"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

China Free Toys

A little help for folks shopping for kids and going China-Free this year! I stumbled across this blog when checking to see if the Melissa and Doug item I had hoped to buy on Amazon (which doesn't give country of origin information for any of their products!!! Thanks for nothing, Amazon.) was made in China or not... I was shocked to find that Melissa and Doug items are usually Chinese made. They go on about their quality, but that's not so much the point as the exploitative nature of Chinese manufacture. But Huzzah, thanks to China-Free Toys Blog, I found an alternative.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent Sijo for Dave

Why the hurry? Why the rush?
Advent comes just once a year.
Waiting, fasting, expectation,
The savior draws near to us.
In human form, divinity--
And we waste it all at WalMart.

Friday, November 25, 2011

China Boycott, year two, day one.....

Thus begins my "Black Friday" to Christmas boycott of everything made in China, for the second year. I strongly encourage you all to participate in this! Last year resulted in fewer gifts, but all thought out, fun to give and interesting, elegant offerings. It made sense, to think about what we're doing, do less of it, and offer gifts to our loved ones which reflect our love for them rather than expressing our credit limits.

I drove by the local WalMart on the way back to my mother's house from my inlaws' Thanksgiving dinner. We'd stayed late at auntie-in-law's house (because my inlaws are frankly too much fun for words; these folks should have to come with a warning label) and as we drove by the WalMart parking lot at almost 11:00 pm on Thanksgiving we could see that the lot was already full, not just crowded or busy but space by space from close to the farthest corner of the concrete jungle, full. Full of people mindlessly giving up a relaxing family time, replete and mellow with dinner's afterglow, whose families are obviously not fun enough to wear warning labels in their estimation, who failed to take the time to enjoy one another. Full of people mindlessly looking for deals, submitting to marketing, being flooded with Christmas mutations that scream over stuff. Full of people pouring dollars into China, forced abortions, environmental sabotage, sweatshops, and abused North Korean refugees, in order to buy cheap plastic junk that will collect dust until it breaks and joins the rest of the holiday hoorah in the local landfills. Greedy people encouraging greedy industry at every level.

Whatever your political drum, mindless merchandise is societal death. It brings out the worst in us.

Will I shop today? probably not. But I might venture out. My mother has found a small local shopkeeper, a candle seller here in Knoxville, who expressed to her in casual conversation that she's no longer carrying merchandise made in China. I don't know about buying anything, but I think we may venture over. I'd like to meet her. Thank her. And if the product suits, I might even financially support her courage by buying a few appropriate gifts there.

Other gifts, for those of you who would like to follow in my tracks from last year, have come from the Hunger Site for lovely gifts that give back and Shepherd's Flock a locally grown business where you can actually get to know the people who make the things that keep your toes and ears warm.

So happy hunting. Enjoy the sport of it. Give gifts that give back. Think about those you love. And glorify God in the giving. Anything less is not worthy of the joy and mystery of the Christmas that's coming.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Miles to go before we sleep....

Well, we're taking our show on the road again. They say that in England a hundred miles is a long way and in America a hundred years is a long time. Very well. A hundred miles doesn't seem like much to the American road-tripper, but oh five hundred miles in a station wagon with three kids sure does wear thin. I dread the trip, I complained about it before we were even a hundred miles from home. I got bored, and I got silly. I'll spare you the video I made as we were headding down the endless highway.

There's nothing like a good old American road trip to remind us how big our world is. We may say the world is getting smaller, with our cars, computers and jet airplanes, but slowed down to daily life, we see very little of the world. Our scope is so limited. Slowed down to the speed of a walk, a horse, we're small indeed.

Anyway, I dread the ride back. I'll likely get bored. But for now here I am. And maybe I'll figure some great cosmic truth out on the way home.

Or maybe I'll just go out of my mind with boredom and start watching the kids' cartoons on my iPod and let them fend for themselves. They're strapped down back there; how much damage can they possibly do?

(Don't answer that!)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Now We are Six

My littlest kiddo is six years old today. He's been hanging around our house and eating our food for just over five of those years. Its hard to believe how fast time flies. In another five years our eldest will be off at some college somewhere (God willing).

Anyway, little guy is six. The hugs are good. He's reading a bit. He's great at math and taekwondo. He's got a neat sense of humor... I guess we'll keep him.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pleasant Surprises

I had forgotten; church planting is all about surprises. Some of them not so pleasant, like the police showing up at Edgeworth one fateful night or the multitude of forgotten items that are not where they're supposed to be when they're needed. Those surprises are somehow more easily remembered, they're the stuff of stories. And when the parish is ten years old, they're told at reunions and celebrations over bad parish coffee in the undercroft. But the pleasant surprises fade too quickly and need more to be recorded.

Today we had a visit from Dave (aka OlDave who kindly comments from time to time) and from a friend of the organist who had poked his head in at the old place a few times in recent weeks. I had felt that we weren't ready for guests, we hadn't gotten our liturgical space down quite and things still went bump at the altar. I'd been reluctant to invite folks because we weren't polished.

Too many years in theater in my misspent youth.

Worship isn't a show. It isn't going to be polished. Its about us coming before God's altar to be polished up. And its pride which stands between us and inviting friends to church, almost always.

And I had forgotten that until guests did show up. And no, things weren't polished (one of the -- brand spankin' new first time we'd managed to get candles on the altar ever -- candles almost made more of a light than we had intended (thanks we think to a localized draft from the main doors) and there's still that typo in the service book that I keep forgetting to mention to the rector, and I'm sure any number of other blips that mean nothing to God. The bigger blips are in us, not things that just happen.

Anyway, I guess that means the parish is open for business... we're not hanging out a sign just yet, but if you want directions, you know how to ask. :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans' Day, Prosperity, and Just Not Getting It.

We get told a lot that we should support our troops. And I'm on board with that. But as a GenX American, I don't have any clue about how supporting our troops is accomplished. It doesn't seem to me that waving our flag and rah-rah'ing America supports much of anybody except our self-congratulatory self-esteem, self-serving feelings.

Everyone's pretty clear that hollering "bring them home" isn't support, although I'm pretty firmly convinced that wasting their lives in foolish wars is neither supporting them nor preparing our country in the event a not-so-foolish war breaks into our common life. But in an all volunteer army, I can see how shouting "bring them home" is almost insulting, how it says to the manliest men America has that they're not able to figure out what is a wise use of their lifeblood and what is a fools errand.

In wars of old the people rationed stuff. Maybe that's part of the problem. We have too much stuff. Civilians don't have to sacrifice for our troops. And it is all too clear to those who are risking and sacrificing daily that we wouldn't, as a nation, be willing to sacrifice. We're glad to have a military class go off and sacrifice, we have people to do that, daaaahling.

Yellow Ribbon Girls are a sweet organization that sends useful stuff to soldiers, like sunscreen and snacks and encouraging letters. I guess that is support and I'm sure its appreciated. But it seems kind of paltry compared to the Greatest Generation's war rations and rubber drives and so forth. And how many people have even heard of the Yellow Ribbon Girls? Yeah. Figured.

I don't know. I think its cool that we have an all volunteer military. I don't believe that countries that can't muster an army without coersion have any business going to war. A volunteer army is a passionate army and that's the stuff real leadership is made of.

But I don't believe that most of the wars we fight are just wars or even "protecting our way of life" these days. Our leaders seem to expend life foolishly, though I admit that they know much that I don't know. I know I would never have sent men off to fight and die in Korea, if I'd been alive in the Fifties, but I also know in that hindsight that's 20/20 that the US Alliance with South Korea bore tremendous fruit on that penninsula (and my youngest kiddo is part of that fruit).

I do have little patience with the icon going around facebook right now that says "Thanksgiving is a day when we pause to give thanks for what we have; Veterans' Day is a day when we pause to give thanks to the people who fought for the things we have." Way to trivialize our lives to our stuff. I hope nobody ever feels called to fight and die for my "things."

I'll admit, I don't say the Pledge or wave the flag. I have one allegiance and my earthly country isn't it. But I do think we can do a heck of a lot better as Christians in loving the people who are called to the military life; men who feel the need to put their lives on the line (whether we think foolishly or not) for the sake of others. But I look around me and I see a bunch of people who wag flags around (and make them into such things as shirts and swimsuits... is patriotism really about wearing your flag on your butt?? That makes no sense to me!) and hoot and holler but sacrifice nothing and love little.

And frankly, I just don't get it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Begin-againdings

I am one of those unfortunate souls who rather likes to let everything pile up on my desk until it becomes such an overwhelming mess that I knock the whole thing into the trash bin and start over. I said to my husband tonight, wouldn't it be nice to throw out everything we own and start again? Partly that's because I have that intuitive perceiver personality type that just goes with the moment until the moment arrives that things have gotten out of control. Partly its due to my personal value for running life lean enough to turn on a dime. I'm not good at it (as my body shape and house clutter both attest) but I value it.

Its rare, in life, that you get the opportunity to knock everything off the table and start over. A major move, perhaps, but that's about all I can think of. And since throwing out the baby with the bathwater is patently unhealthy, I suppose its right that the opportunity be rare.

But that is, vocationally, what a friend and I have done. Sunday was our last Sunday in an established church, one with a real roof and floor, a mailing address and place to keep our stuff. After years of telling the congregation that they had to be willing to let the building and all its contents go, we did just that. We dared to walk away. We now store the entire inventory of our congregation's stuff in a box under the table in my hallway.

Its been ten years since I lived this lifestyle, passing off 'the mobile sacristy' from one car to another, making checklists of what needed to be in 'the box' each week, forgetting things and making do, watching after one another in the event the forgotten stuff wasn't mine, doing all the weird tasks of the church because there's not yet someone who likes to do the behind the scenes stuff like baking bread and buying wine (although we have a lady who washes the linens, may God grant her many years).

But its easier this time, in some ways. There's no mother church to split our time with (though I wouldn't trade the years at Grace in both places for anything). There's heat and light (though Grace in the Mausoleum was utterly wonderous beyond words). But I feel, without that mother church, profoundly that we're on our own out there. Its just us and our meager gifts and the grace of God. And I tend to see the grace of God as if through the wrong end of a telescope, sometimes, as further away and smaller than reality would indicate.

Its different and kind of free-floating. I've served a couple of parishes that spoil their clergy, picking up after me as I go along. There's no one to pick up after me here.

But everythings is fresh and new. I'm good at beginnings. Its endings that I don't do so well. I resonate well with a God who makes all things new.

Anyway, that's the long way of saying, wish us luck. We're church planters again. And that's kind of groovy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ancestor Worship and the Episcopal Church

No tricks, but treats, prayer, music as Episcopalians honor the departed in weekend of celebrations

By Pat McCaughan, October 28, 2011

 

[Episcopal News Service] "Trunks or treats," ghoulishly gripping music, eek-o friendly organic pumpkin giveaways, and commemorative ancestor altars — both real and virtual — are just some of the ways Episcopal churches are planning to observe the tricky triduum of Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

All three holidays — Halloween or All Hallow's Eve on Oct. 31, All Saints Day on Nov. 1 and the Nov. 2 All Souls Day celebration, also known as the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed — are meant for prayers and remembrance of those who have died. In Latin American culture, Dia de los Muertos is observed Nov. 1-2, and is also a day to remember the beloved departed….

Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park, Illinois in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago participated in an Oct. 15 communitywide "Green Halloween," according to the Rev. Shawn Schreiner, rector.

Billed as "the healthy, eek-o friendly and fun revolution," Green Halloween is a four-year-old program that began in Seattle and has spread to more than 70 U.S. cities this year, according to the organization's website. It aims to create child and earth-friendly holiday traditions, beginning with Halloween.

Schreiner said Grace served as the registration site, handing out little organic pumpkins to trick or treaters and other visitors to local businesses. "We had a D.J. playing music as well and offered organic apple cider and passed out organic popcorn to folks as they were coming in and sending them forth."

The event "was a new opportunity to step it up a level to begin to have some conversations and sermons around carbon footprint and what it means to make it a healthy environment for those of us here today and for those who will inherit what we have done or have not done," said Schreiner….

…On Oct. 27 Lupe Garcia, 35, spent several hours creating a three-tiered altar for the annual Dia de Los Muertos observance at Immanuel Episcopal Church, El Monte in the Diocese of Los Angeles…..

…Because her grandmother loved honey, Garcia placed a jar of the gooey goodie on the altar, along with pan de muerto, bread of the dead -- white sweetbread shaped in the form of a cross and sugar-coated.

She also placed mementoes in honor of about eight others of her extended family, and two of her children, Emanuel and Lupita, who were stillborn, on the altar. Along with photos are edible pumpkin, coffee and even a beer bottle for a relative who enjoyed a cerveza now and then.

Despite its skeletons and sugar skulls, the Day of the Dead is not another version of Halloween ghosts and goblins, but a day of remembrance for loved ones who have died, said the Rev. Gary Bradley, Immanuel's rector.

According to Latin and Central American tradition, spirits of loved ones return on Dia de los Muertos — Nov. 1 or All Saints for children and All Souls on Nov. 2 for adults — and need refreshments, so favorite foods and beverages are placed on the altars for them.

Sugar skulls bearing the names of those commemorated are also placed on the altar, along with flores de muerto, flowers of the dead, cempasuchil or gold marigolds, and candles. The marigolds are sometimes strewn along the way, to help the beloved departed find their way to the altars, he said.

The rest can be found here.

Yes, brothers and sisters… “Eek-o-friendly” indeed.  Sermons on the carbon footprint, ancestor worship, Latin Paganism… these are a few of TEC’s favorite things, apparently.  Good lord deliver us. 

Totally off any sort of topic this blog may have ever had: Restaurant Review, Saga in Cranberry Township PA

I tried to write all this to Saga's management directly on their web page, but apparently you can only send them short pithy remarks. So I've directed them here, and you can all share in my letter to the management. You might want to take a break first and pop popcorn. It promises to be lengthy and entertaining. I am nothing if not entertaining, right gentle readers?

To: Saga Restaurants

Dear sir,
After our recent visit to your Cranberry Township restaurant, our first (and last) visit to Saga, I felt it worthwhile that you be aware of the sort of experience your customers are receiving.
We arrived on time for our 6:30 reservation on Saturday 11/5. After waiting in a somewhat cramped space behind the party that came in right before us for a while (along with a second party that joined us and cut through to be seated somehow that seemed at the time to make a little sense) the other party was seated and we were told that we would be seated shortly. A few moments later, the hostess informed us that we would be delayed "a few minutes while we find some menus." I was unaware until this time that the Menu is a rare and endangered exotic animal which much be stalked slowly through the kitchens and storage rooms of restaurant chains. I formerly believed that they were inanimate, incapable of hiding themselves either by methods of concealment or escape, usually made of mere paper and easily located by restaurant staff. I am now more sophisticated in my understanding of this rare and fanatstical creature.
Apparently finding menus involves two members of the front end staff taking extensive pictures for an overdressed party of late-teens or early twentysomethings, presumably a late Homecoming event. After several minutes of watching their photos being made, we were again addressed and informed that they were still having trouble finding those menus. I was close to pointing out the small pile of take-out menus on the front desk next to me, when we were ushered to our seats. Take-out menus, however, must be the protected young of the endangered menu-beast and unacceptable for hunting. These grazed freely and unmolested on the desk.
All in all this was nothing more than an amusement, lasting perhaps 10-15 minutes. Within a resonable time after being seated, a soft spoken waitress took the order for our party of five (including two small children).
Appetizers were brought within a reasonable time expectation, and the crab rangoon was quite good. We were a little alarmed to find the soggy receipt for a previous customer attached firmly to the bottom of the plate containing the edamame we ordered, but otherwise nothing was out of place. (For the record, the receipt was not for edamame but for drinks and how it came to be attached to the bottom of the dish is absolutely beyond comprehension unless it was being trained in the escape and concealment skills of the menu-beast.)
During the course of our appetizer, a second family (including another two small children) was seated at our grill section. Knowing the routine in places like this, we expected this would cause delay. We had no idea how much delay we were in for!
I must say at this point that the restaurant is well named. What proceded was a meal of epic porportions, a true saga indeed. While our soup was being brought to our table, I noticed another grill section being filled with people across the restaurant from us. These folks having arrived about half an hour after us, and about twenty minutes after the second family at our table would eventually see a chef far faster than we did.
Our soup was brought, and salads, and that was the last we saw of the wait staff. There was not even so much as a refill on my husband's cup of tea for the next half an hour. In the course of serving the soup, the waitress spilt a noticble amount of soup on the floor, but no effort was made to clean it up. On further reflection, it may be that the waitress was a secret agent for the protection of the menu-beast and the soup perhaps is how these are fed in the wild. When our chef arrived I was concerned that he might slip in the soup puddle, but perhaps unobserved the menubeast had slurped it up in the intervening hour.
After waiting at the table for a full hour, seeing other families come and go, and noting that families seated later than us had already received their entrees, our family became understandibly irritable. The children began to melt off of their seats in one direction or another, their patience exhausted. We began giving forlorn looks to any staff person who passed our table, but apparently they had all been well trained in ignoring puppy-dog-eyes. Another family was seated at the grill across from ours and we considered slipping them a note saying "run while you can."
Eventually an employee slowed near our table long enough for me to ask "Will there be dinner tonight." He looked appropriately confused by my remark and made no reply, but a waitress returned within five minutes promising that there would be a chef at our table "soon."
It was one hour and fifteen minutes after seating that we finally saw our chef. All the other chefs were high-energy and by the time ours arrived we were rather dreading the show. We were fortunate to have a chef who was able to sense that we weren't interested in being much entertained. He was delightful and didn't push the showmanship too far. We also ended up with a second chef croweded into the area, as the other party apparently merited much faster service.
It was fully two and a half hours that we ended up spending on this dinner and just over $100. At no time did a waitress come by and ask if our food was okay or our experience satisfactory. After the chef left, we never heard a single word from the wait staff. They also took a rather long time processing our credit card. Perhaps they were again distracted with the need to hunt for menus for another family.
While we understand that a Saturday night is a busy time in a restaurant, Saga was far from capacity and made no attempt to acknowledge or apologize for the slow service. Our meal was overpriced (and our rice undercooked) and mediocre.
I am not writing because I want coupons (trust me, you can keep them). I am writing because I am the daughter of a small business owner and my father would have wanted to know if his clientele was dissatisfied. I presume that you should want to know these things also.
On second thought, perhaps the menu is so rare in this establishment because starving patrons have resorted to eating them in order to survive.
We won't be back.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Eastern Orthodox News: Quick Someone Get That Man a Terrible Towel

Found here!

Appointment humbles new Orthodox bishop

Saturday, November 05, 2011

By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


A tech-savvy scholar and commentator on popular culture has been elected metropolitan bishop of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh.

Bishop Savas of Troas, a 54-year-old native of Gary, Ind., will succeed Metropolitan Maximos, who resigned Sept. 1 for health reasons after 32 years as bishop.

"I'm humbled. It's a very big thing to be entrusted with a metropolis, but especially to follow in the footsteps of such a good and holy man as Metropolitan Maximos," Metropolitan Savas said Friday.

The bishops at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, Turkey, elected him Thursday from atop a list of three candidates chosen by the bishops of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Despite his monastic garb and Oxford University doctorate, he said, "I'm from a steel town in Indiana, so I have an affinity for places like Pittsburgh."

He offered to forsake his NFL team in New York, citing the presence of Steelers defensive back Troy Polamalu.

Welcome to Pittsburgh Metropolitan Savas.

Diocesan Convention

This morning the diocese of Pittsburgh welcomed 21 new parishes, missions, and mission in formation congregations. More of them are beyond the "Burgh" than local, and it must be an overwhelming thing to meet with the "beyond the Burgh" district caucuses. Pittsburgh is everywhere, and with tipping our balance a little outside the local Pittsburgh village, everywhere is coming to be Pittsburgh.

We got the first peep of a church that will be leaving us to be joining their own diocese, and by this time next year we may be bidding them fare-well. And as mutterings come to fruition, I expect more church plants to be accepted next year.

On the legislative front, the convention is, as was said of last year's event, 'boring.' But relationally, dynamically, in our character and fellowship, we're anything but boring. I spent lunch today with Pittsburgh leaders from California and Wisconsin, break with Springield, MO. We're raising up churches (and therefore deacons) from coast to coast. And we're faced with how to export our resources and successes and grow because of who and what are being imported, however temporarily.

It is cool to be in Pittsburgh.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Student Suspended for Breaking School's Zero-Tolerance No-Hugging Policy

PALM BAY, Fla. – A 14-year-old Florida student who hugged his friend was suspended as a result of his middle school's zero-tolerance no-hugging policy, myFOXorlando.com reported.

Nick Martinez said he gave a quick hug to his best friend, a female student, between classes.

The public display of affection was spotted by the principal of Palm Bay's Southwest Middle School, 74 miles southeast of Orlando. While the principal said he believed the hug was innocent, he brought the two students to the school's dean, who penalized them with in-school suspensions.

According to the Southwest Middle School's student handbook, students can receive a one-day out-of-school suspension for kissing, while students caught hugging or hand-holding are penalized with a dean's detention or suspension.

School administrators said a committee of parents approved the "no hugging" policy years ago, and there aren't plans to change it any time soon.

The school's strict policy stipulates that there is no difference between an unwanted hug, or sexual harassment, and a hug between friends.

Christine Davis, spokesman for Brevard County School said the school's "focus is on learning; therefore, we cannot discriminate or make an opinion on what is an appropriate hug, what's not an appropriate hug," said Davis. "What you may think is appropriate, another person may view as inappropriate."

"A lot of friends are hugging. I just happened to be the one caught doing it," Nick said. "Honestly, I didn't know because I didn't think hugging was a bad thing. I didn't know you could get suspended for it."

Nick's mother, Nancy Crecente, said she plans to ask the school board to change the policy.

I went to school with some guys who would have never survived high school if they were suspended every time they hugged a girl. One of them, a sweet guy who never meant anything inappropriate, was so notorious for hugging us girls, that one April Fool's day we got the vice principal involved in a prank that looked just like the reality posted above. Our friend was called in and written up for "Public Displays of Affection" and it wasn't until he'd gotten the whole treatment that the vice principal handed him an envelope (aka "letter home") that was really a note from his friends saying we'd hoaxed him.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

What I find most amazing is the principal saying that because the focus is on learning they can't discriminate between a hug and harrassment. Last I checked, learning was all about discriminating between right and wrong, good and bad, correct and incorrect. Its like saying that because the focus is on writing they can't be bothered to teach research methods. Who are these people?

The mother of course, plans to take this to the school board. Good for her. But may I suggest she simply vote with her feet. Get her kid out of there.

And newsflash to school systems: in-school suspension is far worse for the kid than at home suspension. I never knew why schools deluded themselves into thinking it was the other way around. Heck there's all sorts of cool stuff to do at home. School is not the priviledge you think it is. And sitting in the suspension room staring at a wall is only moderately less boring than what most kids experience in the classroom anyway.