I arrived at church this morning to find that the parking lot had not yet been plowed. Since I didn't think many people would show up for church, my plan was just to excavate a few spaces. I shoveled and shoveled some more, thankful for the opportunity to burn off some calories. Two hours later, I still had a LONG way to go.
At about 9AM, our first family arrived. The kids popped out of the car with snow shovels in hand. Several families followed shortly thereafter, and every one pitched in.
Meanwhile, those with 4-wheel drive used their vehicles as plows and helped "knock down" the snow. Personally, I think they were using "clearing the lot" as an excuse to have some fun.
Eventually, about 30 people showed up for our second service. By that time we had shoveled a path to the church, and we went in. Everyone sat close and worshiped with great heart, a blessed Fourth Sunday of Advent.
This morning we were supposed to join my brother and his
family to go cut a Christmas tree.We
were excited that we were going to get to do this in the snow, because there is
something extra Christmassy about walking through a field of Christmas trees
with their boughs draped in white and snowflakes swirling all around.
As it turned out, however, there is a little too much white,
so we had to scrap our trip.Dang.
That meant I spent the morning make still MORE cookies for
the concert that now probably isn’t going to happen tomorrow night.However, all is not a loss.I did learn a couple things this morning. These include:
1.Misreading the recipe can have disastrous
results.There is a big difference
between a “heavily greased baking sheet” and not using any grease at all.
2.One should never make cookies without first
eating breakfast because, as it happens, cookies will become your
breakfast.Especially when they all
crumble and fall apart because they are stuck to the surface you were supposed
to grease.What else are you going to do
with the sad remains except eat them?
3.There comes a time to cut your losses.Though I’m sure it is the cowards way out, I
gave up on my oatmeal lace cookies (even with appropriately greased baking
sheets I still couldn’t get them to stop sticking) and converted the remaining
dough to regular ol’ oatmeal cookie batter.
And so that is what I am doing now; cooking dozens upon
dozens of oatmeal cookies for a concert that likely will not happen, watching
it snow and snow some more.
Last night we began getting ready for the Bill Mallonee concert on Sunday (you are coming, aren't you?!) by making cookies to serve afterward. Though we worked on them for over five hours straight (and therefore missed the midnight showing of Avatar), it was a lot of fun together--what the holidays should be, I think. You can't see Alex L., but he too was doing his part by dutifully attending to our tuneage. I was pleased that his play list even included Traffic's Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.
OK, I know it's a little early, but if you happen to be in northern VA this Sunday evening I'd like to offer you a Christmas present.
In the past few years, I've made contributions to groups that help the poor as my Christmas present to the people who are dear to me. I've felt good about that, and I think they have too. This year the Turner's gave me a present where they made a contribution to a helping agency, and then I could go to agency's site and decide what project I'd like that gift to support. I thought that was very cool.
Anyway, because I believe the only way to have Merry Christmas is to have a Mindful Advent (our current sermon series, which has been a lot of fun), I didn't want my giving to become rote, simply doing the same thing every year. Though I will still give to the poor, I've been considering doing something different for those I hold dear, and so giving a lot of thought as to what that might be.
I decided on the gift of music. Remember the line from the Dead Poets Society (if you are too young to remember this movie, rent it. Now.): The human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and
necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are
what we stay alive for. I think the same thing is true of music.
So this Sunday at 7PM we are hosting a concert at St. Matthews by Bill Mallonee. Mallonee is a musician reminiscent of Neil Young and Bob Dylan, and he is widely considered one of the best song writers alive today. I first heard him at a house concert several years ago, and I found his songs and his style profoundly moving.
I think that in listening to him, we'll find our hearts full of "what we stay alive for", and that in this hectic and harried seasons, this will help us cut through the distractions and have a very Merry Christmas indeed.
That is what I'd like my Christmas present to all those I hold dear in my heart to be this year. I hope to see you there, and as a way of sharing the Spirit of this season, feel free to bring your friends.
A lot of lives would be saved if men could just learn to tell other people, men and women, when they are having a bad day or a bad lifetime, instead of sacrificing their lives and relationships in their effort to show how tough they can be and how little they need. And while much of what we need must come from the women in our lives, we need men, too.
As you'd no doubt expect, I took hundreds of pictures on my Big Trip. But I haven't yet posted a single one of them here. I've been thinking about that, as I continue to think about the trip in general and the impact it had on me.
Originally I really did think the trip was all about fishing, as that is what I did all day every day unless the streams were totally blown out (flooded) by heavy rains. And even then we had a ritual for checking various streams in various places at various times of the day to see if the water was still rising or dropping, and so we could get back on the water as soon as possible.
At this point I've done a fair amount of reflecting on my time away, and have come to realize that it was far more significant than I first realized. And I'm still processing it. I don't know that one can make a trip like this and not come back changed, and hopefully at least in some ways substantially and profoundly so.
That is not to say, however, the fish were inconsequential. I offer the following picture as proof of that point. Purty, isn't he (the fish, I mean!)?
Here are some great answers offered in a short article by Dan Hotchkiss on the process of preaching. I especially like the last one.
Possible answers to this question range from: accurate ("I find it varies from eight to twenty
hours") to honest ("I'm not sure; it depends how much looking out the window and
how many false starts you count") to whimsical ("Last week's sermon about aging
took me sixty years").
Right before he got thrown in jail, he was in a fight with a
person who took his car keys and threw them who knows where.
He was calling the church because he figured
we would accept a collect call, and in hopes that if we did we might be able to
get him a new key for when he got out.I took down his key code and called a local
car dealer to see what they could do.
The dealer said yes, they could make a new key, no problem.But by law, he went on, only they guy who
owns the car could pick it up.Trying
to keepa relatively simple problem from
getting too complex, I said I was a priest helping a guy out in jail.I asked him if there was any way we could
work this out.
“Dang,” he said.“You’re
hitting me where it hurts.I’m Catholic.”
“Ah,” I said, not explaining that I’m actually
Episcopalian.I figured that might not
count.“So I can pick up the key then?”
“Only you,” he said.“We’ll
just say it’s a Catholic thing.”
I thought I might have been in trouble when I actually
picked up the key.“So what parish are
you with?” he asked cordially.
“St. Matthew’s,” I said, once again leaving the “Episcopal
Church” part out.“You?”
“Well,” he said a little more slowly.“…I’m actually a lapsed Catholic.Haven’t been in a very long time.I was kind of hoping this might help out in
the good works department.”He handed
me the key and said, “No charge.”
On my way out I noticed they had a Nissan GT-R on display. I’ve
read about this car for years but have never actually seen one in person.This is
a 485 horsepower super car with fully functional hood scoops and four of the
biggest exhaust pipes I’ve ever seen.
The sales guys weren’t doing anything, so I asked one if he
could show me the car.“At $93,000,” I
said, “I’m not in the market to buy one.I just think it’s cool.”To his credit, he smiled, went and got the key
from the manager, and we fired the car up using the push button starter.“Maybe God will be good to you,” he
“He has been,” I thought.But by now I needed to get back to the office, and didn’t have time to
explain this isn’t exactly how I understand God’s goodness—as much as I wish I
might.“Maybe,” I said.
The world is such a disparate place. One person, despite working hard and having a
good heart, is in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up in jail without
a penny to his name. Another person has
so much they can drop $100,000 on a car and never give it a second
thought.Somewhere in between is a
priest who feels the pull of one world but is haunted by the other, wondering
how we close the gaps between us, and
how we find both the inclination and the
time to care when there is so much to distract
us from caring in the little time that is given us.