I took about eight days vacation, partly at home, a few days at family in Iowa. I usually have a long list of tasks I want to accomplish during vacation, but I put my to-do list away and didn't do much. I took a bunch of pictures, organized some writing, learned how to salsa dance, went to the doctor. Read a mystery and some magazines.

Besides putting my to-do list away, I turned off my cell phone for the entire time, turned it off and put it in a drawer. There were several times I wanted to use it but I kept it off. It definitely signaled "not working right now" to me. And I didn't turn on my work email (except for the first day when I had something to finish.)

I felt the addiction of the computer and phone most of the week. I checked my Facebook page far too often just for something to do. I'm so used to messages popping up every 30 minutes or so, or the phone ringing. It is hard to step away.

But I'm thinking maybe I don't have to wait for vacation to keep practicing this -- perhaps I'll put the phone in the drawer more often, set aside the email when I come home. Maybe...


The Way of Light: Sermon Supplementals

I'm sorry -- I'll be preaching a little about photography again. It's the Gospel of John and "the light has come into the world" and there's hardly any better way to talk about light than photography! At least I have been paying much more attention to light since I have become so interested in taking pictures.

So here, again, is a photo that shows what light can do.

And then a few links for things I'll be talking about:

Frederick Buechner has written a lovely essay about wholeness here.

And I'll also mention the spiritual practice of Ignatius' Examen.


Spiritual Practices for Lent: Silence

Nurture your spirit in silence for the days of Lent:

Practice 20 minutes of Centering Prayer (silent meditation) in the morning, or with others at 6:30 p.m. Mondays in the sanctuary at Fairmount Ave UMC

Take a walk and pay attention to what you see and what you hear, and what God is saying

Find a labyrinth and walk it silently (I've linked to ones within five miles of the congregation)


Spiritual Practices for Lent: Devotional Reading

I'm using the theme "Digging Down Deep" for Lent, looking at gardening images as they relate to the life of spiritual growth. So each week I'm including a bookmark with some suggested spiritual practices. I'm going to include here, and in a few other posts, supplemental resources for the ideas:

Devotional Reading: Nurture your spirit with daily reading for the forty days of Lent

Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
published by Orbis Books

Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God: The Practice of Centering Prayer
by J. David Muyskens, Upper Room

Growing God: A Guide for Spiritual Gardeners by Kerry Walters

The Rising by Wendy Wright

Palimpsest: readings and daily scriptures found in worship at Fairmount Avenue UMC

Daily readings at upperroom.org/daily


Flowers before the storm

I spent some time with a friend and a camera at the Como Conservatory Monday morning. It is warm, humid, and green there. Very welcome before the icy gray wintry blast we received yesterday.


Wordle sermon

I put the text of my sermon into Wordle today. You can see it here. Perhaps it will have more coherence when I preach it today, but what an interesting look at the words I am using!



Last night some one said, looking at my profile, that I looked like Theo. "Not that Theo looks like you, but that you look like Theo," she said.

Yesterday morning I had an ultrasound (the first of tests to determine the all-important question of why I cannot drink coffee anymore, nor eat chocolate) and the technician asked me if I'd had one before. I said, yes, six years ago, when pregnant with my son, and I was sure she had done it. We checked dates and agreed that was so. (She has an eastern European accent that makes her memorable.) So after my test I hauled out pictures of both my sons. I told her that, when Theo was born, he looked so familiar to me I wondered if I wasn't recognizing him from the ultrasound profile picture.

I spent the day yesterday with my mother. I always think of her as being in her mid-40's, which is impossible since that is my age. When I look at my hands now I see her hands. I am, now, instead of seeing my father's features, beginning to see the lines of her face as it has aged in my own mirror.

I don't know if I recognized Theo immediately from his ultrasound picture or from the echoes of my own face in his. Or, perhaps, from the echoes of the man I've sat across the table from for many years now, flitting across Theo's features. It is a strange thing about birth families, these shifting resemblances, reminders of where we came from and who we are connected to.

I have an adopted son as well. His beautiful face does not remind me of my own; his face is an echo of people I may never meet. He will not have the same experience of looking at my face and being reminded of how he will age. Our genetic relationship is more distant.

But it is still there. Kelly told me the other night that we are all related, twelve generations back. Adoption makes that seem quite real -- the connections of genetics one generation removed provide us with delightful, irritating, and haunting reminders of our connections, but we are all related, connected, in many ways, at the root of it all. Agreeing to be the parent of someone not specifically from your body means living out both the ways we are different, as people, and the ways we are the same. A child needs love, care, shelter, and the response of -- if not a face that looks like theirs -- one that has memorized their every contour and lights up when it sees them.

Technical difficulties

My blog seems to have disappeared -- I'll investigate and see where it went. Back soon!


Ash Wednesday

Last Wednesday I imposed ashes on many of my colleagues. It was my turn to lead the clergy service which meant I got to hold the small bowl of burnt palms and smudge the foreheads of retired pastors, active clergy, colleagues, friends. It is such a tender thing to do, pressing ash into the print of my finger to press onto another's skin, saying those words, "Remember, from dust you came, and to dust you shall return." So strange, to offer a remembrance of death, of our created place in the universe, of the carbon matter with which our cells are held together, and to have it feel like a blessing.

And then in the evening, to offer the same ashen mark on my congregation. To handle that which is left after fire has cooled and feel in it hope of new growth, to mark adults and children and invite them to not be afraid, to claim this promise that resurrection comes, after. To remember we are created from the ashes of stars and we will return to nurture the ground one day, to remember there is peace in that. It's a truth we don't often speak out loud, though it follows us like a shadow. But there is one day we say it and wear it -- we know something of death and yet we know something of life. We choose to live in hope, in the midst of it all.