Monday, June 25, 2012

The day Katie went to college

When my youngest brother Sam was 8 years old I left for college.  In my apartment hangs the essay he wrote about that day aptly titled "The Day Katie Went to College."  Are you ready for an amazing opening paragraph? 

"It was an early fall day and it was one of the saddest days of my life.  I knew it was time for my sister, Katie, to go to college.  I felt horrible because I loved her and I thought I wouldn't get to see her again."   

Does anyone have a fresh tissue about...because it's getting misty.

Happily Sam learns you do get to see your siblings once they leave for college.  "Now when Katie leaves I don't need to cry because I know I will see her again."  Shoo.  I can't handle the thought of a sad 8 year old Sam.  Did you need a picture of Sam as a boy?  Okay.  Here's 5 year old Sam afflicted with chicken pox.  Though sickly, he is not ill-prepared for battle.  Also sunlight.  He's ready for that too.

For much of my life I've lived far away from Sam, but not this summer!  On Thursday Sam moves to Washington, DC for six weeks for a Congressional internship.  I'm so excited!  He'll be living in the city with all the cool cats, but we'll get to hang out and go to baseball games.  I can't wait!  Sam has grown into a wonderful young man.  I'm proud of him.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I dreamed a dream

Due to a late 1990s marching band rivalry, Les Miserables and Katie didn't start off as friends.  I wish I could say "It's a long story" but it's not.  I practiced loyalty to my fellow band geeks (said lovingly) by expressing disdain for all other shows.

Later in life I learned about Jean Valjean and the priest.  I learned about the stolen bread and silver.  The story captured me.  When Jean Valjean is caught by the police for stealing from the priest, the priest forgives him without reason.

Bishop: Now Don't Forget, Don't ever Forget, you've promised to become a new man. 
Jean Valjean: Promise? Wha, Why are you doing this? 
Bishop: Jean Valjean my brother you no longer belong to evil. With this silver, I have bought your soul. I've ransomed you from fear and hatred, and now I give you back to God. 

It's quite a moment.  You can almost feel the redemption and grace.  

I haven't yet read the book but I have seen both the movie and theater production. A few summers ago my parents and I saw Les Mis at an outdoor theater.  It was marvelous!  Icing on the cake:  Dad flew on Southwest Airlines with the entire cast the next day.  Clearly they were not in character but imagine what could have been if Dad stepped out.  Dad:  "Please pass me the peanuts fine sir."

Javert:  "You stole those peanuts for your family!  THEY ARE NOT FREE ANYMORE.  Nothing is free.  I will arrest you and make you pay."

Okay so that would not happen. has come to my attention Les Miserables is hitting the big screen!  I saw the trailer and got goosebumps all over.  I can't wait until Christmas.  Here it is:

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Way

Last week we watched “The Way” on our church staff retreat.  It’s a story of a grieving father who walks El camino de Santiago.  Tom (Martin Sheen) doesn’t intend to be a pilgrim, but somehow he finds himself walking.  It’s an intimate look at Tom’s life and pain. 

It's a beautiful movie.

What’s most stirring is how real the film is—how normal it feels.  We overuse the words ‘authentic’ and ‘real’ but I can’t think of another way to describe it.  It’s stripped bare of bells and whistles and there's no Hollywood glam.  Rather, I felt like I knew Tom.   His grief is raw and prolonged, but not contrived.  There’s not an overt tug at your heartstrings.  It’s simply real life happening in front of you.

The film could seem slow for that reason, but not if you approach it as if you’re watching someone walk through their pain.  Viewed through this lens the film can help us.  Who among us hasn’t watched someone walk through pain?  We scramble for words.  We want someone to tell us what to do.  There has to be something to do.

But really the only things we should do are pray and walk with—not walk for or even walk to—but with.  When we walk with we share the load.  We share the burden.  We share anger, laughter and tears. 

The journey of grief can seem endless for the weary traveller, but hope surfaces when others join the pilgrimage.

Note:  The film is PG-13.  Check out a review on Christianity Today.    

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Trouble with Angels

We talk a lot about calling in the church.  I can't count how many times I've leaned on Frederick Buechner's description:  "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the  world's deep hunger meet."  I love that.

If you were to rewind my life you would note a couple of worn out VHS tapes.  Muppet Musicians of Bremen, Christmas Toy and Splash probably top the list but rounding out the favorites is The Trouble with Angels.

The Trouble with Angels stars Hayley Mills.  (Lindsay Lohan is not the real star of Parent Trap, friends.)  The Trouble with Angels is about two precocious teenagers sent off to Catholic boarding school.  Mary and Rachel are thick as thieves and wreak hilarious havoc on the nuns and students. You can actually feel the prank coming!  A cheshire cat grin fills Mary's face as she says "I've got the most scathingly brilliant idea!"  Mary teases her cousin Marvel-Ann (awesome name) to no end and is caught red-handed over and again.  It's really quite funny.

As Mary and Rachel grow and mature so does their sense of purpose.  Mary's "deep gladness" almost sneaks up on her.  The very patient Reverend Mother helps Mary and Rachel listen to God.  It's a poignant picture of the sometimes surprising nature of call.  I really want to tell you what happens, but I really want you to watch the whole thing right now.  Rent it.  Borrow it from me.

The Trouble with Angels helped teach me God calls all kinds of people to do God's work:  silly, serious, mischievous, extroverted, introverted, loud, quiet, young, old, confident, unassuming, people we expect and others who might make our jaws drop.  If you don't believe me there is a book I might suggest...da Bible.  It is filled with called folks of all kinds.

Call is a lightning bolt for some and a journey for others.  No matter the speed all Christians need patient mentors.  Why pray tell?  Friends, it takes a gifted mentor to look beyond laundry detergent in the sugar bowl.  I mean, that's hilarious and all but not so much to a gathering of serious nuns.

Here's hoping a little Reverend Mother can rub off on all of us.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A tranquil space no more

Last night I went to the gym. There was a sign posted on the classroom door in all caps with red and black ink.  DO NOT ENTER WHILE YOGA IS IN SESSION.  I get it and I definitely won't do it; but the sign did remind me of a few years back when I did do the yoga-ing frequently...

There was a day when I met a church pal at the gym twice a week at 6:00 a.m.  (It's amazing to me too.)  When the alarm went off I would hate it with the fire of 1000 suns, but once I got there it was all good.  I digress. 

I was hesitant to join my friend but with her encouragement and the gift of a yoga mat, I decided to ditch my regular routine for a day and join the yoga class. I was proud of myself.  I deserved a chocolate milkshake banana.

There were only four ladies in the class which made me a bit nervous.  There was nowhere to hide.  Rusty is a generous adjective for my yoga skillz at that point.   

The teacher was all in her yogi-ness.  We began by laying flat on the ground and were getting in sync with our breathing.  The stereotypical nature music in the background, the lights were off, and yogi was speaking in soft tones asking us to not compete to be the most awesome yogi-apprentice ("Rid your body of competition...Don't do anything that would cause you discomfort").  I was cool with all this, knowing full well that I could never be the teacher's pet.  And here is when things got confusing:

Yogi:  (in hushed tones)  Locate a muscle where there is tension or a place where you want to work on, a place where you are hurting.

I'm thinking to myself, "I would really like to work on the abs.  The abs need some help."  So, I place my hand on my tummy and everything is going swimmingly.  We raise up from the closed-eye laying down position and proceed into downward dog or something like that.  Basically, with downward dog your body looks like an upside down horseshoe.  You need to know that my head was upside down.  So there I am breathing, being at peace, releasing tension...when all of a sudden yogi is bent right beside me.  I am looking at yogi upside down and yogi whispers (yes whispers) to me:  "Are we exercising for two this morning?"

Yes.  You read that correctly.  Right in the midst of downward dog, too.  She was all whispery and kind about it, like she had just bought me a sweet crib or rattle or something.  "Are we exercising for two this morning?"  All I could do was open my upside down eyes wide and shake my head "Nope...just exercising for one."  I could have gone complete anti-yoga on her and thrown my mat at the light switch or something, but I chose peace.  At this point in the program it was 7:08 a.m. and class ended at 8:00 a.m.  Fifty-two more minutes with yogi and the class of women older than me who bend like noodles.  

I was working through the awkwardness when yogi comes back for more!!!!  AND It is more than a little ironic that we are now in child's pose.  Yogi explains that by putting my hand on my stomach during warm up time that this is a pregnancy signal or something for yogi types.  I just smile at her and feel sad because I know she's embarrassed.  And she was a really really nice yogi too. 

It's all good.  

Anyway, DO NOT ENTER WHILE YOGA IS IN SESSION.  There's some real stuff going on in there.  Trust me. I know.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What does a pastor look like?

What is a pastor?
What does a pastor do?
What does a pastor look like?

One Sunday our children's minister Sally asked the kiddos these questions.  They had a wide range of answers and thoughts to share.  I enjoyed listening to their ideas.  At the end of the lesson the children followed Sally out of the sanctuary for children's worship.

Sally later told me she revisited some of the questions during discussion time.  "What does a pastor look like?"

"He wears a suit and a tie."  Great observation!  That's what our senior pastor wears every Sunday.  And then another little one raised her hand.

"Yes?" Sally asked her.

"She has big hair and wears big necklaces and high heels."  I fell out when Sally told me.  We laughed and laughed and laughed.  We still laugh.

And I still have gargantuan hair, enjoy the pop of a big necklace and wear high heels.