Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Twas the night before the night before

Twas the night before the night before Christmas and I am sitting on a chair in the bathroom next to the radiator because this is the warmest room in the house. I love to be toasty warm. A cold snap issued a snowstorm of epic proportions last week and I have tried to make time to enjoy it as much as possible. Someone built this snowman near my house and I find him absolutely charming. I thought he might brighten your day as well.

It is Advent, just two days before Christmas and strangely I do not feel deeply connected to the holiday this year. I wonder what that is all about? I put up a glorious Christmas tree downstairs, have helped lead weekly Advent services, lit plenty of candles, listened to lots of Christmas tunes (Baby it's Cold Outside and The River are two of the favorites this year). I have shared short meditations on the nearness of God, and yet, somehow if my heart had a rating it would likely be rated as ummm.... trying to find the right word here... subdued?

Subdued is not a typical "Carmen state of being."

But some seasons are like that.

I paused to notice the shape of the snowdrifts behind the church today. In the midst of the city, beneath the grand buildings, lie small mountains made up entirely of intricate flakes, blown and frozen into blankets of white, sublime and quiet.

Friends, all over the world, wishing you a good yule, a Merry Christmas, happy holidays, Frohe Weihnachten, God Jul, and all the rest. May your holiday be full of good food and good conversation, peace and joy!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bloggity Blog

Last blog posting = author feeling not-so-cheerful
Current blog posting = author feeling quite-cheerful-indeed

Hey friends. This morning I slept luxuriously late and chose to lie around in my bed (in my Cindy Lou Who striped pajamas) reading mags. Tis the season for subscription renewal and I am looking for some good recommendations.

I love the Economist, but I find a weekly magazine too intense. I would prefer a monthly subscription to something. The Atlantic Monthly is excellent (my friends Peter and Cheryl in Zambia introduced me), but I am open to other ideas. Anyone have any suggestions?

It is Saturday and I am about to go on a long walk. I am thankful for the gift of time today. Time to sleep late. Time to walk. Time to read. Time to be attentive to the world and how good it can be. Life is not without its share of challenge, but it is relentlessly good. Wishing you some goodness today.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A lengthy post

You know you need a proper date when the clerk at the corner store calls you "babe" and you think "that might have been the closest I've come to being an object of desire in a long time." Well, besides the 50 year old divorcee who asked me out at a funeral reception last week (yes, I was wearing my clerical collar at the time). Nothing against this 50 year old divorced man, but the whole thing was suspiciously fetish-tastic.

I just ate a 1/2 pint of chocolate fudge ice cream. It is like déjà vu from last spring. Life is good, but life is also hard these days.

So, why did I come to Philadelphia?

About six months ago I walked into a beautiful, old historic church in Center City, Philadelphia that seats more than 700 people and was told that 9 people attend services each week. It is a church in desperate need of imagination, love and attentiveness. And so I signed on. It felt like a good fit at the time. It gave me room to ask questions about the relevance of church in a world where its message and work has become obsolete in many parts of the world. For a minister, I am strangely suspicious of church. I am the first person to admit that church is often associated with destructive discourses characterized by shame and is known to exploit power, yet I remain curious, and open, to church as being something different, something other, something better. I remain compelled, for better or worse, by the Christian tradition, its Hebrew roots, and the notion of a God that draws near.

I came to Philadelphia to enter into conversation with people who want to reimagine church and how it can be deeply reflective on the spirit, on sacred texts, on God at work in the world and compel people to work toward a life and a world that is more meaningful and compassionate and just. That all sounds very well and good until you attempt to put this into practice. Our church sits next door to the Comcast tower, home to one of the most successful corporations in the United States and every day people line up around the block to bring their children to a 20 minute 3-D holiday show on a massive screen in their lobby. People make time for this kind of entertainment (surprisingly drab), while the building next door remains empty. This gives me pause to think. For the last two mornings I passed out invitations to the neighborhood for a midweek Advent service and today I sat in a pew amongst a dozen people. Not one new person came.

My friend Keelan said to me tonight, "Carmen, the church is a tough sell. You should have gone for knives."

He could be right.

I have not given up hope on God or hope in church, but this job has proven more challenging than I originally imagined. Friends have reminded me to take one day at a time as in all big challenges and of course they are right. But on days like this, a life of teaching and travel and romance sounds a great deal more appealing :-) For now I will crawl into bed, thankful for heat and clean drinking water, a paycheck, good friends and family and the hope that life is full of surprises.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

I walked home today at the wrong time and got caught in sleet without an umbrella. My jeans were sopping and my wool coat was thoroughly drenched by the time I got to the haunted manse. I was cold and amused at the whole thing until I realized that most of my comrades on the road were homeless people with no warm home to return to. One woman stooped over a grate, trying to warm a pair of gloves in steam being released from the subway below. Homelessness racks Philadelphia.

Last week I saw a man sitting outside a barber shop surrounded by all he owned, His white head perched above bags of clothes and shoes, looking content as king of his own mountain. On the glass behind him, just above his head, the words "You are beautiful" were printed. A serendipitous place to sit.

The sleet turned into big, fat snowflakes by the time I got to a coffee shop where I met a woman who is a domestic and global AIDS activist who has lived in Philadelphia for a decade (I had trouble not choking when she generously ascribed "friendly" to this city-- I think I might get proven wrong one of these days). She was inspiring and I hope to meet her again someday.

I am off to a "Sinterklaas Party," which should be fun-- a Dutch couple is sharing this festive tradition with us tonight (wikipedia this to see just how strange--even slightly offensive-- this tradition is to our modern sensibilities). Happy Sinterklass to you!!

In honor of weird holiday traditions, I leave you with this picture I took last week on a walk in Princeton. This yard made me smile.