Friday, March 28, 2008

¡Hola!

Hey blogland,

I´m just popping in to say that we all arrived safe in Argentina. We spent about 26 hours in planes and airports before finally arriving up to Iguazu up in the north of the country. Today we went to see Iguazu Falls which was just about the coolest thing I´ve ever seen. I´ve loads of pictures and may get to upload some at another time. And it really has only been a day!

I´ve been struck with a cold that came on just as I was leaving MN but other than that am doing fine. It has been 80s and humid and the country is so friendly. I have loads to tell but it is late and we have a flight back to Beunos Aires tomorrow so we can bus to Azul and start the real purpose of this trip.

Love to everyone back home. I miss you and wish you all could be here to share in this amazing experience.

Beunos Noches.

Liz

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Off to Argentina!

I'll try to give an update while I'm there, but otherwise I'll see you back online in 2 weeks or so.

Edited to Add: Congratulations to my friend Emilie who had her second baby last night. Benjamin Charles was born early on March, 26 and is doing great. Plus Emilie had a successful VBAC - Vaginal Birth After Ceasarian. Congratulations to her and her family, and welcome to little Benjamin!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sheep-ish

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you had a wonderful morning. My alarm went off for the first time at 4:30am this morning and I rolled out of bed in time to be get warmed up and practice with the choir at 6am. Everyone who knows me knows that I am not a morning person but this morning went fairly easily. I'm convinced that it is an Easter miracle! Not only that but my trumpet playing went well. My lip stayed strong and I think I sounded great. People had a lot of compliments for the brass and I think it makes the Easter worships special. Yay!

So here is a series of sheep-ish thoguhts for Easter...

Sheep Tales #1
Due to the dumb video from Good Friday and the Passover Seder from Maundy Thursday, I've been thinking a lot about the sacrfice of the lamb and Christ as the lamb of God as I contemplated this Easter story. (Keep in mind these are rough thoughts). I've always loved and identified with the Old Testament stories and the depths that the imagery of God and humanity continue throughout. And I've been thinking a lot about the Abraham/Isaac sacrifice story, the Passover story, and the Crucifixion.

In the Abraham/Isaac story, God provides a sacrifice preventing Abraham from having to sacrifice Isaac. Of course, God was the one who asked for Isaac to be sacrificed in the first place. There are difficult themes of obedience and trust on Abraham's part, and God doesn't fail him. But I've always had some resentment for God to even ask for his son. I mean, who does that?! And I always wonder, would Abraham have been able to follow through if God hadn't provided? Knowing the love of parents for their children, particularly those friends of mine who've worked so hard for the children of their own, I imagine they would do almost anything to avoid Abraham's task. I don't know if we would react in obedience to God.

It is almost like I expect Abraham to say no, and to bargain and beg and plead rather than placidly going forward in trust. But maybe those are my own issues!

But if Abraham had the sheep provided for the sacrificed, the Passover lamb is given freely as a reminder of the delieverance from the Egyptians. There is no question of sons here, unless you consider the sons of Egypt who gave their lives in the Passing Over. But the sheep is mean to keep the story alive in the hearts of the Israelites sons, passing on the tradition of "what does this mean?" Telling the tale that led them to freedom by God's hand. But we don't want to forget. Each year, a new lamb is needed to remind us one more time and to keep the truth of the oppression and deliverance in the hearts and minds of our sons.

So where does the idea of the Lamb of God come in. On the one hand, God provides the sacrifice one more time. No longer does he ask for our sons, but he gives his own freely for us. This is not a question of obedience or trust as it was for Abraham, but a gift given simply because we so often fail at obedience and trust. And the Passover story, when continued surely reminds us that even when we remember the stories of our deliverance out of bondage, we are likely to forget and find ourselves a golden calf if we haven't been reminded recently. But Christ the lamb frees us from our greater bondage of sin, and even when we forget, and we do, we remain in God's grace.

Sheep Tales #2
I'm feeling a bit sheep-ish for feeling snarky about being concerned about what part I was playing for Easter services. I do think that we could have split it up to balance it better for our other trumpet's lip who had a rough go of it by service three. But as I was sitting through my second Easter sermon of the morning I got to thinking about why I play trumpet still in church. Afterall, it is about the only place I'm playing right now, but I feel like it is a means of service for me.

When I was confirmed my gift from my parents was my professional trumpet (ok, it was Christmas and my birthday and a few other things too!), but it was given with the hopes that I would use it to play in worship. And I have. I've played every Easter since, not to mention countless Christmases, Palm Sundays, random Sundays, lenten services, and other misc needs. Even though I work in a church now, my trumpet playing has always been more. It has been a chance for service for me. Something that I do simply for the church, God and myself.

Remembering this today in worship made me feel pretty bad for worrying about the part I was playing. It doesn't matter, I'm still serving and it still is important to me to do it regardless. So even if my music director was mad at me, or even if it is was a minor random occurrence, it doesn't really matter, because that's not why I'm doing it.

Sheep Tales #3
For the first Easter in recent memory, hubby and I aren't seeing any family today. His family is all in NC, mine is all in FL (or MI). There is no one nearby to see. There is no Easter dinner - we had ham sandwiches for lunch (and some Easter eggs). I miss them all of course, but I also miss the traditional game playing that inevitably happens when the family gets together.

Hubby's family are the masters of Pinochle and I've been learning to play at their level. Also popular - catch phrase, Empirebuilder, monopoly and others. My family has plenty of games that they play when we get together - scrabble, bridge, apples to apples and others. But no game occurs so often and can get so heated as Sheepshead. This card game (which can be played with anywhere from 2-7 people but typically with 5) is a staple of our extended family get-togethers.

Our family has played it for generations, gambling for nickels and dimes in heated tables. Typically there are multiple tables at gatherings and we bring loads of change. As the eldest grandchild, I was the one to break the family age barrier and had to earn a right to play with the adults. The first time I was able to play with the elders - all my great uncles and aunts and grandparents I got great cards and I took all their money. Needless to say I earned my right to be at the table.

It is on these holidays when I am apart from my families that I miss these little traditions that really connect the families and the holidays together. I miss the Sheepshead. I miss the competition. I miss the family! It somehow doesn't seem like a real holiday without it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Vigil Blogging

Here are a few random thoughts on the Saturday before Easter, written in the commercials of The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston in all is Moses-glory, which is a much more complex and well rounded movie than I had remembered. Of course, I'm not sure I've ever seen it all the way through, but would catch bits and pieces from when my parents watched it, but before I was sent to bed. I still missed about the first hour, but since they are doing commercials every other moment I'm not sure how much I did miss. Moses was just finding out he was a Hebrew when I found it. Right now he's just rescued the daughters of Jethro from the Almalacites. Go Moses!

In other news...

I (with the help of some wonderful volunteers) managed to put together a Seder dinner/banquet for our 5th grade first communion class and their families. We ended up serving over a hundred people on Maundy Thursday. It went quite well I think and we got a good response from the Seder. I have to say it was pretty cool, and it was really fascinating to delve into the Jewish Passover Seder and really learn about it and its meaning. It is a beautiful meal/ceremony and I really love the Passover story so it just so cool. I think I came up with a pretty true-to-tradition script for our Seder, but it would be so neat to actually go to a *real* one someday.

(Moses just told Pharaoh to "Let my People Go!" for the first time.)

So far I've had a really rough Holy Week. The banquet was stressful on Maundy Thursday so I was pretty beat by the time for church and I had a hard time focusing on the the worship part of it. That combined with the fact that the preaching pastor, the one who decided that our church should be a judging one, was preaching on the grace and forgiveness of God. It is hard to take the preaching seriously.

Good Friday wasn't much better. It was full of cheesy drama and a video illustration that really annoyed me. The ideas weren't bad, but it was so over-the-top that it really didn't bring Good Friday to bear for me. It is really too bad because Good Friday is one of my favorite services and brings the grace and sacrifice of God to the forefront of my mind. The only thing I could think of this time was "Seriously? Do we have to do it this way?" (Let me just say, I have no problem with the use of media as sermon illustrations. But if you are going to use something like that it should be something worthwhile and meaningful.)

I hope that Easter services tomorrow will be better, but I wonder if it will be. This Holy Week really has me thinking about whether this church is the place for me to be. On the one hand, I feel much more in touch and supported by the congregation than I have up until now. On the other, the worship and preaching is really starting to get to me. And it is making it difficult to take the time to connect the work and ministry I'm doing to my own faith and relationship with God. But until hubby gets a law job it will be my place. And then we'll see.

(Passover just happened and the Israelites have just been set free!)

But the church isn't all bad. I am getting very excited for my mission trip. I leave on Wednesday for Argentina and will be there for ten days. I did a fair amount of my shopping today and while I still have some work to wrap up at church and my packing to do I'm still starting to feel prepared. It is going to be a diverse group and I'm sure it will be an emotional time, but I think it is going to be remarkable too. Yay!

It seems like I'm being set up to miss some major events while I'm gone though including my hubby's birthday, hearing a friends news of her first IVF, more than likely missing another friend's birth announcement of her second child, and who knows what else. I hope that my time away keeps us all healthy and happy and I look forward to hearing all the news when I return. I also look forward to the break from my own diet/exercise routine.

I do hope to workout or walk while I am in Argentina, but it will be nice to take a break from the pressure. The stress of the church season, my Yellow Fever shot and just general exhaustion has let me go to the gym only 3 times this week and I don't know how well Easter Sunday will do either. The week before was only 4 times too. I really need something to shift my thinking again and reenergize me. I want to succeed at this, but I am really looking forward to 10 days without the guilt and the conflicting desires!

(There go the Israelites into the desert!)

Finally, my Grandfather had a surprise 80th birthday party today. We couldn't go because it was in Florida and it is Holy Week, but I've heard he may read this from time to time so I wanted to make sure he knows we wish him a very Happy Birthday and love him! (I did call too, I'm not just making him come to the blog for birthday greetings).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rants of a Passive-Aggressive Trumpet player.

It is no secret that trumpet players are a bit....self-absorbed. The old joke goes..."How many trumpet players does it take to screw in a light bulb?...Only one, he holds up the bulb and the world revolves around him" As a trumpet player myself, I have know many trumpet players (and other musicians for that matter) for whom that is true. And there is a certain pride that came from chairs and solos and stuff. Did you play first trumpet or third or whatever.

I've always been a part of this and it is hard to let go of the competetiveness that comes when you are playing with other trumpet players. But for the most part I know that I'm a pretty good trumpet player but by no means a professional. Still there is a pride in territory as well. So imagine my surprise when I got my Easter music for the church and found out that I am playing many more trumpet two parts than trumpet ones. The other trumpet player is one whom we've brought in for several years, but who is in college and a horn player by day. This is the first year I haven't played lead on the vast majority.

My first thought is "Is my music director mad at me?" The second, "Darn it, I'm doing this for free. I could easily get $200-300 for being a trumpet player for Easter, but I stay for my church an do it all pro bono. This is my home turf, I should be playing lead."

And of course it is silly to even think it. Afterall, there is a lot of music and three services. Splitting it up will help both our lips stay strong through all the music, but I can't help but think that my counterpart is going to be smug about it. Afterall, last Easter I was forced to endure lots of bragging by the other trumpet player who is smack dab in the middle of the bragging, "I'm better than you" music part of life.

And I am glad to be out of it for the most part, but I sure did realize that I might never let that trumpet pride fade entirely.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A post to apologize for not posting :)

I have all sorts of lovely post ideas going around in my head, and unfortunately I have no time to face it at the moment. I planned to be at the gym like 10 minutes ago and am going shortly, and I have a birthday dinner to attend tonight too. Luckily it is a LATE dinner.

I'm working on a Seder version for our 5th grade banquet and searching through many Jewish and Christian versions of the ceremony to adapt. Not only am I trying to make it accessible and pay attention to my time on Thursday night, I also don't want to terribly butcher a very cool religious tradition. The last thing I want to do is make a mockery of it. Eep. I have now about 3 different versions that I'm working with and trying to decide if one of them is best or if I ought to combine one or what. I had one set but now am second guessing myself and I just don't know. I'll just have to figure that out tomorrow at this point.

What is amazing to me is how much I've gotten done today and yet how little my lists reflect all that has gotten done. Don't you hate days like that. Sheesh.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Grace

Most days it can be easy for me to accept that God has grace to forgive me for the things I do, even though I do not deserve.

Also most days I can have grace enough to forgive those I meet in my life. I'm not one to hold a grudge and am quick to forgive when I have been wronged.

What is hard for me is to have a sense of grace for myself. Case in point: I'm very tired and worked all weekend. I had a meeting tonight and didn't get out until 8:45pm. I didn't go to the gym, I went home for dinner instead. Now I know I should have gone to the gym when I was sitting comatose for a few hours at home this afternoon, but I didn't. I should have figured my meals better so I could have had dinner before my meeting, but I didn't. I should have gone to the gym anyway, but I didn't. There are some good reasons to have skipped the gym but all I've got is guilt and shame for my gym going this week. It was low and so easy to skip this week and I'm so mad at me. But being mad at me won't help me go any more tomorrow. So what is a girl to do?

It is Holy Week here in the church, and I'm thinking a lot about the grace of God. We are given a great gift by God - God's grace and God's own Son. And I hope God's grace is large enough to cover me when I am busy beating myself up for my failures. Luckily, that is one of those things I feel sure of. Thank God.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Late night tidbits

I want to blog, but I don't know what to say. Hubby is no help as he suggests blogging about boobies! Boys. So here we go:

The Good:
1. Teaching my 5th grade class at our communion class this morning. They are are a great class and we had a wonderful turnout of both kids and parents. And whenever I can get the parents to listen and talk it is a good day.

2. Despite it being Saturday I stayed at work and finished some pressing work. Work still is going to be hard this week but I'm feeling more on top of the piles. Yay!

3. I also went back to the gym after missing Wed (my normal day off), Thurs and Friday. Hard but it was good to go.

The Bad:
1. Getting up EARLY to go play trumpet for Palm Sunday (in addition to all the normal Sunday School stuff).

2. I'm still a bit concerned about getting hubby's crud, and would like to avoid it if possible.

3. The Laundry! Can't someone do SOMETHING about the Laundry! For the love of all things holy, its ALIVE! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

The Geeky:
1. Dear Dr. Mahr, the 2001 recording of the St. Olaf Band playing the Liberty Bell March is not at the standard 120 beats per minute but more along the lines of 140 bpm making it very hard to elliptic to it.

2. What is the verb form of the elliptical machine anyway? Elliptic? Ellipticalled? Any suggestions? It seems like it would be cool verb.

3. Hubby thinks its odd that I timed my pi day post for the exact "time" of pi. But that isn't weird is it? Just attention to detail. After all how many numbers get a whole day.

Upcoming blog topics:
1. Cheesy 70s church movies and baking.
2. The media of fat
3. Holy Week and working for the church.

Well, it is way past my bedtime now and it has been a LONG day. Good night blogland, and here are two questions for you to help me with....

1. What is one thing you do to cope with a long overnight airplane ride?
2. What is one thing besides your passport that you wouldn't go on a long trip with?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pi Day!

Happy Pi day! Today is 3.14 at 1:59. Join the world of geeks celebrating that beloved mythical number pi by getting a slice of your favorite pie today! After all, who doesn't like pi(e)!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Yellow Fever and Yellow Sunshine

I have to say, the weather has been fabulous over the last few days. It has been 40 or 50 degreees and sunny and it has done wonders for my energy and mood - which is great because everything else seems to be conspiring against it! There is something awful about the daylight savings time switch but it does seem to coincide with a change in the light. Somehow the light is brighter and warmer even besides the temperature, which is so nice.

The rest of the world isn't quite so favorable to me. Poor hubby is home with the flu - lucky his Spring Break starts tomorrow. He feels just awful and there isn't much I can do to help him feel better. And naturally I really want to avoid it myself, but that may be difficult.

Work is still out of control busy and I'm adding the requisite holy week trumpet playing to all the many things that need doing. I have a communion class to teach this weekend and a banquet to prepare and the whole Holy week thing. That and getting ready to miss two weeks worth of work has me stressed out. Add the possiblity of getting ill with a really nasty bug and not really being able to miss work this week, it doesn't make for a calm demeanor. Still I'm taking vitamins and fluids and trying to take care of my hubby without getting "exposed."

Adding to the mix, I got my Yellow Fever Vaccine today. Most of my group who got it already felt icky and rundown the next day. I decided to skip the gym tonight and I know that I have tomorrow of so I'm hoping that will be the time off that I need to get me through this whole germ warfare I'm facing. I *hope* to go the gym tomorrow because I felt like a slacker for skipping tonight but I'll just have to play it by ear.

But getting the vaccine today really brought the trip to the forefront of my mind. I'm going to be in Argentina two weeks from today (leaving 13 days from today...ugh overnight on the plane is not my favorite thing!). It is going to be a really interesting trip but there are some stresses there too. One of which is that I didn't plan most of the details of the trip and it can be a challenge to give up that much control. I'm still confident that we'll be fine over there. The other is that our church politics of late has left some of the travelers in a disagreement. Still I hope it will all come together in the next two weeks.

It is hard to believe that I'll be in a different hemisphere in a few short weeks. That is SO cool! Hopefully I can find the time to feel prepared both at work but also mentally and physically for this adventure. I also hope to get a little time for spiritual contemplation this week - since it is going to be Holy Week after all!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Making a Rainbow Egg

by Lutherliz
with special thanks to her mom for inventing it!

Step 1: Dye the whole Egg yellow. Remove from dye when you have a yellow color you like and pat dry with a paper towel. IMPORTANT: Make sure the egg is dry before adding any additional colors. This will be critical after each different color.

Step 2: Hold the egg half –way down into the green dye. Don’t move it around, but hold it as steady as you can. Remove the egg when you have green color that you like and towel dry.

Step 3: Flip the egg over and lower the now yellow half part way into the orange color, leaving a line of yellow visible. Hold the egg level and wait for the orange to dye that part. Hold it as steady as you can. Remove the egg when you have orange color that you like and towel dry.

Step 4: Flip the egg over and lower the green half part way into the blue color, leaving a line of green visible. Hold the egg level and wait for the blue to dye that part. Hold it as steady as you can. Remove the egg when you have blue color that you like and towel dry.

Step 5: Flip the egg over and lower the now yellow/orange half part way into the red color, leaving a line of orange and yellow visible – typically this ends up being the tip. Hold the egg level and wait for the red to dye that part. Hold it as steady as you can. Remove the egg when you have red color that you like and towel dry.

Step 6: Flip the egg over and lower the green/blue half part way into the purple color, leaving a line of blue and green visible– typically this ends up being the tip. Hold the egg level and wait for the purple to dye that part. Hold it as steady as you can. Remove the egg when you have purple color that you like and towel dry.

TA DA! Your very own rainbow egg – sure to impress your friends and family!

Below are some eggs that demonstrate my newest egg-dying toy - rubber bands. I have by no means perfected this technique but it does give you some cool results. I look forward to more attempts another time. But these are the fruits of my experimentation at our Easter Party on Sunday, where my egg dying skills impress all the kids! Woohoo! Random acts of geeky talent - my favorite kind!






Monday, March 10, 2008

Death by Treadmill

Oy. Today was rough. Long day - dentist appointment, full day of work, bells, meetings, and a "long" workout called for at the gym. Subsequently dinner was thrown together and eaten at 10:45pm and I am not sitting here digesting and knowing I should go to sleep but blogging instead. And it wasn't even a healthy dinner but something quick that I could nosh on short notice. Blech.

And yet, I still want to break into the ice cream or Girl Scout Cookies, but I won't, mostly because I may fall asleep shortly.

Life seems like it is moving at full speed lately with Easter and my Argentina trip coming at mach 3. The lists are overwhelming and the stress is mounting. In fact I felt so stressed after coming home tonight and eating such a late dinner I re-started the Harry Potter series rather than reading some of my latest book. It always pulls me in and calms me from the crazy problems I have. Because after all I'm not a famous teenaged wizard destined to kill the evil wizard Voldemort. It is a nice sense of perspective.

The weekend was fun but full of things too. Chris and I both tried out for Jeopardy! It went ok. Chris passed the pre-test (answering 8 out of 10 and we figured out that I got 7 of 10) but because he had a rehearsal for a (paying!) gig this weekend he couldn't go take the long one Saturday morning so I went instead. We figure since they didn't take names and such it didn't matter much. I didn't make it past that test though I think I did ok on it. But it was 50 questions with 8 seconds to answer each question and no going back so it was kinda hard. Only 6 people in our group of 70ish made it through so you must have needed a great score but I don't know what we needed to pass. Oh well, I may try again sometime.

On Sunday was our church's Easter Party which ended up fairly well attended and definately fun. I got to demo my fabulous rainbow egg again and I took pictures so I'll post instructions for it tomorrow if anyone wants to show their kids how its done. It is very impressive in person and the pictures don't do it justice.

Um...I'm sure there was more I wanted to say but I am losing my ability at concentration so I'll just have to post more later. Good night!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

As requested...my sermon.

So a few people said that they wanted to see this so here it is. I'll start with the reading just so you guys get the jist of it all. I really struggled with this reading and how to make it applicable. Oh, one other thing. The evening service had this sermon in combination with a drama about a cashier at a grocery store who fails to notice the help and service she can give to others and who ends each interaction with "Have a good day!" In the end she laments how she cannot ever show people her Christian side and really wishes she could help people...when of course the options were already in front of her.

Also, one final disclaimer: This was written to be read so I didn't bother to correct all the little errors throughout rather speaking the sentences as the wanted to be at the time, so please excuse it in written form! :)

So here you go....

The Theme: Our Cross and our Witness in Service

Reading: Mark 8:34-38
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

The Sermon: Wednesday Lenten Service, March 5, 2008 by LutherLiz

When I was in Seminary, I worked at a local department store here in the cities. Each day I would go and I would struggle to help people find the clothes they needed. I would try to check them out quickly, efficiently, and politely. I would try to converse when appropriate or let them be alone with their thoughts depending on their mood. I loved to help people find the outfit that made feel fabulous, particularly those outfits for weddings or other special occasions. I would help them prepare for first time dinners with their boyfriend’s parents, for graduations, for cruises, for job interviews. Occasionally they would share with me their hopes that lay on this outfit – a better job, a beautiful wedding, a proper send-off. I would try my best to accommodate their needs.

I worked in the service industry after all, as I’m sure many of us have at one time or another. Not only that but I was in Seminary, trying to learn and study what it meant to be a Christian in today’s world. How do we live, share, and grow in an increasingly diverse culture.

And I did try my best…most of the time.

But there were days…the days when my smile evoked a sarcastic frown from the customer. Or days where the customers came in with a bone to pick and assumed that I would be the one to hear about it and I had better fix it. NOW. Or they would throw a fit. I watched people take piles of clothes into a dressing room, sneer at my suggestions, buy nothing, and leave everything in a dirty, wrinkled pile on the floor of the dressing room. I had people swear at me, call me names, demand to see my manager over things that were not my fault or responsibility. I was belittled, dismissed, and disregarded. After those days, I would go home and collapse in a heap of exhaustion and wonder why I tried at all. Why did it matter if their sales person was nice to them if they took so little regard for me?

And I would hoist myself back to the store the next day only to assist someone who was truly grateful for my help.

And the cycle would begin again.

I know that all of you probably have an inkling of what it was to experience that. Trying to stay focused and care about doing a good job became difficult when others took their frustrations out on me, and I’m ashamed to say it, but I probably then took my frustrations out on others.

In today’s reading, we are given a hard task from Jesus…to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. Now to the disciples this would have been a very serious call from Jesus. To take up their cross doesn’t mean simply taking on a burden of something but very literally meant taking on the risk of being killed for associating with Jesus. To follow this call from Jesus came with something that wasn’t simply difficult, it was potentially life threatening.

Jesus was a dangerous person to hang around because he went around saying difficult things. He made statements against the leadership of the Jewish people. He made statements against the Roman rule. He did not always follow convention but hung out with the shunned people of society. He lived a life of service to many, but he also angered many people in power. This anger thus led to his crucifixion and death.

Before he died, he knew the difficulties his teachings could bring and often foreshadowed his own death. Here he also foreshadows the difficulties his followers would have because of Jesus’ crucifixion as a political criminal. And it was a premonition that came true. Jesus was killed and resurrected as he foreshadowed, but he also left a dangerous situation for his followers.
In spreading the message of Jesus they faced persecution from both the Roman leaders and the Jewish ones. Neither group wanted the radical ideas of Jesus continuing past his death and resurrection. Knowing that his followers were continuing to spread Jesus’ message they sought to stop it. Many of the early Christians were killed for treason. They were thrown into the coliseum with the lions. Many were crucified. Many were stoned. Even those who survived this persecution faced daily fear and risk of imprisonment and death. And yet they persisted in their message of Jesus Christ, following him despite the risk.

In our reading, Jesus goes on to address the need to follow him, even knowing the disciples’ lives may be at risk, saying simply that those who lose their lives for his sake will save their lives in the end. We presume this to mean that there will be heavenly rewards for living a life as a follower of Christ even if our lives will be difficult because of following him. So even with the promise of a saved life, the disciples had a hard task to face and it was a serious commitment to follow Jesus. Not only were they called to deny all of the parts of their lives – their job, their families, their towns, their friends – to roam around with Jesus learning from him but they were potentially risking their lives because of it. Perhaps that is why, though there were thousands in the crowds listening to him, there were only 12 disciples who signed on from the very beginning.

But knowing the seriousness of this call of Jesus, how do we respond today? Following Jesus is no longer something that is likely to get us killed. Long past are the threats of lions and stonings and crosses. But we need to take this call of Jesus seriously even now. We live in a world that values the individual life. We are taught to put ourselves first in so many situations. And there are times when putting ourselves first is appropriate…it is important to think about your health, your security, your happiness. But if we translate Jesus’ call into a modern day message, we come to realize that it can’t always be about us.

Emulating Christ today no longer means accepting persecution, but it means accepting others and giving freely of ourselves. It means living a life of service to others. When we are in a personal bubble, even the service we do for others can be really be about us. Have you ever done something nice only to feel slighted when you weren’t “properly” thanked for your time? Have you ever resented the good deeds you’ve done, when others fail to notice them? In these ways, even our deeds of service are tempered by thoughts about ourselves and not the other.

When I would become frustrated at my sales job I would resent all the work that I had to do for the customer. I would think: “Don’t they appreciate the work I’m doing for them? I hardly get paid anything anyway, and they just come in here and boss me around and step all over me?” Those thoughts would swirl through my head in a cloud of bitterness. But when my job went smoothly and people were happy, it would be so easy to smile and wish people a great day. It was fun to take the time and really listen to their needs.

But did I make the choice that Jesus calls us to? I wasn’t equally pleasant to all of my customers. I was very human in my choices and often had a hard time serving the difficult shoppers and we all do this. We are fickle with our service. We want to be appreciated and recognized and lauded for our awesome deeds of service. We want big signs saying “Don’t you see how much of myself I’m giving?”

But that isn’t what we are called to do. Jesus says to deny ourselves. Service isn’t about us, it isn’t about receiving spiritual credit for the things we do. Thankfully, the grace of God already covers us there. Instead, service is about giving freely to the other. To deny ourselves is to deny the need to feel appreciated and noticed – it means for us to go behind the scenes and under the radar.

So, this is still a hard call Jesus is sending us. It is hard to stop having it be all about me. It is hard not to want to be noticed and hard not to need our service to be about us. We all have known the joy of helping others – volunteering at church, at a food shelf, babysitting for a family in a bind, cooking for a sick friend. There are so many ways to serve the world God created, but to do that with no expectation of personal gain, to do that without paying attention to the credit we may or may not receive, that takes work. To live as a Christian in service is not about announcing our holiness and service on a neon sign. It is living a life humbly, walking with Jesus, and giving where we are needed, quietly and without fanfare. This is the life of a Christian following Jesus. Because it isn’t always about us.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Holy Week hovers on the Horizon: Random Thursday Thoughts

* Last night I got home at 8:30pm from church. Made a frozen pasta meal and proceeded to read much of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. The chapters I read dealt with the huge waste of energy and lack of nutrients that are in processed foods, and the one on the joy and relaxation that cooking can do. No, the irony was not lost on me!

* I preached a sermon twice yesterday. Once at our noon service and again at 7pm. I ended up with a difficult passage - Mark 8:34-38 (Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me). Though I was having writers block well into Tuesday evening it came together fairly well in the end and I'm glad. I even had a parishoner or two say I might have missed my calling. :) And since there was a time I was on the Pastor route it feels good to know that I still have some of those skills in me. Still, if I was back in Seminary today I would probably make the same choice. Though there is some unique frustration that comes from being a lay employee in the church, I know there are equal frustrations to the pastors. And I still don't know if I've grown enough that I wouldn't go beyond what is healthy as a pastor. I still struggle with that, even though I've gotten lots better this year in particular. (If people want to read the sermon I can post it).

* Speaking of work, it has been very busy this week and is only going to get busier as we approach Holy Week. Maundy Thursday is only two weeks away and in between now and then I need to get our camp registrations out, have our family Easter party, teach the 1st communion class, plan a banquet, learn the music and play trumpet for Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, arrange for the kids procession on Palm Sunday, and this is in addition to the general running of programs that needs doing. Add to that my workout routine and the fact that I leave for Argentina 3 days after Easter, my to-do list seems miles long. (Darn it, I REALLY need to be working on my Spanish too). But I'm fairly confident it will all get done somehow...mostly because it all HAS to get done anyway!

*I'm going to Yoga class tonight with Anguished Corn. I'm excited to see her and hear all about this IVF she's in the middle of. If you can spare some prayers and good thoughts for her and her husband that would be great!

* Do any of you out in blogland who know me have any science-y equipment - beakers, test tubes, microscopes, etc - that you may be willing to lend me? Our Vacation Bible School this year is Science themed and I'm trying to start collecting things early. I will take good care of it and return it to you after June!

* Tomorrow I get to go see the Spiderwick Chronicles at the IMAX theatre. I won tickets on the radio a week or two ago and am going with one of my chruch families. It is going to be fun. We're going to pop into the zoo so I can see the new MN trail too! Yay!

* Are we really going to have to drag the Obama/Hilary nomination question out through all of the primaries? It is getting really old and I even care about the outcome!

* Also, I'm torn about whether or not to try to try out for Jeopardy! tomorrow. I'm not sure I'm really smart enough to do well on the show, but it would be cool... Is anyone going to go?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Volume not Mass?

After meeting with my trainer today for my first follow up session I jumped on the scale. One pound. That is what is went down from a month ago when I first hopped on the scale after meeting with the trainer. 27 days, 23 workouts...one f***ing pound.

But as hubby pointed out last night, even if I haven't lost mass, I have lost volume. And I do think that is true. Good thing I have him around to remind me that! Sheesh.

An Icon Retires...

The news broke today: Brett Favre, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, chooses to retire after 16 seasons with the Packers. I for one, am sad about this news, and I know that Wisconsin is full of grown men blinking back tears today. What made the news especially hard to take was the fact that I heard it from a vocal Vikings fan who was so gleeful and peppy about it. And I suppose he had good cause, Favre has been a thorn in the Vikings sides for years and our opponents may be glad to see him gone.

Favre has always been a football player to bring out strong emotions in people. Some people have called him overrated and cite his high interception rating and trouble over the last several years of his career. But from a Packer fan who watched this journey the whole time, I saw something different. I saw someone who was playing a game because he truly enjoyed it. I saw joy and glee and dedication to the game. I saw someone who fought through injuries to play 275 straight games. The Packers looked it up... 202 other quarterbacks started for the other NFL teams during the reign of Brett Favre over Green Bay. 202 people lined up in the spot he did day after day and fell to injury, age and poor play. He played through broken thumbs and sprained elbows and concussions and who knows what else.

Beyond his durablity and amazing streak of games, he has broken so many long standing records. He has the most TD passes, and the most passing yards of any quarterback. And yes, he has the interception record too. He has 3 MVPs under his belt, and a Superbowl. He led the team through thin years where everything was going wrong, and paved the way for Holmgren and the super star Packers of the late 90s.

And yes, he had issues. He has been in rehab for both painkillers and alcohol. He has been open with these addictions in the last several years. Admitting to his early partying years and his trouble with them. But his openness with these problems is also a a great gift. In an age when super stars routinely drink, do drugs, and all sorts of other things it is refreshing to have someone who is respected say - hey this is a problem and when it is a problem you need to own up to it. It takes a lot of guts to admit a problem, but to admit it with the world watching takes some serious conviction.

And in the last few seasons there have been tragedies. He's lost his father and a brother-in-law. His wife has gone through breast cancer. His family and neighborhood and beloved home dealt with the horror of Hurricane Katrina. And through all of that, he's been a rock. Playing football, supporting his family and bringing joy to so many people. His charity work for Katrina came out of a deep love of the place, and Green Bay stood up as one and came to the aid of their beloved quarterback.

I remember watching him play on Monday Night Football in Oakland after he lost his father, the father who'd introduced him to this game he loved. Favre's memorial to his father - a 4 TD night with 399 passing yards. There wasn't a dry eye in the place as he said goodbye to his father in the most fitting way - beautiful, joyful and inspiring football.

You knew it couldn't last forever, and I'm glad he was able to make this decision himself rather than have him suffer a career ending injury or quiet dismissal as his talents faded. He proved to the world this year that he can compete as long as he wants and he is going out playing as well as he ever played.

I saw him play only once live. We were playing the Giants and he got injured in the second quarter. He was slammed into the ground and came up clearly shaken. He sat out a snap, and then came in and through a remarkable TD pass downfield. He then sat out the rest of the game. We found out later that he had a concussion and wasn't even answering the coaches questions quite right, but he said he was going in anyway to finish the series and get the TD, and wouldn't you know it, he did. And of course that concussion didn't keep him out of the next game either.

If you think that this is a long blog post for just a football player then you've never lived in Wisconsin. Favre has defined our loyalty for 16 years. He contributed to the state in ways I can't quite explain - far beyond a steakhouse and road name. He was a great player to watch, love and root for and he brought the Packers out of our dismal 80s slump. I have high hopes for Aaron Rodgers and the next version of the Green Bay Packers, but Favre will definately be missed.

And if you think I'm exaggerating I just got an email from my father saying to keep time open in 2013 to go to his Hall of Fame induction, as I'm sure he'll be a first time Hall of Famer.

So, even though I know Brett won't read this....Thanks Brett Favre! It's been a great run!


P.S. If you want another example of what I'm talking about read this over at Sports Illustrated. This is exactly what I mean. *Sniff* Bye Brett and Thanks!

Monday, March 03, 2008

LunarGoat - Now with Tides!

I have decided that my Lunargoat title has become very apt. While talking with my mother this weekend I was struggling to put this continual weight fluctuation into words. It seems like I keep oscillating in a 5-7 lb range. Never truly gaining or losing the weight but just bouncing back and forth between the slightly larger huge me and the slightly less large huge me. So I have decided...I have become so big that I have tides! It must be that right? Not just all of the many other things it could be? heh. (Please know I do mean this in a joking way, while I am EXTREMELY frustrated I don't mean it to be flippant about my weight or anything, I just thought it was amusing, and as I mentioned an apt comparison for what this journey seems like to me.)

In the weight loss and exercise front it has been a frustrating couple of days. I'm feeling large and I've been much more sore lately and my workouts have been suffering. I'm feeling weak and out of shape (despite all the gains I have made). I feel like a big hyperventalating whale at the gym right now and just wish it worked so much faster. I know I have issues with impatience with this but what seems to be improving one day becomes even worse than it seemed before the next.

I need to find something to do at the gym tonight. I think I need something a bit different to reframe my point of view right now. I am supposed to meet with the trainer tomorrow night in my second session (we are trying to afford it once a month to keep me on track) and I'm hoping that she has some suggestions to keep things going. I'm done so much already that is on the right track that I don't want to derail...but at the same time I feel like I'm just inching along.

Complicating things is that I'm now got several crazy-busy weeks at work ending with Holy Week and my trip to Argentina. It is going to keep me running around with my head cut off and I hope I can find time to keep up with the lifestyle changes I'm trying to make. And the whole stress of it all is making me grouchy and anxious and giving me a personal pity party. It is the kind of stress that makes me want to sit on the couch with a box of thin mints and a pint of chocolate ice cream. But of course that isn't in the cards either.

Worst of all, I have to give a sermon on Wednesday that i haven't written yet and that is freaking me out today. Eeek!
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*Deep Breath*

In the spirit of not just complaining to you blogland I'm going to make a determined effort to list much of the good things that have been going on lately. A few random good thoughts will hopefully bring some perspective to this stress.

1. I got to have dinner with a friend on Thursday and that was fun and goofy and a nice relaxing period. Plus there was a cheesecake which wasn't really part of the food plan but oh so tasty!

2. My parents came up this weekend to see hubby's choir concert. We got to play bridge and hubby and I won 4 rubbers decidedly, including bidding and making a small slam. Woohoo!

3. I went to the gym with my father on Sunday getting him into the gym on a guest pass. I sort of believe that neither of us *really* wanted to go, but we went to be with the other. But it was good to take the time to exercise together and support each other in it.

4. Hubby and I cleaned a lot on Friday and Saturday morning and the apartment is looking pretty good. We had to replace a storage cart in the kitchen and we got a nice big shelf at Home Depot and have a lot more storage now. Hopefully it will help keep us more organized and clean. There is something calming about a clean house though.

5. My sister revamped her blog and it is really interesting so I'm excited to be able to keep up with her more. She is so talented and creative and I'm sure you'll all find it interesting so go visit her there!

Now if i can just remember these things rather than all the frustrations above maybe I'll be able to write this darn sermon and find something intelligent/inspiring/meaningful to say.