Saturday, January 26, 2008

Moving to Wordpress!

Hello, blogmates! I've moved this blog to, so all future posts are there. Enjoy!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Five: Maligayang kaarawan!

Today's Friday Five from the RevGals is a spectacular birthday edition! The greeting there is "Happy Birthday" in Tagalog, which I learned from this Barney birthday video (yes, it's in three parts), which was a favourite of my kids when they were teeny, and which I've watched many many many times. But it was neat to learn the words in Tagalog, because my ex's father came from the Philippines. He never spoke the language, preferring to leave his former country behind, but it was neat to have that nod to the kidlets' heritage. So this week, Mother Laura writes...

My forty-third birthday next Wednesday will inaugurate the "Birthday Madness" season in the Grimes-Honkanen household. (snip of details) We will be doing a trip to Disneyland to celebrate them all in a couple weeks; in the meantime I offer this birthday-inspired Friday Five.

1. When is your birthday? Does anyone else (famous and/or in your own life) share it?
My birthday is March 4, which I share with Antonio Vivaldi, Thomas Moore, and Chastity Bono. All the saints with feasts on my birthday are boy saints, except for St. Placide Viel, who I'd never heard of before I looked up my birthday just now. But she sounds pretty cool. :-)

2. Do you prefer a big party or an intimate celebration for the chosen few?
I'm an introvert, so definitely the intimate celebration.

3. Describe your most memorable birthday(s)--good, bad, or both.
Hrmph. The worst birthday I remember was in 2003. I'd lost my job 10 months before, and my unemployment benefits had just run out. I'd considered finding a new job to be basically my full-time work during this time, but I was also taking care of the house, taking care of the lawn (in southeastern Virginia, this is for 10 months of the year), taking care of the kids during the summer, and working out every day to try to lose weight. Over the 2002-03 winter, I'd embarked on a project to write a book of meditations on selected psalms, and it was the first winter since 1997 that I did not have a depressive episode. For my birthday, my then-husband came home from work to have lunch with me. And after lunch, he spent 45 minutes lecturing, haranguing, and shouting at me about how everything I'd been doing for the last ten months had been a failure. I spent the rest of the day in tears, unable to do pretty much anything. TBTG, I got a job the next month - three offers on the same day, in fact. Of course, he doesn't remember this at all, but I will never forget it.

One of the best birthdays I've had was in 2004, when I took the day off from work and devoted it entirely to myself. My car was in the shop, so I couldn't leave the house. So I relaxed, read books, took a bubble bath, drank a little wine, had my favourite foods delivered to me for lunch, and since it was about 78F that day, napped in the sunlight and the breezes through the open windows. It was heavenly, and with the hecticness at the office, I desperately needed that break.

More recently, I had the privilege of sharing my fiancé Scott's birthday with him. He flew down from Canada in October. For the weekend, we drove up to Monticello and Skyline Drive. And on his birthday, we worshipped at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, before driving back home. For a gift, I had a wooden box that I finished for him, and then filled with little treasures, including candy bars that he can't get in Canada. I have a special wooden box that holds letters and cards from him, and little mementos from our times together, and I wanted him to have a treasure box, too. He says it was the best birthday he's ever had, which makes me grin like the silliest girl in love.

4. What is your favorite cake and ice cream? (Bonus points if you share the cake recipe). Or would you rather have a different treat altogether?
Hmmmmm..... it's hard to choose! I love devil's food with fluffy white icing. And cherry chip cake - do you remember those cake mixes? Lemon cake with chocolate icing is good, too. And one of my favourite family recipes is to take a white cake mix and prepare it, but before putting it into the oven, sprinkle the cinnamon "red hot" candies over the top. As the cake bakes, the red hots sink to the bottom, leaving red cinnamon trails through the cake - yum!

5. Surprise parties: love 'em or hate 'em?
Yes. :-) My baby shower was a surprise party. But the problem was, I was 8 months pregnant, and the cover story was that mom was having me over for a spaghetti dinner.... but there wasn't any real food there! I was starving! We had a great time, though.

Bonus: Describe your ideal birthday--the sky's the limit.
Hmm... quiet time with the people I love most. A nice meal, and the true and intentional presence of my family and friends. What we actually do matters far less than being really present for each other.

P.S. Happy Birthday, Mother Laura!!!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Happy Epiphany!

Okay, so I've been remiss in posting for the last couple weeks. I had a lectionary post started for today, but never finished it. I have excuses, plenty of 'em! But I'm not going to sit here and apologize. It is what it is, and that's what it is. Instead, I'll let you know what's been going on in my life the last couple weeks.

Let's see... December 23 was Advent IV. I had church that morning, and then took the kids to the 25th annual Messiah Sing-along at the new Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. I was gobsmacked to learn that my almost-fourteen-year-old son is a bass. Not a baritone, an honest-to-goodness bass. He nailed all the notes, even the low ones. I was amazed to hear him sing. Of course, it helped that we were sitting on the very edge of the bass section (with the altos across the aisle for my daughter), so he could hear the part all around him. But still... he claims to hate singing, but he was wonderful. My daughter did great, too. We all had an incredible time. The next day was Christmas Eve, with a glorious "midnight" service. I felt sung out, but I still had a Christmas morning service to take part in. It didn't have quite as much music as the night before, but it was enough. One of the other sopranos in the choir was sitting in front of me, and one of the tenors beside me, so on the middle verses of the carols we sang, I sang alto. It was fun.

Christmas evening, that same soprano who'd been sitting in front of me invited me to her home for Christmas dinner, along with a couple of other "orphans" who didn't have a place to have Christmas dinner. It was really nice to feel like part of a family for those hours. We watched a comedy video, and I laughed so hard that I thought my throat would never recover.

On the second day of Christmas, also known as Boxing Day, my flame from Canada flew down to spend a week with me. He arrived in the evening, and we shared gifts and stockings that Santa had left in my apartment for the two of us. Amusingly enough, I had bought copies of this book for the clergy at my parish, and Santa put a copy into each of our stockings... and Scott had gotten a copy for me as a gift, too.

The third day of Christmas was my daughter's third birthday. Out of deference to the family, Scott hung out at my place and relaxed while my ex and I hosted a party at the bowling alley for her and a bunch of her friends. Afterward, they all piled into the minivan and spent the night at my ex's house. I rolled two frames of bowling - enough to remember both how much I enjoy it and why I can't play a full game any more - and spent way too much money on pizza and sodas and popcorn and french fries.

The morning of the fourth day of Christmas was the last time I had to take my pain pill and my muscle relaxant. I've been doing really well over this time, and it's been wonderful to wake up with barely a hint of stiffness. Alleluia!

And on the fifth day of Christmas, Scott sat with me on my sofa, held my hands in his, looked into my eyes, and asked me to marry him. I said yes, and now we both wear silver poesy rings stamped with the word breathe. In the years that we've known each other, when one of us has been going through a rough patch, the other always sent the reminder to breathe, to take a deep breath, to keep on breathing, because it will get better. So instead of five golden rings, we had two silver ones, but they're all the more meaningful for us. That evening, we went out for a romantic dinner - we even had a glass of wine with it, like, you know, actual grown-ups! - and saw the holiday light show at the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

The sixth day of Christmas was a Sunday, and Scott and I played the music for the offertory at my parish. It was an arrangement and combination of Coventry Carol and What Child Is This? that I'd written for flute and organ, and everyone told us it was beautiful. That afternoon, Scott called his family in Canada to tell them our news, and I made plans for supper the next evening with my parents. Meanwhile, I started to feel kind of ooky with the crud that's been going around, but I pushed the fluids and hoped it wouldn't be too bad.

The seventh day of Christmas was New Year's Eve, and I could tell that I definitely had the crud, because my chest was tight and I was coughing. During the day, I'd emailed the rector and assistant rector of my parish to tell them our news, and then had emailed the choir director and a couple of other choir members. Scott and I went to the evening eucharist, because the rector's wife had told me that our presence was required (and then she wasn't even there - harrumph!), and we got big congratulatory hugs from the rector. After church, we went out to dinner with my parents. At the end of the meal, I told Mom that we had something to tell them. She immediately looked down at my hands, which were folded on the table, right hand over the left, and then looked up at my face, back down at my hands, and back up at my face. I giggled, and then told them. After initially mishearing the word on our rings as breed rather than breathe - No, Mom! I'm done with that now! - Mom offered congratulations to Scott and best wishes to me. It was fun to look this up in an etiquette book the next morning. It's so funny, because it sounds like you're congratulating the poor slob for snagging a wonderful woman, and then wishing her good luck with him. We were going to try to make it to midnight, but we were both too tired, and went to sleep before ten. I guess that means we're both old already?

On the eighth day of Christmas, my daughter moved back to the apartment with me. I was feeling crummier, so we mostly took it easy. We played some board games and watched the outdoor hockey game on tv. I got the decorations from the Christmas tree packed up, and it was a very homey evening. It was pretty amazing to watch that hockey game. I've never been much of a hockey fan - really, not very much of a sports fan at all - but it was really something to watch them struggling through the elements as they did. And of course, it was a tie game that went into overtime and then a shootout, so it was a real nailbiter.

On the ninth day of Christmas, Scott helped me finish packing away the Christmas stuff and returning the apartment to normal while my kids were at school. That afternoon, we shared our news with them, and they seemed happy for us. My daughter's main concern is that she's going to have to wear a dress to the wedding. She'd been feeling icky that morning, and pretty much collapsed into a chair - spiking a 101.1 degree fever - that evening. Poor baby! Meanwhile, I'd slept away a goodly chunk of the day myself, still coughing up a lung and feeling generally like I'd been run over by a truck.

On the tenth day of Christmas, Scott had to return home. My daughter stayed in bed from 6:30 the previous night until after I got back home from the airport around noon that day. I took her to the doctor, where he was surprised to see her flu test come back negative. When we got back home, she slept quite a bit more. In fact...

... on the eleventh day of Christmas, my daughter slept until about 9am. She's usually up by seven naturally, so I knew she really needed her rest. By evening she seemed to be doing better, though. I was working, though telecommuting, that day, and I spent the morning either sleeping or working from my laptop in bed. That evening, she went to her dad's house to spend the weekend with him, and I hit the sack early.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, I was feeling a teensy bit better, so I went out to lunch with my mom and bought a pair of shoes that offer more in the way of support than the $7 ones I had from the discount store. But I spent that time either sucking on a cough drop or hacking horribly, and I was weak and tired when I got back home. It was a fun outing, and necessary for my sanity, but definitely draining. It still felt like someone was sitting on top of my lungs and tightening a big fat rubber band around my chest. I watched the Seahawks cream the Redskins while on the phone with Scott, and watched about the first quarter of the Jaguars-Steelers game. I'd been hoping for the Seahawks and the Jaguars to win (well, really, for the Redskins and Steelers to lose, which will make me decidedly unpopular around the office tomorrow), so I was pleased with the results. After reading the news stories about the Jaguars' victory this morning, I'm regretting not recording the rest of that game, because it sounds like the fourth quarter was a real nailbiter. It's funny, because I'm not much of a football watcher. Really, I only start paying attention during the playoffs. I love to watch excellence, virtuosity in any field. You can see some really excellent plays in the post-season. I love to say things like Oooooh - that was a pretty pass there! or Did you see that run? That was beautiful! - because everybody knows that there's no pretty in football.

And that brings us to this morning, the Epiphany. I'm actually still in bed as I type this on my laptop, after having been awake and gone back to sleep twice already. This time I think I'll stay up for good. Have some lunch, finish my laundry, chill out and watch a DVD or two. Scott is back at work at his parish, and is probably sharing our news with that community right now. He was really excited about telling everyone, and I know they will be really happy for him. I'm still feeling kind of ooky, but we'll see how today goes, and we'll see how tomorrow goes after it. I haven't been to the office since December 21, and now's the time to gear up to start out the new year well.

I didn't get to physical therapy at all last week, and I am starting to feel the consequences of that. I go back tomorrow, and will do what I have the stamina to do, given that it still feels like I can't get a full chest of air into me yet. But I know that 2008 will be a wonderful year. It will have its share of sorrows and stresses and frustrations, but I know it will also be filled with promise and delight and joy and beauty and love.

Peace be with you in this new year. And may the light of Christ shine on you, and shine for you to illuminate your path as your journey continues.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Yes, it's still Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Hey - I can say it until January 5, and I fully intend to. So there! For Christmas I, the Episcopal Church uses the old BCP lectionary rather than the RCL, so our readings for this coming Sunday are:

Well, dear ones, we have finally arrived. After that long stretch of Ordinary Time, after the "Repent!" from John the Baptist during Advent, after the pain of birth and the dirt and noise and stink of doing this in a stable, after having to be reminded over and over to be not afraid, we know that Jesus is here, among us. And we're given these twelve days to relax, to be comforted by our Emmanuel, to enjoy the presence of Christ.

Well, you know, except for all the pesky martyrs who have feast days this week - Stephen, deacon and first martyr; the Holy Innocents - the infants and toddlers living in Bethlehem whom Herod ordered slain; Thomas Becket. And when the secular world is celebrating the New Year, we are celebrating the Holy Name of Jesus, which is called this because Anglicans are too prim and proper to celebrate anybody's circumcision, not even that of the Messiah.

But for Sunday, we don't have to think about these things. The RCL gospel tells the story of the slaughter of the children by Herod, but the BCP readings are joyful, delightful, even sweet. Isaiah tells us that we are wrapped in God's love, like a bride in her beautiful garlands; that God is making us grow and bloom like a beautiful garden; that God holds us in God's hands like a beautiful crown. The psalm reminds us that God knows the name of every star in the universe, that God heals our broken hearts, that God strengthens us and protects us and blesses us, that God gives us rain and winds so that the grains and the green plants will grow and so that all the birds and animals can be nourished just as we are. The letter to Galatians gives us comfort in the knowledge that God has adopted us as God's children; that God hears us when we cry out "Abba! Daddy!" to God; and that as God's children, we will inherit God's kingdom. And the gospel reading from John is simply one of the most beautiful scripture passages in the entire bible.

We are enveloped this Sunday in light and beauty and comfort. So enjoy it!

Of course, there is homework. Our world is just broken enough that we have a hard time believing we can be accepted and wanted and loved as much as God loves us. We have a hard time even imagining how much God accepts and wants and loves us. When we see ourselves as God's children, we become aware of our failures to live up to our parents' expectations of us, and of our memories of their disappointment in us, either expressed directly or interpreted from words or actions or facial expressions. I know I can only imagine that God - who is so much more in every way than my earthly parents - must be so much more disappointed in me. Why shouldn't God leave me to make my own way? Why shouldn't God turn God's back on me? Why shouldn't God abandon me?

Well, because that's just not God's way. And the proof? Jesus. Emmanuel. God with us. And we are reassured that not only does God love us, not only will God never abandon us, but God treasures us. God holds us in God's hands like a crown of beauty, like a royal diadem. God gives us light in the darkness, healing when we are broken, water when we are parched.

So the homework is simple - though I will not ever claim it is easy. The homework is this. For just a moment, close your eyes and imagine what it means to be loved and treasured completely and utterly. Not for anything you've ever said or done. Not for your job or your children or your parents or your school or your church. Not for your clothes or your house or your car. Not for the Christmas lights on your porch. Not for the gifts you bought your loved ones or for the charitable donations you have made. Just for you, you beautiful child of God, you!

The advanced homework is a little less simple. It is to take this feeling - this overwhelming, complete, and perfect love - and to try to carry it with you for more than just that moment. Treasure it. Ponder it in your heart, like Mary. Become familiar with it, even intimate. Remember that you did not earn it, and that nothing - no thing that ever was or ever will be - can take it away from you. This is a gift. It is grace. It is God's love, not human love.

And then, rejoice. Sing Hallelujah. Because you, my friend, you are the royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Lectionary Post: Zealous Christmas!

The readings appointed for Christmas (Eve) in the the Episcopal Church are:

I am absolutely thrilled this year, because I get to read that passage from Isaiah at our "midnight mass," and it is one of my all time favorites, ever ever ever. Of course, I do tend to get earwormed by my favorite chorus from Handel's Messiah, but that's okay - it's CHRISTMAS! :-) I'm also excited, because this psalm has one of my favorite passages in the bible - then shall the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord. Good stuff, good stuff.

I noticed when I read through these lections that one word sang out for me, as happens most weeks when I sit down to write this reflection. This word, though, wasn't a happy fuzzy bunny word; it doesn't feel all warm and snuggly like we expect Christmas to feel. We have our visions of the whole family sitting together in our pew in church, peaceful and loving, all dressed beautifully and smiling at each other as we hold our candles and sing Silent Night. The baby! The rapt mother Mary! The cute little lambykins! It's all so sweet and warm and comforting.

You know, like undergoing childbirth. With no painkillers. With no nurse to whisk away soiled and bloodied sheets and pads. In a stable. With noisy, smelly animals. With no ice chips or mom to hold your hand. And then the place fills up with noisy, smelly shepherds who want to gawk at you, while you try to rest and catch your breath and feel some relief from the pain, but the baby is crying, and you have never nursed before, and you are only a girl, and why did you ever say yes to that angel anyway?

Yeah. Sweet and warm and comforting. Like that.

So anyway, the word that sang out for me from these readings today was zeal. It shows up at the very end of the reading from Isaiah - the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this - and at the end of the reading from Titus, too - [Jesus will] purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deads. And while the word zeal doesn't appear in the psalm or the gospel story, the concept certainly does.

The thing about zeal is, it's not a word that seems particularly attractive to us. We might want to be loyal, but not necessarily zealous. We see passion and excitement as good, but zeal might go just a little too far for comfort. Zeal is a little bit edgy, maybe even dangerous. The people we might describe with the word zeal are not usually people we admire or want to emulate. Think for a moment about someone who strikes you as zealous. I'll bet you find that person a bit frightening. I know that the people who come to my mind from that word frighten me somewhat; they certainly make me uncomfortable and a bit squirmy.

Well, guess what. God doesn't call us to be comfortable. God's job is not to point a magic wand into your life and say, Poof! Now you have every comfort! In fact, God has sent prophets throughout time to disrupt us from our comfort, to make us squirm, to shake us up. In America, we live in a land of great comfort. There are still women all over the world giving birth much as Mary did, two thousand years ago. And I - I don't know whether I would have made it through either childbirth without a nice epidural, in a big sterile hospital, where there were lots of people to help me be more comfortable.

So Christmas? It's not about comfort. The message - we finally have our savior after generations of waiting - this is an occasion for joy. But Jesus taught a lot of really hard stuff. And the comfort he gave? It wasn't for us, here in the land of abundance. It is for the poor, the lame, the blind, the sick. It is for the women who give birth like Mary did, in the year 2007. It is for the children in Africa who have lost their parents to AIDS. It is for those who count a day as a good one when they have had anything to eat that day.

The problem for me is, I don't see these people. I will confess to being mostly blind to the things that don't cross in front of my eyes - and even to a great number of the things that do cross in front of my eyes, if they don't bop me upside the head, too. What can I do for an orphaned child in Africa, or for a desperately poor man in India, or for a pregnant woman in Cambodia with no access to a hospital? It feels so hopeless to me - the problems are too big, too far away - and I feel helpless.

The last statement in the letter to Titus says that Jesus came to redeem us from iniquity. Iniquity. Not equal-ness. And not just being redeemed from that not-equal-ness, but from all not-equal-ness. Jesus came to bring comfort to the orphan, to the hungry, to the suffering. And he came to purify his people - that's us - so that our zeal for good deeds could bring this about. Jesus will establish his kingdom and bring peace to the nations, to shine light in the darkness, to throw down oppressors - through the zeal of the Lord.

These two statements mirror each other. From Isaiah, it is God's zeal that brings about this kingdom. And from Titus, it is the zeal that Jesus stirs up inside us that will bring about comfort and peace. It is no mistake that the Third Sunday of Advent is known as "stir up" Sunday, with its collect that begins Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us. It is actually a little bit scary to pray this prayer, just as it can be frightening to come into contact with someone who possesses zeal. Because the truth is, when God stirs up God's power in us, things change. We change. Maybe we change the world around us as a result. When we are stirred up about something, when we are feeling God's great might, we may, in fact, be described as zealous.

We may do things like sing gloria in excelsis while out in the fields. We may do things like follow a star to a stable to look at a newly born, squalling infant with his exhausted and frightened parents. We may lose our happy snuggly bunny warmth and comfort. We may advocate for the poor, for the sick, for the imprisoned. We may make people uncomfortable. We may even make people upset or angry, in our zeal for good deeds.

So this Christmas, may God bless you and all those you love. May God bless even those you disagree with, those you dislike, those you are angry with, those you have trouble forgiving. May God bless those you do not know, those you do not see, those you do not hear. May God stir us up and bless us all with zeal, with squirms, with discomfort. And as the Franciscan Blessing says,

May God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we really CAN make a difference in this world, so that we are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Apropos of nothing, really...

... but it has been noticed that there are several items around various people's desks in the office today that seem to have been anthropomorphized. They look a bit like these:

I understand that these faces may be from this product. But I wouldn't know anything more than that. Honest.

Today I am grateful for...

... one of my favourite puns ever, which my mom just forwarded to me again. Enjoy - and make sure you aren't trying to drink something while you read.

There is a factory in Kansas that makes the Tickle Me Elmo toys. The toy laughs when you tickle it under the arms. With demand higher for the holidays, the factory needs to bring on some new hires. Lena, a gorgeous, leggy blonde, is excited to be hired at the Tickle Me Elmo factory, and she reports for her first day promptly at 8:00 AM. The next day at 8:45 AM there is a knock at the Personnel Manager's door. The Foreman throws open the door and begins to rant about the new employee. He complains that she is incredibly slow and the whole line is backing up, putting the entire production line behind schedule. The Personnel Manager decides he should see this for himself, so the 2 men march down to the factory floor. When they get there the line is so backed up that there are Tickle Me Elmos all over the factory floor and they're really beginning to pile up. At the end of the line stands Lena is surrounded by mountains of Tickle Me Elmos. She has a roll of plush red fabric and a huge bag of small marbles. The men watch in amazement as she cuts a little piece of fabric, wraps it around two marbles and begins to carefully sew the little package between Elmo's legs. The Personnel Manager bursts into laughter. After several minutes of hysterics he pulls himself together and approaches Lena. "I'm sorry," he says to her, barely able to keep a straight face, "but I think you misunderstood the instructions I gave you yesterday..... Your job is to give Elmo two test tickles."


Monday, December 17, 2007

Advent 4 - the *almost Christmas* lectionary post

The readings for this coming Sunday in the Episcopal Church are:

These are some... interesting.... readings this week. The Isaiah reading is chock-full of names and references that were very meaningful to the people living in this place at this time, but that probably sail right over our heads today. I'm not a biblical scholar, by any stretch of the imagination, and while I'd love to be able to have the time to do that some day, that's not where I am right now. So I'll sail past most of this, and focus on the one passage that really sang for me: Hear then, O house of David! We hear this in the psalm, too: Hear, O Shepherd of Israel! The reading from the letter to the Romans is the greeting, the opening, and though these words are not used, it says the same thing: Hear me! Hear God! And in the gospel lesson, we have an angel speaking to Joseph in a dream. Pay attention to me - listen to me here, Joe.

So this week, we have been given an invitation in these readings. Hear. Listen. Pay attention. God is at work in the world. And you can be part of it! The challenge is... we don't know where God is going to be. (Okay, smart aleck answer: absolutely everywhere.)

The thing about Christmas is that, well, it is utterly preposterous. God is taking us completely by surprise here. Tell me the truth: if you were an omnipotent being, with full and complete knowledge and wisdom and understanding, and the ability to do whatever you wanted, would you choose to become a human being? Would you choose to be born into this world as a completely helpless infant, unable to do anything for yourself, relying one hundred percent on the love of these flawed and broken and unlovely humans? Would you choose to be born in poverty? In a stable? In a time without nice, sterile hospitals and good drugs and all the benefits of modern medicine? Would you choose to subject yourself to pain, to anger, to frustration? To indigestion and toothaches and hangnails and stubbed toes and fleas and lice and gas? (Um, yes. It is a certainty that Jesus farted. Just as Jesus peed and pooped and did every other thing that humans do. This is what it means to be human, even if you are God.) Who would expect this?

Well, we do - those of us who choose to be Christians. And it came - comes! - as a surprise. This is why we need the invitation, the reminder to Hear!, to Listen up!, to Pay attention! Because we don't know what Jesus will look like when he is here, and it's a no-brainer that Jesus will show up in the most completely unexpected form - quite possibly the most offensive form to me or to you that he could possibly take. Yes, Jesus could well be Archbishop Akinola, or Bishop Robinson, or Osama bin Laden, or Timothy McVeigh, or Britney Spears, or Bill Gates, or Michael Vick, or Jane Fonda, or your ex-wife, or Vice President Cheney, or even that crazy lady who walks around with a shopping cart full of tattered clothes and empty soda cans, talking to herself and shouting at passersby. Jesus could be the African child whose parents have died from AIDS. Or Jesus could be Pat Robertson. This is why we have to Listen!, to Hear!

At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus being born into this world. Literally born - from the womb of a young woman who was probably terrified. And at this time, we have an opportunity to give birth to Jesus ourselves, spiritually, symbolically - because it's a no-brainer that you or I are the most completely unexpected form that Jesus could take for somebody.

So as you Hear! for Jesus in the world around you, I think we are also invited to Listen! for Jesus within ourselves, too. What is the part of me that is a frightened young woman who is struggling to give birth to a savior? What is the part of you that is fertile, great with child? Can we, as the readings from Isaiah invited us earlier this Advent, make the ways straight for this birth to take place? Can we level the mountains to make room for Jesus, who will bring water to our dry places? And what will this Jesus be like, the Jesus who wants to be born from me, from you?

I think the key to all of this is that when we Hear!, when we listen up and pay attention, we find that Jesus is Emmanuel. God with us.

God is with us.
God wants to be with us.
God chooses to be with us.

The psalmist asks God to show us the light of God's countenance, so that we can be saved. And God has. Jesus is the light of God's countenance. Jesus lived, here on this earth with us. And Jesus lives here still: God with us. Emmanuel.

So my prayer for you this week, is that you will Hear! Listen up! Pay attention! God is at work in the world, and you can be part of it. And I pray that when you listen, you will hear, and you will know that God is good, that you are loved, and that Jesus is indeed Emmanuel.