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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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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Love and Marriage

It occured to me just yesterday that I was having 'empty rest' syndrome!

Juju moved out after 7 months - having broken 2 radios, a small homemade table, lost 1 tv remote, crushed some OLD Christmas ornaments, ruined my bath towels with bleach slotches ...... and stole some cash, sheets, plates, cutlery. Before the day of his move he had only acknowledged that he had smashed the plasterboard that lines one side of the basement steps. He left behind garbage and clogged drains in the basement sink and shower. And not a peep since.

Stephanie, who had taken over my den as her dwelling for 2 years, left in February..... after blowing the motor on my dryer, leaving the walls covered with nail holes, a 1/2 inch of dust on all the bookshelves, unsorted recycleables in the garage, my new living room rug riddled with doggie urine stains and a clogged bathroom sink full of hair and hair product. She still owes me a month's rent.... and not a peep since.

At any rate, the house which once felt cramped now feels larger and significantly more quiet. My books and photos came up from the basement to their rightful place on the book shelves. The dustbunnies were rounded up and dispensed in the garbage. The recycling was sorted and picked up by the town.

On this beautiful afternoon I sat in my reclaimed den, amazed at the height of the grass and watching Emmy running around trying to catch petals falling from the trees. It's that time of year again..... for First Communions and Confirmations and graduations and a slew of marriages.

Let me go on record that I am a strong believer in love and marriage.

There is controversy in the church about marriage - who may and may not receive the blessing of the church.

I stand back and see marriage as having two very distinct components: 1) the legal side and 2) the love side.

Marriage has always been about legal things: property, ownership, power. From its inception - historically - marriage has had little to do with love. Only relatively recently was it included as a matter of love; God is love so by extension, someone entering into marriage brought their love for each other with them - into the church - to be witnessed before God by the community of believers.

There is much to be said about two people entering into the legal contract of marriage: it should not be done hastily (thank you, Brittney), there should be some significant forethought about the legal ramifications of this binding legal agreement, and no one - should it end - may be left destitute.

There is something to be said about two people - having already made this conscious and binding legal decision - then coming to their source for spiritual strength and support - their own faith community - to witness vows that they take of love - selfless, abiding, enriching love. We all need prayer to help us through the day - we all need the support that comes directly from God and through those who walk in the covenant of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Grace is bestowed during sacramental marriage... the grace you need to learn to share your life and heartache and joy and pain and elation and calm and passion and struggle with. It doesn't come easily.... it takes work and time, effort and patience. Particularly in seemingly broken world, marriage needs love. It two people can work out their 'issues', with God's help, they are a source of possibility for us all. Who knows? Perhaps that Love will be contageous....... one can only HOPE so!

Friday, May 11, 2007

...Can we sign you up for a $50 donation? After all, it's for the kids!

Whether it is a tele-marketer (phone solicitation) from PAL, the Correctional Officers Society, or a piece of heart-tugging written solicitation by any number of organizations conducting research to cure or deal with the symptoms of many diseases: AIDS, Alsheimers, ALS, cancer, dementia, diabetes, eating disorders, epilepsy, ....... all the way through the alphabet. Then there are the charitable organizations, disaster relief organizations, soup kitchens.

You - fine citizen that you are - pay your taxes. On good faith we believe that some of that money is going toward education, relief efforts, retraining for the unemployed.

You - fine Christian that you are - do your level best to help families in need within your parish, your community, your state or another, or to combat the devestation felt more severely by the less fortunate.

When, then - realistically - is enough enough? I confess to you that although I know I am loved by God, I am also given the responsibility to do my best to hold my own--- and whether the lillies of the field had to toil or not, in order to tread water in the US of A on a 'fixed income' I will have to make some hard decisions about what I can do without in order that others can 'do' with what I can donate. This may mean that I will be donating more time than treasure, or offering one talent or another instead of income.

I meant to check w/Debbie, wizard of all things that can be investigated, but couldn't get to her in time. I DO, however, believe that there is a way that you can see - by organization/cause - the percentage of each of your dollars actually goes to the source of the need or the program -- rather than new furniture, a higher advertizing budget, etc.

Jesus told us to give; he also told us to be wise to the ways of the world. Some charities are more on the "up and up" than others.

We here at the Farm highly endorse Episcopal Relief and Development - mainly because they are happy to disclose that the overwhelming amount of their budget and donations go to the needy.

Be gentle as lambs following the Good Shepherd by doing acts of charity and mercy..... but be careful not to get fleeced yourself!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

CHOICES: 6th Sunday of Easter, Year C (RCL)

Feel free to borrow from the meditations or parts thereof given below. Simple accredation is all that's needed. DJ

Acts 16:9-15;Psalm 67;Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5;John 14:23-29 or John 5:1-9


The readings for this day speak to me of choices. Life presents to us a series of choices from the most simple (should I hit the snooze button again) to some of the most complex (Dad is in a coma and there is no living will and he wasn't oriented to sign a DNR form and no one is prepared for the decision that needs to be made in a worst case scenario).

Paul saw in a vision a man asking him to come to Macedonia. He took his time along the way and made the choice to visit other cities, taught some women, including Lydia, a woman to dyed cloth, baptized her and her household (which may have included slaves) and eventually was persuaded to stay with Lydia and her relatives.

In Psalm 67, there is a plea for God to continue to chose THIS people, His people, and bless them.

The Revelation to John is to choose to see Jerusalem, the holy place, as not a city or place at all, but as God and the Lamb. The gates of the city are always open, there is no need for artificial light because the true light comes from the throne of God and the Lamb. There is the river of the water of life - bright and crystaline; water from that river sustains fruit and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. It does not say how or if we cross that river - that may be our decision as well.

Lastly, in John 5, Jesus asks what might appear to be a rather lame (pardon the pun) question to a paralytic: ""Do you want to be made well?". Let's see - the man had been ill for 38 years. I'd be pretty tired of that. Yet there may be other things at work here. The answers the man gave were excuses, not a yes or a no. It would seem that his indecision has been a default decision.

Jesus challenges him to stand up and walk; the paralytic then chooses to make 2 (two) decisions - a) to believe Jesus and try to walk and b) defy the Jewish law to heal or work (picking up you mat was work) on the Sabbath. He chooses in the affirmative on both counts.

As long as we live, choices will surround us. Our character, morals, ethics, charity, prayerlife, proclivity to action or procrastination will be shaped by those choices. Jesus, our Savior will be there both behind, beside and before us in those choices - challenging, supporting, encouraging, inviting us all at the same time.

In the end, we will all gather at the river......... and through his grace will choose to cross it - into the arms of a welcoming Jesus waiting on the other side to greet us fully once again.

Copyright © 2007 K.L.Joanna Depue and DJ on

Shall We Gather at the River words & music by Pastor Robert Lowry of the Han­son Place Bap­tist Church, Brook­lyn, NY (1826-1899) Hymn 141-Lift Every Voice and Sing, Church Publishing, Inc.

Shall we gather at the river,Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever Flowing by the throne of God?

Yes, we’ll gather at the river, The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river That flows by the throne of God.

On the margin of the river, Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever, All the happy golden day.


Ere we reach the shining river, Lay we every burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver, And provide a robe and crown.


At the smiling of the river, Mirror of the Savior’s face,
Saints, whom death will never sever, Lift their songs of saving grace.


Soon we’ll reach the silver river, Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver With the melody of peace.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mares' Geraniums

It's the fate of things (I don't think I've ever even told Barbara this) that I should end up........ on The Geranium Farm. My paternal Grandmother, Mary ("Mare") was of Slavic stock, through and through. She cherished her homemade soups and a couple of Czech recipes that came out infrequently.
She was born in Connecticut..... I had never known that. Both my father and uncle predeceased her and I never got this information. I only know that because I did her memorial service and burial.... and when I had to sign all the records I found that rather intriguing piece of information.
Her parents were farmers who came over on the boat for a new life. She took up the cause and would, wherever she could, planted tomatos just about Mother's Day. Of THAT I have written before, but never of the geraniums.
When we lived in Madison, NJ our apartment building was one block in from Main Street... on the less economically well off side. Our street was a mixture of the black and white communities. Half on the block were black, the rest the veritable melting pot.

Mare lived on the ground floor of the apartment building ... or can I say that??? The front of the house was on fairly high grassy mound in which were imbedded some concrete steps. Where the concrete left off, the grey wooden steps took over to a shallow porch that was covered with a somewhat shoddy shingle overhang supported on the edges of the porch and the entrance with thick square beams. A rather creaky banister went 'round the porch held up by white wooden slats - rather thin ones, actually..... THAT was the front of our palace

To the left, a cinderblock garage followed by a very unconventional apartment building with red shingles and a kind of turret at the top.

If you went left from there you were at the black barbershop and a couple of stores turned into housing- across the street was where the mechanic of the town did pretty good business... and even had a Sinclair gas pump inside if you were pressed for fuel. If you turned right, Mr. Burrow's car service, Mattola's Italian deli/grocery store and Sam Gordon's Appliance Store, the Baptist church and a bit further up the elementary school.

There was a side entrance to the building. A small stoop on the 'ground' level built directly underneath the outside stairwell to the 2nd floor where we lived. You knew spring had arrived when Mare cleaned out the window boxes, filled them with the most dark, fertilized soil I can remember seeing. Then she let me help her bring out the plants..... all geraniums not quite on the verge yet. She kept them in a storage room on the first floor, in the cool, until she thought the time had come to celebrate spring. With a dozen mini clay pots in hand (well, in arms, really) we went to the stoop and then went to get two very sturdy spoons that - no doubt - had returned home from miliary service with my Dad and Uncle Bob.

I got a short stool and started on one end, as she did the other, following her instructions all the way..." Alright, it's time to dig. Deep enough for even the little white roots, now." The conical hollow was made. "To the pots!" There was a song in her voice. Off the stool to pluck up the precious cargo. "Put your fingers around the bottom of the green part, turn it over and tap tap tap tap......there it comes!" Somehow I never broke or cracked these clay pots - even to my amazement. Mare helped me back on the stool to do 'the little hourglass'. The roots had been aching to get into something larger... and I eased them into the burrow. "Fill around and pat, but don't squash...... very good! Next hole- remember-- let them have enough room to be neighbors".

This went on until the job was done. I quizzed her why I was so itchy and what the funny smell on my hands, arms and clothes was. "I think it smells like what the first green and brown smelled like when
God made it that way. Now, scrub with the Lifebuoy and then wash it off with the Ivory soap." She left me standing on the stool which had been moved into the bathroom while she went into the adjacent kitchen to cook some special chicken soup. After getting cleaned up I went back through the hall and opened the back door. There they were, standing straight and medium tall, bubbles of buds about to burst on top and fuzzy bottomed green leaves popping out here and there. But how did the boxes stay magically balanced on the railing?? Perhaps it was just the kind of magic that only Grandmothers can make happen (actually, my father had slipped on some brackets, unbeknownst to me).

Within 3 days there was a riot of red blossoms on the rail of a stoop on a building that had nothing more of note to it than a clothes line that ran from each side porch to a huge tree on the neighbor's property.

The second trip I made to Michigan last year to visit C we spent a Sunday afternoon driving about and landed at a nursery. We wandered in separate directions around the place until I heard her call....."Hey, Jo - what color geraniums do you like?" Geraniums. I hadn't thought of them in years. I turned around to see that familiar red ---- oh, not that the new colors and varieties are bad.

Definately the red. "My choice, too. How about that!" The flats of miscellaneous flowers came back to Chelsea. C did such a good job on them! Through some of the blazing summer heat they still hung on....thank goodness. And they are still going strong, as you can see from the above. Soon they will be outside in C's over-the-post boxes and planters.

The next time I go to Michigan - in July - I'll be able to see them in person..... and tell them that Mare and a whole bunch of Farmers send their best regards.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Dame Julian of a nutshell; May 8

Julian of Norwich lived a life that was both interactive and solitary, priviledged and humble. She was a mystic, lived in a hermitage and had influence on so many people, one can hardly count. Born in 1342 she had some privelege and probably had some schooling at the local Benedictine convent. While she referred to herself as 'unlettered' she wrote with wisdom and an other earthly knowledge that she said was imparted to her while she was gravely ill age age 30. When she recovered she wrote of her experiences/revelations (which she called 'showings'). Mysitcal experiences have a profound effect - on you and those around you!

Mystics are funny people indeed. They live within their bodies, but often outside of them. They have visions, insight, particular gifts. Many of them were misunderstood in their own lifetimes, while others had the respect of princes and paupers alike.

Some time after the revelations she received, she chose the life of an anchoress...... she was anchored in one place. A fairly modest 'cell' built on the side of a church. There was a window into the church through which she could receive communion and another window on the other side where people could could call to her and seek her counsel and comfort.

The Trinity was revealed to her as Maker, Keeper and Lover...... pretty progressive, eh?

From Julian herself:
"And in thie [the Lord] showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed to me, at itwas as round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: What can this be?..........In this little thing I was three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third God preserves it. But what did I see in it? God is the Creator and the protector and the lover." from Showings.

Look into the mystics, look into the infinite within the smallest thing. "Google" Julian (sometimes called Dame Julian) of Norwich. You may never be able to judge a book by its cover again!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

What deacons do

The resurgence of deacons in the Episcopal Church - as a distinct order, as opposed to a transitional phase before priesthood - has sparked a great deal of discussion over the last 20 years.

'Why do we need a deacon' is not an uncommon question.

Going to the office for a deacon's ordination, a job description is encapsulated in the examination of the ordinand. The deacon is to study the Scriptures, make the love of Christ known by word and example wherever they may be. We work under the direction of the Bishop, and by our life and teaching are to show anyone we encounter that in serving the helpless, we serve Christ.

The other directive is to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns and hopes of the world: speak to the institutional church about the needs of both the people in the back rows and all those beyond the doors of the building. There are also times when the deacon must interpret 'churchese' to the masses.

Ideally, the deacon invites, distributes and dismisses. The whole model of setting and cleaning the table is about servanthood. A deacon encourages those in the congregation or wherever they are to do things for the love of God who loved them first and continues to love them.

While a parish priest has the responsibility to preside at most sacraments, the deacon assists. Just as often as not, the deacon will support the laity to do what they must do to fulfill their baptismal covenant, then stand back; to be visible when necessary and blend into the background other times.

It is important to read the Gospel with clarity and bring it to life. It is important to ask for input from the parish in writing the prayers of the people (or give the responsibility of writing the prayers to a team of parishioners who have that gift) for a specific occasion or Sunday service.

If one has the gift to do so, it can be inspirational to incorporate the sermon points in the dismissal and always send the people forth to do the work in the world that only they can do.

Why does the Church need deacons? Perhaps for prophesy, for the presence of one who has had training (and must continue to learn) from the Old and New Testaments, Preaching, Church History, Ethics, to be involved training in pastoral care and (more often than not) is not compensated for that work they do in a parish. Many are mothers, fathers, those retired from 'outside' jobs. When a deacon is in any setting, they can have the perspective of someone on either AND both sides of the altar rail.

Think..... there may be a deacon in the making in your midst. If so, let them know and let your priest know that you see that charism. A vocation is often visible first by others. If there is a vocation there, lift them up. Challenge them to think and pray about it. We need messengers of the Good News, prophets, assistance offered to clergy and the Church at large.

Do you - does the Church - need an order of deacons? Good question. Think about it.

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