I remember

It was  chilly grey day, that November Friday, much like today is.

I was in fifth grade. Fifth grade was a really good year for me. I loved my teacher, Mrs. Stepp, who seemed to be able to make every subject interesting and challenging. My new best friend Ashley was in my class. We’d just moved to this new city in June, but my family seemed settled in and life was good.

20cf1aa0d977ac5927fa99c18d978610Ashley’s birthday party was scheduled for that night, and we were excited. After lunch all the fifth graders gathered in the large room at the end of the hallway to begin rehearsing Christmas carols. We’d be singing them at a local nursing home the week before Christmas. Yes, we could still do that then.

We’d begun singing with some enthusiasm when one of the sixth grade teachers peeked in and beckoned to Mrs. Stepp,who went into the hall. When she returned a moment later we knew immediately that something was wrong, very wrong. After a quick whispered consultation with the other fifth grade teacher she turned to us and said, “The President has been shot.”  And with that, our world changed forever.

Our teachers quickly ushered us back to our classrooms. In those days we didn’t have TVs in every room, but Mrs. Stepp may have turned on the radio. We knew the President had died, however, when the principal, Mrs. Jefferson, announced it over the loud speaker. And there was stunned silence.

I walked home from school that day, and found my mother in the den, sitting in front of the TV watching Walter Cronkite who was just ff22JFK-death-CBSas stunned as the rest of us. Momma had been in the grocery store when she’d first heard that JFK had been shot, and she rushed home to get confirmation. In those days before CNN and FoxNews, live non-stop coverage of events was a rarity, but that is what we got. It was surreal–the TV announcers seemed at a loss for words, details were much slower to emerge than we’re used to now, and there was no immediate video footage to show over and over and over again. That would come later.

Soon it was time to go to Ashley’s party. We went to the movies, although I have no idea what we saw. What I do remember was the somberness and sadness that hung over everything like a pall–even a kid’s party. We went back to Ashley’s house to have pizza–my first pizza ever (and it was Chef-boy-ar-dee from a box, if you can imagine, with ground beef–hey, it was the 60s!) Our parents huddled together talking quietly as they came to pick us up. By that time Lee Harvey Oswald had been arrested, but there were still more questions than answers.

JFK4_606I remember nothing about the next day except that nothing felt normal. On Sunday we got up and went to church as usual. After church Daddy went into the den and flipped on the TV while Momma started lunch.  Turned on the TV to more shocking news: Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot while in police custody. Unreal.

School was cancelled the day of JFK’s funeral. I will never forget the riderless horse, the caisson holding the casket, the sad widow with two small children bravely processing down Pennsylvania Avenue. This was my first real introduction to death. And it still felt surreal. Although our TV was black and white, my memory is a montage with images in color mixed with those in shades of grey. I’m sure that’s because for weeks afterwards I poured over the Life and Look and Saturday Evening Post  magazines  that filled our mailbox. president-kennedy-funeral_13292_600x450

When we went back to school, the sixth graders put up a bulletin board memorial–a picture of JFK, and the words of his inaugural address that have been burned into our memories, “Ask not what our country can do for you, ask what you can do for our country.”

When I look back now, I am keenly aware that the President’s assassination was but the beginning of a string of cataclysmic events that would come to define my generation: MLK’s killing, then Bobby Kennedy’s, the Kent State shootings, riots all over the place, Viet Nam, Watergate. I was but a child when JFK was elected but the hope and optimism of  “Camelot” was palpable even to me. All the dreams  that marked the beginning of JFK’s presidency ended with the sharp retort of gunfire, and with it ended our  innocence.

Was that hope, that optimism warranted? We know so much more about JFK and the realities of his life and presidency know, we know things that certainly tarnish the memories that I grew up with. Nonetheless I wonder what we really lost that day, what might have been. And it still makes me sad.

NaBloPoMo NoMo

Didn’t make it. Pathetic, really, to last only 9 days. I’ve had lots on my mind, but it never makes it any farther. 

When I was much younger and wondered what it might be like to be a writer, what I couldn’t conceive of was planning ahead what you might say. What I realize now, after almost 10 years of sermonating and sometime blogging, is that the real issue for me at least is the discipline of finding a regular time to write and sticking to it. There just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get to everything and still have some “down time”–which I seem to need these days more than ever. 

Sermon for 25 Pentecost

Our readings this morning job-surrender
are filled with hope.
I like that.
Hope is something that often feels
like it is in short supply these days.
It seems so much easier somehow
to focus on the negative,
to fixate on what’s wrong with the world,
to lament how things are so much worse
than they were back in the ‘good old days’
  –although when those ‘good old days’
actually took place depends on who you ask.
Today’s readings remind us that
no matter how bad things might be,
there is still reason to hope,
and they remind us that
sometimes we worry about things
that in the long run just won’t matter.
In our reading from Hebrew scripture
we hear powerful words of hope
from non other than Job.
You might remember Job,
sitting on an ash heap,
wailing and crying out to God,
lamenting his great loses.
The book of Job reminds us that he was
an upstanding, righteous man
who remained faithful to God,
and yet Job lost everything
—his family, his life’s work,
all gone for no explicable reason.
Job loudly laments this state of affairs,
crying out to God, proclaiming his innocence,
only to have three of his friends tell him in turn
that it must be his fault,
that he must’ve done something wrong,
that he must deserve his bad fortune,
because such bad luck can be nothing
but punishment from God.
Job, however, rejects the counsel of his friends
and continues to maintain his innocence,
and to rail against God
—a God who seems to him
to be indifferent to his suffering.
It is in the midst of these laments that we hear Job’s cry:
O that my words were written down!
O that they were inscribed in a book!
O that with an iron pen and with lead
they were engraved on a rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
(Job 19: 23-25)
For I know that my Redeemer lives.
These words resonate deeply with us,
for they are words that testify
to a deep hope,
a great faith residing deep within Job
even in his suffering.
In the depths of despond
  and suffering that is unrelenting,
his friends offer no solace
and his God seems to be indifferent to his plight.
Yet Job still hopes,
still believes that at some point,
some how, he will be redeemed.
The word that we most often
hear used to describe Job is patient.
But in fact, I’m not sure patience
is the best word for this situation.
What carried Job through this crisis
was not patience
so much as it was steadfastness
—steadfastness in his faith
steadfastness in his hope for
something better yet to be.
Job continues with his lament,
and finally God speaks to Job from a whirlwind
—but not to apologize,
not to console, not to explain,
not to give the answers Job has longed for,
but rather to proclaim again
God’s power and majesty.
Even without answers, though,
this meeting with God is transformative for Job
who ultimately proclaim his hope, saying:
I know that You can do everything,
That nothing you propose is impossible for You.
 (Job 42:2, Tanakh translation)
Job’s witness, his certainty
that at the end he would be redeemed
gives voice for us to a hope
that is a light shining into a future
we cannot always see or even imagine..
~~~~~~~
I know that my Redeemer lives.
That phrase takes on new resonance
for us as Christians
because we trust that
Jesus Christ our Redeemer does live.
It is through Jesus that we find
a new life and a new hope
—a hope we hear echoed in today’s gospel
(Luke 20:27-38).
where we find Jesus in conversation
with some Sadducees
(another group of Jewish religious leaders)
who set Jesus up by asking him
about the resurrection
—and it is a set up, because the Sadducees
don’t believe in the resurrection.
Jesus not only gives them a straight answer
—in the resurrection such earthly matters
as which husband gets the wife
just don’t matter
(like so many other issues
we get hung up on) —
he also and perhaps more importantly reaffirms
that resurrection is a real hope,
a notion that he grounds in Hebrew scripture.
In his affirmation of the resurrection,
Jesus holds out for us an eschatological hope
—hope for the end times when
we too will be living with God.
That is good news for us, but it doesn’t stop there.
We are not living just to get to the end times,
    not merely biding our time.
Instead we are living in a time
that theologians like to call
 “realized eschatology”
        —an “already-not yet” world.
      The kingdom of God is already here
        and the kingdom of God is not yet fully realized,
not yet complete.
God is with us
–our redeemer lives—
now and in the last day.
It is in living firmly in this hope of God
—a God who loves us and is with us,
who redeems us both now
and in the world to come –
that we can go on in a world
that sometimes seems hopeless.
It is this common thread of hope,
a thread woven not only through today’s readings,
but also through out scripture
from the story of creation, through the prophets,
through Job, through the psalms
through the gospels,
each proclaiming in its own way
the Good News of Jesus,
it is this thread of hope that I want to draw on,
to connect some ideas as we turn our thoughts
to stewardship for a moment.
God has greatly blessed us here,
as individuals and as a parish.
We haven’t done anything spectacular
to earn those blessings;
they are not rewards for our outstanding ministry,
or our exemplary faith.
Nor do they come with strings attached;
God won’t take them away as punishment,
just as Job’s suffering was not punishment.
Nonetheless, the blessings we’ve received,
the abundance we’ve been endowed with
– and I use that term intentionally –
even the wealth we feel we’ve earned
through the dint of hard labor,
comes with a burden of responsibility,
the responsibility to remember
that we are stewards,
caretakers,  not owners,
of this abundance,
and the responsibility
to offer proper thanks to God.
Job modeled for us a remarkable and steadfast faith
in a God who had seemed to abandon him.
And God in turn reminded Job
that we humans have an inadequate understanding
of the scope and majesty of the universe
that is under God’s provenance.
Jesus reminds his followers
that we something spend
way too much time and energy
worrying about things that ultimately don’t matter.
Jesus reminds us that God will love and provide for us
as God does for all of creation;
 Jesus reminds us that we are called
to trust in that providence
rather than fret and worry
about how much we do or don’t have.
In the passage we’re highlighting
for stewardship this year,
taken from the Sermon on the Mount,
“Where you treasure is
there your heart will be also,”
Jesus reminds us that how we live,
how we make our every day choices,
how we set our priorities
is not only a measure of our faith,
but also something that continues
to shape that faith as we go forward.
As Jesus goes on to say,
we cannot serve both God and wealth.
This week’s e-blast,
contains a lot of information about stewardship
–what it means,
why we give to the church,
and the like,
and if you have more questions,
I hope you will ask me.
In the next couple of days,
you will receive a pledge card in the mail.
For many of you this is old hat,
for some of you this may be new.
We’d like you to fill out this card,
and return it next Sunday,
offer it up as we collect our weekly
offerings and oblations.
As we set about to do that,
the question before us
is how we are going to respond
not only to the blessings and abundance we enjoy but also to the responsibility they bring with them.
We are called, I believe,
to take a good look at how
we use our treasures,
how we store them up,
and what that says about
where our hearts truly are,
as a parish and as individuals.
We are called to examine our faith,
and to consider what we are willing to let go of,
trusting in God’s care for us,
holding onto our hope for our future with God.
And we are called to remember
God’s generosity to us
as we return a portion of God’s bounty
in gratitude for all that God has given to us.
These are not small tasks, my friends,
but they are within our reach
if we but trust in God
and hold fast to our faith in God,
and set our minds and hearts
on the mission of God and the hope of God.
Amen.

Run Amma Run

About 2 and half years ago I began Weight Watchers. I did it as my Lenten discipline, and I set no other goals other than to eat in a more Kris red dress 5Khealthy way. Much to my surprise, actually, weight started coming off and I liked the way I was eating, so I stuck with it. By fall I’d lost about 45 pounds and it felt great.

Now I have spent the majority of my adulthood claiming (and believing) that I hate exercise. Really, my whole life. As I child I would’ve rather been reading a good book than anything else. Girls didn’t do sports very much then. I rode my bike and went swimming but that was about it. When “working out” became the thing to do, I was clearly out of the loop. Only one period of time did that differ: while I was in grad school I tried running and kept it up for about a year and a half. Then my life changed, I moved to a more rural setting, got pregnant with child #4, gained a lot of weight and that was that.

So the fall after I began losing weight, the person who teaches exercise classes at my church invited me to try them out. VERRRRY reluctantly I went , and it wasn’t so bad At first I just did light aerobics and later I added Zumba (despite being wicked uncoordinated.) After a while, I was actually enjoying it. And I not only kept losing weight, I also started building some muscle. When those classes ended for a summer break I knew I would have to replace them with some other activity.

By this time I had lost a little more than 70 pounds. Gyms, however, still intimidated me. Almost on a whim one morning I decided to see if I could run. I wan’t sure. It had been 20 years since I’d tried. Was I too old? Would my feet and knees protest?  Could I do it?

Turns out not only could I do it, I actually LIKE running.

A year and a half later, I STILL like running. Oh, there are days when I like it best after I”m done. And days when it is a struggle to get out the door. But for the most part I do truly like it. In April I ran my first 5K–not only ran but came in 2n in my age group. The end of May I was part of a five person marathon relay team — and what fun that was, despite an abysmally cold and rainy day. And I’ve committed to running a half at that same race net May.

No one could be more surprised about this than I am!

Now it is tine to take the next step and join a gyn. There are lots of reason. The exercise classes I started going to have been cut to only once  a week, and I can’t always make that. I”m not motivated to lift weights or do crunches or any thing else at home. I don’t want to lose the progress I’ve begun to make. And finally, I’m finding it really hard to run in cold weather. It hurts my lungs and makes me cough. And when the snow flies it is jut plain hard to get out and go.

I so don’t want to join a gym. They STILL intimidate me. But it is time.

Run, Amma, run!

A rose by any other name…

To help us out on this NoBloPoMo, the organizers have offered daily prompts for writing. Today’s prompt asks, “If you had to switch your first name, what would you choose and why?”

Which sort of amuses me.

When I was a kid, I didn’t like my name. I was Kristy, then Kristi (in 5th grade when changing -y endings to -i endings became popular), and finally Kris, but only Kristina when I was in trouble. And I wanted to be named Kathy. Why I have no idea–maybe because it was a more popular name? But more than wanting to change my first name, I wanted to change my middle name, which is my mother’s maiden name, Dixon. All of my friends had lovely middle names which could have doubled as first names  (and many of them were Ann/Anne–seriously at one point there was my sister  Carole Anne, next door was Margo Ann, across the street were Rebecca Ann, Cheryl Ann, and Peggy Ann, and around the corner was my best friend Ashley Ann. And that was just one block!) And I had Dixon. NO FAIR.

My Kathy phase didn’t last too long. I also considered more exotic names like Bridget and Monica and Guinevere.

Today I wouldn’t actually change my name. Oh, I took my birth name back for my last name, and I am really glad I did. And I still hear my mother’s voice letting me know just how much trouble I was in with the way she emphasized, “KRISTINA!” I played with idea of being Kristi again instead of Kris. I love the name Madeleine; also Maeve and Siobahn. But the name my mother chose for me really works just fine.

Disappointment

I suffered a major disappointment yesterday–something I wanted badly, hoped for, prayed for, just isn’t going to happen. People suffer worse things all the time; I’m keenly aware of that but my disappointment still hit me hard. I was sad.  I yelled and cursed. I cried.

And then I stayed up ALL NIGHT LONG reading a novel. The newest Clare Ferguson-Russ VanAlstyne book hit my kindle app yesterday and I read from about midnight until 5 am. Didn’t finish because my iPad battery ran out and the charger cord isn’t long enough to let me read in bed while it is plugged in.

So I got about 3 hours of sleep. Yeah.

Going to crash and burn shortly, I’m sure. But I need to finish the book first. Luckily I’m almost there!

November redux

I had been taking pictures for about 3 years — and I mean LOTS of pictures — when my hard drive crashed not once, but twice. And of course, I hadn’t been backing them up as often as I should. I lost many many photos and it was heartbreaking. But every once in a while I find some that I posted somewhere else or saved in some random place, and it is like finding a piece of treasure. The three pics of Japanese maples I took on Cape Cod are today’s treasure.

Japanese maple cape cod

Japanese maples again

Japanese maples in the sun

Playing with the camera

For a couple of years I spent a lot of time taking photos, and editing. I have no technical expertise; I basically just played around until I liked what I had. When I moved to my current home four years ago I pretty much quit–for no really good reasons other than lame excuses about lack of time. And like so many other things, the longer I went, the less likely I was to drag out the camera bag and schlep it along with me, especially as the cameras on iPhones improved.

Over the summer I spent a couple of weeks in New York City, one of my very favorite places, and a place I always love photographing. While my daughter and grandson were with me we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. We were unexpectedly caught in a rain shower, but I got some interesting pictures where the parts of the bridge were draped for construction.

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I haven’t edited these shots at all. If you click on them to see the larger shots you can see lots of texture, which I love. And looking at these reminds me of how much I did enjoy playing around with pix and rekindles my interest in finding a good photography class.

All Souls’ Day

All Souls day is folded into the church’s celebration of All Saints (and appropriately so). Nonetheless on what would be All Souls’ Day I celebrated a funeral this morning and thought a lot about my momma’s funeral in April. In my homily at her service I ended with the second half of this poem.

Death Is Only a Horizon 

O God, who holdest all souls in life
and callest them unto thee as seemeth best:
we give them back, dear God,
to thee who gavest them to us.
But as thou didst not lose them in the giving,
so we do not lose them by their return.
For not as the world giveth, givest thou,
O Lord of souls:
that which thou givest thou takest away:
for life is eternal, and love is immortal,
and death is only the horizon,
and the horizon is nothing
save the limit of our sight.

~~ Rossiter W. Raymond

 Miss  you, Momma.

NaBloPoMo

Once upon a time, I used to blog regularly.  In my heyday I went over 400 days without missing a post, over at Rev. Dr. Mom.  And I posted pictures here and sermons here.  Then life changed and I just stopped. I didn’t mean to, but certain parts of my life seemed unbloggable, and once I got out of the habit, writing seemed like another life time. Oh, I think about writing–I just don’t do it. In fact, I set up this blog almost a year ago, and then forgot about it.

But it’s November 1, and that means it’s time for NaBloPoMo. Maybe, just maybe, the thing that started that 400+ day string will motivate me to begin again. So here we go.

See you around, I hope!