Sunday, November 30, 2008


'Round about this time of year, I start writing what turns into an email to a small group of friends. Advent is a summing up time for me - a time when I look back at the year behind me and see it as a whole cloth. I do this while on what seems like my annual "Walk to Bethlehem", my journey to Christmas -- which for me is always a journey to the manger. Some years I have barely been able to crawl there -- years with grief and sorrow that robbed me of joy. But still, I got to the manger -- to that place where I understood what Christmas really is -- and I found comfort there. To the, the manger in Bethlehem feels like "home plate". So, a week or so from now, when I write this sum-up, I will heave a sigh of spiritual relief. Until then, I feel adrift in Advent, on a journey that has just begun, swept along by the throng and not yet conscious of directions or goals.

I used to have a friend who was a minister of a rural church. I'd write these annual missives to her, and she would honor them by reading them from the pulpit of her church on Christmas Eve. I suppose part of me also hears these words (as opposed to just reading them), as I knew they would be spoken.

I am a seminary graduate - Lutheran - ELCA who decided to not become ordained. It is a decision that has served me and the church well. But despite what will be my perpetual lover's quarrel with organized religion, I yearn for its comforts at Christmas. I will put up a nativity, a tree, decorations. NO Santa in my house.

And, I will think of this season in the church calendar as my personal journey to Bethlehem, my annual pilgrimage.

For me, the year has always concluded not at Time's Square's dropping of the ball -- but on Christmas Eve, also called Welia or Wiegilia (depending on what part of Poland your family is from). It means "vigil", and that night a very unique, non-meat meal is served. Families gather, candles are lit, hay is placed beneath a sparkling white tablecloth (to remind us of the manger.) Beautiful Polish Christmas carols are played in the background as the family gathers to bless each other and share the special meal.

It is involved -- there are a proscribed number of dishes -- and there must never be 13 people at the table (it would portend a death). The meal ends and the family relaxes until midnight mass, when they go to the Polish Roman Catholic church for the singing of Kolendy, the Polish canon of Christmas carols, and to hear Midnight Mass. But I always find myself having a need to sum up the year before I can approach the small church nativity set to light my annual candle.

So that's what I'll be doing --- summing -- until I get this year's letter into focus. When I do, I'll share it here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgivings Abroad

As I start to prepare a very traditional Thanksgiving, I cannot help but recall two other Thanksgivings spent outside of the US.

One year I was traveling with the man I was dating. We were in Italy for the week. Thanksgiving came and it was time to decide where to eat. We knew it would not be possible to find turkey in Rome -- and it was even more interesting not to. T had a hankering for Chinese food, so off we went. That year the Thanksgiving menu was in Italian and Chinese. And the Chinese food was seasoned with oregano.

Another year, I was in England visiting an expat friend of mine and her British husband. He loved the states and all things American, and she loved England and all things English. They made a fine couple. When you drank coffee at their house, they would ask in two accents, if you'd like "HAFF and HAWF" with your coffee. Peg had managed to get hold of a turkey, and I had been charged with bringing over cranberry sauce. They had British and American flags flying. At one point I asked my British friend, Mike, if he didn't feel odd celebrating America's escape from tyrannical British rule. He just laughed and said, "Oh, heavens, I never took that serrrrriously!"

But both years, we took time to thank God for the year that had preceded us, and to count our blessings with great joy. It really doesn't matter where you are on that day. Thanksgiving may be the perfect movable feast.

So no matter where this year finds you, in what state or what circumstance, it is my prayer that your blessing list is long and that your year ahead is full of bounty and blessings. Share the joy, everyone.

Monday, November 17, 2008

November is here

November is such a grey time here in New England. After the riot of joyous color that was fall, suddenly the skies go grey, the temperature drops and the trees are stark and bare against a twilight that arrives way too early. There are no harvests yet to pick or blossoms to gather. And looming on the other side of the greyness is the holiday season -- Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, New Years.

The upside of all this is great when you have even a vaguely functioning family -- lots of gatherings and traditions and enough coziness to last a lifetime...or almost a lifetime. Then you have folks like me -- people with friends galore, but with no blood-related family (or very little family) left alive. I have an 85 year old cousin whom I adore, and we get together as she is able. So I try to gather folks who have small or depleted families over the holidays.

This year, my Thanksgiving will be the day after -- and I will have a house guest who is my soul-brother and dearest male friend. This brings me such great joy. I am busily planning what to cook to make this a lovely and traditional feast. "Root vegetables," he said, "plenty of root vegetables." I suppose that is true. How fitting -- back to the roots for the holidays - potatoes, squash, parsnips, carrots, pumpkin, rutabega, turnips, baby onions. All of them in or near the ground -- hiding their surprises and secrets.

I'm so thankful for the bounty of friends in my life -- so overwhelmed with a family that shaped itself over the years. So sing merrily, folks -- find the treasures of the season where you can, amid grey days or overcast skies. Dig deep for the secrets of joy. They're in there -- I promise you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba has died.

One of her most known songs - Pata Pata

Miriam Makeba at the UN in 1970 testifying about Apartheid.

Long Live Makeba!

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Monday November 10th -- the 70th annivrsary of Kristallnacht

Please read the article I wrote at

It is important that we remain vigilant and not allow the evils of hatred and prejudice to infiltrate our lives on any level. It starts small. Please join with me today in saying a prayer for those who have been affected by prejudice, bigotry and hatred all around the world --- whether it was because of their religion, their sex, their sexual preference, their race, their nationality.

Lord, deliver us from our own evil, our own seeing of people as "other" who are our brothers and sisters in Your creation. Forgive us our sins of exclusion. Bring healing to the excluded and the excluder. Allow us to understand that we are all connected, all part of the same fabric of life, all equally valuable in Your sight. Bring down justice and peace on us all. Restore wholeness and love where there has been damage and hatred. Let us live together as one family -- full of differences that we learn to see an signs of the beauty of a diverse creation.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

In the words of Martin Luther King

"We have difficult days ahead in the struggle for justice and peace, but I will not yield to a politic of despair. I'm going to maintain hope as we come to Washington in this campaign. The cards are stacked against us. This time we will really confront a Goliath. God grant that we will be that David of truth set out against the Goliath of injustice, the Goliath of neglect, the Goliath of refusing to deal with the problems, and go on with the determination to make America the truly great America that it is called to be.

I say to you that our goal is freedom, and I believe we are going to get there because however much she strays away from it, the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be as a people, our destiny is tied up in the destiny of America.

Before the Pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before Jefferson etched across the pages of history the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence, we were here. Before the beautiful words of the "Star Spangled Banner" were written, we were here.

For more than two centuries our forebearers labored here without wages. They made cotton king, and they built the homes of their masters in the midst of the most humiliating and oppressive conditions. And yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to grow and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery couldnt stop us, the opposition that we now face will surely fail.

Were going to win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands. And so, however dark it is, however deep the angry feelings are, and however violent explosions are, I can still sing "We Shall Overcome."

We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

We shall overcome because Carlyle is right "No lie can live forever."

We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right "Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again."

We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right as we were singing earlier today,

Truth forever on the scaffold,

Wrong forever on the throne.

Yet that scaffold sways the future.

And behind the dim unknown stands God,

Within the shadow keeping watch above his own.

With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair the stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

Thank God for John, who centuries ago out on a lonely, obscure island called Patmos caught vision of a new Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God, who heard a voice saying, "Behold, I make all things new; former things are passed away."

God grant that we will be participants in this newness and this magnificent development. If we will but do it, we will bring about a new day of justice and brotherhood and peace. And that day the morning stars will sing together and the sons of God will shout for joy."

Delivered at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., on 31 March 1968. Congressional Record, 9 April 1968.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

We did it

We elected Obama as president. I've been crying off and on for hours. Such hope. So many dreams.

I heard a commentator say that the same steps upon which Obama will be inaugurated were originally built by slaves -- slaves who never dreamed that a black man would walk up those stairs to be sworn in to the highest office in the land.

Dear Lord, protect him and guide us in the right direction, for the greatest good of all.

I am so exhausted. But I needed to blog and to pray.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What a fabulous day!

I voted when the polls opened this morning. We used the old fashioned manual ballots ("fill in the oval..."). I like these ballots -- they make me feel like I really voted.

And I, along with millions of other Americans, cast my vote for Obama. And there, in my teeny voting booth, tears ran down my face. I voted for an African American man for president of the United States. I am among the first Americans ever to do so. It is an historic moment, and I feel deeply moved, proud and very happy.
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