I wouldn't have shared a coffee with some of these people, but now I am asked to drink from the same cup. It is an act of faith and thanksgiving to step up to that rail, kneel down and take into my mouth the blood of our lord, who happens to have been touched by the lips of all who came before me. It is, on the face of it, in these times of germ terrorism, a ridiculous and breathtakingly otherworldly thing to do.

As I was talking about this at the Bible study, I could see a look of recognition dawn on the face of Fr. Rich. He suddenly realized that at the Eucharist he is drinking the dregs of a cup that more than a hundred people have sipped from. I don't think he had ever thought of it in those terms before. For the first time, he acknowledged the immense power and faith inherent in that act.

Perhaps that is part of the role of priests. By taking what is left behind and carrying it inside of themselves, they connect all of us, together, in Christ. In a very physical way, they straddle the two worlds and offer themselves as a bridge for the rest of us.

When is the next ember day? I am going to fast in thanksgiving for all those new priests. And today I give thanks for all the ones who are already out there.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Great Vietnamese Engagement Shebang of 2006

Getting engaged is a big deal in Vietnamese culture. It is not just the coming together of a couple in love, but indeed, the joining of two families, presumably for the rest of eternity.

In our family, we have had several engagements over the last few years, but it wasn't until my oldest sister-in-law's children got engaged that we saw the full traditional ceremony in action. It helped that her children were involved with other vietnamese. (A rarity, in this family, I have to say. The last person to marry a vietnamese before Nien's children was my younger brother-in-law... about 12 years ago or so. Everyone else has ended up with non-vietnamese spouses.)

Yesterday, on a very blustery, chilly New England fall day, my nephew Dan officially got engaged to his lovely girlfriend, Tu Anh. We were all there to celebrate.

The clan met in a parking lot of a local McDonalds to gather our forces. We all showed up dressed to the nines. Men is suits, vietnamese women in ao dai (pronounce ow yai) and western women in dresses and heels. My sister-in-law, Nien, told us that we would drive to Tu Anh's and park a block or so away so we could get everything together for the formal procession.

In the traditional culture, the bride marries into the groom's family. She leaves her home and goes to live with the groom and his folks. In the old days, this usually meant that she became a servant to her mother-in-law. She would work her fingers to the bone caring for her in-laws until they died. By then, hopefully, she had a son of her own, who would bring home a bride for her to boss around. Because of this, the bride's family needed to be 'compensated' for the loss of their daughter. Hence, the groom's family would show up to the engagement party with very special gifts for the bride's parents.

Red is an auspicious color in Vietnamese culture, so all the gifts are wrapped in red cellophane and then placed in huge red tin containers which are draped with red velvet cloths embroidered with dragons. The dragons must be facing the front of the container when handed to the recipient.

Some of the gifts include special teas, delicious sweet rice with coconut milk, bottles of cognac (a vestige of the French colonizers) sweets, fruits, betel leaves and a whole, roasted, 40 lb. pig.

Tu Anh's family lives in a run-down, working class neighborhood north of Boston. We met about a block from her house on the front lawn of a business that was closed for the day. This became our staging area. Nien arranged everyone in order of how they were going to present the gifts. There were 8 huge metal trays, with lids, each weighing several pounds, plus the pig, which was also wrapped in red celophane. Nien and her husband were first in line, then the two men carrying the pig, then 3 sets of unmarried men and women, each carrying a tray, then the rest of us. The gifts are presented in a particular order, so it was important that everyone know who they were supposed to follow.

Meanwhile, at the bride's house, the family had set up an arch at the gate, and a big red sign for good luck. They decorated their front porch and built an altar in the tiny dining room. They had a bench on which to lay out the pig, plus a table with red cloth to receive all the trays.

We began to process down the street. Even for me, who was in the line, this was an amazing spectacle. All the vietnamese women's ao dai were flapping in the wind, their white pants billowing underneath. The colors were spectacular in this grey neighborhood: tangerine and crimson and lime green and pinks. All the men were in dark suits, with bright white shirts and colorful ties. And the gifts, in their brilliant red containers, being marched down the block towards Tu Anh's waiting parents.

The neighbors gawked.

Upon arrival, Nien and her husband,Mo, offered their gifts to the parent's of the bride, who graciously accepted them. The pig was carried into the tiny house and placed on it's bench. The trays were lined up on the low table, and my very soft spoken older brother-in-law inquired as to whether Tu Anh's parents would accept these gifts. The answer was a warm yes.

There were a few speeches, none of which could I understand. A set of red candles with dragons engraved on them were lit and placed on the altar. Photos taken.

And then, in this tiny house, 5 or 6 folding tables were set up cheek by jowl and the entire Nguyen clan sat down to be served lunch. Tu Anh and her parents and siblings sat at the head table with Nien, Mo and my older in laws. The rest of our family took up all the other tables. The rest of her family and friends stayed in the kitchen and waited on us.

Food started coming out. First, crab soup with egg and some strange textured something that I thought, at first, might be jellyfish. Then plates of huge oysters that had been steamed with black bean sauce. A tray of lobster, stirfried with green onion and ginger. A whole, deep fried, crispy flounder. Beef with chinese broccoli. A tray of pork, beef, abalone and jellyfish. Fried rice. Sweet coconut rice. Fried taro root baskets filled with squid and shrimp. None of this was traditional Vietnamese food. It had been catered by a Chinese firm from Boston, so it was foreign even to my husband's family.

We toasted the couple with champagne and chatted and laughed. We tried some of the more exotic delicacies and drank beer and soda.

At one point, I had a chance to speak with Dan and ask him more about Tu Anh's family. They are much more recent immigrants, having come over in 1995 when the government of Vietnam was allowing former dissidents (and political prisoners)to leave the country. As Dan was describing their history, I was suddenly struck by what a mature young man he has become. He is soft spoken, like his dad... but like his dad is confident and sure of himself. I was amazed to think that at my own wedding, Dan was around the same age as Noah.

As the afternoon wound down, the bride's family packed half of the gifts, including half the pig, into the trays and presented them back to Nien and Mo. This is part of the tradition. The two families share the bounty of this engagement with each other.

We drove back to Nien's house, where she cut up the roasted pig with a cleaver and sent each of us home with a chunk. We were given tea and some pasteries and little meat pies, which we shared with my brother later, while watching a movie on tv.

As I sat in that cramped house during the lunch, it struck me that this was the exact opposite of the wedding itself. At the wedding, there will be hundreds of people I don't know. There will be guests that are invited as part of a complex social obligation system from both sides of the family... and most of them will be strangers, not only to me, but to the bride and groom as well. This event, though, was just for family. This is the moment when the two families come together and acknowledge that they are to become one. We are invited into their home. We bring gifts. We are given gifts in return.


Bless this union. Bless this sweet couple with a lifetime of love and happiness. Let us, as their family, support them and offer them our gifts of love and wisdom, humor and joy. Let us open our hearts to receive the gifts that they, in return, offer us.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Who is that Pharisee in the mirror?

Since we had a family event today, I went to the 8 am mass at Grace church for the first time. It is a quiet service... no music or hymns. We met in the little side chapel. The service was kind of nice, I thought. We had a guest preacher who was very animated. (Maybe too much so for an early service, LOL.) He was talking about the genocide in Rwanda and the war in Darfur. He was encouraging us, as the body of Christ, to take healing the world seriously as a personal mission, whether in the third world or on the streets of Providence.

I took communion, and even with a nasty cold, took the chalice. As I walked back to my pew, I told myself I should have done it by intinction (dipping the host in the chalice) so I didn't get everyone sick.

When I sat in the pew, I noticed a homeless man coming back from the rail and actually thought to myself

I am glad I went before him.

For a fleeting moment, I was relieved that I didn't have to share a cup with the homeless guy.

That is appalling on so many levels. I, who had a virus that I was more than willing to share with everyone. I, who believe the chalice contains the blood of Christ.

Who is this person, I wonder, who is suddenly overtaken by fear? What exactly am I afraid of, anyway? Cooties? Am I in kindergarten?

Every now and then God shines a light into the darkness of my soul. I am so grateful when he does it. It is an act of love, I think, for him to bring me face to face with my weakness. It reminds me how much I need his redeeming love.

I think this will be going on my list for confession.


I ask for your mercy. I thank you for your Love.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Old friends, new blogs

I have a bunch of new blogs on my list these days. Some are new friends I have just happened upon in the blogesphere... others are old friends who I have known for years.

Why not take a peek?

Here's a list:

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam- This is Natalia's blog... she is a catholic woman getting a masters of divinity.
Along the Way- Nancy has found her way to the Episcopal church from an evangelical background.
Another unfinished symphony... Deb has been on the RevGalBlogPals list for sometime, but somehow I missed her.
BitterSweetLife Ariel is a hoops playing theology student with a lot of interesting things to say.
Bryan Sherwood- Bryan lives near Gethsemani monastery... these are his thoughts on life and monasticism.
Catholic Convert .... Ukok is an old blog friend I have rediscovered. She is a Catholic convert living in England and blogging about same...
CatholicGeek-I haven't really explored Phil's site yet, but I loved the name... so here it is.
Catholicism, holiness and spirituality- Another brand new addition to the blogroll... but so far so good!
Coming to the Quiet a Benedictine Oblate's thoughts on monasticism and everyday life. (Are you sensing a pattern here, people? You think I might have monk envy?)
From Under the Laundry Pile Evangelical mom with 6 kids trying to keep up with the laundry. I LOVE this blog, LOL!
J-Walking- David Kuo's blog on BeliefNet. This is the guy who blew apart the myth that the Bush Administration actually cared about the Jesus freaks.
One foot in the boat ...New Episcopalian, former RC. New Friend.
The Urban Mermaid My friend Emily's new blog. This is becoming a daily addiction.
We Are All Apes-Emily's squeeze and my piano tuner. I have known Bill since high school.

Spending diet

Over at The Ice Floe PeripateticPolarBear has been on a spending diet. I am not sure of the details, but I think it was something like no frivolous spending for a month. No books. No shoes. No magazines.

I commented that since I started tithing, I, too, would need to address my spending habits. There are a few things that need to change.

First, I have been buying everything with a check card. I almost never use cash. How easy it is to hand over the card and let the imaginary elves do their work in the cash register. (Why is it even called that anymore?) At the end of the month I look at my statement and it is a financial mine field. None of the individual purchases ever seem like much... $22.73 at CVS, $16.58 at Borders, etc. etc. But together, they add up to a LOT of money every month. I either need to start paying with cash or I need to start writing down the transactions when I make them. A spending diary of sorts, perhaps.

Second, we have a bunch of monthly expenses that are unnecessarily high. Our cable bill, for example, recently ballooned to something like $75 a month. $40 of that was high speed internet. Another $13 was HBO. AND we were paying $18 a month for Netflix, which frankly was a complete waste of money because most of the time I would forget to return the dvds so we would be spending the money every month for the same two movies, which were sitting in our tv cabinet.

So yesterday I downgraded the internet access to the lowest, slowest level, got rid of Netflix and am going to get rid of the HBO. Almost $50 bucks a month just like that.

Next- eating out. We usually eat dinner out at least twice a week. I figure if we eat one of those meals at home, we can save about $30 or $40. I have been doing amazing things with leftovers, lately, LOL! One night I roasted a pair of chickens. The next night we had homemade chicken pot pie and the night after that kale, white bean and linguica soup with homemade chicken broth. This does not feel like poverty, people.

All of this is to say that there are plenty of areas where we have been wasting money. Areas where the belt tightening is going to be a matter of adjusting our behavior, but won't, as far as I can see, be much of a hardship. (The new internet speed, for example, is a barely noticeable difference... and yet I am saving $15 per month.)

The biggest change for me, since starting tithing last week, is that I am really aware of the fact that all the money I have is all a gift from God. I feel more like a steward than an owner. I am more willing to spend it carefully because it has been entrusted to me to do so. This shift is astounding to me. I have struggled with finances for my entire adult life. And while I don't think this is going to be a magic bullet, I do believe that something is changing here. I am so grateful to God for showing me the way out of my financial insanity. Who knew it would be something as simple as giving all my money to him? Ha!

Beloved, in this and in all things I put my trust in you. Let me walk in faith. Let me seek to know your will. Let me share the bounty of your love with others.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


I got a flu shot on Saturday and yup, you guessed it, came down with a majorly nasty cold yesterday. Flu-like symptoms. Maybe the flu. Whatever.

Could it be related to all the stress lately? Ya think?

Today I woke up and my Darling Husband graciously invited me to stay in bed for the morning while he got the kids ready for school. I have no kitchen tools gig tonight, so I had the luxury of doing nothing. But first I had call my friend (of the Board of Directors fame) and clean up my side of the street about issues we have been wrangling with. The conversation went really well. I think she was worried that our 25 year friendship was in jeopardy because of the board stuff. I was certainly NOT intending to let that happen. So we had a great talk this morning and now that I am back to being a civilian, I felt much freer to be honest.

And can I just say, again, that The Imitiation of Christ is one of the most profoundly helpful books I have EVER read? Thank you God for putting this book in my path. It is available for free to download on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Noah had planned to invite a friend over today, and I was just about to tell him, no, I need to rest, when I remember that his parents have been having major problems lately and he probably could use an afternoon with the boys and bunny... so yeah, come on over, it's nice to have you. (That run-on sentence curtesy of the "We're Swiss" but really probably German somewhere in our history part of my heritage.)

Ok. Tea. Honey. More Imitation.

My spiritual flu shot.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

bread and wine

Our bible study at Grace is really quite diverse and wonderful. In it's original incarnation at Church of the Messiah, it has been the same group of older ladies for the last 15 years or so. Then, Fr. Rich came on board over at Messiah and he started to run it. The Liberian ladies joined in at some point. (Or perhaps they have been going all along.) When it moved to Grace, an older man, another woman and I joined in... and then, because we meet downtown and happen to serve coffee to the homeless every morning, we have started to get homeless men and women at our bible study.

This week our homework was to share what we felt the Eucharist is. One by one we spoke of our feelings about it. For some it is symbolic. For others it is a way of getting through the week. Some of us believe it is the actual body and blood of Christ, while others feel it is the real presence. The details were different, but the effect the same- we join our Lord at the table every week and leave feeling refreshed and renewed.

When I first got to the church, I snuck up to the high altar and knelt on the cold stone steps. I prayed to my Beloved and asked him to help me navigate this difficult situation with the Board of Directors.

Then, sitting at the table with this wonderful, soulful, and in some cases, hurting fellow travelers, I felt grateful and humbled.

Grace happens.

Thanks God.

PS: I sent my resignation letter to the Board today. It is finished, LOL.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sublime to ridiculous and back again.

Sublime: I picked my son up at his friend's house this afternoon and spent a half hour talking with friend's mom about what miracles Jesus has wrought in our lives. I love being able to talk about that stuff with people.

Ridiculous: If a friend ever invites you to be on a board of directors RUN AWAY. Run as if your life depends on it.

I just (10 pm) got back from a very difficult board meeting that started at 6. I am exhausted and upset. And felt that way before the meeting even got going.

So, I came crawling back into the house feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me and sat down to catch my breath and catch up on my bloggy friends and remember, Thank God, that tomorrow is bible study day and I get to sit at another kind of table and wrestle with issues that are, for me, the truly important and relevant ones.

And tonight, before bed, I get to read my psalms, which always manage to put my life issues into perspective. I get to spend time in prayer, which leaves me feeling renewed and at peace and connected to the One I love.

And that, my friend, is sublime.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday roundup

I started my day by going berzerk trying to get the kids out the door for church. Noah had no clean pants. The ones he had on were covered with grass stains and mud. I started yelling and madly flinging clean laundry everywhere trying to come up with something for him to put on. I vowed that from now on I will put out clothes for them on Saturday nights so that Sunday morning doesn't get so ugly.

I was grateful that we had confession as part of the mass today. Yes, Father, I have sinned and am heartily sorry. I told Fr. Rich about it before the service started and he kindly suggested I not to be too hard on myself, and allowed as how he had been pretty messy as a boy, too, and that is just the nature of being a kid. Later, at the communion rail, as Fr. Rich placed the host in Noah's hand, I noticed, with a combination of horror and amusement, that Noah's palms were filthy and covered with blood from a scab he had picked. Fr. Rich looked up at me and caught my eye and we just about laughed out loud right there at the rail. (Note to self: have kids wash their hands on Sunday mornings...)

I know Jesus probably couldn't care less what my kids are wearing, but for me, being in church, especially with the Eucharist, is the equivalent of being in the presence of God in the flesh, so I feel it appropriate to show my respect by dressing a little more formally than I would for, say, a soccer game. But it is hard to explain that to my kids.

Other than my meltdown in the laundry basket, the morning was lovely... and in fact, the rest of the day was too. We had dinner at my mom's, with some friends, and the meal was just equisite: stuffed pork loin chops with mashed potatoes and sweet and sour red cabbage, a lovely bordeaux and apple rhubarb crisp for dessert. And the joy of an easy evening with people I love.

Thank you, Beloved, for the abundance of your love, the gifts of your spirit and redemption of our souls. Your generosity knows no bounds.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Notes from the field

I took the leap and signed up to have my bank direct deposit money to my church every week. I decided to go with 10% of the gross. I figured we should give it a try and see how it goes. It's God's money anyway, right? So this is my opportunity to be a better steward of it.

Then I decided to call my oil company and see how my balance was doing. Last year I went on an automatic payment program because I didn't want to face $400 oil bills. The guy checked my account, took a breath and told me a I have a balance of $1400.

A credit of $1400.

You might want to skip a few months, he said. I nearly burst out laughing. And crying.


You are a gracious and generous God. You comfort me in my fear. You remind me that your love is boundless. You teach me to live in faith, even when my heart feels small. I praise you and thank you for your love.

Nothing else matters.

Nothing else matters.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Another post on tithing

I had dinner with a friend last night. K is one of the few civilians I can really talk religion with. She is a lifelong Roman Catholic who has recently begun to experience a kind of rennaisance in her relationship with Jesus.

Over pork loin with maple syrup and gorganzola sauce, we discussed how Jesus has been whacking us upside the head of late.

For her, it has been tithing. She runs her own business, and has been tithing ten percent of the gross since the beginning. Lately, though, she has felt called to tithe her husband's income too. 10% of his gross pay. God is a faithful friend, to be sure. Within a day of her first huge check to the church, she got a call from her husband saying that he would be getting some extra money in his paycheck that week. Almost the exact amount she gave the church.

For some reason, the idea of tithing the gross rather than the net is scaring the crap out of me. It just seems like such a huge chunk of our budget. I feel fearful of our ability to do things like pay the mortgage. But yet, I have been tithing my own money since I started doing the kitchen tools gig and I haven't missed the 10% at all. And in fact, the amount I am donating keeps getting bigger and bigger as my business grows. So what, dear reader, am I so afraid of?

I talked it over with Nguyen when I got home and he was surpisingly open to the idea. He feels that we don't give enough to charity as it is, so he likes the idea of giving part of our income. And it happens that our church has enough social ministries that even his non-religious self can get behind the idea of donating to Grace to support the soup kitchen, homeless shelter, low income housing, etc. etc.

So. Gross or net.

And does it really make sense to do this with outstanding debt looming over our heads?

Lord, I promised, on the day of my dunk, to do whatever you ask of me, no matter how difficult. I am asking you now to show me what you will have me do.

We are willing.

Share with me, dear readers, your experience with tithing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Before Salvation

The time leading up to my baptism was pregnant with meaning. Conversations, experiences, books I read, people I talked to, music I listened to, all were ushering me inexorably towards my ultimate surrender to God.

Later, after the fact, I could see some of those moments for what they were. I could trace the workings of the Holy Spirit as a kind of map to my salvation. I was often left feeling grateful to God, but also grateful to the people who where his unwitting accomplices.

One of these moments took place in a bar. A good friend of mine had started to get involved with a self-actualization program in Boston and invited me and our mutual Irish friend to join her for an introduction. We agreed to go, mostly to be supportive of her. The evening was not at all what we expected. It turned out it was mainly a sales event, trying to get us to sign up for their program. So, Irish friend and I left halfway through the evening and walked a block to the nearest bar where we decided to have a beer while waiting for our friend to come out of her part of the meeting.

It was during that brief conversation in the bar that I started asking him questions about his faith. I hung on every word. I peppered him with all kinds of things. He is a man with a fairly inconsistent faith himself, but was raised Roman Catholic, so obligingly muddled through his answers the best he could. Some of his answers, in fact, were probably heretical. But during that conversation, a door cracked open in my heart. A tiny bit of God's light showed through, and to this day I count it as one of the most pivotal conversations I have ever had.

Circumstances were such that I didn't see him again for over 3 years, but last Saturday, at a suprise birthday party, he and his wife were there. We laughed and chatted and had a nice time... but at one point I took him and his wife aside to tell him how critical that conversation 3 1/2 years ago had been. I told him that he had helped plant a seed that was to ultimately turn my life around completely.

Both he and his wife were stunned. I believe he was even moved to tears.

God, in his wisdom, uses us, in our weakness, to plant seeds of faith and love in the world. My Irish friend, in HIS weakness, was one of many catalysts for my redemption. Despite the fact that his own relationship with God was rocky at times, he was, for me, a healer.

I just thought he needed to know that.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


I went back to my old church this morning to celebrate my former minister's fifth anniversary. It was a nice morning. I got to see a lot of my old friends. The service and sermon were great. Nguyen and the boys and I enjoyed a potluck brunch and chatted with folks we haven't seen in awhile.

When I first left Bell Street last fall, I cried for days. It was like losing an old friend. But regardless of how painful it was, I felt sure that it was the right choice. I was being called to find a Christian church.

This morning, while sitting in my old pew at Bell Street, I realized that the church had been a gateway for me. I was not, evidently, destined to stay. But it did serve a critical purpose for me. It was the place where I first fell in love with Jesus. And Steve, my UU minister, was willing to go on a crazy, uncharted journey with me... putting aside his own doubts and fears so he could minister to me during a critical time in my spiritual life. We didn't know what the results were going to be. We didn't really know that we were participating in a sacrament. But we felt certain that we were held in God's embrace throughout the time leading up to my baptism. And we were both a little stunned when it became clear that I was going to leave.

It occured to me this morning that for many people, there really IS no other spiritual home for them. If not for the UU church, they would be unchurched. And I know, for a fact, that God finds his way into that chapel, even if he isn't mentioned by name all the time. He found me there, didn't he?

Bell Street has gone through some tough times in the last year. Financial struggles, members leaving, issues within the congregation. It grieves me deeply and I pray for them constantly.

Today, though, was a joyful event. A time when everyone could look back on the last half decade with awe at what has been accomplished, what has changed, and all the ministry that has taken place. I was very grateful to be there.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Go read this....

Cat on a mat over at Monastic Mumblings.

Not to sin

I met a friend for lunch yesterday, and during the conversation, I mentioned I had gone to confession and started to describe what the process was like. As we chatted, I went on to tell him that my biggest sins, these days, have to do with the way I treat my husband and kids. There are times, especially with my husband, when I am downright rude. I treat him disrespectfully. Sometimes in front of the kids, which is damaging to them, too.

As I was talking, I realized that by acknowledging this, I am now compelled to try and do something about it. Leaving this bit of sin dangling in my life like some forgotten laundry is it's own sin. I decided to ask God to create in me a clean heart. I asked God to help me with this bad habit. To take away the desire for me to always be right, be in charge, be the boss of everything. Give me the grace, Lord, to treat my husband with the respect that he deserves. With kindness. With compassion. And help me be more patient with the boys while we are at it.

This has all been percolating for awhile, but I needed to address it right away so in the middle of the afternoon I called Nguyen and told him I had been acting badly and apologized. He agreed that I have been rude and was pleased that I said I was sorry. We talked about it some more when he got home. We shared a bottle of wine after the kids went to bed, and talked for a long time about things. It was good.

God, he is the most important person in my life. Grant me the grace to be kind and loving to him. Help me learn to be more respectful. Help me make this home a refuge for all of us.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Walking to school

Every morning Nguyen and I have been walking the kids to school together. We get to listen to the boys chat about things. They talk about school, desired aquisitions, friends. Nguyen plays little jokes on them. This morning he shook a bush branch while Noah walked under it and drops of rainwater fell all over him.

It is a beautiful time of year to walk because the leaves are turning and falling. People are decorating their houses with pumpkins and corn stalks and mums in all kinds of unlikely colors. Along the way, we collect kids. Sometimes Aaron, Daniel, Zachary. They are all in Noah's grade and we have known them since kindergarten.

When the Noah first started school, I was disapppointed that he couldn't ride the bus. We live too close. They euphemistically call us 'walkers' even though the days of letting your kindergartner walk to school alone have long since past. I resented having to drop the kids off and pick them up again. I spent many an afternoon wishing I didn't have to rush out of the house and interupt whatever I was doing in order to pick them up.

But now, after 5 years of the daily drop off and pick up, I am glad we are 'walkers'. It is by standing around with the other parents that I have gotten to know them so well. We laugh and joke as we wait for the kids. We swap stories and recipes and helpful hints. I have come to appreciate this little community of ours, waving at neighbors as we walk by in the mornings. Knowing who lives on what street. That would never have happened if I just picked the kids up at the bus stop every day.

I have come to be very grateful for our school. It has opened the door to our lovely little neighborhood in a way that I don't think would be possible otherwise.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Uh Oh...

This could be very very bad.

My husband has given me a refurbished old laptop for my kitchen tools gig. The idea is that I can take it to shows with me and enter all the information right there in the hostesses kitchen. But he also set it up for wireless so I can back up my files easily.

Which means I am typing this without being conneccted to a landline. Which means I could conceivably take this little, slowpoke, vintage Dell and sit in my yard under the Norway Spruce and type to my heart's content. Which might very well mean that my posts are going to get very very boring.

You have been warned.

By the way, this thing is so much slower than my typing I can't actually see the words being typed on the screen.

And another thing. More on topic for this blog:

I was at a kitchen tools gig last night and in front of everyone, the host asked my why I am so happy all the time. I must have looked like a deer in the headlights. I don't really know the right way to respond to that. What I want to say is

"I am a born again, washed in the blood of the lamb, Jesus Freak."

But I recognize that that may not have the effect I am hoping for, which is to witness.

So I hemmed and hawed and mumbled something stupid about deciding to be happy rather than miserable.

But when I got home, I figured I ought to practice some sort of response to that comment, because I actually get it fairly often. And I think this will work:

"I am a woman of faith. I am so joyful because of my gratitude for what God has given me."

That ought to do it.

God's Creation

Handsome men, all three, on Skaket beach in Orleans MA. What a stunning place. At low tide, the tidal flats stretch for miles. I have never seen anything like it. I was so intrigued I managed to talk the family into getting up at dawn to see the sunrise on our last morning. Later we found a little diner that served eggs and chorico.

Camping was wonderful. We had a nice site with lovely neighbors, not too far from the bathrooms and a playground. (Both good things.) The kids were free to roam around a bit on their own, especially to the playground, which was only about 12 yards away, through a small stand of trees. They wanted to skip dinner so they could stay and play with the other kids.

On the way home, we stopped in Chatham to hang out on the beach there. There was no place to park our trailer, so we parked miles away and walked back to the beach.

On Sunday we went to Nauset beach and got there just before high tide. The tide was exceptionally high that day and we kept having to move back out of reach of the waves. Finally, we sat at the base of the dune and opened our picnic basket. We had seltzer and chips and bologna sandwiches with aged cheddar cheese. And delicious Empire Apples. We watched a harbor seal frolicing in the surf. We chatted with a family from RI who happened by. We soaked in the sun. (Well, all except me, who looked like a kabuki dancer because the sunscreen I was able to buy had zinc oxide in it... but as a redhead, I had to slap it on anyway.)

Suddenly, a rogue wave came crashing up the beach and soaked us all. The picnic cooler and the kids' shoes where torn away and we scrambled, soaked and laughing, after them. Our neighbor kindly grabbed a couple of shoes and, bravely, socks. We ended up with another neighbor's sandal in our pile. We retreived the picnic cooler, an unopened bag of chips and all the shoes. But lost Nguyen's duck hunting jacket (a yard sale score) and Noah's sweatshirt. Our apples drifted down the beach at remarkable speed. We could see them bobbing in the surf. And we were completely soaked.

So the rest of the day was enforced downtime while Nguyen went to the laundry mat with our shoes and tried to get them dry before nightfall and it's attendant temperature drop. We had, between us, a single pair of rubber flip flops that I had brought for the shower. We swapped them back and forth as necessary.

In the end, the afternoon was sunny, warm, lazy and wonderful. We snuck beers in plastic cups and barbequed chicken wings, flank steak and Nguyen's old leather boots, which he had somehow forgotten to bring to the laundry mat.

Thank you, Beloved, for the time with my family. For the beautiful weather. And for the awsome beauty of your creation.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Into the woods

Such as they are on Cape Cod.

We are taking the trailer and heading off to the state park for a weekend of hot dogs and walks on the beach and fishing and general goofing off.

I'll bring the camera and post some shots when we get back.

I am bringing my Book of Common Prayer, The Imitation of Christ, and Mr. Strange and Dr. Norrell, which I started on the last camping trip.

During a last minute surf, I was delighted to find this post over at Natalia's. (If you haven't checked her site out, do it now.)

God's peace...

It is a beautiful day.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A New Day

I woke up before dawn this morning. The light was just beginning to brighten the east. I don't know why I woke up so early. Usually my alarm rouses me from sleep. But it is my practice, when I wake in the night, to pray. I always figure it is God giving me a little nudge.

So this morning, I welcomed the Beloved into my day and turned on the bedside lamp so I could read this morning's psalms.

Here is Psalm 30, NKJV:

I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried out to You,
And You healed me.
O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave;
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.

Now in my prosperity I said,
"I shall never be moved."
Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;
You hid Your face, and I was troubled.

I cried out to You, O Lord;
And to the Lord I made supplication:
"What profit is there in my blood,
When I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You?
Will it declare Your truth?
Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me;
Lord, be my helper!"

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

Oh Lord, I will give thanks to you forever.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

5 Weird Things about Me

I got tagged at Katherine's to list 5 weird things about myself.

1. I already admitted about the cheesy reality shows.

2. I suck the rest of the ketchup out of the little plastic packets. I don't do this with salad dressing or mustard. Just Ketchup.

3. When I was 15 I pierced my nose. Alone. In my room. And passed out cold on my bed. I wore the nosering for about 8 years until I got a job that required I take it out. The hole is still there.

4. Regular readers already know that I talked my husband through butchering a deer in our garage last winter. I found the deer on the side of the road after one of my kitchen tools gigs.

5. I used to be a telemarketer.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

New Age

I was a child of the "New Age".

At 12, I got ahold of my first tarot deck. I would do readings for my friends by laying the cards out and thumbing through a tattered copy of Eden Gray's book for the meanings. My step mother gave me a book called 'Astrology and other Occult Games' when I was about 14. It was signed by the author, a friend of hers. It covered astrology, I Ching, tarot and palm reading.

In my teens, I branched into Wicca for awhile. I got a bunch of books on witchcraft from the local bookstore and had a journal I claimed was a grimoire. My parents reacted by not reacting. I think they thought it was a phase and that to get upset would be to reinforce my desire to do it. Which was probably true. After a couple of years I got bored and moved on.

As I was born in the 60's, my parents were basically hippies, very liberal socially and politically. Open minded. Non-religious.

We used to joke that when I became a banker, I was a grave disappointment to my father. He would have been far happier if I became a poet or artist or political activist.

As an adult, my spirituality was steeped in the 'Age of Aquarius' stuff. It was a mish mash of Buddhism, New Thought, Theosophy and classical occultism. I read a lot. When people would say things like "this world is an illusion", I would nod knowingly and pretend I had half a clue what they were talking about.

Something of a spiritual dilettante, I never delved into anything very deeply. I knew a little about a lot, but not a lot about much. The only thing with any staying power was tarot, and that was only because I joined a couple of online communities devoted to it. I learned about the history of it. I learned how to read the cards. I learned how to do it professionally. And I did.

My tarot practice took me to a metaphysical bookstore to read for strangers. There I met all manner of people who would come in in various states of desperation wanting to know the secrets of their future. It was a tough gig. My style of reading was always God-centered. In other words, I would use the cards to try and create a line of communication between the client and God. But they just wanted to know if they were going to get back together with their ex-lover. Or whether to fly to California for a job. Or if they should cheat on their husband. With the married guy at work.

What I kept seeing in the bookstore was that people were desperately longing for meaning in their lives. They kept hoping that the next crystal, the next book or candle or deck of cards or palm reading or resin dragon or cd or incense was going to open the mysterious door to joy that eluded them. I recognized it because I, too, had walked that path. I knew the yearning for meaning. I watched as customers would spend more and more money on classes and techniques and seminars. Essential oils and pictures for their walls. Fake buddhas and Tibetan prayer flags.

For me, none of it worked. There was only one way to heal the hole in my soul, and that was to entrust it to God. God who created me. God who made the universe and all that is in it. God who is not, thankfully, me.

I am not God.

To me, that is one of the worst traps of the New Age. So many metaphysical books try to tell us that we are God... that we just have to recognize our own divinity to find peace, happiness, enlightenment, whatever. For me, at least, this is not true. Trying to be my own god was the road to perdition. I was not capable of creating my own happiness. Believe me, I tried. If my salvation was in my own hands, I was destined to a lifetime of frustration and misery. I could not be the architect of my own redemption. It was only when I gratefully offered myself to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that I could be healed. God is healing my soul. He has accepted me. He has forgiven me. He alone offers the salvation for which I yearn.

If I could not be my own god, I sure as hell could not be yours. So I quit reading tarot cards. I decided that instead of thinking I had all the answers, I had to learn to be a student for awhile. Or, more accurately, a disciple.

I am a disciple.

Thank God.

Beloved, I pray for all the people who do not yet know you. I pray they find peace in your love.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Embarassing but true

I watch cheesy reality shows.

It's true.

It started with Survivor. Yes, it was mortifying that the naked fat gay man was from my hometown, but like strangers on a freeway glued to an accident, I couldn't look away.

Now I am hooked on all manner of frivolous reality shows. I watch Top Models and pseudo therapy on Starting Over, I was glued to Rock Star INXS and American Idol. But the absolute cheesiest, most embarassing of all is that I actually watch (I am appalled to even write it)

The Bachelor.

Which premiered tonight. And I sat mesmerized for 2 whole hours, with commercials.

And for a fleeting moment imagined myself as young enough (and thin enough, LOL) to be on such a show. And what would I say in my three uninterupted minutes with the dashing young man to help him understand who I am at the deepest level. What is my truest truth?

It's that I am a Jesus freak.

Which means, of course,

That I would NOT be getting

a rose.


Look at the icon on the upper right hand corner. It is an image of Jesus getting baptised.

Over at the Sacred Art of Living, Christine has been talking about using images for a sort of Visio Divina prayer and I love the idea. Gaze at the image and let God use it to speak to you.

What do you see? Do you notice that there is a whirlpool at our Lord's feet? Or the angels watching from the other side of the river. I notice that John the Baptist is looking at the Holy Spirit even as he is baptising Jesus. He can see the Spirit of God descending to the Beloved. He lifts his right hand up and his left hand points to earth. Jesus, the great bridge of heaven and earth stands before him. John knows who this is.

And the colors. This is clearly a modern interpretation of a classic Icon. I love that the angels wear red and violet and bright blue.

Now, look at an older version of the same scene:

Jesus is already heading off in this one... his feet look like he is walking towards the riverbank. And the angels are whispering to each other. They are amazed, perhaps, by what they are seeing.


The sky splits apart and makes way
for your spirit.

Angels whisper.

Jesus walks the earth.

Thank you.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A minor fight

broke out during our potluck breakfast at Grace this morning. But a couple of tugs and the two were separated.

Theo was a bit nervous at first. We had him in his pet carrier, with some hay and water and a half a carrot. I didn't really want to bring him to the blessing of the animals, given that he is dinner for all the carnivores that were going to be there. But the kids were so excited about it I decided it was worth the minor trauma to the rabbit and we brought him. I was also manuevering a deep dish baker filled with caramel apple pecan bread pudding, which was my contribution to breakfast.

The place was a zoo. Dogs and cats and one hampster and one bunny. During the service, a dog would pipe up and suddenly a whole chorus of howls filled the cavernous space of Grace's Nave. After the lessons and Gospel readings, we all came to the front of the church with our pets and the priests laid hands on them and blessed them with long healthy lives and God's love for always. Theo seemed like a new bunny afterwards.

My friend Adrienne came with her dog Trotter and sat in the box with us. Theo didn't mind at all because Trotter is a very gentle guy.

The service was only interrupted once, when Fr. Rich, in the middle of preparing for the Eucharist, stopped everything because a horse (with a cop riding him) was standing at the door of the church. Fr. Rich blessed him from afar and the kids and I snuck out to feed him carrots while the host and wine were being transformed.

Yes, it was kind of a carnival atmosphere. I can imagine that some would be put off by such hilarity in a church. But I was beaming from ear to ear the whole morning. It was a wonderful thing to see all these serious (and sometimes even stiff) congregants fawning over their pets. It was a side of people you don't see every day in church.

And there was a pet pot-luck at coffee hour, with apples and carrots for the herbivores, and liver snaps for the carnivores.

I know it is a few days late, but here is the prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred . . . let me sow love
Where there is injury . . . pardon
Where there is doubt . . . faith
Where there is despair . . .hope
Where there is darkness . . . light
Where there is sadness . . .joy
Divine Master,
grant that i may not so much seek
To be consoled . . .as to console
To be understood . . .as to understand,
To be loved . . . as to love
For it is in giving . . .that we receive,
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned,
It is in dying . . .that we are born to eternal life