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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, July 13, 2007

Luck had nothing to do with it: Friday July 13,2007

It took me quite a while to sift through all the information about Friday the 13th and why some consider it so unlucky.

In my (relatively cursory) research I discovered that there were more people who held some kind of superstitious belief about Friday the 13th in the US than in any other country.

Some say it is linked with the death of Christ on a Friday - and that there were 13 present at the last supper (well, until Judas left to go on his errand).

Others believe that it has it's ominous overtones because in some cultures both Friday and the number 13 are linked with women. There is the purported link of 13 with the number of Wiccan believers in a coven.

Being a practical person I know that there are 13 floors in some buildings, even if the number of the floors go from 1-12 and skip to 14.

There ARE very real things that could strike fear into our hearts.... is Friday the 13th (no matter how many gruesome horror movies are made as sequels) one of them??? Luck will have little to do with whether you get through this particular day "unscathed" by some calamity. Some things happen or they don't. If they do happen, it is nearly always for a solid reason.

I do not suggest that you walk under any ladders or harrass a black cat (although that cat might annoy you). Throwing salt over your shoulder only creates a mess that has to be cleaned up later. These are less superstition than common sense. I will also de-bunk another superstition. Being the target below of an airborn or stationary bird relieving itself is not good luck. It's just another mess to clean up........a rather unpleasant mess, at that.

So say your prayers - just like you would any other day - and go out there and win another one for the Lord. Who knows.... maybe evangelism, spoken or in action, will be a bigger draw than a rabbits foot on Friday the 13th!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Uncle Sam may be using the old "Bait and Switch" technique

I watched the news tonight.... was it ABC (?)... and a very disturbing story came up.

It was the case of an enlisted man who fought in the war in Iraq. During his tour he was decorated often and was severely injured in his last battle foray, receiving the Purple Heart. The was wounded, has many PTSS (post traumatic stress syndrome) symptoms, has hearing loss, memory loss.

This brave man entered into the armed forces - not for the 'fringe' benefits - in the swell of patriotism that surged after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Having earned the top military honor the nation can bestow, he was honorablly discharged - on medical grounds - for a personality disorder. By discharging a soldier on this grounds, he is NOT entitled to any veterens benefits: no pension, no medical treatment, no funeral benefits. In fact, he is obligated to pay back his enlistment bonus and some back pay....... HE OWES UNCLE SAME MONEY FOR SERVING IN IRAQ AND BEING INJURED IN BATTLE.

I had never heard of this before..... went on a search and found an article, written by Joshua Kors, appeared in the April 9, 2007 issue 'The Nation' that documented the plight of MANY former soldiers. Considering the fact that all recruits are screened before entering service, common sense dictates that this diagnosis would have prevented them entering in the first place!

No, it would appear that our government is doing the old 'bait and switch' offering one thing and being talked into another. By classifying these former service people in this way, our government saves lots and lots of money! Surprise, surprise! I fail to understand why they could not cut their budgets by stop funding the war (per se) and instead spend money of those who have served in good faith and are now back home without benefits facing official after official washing their hands of the matter, just as Pontius Pilate did millenia earlier.

Here is the link I found to this particular article.

If we are to show kindness to orphans, widows, those in prison and those who are ill, our voices must certainly be heard on an issue such as this. God bless - and heal - those who, in the service of their country. Through your Holy Spirit the us the will to support and help them in the ways which are open to us. Amen.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

From U-tube:I CHOOSE LOVE and words from Mother Teresa

I went to the grocery store last night - the cupboard was again bare - and headed to the BREAKFAST FOODS aisle. Like a clinical researcher I scanned the shelves for a cereal which would not wedge under the temporary crown that remains precariously in place on the upper left of my mouth. Nothing flakey or crunchy or sticky could be considered.

All un-refrigerated and non 'health food' cereal items stocked by my local ShopRite inhabit one entire side of an aisle....some 90 feet long, 6 shelves (about 6.5 feet high). There were so many items to choose from that I became mesmerized by the expanse of it and had difficulty in choosing what to pick. God (not a stockguy) tapped me on the shoulder and whispered into my ear "Your brothers and sisters in Calcutta, my latch key kids in the South Bronx and my children in the Solomon Islands after April's earthquake and tsunami must choose whether they eat today or tomorrow - and where the food will come from". I grabbed a bag each of 'generic' puffed wheat and puffed rice. I put back on the shelf the Bisquick, paper plates and extra bananas. Our national wealth, the abundance of nearly anything we would want, need or obtain on a whim, is so enveloping that we could very easily avoid thinking of anyone but ourselves. As Christians, we are called to live outside of our comfortable envelope. We have choices to make.

Please have a look at the attached U-Tube presentation which was sent to Barbara by Yvette Tsiropoulos (of NY City?) and passed on to me. I hope you will pass it along as well. The choices we are called to make fall beyond the cereal aisle. I would ask you to take note that some of the images presented are photographs (using mirror photography effects) which show a road that divides into two distinct paths.

Mother Teresa (1910-1997) was wont to hand out what looked like a worn yellow business card (made up as a gift to her by an Indian businessman) when she went on her travels. On it was printed the following:

The Simple Path

The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace.

Print out these directions for The Simple Path; keep them with you, refer to them often. When faced with a split in the road, I am certain neither Mother Teresa nor God would mind if you 'borrowed' these directions and used them yourself!

P.S. Go to The Geranium Farm home page for other features and information about Episcopal Relief and Development which helps those who suffer from the aftermath of natural and man-made disasters.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The [fill in the blank] Sale

What do you call it when you finally take stock of very thing in your living space and notice you aren't using at least 50% of it? Oh, you could call it the breaking point, an AH-HA! moment, a flash of benificent generousity to local charities, a division of treasures during your lifetime to your loved ones, or......... an open sale to the public.

But what do you CALL this sale: I'm sure you have heard lots of modifiers- - tag sale, garage sale, yard sale, estate sale, rummage sale, moving sale, liquidation sale. Chances are, you are NOT selling your yard or your garage. You are selling things you don't really need. Chances are, Johnny Mathis, SOMEONE would enjoy having some of those objects that you consider cast-offs.

I've had these sales before and have always tried to price things fairly..... knowing the original price, considering its condition, then cutting it down. My shock came duing my first foray into this experience when certain people would come and: 1) try to steal things, 2) antique dealers would come and try to negotiate a price 50% below my asking price (and I knew they would re-sell it at a significant mark-up); and 3) people- particularly immigrants - for whom haggling and negotiating was a cultural necessity will refuse to pay the price you quote. One never pays full price - you HAVE to get the seller to lower the price.... it's a matter of pride and understood as common practise in the country they originate from.

Any of you who have worked on church rummage sales have seen most or all of these behaviors. They could even be put into categories: the lookers, the ponderers, the label-switchers, the hagglers, the bargain hunters, the treasure hunters, the slight-of-handers, the buyers..... and those who need things they could never buy at full price.

This sale comes up upon my retirement and my inner urge to simplify things (and make some mad money to set aside). C will be moving her worldly goods from Chelsea to Holland, MI and would like my help doing the same there.... and, what the heck, I can do that. So there will be 2 sales and (hopefully) two successes. This will take some planning and either some stickers with prices or color coding. The clothing will not sell at one of these fetes, so it is best to donate these items to a charity before anything begins.

As much as I want to simplify my life, it is part of my baptismal and ordination vows to help others. So now I just have to narrow down - from the vast number of legitimate, honest, honorable charities that exists - my options to one charity. Although ERD is close to the heart of everyone here at the Farm, I donate part of the money I make from massages to them.... so I will either choose the local Safe House for abused women and children or the local Animal Shelter. While I love animals tremendously, I think it will be the Safe House for this sale...... and it will be a Retirement sale! I don't need all these Easter baskets or tree decorations or fans or office supplies. I don't need the weight-lifting bench that was in the house when I moved in. I don't need the extra luggage or all the Christmas mugs. I have toys that the kids would love and costume jewelry that I don't use often. There are a few odds and ends golf clubs, gardening tools, even a desk. I might even knock on the doors of my neighbors to see if they would donate some of their unused treasures to the mix.

Good stewardship comes in many guises. One of them is mentioned several times in the Bible - keeping life simple, not hoarding. If I can both simplify my life and make some money needed by a charity whose Federal funding has been diminished or cut off, it serves two purposes..... and you can believe God is pleased with both!

So, to each an every one of you considering doing the clean sweep, putting up (and taking down) the signs, pricing, and putting your accumulated assortment out there on the driveway, blessings and good fortune be upon you and the charity you have chosen to benefit from the [fill in the blank] sale. You go out there, girl and as the old wartime song put it, 'git some cash for your trash'!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

.....Make their life together.....

Saturday at four o'clock in the afternoon, the celebration and blessing of the marriage of Anna Marie Crafton and Charles Edward Walker III took place in the abbreviated majesty of The Cathedral Churs of Saint John the Divine. Everyone took their places in the ornate, carved wooden Great Choir at the steps of the High Altar at the Cathedral.

To the great swell and evocative notes of the Cathedral's organ, Timothy Broomfeld made seemless transitions from one piece of music to the next, using different stops and modulations: someone needs to have expertise and accomplishment to go from Bach's familiar Air on the G string to Leonard Bernstein's One Hand, One Heart (from West Side Story) to a Hymnal favorite Jerusalem My Happy Home. Most people had found their seats and the mother of the groom, Pamela O. Maley was seated, a bouquet gently placed in her lap. Barbara came in with Q and sat down, picking up her program and bouquet. The steady groom, with his Best Man and Groomsmen came in through a side entrance and stood somewhat entranced at the base of the High Altar steps, waiting..... anticipating... the arrival of the Bridesmaids and Matron of Honor, Corinna Crafton, Barbara's elder daughter/Anna's big sister. When the Trumpet Voluntary by Purcell rang out, we all rose, expectant, awaiting the bride. She appeared on the arm of her father, Raymond Crafton III. Anna's smile lit up her face and all of the wedding party, then each of us. Such sheer joyful happiness is downright contageous.

The Rev. F. "Buddy" Stallings, the voice of the e-Mos acted as officient. When, with his microphone on full throttle, he intoned in his distinctive Mississippi way "Dearly Beloved:" some people had already begun to lose it. Using the standard format for the service, he went through the particulars - you are making solemn, holy vows before your family and friends - they can't be taken lightly, you to be legally available and it has to be your decision, no one put you up to it. Without objection or the drop of a pin, the service continued.... "Anna, will you take this man...." it was obvious she had made her choice and would witness to it with a resounding " I DO!!! (the intonation of her enthusiastic reply made it sound more like "YOU BET I DO!!!!" ) highlighting how very committed she was to this decision. Chad's response - as positve, but less audible - was also affirmative. It was then our opportunity to have a say in the matter. In response to the question: "Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to unhold these two persons in their marriage?" I heard the most affirmative, committed, 'real' and deliberate response I have ever heard to this question.... the gathered community replied with a resounding (and reverberating) WE WILL!!!! I believe Buddy's quip was "'well, that was unanimous!" (or something along those lines). Priest and wedding party went up the steps to their awaiting simple wooden chairs facing each other.

Readings were done by the near and dear. My own heart was moved in Q's evocative reading of the familiar passage from I Corinthians, the one that combines - if I have this,but no love, I am nothing,gain nothing - along with a list of the things that love is and is not. His rendition was exquisite - and transparent: He was speaking of his love for Barbara as well as his love for Anna. After the Gospel Fr. Buddy - offered a wonderful homily. The gist of which is that marriage and love is a miracle and mystery; it is what is good and makes good in the world. The marriage of Chad to Anna was cause for celebration - love had conquered apathy; today the good guys have won.

The verger then led the officient, groom, bride and wedding party to the tiled space within the choir so that everyone could now see and hear the pledges of love exchanged, the rings blessed and the marriage solemnified. Within two lines, Anna's voice began to crack, tears of emotion welling up; she recovered and finished her vows to Chad. Chad, the more soft spoken on this occasion looked intently at Anna and got through it without a waivering voice. They exchanged rings, joined hands, Fr. Buddy drew part of his stole over their joined hands and said ' I pronounce that they are husband and wife in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. What God has joined together let no man put asunder.'

The prayers of the People followed with various friends and family reading individual parts, each contributing to the unity of the day. Among the prayers, one has always stood out as a statement of purpose to the church and to the world - and on this occasion, harkened back to Fr. Buddy's homily. This prayer is:
'Make their life together a sign of Christ's love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may oversome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt and joy conquer despair.' Amen and Amen I say to that! The final prayer for the couple and blessing took place and then everyone stood up for the Peace. ' The Peace of the Lord be with you always'. And also with you. We there gathered certainly felt the peace of the Lord and the Love of the Lord.

The verger swept back, leading the party back up 2 tiers of marble steps to their seats. The second part of the service transitioned into the Eucharist with many coming forward to take part in this 'foretaste of the heavenly banquet' that our predecessors have already partaken of. There was a particular prayer for the newly married couple and their new life together, a blessing of the gathering and the dismissal by the celebrant.

When the organist launched into Handel and an improvisation on Beethoven's Ode to Joy the ceremony ended and then the social ceremony of the receiving line began. There were wedding pictures taken and some who came to the wedding took a tour of the abbreviated Cathedral. The reception, highlighted by delicious food, thoughtful testimonials preceding each toasts and romantic/nostalgic moments of different couples dancing had its touching, joyful and memorable moments. Snappy 'club' mustic kept the party going to the wee hours. I left after 11 and some booties were still being shaken.

Marriage is a beautiful institution. We may debate whether it is necessary as a rite within the church or whose solemn vows may rightfully take place and be acknowledged by the church. I believe that although it is, at its core, a civil matter about property rights that if there are two people - not married to others - who wish to commit themselves honorably and with fidelity to each other and God in the presence of family and friends in their faith community, marriage within the church is a fitting venue. In an era where role models for lives grounded in the practices of prayer, love, kindness, generousity of spirit, acceptance, tolerance, foregiveness and reconciliation are rare indeed that the church (the body of Christ) has its place in stating that they will help and support these two people in their common life together.

Through this sacramental rite the couple that is joined together in the sight of God will become a unifying sign of Christs unconditional love in this broken and often jaded world.

Dear Anna and Dear Chad - The Peace of the Lord be always with you!

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