Saturday, December 30, 2006

Just to watch him die....

I couldn't do it. I clicked on the raw video button on the Comcast news page and watched a minute or so of the run-up to the execution, with the black-masked executioner showing Saddam the black scarf, tying it around his neck (what, to keep his skin from being scratched?), and then, presumably, putting the noose around his neck. I don't know, because I turned it off. I couldn't stand to watch any more.

In my work, I have seen a lot of dead bodies, some of them violently killed. I have been with people as they took their last breaths. I did not want to see any more of this death. I feel horror and pain about the evil things Saddam Hussein did but I do hear a still small voice in my ear, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay".

Lifelong prison sentences, yes. Punishment, for sure. But I do not have the right to take even Saddam Hussein's life.

Saddam Hussein executed

Just read on a political blog (Colorado Confidential) that Saddam Hussein was executed last night. Much as I have deplored the stories of Saddam's cruelty, despotic behavior, and murderous treatment of Iraqis, I feel that his death is just one more violent event in a millennium of violent events in the Middle East. It is vengeful behavior on top of more vengeful behavior and does not end anything. It is an odd justice that kills someone for killing someone. I don't believe in the death penalty, even for someone like Saddam Hussein.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Winter Eliot Institute

I'll be leaving in a little while to attend Winter Eliot Institute, at Seabeck Conference Center over on Hood Canal. The speaker is Rev. Patrick O'Neill and I'm looking forward to meeting him and hearing what he has to say. So many old friends congregate at Winter Eliot that I'll be able to connect with again, and I'm looking forward to that as well.

There are always lots of kids, youth, and young adults, as well as us older Elioteers, so it's four days of liveliness as well, with a talent show, musical events, a big New Year's dance and celebration (when most of us elders go to bed at 10 p.m. after sneaking nibbles of the feast).

I'll be back on New Year's Day and I hope I find that they have fixed the leak in my basement! The property management team, Polly and Brad, were here this morning to let me know that the fix is underway. The cats are disgruntled because I'm not letting them go downstairs, but they'll live.

Happy New Year, dear readers!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Who do UUs reach out to?

During this Holy Day season, I have noticed, in the newspapers, many accounts of how local evangelical and nondenominational churches, both large and small, have reached out widely to serve the poor, with gifts of food, toys, clothing, and other of life's necessities. These efforts are very much appreciated by recipients, by community members, and, I suspect, even by Unitarian Universalists who, at least around here, don't make large efforts in this department.

One reason I think UUs don't do more of this kind of outreach is that we have little personal experience of deep poverty and homelessness. Many individual UUs have this experience, but most do not. I also think we are self-conscious about privileged white liberals doing something nice for the underprivileged. We've been tarred with that brush a little too often and are aware of the patronizing attitude this projects. We are also well-aware that, though feeding hungry people is absolutely necessary, it doesn't address the root causes of poverty.

So we aren't out there in the Christmas marketplace making a name for ourselves by doing good. The people who are out there tend to be the Salvation Army, the Christian Missionary Alliance, the Union Gospel Mission, Catholic religious, and other conservative religious folk who know darn well what it feels like to go without, because they've been there, have lived in poor neighborhoods, have family members who are the working poor.

This is not a diatribe about UU social uselessness; I think we are very socially useful. I also don't want to appear to undervalue the outreach of other religious folk. It seems to me that, just as there is a continuum of religious philosophy, from radical fundamentalism to radical liberalism, there is a continuum of humanitarian service, from feeding the hungry to investigating and addressing the causes of hunger.

Feeding and clothing are pretty public; they draw the photographers for cute pictures of little kids with new toys and clothes and stories about how whatever church it is has pulled together this major effort to provide a Christmas for hundreds of people. Nearly every article has quotes by one or more leaders of the church saying something like, "I remember what it was like for me...." Those leaders may preach a theology that is not very welcoming in other ways, but they sure walk their talk when it comes to feeding the hungry.

Locally, the pastor of the CMA church refused to show me the ropes as a volunteer chaplain because he didn't agree with my UU theology; however, he and his congregation offer a free lunch twice a week to anyone who wants to come to the CMA church and eat. When I visited there, with our social action team, the lunch bunch was an assorted group of apparent vagrants and well-dressed business people.

Unitarian Universalists, I think, are best suited to figuring out what causes hunger and poverty and then looking for ways to address that at the roots. I read in the UU World of the efforts of UU congregations around the country to help people provide their own food, to teach energy-saving techniques, to increase use of public transportation and that sort of thing. It's not very public work. The photo ops tend to feature older people grubbing in the dirt or pounding nails or registering voters, not cute little kids.

But darn it, I think it's important and it's the kind of social action we do best; it fits with our education level, our world view, and our abilities. And somebody's got to do it or it won't get done.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holy Days and one particularly memorable

Doh! As Homer Simpson might say. In a brief article this morning in the newspaper, someone noted that "holiday" is, in fact, a short cut to "holy day", meaning that the whole "war on Christmas" kerfuffle is an uneducated, irrelevant rant, since to wish someone Happy Holidays is to honor the whole spectrum of religious observance. Of course. It's quite churlish of folks like Bill O'whoever and other oh-so-benighted neo-Christian talking heads to want to narrow the focus of this time of year down to their particular holy day, scorning the legitimacy of others' holy days. Ah well, I suspect we'll fight this battle for some time to come. It just seems so stupid.

Last night's Christmas Eve service was wonderful! Because we were dedicating 8 children, every family brought all the nearby grandparents and assorted friends, most of the regulars showed up as well, and the place was packed. We had to set up several rows of the uncomfortable metal folding chairs but no one complained, everyone sang with gusto, substituting the familiar words of the carols for the degenderized words of the SLT hymnal. We sang Silent Night as our two youth lit the candles for each row and the light grew brighter. There were lots of visitors who may come back, several out-of-towners here on a winter break, and thrilled parents at the dedication ceremony. And the bereaved wife of our beloved congregant was there, teary but present.

Our ceremony is that I tell what dedication means to a congregation and the symbolism of the rose and the water; our DRE explains what is in the tiny bags that she will give each child (a lump of sugar, bitter herbs, a Susan B. Anthony dollar, and seeds) and the significance of each item (you can probably figure it out yourself). Then each family steps forward, I ask "what is this young person's name?", the parents answer (or the kid, if s/he is willing), and I dip the rose bud in the water, which comes from our Water Communion ceremony, and say "I touch your head that you might learn to think clearly; I touch your lips that you might learn to speak truth; I touch your heart that you might learn to love deeply; I touch your hands that you might learn to serve others; and I touch your parents (or mom, or dad, or whoever) that they may always remind you how deeply you are loved. Welcome to the UU Congregation of Whidbey Island."

It never fails to evoke great joy in the sanctuary to see the children so welcomed. One little boy kissed the rose as it touched his lips; a soft sigh ran through the room. One tiny girl piped up with her whole full name before her folks even opened their mouths-----soft laughter. It was a wonderful evening.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas 2006

This is the first Christmas Eve that I have been able to celebrate with a congregation of my own since 2002. Serving two small congregations parttime has always meant that I was not on duty on that particular date. This year I suggested to the Whidbey folks that, since Dec. 24 is a Sunday and we meet at 4 p.m. anyhow, we have a bang-up celebration, complete with candlelight carols and a child dedication.

Many thought it would be a poorly attended, throwaway service and some thought we oughtn't meet at all. I'm glad to have changed their minds and, with the help of our DRE and a local seminary student, UUCWI will meet in a candlelit space, sing the old songs, hear some good stories and a short intergenerationally-friendly homily, welcome 8 children into the congregation, and sing Silent Night as two teenage boys solemnly pass the light down the rows. We'll enjoy holiday goodies afterwards and disperse to our homes, warmed by friendship and engaged by the mystery that seems to accompany darkness pierced by candlelight.

I'm coming home thereafter pooped out, having a big bowl of ertasopa (Norwegian split pea---my mother's recipe and a Christmas Eve tradition in my family) with sourdough bread, opening a couple of packages, perhaps calling my son or sibs to share the evening long distance, and quietly savoring an evening of joy.

The next morning, I'll open other packages and begin to get ready for Christmas dinner. I threw open the invitation to anyone in the congregation who didn't have family to celebrate with and I will have about 10 guests, some couples and some singles. I'll roast the turkey and they'll bring the fixings.

So it will be a perfectly lovely Christmas. I hope your celebrations, whatever they may include, are bright and memorable as well.

40 years ago...

I was getting dressed for my wedding. We made it for 13 years. Our son is proof that we did a pretty good job, even though we grew apart. Rest in peace, marriage of Kit Ketcham and Larry Gilmore. We had good times and bad times and are both much happier now.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Wedding Anniversary

Today is the _______ anniversary of my parents' wedding. I've got the cat on my lap and can't get up to look through my boxes of memorabilia for the proper year. Maybe nephew Joel has it on the tip of his tongue and will provide it.

Even though my dad, Merritt B. Ketcham, died in 1970 and my mom, Mona Larson Ketcham, in 1994, my sister, brother, and I (and maybe others) remember that love story well and commemorate it in our hearts every year. Of course, my parents, when they were alive, commemorated it every month. Every 22nd of every month, they would say to each other "Happy Anniversary, Honey" and hug and kiss (gasp!) right in front of us kids!

She was a schoolteacher on the Oregon slope and he was a young cowboy turned orchardman in Payette, ID. They met through my dad's schoolteacher sister. My mother had been a genteelly-raised young girl in the Scandinavian community of Spokane; my dad had grown up in Missouri helping his dad run moonshine. His mother's fears for his life caused her to send him to Wyoming to work on a ranch at age 14, from whence comes our family boast "our dad was a cowboy in Wyoming". (It sort of authenticizes our other boast that we are distantly related to Black Jack Ketchum, a New Mexico gunfighter in the mid-1800s. All Ketchams are related, we think, regardless of the spelling.)

They met, they fell in love, and after their marriage, they went to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where both received education that would enable my dad to be a minister, a calling he felt strongly after a sister's healing. Of course, my mother was just as educated, just as capable, and she was the quintessential minister's wife, teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, schmoozing with the Baptist ladies, a bright star in my family's crown.

They lost two babies before I was born, Jimmy and Charles, and they were scared they were going to lose me. But I survived and thrived, as did my younger sister and brother, Jean and Merritt (aka Buz). Our little family moved from Mossyrock WA to Portland OR, then out to Athena OR, and later to Goldendale WA, where my father died after about 30 years of ministry.

My mother was bereft but soldiered on, and we sent her anniversary cards every year on Dec. 22. And here we are again:
Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. Thank you for a lesson in loving relationship that your kids have occasionally fumbled in our own lives but see bright and shining as the Christmas Star, a beacon of hope and faith.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Messages from the earth

Says the earth to humanity:
You are utterly dependent on me. You can work with me or work against me, but I will always win if we are in conflict. I can destroy you and I will destroy you if you are disrespectful. (Sometimes even if you are respectful.) I do not require you for my existence. You do require me.

I will continue to exist whether all my oil and natural gas and minerals are depleted, whether the ice caps melt, whether climate changes drastically alter my surface. You may not continue to exist if these things occur. I don't care whether you exist or not, for I do not need you. I can heal myself, even when I am scarred and wounded. I don't mind your helping to make the scars and wounds less painful, but when you are gone I will continue to exist.

I am what I am and I am beautiful and full of life's joys, as well as sorrows. I am here for you to enjoy and use, not to use up, not to deface, not to squander. I am here to teach you, to give you ideas, to show you my mysteries and tease you into understanding them. I am here to flood your heart with awe and wonderment, to give you a place from which you can view the stars, to challenge you to be in relationship with me.

I am the earth. I am the original Sacred Text, wordless yet holding all of the answers to life's questions. You ignore me at your peril.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

64 hours without electricity and water

The power at my house went out at about 8 pm Thursday night and came back on today about noon------64 hours, give or take a few minutes, without electricity or water, since I'm on a well. That was quite a stretch, longer than I've ever had to endure. Yesterday morning, after a second night under two down comforters and two cats, I decided to find respite housing and called friends who had gotten their power back sooner.

I packed up the cats, a change of clothes, and the Christmas turkey which was starting to thaw and moved over to my friends the Bingmans, invited to spend as long as necessary till the power came back. We had a good time, but I'm glad to be home.

I'll write more later. For now, I'm just relieved to be warm and clean!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I have just finished watching "An Inconvenient Truth" on DVD and found it powerful and persuasive. Gore does a terrific job of putting the facts, the statistics, the trends, the resistance, the excuses, and the consequences out there in front of everyone. It is pretty hard to continue to think "Oh well, there's plenty of time..." There's not, folks. See the movie, change your life; our kids' lives depend on it.

Deaths in the family

The past couple of weeks have been fraught with sorrow for many, many people.

Here on Whidbey, another member of the UU family died unexpectedly, a woman in her 50's, not as well known as the man who died earlier, but a part of our congregation nevertheless. I had visited her not long ago and found her in good spirits, eager to resume her life after being diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica. Sadly, this condition worsened into giant cell arteritis and her body just gave out. Her memorial will be after the holidays.

On Vashon, I learned, the son of a Fellowship couple died suddenly yesterday morning of a heart attack. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children and the couple is, naturally, devastated. I will not be able to travel to Vashon to be with them just yet. I will hope that at a later date, I will be helpful.

And now the news of the death of the Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley, beloved colleague and friend to many, married later in life to her sweetheart, the Rev. Clyde Grubbs, who was at her bedside when she died. I knew Marjorie only briefly but was warmed by her friendly, welcoming spirit. Her influence and the love she gave so freely has altered and will continue to alter the shape of history. For a sense of the many lives she has touched and the many ways she has influenced Unitarian Universalism, google her name. You will be amazed and thrilled by her legacy.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Gratitude sets the stage for Joy...

I’ve done some thinking about the relationship of sorrow to joy and I’ve concluded that what happened to me and my sister (referring to an early post on Joy) offers some insight into how we might prepare to receive Joy.

It seems to me that the first step must be Gratitude. A recent study published in the Seattle Times describes a scientific method for being happier, and it doesn’t involve drugs. It suggests that unhappy people can become happier if they begin a discipline of gratitude, if they think every day of at least three good things that have happened to them during the day.

Feeling grateful to someone who has been kind, feeling thankful for the benefits of everyday life, saying thank you to the universe for its beauty ---gratitude is a gift we can give no matter what our circumstances.

Remember how good it feels when someone writes you a thankyou note for something you have done for them? It makes me feel great and it makes me feel grateful in return for that person’s thoughtfulness. I believe that when we give the gift of gratitude, we prepare to be surprised by Joy.

Another step in setting the stage for Joy, I think, is recognizing the connectedness we have to one another. I call this Hope, the sure knowledge that we are part of the inexhaustible stream of life, that we belong in this universe, that we are part of Creation, part of life. And when we give Hope to ourselves and to others, I believe we prepare to be surprised by Joy.

The third stage, perhaps, is Love, reaching out in kindness and support to our companions on the road, whether we agree with them theologically or politically, whether we think they’re nice people, whether we approve or disapprove, whether we receive from them what we would like to receive. Giving Love without limits is yet another way, I believe, to prepare to be surprised by Joy.

So we prepare for Joy by expressing Gratitude, by finding Hope in our connection to others, and by giving Love wherever we can. Kind of another Trinity, maybe, one that gives legs to our sense of relationship with the Divine and our human need to do something to make that relationship real.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

And life goes on...

It has been a week today since our dear congregant died, a week of getting used to having a large hole in our lives, a week of focusing on a religious service that would somehow immortalize his memory and comfort his survivors, a week of listening and talking and writing and thinking about the man and the qualities that epitomize his character and his life. And yesterday, hundreds of folks came together to celebrate his life and mourn his death.

The family had asked friends, a musical group called Balkan Cabaret, to supply music for the memorial service and as I listened to the melodic yet minor harmonies of this plaintive music, I found it just right for the occasion. Crying and laughing in the same moment, the music mirrored the mood of the ceremony and enhanced the significance of what we were doing.

The service proceeded smoothly, many had opportunities to share stories of their friend and family member, and there was a great deal of laughter in addition to the sorrow and tears. When I left the reception hall hours later, Balkan Cabaret was playing and a long line of dancers was stepping serenely to the music, the bereaved wife in the middle, supported by her friends and family members, a look of weary calm on her face.

I am always struck by how important it is to celebrate life and all its twists and turns: as it begins, as it moves through passage after passage, and then finally, as it ends. It is how we create and preserve the meaning of our human existence, how we make connections with one another in joy and in grief, and how we perceive our relationship to the mysteries we seek to understand.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tired tonight...

Up at 4:30 a.m., on the 5:45 a.m. ferry from Vashon to the Kitsap Peninsula, north to Port Townsend and the 8 a.m.ferry, getting home about 9 a.m. A quick unpacking of car and suitcase, scanning the mail, reassuring the cats, and then making a list of what HAS to be done today to get ready for tomorrow's memorial service, what needs to wait until that is behind me, and then plodding away at the list until now I am pretty well ready for tomorrow.

The hardest, yet most rewarding, part of preparing for a memorial service is preparing the eulogy, or Memorial Portrait, as my mentor Robert Latham calls it. To sit with the family, listening to the stories, making notes, asking questions delicately, encouraging and supporting and waiting out the tears---------this is some of the most important work I do, and it's both exhausting and exhilarating. And it heals; it gives us a chance to laugh together over the quirks and idiosyncrasies of this beloved but very human man and laughter is healing and soothing to a devastated spirit.

I'm ready for tomorrow, but I'm going to take a hot bath with lavender salts tonight, go to bed early with my current Laurie King mystery, and make up for getting too little sleep last night. See you in the morning!

Friday, December 01, 2006

In shock...

I have been in "stunned" mode since yesterday afternoon. I was expecting the Social Action committee to descend upon my house for a meeting about their exciting work on a project addressing 'An Inconvenient Truth". While I was waiting for them, about 3p.m., the phone rang. It was our church administrator giving me the terrible news that a long time, beloved, fairly young man in the congregation had died suddenly of a probable heart attack.

I knew this man well. He had been on the search committee which selected me as the minister here on Whidbey. He had been on my Committee on Ministry for three years. He was now on the board. He was the guy in the congregation who could always be counted on to step in with a scale model of our building plan, with financial support, with encouragement and energy and time. He was a man of great compassion and strength. And he is gone, just like that. His wife is in shock and family members are flying in from all over the country.

This is the moment in time when everything I am or can be has to come together, even though it means setting aside my own grief for a time so I can be present for others and help them make their way through the multitude of thoughts, feelings, plans, and the general numbness that accompanies loss.

Yesterday I was surprised by Joy. Today I am charged with helping others through the worst pain of all, but the pain that can help prepare us to receive Joy. I pray that I am able to do so.

Kahlil Gibran wrote:
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. How else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
“Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?”
“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

Hard words to absorb when we are in the depths of sorrow, but wise words nevertheless.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Family thoughts redux

There's always more to any story and as I was putting together my sermon for this Sunday, "Surprised by Joy", it occurred to me that I had left out the pain part of my family's story in a previous post "Thoughts About Family". So here it is, lifted in part, from the upcoming sermon.
It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when we hurt each other badly over religion and politics. There was a time when I despaired of ever being on good terms with my family because I had become a UU. My sister, who is now my best friend, refused to participate in or attend my ordination over religious differences. There was some unease over Joel’s conversion to Catholicism. People worried about child-rearing and education and kids who seemed to be going wrong.

As I look back over how this (the change) came to be, I am wrenched all over again by the email conversations I had with my sister when she told me firmly why she couldn’t participate in or attend my ordination. Our religious beliefs clashed too badly for her. And it was devastating, that she would refuse to do this for me.

I was still living in Denver then and had few opportunities to be with my family. But I was planning to return to the Pacific Northwest and hoped to see a lot of my family once I relocated. My heart would sink when I’d think about the challenge of being with them after such a painful exchange.

A few months later, I learned, through a routine physical, that I would need open heart surgery to correct a birth defect, a hole in my heart. I was scared, naturally, afraid I’d not be able to fulfill my dream of ministry, afraid of dying, not sure what it meant in my life.

I called my family members to tell them and my sister’s immediate response was “I’ll be there, I’ll be with you throughout the surgery and as long as you need me to be.”

Her words changed everything and I was flooded with gratitude. Her willingness to be present for me at this very scary turn of events atoned for all the hurt, put our strained relationship back onto a better plane, and changed my attitude toward her. I was surprised by Joy. Where I had expected more hurt, I found hope.


Overnight, the strong west wind came and decimated the 8 inches of snow in my yard. The Chinook wind is not called "the snoweater" for nothing. The best part is that it doesn't just raise the temperature to above freezing, the wind actually helps to evaporate the water, so that the saturated ground gets a bit of a break. Of course, I have broken limbs all over the place, but no trees fell on my house!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Snowed in on an island?

Yep, six inches of snow out there on the deck and more on the way. The power had been flickering all afternoon and about 6 o'clock, it went out entirely. It just came back on, so I fired up the MacBook again out of sheer boredom.

I've been wading through the other two Laurie Pedersen books, mostly because I don't have anything else handy. And though I am tired of the constant sardonic narrative and the stereotypical characters, I am hanging in there to see who Hallie is finally going to lose her virginity to. And let me tell you, it's pure dogged determination to do this with a headlamp, wrapped up in a blanket with the cats flanking me in the big chair.

What a relief to have the lights come back on so I could do something else! But I'm almost done with Book 2, having finished Book 1 in the ferry line Saturday, and I will be very happy to get the chore done. I'm one of these people who has to finish a book, once I've started it. Very rarely do I give up on something unless it's too gory and violent---and predictable.

One thing that I have to say about the Unitarian character in Pedersen's books, she must go to a big church where there are zillions of social action projects, because she's embroiled in every cause that ever crossed a SA committee's agenda. And she must be the only person from her church who does any of this stuff, because she's seldom with a group, she's nearly always by herself, getting arrested or protesting on TV. She and I agree on a lot of her issues, but I hate it that she's so Lone Ranger about them.

Okay, better post this before the lights go out again.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thoughts about family

I realize that not everyone is particularly enthralled with their family members, and I don't intend to wax sentimental about my family. We have a wide variety of folks related to us in one way or another, there are lots of quirks, plenty of ways we don't agree with each other, and yet all the way home today over the pass, I thought about the many facets of family and home.

There are several blended branches on my family tree; there have been several divorces and remarriages, bringing into the family constellation assorted "steps" and "halfs". Nearly every adult present this past holiday had been through at least one divorce, either as a partner or as a child; most of the children present had also experienced this pulling apart of a family. But all are now concentrated in one large extended family, permanently, we expect. And there may be additional children and mates added, as new lives become part of the circle.

We stretch from one end of the religio-political spectrum to the other, fairly evenly spaced across the continuum from conservative to liberal, with devout Catholics, devout Evangelicals, and one devout Unitarian Universalist in the mix. Surprisingly, this does not cause us problems. As I discovered with my sister several years ago, we may not share theology, but we share "church". We avoid talking about doctrine but can talk about what our congregations are doing to reach out. And we can talk, to some extent, about our spiritual lives and practices.

This morning, I attended the christening ceremony for my newest great-niece, Mona Grace Agnes Martin, Joel's 6 month old daughter. Father Chuck Schmitz explained every element of the ceremony as he anointed her squirmy little body with the chrism and then the blessed water. Godparents Scott and Diana solemnly promised their spiritual support and love as the rest of us stood around the font beaming.

And as I headed home, I thought about what it means to me that my family is so diverse and so expanded. I'm not crazy about Moses Lake, but when I'm there, I'm embedded, immersed in family. Sometimes I'm a little bored because there's little to do but read and visit; I spend all my time with family members and hardly have any solitude. Until I acclimate to the changed environment, I'm a little uneasy and restless. But when I let myself relax into the context of family, I am thrilled to see the threads of connection between us.

It's more than Abby's delighted hugs at the door and more than Davy's squeals of laughter when I pretend to tickle him. It's also Joel and Christina's pleasure in their children and their desire to share Mona's christening with the rest of us, even though many of us are not Catholic. It's Scott and Diana's being godparents. It's Jean and Pat's connection to their CMA church and its activities and their taking under their wing Christina's three kids as though they were born into the family. It's Justin's funny stories of his life in the Marines. It's reminiscences about my son Mike and his days growing up with Scott and Justin and Susanna and Joel.

I think it's knowing that we are committed to each other, that religion and politics and other differences do not divide us but make us interesting, that we belong to each other even when we disagree or disapprove. When I moved back to the PNW from Colorado, I knew that this would be one of the gifts of making that move. I have come to appreciate it more than I ever believed I might.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Big Shuffle

ChaliceChick has inspired me to do my own review of Laura Pedersen's latest "The Big Shuffle". CC had started out with the first book in the trilogy, hoping to get a background for the characters, and found it not such great reading, so I decided to start out with the main feature itself and I'm glad I did. I'm not sure I will try to read the first two books; I lack CC's desire to cover the waterfront, as it were.

Pedersen apparently fleshed out her main characters in the first book, so that they appear in "The Big Shuffle" more or less fully formed and the reader is expected to tease out the details from their behavior and the situations.

TBS is darker, as mentioned in previous posts/comments, and this gives Pedersen a canvas on which to show the cast of characters, particularly Hallie, the protagonist, dealing with a huge, almost insurmountable, loss. As a former guidance counselor with youth, I found that a good deal of it didn't ring true; responses to the loss by most characters were often too glib, too pat, too inauthentic. Yet some of the response was truly touching and believable.

Despite the seriousness of the theme, Pedersen seems determined to represent Hallie and family comically. Dialogue and narrative seem inappropriately flip on occasion, as though the whole scenario of loss is a bad joke. I'm not sure why she would do this, unless the subject matter is too serious for her. Or perhaps she's trying to draw in young readers and feels she needs to lighten the mood.

The one Unitarian character is an older woman who spouts sound bytes about social justice and human rights but unfortunately sounds more like a caricature of a real UU, much more shallow than most of the UUs of my acquaintance. She seems like a UU that Garrison Keillor might invent, not a real one who actually does something about social justice.

The real religious leader in the book is the (Episcopalian?) pastor, formerly thought of by Hallie as gay, who comes to help out in the crisis and stays to offer longlasting support and encouragement, though you have to wonder about his boundary issues. He proves to be more useful than most of the other adults in the book.

But you know what? I liked the book just the same. Despite its flaws, it's a good story if you can get past the illogic of a teenage poker queen (or maybe I'm just out of date)who seems to know how to run a household with seven children. I found myself thinking, "gee, so and so might like this story", so I'll pass it along.

My sister will get it first and then she'll be free to hand it off to anyone who might want to check it out. There's a little sex in it, not particularly vivid, but parents might want to read it before handing it on to younger youth.

CC also turned me on to Laurie King's mysteries about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, so I've been working on "The Game". Now there's good writing! Thanks, CC.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Over the river and through the woods...

It's not quite the route to Moses Lake, Washington, but it's the intro to every Thanksgiving journey I've made in the past many years. The road to Moses Lake is more "over the floating bridge and through Snoqualmie Pass", but one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is bound up in this sweet old refrain.

It was November of 1989, I think, when my sister called me in Denver with the awful words, "Mom's had a stroke, it doesn't look good, can you come home?" I flew home to the Pacific Northwest with my heart in my mouth. My brother and his family, my sister and hers, our cousins, aunts and uncles all seemed to converge that November afternoon in Vancouver, Washington, where my mother, Mona Elizabeth Larson Ketcham, was hospitalized with a major stroke.

We had been planning to have Thanksgiving at cousin Katie's, with my mother and all the family who could come. And we did have Thanksgiving there, but immediately thereafter, we all trooped over to the hospital, formed a conga line outside her room, and danced into her room singing "over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's bed we go", much to her delight and the consternation of the nurses.

She couldn't speak. One side of her body was floppy and loose, but half of her face could smile, and smile she did! We were all scared to death but more scared to show it than anything. So when she smiled and laughed at our antics, it was the reprieve we'd hoped for. We knew she wouldn't be leaving us just yet.

So tomorrow I head over the floating bridge and through the pass to spend Thanksgiving with my sister Jean and her husband, their children Joel and Christina and kids, Susanna and Henry and their daughter, Scott and Diana and their puppy, and maybe Justin, if he can get away.

And on Saturday morning, Lord willing, I will be privileged to attend the christening of the newest life in our family, little miss Mona Grace Martin.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Puzzlement

Much as I enjoy attending the South Whidbey Lectionary discussion group, I have to admit that sometimes I am puzzled by the effect of my comments on the group. Today we were talking about the passage in John which is assigned for "Christ the King Sunday", i.e., the Sunday before Advent begins, the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

The passage is from John 18 and Jesus is being questioned by Pilate, who essentially asks him "what have you done to make these people angry? Are you calling yourself the king of the Jews?" And Jesus replies "you are saying that I call myself this, but my kingdom is not of this world. I come for this, to preach the truth." (abridged version, of course)

The conversation touched on the idea of kingship, of authority, and the meaning of kingship in this day and age, and then it veered into comments about what Jesus's kingdom was, how he saw himself and his authority, etc. There was a certain amount of substitutionary theology offered, thoughts about whether this is clear evidence of Jesus' offering himself as a substitute for the sins of humankind by his death, and such, which seems to me to miss the point of Jesus' whole life.

I hadn't said much so far, but finally I offered the comment that because I have an understanding of Jesus the Christ as the incarnation of Divine Love, I saw this in terms of Jesus defining his kingdom as a kingdom of love and justice, not of political rule. I thought it was a perfectly reasonable thing to say; I even prefaced it by saying that though I am a Christian, I minister to many people who are not Christian and that speaking of Jesus as a metaphor for love makes Jesus understandable to them.

There was silence in the room. Nobody made eye contact with me. Nobody commented. There was dead silence, as though they were just waiting an appropriate amount of time before they could go on. And then they went on without a single nod to what I had said. I almost commented on their silence but decided not to. It felt more like a stunned silence than an offended silence, but I can't be sure.

I don't know if I shocked them, offended them, irritated them, or just what. I don't think they quite know what to make of me, how to receive what I think without arguing or letting go of their own opinions. I don't think what I said was particularly challenging nor far out. Most of them are fairly liberal themselves, but they do seem to take the scripture more as fact than as metaphor and seem uncomfortable with metaphorizing Jesus.

They are lovely guys, all of them, and I like them a lot. But I wonder about this kind of reaction from them.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hallelujah, the great storm is least for now

Yesterday morning about three, something woke me up and I realized that it was pitch dark, not a glimmer from nightlight, yard light, porch light, moon, clock radio, etc. The high winds and gusty rain had knocked out the power and there was nothing to do but tuck the comforter tighter around my ears and wait until daylight.

Mentally reviewing my power-outage plan through the fog of half-sleep, I realized I didn't have one and that certain normal household functions would be curtailed until I could lay in some jugs of water, some propane cylinders, and more nonperishables than I had in the house. But I did have a caffeine source--------diet Coke! Hurrah! I went back to sleep, untroubled.

At dawn more or less, I got up, lanterned my way down to the paper tube to get the news, decided that probably the outage was pretty widespread, and resigned myself to a cold day. But I had a couple of meetings in Seattle, provided the ferry was running in the storm, and this proved to be my saving grace. Fred Meyer (the local Kroger outlet) had lots of water for sale, plus propane; Trader Joe's replenished my store of good bread and cheese; and the meetings distracted me from the realities of the weather, which was truly awful.

Back on the afternoon ferry, I admit I prayed that the power would be restored, though I doubted God would be likely to intervene. And my back-up prayer was "please help me cope". The power was still off when I got home and I learned from a phone call to the power company that it might be days before it was restored completely. On that dismal thought, I checked the thermometer, discovered that this tight little house is pretty good about keeping the heat in (only got down to 58 inside), and cheered up a bit.

The cats and I spent the evening wrapped up in wooly throws while I read by the light of the lantern and a camping headlamp. At nine, we got under the down comforter together and prepared to wait it out.

About midnight, I awoke suddenly to the sound of the furnace clicking on and realized that the outage was over sooner than predicted and felt awash in gratitude. It hadn't been that bad.

This morning I walked down to get the newspapers with bright moon and stars overhead. The yard is littered with pine branches and a lot of apples came off the tree, but we survived relatively unscathed. This morning I've spent tidying up the clutter from the lightless time---the propane stove which never got lit, the mail which didn't get read, the blinky food from the fridge, the candles which dripped all over, the flower boxes which fell off the sills.

So today is bright and beautiful and they say we should enjoy it, because another storm is coming in this weekend.

It's interesting to be "powerless". Lots of food for thought there.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

An Experiment with Firefox

I'm experimenting with the options that Firefox allows a blogger. This is huge. This is tiny. This is BOLD (huh?).

This is normal size in italics. This is blue text. Here (oops, how did this get bolded? it's unhighlighted on the toolbar.) These are webdings. Arial. Georgia. Lucida Grande. Times. Trebuchet. Verdana.

Okay, the tabs don't seem to work quite like I would expect. Highlighting them doesn't do what I expect. The tabs apparently have to be highlighted in order NOT to do what I want them to do. And right now "Huge" is actually normal size type. Now "italic" is highlighted and doing what I want. But "bold" is also highlighted and it is not doing what I want. Hmmmm. Now I've used the shortcut to go to bold, and that worked. Now I've used the shortcut to leave italic and that worked. Hmmm.

m not sure what's going on. Better check the help page. Nuttin. How come the size menu keeps hopping back to Huge from Normal Size but the size of the font doesn't actually become huge? Hmmmm.

What's this? It's large, unbolded, unitalicized text. Now it's huge, semi-bolded text. What if I bold it? What if I italicize it? What if I make the text blue? This is supposed to be Arial large. This is supposed to be Courier large. This is Courier normal. This is Courier Small. And COurier tiny.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Okay, okay....

I've left Safari and am trying out Firefox, which, according to the voice of experience, is much better as a blogging browser.

We shall see.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Let the wild rumpus begin!

Rumpus rumpus rumpus, I used to say to my son when we got to that part in Maurice Sendak's wonderful book "Where the Wild Things Are". Son Michael was a bit of a wild thing as a tot, though he has integrated that part of himself nicely into his adult identity.

No, the wild rumpus I'm talking about is the party that continues to happen now that the Dems have regained some measure of influence in Congress and, hopefully, over the trajectory of this nation which has been pretty much downhill over the past several years.

But I hope there's a designated driver or several in the party. This is not the time for every Dem to go on a tear of thanksgiving for power regained, for enemies vanquished, for vengeance exacted. This is not the time for every Dem leader to lord it over the vanquished, screw over the losers, make plans to rub noses in the mud and humiliate the opposition.

This is the time for all of us to cheer wildly for our success and then commit ourselves to integrity, honesty, compassion, and to work for the greater good, not the good of a few.

This is the time for all of us to bask in the satisfaction of a job well done and then bend ourselves to the new work of righting the wrongs that have been committed.

This is the time for all of us to love our enemies, do good to them who despitefully have used us, and walk the very straight and narrow path that leads to salvation. After a lovely wild rumpus, of course.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Voting our Values: a sermon

I'm posting the sermon I preached Sunday at the Vashon Island Unitarian Fellowship. A much revised version of this same sermon (to reflect the outcome of the election) will be presented this coming Sunday at the UU Congregation of Whidbey Island.

Rev. Kit Ketcham, Nov. 2006

Do you remember this old song? Sing it with me if you do.

“Gimme that old-time religion, gimme that old-time religion, gimme that old-time religion, it’s good enough for me. It was good for our mothers, it was good for our fathers, it was good enough for them and it’s good enough for me. Gimme that old-time religion, gimme that old-time religion, gimme that old-time religion, it’s good enough for me.”

Except it’s not, is it? That old-time religion is one reason we here today are Unitarian Universalists. That old-time religion doesn’t offer what we are looking for in terms of a spiritual life or a set of beliefs or a way of relating to the world.

That old-time religion, tied as it often has been to a fear of science, a distaste for changing cultural norms, and opposition to doubt and questioning of literal interpretations of the Bible, lost most of us as we began to read other books besides the Bible, as we began to study justice issues, as we began to see that our current world was not well-served by a religion which was living in the past, rejecting new information, following ancient laws without compassion or a sense of justice.

And those of us who were raised UU were not attracted to another more rigid religion because of those very characteristics.

As I was thinking about how my own experience intersects with this topic, I was reminded of kitchen table discussions in my childhood, when my mother and father would bemoan the rising of "modernism" and "worldliness" in human lives, because it meant to them estrangement from God, a rejection of God's word, and too much connection with popular culture.

I’ve always been more an observer of differing opinions rather than a rebeller, so I tucked this thinking away in my brain and brought it out later to hold up against the popular culture I was familiar with, to check its validity.
And it seemed to me that my parents were overly concerned; science didn't seem evil, nor did the effort to understand what the Bible really said in its original languages. I didn't mention my opinion to my parents, not wanting to argue, but it fermented and bubbled during my youth and on into college, where I learned things about Christianity and Jesus that were left out of my Sunday School lessons!

As I prepared to write this sermon, in the context of our current political climate, I attended our district’s annual fall ministers’ retreat, where the topic was “Unitarian Universalism and the Challenges of Religious Identity”.

In conversations with my colleagues and listening to our speaker, the Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor, who is the director of the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom in Norfolk, VA, I found my own experience and the ideas presented coming together to clarify for me what it means to be a religious liberal, particularly a Unitarian Universalist, and how that influences my choices when I vote, when I attend community events, what causes I support, and where I give my money.

As liberal religious thinkers, you and I tend to be committed to the same things: First, that our religion must live in the present, using modern knowledge and experience. Second, that our religion must be openminded, prizing free intellectual inquiry. And third, that our religion must be credible and relevant; in other words, it has to matter and to make sense.

And we have other commonalities as well: our religion occupies the middle ground between fundamentalism and the secular world, in the real world of contemporary culture. Our religion operates on the belief that reality involves movement and change, interdependence, fluid understanding of truth, with little black and white thinking. Our religion promotes autonomy, thinking for oneself, mistrusting external authority. And our religion bases its ethics on humaneness, not on doctrinal tenets.

As a minister who is engaged with many other clergy and laity of varying faiths, both Christian and non-Christian, I have been struck by what we have in common as liberal religious thinkers. There is not a lot of difference between liberal faiths and their work in the world, if you set aside theological differences.

I notice and appreciate this every time I meet with the South Whidbey lectionary study group, a bunch of ministers on Whidbey, or with the other members of the Religious Coalition for Equality. Here are men and women whose theology is different from mine in many ways but who are working with me to achieve the same goals--------justice, compassion, equity, and a healing community which supports and nurtures our living planet.

Some of these colleagues are Republicans, at least in the original sense of a voter committed to the Republic and its health. Many are Democrats. Others are Libertarian and Green and Independent. We may cast differing votes for different people and issues, based on our knowledge of them and our personal understandings of the ideals they represent.

But these colleagues and I will mostly vote our consciences, not a party or doctrinal line, and we will make our choices based on what we consider to be the important social issues of our cultural milieu, not on religious doctrines which seek to impose theocratic ideals on our nation. We won’t vote to deny human rights; we will vote to uphold freedom and equal opportunity. And we will vote for the human beings who seem to us to exemplify these ideals.

I ask you to think, right now, about how you decide what candidates you will vote for. What are the most important qualities of a candidate that you support? (congregational response)

Here’s how I choose my candidates for office: I look for credibility in a candidate, a person with integrity who I think is less likely to be swayed by political contributions than others; I look for measurable differences between the candidates; if I have personal knowledge of the candidate, either through personal experience or through a credible friend’s experience, that helps me make my decision; I look to see if the candidate has demonstrated values which are life-enhancing for all, not just for a few; and the candidate’s ads tell me whether he/she has ethics which I can accept. I’ve heard you offer some similar techniques just now.

And what about issues? How do you decide which issues you will vote yes on and which you will vote no on? (congregational response)

On issues such as legislative referenda or citizen initiatives, I first look at the financial backers of the initiative or referendum. Are those backers’ values similar to what I believe is life-enhancing for all and good for the planet? Is the issue based on good science and logic? Does it address a core need of society, such as reduction of poverty or equitable treatment of all persons or preservation of the planet? Do I have a personal connection to this issue through those I know who may be affected by its outcome?

I would guess that many, if not most of us, chose Unitarian Universalism in the same ways that we choose who and what to vote for on Election Day.

You voted for this religion, instead of another. How did you make that decision? How did you think that through and come up with UUism as your choice? (congregational response)

I had never heard of UUism until I went to Denver as an American Baptist Home Missionary, to work in the Denver Christian Center. Our preschool class was supported by volunteers from the First Unitarian Church of Denver and they worked side by side with me in that classroom as we taught small children songs, alphabet, games, numbers, and getting along with others.

Later, a handsome young man courted me by taking me to a service at that Unitarian Church and to protest marches sponsored by the First Universalist Church of Denver. We were married by a Unitarian judge.

My decision to become active as a UU was based on my observation that this faith tradition put its money where its mouth was; it supported social justice actions; it was based on reason and science, not supernatural doctrines; its spiritual ancestors were credible men and women, people I admired, both living and dead; it was self-critical, that is, it questioned itself--------it addressed internal racism and homophobia and intolerance.

And I liked the UUs I met. They were smart and funny and serious, all at the same time. They were skeptical of the same things I was skeptical of! And they liked me! I felt at home, welcomed, accepted. And they believed the same things I had come to believe: that Jesus was a good man, but not God; that it was important to change society to be more just, more compassionate; that many faiths had truth and that there were multiple paths to the top of the mountain.

Election Day also challenges us to respond appropriately in another way as well. We endure the political ads, the mudslinging, the debates, the differences of opinion, all the while hoping that our side will win, that the candidates we vote for will come out on top, that the issues we see as critical will be resolved in positive ways, preferably the ways we voted!

This year, it looks as though many political races for our state and federal legislatures are hanging in the balance; the outcome of the election will affect American politics in the coming years. If so and so wins, what will we win? If the other candidate wins, what will we lose?

We speculate and wonder---maybe we even pray “let our candidate win!” But at the end of Election Day, the wait is over. The votes are in.

Some of us stay up late to field the returns as they are coming in. This year I’m betting that many of us will do that, jubilant at the wins, regretful at the losses.

And the next morning, in the newspaper, the headlines will tell the story: So and So wins. Congress looks like this. The pundits offer their interpretations of the results of the election. We look at the results, offer our own thoughts, and move on to the next stage of the democratic process, accepting the results of the election.

If we feel that “our side” won, we are jubilant and eagerly anticipate the changes that we hope will be enacted because of the wins. If we feel that “our side” lost, we are depressed and angry and look for reasons to object to the results.

What will be your reaction on Wednesday morning if your candidates and issues are voted in? (congegational response)

Mine will be a long sigh of relief and hope that perhaps a long siege of corruption and conflict will come to an end.

What will be your reaction if your candidates and issues are rejected? (congregational response)

Mine will be sorrow and weariness at the decision by my fellow Americans to pursue paths that seem to me to be lacking vision and perhaps integrity and I, like you, will gird up my loins for the next stage of being true to my religious values.

Whatever the outcome of this Election Day, we will always have countless challenges and problems to solve democratically. We as liberal religious thinkers will pursue those solutions in certain common ways.

Recently I watched a documentary about the writer and thinker Howard Zinn, whom many of you doubtless know, at least by reputation, as a man whose integrity and commitment to peace and justice are more than admirable; he is truly a prophet in the best sense of the word.

The documentary, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train”, closes with the following quote by Howard Zinn, and I will close with it as well. It says to me that whatever the outcome of this election, it is merely one more instance in an endless series of instances, some good, some bad, and our work for peace and love and justice do not end because of an outcome either desired or feared.

"To be hopeful in bad times is not...foolishly romantic; it is based on the fact that human history is a history of not only cruelty, but of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future - the future is an infinite succession of 'presents,' and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

Let's pause for a time of silent reflection and prayer.

BENEDICTION: Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together, is ended, but our service to the world begins again as we leave this place. Let us go in peace, remembering that as human beings in a democratic society, we have the opportunity and responsibility to speak out for the values which are life-enhancing for all. May we accept this responsibility and act according to our consciences as we go to the polls this week and may our voices be heard as we speak for justice and equity in human life. Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Combating Cross Cringe

Yesterday I attended a Marriage Equality colloquy across the water, at Temple Beth Or in Everett, and was energized and enivened by the speakers, Dr Lisa Davison of Lexington Theological Seminary, and two same-sex couples who told their stories of coming out, meeting the one they love, creating a family, and the subsequent difficulties that they face because they are unable to be legally married.

I've heard the stories before. I've heard Lisa speak at last year's colloquys. I'm familiar with all the arguments and have made up my mind as a Marriage Equality supporter. So why do I still attend these things? Don't I already know what I think?

Of course I know. But what I find compelling about these events is the opportunity to meet and get to know clergy and laity from other faith traditions, both Christian and Jewish. And it's disappointing to me that most UU laypersons and clergy are uninterested in this opportunity.

Yesterday only one other Unitarian Universalist attended. Though I invited all my colleagues to attend one of the six events around the state, very few have taken me up on it. And the reason given is that they have already made up their minds; they know how they feel, so why should they attend?

I understand that sense of "been there, done that". For me Marriage Equality is a no-brainer and my faith tradition is fully supportive. I've led three congregations through the Welcoming Congregation process and know how valuable that effort can be for a church.

But people in other denominations are struggling and they need us as allies, to help them find ways to deal with the political morass that the Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, and others are fighting as they seek to overturn church law that is oppressive and demeaning.

I am uncomfortable with the reluctance of many UUs to engage with clergy and laity of other faiths. It's almost as if they are afraid of being contaminated by Christianity, a fear I find hard to tolerate. It's almost as if they are saying to themselves, "I already know all this stuff, why should I go and hang around and be bored because my knowledge is more advanced and superior". It's almost as if they want to maintain their specialness as the most radical of the Radical Reformers and fear that specialness will be eroded if they rub elbows with the less radical.

I've said it before and I say it again, interfaith work is the antidote to cross cringe in our congregations. When laity work on justice issues with others of differing faiths, particularly Christian, they learn that Christians are concerned about many of the same justice issues as UUs, that liberal Christians are not so different from us, that the cross means something different than they might expect. And when clergy engage with other clergy of differing faiths, particularly Christian, they model for their congregants an openness and understanding that will go a long way toward eradicating cross cringe and contempt for Christian theology.

Having been raised in a Christian home where the cross meant unconditional love, I am fortunate and I understand that others have not had that advantage. But in human life, when we discover something in life that makes us uncomfortable and upset, it behooves us to investigate that unease, to seek its roots, and to deal with it. I have people in one congregation who refuse to go to church because there is a cross visible in the rented sanctuary. Why would someone cut him/herself off from the community over this symbol? There's something dysfunctional about that response.

I often think of myself as a bridge between the UU faith community I love and serve and the Christian faith community which I grew up in. If only we could see ourselves as allies, not as combatants! Perhaps that day will come, as I noticed yesterday that the Disciples and Methodists and Mennonites and UCCs I met are edging ever closer to UUism in their outreach efforts. We are not so special after all!

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Delicious! That is, I learned at the local Apple Day celebration on Saturday that the tree on my property which is so loaded with ripening apples is an original Delicious apple tree, the original tree before they started crosspollinating and creating Red and Golden Delicious apples. They are a lovely oblong shape, with a bumpy bottom, and a greenish-yellow underskin with red freckly shoulders. And they are sweet, crisp and---------yes, DELICIOUS! I love apples, so I am looking forward to some wonderful chomping.

I took a bag of them to church this afternoon, inviting people to sample them and come on over and pick if they want to have more. They are just now getting to the peak of their flavor. I am going to pick a bunch and make apple crisp for a gathering I'm hosting later on this week.

Tomorrow I am part of the RCE team putting on a colloquy on Marriage Equality across the water in Everett at the Jewish temple there. I am carpooling and we have to be on the 7:30 a.m. ferry in order to be there on time. 5:00 a.m. sounds awfully early, but I keep reminding myself that my body will think it's 6 a.m. because we just shifted out of Daylight Savings Time.


I planned to watch the George Clooney movie "Syriana" tonight, but I felt so melancholic as the movie developed that I shut it off and turned to the Harry Potter movie that was on. Now I've shut that off too and am back at the computer.

My ex-husband bears such a resemblance to George Clooney that it makes me sad, even though I think GC is a fine actor, a goodlooking guy, and a fairly admirable character. But watching him on the screen, I notice myself turning his face into L's face, wishing things had been different, wishing we had not grown so far apart and hurt each other so much, wishing we had given our son a better model for marriage, as he heads into his own marriage in a few months.

We got married because we thought we ought to. Each of us was rebounding from another relationship, we had a good time together, and we thought that would be enough. For some people, it might have been, but each of us had different ideas about what makes a good marriage and we couldn't carry it off, couldn't find the common ground, even with the birth of our dear son. And by the time we separated, we had each inflicted a world of hurt on the other, mostly accidentally, unthinkingly, not realizing how seriously we were eroding any foundation we might have had for a good marriage.

I regret our failures frequently, but I also know that had we stuck with it, we likely would not be as happy as we each are today. I certainly would not have gone into the ministry. He would not have found the woman he is now married to. Our son would have grown up in an environment that might well have affected his ability to find happiness. As painful as it was, it was the right thing to do. And our friendship has survived; it did not die when the marriage ended. We managed that, at least.

Talking with my son on the phone this evening has revived a lot of old memories. I know he reads this blog occasionally and I hope he finds hope and encouragement in it. He is the light of my life; he is "my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." And he seems to have the good sense and commitment and understanding that marriage demands of a couple. May he and his darling J. find long life and happiness together.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Interfaith lectionary study

I've been meeting with the South Whidbey lectionary study group for about 6 weeks now and find myself enjoying it more each time. The group is comprised of two Lutheran pastors, one Episcopalian retired rector, one United Methodist pastor, one Catholic priest, one House of Prayer pastor, and me. The HOP pastor and I represent either end of the theological spectrum, though I suspect if we were all standing on a teetertotter in our continuum of belief we'd be tipping to the left, with Rev. HOP somewhere right of center. He is a great guy, though, and represents his religious tradition faithfully but not bombastically.

My colleagues in this group are all male, which I thoroughly enjoy. They are respectful but not overly politically correct and they sometimes hog the conversation, yet I am relishing both the Bible study and the interfaith nature of our association. I feel very welcome in their company; I expect a time will come when they want to know more about my theological stance, but right now I'm contributing to the discussion from my own experience and feelings about the readings and am not challenged by anyone.

I've never been a gungho Bible scholar, though the Hebrew and Christian scripture classes I took in seminary were among my favorites. I find that the larger picture of the development of Judaism and Christianity as represented in the Bible is more compelling than remembering the many dates and kings and minor-seeming events of those centuries.

And there are so many small moments in scripture that say more to me than all the exegesis in the world: Moses seeing God's backside, when God said to him "if you see my face you will die, but wait here and you will see me as I pass by"; the still small voice in the burning bush; and the reminder "what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly" ; the Syro-Phoenician woman who challenges Jesus with her flung-back remark about the puppies getting the crumbs from the rich people's table---and he changes his mind and his mission; the way Jesus must have felt as he failed over and over again to get his message across, even to his disciples; and the most important commandments of all------to love God and to love neighbor as self.

My island colleagues love to tease out meanings from the passages we study and I enjoy hearing their take on each passage. The Methodist guy is very sharp and well-schooled in Bible exegesis and he poses questions and challenges to us all, without looking down his nose at our lesser abilities. The men all tend to interpret the scripture from a "hard" point of view, that is, very intellectual and theologically based. I tend to offer observations that are "soft", that is, from an experiential, feeling place. And I think that's valuable, though they look at me with surprise at times. I don't know what they think about my comments; I haven't been shouted down or disagreed with, but it may yet happen.

So far I haven't seriously disagreed with anyone about an interpretation, though Rev. HOP is quite conservative. They are quite Trinitarian, which is fine, but today we studied the passage in Mark that says "The Lord Our God is One" and I resisted mentioning the apparent Unitarian stance here and nobody else seemed to notice it!

Anyhow, it's fun, it's stimulating, and I'm in a group of colleagues who support each other and share our lives as ministers in this community. That's enough in itself.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I'm in love with Howard Zinn...

Well, not really, but I watched the documentary "You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train" last night and was struck by Zinn's honesty, long-lived marriage, willingness to examine his past military involvement and change his perspective, courage to speak out on unpopular issues in dangerous times, and his long, lanky, craggy looks. I was both admirous of his character and his cuteness.

And there was a quote I really liked and will include in my upcoming sermon on liberal religious identity which will be the Sunday before Election day and will include a thread on voting our values. The quote is this: "To live as humans should live, with all the bad things happening around us, is a wonderful victory." That's obviously a paraphrase, as I couldn't get to my notebook fast enough to copy it exactly (and it didn't occur to me to replay that segment), so if there's a correct version, I hope I find it.

I've been jotting down thoughts and ideas for this sermon for a couple of days now, even though it's 10 days or so in the future. I always like to include a story from my own experience, or, lacking that, some other anecdote which is illustrative.

As I was thinking about how my own experience intersects with this topic, I was reminded of kitchen table discussions in my childhood, when my mother and father would bemoan the rising of "modernism" and "worldliness" in human lives, because it meant to them estrangement from God, a rejection of God's word, and too much connection with popular culture.

Always an observer of differing opinions rather than a rebeller, I tucked this thinking away in my brain and brought it out later to hold up against the popular culture I was familiar with, to check its validity. It seemed to me that my parents were overly concerned; science didn't seem evil, nor did the effort to understand what the Bible really said in its original language. I didn't mention my opinion to my parents, not wanting to argue, but it fermented and bubbled during my youth and on into college, where I learned things about Christianity and Jesus that were left out of my Sunday School classes!

Needless to say, I have embraced modernism (only now it's post-modernism, I guess) and the worldliness of popular culture, so it was a revelation to me to see the linkage between liberal religious identity and popular culture. It affirmed the connection I had already made in my mind but had not articulated.

I'm looking forward to actually writing the sermon. I mostly enjoy "having written" rather than "writing", but there comes a point when I have done enough jotting and thinking and remembering and need to start putting it together. I feel a growing pressure within me that is only relieved by putting words on paper (or on screen, actually). And I feel that pressure building today.

I've put together the order of service for that Sunday and have decided how to tie in the children's story with the sermon, which gives me a sense of all the things that will flow throughout the service and the sermon. So I'm about to release the growing energy into words.

Wish me luck.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Alone again....whew!

I love the Athena Pals, but it was an exhausting weekend and I was so happy to be able to wish them a fond farewell this morning, go back inside to clean up the detritus, and tell the cats "it's okay, no more company for awhile". I was ready for solitude again.

We did a lot of roaming, visiting Port Townsend by ferry, walking the lavender labyrinth at Lavender Wind Farm, eating out at all my favorite spots (Dungeness crab benedict at Neil's Clover Patch! yum!), exploring the little towns up and down the island, and generally wearing ourselves out, then coming back to my house, drinking a bit of wine and talking, talking, talking.

They are all a year older than I, which was a bigger deal when we were teenagers, but is barely significant these days, except that they are all on Medicare now and I have a few months to go. And there were definite physical concerns beginning to show themselves: one was really suffering from old injuries that cause her a lot of pain; another has just had cataract surgery; another has a swallowing disorder that makes meals difficult at times; another is still so lithe and lovely that we were all envious; and I? My feet hurt after all the tramping around, but that was all.

One thing I found very interesting, and I've noticed it in the past. Our experiences as teenagers were so different. I've alluded to that in previous posts, but this visit made me even more aware. They remember people and events that I've never known because of the greater freedom they enjoyed as kids. I know all the horses and the horse people, but not so much the rogues and the rascals. So I was not always able to join in the conversation and just listened in amazement to the things they knew and laughed about.

This sense of separation bothers me a little bit, but not so much that I would change my relationship with The Pals. It's too important to me to continue the connection with people who knew me when I was raw and unformed, just beginning to learn who I was, and who themselves have changed and grown over the past years. We have known each other for 52 years, longer than almost any other friends I've had, and it feels like a treasure to be carefully tended and guarded, so that we might celebrate our friendship for the rest of our lives, however long that may be.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I'm getting ready to host a sleepover this weekend. Remember when we were kids and the big thrill of the weekend was to be allowed to spend the night at a friend's? We'd lie awake for hours talking and giggling under the covers, shushing temporarily when the parents got annoyed and told us to be quiet. One time my friend Marla and I put on her sister's bras and stuffed them with socks and ran around Marla's house shrieking hysterically at our daring.

This sleepover is for five of us who graduated from McEwen High School in eastern Oregon in 1959. We weren't very close then, but in our tiny town everyone knew everyone else rather well, and we have known each other since 1952. In recent years, our small graduating class (only 18 of us) began to diminish, as classmates died too soon, and we five decided to stay in contact. We email almost daily about the events of our lives and we have been meeting at least once a year for a sleepover at someone's house.

This weekend, we are all converging here at Cottontail Acres for three days of sightseeing, shopping, cooking, eating, drinking, and reminiscing. Diann is coming from California, Bonnie from Portland, Mary Alice from Pendleton, and Judy from White Salmon. We will cram all we can into the time we have and when they go home on Monday, we will have relived our lives in Athena, calling up memories of former teachers, classmates, scandals, gossip, deaths, births, and all the trivia that makes life so satisfying.

If you had told me in the 60s that in the new century, I would consider these women some of my best friends, I would have scoffed. We five occupied different realms, even in our small town. I was the Baptist preacher's kid who couldn't dance, drink, go to movies, or play cards. They were daring and did everything I couldn't do. Ironically, they are all still married to their first husbands, while I, the goody-two-shoes, have been divorced for 26 years. And we all have avoided the typical small-town conservatism that generally infects rural areas; they are as open-minded as anyone else I know.

It's a lovely place to be, maintaining a friendship with women who "knew me when". We mourn together the losses of our conjoined lives: our parents, babies who didn't make it, children gone astray, the friends who now are gone---Donna, Audrea, Marilyn, Dorn, Harold, and more. We laugh over the antics recalled; three years ago, we met in Pendleton and played softball as "Donna's Team", when our late friend Donna's grandson needed financial support to beat leukemia.

What an experience! The video that Marilyn's husband made is priceless, capturing all the foolishness of 60 year old women trying to catch fly balls and run the bases. Marilyn was alive then and it's wonderful to see her grin, which helps to wipe out the memory of seeing her comatose in a hospital bed a few months ago. And my son Mike came with us to Pendleton; his long, chestnut hair flying in the wind and his smart mouth almost got him in trouble in cowboy country, but it sure made us laugh. What memories!

They'll be here Friday. I can't wait!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

How to save the planet

Sean over at Ministrare turned me on to this video:

Go see it and spread it far and wide.

Liberal religious identity

I mentioned in an earlier post that our recent UUMA chapter retreat was outstanding and included a presentation by the Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor entitled "Unitarian Universalism and the Challenges of Religious Identity".

To begin with, Paul identified the basic commitments and characteristics of liberal religion (LR):
• Liberal Religion must live in the present, using modern knowledge and experience.
• LR must be openminded, prizing free intellectual inquiry.
• LR must be credible and relevant, i.e., religion has to matter and to make sense.

• LR occupies the middle ground between fundamentalism and the secular world, in the real world of contemporary culture.
• LR operates on the belief that reality involves movement and change, interdependence, fluid understandings of truth, no sharp dualisms.
• LR promotes autonomy, thinking for oneself, mistrusting external authority.
• LR bases ethics on humaneness, downplaying doctrinal aspects.

As a minister who is engaged with many other clergy and laity of varying faiths, both Christian and non-Christian, I was struck by what we have in common as liberal religionists. There is not a lot of difference between liberal faiths and their work in the world, if you set aside theological differences. I notice and appreciate this every time I meet with my lectionary group here on the island or with the other members of the Religious Coalition for Equality.

My former minister Robert Latham once described religion as the human expression of a relationship with self, with others, and with the universe or God, in an effort to make life meaningful. I've always liked that definition. I have gone a little further and see religion as a public expression of those relationships and spirituality as the private expression of those relationships. At least, that's how it feels to me.

But I struggle sometimes to express what is my core religious identity as a Unitarian Universalist. I can avow that one piece of that identity for me is our striving for diversity; I know we don't have large numbers of people of color nor uneducated people nor other "Others". But we actively strive for that; we recognize our need for diversity and reach for it, even though we miss the mark a lot and can be very clumsy about it all.

I see us as doing religion in a new way, not focusing on doctrine, but on human behavior. If we have a credo, it is to treat each other and the earth with kindness and respect. We have let go of the supernatural doctrines of Christianity, for the most part, and have focused on what we see as the implicit messages of such prophets as Jesus, Moses, Gandhi, Mohammed, Buddha, and others: love, integrity, nonviolence, beauty, compassion, inclusion.

Out of this credo springs our commitment to social justice work, our concern for the environment, our belief in the democratic process, our abhorrence of war, our passion for spiritual freedom. This I believe is the core of Unitarian Universalist religous identity, not how different we are from other religions or what we don't believe that others do.

Within our congregations we are diverse in many ways----------theology, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, education, political affiliation. But we all pretty much support the universal Truths of reverence for life, compassion for others, respect for each other, care for the earth, and order in community life.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ms. Kitty's take on the book meme

One reason I'm glad CC tagged me for the book meme is that it helped me get a handle on what a "meme" is. The dictionary doesn't really make it clear, IMHO, but being tagged for it does.

Anyhoo, I had to think kind of hard in some of these categories, but I think I have a candidate for each.

1. One book that changed your life? I think the book that tipped me over into Unitarian Universalism, though I wasn't really aware of it at the time, is an old classic "Heavenly Discourse" by Charles Erskine Scott Wood. I read it in college, both tickled and amazed by the idea of God shmoozing in heaven with a variety of saints, Jesus, Voltaire, Mark Twain, Billy Sunday, and seriously questioning what people on earth were doing with Jesus' message. Somehow my copy of it disappeared when I moved away from home (I think my mother probably took one look and jettisoned it, fearing for my salvation) and it took me years to find another copy, because it has been out of print for a long time. Miraculously, as I was preparing for the ministry, a kind old man at my church gave me all his religious books, and there was a copy, tattered and dusty, but intact. Thank you, Dale Foreman! ADDENDUM: I meant to include "The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by Julian Jaynes here and forgot. Because of a marriage in which I often felt stupid, my life was changed when I read this book (after the divorce) and realized that I understood it and was illuminated by it. My self esteem rose markedly!

2. One book you have read more than once? Well, "Lord of the Rings", of course, but more importantly, "The Source" by James Michener. I was enthralled by the story he crafted to describe the millennia of human activity in one small area of the world, the human drama and tragedy and loves that took place there. I developed such an admiration for the Hebrew people because of it.

3. One book you would want on a desert island? I would want my great big unabridged dictionary, the one that was discarded by the junior high librarian where I worked partly because it fell open naturally to the word "fuck", after decades of teenage boy use (and, probably girls as well) but also because it was outdated. A dictionary means eternal entertainment. And I might try to sneak in a hymnal, either the latest Quaker or UCC edition. Why not the UU hymnal? because I already know every hymn in it.

4. One book that made you laugh? Patrick Dennis' "Auntie Mame". I reread that many times as well, just to re-savor the school where the little boy fish were fertilizing the little girl fish's eggs ("spread the sperm, Patrick, don't miss that little girl fish there!") and the trustee of Patrick's affairs went bonkers. The language is delicious, if outdated, and as a kid I imagined that my Aunt Hazel or my Aunt Mabel might have Mame-ish tendencies if they just could lighten up a bit.

5. One book that made you cry? I rarely get too choked up by a book, but as I was looking for something on my shelves, I saw the book I'd list here, as I read it at a time in my life when I felt I had been betrayed and cruelly treated by another woman minister. The book is "Woman's Inhumanity to Woman" by Phyllis Chesler. Then, of course, I had to consider whether I had ever been inhumane to another woman myself.

6. One book you wish had been written? I was in my second year of seminary before I learned what "theology" meant. As a UU, we hadn't talked much about theology in terms of what it meant in everyday life. I didn't know what "the great questions" were called, though I had thought about them. So I wish that a layperson's guide to theology had been available to me long ago, so that I knew what to call my ponderings. And, like CC, I had a book of my own in my head at one time which I wish I had gone farther with, but I got some discouraging advice from a writer friend and never completed it. (I think she was right, but it still would have been a thrill to get it done.)

7. One book you wish had never been written? I howl at Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels, but she really missed the boat with a sort of holiday-themed lightweight mystery series co-written with someone else. I can't think of the name of any of them, but they were awful and I thought she let herself and her readers down. Generally, though, I am not one to discourage any writing, even if it's dangerously inflammatory. Of course, The Protocols were pretty terrible.

8. One book you are currently reading? "A Sudden Country" by Karen Fisher, the story of a settler group on its way to Oregon and the relationships (legal and illicit) that form on that trip. I like it because I am pretty familiar with the Oregon Trail from Nebraska west to the Willamette Valley.

9. One book you have been meaning to read? Karen Armstrong's latest, "The Great Transformation". I have read lots of her other stuff but have not been able to get into this one. It's dense and complicated and less accessible. One book I have been meaning to re-read is Wendell Berry's "Jayber Crow", which is absolutely delicious.

Okay, I'm tagging anyone named Joel.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This just in.........

I got back a couple of hours ago from a memorable UUMA chapter retreat south of Seattle. The retreat featured one of the best "inservice" programs I've experienced in ministry: Rev. Paul Rasor of Virginia Wesleyan and "Unitarian Universalism and the Challenges of Religious Identity". I haven't talked much about theology with colleagues since I left seminary, and that's been a few years! I'm going to be using some of that experience as future blog entries, so stay tuned.

I did want to report on the Charades experience this time, which was pretty tame. Longtime Charade-ers objected a couple of years ago to my bringing a stack of books with great, awful titles, to get around the rule that 3 people needed to have heard of whatever title was being presented as a Charades item (I thought of it as adding to folks' knowledge base, not as a sneaky way to find impossible titles. Why won't you believe me?). I was operating on the familiar dictum that it is easier to get forgiveness than permission, but I was obviously not operating on the same ethical plane as my teammates, as everyone has given me a lot of flak ever since for what I thought was rather a clever idea. Anyhow, my generosity with resources fell flat that year and I've been careful to color within the lines ever since.

However, my team won, which is a switch. I guess virtue does have its rewards. Some of the better titles presented were "The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral MInd" (this title will appear later in the book meme with which CC has tagged me---you'll have to guess which category) and "Kinky Boots". I lucked out with "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" which Keith Kron got immediately; Keith is a bit of a children's lit expert and he was on our side. "Jamaican Farewell" got a lot of energy aroused, surprisingly, and inspired a bit of a song and dance routine by the colleagues. So tame, but a lot of fun, and an evening of nonstop laughter, which is always a good thing.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Getting ready to go on retreat

Every year at this time, our district ministers' chapter goes to a retreat center for four days of retreat and training. We go this Sunday to Palisades Retreat Center after solemnizing the ordination of a local candidate for UU ministry, always a celebratory occasion. We'll arrive at Palisades about 9 p.m., punchdrunk from a full day of preaching, processing, and then recessing to the sanctuary of a place where there will be no plaintive parishioners, no services to plan, no pastoral visits to make, no administrivia to delegate. Not that any of this will be far from our minds, but for those days, at least, we will not be on call. Except in cases of dire emergency, others will cover for us for this span of time.

Of course, a ministers' retreat is not all play and no work. In the dim dark past, retreats were mostly convivial, in the days when ministry was mostly a good ole boys' vocation. When women became more of a presence in the ordained ministry, things changed! Now a ministers' retreat always has some redeeming social value; we have preaching seminars and social action trainings and creativity modules and lots of worship, plus a lengthy business meeting. In addition, one of our longer-term colleagues presents his or her Odyssey, a recap of the life's journey that led the colleague into ministry and to this point in life.

But what we all look forward to, whether we are players or bystanders, is a cutthroat Charades game, which starts after the Odyssey is properly received and celebrated and lasts until one team of 12 or so players is vanquished (more or less) by the other team. Propriety prevents me from giving details but your imaginations can carry you far. Consider the possibilities: each team carefully plots the titles with which they will challenge the other team and the only firm rule is that at least three people on the presenting team MUST have real knowledge of the work, which could be a book, movie, TV show, song, opera, poem, or other literary or artistic opus. Consider that some of these folks have just come out of their studies, where they encountered things like "The Collected Works of ee cummings" or participated in stagings of The Vagina Monologues or have some inordinate fondness for obscure children's literature or indie films or odd PBS series. You get the picture.

No search committee will ever know what some of their prospective candidates have done in the name of Charades. No colleague will ever spill the beans on who did what when acting out "The Full Monty" or "Birth of a Nation". But it is the fodder of sly and amused glances at formal occasions, when so and so is being quite pompous and overbearing and we remember him or her when..........

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Roots and Wings

This last Sunday's sermon at Vashon, "Roots and Wings", was a look at UU history using those metaphors, roots being our history, wings being what we are doing with that history besides sitting on it.

Not too highbrow nor too casual (IMHO), the sermon presented several examples of Unitarian and Universalist contributions to the world at large (the normal Arius, Origen Priestley, Jefferson, Rush, Fuller, Emerson, Barton stuff), establishing pretty firmly the great roots from which UUism springs. I began my remarks by asking the congregation to tell me about their roots, where did their family come from and what were their religious roots, then segued into the history lesson.

After an aside to remark upon the connection of Unitarians and Universalists to the establishment of American democracy and the sacred texts of our nation, the sermon took a new tack, moving to the challenge of using the wings that UUism gives us to build upon the legacy of our religious ancestors. I liked the final paragraph of this sermon and reprint it here:

"Our roots are great. We can be proud of them. But we also need to exercise and use our wings. Our UU principles and purposes are the wind beneath our wings, but if we don’t use those wings, we are not fulfilling the promise of our faith. It doesn’t do us much good to brag about our roots if we aren’t willing to use the wings they gave us.
"At the beginning of this sermon, I asked you to tell me about your roots. Now I ask you, 'tell me about your wings.'"

And we moved to a time of silent reflection and prayer.

Today, at Whidbey, I met with the new Social Action committee, which has been commissioned to rethink our past SA efforts and consider how we as a congregation can more effectively use those wings (though they haven't even heard the sermon yet!), and I was amazed and delighted by their thinking and where they went with their ideas.

That there is a change in the global winds was evident to all these folks; they saw their challenge as using the change to effect substantive movement in society. The discussion was not about bandaid approaches to social action but systemic change. They came up with ideas that would begin to shift attitudes and behaviors in our corner of the world.

How can we use our congregation members' interest in gardening to address the problem of food security and the local food supply? How can we use our knowhow around energy conservation to increase the effectiveness of the local "Hearts and Hammers" work? Can we partner with anyone to restore local watersheds? How does classism affect our congregation and can we address it through our committee?

Wow! I've never worked with a social action committee/task force that thought in these terms! The Whidbey congregation is going to get the "Roots and Wings" sermon this coming Sunday and, judging from the responses of these volunteers, they have some answers when it comes to wings. I can hardly wait!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Home again, home again, jiggity jog...

After a terrific, busy weekend on Vashon Island with the Fellowship there, I'm home again on Cottontail Acres. I've read the interesting mail and saved the stack of catalogs to browse over breakfast or lunch tomorrow, made a list of what needs to be done tomorrow, paid the rent, and am ensconced at my trusty MacBook with Loosy the Love Cat on my lap purring madly, now that she has forgiven me for being gone four days. Lily is still looking at me askance.

On Friday when I went to Vashon (normally a 2+ hour trip including ferries), morning fog had screwed up the ferry schedule and I was late getting to a worship committee meeting, which they obligingly have on the Friday afternoon of my weekend there. I'm one of those folks who would rather be thirty minutes early than thirty seconds late (it's genetic---my dad was the same way), so it was excruciating, waiting in the endless ferry line for a boat and getting to the meeting an hour late.

The highlight of the weekend was a Friday night performance of Mozart's Magic Flute, abbreviated only slightly and including all the best songs and--get this-----performed by an all-island cast of opera singers. Real Opera Singers! No kidding! This bitsy island has a fabulous arts community and this performance was put on by locals who could have knocked the roof off of the Met! The Queen of the Night rocked the Methodist church, where the performance took place. Papageno was the local associate minister of a conservative community church. The three fairies were elementary school girls in tattered jeans who sang their trios so authoritatively you'd have thought they were pros.

Wow! What an experience! But it's good to be at home once again.