Saturday, November 24, 2007


I have just finished reading two books at the same time. This is really not so unusual in the sense that I am part way through several books at any given time. But these two have both been commanding my attention to such a degree that I read them both just about every day.

It struck me today that they represent the balance of Christian life:

loving God and loving and serving other people.

The Covenant Disciple Group movement, which I love so much for the sense of authenticity I see in it, is rooted in this very idea....that to live a balanced life involves being intentional about public worship and justice, and personal devotion and compassion.

Eat, Pray, Love is in one of my favorite genres: personal spiritual autobiography. (Not sure that is an actual name of actual genre...but basically it is Gilbert's personal story of her faith journey.) After a difficult divorce, Gilbert spends 4 months in Italy (eating) and enjoying herself, then four months at an Ashram in India, doing yoga and meditating, then four months in Indonesia (Bali to be exact) learning to integrate pleasure and devotion. She ultimately falls in love with a new man. Her descriptions of experiencing transcendence, of meditating and being transported into God's presence left me longing for that type of experience too.

Irresistible Revolution
is more of a theology book, written very accessibly, which is really part autobiography and part Bible study, calling the church to some serious action. If we really believe in loving our enemies, and that God's Kingdom is found on the margins and among unlikely (and generally poor) people, then the church should be practicing these things. Claiborne is one of the founding members of the The Simple Way. This is a community in Philadelphia that lives in a poor section of the city, in solidarity with the neighborhood, trying to love people as Jesus does. They live as simply as possible, and do all kinds of things to bless those around them, with things like a community garden, after school tutoring, food assistance, etc. They are a part of a movement called "new monasticism"

It also strikes me that both of these authors are around my age. This did not really strike me until I had completed both books. I think this is part of the reason I really resonated with both of these authors...we are part of the same tribe. (Note: it is an odd feeling to realize that from now on, more and more authors will be my age. I think I am going to enjoy reading even more, if such a thing is possible.)

These books leave me longing for an even deeper faith life. I want it all (Lord, help me, it's true). I want a prayer life that transports me into the presence of God, and a public life that is dedicated to ministry on the margins of society (a.k.a. the heart of God's Kingdom)

My husband and I have been talking about trying (for a month) to live on minimum wage as a way of being in solidarity with people who work hard and end up with far too little. This feels like a good next step. We are looking at January.

I also want to go and visit some of the new monastic communities...and who knows, perhaps someday, an Ashram! (In the meantime, I think some more intentional yoga is in order.)

What I really want is live the most authentic life of faith that I can...these books have opened doors in my imagination of what is possible.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Gift

I received a precious gift this morning. It came in the form of a phone call from a woman I first met more than eight years ago. She was a member of the church I served before coming to Chesapeake City. Laura (not her real name) was a woman who was seeking after all the big answers when we first met. She was depressed, unhappy in her marriage, struggling with her nearly grown children, and genuinely trying to figure out how to live well. She and I spent many hours together in worship, Bible study, service, and around her kitchen table. I came to care deeply for her.

I like to joke that I never received my magic God wand in the mail. I had hoped it would finally arrive when I was ordained, but alas, it seems to have gotten lost in the mail. I have so many uses for a magic God wand!

In absence of that, I listened, prayed, and tried to love Laura. She tried to figure out how to open herself up to God and learn to trust and to be loved.

She called this morning to say thank you for letting God use me to bless her. She has relocated a bit north. She has accepted her marriage for what it is, and is not. She has accepted her children. Most of all, she has been blessed by her relationship with God. She even landed in my home church. Small world.

As we were studying Scripture this morning, the lectionary gospel lesson is the crucifixion story in Luke 23. Just after Jesus cries out "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" the guards begin casting lots for his clothing. They don't even register what Jesus has just said. Then someone challenges Jesus to save himself, if he is who he says it is. But that was not the appointed hour. The appointed hour was still three days away, when he would rise, overcoming sin and death. How difficult it must have been to endure the time for what it was, trusting God in the midst of his suffering.

Every time I sit, listen, cry, and pray with someone, I long for God to heal them, to heal me, to end this difficult time. Usually, it is not yet the time. The healing, the resurrection, is coming. But I spend most of my time in the not yet. What a gift to be given another glimpse of God's faithfulness, love, and healing.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I finished reading Barbara Kinlsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food of Life. It was a great read that has influenced my thinking.

The premise of the book is that she and her family focused for a year on eating almost entirely locally. They did this for multiple reasons. First, out of concern for the environment-so much of our food is shipped from such distances that the fuel alone is hard on creation.

Second, out of a desire to eat really good food, which is best when it is in season and fresh (and of course free of chemicals and pesticides).

Third, out a desire to bless the local economy, believing that if all people ate locally, farmers would be able to make a living with sustainable, organic agriculture. Agribusiness farming practices include horrible animal conditions and producing tomatoes based upon their ability to ship well as opposed to taste good.

Finally, agribusiness farming is leading to a shocking drop of biodiversity on our planet (thousands of plant species that were once raised by farmers around the world are just gone from the planet now) being replaced by genetically modified foods. I do find it a persuasive argument that we could be courting disaster (famine) with genetic modification and limited diversity. It strikes me that playing God is never safe.

Changing my ways...

The idea of buying locally, organic, and free range seems so obvious now. I am surrounded by great opportunities. I just need to take advantage of them. There is Locust Point Farm which is less than 2 miles from my home, as well as Nickerson's Meats a few miles in the other direction, and Rumbleway farm on the other side of the county that is certified organic. (If you click on the Locust Point farm link, you'll see them all listed along with others.)

At Locust Point, I can get eggs fresh off of the farm, organic milk and cheese from free range cows brought from Chambersburg PA (not exactly local, but certainly better), and fresh free range chicken they raise, as well as local beef, pork, etc.

Detwilers Farmers Market is on the same road (Locust Point, just down from Baker's Restaurant). They offer fresh local produce from spring through fall, along with baked goods, eggs, jelly, etc.

Then there is the farmers market that opened in Middletown, the farmers market on Kirkwood Hwy. in Newark, and the market in New Castle on Route 13. (I am not sure about the one in Elkton. I didn't find anything local or organic at that one.) Granted, not all of these are offering all local goods, but I have a much better chance there.

And my best year round option for local, fresh, organic food is at Newark Natural Foods Co-Op. They have a real live farmers market with local farmers Spring, Summer, and Fall on Sundays from 10-2. In addition, the co-op is a year round great source of just about everything.

Finally, I discovered Calvert Farm which offers a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription. They offer farm fresh produce, delivered weekly to many locations, including the Newark Co-op. So I am finally going to subscribe to one (I have contemplated in the past).

I have also been inspired to begin using my bread machine again, using organic flour and such.

Last but not least, I want to learn to make cheese. Yes, that is typed correctly. I want to learn to make cheese. In the book, Kingsolver has a recipe for mozzarella in 30 minutes. Who knew making cheese is about as simple as having milk, the right cultures, and a few other ingredients! I am hoping to receive the cookbook for Christmas (if I can wait that long).

I have to confess, though, that a big part of the book was about their garden. Ray and I have tried a garden for the past four summers. We are just not good gardeners. So the jury is still out as to whether will again be trying to be produce food as local as our back yard.

I recommend the book. It is as entertaining as it is interesting and informative. Regardless of whether you read it or not, I invite you to join with me in eating more locally and in season. It's good for people and good for creation.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

This is the difference...

On Sunday evening, we hosted some clergy family friends at the house for dinner. Ray and I are most motivated to clean house in response to someone coming over. The dining room table was cleared for the first time since August 25 (Jacob's 3rd Birthday party). The clutter from all over the house was either sorted through and thrown away, or hidden in the basement.

As I was making dinner preparations, Ray was doing a great job of leading the cleaning brigade. Jacob is able to push the vacuum cleaner, which he loves. Shannon was into polishing the dining room chairs. Ray sprayed on the wood polish, and Shannon dusted her little heart out.

We even got out the china, which we have not done in more than a year, I am sure. I was embarrassed to discover that some of the dishes still have sale stickers on them. Mind you, we have been married for 12 years.

As we were all going about our tasks, Shannon paused and said "this is the difference between having cousins over for dinner and other people over for dinner."

We all had a good laugh. My daughter sure is an observant 5 year old.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Beautiful Day

I was sitting in our staff meeting this morning, looking at the beautiful fall colors appearing outside my window, noticing the gently swaying tree limbs in the autumn wind. I had a strong desire to be outside, walking around.

As soon as the meeting was over, I went out for a walk. I was entirely enchanted with Chesapeake City. I try not to shop unless I need things (too tempting to buy things that I do not need), but since I was without my wallet, it was fairly safe. I browsed through several gift shops. I went into Vulcan's Rest, where people can learn to knit, crotchet, weave, make baskets, quilt, and do other things I have never heard of. I thought to myself how many people have such an amazing store like this in walking distance? Here I serve in this beautiful little town, full of lovely shops, restaurants, B&Bs, that is all on the water...and how often do I get out and just enjoy it?

As I walked around town, I thought about how much I am enjoying life (especially since I have given up feeling overwhelmed!) and how I really should just enjoy every day more. Then I went to lunch with six other people from church and had a lovely time.

Then, I started feeling guilty. Shouldn't I be concerned about feeling complacent and comfortable? Shouldn't I feel a sense of urgency? Shouldn't I be suffering for the sake of the gospel?

And I wonder why it is so difficult to just enjoy the life God has given me.

So, perhaps I need to add "give up feeling guilty for enjoying myself" to my list of things to give up...