Monday, June 28, 2010

The graduate

The Prophet Elijah and the Fiery Chariot, Russian icon, 14th c.

2 Kings 2: 1-18; Psalm 19
******** United Church of Christ
June 27, 2010

Last week I spoke directly to the whole congregation. Today I want to speak directly to our high school graduates—to you, D. and R. You may have already heard a commencement speaker and a valedictory address, with some remembrances from the past four years and some advice about your future. Though we never really graduate from church (many of us have been here quite a while and we’re still figuring it out), I would like to give you some spiritual guidance to take with you, whatever bits of it may be helpful to you.

Have you ever seen the movie “The Graduate”? In the opening credits Benjamin Braddock returns home after graduating from college, and we hear the beginning of the Simon and Garfunkel song “The Sound of Silence”: “Hello darkness my old friend”. We don’t know what kind of a degree Ben has or which school he went to. His parents want to show him off to their friends, but Ben just wants to be left alone with his doubts and fears about his future. For his 21st birthday they give him scuba gear, complete with a full-body wet suit, flippers, mask and oxygen tank. At his parents’ insistent urging he demonstrates this overly extravagant, ill-suited gift in front of his parents’ friends by jumping in the pool and hanging out in the deep end. As the camera slowly backs away from Ben standing alone in 10 feet of clear blue water we understand all too clearly how Ben is feeling about being a graduate.

In the reading from 2 Kings, Elisha, the successor to the great prophet Elijah, seems to be feeling like he’s in a bit over his head as well. Every time Elisha comes to another city with Elijah, the prophets there remind him that his teacher and mentor is to be taken away from him, that he will soon be graduating himself and on his own. We can hear his unease and his reluctance in his response to them: “Yes, I know. Keep silent.”

The similarity of their names probably doesn’t help him either. Elijah means “Yahweh is my God”, in direct opposition to the false god Baal being worshipped in Israel at the time. Elisha means “God is my salvation”—kind of like saying “God’s prophet” and “God’s prophet, Jr.”. We can hear in their names God’s implicit determination that there will be only one God for God’s people and no other. We can also hear the continuity of leadership and ministry, the expectations that will be squarely placed on Elisha’s shoulders.

Today we honor you, the graduates in our midst. As you wonder about your future, at times you too may feel like you’re in over your head. You probably have some family expectations, hopes and dreams alighting on your shoulders. And when you heard your name called out at your graduation, you may have heard it in a way you never heard it before—as a call to whoever it is you’re going to be in this world. Within you resides your own voice and vision and verve for what is important to you, and though the world craves fresh inspiration, it doesn’t always listen, does it?

Elijah Taken Up to Heaven, He Qi, China

Let’s skip to the end of the story. Elisha has witnessed Elijah ascending to heaven in the whirlwind and collected Elijah’s mantle. He’s feeling a little lost, wondering where is God, now that Elijah has been taken up by God. Nevertheless, Elisha separates the waters of the Jordan just as Elijah had done and walks back to where the company of prophets is waiting for him to return. They acknowledge that the spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha, that all the rights and privileges of his education have been conferred on him. They even go so far as to bow to the ground before him. Not bad for a newly-minted prophet.

But of course it’s not as easy as all that. This group of prophets then suggests that perhaps God caught Elijah in the whirlwind only to throw him down into some valley or on top of a mountain. They are not quite ready to grant Elisha the same status as Elijah, that Elisha is now the master and not the servant. They urge Elisha to send 50 strong men to search for Elijah, and after badgering him into shame, Elisha finally relents and orders the search. When the searchers return after three days and do not find Elijah, Elisha says to them, perhaps quite wearily, “Did I not say to you, do not go?”

R. and D., you now have an authority which previously you did not have. You have a high school education, which, including all the education leading up to high school, has required the majority of your life. You may now have some idea of how you’d like to shape your life and your corner of the world. Though you may not have mastered an area of knowledge, you do have a more educated opinion about the world around you. If you are 18, you can now vote, adding your voice to countless others as to how different levels of government should conduct themselves.

But as you have probably become aware of, not everyone listens to your voice or opinions or your truth, mostly because of your age and experience. Do not take it to heart. Ironically, this does not change, even when you get older and you have more experience. There’s always someone with more knowledge, a louder voice, a more strident opinion. We all wish we could be taken more seriously or appreciated or have our viewpoint count for something. Even those of us who have a regular opportunity to speak and to influence the hearts and minds of others try not to kid ourselves by thinking that what we say makes all the difference in the world.

Elijah Taken Up in a Chariot of Fire, Giuseppe Angeli, c. 1740/1755

Elisha asked for a double portion of strength from Elijah because he knew he would need it. However it was not up to Elijah to grant this but God. It was God who would bestow what is necessary to be a prophet, a truth-teller. And often it requires more strength and self-control to listen well before we can speak truth well.

I’d like everyone to open up a Bible to Psalm 19. In this psalm the author speaks the truth of the glory of God and that it can be found in the heavens. Even though the beauty of the skies pours forth speech, there are no words, nor is their voice heard, yet it goes out through all the earth to the end of the world.

If you want to know how to tell the truth, how to speak, how to know who you are, listen to the world around you. Listen to what God is saying to you through the creation. God’s wisdom is written in the tides of the ocean, in the passing of the seasons, in the ways of the fox and the deer and the wild turkey that visit these church grounds.

God’s law is true in the ways of life and loss and in human relationships. We see how we break God’s law when greed causes an oil spill and wildlife suffers, when loss of human life begins to outweigh whatever reason we had for going to war, when our right to defend our way of life inspires others to join the ways of violence and death. We know we have broken God’s law when we have hurt someone. We know God’s law of love when we experience the release of forgiveness, the piercing light of compassion.

So the best spiritual guidance I can give you about feeling overwhelmed, wondering who you are and what God is calling you to do, and whether or not you will be heard is to listen. Spend time each day outside in the grass, on the beach, in the woods, in daylight and in the dark of night listening. Eat some raw vegetables from a local garden and listen to the sunlight and rain in the crunch. Watch the birds. Pay attention to that ant crawling across the ground. Follow the deer tracks. Plant a tree or some seeds. Learn of the hawk by day and the owl at night. Observe the path of the sun, the cycle of the moon. All around us there is life and there is loss, and underneath it all God’s law and wisdom can be heard.

All your life you’ve been told to listen, pay attention, asked did you hear me. So why should you heed these words now? Because now you’re listening for your own life and how it intertwines with God and every other life around you. Now you’re listening for what can be heard in the silence of loss and in the clamor of living. Now you’re listening for the path your life will take and the strength to keep to that path. You’re listening for the right time to pick up that mantle of leadership that comes to all of us at some point.

Other voices will vie for your attention. You will decide what deserves your awareness and interest. But always leave room what is true, what is real, what is authentic, for in that way will you be able to perceive that indeed, God is still speaking. To you.


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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thinking outside the paradox

1 Kings 19: 1-18; Galatians 3: 23-29
******** United Church of Christ
June 20, 2010

This morning I want to talk to you directly as a congregation. Usually in a sermon a pastor will talk about a spiritual issue in the scripture and invite the congregation into the conversation she or he is having with the biblical text. Instead I want to begin the conversation with you, about what I’ve observed about you in the little over a year since I’ve been your interim pastor. And I want to begin by telling you a story.

The story is from pastor and author Max Lucado. It’s the tale of a parakeet named Chippie. Chippie was like any other parakeet: she sang, she preened her beautiful green and yellow feathers, and she brought much joy to her owner. One day all that changed, when Chippie’s owner decided to clean out her cage ....

With a vacuum cleaner.

She was almost finished when the phone rang, so she turned around to answer it. With a thwup, Chippie was gone. Frantically she ripped open the vacuum bag. There was Chippie, stunned, her bright feathers coated with thick dust, but still alive. She carried the poor bird to the bathroom and gently rinsed her off under the faucet. Poor Chippie was wet and shivering, so, trying to be merciful, her owner took hold of the hair dryer and blew Chippie away with a gust of hot air. A few days later, a friend asked her how the little parakeet was recovering. “Well”, she replied, “Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore.”

Have you ever felt like Chippie? Have you ever felt like life sucked you in, left you washed up and blown away? I know I have. We can’t always see what’s up ahead of us. And no matter how hard we try to eat right, live right, do the right thing, say the right thing, be the right person, our lives can change in a heartbeat. It only takes one phone call from the police about one of our children or our partner, one messenger delivering the divorce papers, one pink slip from work, one meeting with our boss or supervisor, one bad test result or mammogram or biopsy, one misplaced footstep or turn of the steering wheel, to leave us feeling like poor little Chippie. Some of us have survived one Chippie episode only long enough to be hit by another.

This is where we find the prophet Elijah in the reading from 1 Kings. Did you hear the desperation, the fear? Could you feel his loneliness, his emptiness? Do you know the wind and the earthquake and the fire of life and loss? Have you sat in the silence of God, waited and, like Chippie, could not sing? And yet have you also known God in the midst of all that? Did you realize you were being fed at God’s table by God’s messengers? Have you suddenly realized that there were other souls and saints about you, that you weren’t as alone as you thought you were? Can you hear the paradox in Elijah’s story and in your own?

You are like no other congregation in my experience, and I’ve experienced quite a few—between growing up in a few, serving in a few, and preaching in quite a number of churches. You really meant it when you say you welcome and accept everyone who comes here. Each of you is either dealing with a current Chippie/Elijah episode or you’ve been through one at some point or it’s an on-going theme in your life. You welcome and accept folks other churches open the door to but have difficulty incorporating into the whole life of the church. You don’t require that people have their act together before they serve on a committee or lead worship or teach Sunday school or help with a mission project. Your criteria for “having your act together” are that you show up, you witness to your faith by giving as best as you are able each day, and you love each other.

Now here’s the paradox: you seem to expect that you should be like other churches—well-organized, always well-behaved, everything on track and accounted for, financially secure with a steeple on top. The irony is that then you wouldn’t be you. You wouldn’t know God in the silence. You wouldn’t be able to tolerate the paradoxes of faith as well as you do.

Many of you are familiar with the twelve steps of recovery: admitted we were powerless—that our lives had become unmanageable, came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity, made a decision to turn our lives over to God as we understood God, and so on. Another principle of 12 step programs is these three words known as the 3 A’s: awareness, acceptance, and action. First, we become aware of an emotion, a void, a loss, a mistake, a betrayal, an annoyance, a problem—we become aware of a source of pain. Second, we accept our reality, in all its dimensions, as it is, and we sit with our acceptance until we intuitively come to a course of action or it comes to us.

The reason why the 3 A’s are part of a 12 step program is because most of the time we move from awareness straight to action, bypassing the gift of acceptance. We see this in the story of Elijah. In order to establish her cult to the god Baal Jezebel had given orders that the prophets of Israel be killed; Elijah thinks he is the sole survivor of that holocaust. In retaliation Elijah defeats the prophets of the false god Baal in a contest and then incites the people to kill the false prophets. He has incurred the wrath of this pretender queen Jezebel. He thinks his goose is cooked, assuming he’s going to wind up dead like the rest of the prophets of Israel.

He’s aware of his very painful situation, so what does he do? He gets as far away as he can from Jezebel, into the wilderness. He finds a single broom tree, lies down under it and asks God to take his life. He goes straight to action; he gives in to his fear rather than surrendering to God and waiting for instruction.

But God is the ultimate teacher of acceptance. God sends a messenger, an angel to feed him not once but twice that Elijah might have enough strength for the journey to Mt. Horeb, God’s holy mountain.

Elijah thinks he’s taken all the action he can. It looks like he’s accepted his circumstances, but not quite. He’s left God out of the equation—God who has a much wider view of reality than we do. But still God accepts the situation—and Elijah—even to the point of bringing God’s presence near to pass by Elijah.

But God is not in the special effects of wind and earthquake and fire. Instead God arrives in the silence and Elijah hears it. He repeats his little speech but now we hear it wrapped in the silence of God. Elijah accepts his circumstances in the presence of God and God’s mighty silence. Now God has action for Elijah to take, defensive strategy that will keep him safe, a brother prophet—Elisha—who will one day take over his ministry, and 7000 souls who still call upon the name of Yahweh. Elijah now knows he is not alone.

I have witnessed in many situations over the course of the past year a tendency for you to become aware and then to take action, bypassing the gift of acceptance and God’s mighty silence. Though you accept and welcome everyone, you seem to have difficulty accepting who you are, a wonderful mix of foibles and blessings, and perhaps that is because you’re still becoming acquainted with who you are. In the past you had been referred to as the “Island of Misfit Toys”. I have called you “a diamond in the rough”. But you are even more than that.

In Christ you are outside the paradox of conventionalities. In Christ there is no longer black or white, believer or seeker, gay or straight, elder or younger, rich or poor, able-bodied or challenged, organized or disorganized, fledgling leader or on top of your game servant, longtime member or brand-new to the UCC, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. You are all these things and more and you are none of these things any longer. You are ******** United Church of Christ— a workshop for the kingdom of God, God’s own beautiful creation, continually co-created with each and every one of you.

Accept who you are—imperfect yet good, a cup half empty but it’s half full too, human yet forgiving, intolerant of hate yet compassionate for the hateful, struggling with life yet witnessing for the living God, poor in things yet rich in soul. Surrender to this beauty that is uniquely yours.

I’ll close with these words from a source of twelve step wisdom:

“If we willingly surrender ourselves … our lives will be transformed. We will become mature, responsible individuals with a greater capacity for joy fulfillment, and wonder. Though we may never be perfect, continued spiritual progress will reveal to us our enormous potential. We will discover that we are both worthy of love and loving. We will love others without losing ourselves, and will learn to accept love in return. Our sight, once clouded and confused, will clear and we will be able to perceive reality and recognize truth. Courage and fellowship will replace fear. We will be able to risk failure in order to develop new, hidden talents. Our lives, no matter how battered and degraded, will yield hope to share with others. We will begin to feel and will come to know the vastness of our emotions, but we will not be slaves to them. Our secrets will no longer bind us in shame. As we gain the ability to forgive ourselves, our families, and the world, our choices will expand. With dignity we will stand for ourselves, but not against our [sisters and brothers]. Serenity and peace will have meaning for us, as we allow our lives and the lives of those we love to flow day by day with God's ease, balance, and grace. No longer terrified, we will discover we are free to delight in life's paradox, mystery, and awe. We will laugh more. Fear will be replaced by faith, and gratitude will come naturally as we realize that our Higher Power is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

“Can we really grow to such proportions? Only if we accept life as a continuing process of maturation and evolution toward wholeness. Then we suddenly begin to notice these gifts appearing. We see them in those who walk beside us. Sometimes slowly or haltingly, occasionally in great bursts of brilliance, those who work [on their spiritual lives] change and grow toward light, toward health, and toward their Higher Power. Watching others, we realize this is also possible for us.

“Will we ever arrive? Feel joyful all the time? Have no cruelty, tragedy, or injustice to face? Probably not, but we will acquire a growing acceptance of our human fallibility, as well as greater love and tolerance for each other. Self-pity, resentment, martyrdom, rage, and depression will fade into memory. Community rather than loneliness will define our lives. We will know that we belong, we are welcome, we have something to contribute - and that this is enough.” [1]


1. From Survival to Recovery: Growing Up in an Alcoholic Home, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters Inc., .pp. 269-270

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sermon procrastination

99 Things About Me (Everything that I have accomplished is in bold)

1. Started your own blog

2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band (marching)

4. Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Given more than you can afford to charity

7. Been to DisneyWorld

8. Climbed a mountain (more like hiking in the mountains)

9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo

11. Bungee jumped (never!)

12. Visited Paris

13. Watched a lightning storm

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (crocheting wire with beads)

15. Adopted a child

16. Had food poisoning

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables (well, my husband grows them, I pick them)

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch-hiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill

24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a Marathon

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors

35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language - Spanish on a mission trip.

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing - does indoor count?

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David

41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had your portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies - with my daughter.

62. Gone whale watching

63. Got flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving (jamais!)

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp - Dachau

67. Bounced a check

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt - with friends.

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone

78. Been a passenger on a motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous - two authors, Brian McLaren & Octavia Butler.

92. Joined a book club

93. Got a tattoo

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a law suit - my stepmother and I disagreed as to who should inherit my paternal grandfather's bequest to my late father. We had lawyers but never went to court.

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Choked up

I know all of us are greatly troubled by the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico and have seen enough footage to haunt us for a lifetime. Please watch this video produced by the Environmental Defense Fund, and contribute whatever you can, wherever you can, to the efforts to get this nation off its addiction to fossil fuels and headed toward cleaner energy alternatives.

Monday, June 07, 2010

At the table of my enemy

1 Kings 17: 8-16; Galatians 1: 11-24
******** United Church of Christ
June 6, 2010

Did you know that we are in the midst of a famine? With supermarkets stocked with thousands of food items and what seem like many choices within each food category, stating that there is a famine would put me in the same class as Chicken Little. But I wonder if you know that within about the past fifty years or so, the number of corporations that generate the bulk of our food has shrunk from many to a few.

CAFO, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation

For instance, in 1970 the top five meat packers for beef controlled about 25% of the market, with thousands of slaughterhouses. Today the top four control over 80% of the market, with only 13 slaughterhouses. The same is true with pork, not to mention chicken. Tyson is the largest meat packing company in the world. The way food is grown and produced has moved from agriculture to mass production, skewing our food economy to the bad calories, reducing the nutrition in the food we eat, hence, a famine. Overall, as an American society, we are gaining weight but we are also starving to death. Ironically, we have a surplus of food with 36 million people (11% of the US population) who can’t afford to buy it without assistance.

A middle class couple in Ohio applies for assistance/Food pantry in Lebanon, OH

100 years ago a farmer could produce 20 bushels of corn per acre. Now 200 bushels of corn per acre is not a problem. Of course that pushes down the price of corn and the cost to produce it. In fact, farmers are paid to over-produce their corn crop.

Many of the illegal immigrants who come to this country from Mexico used to be corn farmers. But because of NAFTA, the US has overflowed the market with cheap corn, putting 1.5 million Mexican farmers out of work. Beef companies in the US began actively advertising for workers in Mexico, setting up busing services to bring them into the US. But when the anti-immigration mind-set is on the rise, the government doesn’t crack down on these companies but on the workers, some who have been in this country for 10-15 years. We end up demonizing and criminalizing the citizens of one of our closest neighbors.

Food and neighbors and how we behave toward each other are all closely intertwined in our relationship with God. We see this in this morning’s Hebrew scripture reading. The prophet Elijah is on the run from King Ahab of Israel and his queen, Jezebel. Jezebel is from the neighboring country of Sidon whose people worship Baal, a fertility god. She convinces her husband to set up shrines to Baal, which in turn, angers God more than any king before him. Elijah tells the king that because he has chosen to worship another god there will be no rain except by the word of the prophet. God then sends Elijah to the Wadi Cherith, a stream with water only when there is rain, and there Elijah is brought food by ravens and drinks from the wadi. But soon even the wadi dries up because of the drought.

God then sends Elijah to Sidon, to the very homeland of Jezebel and her impotent rainmaking god Baal. The drought has affected Sidon as well. Where there is no water, there is famine. Elijah finds the widow that God sent him to ready to lay down and die with her son because there is no more food, save for the little left for their last supper.

Charity Never Faileth, Elspeth Young

But Elijah tells her to not be afraid but to make a meal anyway and to feed him first, a foreigner in a foreign land in a poor woman’s home. Rather than just show off a miracle of unending flour and oil, Elijah gives the widow a chance to be faithful to God’s word of abundance by feeding a stranger, a man of another god at her table.

Can we imagine what it would mean for the people of Arizona to invite illegal Mexican immigrants to their tables? Or for these immigrants to invite angry, disillusioned Americans for a meal at their homes? There are days we all feel we are end of our rope, ready to take what is left of our strength and lay down to die. Or to kill the desperate hope in another. But God continues to give us the opportunity to be faithful to God’s word of abundance, abundance that can even be found at the table of our enemy, at the table of the one who has the least to give.

When Saul, who had breathed threats and murder, was transformed into the apostle Paul, I would bet that he and those early leaders of the Way he shared table with ate a lot of humble pie stuffed with crow. But look at the abundance of grace that comes from such sharing! Communities of changed lives abounded as a result of Paul’s ministry. Through his words Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians were reconciled into one Body of Christ.

Every month you know this sharing, this changing of lives, both when you gather about this Table and when you invite hungry neighbors to a home-cooked meal. And both meals are connected. Perhaps one could happen without the other, but then how would you hear God’s further invitation to be even more faithful to God’s word of abundance? What will be your next step toward justice at God’s table? How else might you help to transform the famine we have created into the abundance God intended?

Many sources will say shop organic when you can, go to farmer’s markets, buy what is in season. But for many people, eating food that is not only good for us but good for the earth costs more and sometimes is cost prohibitive. I have seen pictures of this church that show a vegetable garden on the front lawn. I hear the White House has one too. Perhaps it’s time to revive that garden, one that could support not only the mission meal but also church folk and the guests that come to the dinners—God’s victory garden. A food co-op could be established here as well, one that is linked to local farms and growers. Those of you who shop the farmer’s market at Robert Treat Farm could ask if they accept food stamps, and if not, work to change that. The Whole Foods Supermarket could become a partner in providing food for the mission meal.

God is always offering us new opportunities to be faithful to God’s word of abundance, to sit at table with what looks like our worst enemy but turns out to be a transforming witness of grace. Whenever bread is broken, God is shared, and we become the work of God, the Body of Christ. At this table we bring our offerings and receive spiritual nourishment but we are also given a call to justice and to grace. Thanks be to God for holy food that does not leave us empty but always hungry for more. Amen.


Thursday, June 03, 2010

Destination wedding

My good friend Mary from seminary days (and maid of honor in my wedding) was married for the first time May 15, 2010 in Christchurch, New Zealand to a wonderful Aussie, Christopher. So you can see how I had to be there, to complete the circle and be a part of the joy of their wedding day.

Before the wedding, outside the cathedral.

Left to right: Jean Gibson (standing in for mother of the bride), Mary, Christopher, Lorain and Bill (Mary's brother and sister-in-law)

Women clergy of the wedding.

Left to right: myself, Lorain, Peg Riley and Mary

Christopher's sons and daughters-in-law

Left to right: Terry and Phil, Christopher, Eleanore and Tim

During the service a boy soprano sang--high, pure and beautiful.

Dare I say it--the happy couple.

The bride and her attendants: Robin, Mary and Cynthia.

The wedding party.

Left to right: Phil, Robin, Christopher, Mary, Tim and Cynthia

...and a brief window of New Zealand

(These are the "tourist photos" of places I visited while I was in Aotearoa, the Maori name for New Zealand, which means "Land of the Long White Cloud".)

This is the inner portion of the Banks Peninsula, what is left of a enormous volcano from thousands of years ago. What you are looking at is the remains of the crater, now filled with water from the Pacific Ocean.

Mary and I travelled along the rim and then down switchbacks to the town of Akaroa.

Two old friends reunited. When Mary and I met we were 23 and 41.

Apparently some other Robinsons got to New Zealand before I did.

The sky got a bit moody on our way back.

Sunrise from the deck of the vicarage.

On the day of the wedding...a wonderful blessing.

An ornate fountain outside of the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch.

Christchurch Cathedral

Even though Mary and Christopher did not have the bells rung for their wedding, as the bride and groom left the cathedral, the bells tolled noon!

The Millennium Chalice in Cathedral Square

On my last day we made a visit to the Antarctic Centre. This is inside the storm room where we experienced a 5-min. storm with a wind chill of -20 F. Temperatures in Antarctica can often reach -40 F or below, with winds reaching over 100 mph.

We also saw blue penguins at the Centre. All around New Zealand there are colonies of different breeds of penguins.

Waiting to be fed by the docent.

It was a wonderful trip but much too brief--only seven days. I hope one day to take my family to see this beautiful country.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


My niece Madeline (my husband's brother's youngest daughter), seventeen years old, is facing two hip surgeries this month (see her blog). Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers, especially you church-folk prayer angels. She's had a rough road and needs some relief. I'll put her blog on the list so you (and I) can keep track of her progress.

Yes, that's a huge scar on her knee from a previous surgery.