One Thursday evening several months ago, I met with a mothers’ group at the church. We call ourselves the Night Owls because we meet in the evening to accommodate mothers who work outside the home, although we have plenty of stay-at-home moms in the group as well. The conversation turned, as it often does, to the exhausting work of parenting, regardless of how one does it.
In a moment of candor, I said to the group, “You know, with both my husband and me working full-time, plus two kids, our life just barely works. As long as no one is sick, and all the cars and household appliances are operational, we really get along quite well, and I love our life. But there’s no buffer. So when a monkey wrench gets thrown into our lives, things just go to pieces for a while.”
The very next day, I stood in our bathroom, not breathing, and watched a thin pink line turn darker and darker—and said hello to the mother of all monkey wrenches.
Today we feature two poems. MaryAnn writes: “Last December I decided to write a series of poems inspired by beloved Advent and Christmas hymns. It was a great spiritual discipline for me in the midst of the busyness of the season. I remember sitting with a cup of cocoa and the Presbyterian Hymnal, reading carefully the hymns that we (ok, I) often sing without absorbing the words. The images are a rich treasure for the spiritual and poetic imagination.”
May Christ be born anew in you this Christmastide!
My husband is ambi-pet-trous, but I am a dog person. He can admire and enjoy a cat’s company, but I remain suspect that cats are secretly judging me and planning to overthrow my domestic rule at any moment. Also, they make me sneeze. I want a pet that will be slavishly loyal, that will greet me with wild enthusiasm when I come home and will gaze at me sympathetically when pastoral weights hang from my limbs. I want a dog. And, because my husband likes dogs as much as I do, to celebrate six months of marriage, we began earnestly searching for "the one".
Lord God, God of beginnings, and endings,
God of the past, God of the future,
God of judgment, and God of grace,
God of waiting, and God of fulfillment:
Fulfill in us the coming of Christ.
May we, O God,
Like Mary, treasure and guard the coming of your kingdom deep within us
Nourishing it as it grows,
Delighting in its first flutterings,
cradling its growing weight in our hands,
until it is ready to come and call out to the world. Amen.
For the last couple Decembers, I’ve watched the ordinarily light traffic to my blog skyrocket. It isn’t that I get more interesting during Advent; one of my most recent posts was a humdrum complaint about insurance costs in my adopted state of California. I’m a run-of-the-mill blogger, writing for myself and for the small community of family and friends who at least pretend they like updates about my dog. But in 2005, two sermons I’d posted on any day a beautiful change were linked on Textweek, my favorite clearinghouse of materials for worship and preaching preparation. As the Advent and Christmas season rolls around, hundreds of preachers, teachers, and students-of-the-Word click over to read my words (or, as the case may be, scan and summarily dismiss them).
The town was all a-twitter. The gossip network was running full force. The new pastor, they said, had a man staying in the parsonage.
He had been there over a week, visited the church, and met many of my parishioners before the rumors got back to me, of course. I had only been ministering there a couple of months, and no one wanted to actually ask me about my "mysterious" guest. I probably should’ve expected that there would be talk, but it just didn’t occur to me that my life was considered so scandal-worthy! I'm a member of the coed dorm generation. I also forgot that certain key factors wouldn’t be as obvious to everyone as they were to me. “I don’t know if this will make it any better,” I sighed, when I finally caught wind of the gossip, “but he’s gay.”
As the below true-life examples illustrate, I've been known to let faux curse words slip in my sermons on more than one occasion:
“The disciples had been fishing all day, and they hadn't caught anything whatsoever. They probably felt like crap.”
“You're going to break your wedding vows. It might not be in a big, dramatic Grey's Anatomy kind of way, but you will break them. I mean, I love my husband Jeff, but when I'm pissed at him for eating the leftovers I wanted for my own dinner, I'm pretty sure I'm not cherishing him.”
“So if you're sitting there thinking to yourself, ‘Well, great, I'm screwed,’ don't worry; you're not alone.”
These words started making appearances on the smaller, more informal Wednesday night service, when I was preaching without notes. I soon found myself saying these kinds of things in my Sunday morning sermons to hundreds of people. I started to ask myself why recently.
Another Wednesday night meant another class to teach. Diving into the texts with the enthusiasm of a young child going for the baby in a King’s cake was how I wanted to spend my Wednesday nights. When I arrived in Corinth, I wanted more than anything to share my find with others. I wanted to see what treasures they had found. I loved the rich conversations emerging from shared moments of clarity. And now, it was Wednesday again and last week’s “ah-ha” moments were not as comforting.
Last week had been filled with blank stares. The last few weeks had not been the stuff of comfort. We had been studying the Pastoral Epistles with a companion study guide chosen before my arrival to Corinth. Wednesday night came to mean studying some of my least favorite parts of the Bible with study material that had never heard of different learning styles or this new fangled thing called “inclusive language.” My all-around lack of excitement had been catching even to the most dedicated churchgoers (in other words, our older and more stalwart folks).