Friday, November 25, 2011

the PERFECT Thanksgiving dinner

I put the turkey in the over 10:30 in the morning, just like I had planned. The schedule of cooking various dishes was all timed out on a sheet stuck to the fridge. Corn casserole: 2:50. Green bean casserole: 3:00. Buns: 3:00.

The turkey had been soaking in a lovely brine all night. I stuffed the cavity with apples and onions for flavor, covered the breast with a piece of tin foil to slow down the cooking since brown meat cooks faster.

At 1:10 my oven made a bad noise and all the numbers and symbols on the control panel went blank. I knew what had happened. It has happened once before. The oven was finished. Kaput. Dead as a doorknob.

Steve went across the street to ask Cindy, my neighbor if she had a free oven. On Thanksgiving day. I was too dismal to go myself. She later told me how strangely he approached the problem and we both laughed.

Steve: Cindy, I have a cooking question.
Cindy: Sure?
Steve: Are you cooking today?
Cindy, puzzled: Nope, we are having Thanksgiving tomorrow.
Steve: Well, could we put our turkey in your oven? That is my cooking question.

Steve carefully carried our large turkey, complete with scrumptious smell, across the street. I downgraded the corn casserole to creamed corn, and worked through each additional item to adjust the plan.
AHA! I thought - our gas BBQ!
We got it going and I put the sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole onto the BBQ. Later I put the buns (frozen) onto the top of the green bean casserole. They seemed to all be cooking okay.

I walked across and checked on the turkey and it looked done. Steve hauled it home and I set it to rest on the counter. Meanwhile I took the casseroles off the BBQ and their containers were a mess. The bottoms were all black (even with tin foil protection) and the insides were well cooked but burned on the bottom.

I started to carve the turkey and it didn't seem quite usual so I rechecked the temp in the breasts and it was only l40. Sheesh. Fire up the BBQ again. I put the turkey, tin foil covered, into the BBQ with the unfinished bread on top of it. I was losing my victory now, having burned my hands twice, and would just as soon have tossed the turkey into the stream beside the house and all gone to McDonald's.

Rachel cut the turkey when it finally was finished. I could hardly eat it. But everything made it onto the table and the dinner was actually quite delish. The lingering problem was that every cooking pot was black with sooty rub on the outside and burned on the inside.

When we went around the table to share what we were thankful for, I was not lacking in thankfulness, I was just flatlined in my emotions. I had worked so hard for this crazy meal, and been frustrated so many times I just didn't want to give anything more. But my turn came around, and I looked around the table at my beloved people who were all cheering me on, and I simply said, "I am thankful for life. LIFE!"

Sometimes life happens just as we hoped it would. And sometimes it is a big fat mess and we have to work hard just to break even, if that. But this is LIFE. And life is a miracle.

Tomorrow we will see how a lasagna bakes on the BBQ.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

let it snow let it snow let it snow

Weather seems to be part of Christmas. Well, truthfully, weather is part of all of life. In the south here, the word 'weather' is used to mean WEATHER. A tornado is weather. A sunny day is not. So, I wonder if we are going to have 'weather' this Christmas.

I am well known as a snow hater. I routinely tell my husband that all the snow I need I can get on a calendar. But there is still something about snow at Christmas. I would actually, secretly, selfishly love a heavy snowfall on Christmas eve and Christmas day ... and then have it melt on the 2nd of January. Weather to order, at my whim.

Snow was part of my Christmas experience as a kid. One particular Christmas memory is going out to help my brother and sister deliver the newspapers before we could open gifts. I remember the scrunch scrunch of walking through fresh snow in my boots, my nose cold and my heart excited.

Recently I have learned that Christmas can happen in the rain, in the sunshine, in the warmth, and even in heat. But for me it is not quite the same. Not quite festive.

This confirms what I know about life - that it is the repeated small things that make us feel secure, warm our hearts and help us belong to our own life. I remember a lot about weather. Gifts? I hardly remember a one... except for a round cardboard Barbie doll case with a silver clasp and a plastic handle. That was something.

Friday, November 18, 2011

on Charlie Brown's Christmas

Sometime around l981 I started getting in touch with Christmas specials. Not the elegant specials, with classical music and oboe solos, but cartoon specials. The Edmonton newspaper (Canada) posted the times and dates of all upcoming specials and I marked my calendar with 14 or 15 events to watch with the kids. Even Big Steve joins us when Claymation Christmas starts. Here is a wee taste: (I don't know how to make this a link...sorry)

We sit snuggled on the chesterfield (for you Americans, that is a couch) and watch little kid Christmas bliss every time we can. We chortle through the Grinch, snort at Garfield, watch Santa's reindeer conquer the abominable snowman. It is magic.

A favorite is A Charlie Brown Christmas. Midway through the program Linus stands up and tells Charlie what Christmas really means.

"There were shepherds in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. The angel came and said, 'Fear not. For behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day a Savior, Christ the Lord.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.' THAT's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

This week while in a large unnamed store, (rhymes with Ball Cart) I spotted a beautifully colored book of the Charlie Brown Christmas. I pick it up, feeling nostalgic, and flip through the pages. I flip through the pages again, and finally go page by page. The story is exact. The words in order and the pictures large and beautiful - the same child-minded images of years ago.

But one page is missing. The page where Linus steps up and tells Charlie what the meaning of Christmas is. I feel great indignation over this clear bastardization of the 'precious text'. Whether you like it or not, Linus speaks the meaning of the Christ mass. Charles M. Schultz would be appalled since the whole point of the story is discovery of meaning. It is like having a book about Hanuka that only talks about pretty candles and interesting food. Where there is meaning, let it be.

The truth is that the world has been and is been stunned by the idea that God came to us as a baby. The incarnation is the seedbed of some of the greatest music, art and literature of the human race. Even those who don't grasp the story know that Christmas is big...something happened. Something happens in our hearts around Christmas, even the Scrooges know this. This Christmas thing is bigger than us, bigger than presents, bigger than decorations and food. It has ended wars, revolutionized lives, reestablished hope and put sparkle in the darkest winter days.

So I for one will be sure that my Christmas includes the page torn out by deconstructionists who fear the story of God. I have my reindeer out on the window ledge and there will be other signs of festivity in my home, but in my heart I know that these tinselly trinkets are only my small way of reflecting back to God the twinkle in His eye.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

on Christmas

I am going to do a series of blogs on Christmas. I have been a notable Christmas hater for over a decade, maybe two decades. But I am quite healed, I think. I am talking about cutting down a tree and writing emails to my effervescent granddaughter using the colors green and red on ever other word. My package to Indonesia to gift my son's darling little family is already somewhere in the postal chaos between continents.

I have already been noting the ways Christmas is going to be celebrated here in Lexington. I will comment on these things. For today I am taking my bright red metal reindeer out of the closet and putting it on my desk to inspire me.

(walk walk walk, creeeeek, clunk, rustle rustle rustle, creeeeek, thud, walk walk walk, plunk.) There.

hmmm. ahhh. ehhhh.

Nope. Not inspiring me. Oh well. I will see what I can do these next few weeks to inspire both you and me. Meanwhile, have some hot chocolate and put on the carols.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

'we don't stop dancin' - we just change partners!'

Sisters Keeping the Covenant Conference was held this weekend and I had the complete joy of being present for much of it. You may be able to intuit that it was planned and designed for my African American sisters, and I felt a distinct honor to be accepted among them. These are strong women, every one, and all of them are survivors - overcomers! A 24 hour immersion into the minds of these sisters has given me pause all day today. Let me share a few of my observations.

First, these women live in a different reality than I do. The levels of abuse, marginalization, humiliation and faithlessness they each have endured and expect to yet endure is shocking. What I understand to be the exception is the rule for them at different periods of their lives. They are fighting to stand strong. They are encouraging each other with exhortations of courage. Their music is about what God has done to rescue them, and give them the victory. They sing and they dance - oh yah - from the bottom of their hearts.

I heard some great lines. Evangelist Dottie Stewart, a beautiful, elegant woman of about 60 began her sermon with a song,
Satan we gonna tear your kingdom down
You been buildin your kingdom all over this land
Satan, we gonna tear your kingdom down.

The fabulous jazz organist filled in the spaces and soon the whole room was alive with the music.

With a white lace wrapped hanky in one hand and the mic in the other Sister Dottie brought the word. "I was just about to get my praise on!" she said. "I know what God has done for me. I am a 2 year, 1 month survivor of breast cancer. Everybody here's got something to thank God for. Let's get our DANCE on!" And we did. These woman can move. I moved along with them.... sortof.

Some of Sister Dottie's best lines:
"Tell somebody - I'm saved but I'm not stupid!"
"I have been called to be me! I walk in MY shoes! I have my testimony. I have my giants! MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!"

You would have loved it - the whole sermon was a conversation. Dottie talked but she listened as much as she talked. We talked back. We changed the direction of the sermon. She responded. We responded.

She challenged the women to stand up for themselves but to be godly. "We can't cuss people out! We can't go get our homey! We don't carry switchblades! But we are going to stand up for what is right. We are going to take our giants down!" She stomped her size 5, 3 inch high heels.

The topics of the sermon were real - AIDS, confronting abuse, not competing with other woman leaders. Not letting people silence you.

Dottie addressed the issue of unfaithful male pastors who are predators. "Sisters," she said, "Do not touch the Lord's annointed. If he is annointed, do not touch him! But sisters, some of them are annointed - and others are simply APPOINTED~!" Ouch. Wow. "You tell your pastor, 'I don't play where I pray!'" Oh yah. "When you say NO they gonna call you that L word. We've got to kill the things that are trying to kill us!" She went on and women were calling out their own stories, "Pastor's are taking people OUT. This isn't news," she said. " This is my own testimony. We are going to take this giant down."

When she made a tough statement a sister called out, "It's tight but it's right!"

Dottie walked up to a beautiful 30-something woman with style and sass. "You're a beautiful woman," she said, putting her finger in the young woman's face. "But don't let any man tell you you can't survive without him!" The young woman broke into tears. "The enemy wants to tear down your confidence and your connection with God and he is going to do it by the lies of a man. Don't believe the lie!" The women all stand up and start talking.

It wasn't about man hating, it was about truth and reality. One exhorter talked about her wonderful relationship with a supportive husband who is constantly pushing her to growth. Later, making the point about the things that keep women living in shame she said, "I have been married four times. I have carried shame about that!" She went on to tell her story. Her first husband was murdered. (Can't be held responsible for that.) Her second husband was an abuser. She listed a painful litany of experiences from being kicked in the head and tossed out of her house to having a gun pointed at her head. Her third husband she met at Seminary. They had a beautiful wedding. She was so sure this was going to be a divinely graced marriage. Seven weeks after her wedding she was at work and the Holy Spirit made her feel very uncomfortable about what was happening at home. She drove home and found her husband there with a prostitute. She said, "I always felt I had to be married to be something. I had to be married to be a minister, but it is a lie!" Her current husband is her soul friend, she said. They have been married eleven years. She is a survivor. She is a witness to grace. She said, "I've got a good man now, but he can't take care of me the way God can take care of me. I am not waiting for him to take care of me. My life is between me and God."

I heard other stories. A woman who didn't finish middle school, never passed one test in her public school life, found Jesus when she was 19. She felt there was nothing for her because she was stupid. But she decided to get her GED and started a degree. She had to learn everything, how to study, how to write. But she did it. She is in a Masters of Nursing now. She has a 4.0 grade. She also has four kids she is raising and works two jobs. She is a survivor. She is a witness to grace.

Another woman told how she came to her car after work and a man attacked her with a knife. He fought with her in the car for 45 minutes while she screamed, honked the horn and fought like a demon. She thought she would never see her children again. She knew she would die. Finally the man ran away. She fell out of the car door and two white women came up to her. "You okay?" they asked. "We were inside the building and saw what was happening but we didn't want to get involved." Oh my. Sisters. We need to help each other.

For 24 hours I was a sister among sisters. I told them that when I came home on Friday night I told my husband, "Those women are beautiful, and they have got flare. I felt like a librarian." (No offense to librarians but you know what I mean!) They laughed. I was the pale one in the group. But we found each other. And I understand now why these women preach the way they do. I understand why they sing what they do.

They're getting their praise on, and it moves, it dances. They won't stop dancing. They just changed partners. Life has disappointed them, but God is reliable. Satan, we're gonna tear your kingdom down!

Monday, November 7, 2011

the Cure

by Ginger Andrews

Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I'm not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she's just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to care for Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it's snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn't been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She's been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn't do it, put on a red dress.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

on timeliness

I got to church very early today. I am a fairly relaxed Sunday mover - and I planned to arrive about the time the second service started to get a good seat and enjoy the service. But when I arrived the sermon was going and that confused me. I talked to a friend who said, "Oh, didn't you put your clock back?" Sadly, sitting on the couch and very much wanting just a bit more snooze to my morning I had instead, leaped up and made for the road. So today I had the benefit of sitting through a class and a service. It was good for me.

I remember hearing of a woman who was lamenting her age. Her husband asked her, "Well honey, were you born at the right time?" She replied, "I guess so." And he asked again, "Did you live at the right speed?" Her answer was, "Yes."

"Then," he said, "You must be at the right age."

I wonder if I live my life at the right speed. The college class I was in was basically about wasting time that could be spent constructively for the sake of the world. (The world, of course, being interests and conditions outside of my own.) They listed all the obligations they have in a week and came up with 19 hours of unused time.

In the first half of my life I lived those 19 hours up fully. I squished more into an hour than reasonably possible, always multi-tasking and racing past gentleness. I wonder now what in my life is lived at the right pace and what is too fast or too slow. Slowing down is one of the graces of aging. Rather than chafe at it I am relishing the fact that my old 'car' can't go faster than the speed limit. I can spend some time thinking about what has happened instead of just racing to the next thing ahead of me.

The idea of Sabbath has been on my mind of late. Sabbath rest is, at its finest, a cosmic idea. On the 7th day God rested, Genesis says. But there is no 8th day. Did you notice that? Rest for God was not a response to the hard work of creation, but actually his final creation on earth. Not the pinnacle, more like the denouement.

God put his rest over the earth with the intention that we would live in that rest. It was not until the 'Fall" that words like curse, rule over, sweat of brow, pain in childbirth, enmity, etc were introduced into creation. Then it became important for us to take a day regularly to rest, but also to remember the holiness of God's rest and what life was intended to be on earth. Hebrews 4 says that 'There yet remains the rest of God for those who are His." This speaks of a now and yet not now kind of experience. One day humans will again live in the "rest of God."

My goal, now, is not to try to keep the Sabbath perfectly. Nor is my goal simplicity of life, which I adopted a decade ago. My goal now is to discover and preserve the 'rest of God' wherever it covers my life and world. Where I find those places I will protect them, in my life or other's lives. And where there is no rest I will endeavor to put some rest there.

This is no small task but it is part of the restoration of the world, as much as any other. The 'rest of God' is fully creative, engaged, open, communal, gentle, and inclusive. Such a rest is the opposite of laying on the couch with the remote and a bag of chips. (Nothing against bodily rest.)

I just put all my clocks back an hour. It felt like I had been given a gift of life - the last hour I used up was given back to me.Time was made a fool. I think when we enter into the 'rest of God' it will feel like that. Time will be made a fool.

Friday, November 4, 2011

He said - She said

Just for Fun

She says, "You look manly today." She means, "You need a shower."
She says, "I hear a noise." She means, "Will you go down and see?"
She says, "Do you love me?" She means, "I went shopping."
She says, "Do you like this recipe?" She means, "I worked hard and need you to like it."
She says, "You make the decision." She means, "You know what I want."
She says, "You're certainly being attentive." She means, "Is sex all you think about?"

He says, "I'm hungry." He means, "I'm hungry."
He says, "I'm tired." He means, "I'm tired."
He says, "You look nice." He means, "Maybe we can have sex."
He says, "Do you want help putting the kids to bed?" He means, "Let's have sex."
He says, "Would you like a back rub?" He means, "I want to have sex."
He says, "I'm going to put the game on TV." He means, "I guess there's no hope we are going to have sex."

(I am going through old files and found this funny dialogue Steve and I wrote for a retreat opener.)