Friday, November 24, 2006

In Honor of Not Shopping

In honor of not shopping on Black Friday (except for greens for The Reverend Samuel T. Rabbit)

1. Would you ever/have you ever stood in line for something--tickets, good deals on electronics, Tickle Me Elmo?
No. Just standing in line waiting to check out is enough for me. I don't even go in to the store if there are too many cars in the parking lot! :-)

2. Do you enjoy shopping as a recreational activity?
I didn't used to but when we were dating The Husband introduced me to the joys of window shopping - his mother is a gold medalist in window shopping! We enjoy looking at all the things we don't need and rejoicing in our freedom to NOT buy anything. Of course, being broke helped - window shopping is free entertainment.

3. Your favorite place to browse without necessarily buying anything.
Oh it's so hard to pick a favorite. High end furniture and design stores, kitchen stores, garden shops. I really like going to any mall and watching the people at least as much as much as I enjoy looking at the displays.

4. Gift cards: handy gifts for the loved one who has everything, or cold impersonal symbol of all that is wrong in our culture?
Yes. :-)

I like getting gift cards, especially from people who feel obligated but don't know me well so that I don't find myself with shelves full of Precious Moments but I don't give them.

My gifts for some years now have been either from the Women's Bean Project or our Alternative Christmas Fair, where folks can either make a donation to Habitat for Humanity, Heifer Project, or Church World Service and give a donation card as a gift or purchase items from a church sponsored anti-gang program or Third World Handarts. I like being able to give gifts that can really make a difference in the lives at both ends. Many of those I've given these gifts to also became interested in doing social justice work through shopping. :-)

5. Discuss the spiritual and theological issues inherent in people coming to blows over a Playstation 3.

The need to possess the newest, biggest and best pervades our culture - the whole attitude that "He who dies with the most toys wins." Greed and the willingness to hurt others in order to "win" has become almost synonymous with being American. TV shows and advertising encourage us to not just desire Stuff, but to be willing to hurt others in order to get Stuff (Survivor comes to mind.) Prosperity Gospel preachers even tell their folks that Jesus wants them to have all the best Stuff and if they are faithful enough they will receive worldly goods in abundance.

Yet Jesus tells his followers just the opposite. He encourages us to give up our attachment to possessions. He said we could not serve two masters - we have to choose between God and the World, for we can not simultaneously serve both. The letter of James expands on this, reminding the churches that if they conduct themselves according to the standards of the World they were not living in God's kingdom.

Sadly, our churches today still have problems with this. We want to have the most members, the most generous "giving units" (I HATE that phrase!) the record in outreach giving, the most attractive buildings and grounds, the newest techie toys to spread the word.

Would that those fighters over PlayStation III were so anxious to worship God that they would camp out on the doorsteps of the churches!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving was always one of my favorite holidays. I loved the food, the football, the fall season, the football, the listing of all the things to give thanks for, and the football!

Then I married a Navajo and everything got different. Politially aware American Indians don't celebrate Thanksgiving because they know the history of the holiday. In fact, some of the more radically political demonstrate against Thanksgiving, as we saw on the news just yesterday when Indians protested a group of Pilgrims on pilgrimage to Plymouth Rock.

Briefly, the "Pilgrim and Indian" event that Abraham Lincoln lifted up as the model for a national holiday to bring North and South together wasn't a Thanksgiving, really. The first harvest meal with Pilgrims and Indians did happen, but it wasn't a Thanksgiving celebration. The first colony wide declared Thanksgiving celebration occurred some 40 years later as a celebration of victory, when the descendents of those first Pilgrims attacked and massacred the descendents of the Indians present at the harvest meal - the ones who helped them survive the New World! The women and children who escaped death were sold into slavery in Cuba and Hispanola. Many Indians view our Thanksgiving as a celebration of genocide. (for more details, look up King Philips War).

So for the last 15 years we haven't celebrated Thanksgiving with everyone else. We didn't even eat turkey during November. We did volunteer to feed people, and trade shifts at work so others could enjoy the holiday with family. But we didn't celebrate. While I understood his viewpoint - it is simply wrong to celebrate genocide - I missed the holiday, the family gathering, the meal, everything (except the football - I watch that anyway).

This year a member of the church who has suffered some real trials recently said she wanted to invite us for Thanksgiving dinner but knew that The Husband didn't celebrate. I told him about the invitation - and he said yes! Let's go.

Why? I dunno. Maybe compassion for the member? At any rate, this will be the first time in 15 years that I get to celebrate this holiday with family and turkey and semi-public prayers of gratitude. And for that, I am so grateful!

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Playing dressup

I knew when I realized that Hannah's story was a lectionary reading for today that I was going to play dress up and become Hannah for 15 minutes or so. I surprised myself at the emotions I was going through as I told "my" story to the congregation - the pain of being barren, the worry about what would happen to me when Elkanah died and I was son-less, the feeling of being less than a whole woman. The incredible joy and pride I felt when I spoke of my son - Sam-u-el. And the amazement at God's grace and love; the gratitude I felt for all the blessings I receive each day. and the admission of gloating just a bit in my prayer, since I had Penninah in mind as the arrogant one. :-) Wow - talk about totally getting into a role.

The whole idea of the dramatic presentation was to be able to get really serious about gratitude to God and the desire that should spark in us to be willing to give our lives to God. It was also supposed to bring our stewardship campaign to a close on a really high point. The congregation's response told me I did what I hoped to do. I hope they felt just a piece of the gratitude I felt as I stepped into Hannah's life, and I hope that I will be able to hold onto that for a while.

Friday, November 17, 2006

My Gratitude List

What a great Friday Five! Every day I pray a gratitude list, which sometimes includes things like "Thank you God for letting me catch this cold so I have to slow down and rest!" Sometimes it's a long list, sometimes short - but here is my list of the five things or people I am most thankful for this year -not necessarily in order of importance. I want you all to know it was not easy to stop at 5!

The Husband. Although he often makes me crazy, being a male creature, I give thanks daily for his constant love and support in my ministry. He spends nearly as much time working at the church as I do and is nearly always cooperative when I must be left alone. Without him I would long ago have made myself crazy.

Women friends outside my congregation who help me stay on track, remind me to care for myself, and call me on obessive and/or selfcentered behavior. It is really good to have a group of friends with whom I don't always have to be "a minister" - I can just be Maria, in all my unspiritual glory.

My congregation, who demonstrate their love for me all the time, even and especially when we are busy disagreeing on whatever. Right now I am especially grateful for their lifting me up during worship on the 5th Sunday of October and presenting The Husband and me with $500 to show their appreciation for the work we do for the church. :-)

Revgals! It has been so affirming to participate in the 11th Hour Preacher party, and to "speak" with other women who deal with so many of the same issues I do. Thanks to all of you!

God, who helped me find all of these people and gave me the wisdom to appreciate them