Thursday, September 13, 2012


well this is all new territory-- I tripped on an uneven bit of sidewalk yesterday afternoon and came down like a sack of coals with my right hand under me "somehow"...a certain  amount of grazes and laceration and bruising and HURT.

Was walking at the time with Daughter Unit and Grandbaby-of-my-Heart...the walk came to an abrupt end. 

After restorative tea and visiting, I made shift to drive home where I dug out the old arthritis thumb/wrist brace.

It helped ... but early evening I departed from my lifelong I'M FINE, I'M FINE policy and went to the closest hospital. --as the HURT factor was getting just stupid.  Then, TRIAGE and all that that entails.  Eventually,  X-rays, reassurance that "nothing's broken--ice, rest, and Tylenol"...came home again and so to bed.

Drove to work this morning w//o undue awkwardness.

During the day the medicoes had another look at the films.  OOPS, they said.  Kindly get yourself back here.

So I am in plaster, or rather in fibreglass, for a fractured thumb.  Dratted cast goes nearly up to my elbow.  Six weeks.

Did I mention I don't take frustration well?  But I must admit I like the "protected" sensation....

I had a phone call from a nurse at the hospital to see whether I would need HOME CARE.....What am I, OLD?  well....I guess.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Unbridled Domesticity...

I've never been much of a fan of "household hints" -- no time, or no trust, or both.  There are a number of Domestic Stratagems I learned from my mother or my mother-in-law, my aunts, a few girl friends...but not many.  That said, I seem to have amassed a huge collection of print-out Nifty Advice.

So it is disconcerting to find suddenly I'm developing a taste for these things.  Instance.  According to the expert instructions, I concocted a "Fruit Fly Trap."  One small glass of apple cider vinegar, three drops of dishwashing detergent, set it on the kitchen counter near where I prepare fruit and vegetables.  Son of a gun, this morning, if it wasn't full of little Drosophila Melanogaster corpses.  Well, not full, but more than a few.  Bless my soul.  It worked.  What next.

Well, actually, I think I know what next.  Somebody here is recommending that vodka be substituted for water in making pie-crust.  I have pie-crust mix (home-made); I have vodka.  It almost seems...MEANT TO BE.

Perhaps I've spent too much time and effort in pickling and canning, this month...culminating today in a session with my commere in which we made Barbara Kingsolver's triple-threat recipe.  First you make a tomato-based barbecue sauce, and jar up some--not all--of it, and process it in the canner.  Then you add peaches and sugar and what not to the residue, cook it down, jar (again) just some of the new mixture, and process it in turn.  And finally additional raisins and walnuts (and we thought up some additional seasonings) produce chutney -- in rather more than the manageable volumes indicated by the recipe.

All three products tasted different, were slightly differently hued...and MOST tasty.  So La Commere and I are wafting about this evening in an aura (or maybe MIASMA) of PICKLE and domestic accomplishment.

Enough to make anyone feel an affinity with Heloise.  Or something that starts with Hel-.  Like, perhaps, a Helgramite.  So there is a picture of a Helgramite at the head of this post.

Stay tuned for further "Helgramite's Helpful Household Hints."  Yes.

Oh while we waited for the jars, all 27 of them, to cool, we drank ginger tea and reformed the church, the entire church, root and branch, from top to bottom and from stem to gudgeon.  MOST satisfying.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Sermon for Pentecost 15

Pentecost 15, preached September 9/12
The story Mark tells in this morning’s gospel reading is one of those puzzling, difficult texts sometimes listed under “Things We Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said”//quote//.
This brief statement, true enough on the face of it, causes great controversy among Scripture scholars and teachers.  “Jesus sounds mean,” they complain.  “Jesus seems to say NO to someone who asks him for help~Jesus called a woman A DOG (a lady dog, yet?)~but then he seemed to change his mind, to reverse himself.  What’s going on.  Does Jesus change? Did Jesus MAKE A MISTAKE?”
What we need, I think, when we come to a text like this, is a premise, a first principle to start from.  I take mine from St. John Chrysostom (who after all – if nothing else – was 1600 years closer to what happened than we are).  Chrysostom says we may take it, confidently, that Jesus always knows what he is doing, always knows what he is saying, and why; he always has an agenda, an aim in view, there is a point and a purpose, a teaching and transforming purpose in everything he says and does.
What if that is true?  In this story we have three “characters” – two individuals, Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman – and one group character, the posse of disciples standing on the fringe of what is going on.  WE may forget the disciples, because they don’t say anything much out loud – but we mustn’t imagine that Jesus forgets them, not for a moment.  Jesus is always aware of ALL his listeners, their agendas, hopes, assumptions.  And he stick-handles his way through his conversations with that awareness – he teaches with that awareness.
Make no mistake, this is a teacher of teachers—when we imagine God as teacher we usually imagine how we might teach if we were God…a thunderous, uninterrupted monologue, unquestioned, complete the moment it’s uttered, indifferent to hearers/students, who of course bring no more to the situation than a row of buckets under the downspout. 
This is not how Jesus teaches – he is AWARE of what is being heard, what is being CONSTRUED, INFERRED, IMAGINED, DEBATED in his hearers’ minds.  Jesus knows about our resistance (well, I don’t think that’s so), our assumptions (oh he must have meant to say), all the furniture of our minds that IMPEDES our hearing (hearing/obeying).  We’ll hear him just fine until he demands we change our minds.  Then, whoops, no, we have our defences against that.  Jesus doesn’t HAVE to change his mind; WE DO.
This is teaching by THEATRE…what happens out loud is only part of it – the important things are happening in the minds and hearts of the onlookers.
The SP woman is a foreigner, a Gentile – therefore the disciples are hostile, contemptuous – an outsider pushing in  “HER” vs. “US”.  So when Jesus brings “dog talk” into the open,  you can imagine the disciples nodding (serve her right – and the “B” word).  WE are the children, YOU are a dog.
Jesus needs them to agree with what they THINK he said, so that he can show them it is not adequate.  Not just that this is a human being like them, a child of God, etc. (what would happen if he said that out loud?  Rebuttal, yes-but…)  He needs them to change their view of the grace of God—she’s asking for the grace of God.  And like all of us, the disciples have a zero-sum view of God’s goodness: there’s only so much of it, and if you get some there is less for me, and there will never be enough for all of us to have all we need.  So don’t waste it on FOREIGNERS.
But the economics of the grace of God is not that grudging calculating conniving economics of our lives, our work, our budgets, our politics.  It isn’t zero-sum.
He talks about bread.  Think back to all that talk in John’s Gospel about the bread of life vs. ordinary bread.  If grace, God’s goodness (and he IS God’s goodness), were like ordinary Wonder Bread, then he would be right.  But he is talking about something different, and he can only get them to see it by a piece of improvisational theatre… he has to take them by surprise, the way good theatre does.
Here is the beauty of it – he calls upon, asks of this foreign woman whom he hardly knows and who hardly knows him – he relies upon her awareness, her wits, her courage to help him in the little play he’s stage-managing.  And she comes through…she tells this little homely truth, everybody who’s ever had a baby and a dog (or a cat) in the same household knows it’s true that when the baby has dinner the dog scores, because it’s a messy, overflowing business – JUST LIKE THE GRACE OF GOD.
The problem, for the one under the table, arises when the children, those who have already been served, those who have been offered the grace of God, refuse it.  And that’s the Pharisees, and the disciples, and, too often, you and me too.  When we truly are open, are receptive to the grace of God, believe me, the crumbs fly, and everybody standing around is fed also.  Name the paradox here.
Not that we should forego it…but that we should take it in and make it into ourselves and become in our turn that nourishing love of God for those standing on the margins.  If they are not fed – it’s because WE have shut our mouths and shaken our heads. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Five: I Ask for Help

Thanks to Martha Spong over at RevGalBlog Pals, our instructions: 

So, for this Friday Five, please list four ways you have been helped when you didn't want to ask for it and one way you had a chance to help that meant a lot to you.

This one comes awfully close to the bone, for me.

1.  A little past midway in my seminary years (the MDiv was a three-year course but it took me seven years to complete, part-time), one of my faculty advisors gave me the task of setting my Learning Goals for the year ahead.  "EH?" I said.  "Learning Goals?  What means 'Learning Goals'?  Not understanding.  Passing courses, yes.  But YOU set Learning Goals, I meet them."  She wouldn't have it.  Finally she set one for me.  "I want you to LEARN how to ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT."  Further resistance on my part.  "But it's WRONG to ask for help.  I'm supposed to do MY OWN WORK. (Besides, who'd help me?  Ha.  Nobody, is who)..."  So I was helped in the first instance by being TOLD to learn to ask for help.

2.  In the meantime, I was struggling with my tax return.  Actually, staring paralyzed at it.  I had always filled out my own tax return.  But in that particular year, I had to report a Capital Gain, and I had NO idea how to do it...I knew I was owed a rebate, so there was no problem about late payment.  But the weeks rolled by...and about October, one night, lying awake fretting, I remembered that one of my seminary classmates was a Chartered Accountant.  "ah"  I said, "I'll bet HE knows what to do with a Capital Gain.  I shall ASK for HELP."  So expecting to be yelled at for Not Knowing How, I asked.  "Yes,"  he said.  "MMM-hmmm," he said.  "Give me your papers," he said.  And that was the end of the problem, right there.  No yelling.  No scorn.  Just "MMM-hmmmm" and a nice welcome rebate cheque in due course.  Amazing.

3.  Casting a lot farther back -- I remember the summer before I started university, at the lake with a group of other young folks, splashing around in the water just off the end of the dock, I -- non-swimmer -- stepped into a deep spot and couldn't find my footing again.  (I recall it now, vividly, when I see those information features about "Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning.")  I was struggling but not saying anything, when one of the girls about six feet away asked quietly, "Are you in trouble?"  I managed to nod my head, and without any fuss she had me into the shallow water in an instant...  "No problem," she said.

4.  This last week I was confronting a funeral in the parish where I'm doing interim ministry.  At one point it looked to me as though I was responsible not just for officiating and preaching and pastoral care but also for organizing (and possibly preparing!!!) the post-funeral lunch (70 people), and the funeral leaflet, which was complex (with reluctant, unfamiliar computers and unreliable internet)...and then all in one day the parish lunch-committee reported in (returned from vacation): "We're on it" -- and the funeral family announced, "We're making the leaflet, tell us what should be in it."  And there I was, free and clear to do what I DID know how to do.  The most wonderful feeling, when somebody else just comes and cheerfully TAKES AWAY a task you don't know how to tackle.

Times when I have been helpful.  Hmm---well, I was visiting an older parishioner whose divorce settlement had not been particularly generous although her (ex)husband was very affluent...she was expressing her worry about making ends meet on what she was allowed; and I enquired about a detail of the allocation of pension benefits...and encouraged her to consult her lawyer again -- it turned out he had missed a provision that was a matter of law, NOT negotiation; her income was substantially improved and she was also paid a big chunk of "back pay" -- she seemed to think that was pretty helpful!!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Blessed are the dumfounded...

Just home after a very happy day with the Grandbaby of my Heart (so far, the ONLY Grandbaby, though that is due to change soon), and her parents...naptimes and playtimes and feedings and bath and bedtime, and in with that delightful lunch and supper, and much good conversation.

Grandbaby is in the process of shifting her schedule of eating and sleeping.  She is being gently encouraged to move to TWO substantial naps per day, away from three or more catnaps.  Homoeostasis  being still in effect, there is resistance to this benevolent request for change.  So what with that, and with being not quite six months old, and the natural challenges of the time of day between 5 pm and 7 pm (aka "Hell Hour"), Grandbaby was becoming a bit of a small BEAR by the time supper was over. 

She didn't want to jump in the Jolly Jumper, she didn't want to sit in her high-chair, she didn't want to lie on her play-mat.  There was fussery.  There were aggrieved noises.  There were small squawks of existential ennui (I presume).

So her Papa took her over to the piano, held her in the crook of one arm, and began to play Bach, mostly with one hand; sometimes he could manage the second hand for a bar or two.

First thing was she hushed TOTALLY and stopped wiggling and struggling.  Total concentration and stillness.

And then I looked at her face.  And with small regular tilts of her head, she was looking first up at the music on the music rack, and then down at the keyboard.  Then back at the music, then back at the keyboard, at her Papa's hands and what they were doing.  Back and forth, over and over, regular as a metronome.

As I said, not six months old until mid-month (and born five weeks early at that).

I have come home feeling more than somewhat staggered.  What on earth have we here???

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Friday Five becomes Saturday Six!!!

I thought of this character last night also and then forgot again while I was wrestling with format, font, etc.

I really would have liked to be Jerusha ("Judy") Abbott in Jean Webster's Daddy-Long-Legs -- self-portrait above.

NOT under any circumstances the Leslie Caron manifestation; but the girl who wrote the letters to her Mysterious Benefactor.  Oh yes.