Lessons Written in Stone

This post has been cooking for several weeks now, and it has become time to release it into the world. The story is unfinished, but the blog post is just about done. 

Before I moved to Maine, I lived in Oregon for several years. Oregon is a rockhound’s paradise and I have a longstanding love for the shiny treasures of the Earth. Though I never took up the hobby at a serious level, I did gather agates on the beach and ran an electric tumbler for a month at a time in the kitchen of my little apartment. I spent many hours at summer gem shows and the local rock shop, gazing at the specimens for sale in the cabinets and picking through bins of rough material from near and far. Agates, jaspers, obsidian, petrified wood… whole thundereggs just waiting for someone with a lapidary saw to reveal their internal secrets.  Though I never made the time or space to engage in lapidary work, I admired – and acquired – the work of others.

Three lumpy mud-colored rocks (thunder-eggs) on a blue and black, velvet-textured cloth.

Three thunder-eggs, exterior view.

The thunderegg is Oregon’s state rock. From the outside, they look like balls of petrified mud, formed in volcanic ash deposits; when sliced open and polished their interiors can be striking and beautiful: rings of colorful jasper, delicate mossy agate, tiny cavities lined with miniature crystals, ribbons of common opal, all the different ways that silica picks up trace minerals and arranges itself in secret beauty in the earth. Continue reading

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About Face

So one of the stories that has been flying around social media the last couple of weeks involves the case of a little girl reportedly asked to leave a fast-food restaurant because her facial injuries were disturbing other customers.

Sounds egregious, right? Click bait!

Of course I clicked; many people did. The story came with all the elements of a media classic – cute blonde preschooler with facial scars and a pink hello-kitty eyepatch, outraged family accusing employees of a fast-food restaurant of exclusionary behavior. It unfolded over the course of days that the child had been mauled by a dog belonging to a member of her extended family, that she had lost an eye and had other permanent injuries that called for ongoing medical attention, that medical bills were piling up, that then this awful hurtful insult happened…

It went viral, fast. Donations of course poured in, the fast-food chain offered money, investigations started. And in today’s iteration of the tale, allegations have surfaced that the incident at the restaurant did not happen, and that the family had raised the initial ruckus for the money.

There are plenty of places to toss around “I knew it” and “Those people” and “Should’ve” and “Shouldn’t’ve” and this blog is not one of those places. I’m not interested in blaming the child’s family, or media hype, or scourging gentle and well intentioned people for a paucity of skepticism.

At the end of the day, there is still a little child with a disfiguring injury that would benefit from continuing care, and she lives – as do we all – in a system whose structure makes that care seem more attainable through deceit and manipulation than through honest vulnerability.

What does that say about the system?

What does that say about us?

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Drive by Posting

Oh, hi.  

Summer seems to have happened.  The weather has gone from cold and wet to warm and humid.  Our yard is a disaster – the long cold winter did a lot of damage that I haven’t had a chance to clean out, and the weeds are taking over.  I shattered a tail light in the wagon when I backed into the lilac trees a couple of weeks ago, but that’s been fixed.  

CPE is turning out to be difficult in different places than I imagined it.  Takes all the time and energy I can muster and then some.   I will not be sharing details here, sorry.  Some things need to stay where they are.  

 

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Drive-By Posting

It seemed like a good idea at the time, back when I scheduled myself to lead worship two consecutive Sundays in the gap between the end of the spring semester and the start of the CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) program I am enrolled in for this summer. I’ve never done worship twice in a row, I said. I should try that.

So. One worship service done, one worship service yet to create, add some correspondence and an article for the church news letter, a couple of meetings and a holiday, and somewhere between now and Sunday I need to make time to revise a paper I thought I was done with several weeks ago, and the reader may well imagine why blogging has been sparse.

It will continue to be so through the summer. I start CPE on Tuesday, and I expect not to be writing much about it for public consumption for a complex variety of intersecting reasons. And because I am pressed for time, I will direct you to Karen Johnston’s recent reflection on beginning CPE, where she has already written pretty much everything I would otherwise say on the subject.

I will be back.

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Service: The Power of Music – May 18th, 2014

Frontal view of a small traditional New England church building with white painted siding and a gable roof with a steeple on top. Gray stairs lead up to the level of two doorways with a stained glass window between them. Below the window is a hard-to-read sign.

Presented 5/18/2014 at First Universalist of Turner Center, Maine.

Ringing of the bell, prelude, announcements and Doxology after the congregation’s usual custom.

Chalice lighting (sung):

Rise up, O Flame, by thy light glowing
Show to us beauty, vision and joy!
(Hymn #362)

Opening words:

O sing unto the Lord a new song:
Sing unto the Lord, all the earth!
Sing unto the Lord, bless his name,
Proclaim his salvation from day to day;
Declare his glory among the nations
His great works among all people,
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised!
Continue reading

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Drive By Posting

It is a clear, bright spring day – not quite as warm as yesterday, but I am okay with that, because I have not yet gotten around to hauling up my summer clothes from the basement. The perennials are starting to come back, or not, after the long winter and now it is time to get out the pruners and cut back the parts that did not survive (and in some cases, rearrange the parts that did.)

But neither the yard work nor the blog post I have in the pipeline are going to be addressed right now. The tiny table I am using for a desk is stacked three deep with hymnals, books of poetry, and no less than three different Bibles as I work at assembling a worship service for Sunday – and then do it again for the following week.

I did not remember having this many Bibles in the house.
Nor would I have imagined, a year ago, riffling impatiently through them looking for “that thing I read that one time, now where was it,” that would be perfect to use in a worship service.

This is what life looks like now.

You can’t make this stuff up.

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One pebble at a time

The sun is trying to come out and the weather is trying to warm up and I am trying, unsuccessfully, to focus on my last paper of the semester. Today I am full of life and distraction, still riding on the leftover high from yesterday. I have not yet mastered the art of switching gears from “worship mode” to “academic mode” – giddily stuck in the heart space while I really need to be spending this time in the head space getting -that- part of the job done.

Yesterday afternoon was cold and raw and intermittently rainy, wet enough that I kept wanting to mumble good-natured curses about the Oregon weather even though I have not lived in that Portland for nine years now. I had the honor and privilege of joining with members of UUCC Augusta (Maine) and First Parish Portland (Maine) in the ordination of the Reverend Sharon Piantedosi at First Parish in Portland. I have no idea if joint ordinations are normal UU practice everywhere or if it’s just a Maine thing, but for me the act of two congregations coming together to ordain someone into the ministry is just the coolest polity thing ever: a reminder that we are not only our individual selves (as people or as congregations) but that we exist in relationship to each other and belong to a whole that is greater than the sum of its aggregate parts. Sometimes we forget.

This was my first opportunity to attend an ordination service. It’s possible that I will get tired of them before I run out of opportunities to attend them, but that has not happened yet – they are fewer and further between up here in the northern wilderness than somewhere like Boston. Sometimes I think you could probably attend at least one ordination a month in greater Boston if you weren’t picky about actually knowing the people involved. Up here, not so much.

The service was beautiful. I’m still riding the high. All the right things happened and most of them happened smoothly and most of them did not take too long and nobody is going to remember any of the slightly awkward bits. I am personally grateful and relieved that the music went smoothly: our music director was not available due to a prior commitment, and so I had agreed to be the music leader for the day. It’s not the first time I’ve led the choir, but it’s always a little nerve-wracking preparing to do it – it’s a different skill set at which I’m less practiced, and a very different feel than blending into a group. And I would not have refused. Filling in the hollow spaces is just… part of this thing I do.

So I did not walk in the processional with the clergy and other seminarians this time; I was standing up front with the choir to lead the congregation in singing them in. I have not mastered being in two places at once yet, either.

It fits, though; leading the music yesterday will be one of the last things I do in public as a lay member of UUCC. The worship service I lead later this month will be another. And then I will… be mostly gone, in CPE for the summer, and when Ingathering Sunday comes around in the fall my Sunday mornings will belong to my teaching congregation. I know of no plan yet for any kind of formal transition or break for me: relationships change, as we change within them, and my connection to my home congregation will spin down to the thinnest gossamer thread. I expect to be welcome when I show up, but our lives will have pulled away in different directions and I will no longer have any significant role to play there.

That was always the price of this becoming.

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