Monday, December 14, 2009

Funeral Sermon: Betty Marquis

Since I don't preach from a manuscript, there's no guarantee that this exactly what I said at Betty's funeral. But, it was close.

Betty Marquis was known by many names. A few of you called her mom. A few others of you called her Gram. Most of us called her Betty. Just don't call her Elizabeth. That always elicited an eye roll! Betty was a wife, a mom, a grandmother, a "fairy" godmother, a sister, a niece, an aunt, a cousin, and a friend to many.

Born and raised in Berlin, Betty was a life-long member of this congregation. She was shaped by early events in her life: helping her dad with his florist business - and then losing him when she was only 13. How many of you know that she started driving at 13, to help her dad deliver flowers. She told me THAT story last week, with a gleam in her eye.

Her dad's death was hard on her. She never forgot the pain of losing him so young, and what that was like. His death also meant a move to a new neighborhood, where she would eventually meet Jim. After marriage, they lived in the house Jim grew up in, on fourth street for all but two years of their married life.

Betty had hoped to go to nursing school, but there was no money for that training. Instead, she worked in the office at the Brown Company and she worked seasonally at Gill's. She did book-keeping at home. She raised wonderful children. She crafted and knit. And she contributed much to the life of this congregation.

When Rev. Ellie arrived at St. Barnabas, Betty handed her a piece of paper onto which she'd written all of the things that she did for the church. It had 27 different things on it. And, she'd say, with that characteristic Betty twinkle, that's not all of it.

Usually in a funeral homily, the preacher tells a bit about the person's life, and then tries to connect it all to God. With Betty, there was no distinction. All that Betty did flowed out of her love of God and her faith.

On Sunday, Leo and Pamela Carrier and I were talking about Betty. Leo said that Betty was responsible for the character of this congregation. "If we are welcoming, and hospitable, and have a sense of mission in the community," Leo said, "it's because Betty modeled that for us." We are a better place because of her being in the midst of us. She taught us all, by word and example, how to live.

Last night, Scott's friend Dave, one of the pall bearers, essentially said the same thing. Betty and Jim welcomed him into their home when he was young. "I was like the fourth child," he said. "And now, as an adult, I try to model that same behavior for my boys, so I can pass on the gift and values the Betty and Jim gave to me."

The gospel reading that Rev. Ellie just read for us from John's gospel is part of the service that we use in this church for communion under "Special Circumstances." Betty and I had many communions under special circumstances in recent months. At home, when she didn't feel well enough to come to church. And several times in recent weeks at AVH. I always read this passage to her, and then, in my reflection I would tell her that I'd chosen it because it reminded me of her.

Betty's faith was a deep part of her life. Her conviction was always strong. Even in the hospital, even when she felt really lousy (though she never complained about that), her faith and trust in God, and her joy in life never failed. A few days before she died, I told her that on the outside, she seemed really cheerful (despite being in the hospital and being enrolled into hospice). "How is it in here," I asked? "Just the same," was her smiling reply, that twinkle in her eye.

On Friday night, the night before Betty died, her friend Sophie had a dream. Betty (and all the knitting ladies, I think) were in Sophie's kitchen. I have to go home now, Betty said, standing up. She buttoned up her coat. I have to go home now.

Friends, the grief that we feel now at Betty's death is normal. Our hearts are broken because we loved her, and she loved us. It's hard to imagine a world without Betty in it. But Betty is home. She is reunited with the God she loved so well and loved so deeply.

And, she lives on in each of us. She lives on in the stories we tell. She lives on when we are loving and hospitable. She lives on as we pass on the values she taught us to the next generations.

And so today, I give thanks for the life and witness of Betty Marquis. I give thanks for having known and loved her. And I give thanks for what I have learned from her. I also give thanks that the physical suffering that she endured in recent months has ended and that she is free from her earthly body and is now living in closer communion with her God. AMEN.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent 3 Sermon: Philippians 4:4-7

I don't usually write a manuscript for my sermons. However, when Betty died yesterday; I decided to jettison my JBap sermon in favor of preaching on the Philippians passage. I began writing this post this morning before church, to help me get my thoughts in order; I finished it on Sunday night. I have no idea how much this represents what I actually said, because once my sermons are preached, they are over. However, several friends have asked what I said this morning. It went something like this....

Friends, this isn't the sermon I was planning to preach this morning. I had prepared what I think was a pretty good sermon on John the Baptist. It talked about the ways in which Luke's version of this story differ quite markedly from Matthew and Mark's versions, and what that might mean for us.

And then, Betty Marquis died yesterday morning. Her daughter-in-law Lisa called to tell me the news; I hung up the phone, and these words, from Philippians 4 came into my head unbidden: May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of God's son Jesus Christ. We use these words often in this Church. We use them as the blessing every Wednesday in the chapel at the 10AM service, and I've been using them as the Advent blessing here in the church on Sundays.

As I thought about this passage, and our grief, I realized that today, we needed the comfort of these words. I don't want to presume to speak for anyone else, but I know that today, I feel a combination of relief and sadness, joy and grief. Relief because Betty is finally free of the body which gave her such pain and grief in recent weeks and months, and sadness because I miss her. Joy because Betty has gone to be with God, and grief because she's no longer here with us. Perhaps you are feeling some of the same things.

They say that preachers often preach the sermon that they most need to hear. I know that this is the sermon that I need to hear this morning. I hope it's also the sermon that you need to hear. I found these words from Philippians comforting; I hope that they will be the same for you.

Paul wrote this letter to a church that he founded. He had a deep relationship with the people there, and loved them deeply. He wrote to them from prison. His primary reason for writing was to offer thanksgiving for a monetary gift they have sent to him. His secondary reason is to express his love for them and to encourage them in their faith. It's a short letter, and very beautiful. You could read it in one sitting, probably in 15-20 minutes. And I encourage you to do that.

The Christians in the church at Philippi faced some of the same issues facing the early church all over that region. There was some disagreement among church members. There were those outside the church who were trying to draw believers away from God. Christians faced persecution. Paul wrote to encourage the Philippians in all of those situations.

Today, as we gather together to worship God and join together in fellowship, these words that Paul wrote to the church in Philippi have particular meaning for us. Here the words that Paul speaks to the church at Philippi. Rejoice. Be gentle. The Lord is near. Pray. Rest in the peace of God.

Paul's words of exhortation serve as encouragement to us, as well. If you want a brief description of the life of faith, this one would serve.

Certainly, those words describe Betty and her life. She was a model for us of living out a life characterized by joy, gentleness, prayer, and faithfulness. She never doubted the nearness of her Lord. We who knew Betty and loved her are lucky. We had, in Betty, a living example of what living out this life of faith looks like.

That joy thing - it's complicated. Today, we lit the pink Advent candle. That candle stands for joy. There's some irony in that for us, I think. Today, we might not be feeling particularly joyful. Life as we know it has both sorrow and joy. Last night, when Betty's family gathered to begin planning the funeral, we laughed and we cried. I learned things about Betty that I'd never known. Did y'all know she was a speed demon?? That's how life is: God is with us in our sorrow and our joy. It's not up to us to fabricate that joy for ourselves.

In the coming days and weeks, as we continue to gather and tell stories about Betty, we will give thanks for her life and witness among us; we can honor Betty's memory by following her examples.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sometimes You CAN go Home Again

Before I went to seminary, nearly all of my working life was spent in retail. The vast majority of that was spent as a bookseller. From September of 1991 until I left for seminary in July of 2003, I was first a staff person at, and then the manager of, The World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield, MA.

The World Eye, as most folks call it, is a wonderful store. It survived a fire in 1996, from which it came back better and stronger than ever. For many years, I thought I would be there forever, buying the store and living in Greenfield, my adopted home-town.

God, as we now know, had other plans. I love my life and my ministry, and don't doubt for a moment that I've made the right response to God's call. Despite this, every so often, I get a bookselling twinge. Today, I got to go home again.

I learned in conversation with my friend-for-life (and World Eye owner) Ann that she was going to be short-staffed today. And, I was going to be in Greenfield with a bunch of free time. So, from 11-2:30, I was back in the bookselling saddle. I discovered a number of things:
  • It's amazing what your body remembers. After 6.5 years of not accessing this information, I can still find fiction (or travel, of the baking section of the cookbook area) without having to stop and think about it.
  • I can still run a cash register, and it's mostly the same. I can still make change in my head, and count it back to the penny.
  • Certain movements are ingrained in my body: the set of motions it takes to apply a price tag to merchandise with the most efficiency; the patterns of the keystrokes to open the cash register drawer; how to write up credit slips.
  • Time marches on. Several times, I discovered that I was answering questions based on information that was 6.5 years old. (Of course we have Dungeons and Dragons books [nope]. I can't tell if this book is in stock at our distributors [yes, I can, there's a live stock link].
  • I knew faces quite readily, but many names were gone. It was fun to watch a few people double-take.
  • I'm not reading enough books these days (lots of magazines, blogs, and a newspaper, but precious few books). I dreaded being asked for recommendations.
My only disappointment was that more of my old regular customers didn't wander by.

For the 12 years that I worked there, I can count the days when I hated my job on one hand. Every day was different. Most days were more fun than you can imagine. Today was fun, too. I'm perfectly happy to go back to my day-job, and I am so grateful for a chance to play in my old stomping grounds.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow Day Tales (Past and Present)

I think there's a part of me that will always be a kid. When I heard that there was a snowstorm coming in last night; I really (really really) hoped for a for a snow day today.

When I woke up this morning, it wasn't really snowing. I looked out the window in disappointment; I was reminded of snowy mornings when I was a kid. I remembered that disappointment of hoping school would be postponed, and then waking up to discover no snow. My dad was a teacher, and we had a particular routine on school mornings. He got up, did his thing, and then woke me. We often ate breakfast together. He taught in a different school district from where we lived, and his superintendent called school off more than ours. Predictions of snow often caused much good-natured ribbing. I loved the days when I could go back to bed and Dad had to go to work.

Back to today, by the time I left for church (slightly late) the snow had begun. A few intrepid folks came out for our weekly 10AM service, but there was no going out to lunch afterwards. I ran some errands in the late morning, and got really worried about whether I would make it home; the roads were wretched. We live at the top of a fairly steep hill, and our driveway is very steep.

In the early afternoon, Susan and I met to plan music for Christmas. I got the word that my late afternoon meeting was cancelled, because of the weather. I skipped a home visit, postponing it to tomorrow. After a very slow drive home, I made it just fine, a good three hours earlier than usual.

While this didn't feel like a true snow day (since I didn't get to lounge around in my PJs), I did wind up with a day that felt more like a holiday and less like a real work day. In the end, it was a good snow day.

I'm still not sure of our total snow accumulation; I haven't measured, but I'm voting for about 6 inches.

Monday, December 7, 2009

More on Marriage Equity

As New Jersey legislators hear arguments about Marriage Equity, this article appeared in The New York Times online edition. In it, members of the Petrow-Cohen Family talk about the way in which a lack of marriage equity has affected them. The most powerful words come from the testimony that their teenage daughter was to give today to the state legislature.

The article quotes Jessie Petrow-Cohen's testimony in full. Please go read it. I was brought to tears by one sentence:
The only thing that’s different about my family and every one of yours is that we have to stand here and ask you if we can legally be a family, when you can be one without asking anyone.

Jessie is right, of course.

I have no desire to force those for whom gay marriage is uncomfortable to have one, or attend one, or participate in any way. But no kid should have to wonder whether her family is safe. No kid should have to ask to have her family recognized as legitimate.

The Messiah

I'm not sure when I first encountered Handel's Messiah. I didn't grow up in a house where we listened to this kind of music. Clearly, at some point it entered into my consciousness. For a number of years, listening to it during both Advent and Holy Week has become a part of my spiritual practice.

Sunday night, for the first time, I saw it live. I invited myself along on Margaret's excursion to the Concord Community Chorus's free performance at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Concord (this was the 79th annual performance). The concert was to begin at 7. We met for supper at 5, and then stood in a line (where, amazingly, we were numbers 2 and 3) to get in. It was chilly in Concord; my puffy jacket kept me warm, but a hat would have been a smart addition to the ensemble.

We saw a number of folks Margaret knew. I met some NH Episcopalians I hadn't met before. The concert got off to a late start because a soloist was late, so we had extra chatting time. Our seatmates were a lovely older couple. The woman, age 75, grew up as a member of St. Paul's and told me a bit about the church of her youth while we waited.

The music, when it began, was top notch. Three cheers for the Concord Community Chorus and the wonderful soloists.

Those who know me well know that I don't always have great musical memory. Because I am so familiar with the Messiah, hearing and seeing it live was a totally different experience for me. Repeatedly, I was transported by the music. Sometimes I forgot to breathe. At others, I was near tears, because the music was so beautiful. By the end of the night, my facial muscles hurt, because I'd been smiling so much.

Here's Margaret's video of the Hallelujah Chorus.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Seven Loves

I came across this meme on my friend Margaret's blog, and thought it was great. I hope it gets me back into the scheme of blogging.

The question: What are your seven loves? For me the answer falls into categories, more readily than it does individual items. They are: Loved Ones, The Church, Reading, Music, the Beauty of Creation, Travel, and Food.

Loved ones
I've been really blessed in my life with good relationships. My parents were (and are still, in my mother's case!) good people who loved me unconditionally, and showed it. Through the wonders of Facebook, I am in touch with a friend from Nursery School, friends from elementary school, high school and college, friends from seminary, and friends from the various places I have lived. I have always been a people person, and I'll always choose hanging out with friends over virtually everything else. Whenever I return to a place where I have lived, the most important thing to me is time with the friends who are still there. When I go to Western Mass, I make date after date, so that I can see those I love. (Ditto: Virginia, Michigan, New Zealand).

I could give up virtually everything else in my life, but I couldn't live without my friends. There are those who think I am addicted to technology. But, for the most part, my love of technology feeds my desire to be in touch with those I love who don't live right here, right now.

Please note that loved ones aren't limited to human loved ones, either. These days Birdie, Outtie, Sam and Basil make my heart sing, as do a number of others (including my new canine BFFs).

The Church
I've been a church rat since I was a kid. I was that girl trying to persuade the priest that girls should be altar boys, long before that was allowed. When my church started a kids' choir, I was there. I joined the youth group when that was possible. I was active in a number of campus religious organizations. I've never in my life been without a church community. And, I've never not been active in whichever church community I have joined.

Now, of course, behind that love of church is love of God. But for me, the church is the place where my love of God is strengthened and encouraged. It's the place from which I am sent, in order to be Christ's hands and feet in the world. I personally can't live out my Christian faith without a church community to do it in.

Somewhere, there is a picture of me, age two, in my father's lap, reading a book. It happened every day. I taught myself to read around age 4. And I've never stopped. My reading habits have changed - I read fewer romance novels now than I did when I was a teenager. In fact, these days much of my reading is of magazines. But, I never go anywhere without reading material. And I can tell, because I get grumpy, if I haven't taken enough time to read. These days most of my reading happens at breakfast. I'm up early, and I sit at the island in the kitchen eating my breakfast, drinking my coffee, and reading. It's a wonderful way to start my day.

While I can read music, and sing passably, my real love of music is as a listener. I traced my history with music for a friend the other day. I began with records. I used to stack them up on my parents' record player, and then lay on the floor and listen to them. I had a brief foray with 8-Track Tapes, and then moved on to cassettes. Now I'm at CDs, periodically, and mostly just electronically downloaded or streaming music.

My taste is rather eclectic. In the recently played section of my iTunes, you'll find: Paul Simon, Lady Gaga, ABBA, Men Without Hats, Girlyman, U2, and a whole collection of Classical Music. As Advent progresses, I'll start listening to the Messiah, almost exclusively.

Music soothes me, makes me happy, energizes me, or relaxes me, depending on the music and the occasion.

The Beauty of Creation
I originally wrote that I loved the outdoors. But, when I wrote the first line, I had to go back and edit. Because, it really is the beauty of creation that drives my passion here. It doesn't much matter to me whether it is the red rocks of the southwest, the crowning beauty of fjords in New Zealand, or the view from my deck. I am constantly awed by the beauty of this world we live in. I'm the girl who pulls the car over by the side of the road to gape at some new scene. In the southwest and in New Zealand, sometimes my jaw would hurt because what I saw made me grin. Repeatedly.

I think that life is one big adventure. I love going to new places and seeing new things. So far, I've been to the UK (twice) and Ireland, New Zealand (many times), all of eastern Canada, plus Mexico, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, The Bahamas, and 45 of the fifty states (I only need to go to Hawaii, Alaska, North Dakota, Alabama, and Louisiana to have been to them all!). I'll be going to Jerusalem in February; I'm already giddy with anticipation.

I love to eat. I love to cook. I love to try new things. Need I say more? One of the things I love about traveling is the chance to try new foods. I'll eat anything once. I also have old favorites: Lobster. Scallops (particularly the fried ones from the Dairy Bar, right here in Berlin). Really, any kind of sea food, including sushi. I also love having adventures in the kitchen. I made a great Thanksgiving dinner, and everything but the turkey was an experiment.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

10 Ways That Being Insured has Benefitted Me (our Family)

Apparently, my blog was a bit like the Car Talk Puzzler, and took a bit of a summer holiday.  But, just as the cool air is returning to the North Country, I'm back.  

Ten Ways Being Insured Has Benefitted Me
1. My considerable "female problems" have all been covered - a number of surgeries - both major and minor.  Not a penny out of pocket.  Total cost must be over $100K.  (The hysterectomy alone was over $50K.)
2. I have had regular preventative medical care for my whole life.
3. My mom is a happy, healthy 83 year old because of good preventative medical care.
4. I was accident prone as a child.  All of my cuts were stitched up well - with a minimum of scarring. 
5. Our prescriptions are covered - we don't have to worry about whether we can afford them; we have no hard choices to make between our health and other necessitates like food, shelter, or clothing.
6. I am getting regular mammograms and pap smears as preventative measures.
7. We can afford for Michelle to receive some physical therapy for her hip.
8. I could get my bad crown redone - without going into debt.
9. I never worry about whether we will be able to afford medical things: office visits, illnesses, or even crises.
10. I've had good relationships with doctors because I could see them regularly.

The issue with all of this: our current health insurance plan costs St. Barnabas and the Diocese (who share the cost) $14,000, or so, a year.  This to insure two young and healthy adults.  This cost is out of reach for many families and employers.  Our current system is broken and needs repair, both to keep costs down for healthy adults (and businesses who employ them!) and to give healthcare to those who are currently without.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Water Feature

There's a little human-made pond in our back yard (right next to what seems like a very ill-placed fire pit).  Michelle dragged a pump out of the pond earlier this spring and has been doing some work to clean it up.  

Now the surprise peonies appeared right near the pond, so I've been paying some attention to the pond of late.  Tonight, when I came home, I checked immediately to see if the peony had bloomed.  [No, by the way.]  But, what I did discover is that today, Michelle got the pump hooked back up and now, our pond has a bit of a fountain.  Wow!  I've been very excited all evening about the working water feature.  Several times, I had to go hang out at the back door, just to watch the water.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Right now, I'm sitting on the couch, writing articles for the St. Barnabas newsletter, and the TV is on.  The rector's reflection begins talking about the surprises we're finding this spring in our garden and moves into the way life (powered by the Holy Spirit) often surprises us.  (I've included the full article at the end of this post.)

Mostly, I'm writing.  But occasionally, something on the television catches my attention.  Suddenly, I see a commercial for Orbitz.  Four guys are out golfing, when the Orbitz hovercraft lands, and hands them all (except for the guy who didn't use Orbitz) refund checks because their flight-prices went down.  I realized, as I was watching, that one of the guys was wearing a polo shirt with the logo for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization.  It was very clearly the logo above.

So, there I was, writing about surprise - being surprised.  Gayness.  Right there in the Orbitz commercial.  Subtle, sure, but there, nonetheless.  Yay for the Holy Spirit.  

Rector's Reflections: July 2009
Michelle and I arrived in Milan in mid-August.  By the time we arrived, the garden has mostly passed.  We (OK, she) built a couple of flower beds in the early fall, but we really had no idea what to expect around our yard.  The first surprise this spring has been the wild strawberries that pretty much dominate our front yard.  They are everywhere – yum!  The next surprise was the peony, behind the pond.  We had no idea it was there.  Now, we walk around the yard every few days, looking for the next big surprise.  What else is hidden amidst the trees, ferns, and grasses?  It’s always a miracle to me when seeds and bulbs come up out of the ground.  Being surprised by the unexpected is even more amazing.

And really, isn’t life a lot like this?  We think we know what to expect – from an encounter, a meeting, or some project we take on.  But, just like the garden, life is full of surprises.  The Holy Spirit is full of surprises! The thing about the Holy Spirit and surprises is that we need to be open to them.  If we’re not looking, not paying attention, we can miss them. 

This month, I invite you to be on the lookout.  The Holy Spirit is abroad in the world, shaking up life on a regular basis.  You never know where you’ll find a peony or conversation that will knock your sox off.  

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Abandoned House and the Irises

There's an abandoned house up the road from our house.  Technically, it's for sale, but no one lives there, and it appears to be in pretty dire condition.  It's tipping pretty dramatically; a stiff wind would probably blow it over.  The yard is a wild tangle.  It's filled with ferns, brambles, and tall grass.

Tonight, when I was walking Birdie, I noticed the irises. There's a large iris bed ringing the front part of the property, filled with the lovely dark purple variety, packed in cheek by jowl. (Or would that be leaf by stem?)  Irises are my favorite flowers, so that's probably what really caught my attention.  But, after I noticed them, I spent the walk home thinking about the irises and the house.

Who planted them?  What happened to the people who owned the house?  Was there a time when the house and yard were well loved and cared for?  I had a lovely little day dream, imagining someone planting the bulbs, lovingly.  

Planting is such a vote for the future.  Larry and I were talking about how to establish an asparagus bed today.  It's a significant investment in time and a belief in the future.  But really, that's true of any planting.  Putting seeds, or vegetables, flowers, or trees in the ground is a statement of belief in the future.  

I imagine that the planter of the irises had no idea what would happen to his/her house.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Seen by the roadside

I have not appreciated the deer and the moose statuary.  Living in places where encounters on the road with the real thing can range from dangerous to deadly, I've found the statues of deer and moose people have in their yards startling.  I've mistaken the statue for the real thing, heart thumping and nerves jangling, on more than one occasion.

Yesterday, though, I saw one that made me laugh out loud.

This family had taken one of those life-sized deer statues, placed it near the road, and then dressed it in pirate garb.  There was the deer with a bandana on its head, eye patch, striped shirt, and cigarette hanging out of it's mouth.  It cracked me up!  I wished I'd had the time to stop and snap a pic.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

15 Books that Stick with Me

I've noticed that the memes that appeal to me the most are the ones that are book related.  I had lunch this week with a new friend, and talk turned to work histories.  My friend was not remotely surprised to learn that I'd spent twelve years managing a bookstore.  He saw my passion for books and reading in our interactions (and we've got a great novel swap happening at the moment!)  

The challenge: choose fifteen books that continue to stick with you.  Feel free to say why they've stuck or not.  Stick with you, of course, is totally open to personal interpretation.  For me, these are the books I come back to again and again.  Something about the book captured me.  These are in no particular order, by the way.  

1. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name ~ A Biomythography by Audre Lorde. I read this shortly after I came out and shortly after Lorde's death.  I felt like I was learning some of my history. I re-read it periodically.  I love Lorde's voice.

2. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.  This was the first book by Lamott that I read.  I fond myself laughing out loud.  And, her advice on writing and life is spot on.

3. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  Pollan's book about food, what we eat, and how we eat has changed how I look at food (and sometimes) how I eat.

4. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.  Barbara Kingsolver is my favorite novelist.  This is certainly my favorite novel.  I'm a sucker for multiple voices, and this is so well done.

5. Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy.  I'm also a huge Piercy fan.  This is another multiple voice novel, set in and around World War II.  Piercy's characterization is amazing.

6. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.  Atwood is yet another favorite writer.  This classic fable shows what could happen when theocracy is brought to an extreme.

7. Watership Down by Richard Adams.  I first read this one in junior high.  I've re-read it several times since.  Adams makes a world where animals think, talk, and order society seem possible.

8. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling.  I'm a huge fan of the series, but I think this one is my favorite.  (Mind you, this could change at any given moment!) Dumbledore's mentoring of Harry is wonderful to watch (and the ending, completely unexpected, at least by me).  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would be my other choice for favorite in the series.  I love it when good triumphs.

9. The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.  The first time I read this novel (set in the future, time travel is possible, historians use it to study events in history) I was on a business trip.  The novel was so gripping I resented every time I had to leave my hotel room and stop reading.

10. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.  This is the newest book on my Top 15 list.  It taught me so much about what is happening in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and it gives me hope for the future.  I give it away as often as I can.  I also donate to the Central Asia Institute.

11. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien.  I tried to read The Hobbit several times as a kid.  I hated it.  I gave up.  When the movies came out, I tried again, and started with The Fellowship of the Ring and I was totally drawn in.  Now I've read the repeatedly.

12. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich.  Ehrenreich, an investigative jounralist, goes under cover in three minimum-wage jobs: a housecleaner, a waitress, and a worker at Wal-Mart.

13. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. This is a hard novel to read.  But it also gives a glimpse into women's lives in Afghanistan.  I was haunted (and continue to be) by it.

14. On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I read this series over and over again as a kid.  In the 4th grade, I had gingham dresses and a sunbonnet.  As young adults, Marie and I took the Laura Ingalls Wilder tour in South Dakota.  I still have a soft spot in my heart for these books.  

15. Roots by Alex Haley.  I read it first on an educational challenge in 6th grade.  My social studies teacher was looking for a project that might challenge me, so she suggested it.  She had to get my parents' permission for me to read it for her class.  I was a sheltered little white girl living in a monochromatic town.  This novel opened my eyes to other realities.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend in Milan

We spent Memorial Weekend creating our new gardens.  On Saturday, we build our new bed.  On Sunday, we hauled soil.  We'd had 5 cubic yards of topsoil delivered, but because of the lay of our property, the dump truck had to dump it farther than we would have liked.  Today, we filled the other small beds with soil and then planted all of the beds.  

The largest bed (from right to left) is: tomatoes, carrots, brussels sprouts, beans, peas, zucchini squash, acorn squash, and then space for potatoes and onions.

The left-hand small bed has chives, salad greens, spinach, and cilantro.  The right small bed has oregano, two kinds of basil, and parsley.  We also planted six tubs of patio tomatoes, which are on the deck.  Oh, and we added some annuals to our mini flower garden.  When it was done, we took Birdie for a ride and picked some rocks, to add to Michelle's repairs to the pond.  

I'm sore and tired, but I'm also really contented.  Mostly, my work isn't physical; it's far more cerebral.  I found working physically hard very satisfying.  And, I'm already anticipating a summer of fresh veggies.  Michelle is cautious, calling this a test year for the garden.   I'm hopeful. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

That's a bear

I went hiking this morning with Sally and her daughter Isobel. She was showing me some trails we might use for the upcoming "St. Barnabas Hikes" outing next Saturday.   I brought Bird and they brought Clover, their "dog in law!"  Clover is a great dog.  She can run off leash and comes back when she's called.  I was a teeny bit jealous, since Birdie can't ever be off leash.

Our destination was a little pond just off the Mahoosuc Trail.  We were just shy of the pond when Isobel said, "Mommy, Clover is chasing a bear."  Sure enough, Clover had treed a bear cub.  It was pretty tiny and VERY cute. And, it didn't look particularly happy to have been treed!

We never saw the Momma bear, but we decided to turn around then and there.   In general, bears won't hurt you if you are hiking.  But you never want to get between a Momma Bear and her cub.  

The worst part was that it really freaked out Isobel (who is 5).  She wasn't really relaxed until we got back to the car.  

For me, it was kind of exciting (and a little adrenaline producing).  It was my first bear in the wild in NH and my first bear cub ever.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

bumping against the system

I went to the doctor's today for a physical.  It was my first appointment at this medical clinic.  The people were incredibly nice.  I really like my new health care provider.  We discovered that we lived in some of the same towns in Western Mass (though not at the same time). 

But, starting in a new practice is always dicey when you're gay.  First, there's the form.  Are you: Married, Widowed, Single or Divorced.  We'll I'm married.  But not legally.  Several years ago, I started making a new category on the form and circling it.  I write in partner.  It hardly even phases me anymore.  

And then there's the "Are you sexually active?" question.  You never know whether your healthcare provider is going to be cool with gay people.  So, I always hold my breath when that question comes up.  Today it was fine.  In fact, I think my new provider (a great nurse practitioner named Alice) thought it was kind of cool.  I think, if I understood her, that she has a gay kid.  

I was relieved to have gotten through the two potentially dicey parts unscathed.  Then, things got more complicated at the end of the visit.  I had to go and register with the lab, because the lab is run by somebody other than the medical office and their systems don't talk.  So, I went in, and had to give my info all over again.  This time I had to respond to questions being asked by a lab tech sitting in front of a computer.  You guessed it.  First, the woman asked, "Are you: Married, Widowed, Single, Divorced." 


"You're what?"


"Oh, I don't know if that's in there.  Let me see."  And then, imagine our surprise, when out of the drop-down menu down came Life-partnered.  Wow!  I was pretty psyched.

So then, she asked me who should be contacted in an emergency.  I gave her Michelle's information.  "Relationship?" she asked.

"She's my partner."

"Oh.  Let me find that on the list."  Another drop-down menu.  Options included: friend, husband, grand-daughter, niece, and at least fifteen other choices.  Big surprise, partner wasn't on the list.  In the end, we had to choose "significant other."  But, that choice really annoyed me.  Michelle is my wife (though not legally, of course).  She's my partner.  Significant other is a descriptor for a boyfriend/girlfriend.  And yet, we had to use it because it was as close as we could get.  

I think I might have been less annoyed had the category life-partner not existed in the drop-down list.  But if you're going to have it on the one, you REALLY need to have its corollary on  the other.  Most days, I can live with the ways that my life and love are invisible, or worse.  But most days, I don't bump up against it quite so obviously.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Friend's Wedding

My friend got married a few weeks ago.  It was a lovely wedding, small and intimate.  The setting was gorgeous: a small park near where he lives.  The day was beautiful.  It was warm, the sun was shining, trees were blooming.  My friend and his new spouse are clearly in love.  I stood among the small group of guests, grinning from ear to ear.  He's been a good friend for a number of years; I love seeing him so happy.  

So why am I left with a bittersweet feeling, after what was, in many ways, a perfect day?

My friend is gay.  [Note: THIS is not the problem!] He grew up in a religiously conservative family.  Some of his family still don't know he's gay.  Heck, some of our friends still don't know he's gay.  The members of his family who do know chose not to be present for the ceremony.  It broke my heart.  They missed something wonderful.  For a variety of reasons, my friend's marriage has to be on the down-low.  I understand the reasons, and I support him in his decisions.  

And yet, I found myself feeling a bit melancholy.  It was odd to be so happy and feel so sad at the same time.  At the reception, I kept looking at my friend and his new husband, so in love, and feeling sorry that the people who've loved him the longest were not there.

On the other hand, this was my second legal gay wedding (since our wedding was totally illegal).  When I came out in 1988, I never expected to see legal gay marriage in my lifetime.  Let's be real: when I came out in 1988, I never expected to live the out, proud life I live now.  So that when an agent of the state said, "By the power invested in me by the state of XX, I now pronounce you wedded spouses," I got a little teary.  Both times.  

We've come a long way.  We're making progress.  I now have hope that in my lifetime gay marriage will be recognized nationally.  I also have hope that more and more people who are inclined to distance themselves from their gay family members will come to see that we are the same people they have always loved.  I remain clear in my conviction (which is just as scripture based as those who would hold another view) that God loves all of us, straight and gay.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What do the moose think?

I walked Birdie up Milan Hill Road today when I got home from work.  First, I noticed all of the moose tracks.  The shoulder is very damp these days, and Milan Hill is clearly a moose byway.  Each day, I see fresh tracks.  In case you were wondering, the moose are definitely back!  In short order, however, all of the trash intruded on my moose euphoria.  There must have been twenty or more beer bottles in a third of a mile stretch, plus another couple dozen beer cans, some soda/pop bottles, and a digital pregnancy tester (I don't even want to know!).  Moose tracks and a beer bottle.  More moose tracks and three crushed cans.   

I found myself wondering what the moose think of all the shit that litters their home.  Do they notice it?  (How could they not?)  Does it disturb them?  And I don't mean emotionally (the way it disturbs me!).  I wonder: Does the trash get in their way?  Cause them to change their behavior?

And what about the people who toss their trash out the window?  I recently had a conversation about our disconnection from nature.  It seems to me that one of the symptoms of  humanity's disconnection from the natural world just might be the ability to litter without conscience.  

Milan Hill Road is a beautiful spot.  There are more trees than houses; you can see wildflowers by the side of the road.  There are several marshy areas right by the road.  And, on a good day, you can see a moose in a moose wallow.  How disconnected do you have to be to throw a beer bottle into this?

Sometimes I walk with a garbage bag.  But, it's kind of a losing battle.  Tonight, I was simply sad.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Poetry, after all

So, when I said several weeks ago that I wasn't a huge poetry fan, I just wasn't thinking.  One great reader emailed me a Mary Oliver poem and I had one of those head-slap moments.  Of course.  Mary Oliver.  Which got me thinking about other poets whose work I've enjoyed:
David Whyte
Billy Collins
Adrienne Rich
Emily Dickinson

My favorite poet, however, is Taylor Mali.  I first encountered him on a mix CD Meaghan gave to me.  (OK, what really happened is that she left it in the CD player of my car when she borrowed it, and I was so transfixed by Taylor Mali's performance that I kept it for weeks.)  The piece that grabbed me that day is called: Seventh Grade Viking Warrior.  It came up on shuffle on my iPod today, which is what prompted this post.  There I was, cleaning the bathroom and listening to tunes, and suddenly, I was weeping.

He's primarily a performance poet - and many of his pieces are on You Tube.  I'm not a giant You Tube fan.  I don't need to see babies doing strange things, or rollerskating cats.  But poetry, I like.  Poetry is a great use of You Tube.  Many of his poems are there; all you have to do is search.

So, here they are, my two favorite Taylor Mali poems.

Seventh Grade Viking Warrior:

Like Lilly Like Wilson:

The other cool think about Taylor Mali is that he is (or has been) a teacher.  He's passionate about teaching.  About teachers.  And about the high calling that teaching is.  Another great poem to watch is "What Teachers Make."  

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Behold Challenge: Day 6

I've been behind on posting some beholds, but I have been saving them up!

1. Behold! The sound of spring peepers that nearly bowls me over when I open the door to front deck.

2. Behold! The clear blue sky of spring in northern New Hampshire.

3. Behold! Red trillium, blooming in profusion in our yard and around our neighborhood.

4. Behold! Not one, but two, moose by the side of the road today.  

5. Behold! The joy of running outside in shorts.

6. Behold! The wonder of exploring a beautiful poem with friends and colleagues.  Check out David Whyte's "Working Together." 

Our Yummy Granola Recipe

This is the granola that my wife makes for us on a regular basis.  Many folks have asked me for the recipe, and I've forgotten who.  So, here it is for any who want to try it.

2 cups oats (quick oats are best)
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 TBS brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup extra ingredients*

1/4 cup maple syrup**
3 TBS flavorless oil
1 TBS water

dried fruit optional: dried cherries are particularly fabulous.

Spray a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray.  Simmer syrup, oil, water.Mix dry ingredients together.   Combine wet and dry ingredients.  Either mix in dried fruit or top with dried fruit.  Bake for 30 minutes at 275 degrees F.

*You can use any combination of: any type of chopped nuts, flax seeds, pepitas, sunflower seeds, or chopped banana chips.
**Instead of maple syrup you can use honey or [our favorite] brown rice syrup.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Behold Challenge: Day 5

1. Behold!  How cool the hail looks when it bounces off the grass.

2. Behold! It felt really good to run today.  Hard, but very good.

3. Behold! Spicy chili.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Behold Challenge: Day 4

I've been on the road for a couple of days, and not so much time/space/access to blog. So here a few beholds from the last few days.

1. Behold! The amazing green of the landscape in West Virginia.

2. Behold! Flowering trees.

3. Behold! The tangle of roots beside the path on the hiking trail at Sandscrest.

4. Behold! The lovely way the cooks here at Sandscrest have taken care of me, providing wonderful dairy and egg-free foods.

5. Behold! The gift of friends, old and new.

And, my favorite....

6. Behold! The sound of spring peepers. Hooray!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Behold Challenge: Day 3

1. Behold! The beauty of the snow-capped mountains reflecting on the Androscoggin River.  

2. Behold! The joy of celebrating our one-year anniversary.

3. Behold! How fun it was to have our rector and wardens' meeting outside this afternoon, because the weather was so gorgeous, today.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Behold Challenge: Day 2

1. Behold! The joy of lunch with a new friend, and the joy of discovering shared interests and outlooks.

2. Behold! Little crocuses peeking out of the mulch at the LL Bean Outlet Mall in Concord.

3. Behold! How good it feels to drive into my own driveway and know that I am home.  The "Concord Retreat" was fun, but there's no place like home.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Behold Challenge: Day 1

Abuela Marty read my post of a few days ago about Beholding, and took it as a challenge.  She's working on posting three Behold moments each day.  I decided to take up the Behold mantle.  I'm going to try to do the same.  Not forever, mind.  But I thought it might be a nice way to celebrate the Great 50 days of Easter.  Clearly, I won't make every day.  But, I'll try for most days.  And, I'll Behold! even if I don't post.

1. Behold!  The daffodils growing on the grass at the edge of the freeway on ramp.  Signs of spring.

2. Behold! The smell of myrrh, and the gift of both anointing and being anointed by a friend and colleague.  I can still smell it, faintly, on my hands.

3. Behold! The taste of a wonderfully spicy burrito for dinner.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Evening Sermon

There are little bits of this sermon that are repeated from the noon reflection - but not that many. The related scripture texts are in the body of the sermon.

In Luke’s Gospel, in the recounting of the events of the day that we now know as Good Friday, at the moment when Jesus dies on the cross, the curtain of the temple is torn in two.

That curtain, a feature of the Jewish temple, was designed to keep the people separate from God. Jewish people believed that God could be found, literally, in the place in the temple called The Holy of Holies. Only one High Priest could venture there, and even then only at certain times and under certain circumstances. The curtain was the dividing line. God lives here, and no one else is worthy to enter.

At the moment of Jesus’ death, that curtain, designed to keep humans and God separated, is torn. Torn by Jesus’ death.

And we are the beneficiaries of the tearing. God is no longer distant. No longer locked in a room. God is no longer separate and apart. God and we are set free and we are able to be directly in relationship with God. In Jesus’ death, God and humanity are reunited.

I tell you this because that torn curtain is the one referred to in the Epistle reading for tonight - from the letter to the Hebrews. Hear again what that author wrote concerning the curtain: Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh),

and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

This biblical letter to the Hebrews isn’t really a letter. It’s more like an essay. And none of the biblical scholars are certain to whom it was originally written. The best guess is that it was to a community of Jewish Christians, living in exile, far outside of Jerusalem, and suffering persecution. Those folks would have known about the High Priest and the Holy of Holies. They would have known, instantly, the significance of the writer’s words.

This author of this text goes on to suggest to that gathered group of exiles what living out life in this new reality might look like. The author writes: Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

We are the beneficiaries of the events of that Good Friday long ago. Like the Hebrews first addressed in this letter, we no longer need to live apart from God. When that curtain was torn, the great divide between God and humanity was breached.

We are no longer separated from God by a curtain.

And, like the Hebrews addressed in this letter, we have responsibility because of this. We are called to speak of the hope that is within us. To proclaim the Good News of God in Christ. Even in the midst of hardship. Of recession. Of fear. Of death.

We are also called to “provoke one another to love and good deeds.” I love that. My dictionary says that to provoke is to stimulate or give rise to a strong emotion, often a negative or unwelcome one. In our new reality, provoking is transformed into a blessing or benefit.

And finally, we are to “meet together.” Or, in the words of our baptismal promises, to continue in the Apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers.

When that temple’s curtain was torn, we were brought into new and closer relationship with God. And with that relationship comes responsibility. Therefore, let us strive, like our “Hebrews” forebearers, to proclaim the source of our hope, to provoke one another to greater love, and to gather together regularly, in Christ’s name.

Sermon for the Ecumenical Good Friday Service

The Seventh Word: Father into your hands I commend my spirit. A reading from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 23, beginning at the 44th verse. It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last.

It can be a challenge to us, as 21st Century Christians, to hear and grasp all of the symbolism in a biblical text. The words were written nearly 2000 years ago, or more, in many cases. Cultural mores have changed. Religious practices have changed. Jesus and his followers were faithful Jews. So some of the mores and practices described are Jewish, rather than Christian, and predate the founding of Christianity. We can be forgiven for not catching the references!

There are two references in this text that we, as 21st Century Christians, might miss. The first is what Jesus says. The second is the event that immediately precedes it.

Jesus says: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” It is a quote from Psalm 31. A psalm which, in my New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, is called, “A Psalm of Prayer and Praise for Deliverance from Enemies.” How fitting that these would be Jesus’ final words.

One biblical scholar stated that Psalm 31 was a psalm that Jewish mothers taught their children at a young age. It was to be recited by faithful Jews each and every night before they fell asleep.

It says volumes that Jesus’ last words came from a Psalm that Mary taught him when he was very young. Jesus learned these words long before he fully understood what would be asked of him. What we teach our children matters.

Karl Barth, a well-known 20th century theologian, was asked at the end of his long career, about the most important thing he had learned in his life’s work of studying theology. His response: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. What we teach our children matters.

When I was a child, it was usually my dad who tucked me in at night. Over a few years, we developed a ritual. We prayed certain prayers together. And then we said good night in the same way, each night. There was comfort in those prayers.

What did you learn about God when you were a child? A young adult? Do you still carry those lessons with you? Do you still pray the prayers that you were taught when you were young? Do you have words of comfort to draw on in the face of pain or loss or terror?

And then, there’s the event. At the moment of Jesus’ death, the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

That curtain, a feature of the Jewish temple, was designed to keep the people separate from God. Jews believed that God could be found, literally, in the place in the temple called The Holy of Holies.

Only a High Priest could venture back there, and even then only at certain times and under certain circumstances. The curtain was the dividing line. It was sort of a No Trespassing sign. God lives here, and no one else is worthy to enter.

At Jesus death, that curtain, designed to keep humans and God separated, is torn. Torn by Jesus’ death. We are the beneficiaries of the tearing. God is no longer distant. No longer locked in a room. No longer separate and apart. God is free and we are able to be directly in relationship with God. In Jesus’ death, God and humanity are reunited.

Today, we feel the pain of Jesus’ death, remembered and recollected. Today is a somber day. And this is as it should be. But, as today passes into tomorrow and then we come to the dawn of Easter Sunday, we can recall the grace of the Good News of this day.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday Sermon

John 13:1-17, 31b-35 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean." After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Tonight we gather to mark Maundy Thursday. This is the night when Jesus gathered for his final meal with his friends. According to the Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this is the night where Jesus left his church with the sacrament of the Eucharist.

At the Last Supper, Jesus took the bread, he blessed it, broke it, gave it to his disciples, and then said something like: Take and eat, this is my body, which is given for you, do this in remembrance of me. Next, he took a cup of wine and said something like: Drink this, all of you, this is my blood of the new covenant. It is shed for you and for all, for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.

We’ll hear those words, in just a few minutes, when we gather to share our Eucharist. Our thanksgiving. You will see me take the bread, and bless it. Then I’ll break it and we will all share it, along with the wine.

Tonight, however, we hear words from John’s Gospel. There is no bread. There is no wine. Instead, there are feet and love.

A standard definition of a sacrament is that it is A) An outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace AND B) Something that Jesus both did and commanded us to do.

Therefore, I would posit that there are two sacraments instituted in this short passage from John’s Gospel.

First Commandment: footwashing. Jesus tells the disciples that, just as he washes their feet, they are to wash the feet of others. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that most of us HATE footwashing. And, if hate is too strong a word, we find it tremendously uncomfortable. I think my feet are ugly. I am afraid they smell badly. I’d rather not have anyone else touch them. What was Jesus thinking? \

Well, it’s not so much about the feet, really, as it is about the action. It doesn’t ring so true for us, because we walk through our days in shoes and socks. But, since most folks at that time and in that dry and dusty place either walked barefoot or in sandals, their feet were always dirty. A slave, or a servant, would wash the feet of master, family, and guests. And, they did it because feet needed washing.

And Jesus, our Lord and God-incarnate, got down on his knees, took on the job of the lowliest servant or slave, and washed his followers’ feet. Talk about turning the world upside down. No hierarchy here. No chain of command. Instead, a total reversal of what had always been. It’s no wonder they killed him, really.

Second Commandment: love. After he washes their feet, Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment. He says so directly: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Commandment. It’s the same word used in the book of Exodus to describe those things written on the stone tablets. This new commandment is as serious and binding as the 10 old ones. It’s where Maundy Thursday gets its name from this New Commandment – Maundy comes from the Latin - mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum… " A new commandment…

Footwashing and love. If we’d only had John’s gospel, our service might look very different on Sunday morning, eh? But seriously, what would living out these two other sacraments look like in our lives?

I don’t think we’re meant to wash one another’s feet every day (though doing it once a year as a reminder isn’t a bad thing, despite how uncomfortable it might make us feel).

I do think we’re called to live lives of service, and of turning over the hierarchy.

My contemporary model for this kind of servant leadership was my friend and former Bishop, the late Jim Kelsey.
At the end of any parish visit, when you would look around to find Jim, in order to say goodbye, he would be in the kitchen, up to his elbows in dishwater, washing dishes from the luncheon. There he would be, chit-chatting with the folks who were working in the kitchen. I’d never seen a bishop do the dishes before. But, when I asked him about it, he talked about servant leadership. And friendship.

What might servant leadership look like for us?

I think we get it pretty well, here, frankly. We are a congregation that knows how to work hard. I’ve not seen folks slack off when it comes to hard work.

And what about loving one another? Love doesn’t mean that we always get along. That every person in our lives gives us warm feelings each and every time we think of them. Or that we never disagree. I think, at the heart of it, the kind of love that Jesus is commanding is rooted in respect and relationship. It means talking through our differences. It means naming our hurts. And it means a radical welcome to all whom we encounter.

So, as we move from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday, and then to Easter, I invite you to consider serving and loving as sacraments. They’re less concrete than bread and wine. But they ARE outward and visible signs of inward and invisible graces. And they are actions that each of us can do, as a reflection of the great and saving love we encounter in Jesus.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Book Maven Quiz (yet another version)

1) What author do you own the most books by?
J.K. Rowling, Robert Jordan, Marcus Borg

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
The Bible. I probably own 8-10 bibles, in a variety of translations.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Not particularly.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Hermione Granger

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson; The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley; Zami: A New Spelling of my Name by Audre Lourde.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
The Little House in the Prairie series.

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
Actually, the last year has been a high-point of reading. Plus, ever since managing a bookstore, I've gotten very good at simply putting down a book I'm not enjoying.

8) What is the best book you've read in the past year?
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson; A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini; The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
Three Cups of Tea. It's a wonderful and uplifting story about how one person can make a difference. It also gives amazing insights into what's happening in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
Margaret Atwood

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
I really wish they would stop making books into movies.

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
I am afraid that they will turn The Shack into a movie. I can't imagine how they could do this without trivializing, sentimentalizing, and ruining the book.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I can barely remember my dreams, never mind one involving a writer, a book, or a literary character. I have had some lovely daydreams about Hermione Granger (as an adult!).....

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult?
I have to start by saying that I find this question a bit elitist. Lowbrow by whose standards? Isnt reading lowbrow better than not reading at all? But, having said that, I have a secret addiction to lowbrow novels (or at least I used to). I had a serious Danielle Steel thing going when I was a teenager. I recently read one of her latest. HRH. Must say, it was very disappointing. Poorly written. Predictable. But still. Reading Danielle Steel, better than mindless internet gaming. (Which I also love, but that's another post!)

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
The Confessions by Augustine

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen?
Haven't seen any of the obscure Shakespeare plays.

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
I've read more Russian authors than French ones, but not enough of either to call it a preference.

18) Roth or Updike?
I've read more Updike than Roth, but again, not enough of either to call it a preference.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Hard one. If forced to make a decision, I probably prefer Chaucer, but it's realy a toss-up.

21) Austen or Eliot?

Fran's Note: None of these choose one questions really do it for me (except the Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer question, and then it was hard to choose). Not really a fan of Eggers OR Sedaris, of Updike OR Roth, of Austen OR Eliot. How about some other pairings:

21a) Sue Grafton or Sarah Paretsky?
Grafton in one quick minute.

21b) J. R. R. Tolkein or C.S. Lewis?
While I liked The Chronicles of Narnia, I loved The Lord of the Rings.

21c) Margaret Atwood or Louise Erdrich
Margaret Atwood

21d) Alice Walker or Toni Morrison
Alice Walker

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
American classics. I've not read The Great Gatsby. Or The Grapes of Wrath. Or about a zillion other classics. Some days it might be shorter to list which American classics I have read.

23) What is your favorite novel?
Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy. I discovered I no longer own it - it's probably time to hunt down a used copy and re-read it.

24) Play?
King Lear

25) Poem?
I'm not sure I have a favorite poem. I really enjoy the Psalms.

26) Essay?
Anything by Wendell Berry. If I had to choose one, I'd say, "The Pleasures of Eating" which contains one of my favorite sentences, "I begin with the proposition that eating is an agricultural act."

27) Short Story?
Anything written by Lee Lynch (she's a lesbian writer who writes GREAT short stories - her characterizations are spot on).

28) Work of nonfiction?
God has a Dream by Archbishop Desmond Tutu; The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan; Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.

29) Who is your favorite writer?
Marcus Borg; Michael Pollan; J.K. Rowling; Tolkein; Alice Walker; I could probably go on for a while here.

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Rick Warren

31) What is your desert island book?
The Bible. Not because it's my job, either. I would choose The Bible because there are so many different kinds of literature there that I would never get bored.

32) And... what are you reading right now?
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (again); Eldest (reading the first two again in preparation for the third); The Shack (for the St. B. Book Group)


At a Lenten Quiet Day this week, our leader, The Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton, Bishop of the Diocese of Maryland, talked about the word Behold. It's fallen out of common usage. We don't behold much any more. The Gospel writers used the Greek equivalent of it often, when quoting Jesus.

+Gene Sutton encouraged us to get back into the habit of beholding. And, later that day, as I walked outside in the warm sunshine (still a novelty 2.5 hours north of where the Quiet Day was being held!), I beheld the start of spring flowers poking up out of the soil outside the church. It felt like a miracle.

In general, beholding doesn't come easily to me. I'm often rushed and in a hurry. I'm not the most visual person (unless I have a camera in my hand, then I notice everything).

My inability to behold easily was brought home this morning as I drove to church. It was snowing at the top of Milan Hill. There was a light dusting of lovely snow on every surface. The trees had that amazing frosted look they get when the snowfall is just right. It caught my breath when I came down the stairs this AM.

When I got the bottom of Milan Hill, there was no new snow. Not a flake, anywhere. And, I realized that somewhere in that 2 mile stretch of road, something had changed. And, I totally missed it.

Beholding is something I'd like to cultivate. I'd like to think that my Lenten discipline of writing here, more often, has helped a bit. You have to behold, in order to write. Maybe beholding is like running. You have to train the muscles in order to have success. Maybe we need to cultivate beholding in the same way.

Monday, March 30, 2009

It's no wonder we've got a national weight problem!

I didn't watch TV for about 20 years. I didn't think I was missing all that much. In the last 18 months or so, I've become a TV fan again. We don't have anything flash like a Tivo or a DVR, so that means that we're watching all the TV. We get to watch the shows we like AND the commercials. We've got a thing for House, but other than that most of what we watch comes on the Food Network.

What we see on The Food Network are many food commercials. I've come to categorize them in two broad categories. First, there are the "food is dangerous and it must be resisted" commercials. Think here of all of the diet food commercials. They are the ones that try to push non-food low-cal fat-free alternatives on us. Then, there are the crazy "just indulge yourself" commercials. My least favorite one in this genre shows an Oreo truck driving through a city. It is chased by zillions of Oreo-crazed women, who finally overpower the truck, pull boxes of Oreos off the truck, and start bingeing on the oreos in the street.

Very few food commercials (though I'll admit, I've not taken the scientific method here) seem to be simply about food. Food is either something to be treated with suspicion or something to be consumed in immoderation. It's no wonder we've got a national weight problem.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sermon Ponderings, Lent 5

The Gospel John 12:20-33:
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say-- `Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
This sermon could take two directions, and despite the fact that it's 10:48 on Saturday night, I'm still undecided about which direction to take. And, I fear that the ideas are too disparate to blend them into one sermon.

Whichever direction, the sermon ultimately takes, this introduction will work. It's important to note that some who have studied John's Gospel talk about it's having two distinct books or sections. The first section is the Book of Signs. It begins with the opening and then moves into the miracles. Those start with Jesus' changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana and it ends with the raising of Lazarus (with a bunch of other signs in between). The second section is the Book of Glory, which begins immediately after the raising of Lazarus in John 12. Mary anoints Jesus with nard (and makes Judas angry). The authorities plot to kill Lazarus. Jesus rides into Jerusalem in triumph. And then this passage. The Greeks come to see Jesus. And Jesus responds (as he often does in John's Gospel) with metaphorical language.

The first direction has to do with the Greeks who come looking for Jesus. There's much scholarly debate about who the Greeks are. The could be converts to Judaism who chose not to be circumcised. Or they could be a group called "The God-Fearers." Whoever they are - they are not Jews, they are not the usual followers of Jesus. And, they seem to be completely uncertain about how to proceed.

I wonder who comes to us, wanting to see Jesus? We've been reading
The Shack as part of our Lenten book study. One of the broader critiques of the book is that it doesn't treat the church, as institution, very kindly. In fact, if anything, it's pretty negative about "Church."

How do we show the people who come to us in this building, or the people we encounter in our lives, Jesus?

The other option could take the seed image and run with that. I learned today about a lesson in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (a Sunday School program) where you plant a series of seeds, with each planting being one week apart. At the end, you dig them all up. And what the kids see is that as the seeds germinate, and the plant develops, the seed literally vanishes. After all, one planted bean yields a plant on which many bean pod grows. It's the same with virtually every seed. One kernel of corn yiels many ears. One tomato seeds yields a plant with many tomatoes.

As followers of Jesus, we're called to die to our selves, so that we, like the seed, will yield much. That feels like one of those cliches that doesn't actually mean anything. It need some nice concrete examples to liven it up. And I am feeling fresh out of concrete examples.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Story Corps

I've been a Story Corps fan for years. For a long time, I had Story Corps podcasts on my iPod. But, when I stopped driving all over the UP, I just didn't have enough car time for all of my podcasts, so I deleted many of them, including Story Corps.

If you're not familiar with Story Corps, it's a huge oral history project. Pairs of people go into the booth and one interviews the other (or they interview each other) for 40 minutes. At the end of the interview, they get a CD of the interview. And, if they choose, they can sign a release that also gives a copy to the Library of Congress and gives NPR consent to broadcast a small segment in a Story Corps segment.

The mobile Story Corps booth is coming to Berlin. It's going to be in town from June 4-27. And, St. Barnabas gets to be a community partner. That means that the church will have a certain number of reserved appointments. And, I get to spend the next three months talking up Story Corps and encouraging people to tell their stories. I'm hoping I can talk my mom into going into the Story Corps booth with me. (I'd say it's a 50/50 chance, really!)

Today, I went to the community partners' planning meeting. I was such a fan. I totally chatted up the cute girl who works for New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) and the one who works for Story Corps. They were both great.

So, I've been a giddy fan-girl all day. But, I'm such a nerd that I am a Story Corps fan-girl.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesdays: The most fun day in my week

Wednesdays rock.

St. Barnabas has a 10AM midweek Eucharist on Wednesdays. It's a small group; they are faithful and very engaged. We often sit for 30-40 minutes after the service and discuss the saint of the day, the readings, and what message we each heard. Ken, who is 85, sometimes tells WWII stories. Some of the other folks, mostly life-long Berlin residents, tell stories from their earlier years.

Eventually, some of the ladies head off to deal with all of the altar guild stuff. They clear up the chapel from the Wednesday service and they set up in the main sanctuary for the Sunday service. I wander around, get in the way, and make them laugh.

Then, a group of us go out to lunch. At lunch, we continue to visit and tell stories. I hear how people are. They update me on health concerns and life events. I learn about children and grandchildren (and even in some cases, great grandchildren). G and L bicker back and forth, much to our amusement (because we all know they really love each other). I learn more St. Barnabas history. I learn about the old days of Berlin. We laugh, we tease, we eat from a communal vat of onion rings. Today, G stole baked beans off my plate, while I ate Little Betty's potato chips.

Wednesdays aren't the most productive of my days. But they are so much fun. I love the conversation, the companionship, the playfulness. And, I love the way Wednesdays have helped me to deepen my relationship with a wonderful group of folks.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I hate being sick

When I was a kid, I was sick all the time. I think some of it came from having a seriously overprotective mom. If I sniffed once, I'd stay home from school for days. I'd camp out on the couch, read books, watch TV, and get snacks like pudding, saltines, and ginger ale. In Junior High, as the overweight, unpopular, nerdy kid, school was a misery. I think I missed close to 90 days in 8th grade - and still got great grades. All I had to do was say that I wasn't feeling well, and I got to stay home.

High school was better, and I got sick way less, but certainly some. Every year in college I got a horrific case of bronchitis that lasted for weeks each spring.

Somehow, as I got older, I got healthier. In recent years, I have rarely been sick. I hardly ever took a sick day at the bookstore. And, I don't remember really being sick at all during seminary. In fact, the only recent illnesses I remember are getting a killer cold in the summer of 2005 in New Zealand, and something that was probably food poisoning on a cruise in 2007.

Last week's cold was certainly not the worst cold of my life. In fact, as colds go, it was pretty mild. (It did prove to be seriously contagious - I know that I passed it on to at least three other folks - I am so sorry!) The worst part of this cold was the way that it sapped my energy. All I wanted to do for more than a week was sleep. I didn't run. I didn't write in my blog. I worked, I read, I slept. That's it.

I'm still feeling more tired than I am used to - and watching Michelle, who is about a week behind me in this cold, I can see that it's affecting her the same way. So, I'm being good about going to bed earlier than usual, and trying to take care of myself.

It feels good to be back.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

3 Things Meme

1. Fran
2. Frannie
3. 'Cesca [This is the diminutive of Francesca (which is not, by the way, my legal name!), adopted by my college roommate Christine, aka Chrissie]

1. Bookseller (and Bookstore Manager)
2. Priest
3. Kindergarten Teacher [the worst two years of my life]

1. Greenfield, MA
2. Alexandria, VA
3. Ontonagon, MI [I knew I'd actually made Onto home when I could spell it without having to stop and think about it.]

1. Iron Chef America
2. House
3. Chopped

1. The UP
2. New Zealand
3. The National Parks of the American Southwest

1. Yellowstone
2. Rome
3. Paris

1. Anything Thai
2. Sushi
3. Enchiladas made with soy cheese, black beans, quinoa, and spinach

1. being part of the Cohorting group for Ministry Developers
2. planting our garden
3. running a 1oK sometime this summer

1. clean the house
2. deal with paperwork
3. throw up

1. Facebook
2. play videogames
3. daydream

1. Elton John at the Worcester Centrum (back in the mid-to-late 1980s)
2. The Newport Folk Festival in 1991 or 1992 - I believe that it was the first time that the Indigo Girls and Joan Baez appeared on stage together
3. Cris Williamson in Provincetown - we met her the next day in the parking lot of the Post Office immediately after my girlfriend locked our keys in the car.

1. Chloe - my first adult pet, a tiger cat from the Greenfield Area Animal Shelter
2. Sam - my current cat
3. Birdie, our dog

1. Martha
2. Margret
3. Michelle

Sunday, March 15, 2009

No Sermon for Lent 3

I didn't have to preach today. Sr. Monique visited St. Barnabas and preached for us. She was wonderful. Her sermon focused on Jesus' cleansing of the temple. She did a great job of getting us all there in the temple with stories about growing up with farm animals and doves. We could all imagine the smells and sounds by the time she was done. She also talked about her immigrant parents helping to build the church of her childhood and talked about the immigrants who built St. Barnabas stone by stone. Then, she encouraged us to honor the temple by carrying on their work of being the presence of Christ in the community of Berlin.

It was also fun to share Sunday morning with Monique. She's such a joy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Technology and Religion/Prayer/Spirituality

My friend Lisa pointed me to an article online about Twittering in church. Another online discussion I observed recently discussed whether using an online site for the Daily Office (my favorite is at Mission St. Clare) was really prayer.

These two stories share a common kernel, which seems to me to be: What is the role of technology in the life of faith?

I'm less concerned about whether Twittering is "appropriate" in church than I am about whether Twittering in church promotes or blocks community. I watched the Inaugural Events through Facebook's CNN link - and was able to live chat about what I was seeing with my friends who were online. So, despite the fact that I was alone in my office in Berlin, I was connected, virtually, with friends from around the country and from various walks of my life. That was the ultimate technology promoting community. But, Twittering in church might not do the same thing. It seems like Twittering in church might do the opposite. Rather than interacting with one another, we might start interacting with the technology.

Online sites for prayer seem to be an entirely different animal. If I am praying the Daily Office, chances are I am doing it on my own. I'm either alone in my office, or alone in my car (using my iPod and a podcast of the daily office - which, I realize, is yet another technological adaptation!) or alone in my living room. What I appreciate about the online sites is that they gather all of the things I need for praying the Daily Office in one spot. Rather than needing a bible, and a book of the saints of the day, and a prayerbook, everything is right there. I can enter into a prayerful attitude just as easily using a computer screen as I can using a book. And, the computer keeps me from having to flip around from book to book to book.

What are your thoughts? Can you see technology enhancing community? Enhancing Prayer? Or does it seem as though that's not the case?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Some Random Bits about Me

Here's another one that started out as a Facebook note. I'll admit that I'm still feeling a bit lousy, and so not high on creativity. I did think these were fun topics.

1) What is your salad dressing of choice?
Oil and vinegar

2) What is your favorite sit-down restaurant?
The Blue Heron in Sunderland, MA and The Northland Dairy Bar in Berlin, NH

3) What food could you eat for 2 weeks straight and not get sick of it?

4) What are your pizza toppings of choice?
Bacon, fresh garlic, and spinach, with no cheese

5) What do you like to put on your toast?
I don't love toast, but peanut butter on English Muffins is a deep favorite. I add honey if I am feeling decadent.

6) How many televisions are in your house?

7) What color cell phone do you have?

8) Are you right-handed or left-handed?
I can only write with my right hand, but there are a number of tasks that I do lefty - perhaps the legacy of a lefty mom.

9) Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
Three of my four wisdom teeth and my uterus.

10) What is the last heavy item you lifted?
The extension ladder. It wasn't so much heavy as awkward - it was snowy and we were carrying it up a snowbank to get the snow off the roof.

11) Have you ever been knocked unconscious?
Sort of. When I was in Junior high (or maybe high school), I fell down some stairs at the mall, on our way to the movies (we were on our way to see the Jazz Singer). I thought everything was fine, and then I passed out in the lobby of the theater. Then, I got up and we went to watch the movie.

12) If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?

13) If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
I would legally change my name to Fran (as opposed to my legal it-must-not-be-used name) in a heartbeat, and will do so when my mom is no longer living (may that be a long time from now).

14) Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000?
I doubt it.

15) How many pairs of flip flops do you own?

16) What's your goal for the year?
To run a 10K (10 min/mile pace)

17) Last person you talked to?
My wife.

18) Last person you hugged?
My cold has stopped me hugging for the last number of days. Probably Michelle.

9) Favorite Season?

20) Favorite Holiday?

21) Favorite day of the week?
Sundays and Mondays

22) Favorite Month?
February (my birthday month and Valentine's Day!)

23) First place you went this morning?
The living room

24) What's the last movie you saw?
Slumdog Millionaire

25) Do you smile often?
very often

26) Do you always answer your phone?

27) It's four in the morning and you get a text message, who is it?
I never get texts at 4am.

28) If you could change your eye color what would it be?
I would NEVER change my eye color. I have my dad's eyes, and I really like them. They are green.

29) What flavor drink do you get at Sonic?
Have never been to Sonic (though we think it looks like fun when the commercials run on the telly)

30) Have you ever had a pet fish?
No, but my wife has a tank, and keeps promising.

31) Favorite Christmas song?
Odetta singing Go Tell it on the Mountain

32) What's on your wish list for your birthday?
I tend to like surprises, rather than making a wish list. This year, I got a box of fab gourmet popcorn and a great new pair of running shorts.

33) Can you do push-ups?

34) Can you do a chin up?
I haven't tried in a very long time. I used to be unable to do so. I have my doubts.

35) Does the future make you more nervous or excited?

36) Do you have any saved texts?
Not on this phone. But I had several saved texts from Michelle on my old phone.

37) Ever been in a car wreck?
More than my share. And several I had no right to walk away from. I'm a lucky woman.

38) Do you have an accent?
It comes and goes. When I was younger I had a very strong Woostah/Boston accent. It's really diminished as I have gotten older. Oddly, now that I am back in New England, it crops up occasionally. I have no control over what comes out of my mouth.

39) What is the last song to make you cry?
The same three things on my iPod ALWAYS make me cry: the spoken poem Seventh-Grade Viking Warrior by Taylor Mali, and Denmark 1943 and Scott and Jamie - both by Fred Small.

40) Plans tonight?
Diocesan Council from 4-6, 2.5 hour ride home with a stop at the evil Wal-Mart.

41) Have you ever felt like you hit rock bottom?

42) Name 3 things you bought yesterday.
I bought nothing yesterday, but today I bought hair elastics, soy milk, and breakfast sausages.

43) Have you ever been given roses?

44) Current hate right now?
Hate is a very strong word. But I am profoundly distressed by the way the religious right presumes to speak for all Christians. They do not represent Christianity to me and THEY DO NOT SPEAK FOR ME.

45) Met someone who changed your life?
Many times.

46) How did you bring in the New Year?
In Rudyard with the in-laws. We all stayed up, but it wasn't very lively.

47) What song represents you?
I'm not sure it represents me, but my favorite song to run to these days is Come on Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners. It's been a fave ever since it first came out, and the beat is perfectly matched to my cadence.

48) What were you doing 12am last night (or is it this morning?)?
I think the Nyquil had finally kicked in and I was asleep.

49) What was the first thing you thought of this morning?
“Ugh. I still feel like shit.”