Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Everywhere that Sound Goes

There is a moment when you decide to ring a bell. (Many children and young people have been given bells and choose to ring them.) A moment when you reach for the bell, you move your wrist and let it ring.  There is a moment when you move from imagining a sound to making a sound.  When you ring a bell the air changes, things unseen change shape.   Ears cannot help but turn.  

Before there is motion there is imagination.  That is the moment when the ring begins to take shape.  Tradition tells us that there is not a moment when Christ was not with God.  From before the beginning began, the Logos, God's holy Wisdom has always been One with God.  To paraphrase the ancient theologian, there is NO when the Christ was not.  

Yet there might have been a moment, when God’s imagination ran wild, when God had a new idea.  An idea so extra-ordinary that maybe, it surprised God.  It could have been a jolt or maybe it was a rising hum.  Did continents split or solar flares erupt?  Maybe this moment was in the second second after the big bang, or maybe it was eons later, much closer to now than then.  What is it like for God to feel such a new idea?

CS Lewis offers that God is nothing but love and he had to create the universe, create us, so that as love he could be love in action.  The idea of becoming one with the creation he loves,  must have felt explosive.  Like a loud clanging cymbal.  I wonder if even God was amazed by the boldness of his love.   Did he utter a nervous chuckle?  Was he both tickled and scared at the same time?  Whenever it was, the  chuckle, the clang,  the notion of Christ being born on earth, that was the moment our beginning began.  

When you hear the word childhood, do you imagine a multitude of things cute and cuddly and precious?  Then you were clearly not born and raised in the same era and region as Jesus.  The ancient world into which Jesus was born was not one with Sesame Street or child protective services.  When Jesus was born the children didn’t have much social value, like the toys we used to form our Nativity scene today. (Children and congregants were invited to bring toys and figurines to make a Nativity during the Gospel.) Being born was dangerous, infancy and toddlerhood were tenuous, with only one out of two surviving to age 5.  Children were regarded more like these toys.  At best, something you have invested in, something you have affection for, but something that you know can be easily lost.  Yet it is into this cultural reality That God was born.

God became a tender sleeping infant and a goofy toddler in this nowhere’s ville place; he was given the most common name in the neighborhood: and yet THIS changes everything.  If God is born of a woman, if God can be the child of Mary (which is also an incredibly ordinary name), then any child, born anywhere, could be the incarnate Lord.  Just as how Jesus' death as an innocent victim changes how we see all scapegoats, so to does Jesus’ vulnerable birth change our perception of the  preciousness of the whole creation.  

This holy night demands that we hear the grown Savior’s words: how you treat the least of these IS how you treat me.  The writings of the early church make a sudden turn from the cultural norms of not valuing children or anything resembling the concept of childhood.  Children became people.  And maybe, just maybe, we are beginning to show that we know what it means to live as God’s children. 

Jesus’s birth, life, death and resurrection should change how we see everything,  ALL material, all moments of despair and lostness.  Jesus’ incarnation calls us to live in a universe that is holy, through and through, everywhere that sound can go.  And a universe that is redeemable, through and through, everywhere that sound goes.  This is the good news: that the least likely and most average material can bear the holy, even you and me. Does it make you feel tickled and scared at the same time?  

So where are you in this Nativity story?  Are you an action figure guarding the door?  Or a learned sage still on your way?  How will you make room for God,  now that he has moved into our neighborhood?  Told us his love story with the most ordinary and undervalued things?  

There is a moment when you move from imagining a sound to making a sound.  (ring ring)


O' Come to us, Abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.
Amen.

Christmas Eve 2013
RCL A (Christmas 1)
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Walla Walla, Washington
USA

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Unexpected Rescue

His small rental car was stuck in a deep mound of sand and dirt.  Frustrated and alone on what can only generously be called ‘a road’.  Printed maps do not go there.  Cell service was not found there.  It was a sweltering summer day in the high desert of a country not his own.  I wonder sometimes, what he thought when the dark SUV pulled up beside him.


From today’s prophetic lesson we hear that “A highway will be there. It will be called The Holy Way….Even fools won't get lost on it.”  It can be hard to dig this text out of two and a half millennia of reference and allusion.  The prophetic collection of Isaiah is ours and not ours.  There were the ancient people who suffered through the confusion of exile, and there were human hands that bound these texts together, and holy backs that carried these texts through endless conflict.  The debris is deep, but we should try, we should try not to see OUR maps of this terrain, but the landscape itself…the landscape of Isaiah with all its layers and lives and textures.  

Isaiah is an elaborate craft of unity and disunity, voices and visions spanning centuries;  holding steadfast to an imagined future where terror and strife are put to rest, yet still seeing the consistent failure of God’s people to live in his ways.   It is especially important to take an honest view of Isaiah in this 35th chapter, which some scholars believe is like a map for the whole of Isaiah and perhaps the map for the entire Old Testament.  In the texts as we have received them, there is one lens, one experience to tell.  Exile.   Exile and RELEASE.   

The holy hands that shape the Hebrew Scriptures are telling many stories at one time.  They are telling a sacred story out the past as a way to describe their reality, and they are crafting an experience wherein people they never dreamed of can find hope and direction.   The prophetic works of the book of Isaiah declare how even in the face of disaster, God will make all things new.  The terror of subjection and expulsion, the confusion of being scattered across the Mediterranean is mixed with the strange paradox that life goes on, sometimes beautifully,   and God is still with us.   The one true God who we may have thought was limited,  This one true God turns out to be unbounded by anything. 

You and me and our ancient friends, we work quite hard at being blind and deaf.  Blindness and deafness in the Hebrew scriptures is usually metaphor.  We are being called ignorant and stubborn, but we are being judged ignorant and stubborn…poetically.  The heart of the Old Testament may be the Shema,  yet it also may be this theme: you have a map, but you don't use it, this is why you keep getting lost!  Theologian Stanley Hauerwas puts it something like this:  Life is a journey where God goes before us as guide and example; God accompanies us as our companion and instructor, and it turns out in the end, that he is himself the route.  Yet we, are blind and deaf and think we might know better.  We saw our road turn to dirt and we just kept going anyways. 

I have to wonder about that tourist.  He kept driving for miles along a barely drivable road that is not on any published map.   Did he believe that if he just kept driving it would get better?  Sometimes the right way, Is to know when to turn around, to open your eyes and ears to something wholly unexpected.  There he was.  Stuck in the sand.  Was he confident of rescue?  If you were stuck in the sand, on the Navajo reservation, far from home...would you expect rescue?  

Isaiah tells us that only the redeemed and ransomed will walk on the Holy Way.   The Hebrew here is from family law.  It refers to releasing someone from slavery.  This rescue is commonly used in Exodus and Exile traditions, which are perhaps best viewed as the same story, told in two ways.  The release, the new life, the flowering is God’s will and action, he draws us into blossom when we believed we were dead seeds buried in the sand.  Exile is Exodus and Exodus is Exile and all of it leads into the way we are told the story of God’s incarnation.  

We should see and hear the overwhelming texture of the experience of Exile and return in the Hebrew Scriptures because it is the soil in which Jesus played, It is the library from which the Gospel writers understood and framed their sacred stories.   It is its own landscape which we may need to inhabit to follow him.  We live in God’s story, but he does not travel by our roads.   God chooses to become fully human, to be born of a vulnerable young woman, in a war-torn corner of a brutal empire.  This is our unexpected rescue.  The child of Mary.  The willingness of this young woman to say yes and be the God Bearer.  Gloria, Mary, Rose.  Our rescue isn't elaborate, it is dirt strewn and it is unexpected. 

I had spent several summers on the Navajo reservation, and each previous year I had wondered how necessary our large rental SUV’s were.  Experienced hands assured me they were necessary, and that summer I found out why.  In the Oljeto valley of the Navajo nation there are few paved roads.   There in far SE Utah many of the roads I know by heart, are not what most of you would consider roads.  But that summer, even the usually passable 'main drag' was awash with thick drifts of sand  (An experience rather like driving in snow and ice).  After a long week of Vacation Bible School we were almost done with our journey, and I decided that I could risk trying the shortcut. 

A shortcut path that  I suspected to be more arroyo than road, and which I knew to sometimes be troublesome in other years.  We were going along fine, but then, there he was.  We pulled up beside the isolated German tourist He was standing ankle deep in sand beside his tiny white car.   And we asked if he would like some help.  I wonder if the young Caucasian woman (myself) in the driver’s seat was a surprise.  I wonder about the unusualness of the people that came pouring out of the SUV.  6 or 7 people, mostly female, and several teenagers.  Did he wonder if we could be any help at all?

We went back to the church (which was not very far) and found shovels and boards.  But it wasn’t enough.  The good news is that we knew the neighborhood,  we knew who to ask for help.    Have you ever been stuck in the sand…for real or metaphorically?  What drew you out, what set you on a safer path?  Maybe it was a new map, maybe it was a shovel.  Maybe it was unexpected.  Or maybe, it was a daring young woman, who chose to help.  Her soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.  Thanks be to God.   Amen.

Advent 3, RCL.A 
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Walla Walla, Washington

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Printable Holy Advent - Christmas - Epiphany Resources

How do prepare the way through Advent?  How do you take this time of awe and amazement home? And how do you find a place for faith on the road? Make it printable and foldable!

Here is the link to a lovely downloadable, printable and colorable Holy Family.  You may need to add some shepherds (the artist is adding them for the future!).    Then using a deck of cards and this handy 'game' you can help reimagine the journey through Epiphany.  Put it all in an envelope and take it with you wherever you go.

For more plans that are portable and interactive...here is a PDF of a downloadable, printable and cut-able non-candy Advent - Epiphany 'calendar'.

Advent Candle Prayers for families and adults (to go with your Advent wreath) are available here.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bibles For Children: My Short Guide

The stories we share with our children can shape their imaginations for a lifetime.  The folks who bring together these books make choices, and these choices have changed over time.  Differences are readily apparent in what stories are shared, and how much to tell. 

It is almost impossible to distill scripture into child accessible language without the influence of mature interpretative issues.  These books are also shaped by the demands of publishing houses (and the theological stream of the publishers).  While almost any version is a worthy place to start, there are some that are my favorite recommendations.   As a professional religious educator I look at a few details.  

 Illustrations
  • Is there a sense of deep love for God’s word?
  • Do the illustrations reflect the West Asian setting of the Bible? 
  • Are there any good and bad characters with lighter skin for the good and darker for the bad?  
Text
  •  Which stories are included and which are not?
  •  How are passages with doctrinal or sociological importance handled?
  • Does it draw a reader/listener in?
  • Most have sidebars or leading questions.  Do these fit within reasonable standards of interpretation?  
For Young Children 
My top recommendation is always the Lion Bible for Children.  Lion is the name of the English publisher of this tried, true and regularly updated children’s bible.  


  • The illustrations are elegant and intriguing; 
  • The story interpretations are well done, and 
  • It has a considerably high volume of Bible stories.  
  • Rarely available in local American bookstores, it is easy to find online.  
    • They also have a Storyteller’s version which has a smaller selection and is aimed at younger readers and listeners.   Publisher: Lion Hudson Plc (February 1, 2008) ISBN-10: 0745960952
My second recommendation is the Spark Story Bible.  Sparkhouse is producing some of the best contemporary curriculum materials right now.  After several years with this Story Bible, I can tell you that:

  •  The illustrations are engaging and thought provoking.  
  • They can  seem silly to adult eyes, yet this is usually attached to the meaning of the story and truly helps bring a child into the text.  
  • The storytelling is mostly accurate, if occasionally reflecting its Lutheran origins.  
  • The publishers state that they tried to incorporate many of the Revised Common Lectionary lessons (OT and Gospel it seems).  Publisher: Augsburg Fortress (April 2009)

An easy to find suggestion is the Children’s Illustrated Bible from DK Publishing.  Actually all of their children and family Bibles seem to be quite good; so to their information book on Christianity.  I love the factoid sidebars that incorporate contemporary information about the Biblical regions, and it’s people.  These are widely available at large and small bookstores, as well as online.  Publisher: DK CHILDREN (February 21, 2005)  ISBN-10: 0756609356
If you are still looking for something else, take a look at the CHILDREN OF GOD STORYBOOK BIBLE by Desmond Tutu (yes you read that right).  There is a version available with a CD of the Archbishop telling the stories!  A careful selection told with his special love and intentions, this is a nice gift to a young person.  
You could also search for an out-of-print version: Catherine Marshall’s Story Bible.  It is certainly a storytelling version; and it has lovely illustrations made by children.

For older children 
First is another Spark text: THE SPARK BIBLE.   
  • This is a straightforward NRSV Bible, without the Apocyrpha.  
  • NRSV is what we use for Sunday Lessons and is at a high reading level.  
  • However, the text is printed in a manner good for young eye. 
  • Furthermore the sidebars are helpful for learning how to dialogue and reflect with Scripture. 
  • It has nifty marking tabs and is a good complete Bible for an older school age child. 


Second option is a Common English Bible.  
  • This is one of the newest and most well regarded translations.  
  • It has been celebrated for both its translation accuracy and readability.  
  • A version crafted for older children is this one.  
    • I have only been able to look at the sidebars online; but they seem good.
If you haven't added at least one Bible to your children's bookshelf and bedtime reading then it is time to start.  Find a good Bible, spend time with it, and don't be afraid to meet questions with 'I don't know..who can we ask to learn more?'

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

X Factor A2: A Boy, A Bishop and Ubi Caritas


There is a cafe in my new home town.  It is perhaps the best espresso and certainly the closest to the rectory.  TBTG.  I want to share with you a few observations about the cafe.
  • This cafe is contemporary, it has those clean lines and deep neutral tones with bright accents that are so popular with upscale fast casual eateries.  
  • The offerings are artisanal and limited...fine pastries and gelatos/sorbets featuring local fruits, espresso and tea (and one wine and one beer).  
  • The location is in our notable downtown but off of the intoxicating main street.  Yet I am rarely the only guest.  
  • It is not child oriented (no highchairs, no playset); it is perhaps quite 'grown up'.  
  • There are almost always children there (well they do serve yummy sugary stuff, and there is a ballet studio above...but those are not the only reasons.) 
  • Even though I describe the space as grown up, 
      • And sometimes the seats are filled with the more mature,
      • And sometimes the seats are mostly emerging adults (college town).
      • Most often it is a mix of generations. 
      • Children seem perfectly 'at home' and nourished at this grown up and classy cafe.
Maybe you have seen the darling pictures of the young boy onstage with the Bishop of Rome.  Somewhere in that crowd there was probably a parent or a grandparent having a fit...but the boy was quite perfectly at home, and so to it seems, was the venerable Francis.  This moment was brought to you by the letter A: accessibility and attractiveness.
  • The boy was able to easily reach the stage (have security folks been told to 'welcome the children'?)
  • The boy felt drawn to the stage and the company of this pontiff.  
However, maybe some of you noticed who was not there.
  • This was the only child on the stage.  
  • The only child who made his way up to the dais at an event for families and young people.  
  • How many other children or teens saw the access and felt the call ....
  • But were held back by learned propriety, or, well meaning adults?
I have to imagine that people who choose to open a cafe do so out of a desire to feed people.  To share something amazing that meets a need or responds to a desire.  I hope and pray that people continue to be the church do so out of a desire to share Christ and the multitude of ways that life in God's reign can respond to needs and offer nourishment.

Accesibility and attractiveness.  Lets call them X factors A2.  Not Hollywood nonsense attractiveness or ADA accessibility (although that is really important) but instead: are folks drawn to the experience and can folks enter the experience? Across the generations; each as they need to enter, receive and share?  These are crucial factors for church and cafe alike.

A2 isn't just a question about a physical building or a people who are called there.  A2 is also in the digital cloud that surrounds us.  I returned a few weeks ago from a conference on 21st century digital formation networks.  One of the most important inspirations that John Roberto shared was the idea of church evolving:
  • from being connected via media (through the hard material of physical destinations and objects),
  • to being connected via media via media (connected through digital media through a physical 'server'). 
Long before this digital saturation 'effective' congregations have been doing this...being a physical center that thethers discipleship to the work of feeding, healing and reconcillation throughout the community.  A cafe for the work of the world.

Whether in the hard material of wood and bone, or the immaterial of digital media, churches focused on ministering with the whole people of God have several 'cafe' factors to consider.   Let's call both church and cafe 'C'.
  • Can folks of many generations access C: can people find C, enter C and be fed?  
  • Is C attractive: is it something that people are drawn to and welcomed into?
    • Even if they never stop in again??
  • Does C respond to a need or desire or is it performance art?
  • Does C have high or low barriers?  
  • Does C try to get to much milage from
    • Not offending anyone
    • Shocking everyone
    • 'Keeping up with the Jones''?
Whatever flavor C we are committed to, there is that very unfakeable X factor.  A genuine experience of deliciousness: the kind that makes our natural faults in access and attractiveness less important! There are cafes and experiences that are neither classically attractive nor accessible, but we scale the barriers because there is something so unusual or savory in the experience.  The long line outside the funky donut shop; the midnight journey to Graceland Too.

In my C (church) earnestly loving and welcoming young people and families should be so basic it doesn't need to be said.  It is sadly an X factor; however.... it only takes one to climb the dais!  There is a sort of sacramental quality: a mystery that motivates.  For my C we have an ancient Latin the phrase: ubi caritas.  It is that completely immaterial, but completely tangible flavor of living as Christ's compassion, hope and love.
  • What positive access/attractive factors (x factor a2) have you experienced outside of church/synagouge?
  • What about immaterial/tangible factors in cafes or elsewhere? 
    • Especially the kind of places that are very grown up?
  • What about x factor a2  in churches or other community 'server' organizations?


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Awesome became a noun

The word awesome first appears in print in 1598 in England. Its meaning originally held a sense of amazement, possibly with fear and trembling.  If we fast forward to the 20th century and scoot across the pond to our fine shores, it came to mean anything praiseworthy.  Perhaps you think of an excellent wave for surfing, or a green light when you need it.  Perhaps a little voice inside your head tacks on the word 'dude.'  For those of you who like your language firm and unchanging I have some hard news.  Awesome is now also a noun. Awesome is an essence of helpfulness, service, and positivity.  Think of the 'kid president' urging us to ‘create something that will make the world more awesome.’ (I know that isn’t using awesome as a noun, but anyways).  In the 21st century you can be full of awesome.

In our parable today we have this awesome Pharisee. We know he is awesome because his sign tells us so. (A volunteer is holding a sign that says 'I am Awesome'.)  Just for a moment let us consider a common misunderstanding.  This Pharisee is not a storm trooper or a dementor.  He is a foil, but he is not a bad guy.  By the standards and letter of the law, he is very very good.  Praiseworthy.  Evoking awe and possibly fear.  Awesome. 

We need to be careful with how we approach this Pharisee.  The inter-family squabble of Gospel times could not predict the genocides that such portrayals might support.  We also must be careful because there is a lot of Pharisee in all of us.  We want to be honest and faithful, and we want to be safe and free from harm.  Are the motivations of a nameless Pharisee that different?  Is there anyway for us to know?  The motivation for safety and surety in this life and the next is very basic, normal and human.  Following the prescribed directives of the leaders we trust is also, a normal way of living.  We, like many of the biblical characters, protagonists and antagonists, we believe, or we want to believe, that if we color inside the lines all will be well.  It is a simple answer that may not be awesome enough (the fear and trembling type of awesome) for a just life. 

Our tax collector only complicates things further.  This a cardboard-cutout-outcast in an imperial uniform.  He could be an awful brutal fellow, or just a man trying to put food on the table.  Regardless, he is by all standards of Temple era Judaism, not awesome. Nothing in the commonly known traits of tax collectors suggests compassion or devotion to the common good.  Yet his character is so thin… that we know nothing about him. Maybe he was an awful man, and maybe at the end of the day he was overwhelmed with guilt.   Or maybe he was the best tax collector ever.  We don’t know.  We only know that he didn't shout about his goodness, he has no conviction of any personal awesomeness.  We only know that in this brief moment, he is full of humility and devotion.  As the amazing author says, what you think about a person may not be how they actually are. 

The Pharisee could be pretty darn awesome.  Except that his loud prayer declaring how awesome he is, sort of lets the air out of that notion.  It has been said that Francis of Assisi is the most admired and least followed saint.  So much so that some of the outrageousness of his ministry might resemble that notion.  (There is a lacking of humility in walking about town in your birthday suit and preaching to the animals). However, this confusion isn't reserved for the highly regarded; the tension between loud and soft, service and proclamation remains with most of us everyday.  We rarely have simple answers to complex questions such as righteousness and awesomeness.  However one of the most well known phrases from the Franciscan tradition may help us out of this awesome mess.  Proclaim the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words. 

The awesome part of awesome is not needing to shout about it. It is being awesome by thankfulness and generosity; compassion and steadfast service.  It is also using both your actions and your words (as needed) as agents of Christ’s love and compassion.  There once was a man who said such awesome things and did such awesome things that people followed him.  Go forth and do likewise. 

Children's Sermon (and then some)
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Walla Walla, Washington
October 27, 2013



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Swing and a Tree..a virtual life together

What part of our life as church is tree and what part is swing, or branch or leaf, or guest creature? 
This week I am at an ecumenical western Christian educators and youth workers event.  We are way on top of the Sierras, looking out over Lake Tahoe.  The speaker, leader, teacher mentor is John Roberto from Lifelong Faith Associates.  He is leading folks on a tree climb, inviting emergence from a gutenberg ministry to a digital and networked ministry.  There is a good deal of this that I already do casually. However it raises deep questions about what is tree and what is the neighborhood of the tree and what is the tree. 
Anyways...thinking about a blended model of fleshly and digital for my encouragement of faith and families in Walla Walla.

What digital resources and connectedness would help you grow in your feeling competent to practice baptismal living as a family? 
What incarnate ocasions should tie into this digital tree?
How do we then root it in the congregational life?

Made with #Pixlr # - http://pixlr.com/mobile

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Walla Walla Walk in the Rain

Today there are raindrops on roses, so here is a list of some of my favorite Walla Walla things (so far):
  • Drivers pause for folks crossing the street, even if you are not in a crosswalk!
  • Walla Walla Roastery pulls a world class espresso.
  • The book shop always seems to be playing Sci-fi and fantasy soundtracks.  Yes, yes.. I linger longer if the BSG soundtrack is playing.
  • The library is closer to my home than the taproom.
  • The Patisserie.  Eat melon sorbet with the farmer who grew the melons.  And drink true macchiatos.  It makes my hippie hipster heart smile.
  • Walks in the rain.  I might get to the point where rain no longer excites me.  Maybe.
  • Watching wine tourists.
  • Walking to fetch milk, or pillows, or furniture, or cash, or toys, or kitchenware, or baked goods, or...
  • The multitude of lovely old homes in stellar condition.  Some are for sale.
  • The many trees, of many kinds, some apparently champion.
  • Friendly, helpful people.  Not everyone of course, but many.
  • The young pianist at St. Paul's who plays not-churchy postludes.
  • The abundance of people on foot and bicycle.
  • The wind turbines.
  • A few emails led to more canned craft beer on the grocery shelves. Go team beer!
  • Learning about wine making, wheat and garbanzo harvests.
What are your favorite things about where you live?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Communion out of Time: Nick and Lucy 2012

Traditions have to start somewhere.  A tradition is a habit that you cannot remember living without.  It may have begun last year, but now, it is a tradition.  You won’t find a Celebration of Nick and Lucy anywhere else. Tradition’s have to start somewhere! Today we celebrate and welcome Nicholas of Myra and Lucia of Syracuse: Nick and Lucy.  (For readers who were not in attendance: we had our guest ‘celebrities’ in the liturgy.  Nick in miter (even though that is very inaccurate historically) and Lucy in a crown of electric candles.  Thanks to Shannon and Stephen for their willingness to play along!) Nick and Lucy lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries, both along the shores of the Mediterranean sea. He in modern day Turkey and she on the island you and I know as Sicily. As far as we know they never met; at least not on this side of eternal rest. Nick and Lucy sounds like the title of a children’s book. Two unlikely friends and their holy adventures in late antiquity!  Rescue sailors, aid the poor! Defy common sense by wearing lit candles on top of your head!

A Celebration of Nick and Lucy is my own innovation, no wait, tradition. And I must admit that it began in the middle of one of my ‘bah humbug’ phases. Not a ‘bah humbug’ out of Scrooge like coldness, or because of personal loss.  No, it was a bout of that December fundamentalism that strikes some of us from time to time.  Where I want to divide and conquer, where I am so appalled by some of the habits of the modern holiday season, that I that I want to take the season back. As if a season were the claim of any particular group.  Truth is that winter solstice celebrations are nearly universal across cultures and time. It is cold and dark.  Let’s get together and have a party; ‘because if you really hold me tight, all the way home I will be warm.’

So it was for our ancestors in faith who saw the parallels between the Good News and the passage of this island home around the sun. They started a tradition, they bonded the anticipation of the birth of Christ to the winter solstice. It is striking, and pragmatic.  In my ‘bah humbug’ moments I have to be reminded that divide and conquer is not the example to borrow.  We have two gifts in these overlapping festivals.  First an opportunity to proclaim Good News while hearts are warm to the radical notion of God born in human flesh, in poverty, to a young mother under the thumb of empire.  Second, is a chance to face unafraid the injustice we have made.  Advent is a bumper sticker that says ‘Jesus is coming.  Be Busy.’ The Lord is approaching, and we are supposed to be listening for God’s way to make a new path before it is too late.

A few years ago I introduced Nick and Lucy, made them friends. I invited them to dinner, filled it with music and frivolity and all the winter wonderland the Advent police will allow.  We invite friends and strangers into a memory. We offer all ages an encounter with two saints in linen, two saints who were ordinary people, who heard Jesus say to heal the sick, and feed the hungry, and they did it.  With Nick and Lucy we re-member the life, death and resurrection of God-with-us, we re-imagine it through hospitality and table fellowship in a community of believers. It is a communion of saints in thought, word and deed.

The historical record for Lucia is thin, and rather contradictory. The historical record for Nicholas is thicker, he was after all, a bishop.  However, his legend is also contradictory, and if you include the latter-day appearances attributed to him, well his story is rather mystifying.  By the way, our guests transported via Tardis time machine know nothing beyond their 4th-century lives, and much less do they know of any rumors of Nordic immigrations.

So why do I, and therefore we, offer this fresh tradition of Nick and Lucy? Why bring together two esteemed saints who each have their own days of remembrance? To begin they share so much, both Nicholas and Lucy are remembered for going above and beyond the call of Christian duty.  I will admit that it offers a wonderful gender and ministry balance: male and female, lay and ordained.  However, here is the best reason why. It is because Lucy’s simple story shines light on the life and ministry of Nicholas.  Her story gives back to him his flesh, his heart, his bones.  She gives to Nick his true self, his ordinary, Christ-like humility.  He was after all a servant who did prepare in the desert a highway for the reign of God. And it is his grand presence - both earned and embellished – Nick’s larger than life persona can raise Lucy up, bring her witness into our sights, it can raise the volume of her gentle service with sleigh bells in the snow.  Bringing them together, and bringing them here, we remind all ages that the communion of saints isn’t a once a year remembrance.  The communion of saint’s means that Lucia and Nicholas and hundreds and thousands more walk with us when we seek to do Jesus’ will. 

I am not going to tell you their story, Nick and Lucy are here from out of time to do that themselves at the celebration that follows.  What I will tell you is that they are gospel in a nutshell, they are the good news made plain in life and blood.  Our friends Nick and Lucy are embodiments of what the author of the gospel of Luke does so well: to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in word and action; and to do so clearly and simply, again and again. Salvation, alignment with peace and justice and the blessing of the creator of the universe: this gift is for all.  It is made real by following Christ out into the world.  Our Lucan gospel today assumes that you know that this is what is meant by paths made straight and lofty hills made low. Chapter by chapter Luke shows us again and again what the good news is and our role in it.  Because what if this was the only chapter you heard?  What if the only gospel you ever encountered was in the life of Christ’s followers?

We are ordinary men and women.  Most of us, like our friends Nick and Lucy, are blessed with a multitude of privileges.  And like Nick and Lucy we are ordinary people who are drawn into Christ’s presence, who have chosen to follow him for reasons we may not be able to name.  I invite you to find yourself in their story, fill in the gaps with your own passions, fill your heart with their courage, believe that your faithfulness to Christ need not restrained by anything, not even gravity or common sense.

Be Nick.  Be Lucy.  Go out into the world and make the rough places smooth and the crooked roads straight.  I offer you a simple phrase, for all from 1 to 102.  It has been said many times, and in many ways. Be Lucy.  Be Nick.  Let the tradition begin with you.

Communion with Saints
December 9, 2012
Cathedral of St. John, ABQ
Advent 2B + Lessons borrowed from Nicholas and Lucia Feast Days

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

diminished in black and white

The age spots on my hands and forearms are multiplying.  They remind me of our Granny, of her hands and arms.  I am not surprised that this is the place on my body where my age is most evident.  I spent three marvelous weeks sailing in the BVI when I was fifteen; my worst sunburns were on my hands and forearms. These age spots, pale brown blobish marks, they whisper to me my many years.  I have taken great glee from watching so many of my friends cross the 40-year-old threshold before me this year. My unremarkable day is approaching, but there is still time to not be there just yet.

Earlier this week I woke to see on my facebook wall the transcript of a notable interview.  The guest was one of the most famous progressive politicians in the world.  A man of accomplishment for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect.  The interviewing pair included a seemingly well respected, approximately 40-year-old woman (who I happened to graduate high school with).  The interview wasn't as mind blowing as the one with the Bishop of Rome, but it was notable.  The content of the transcript was interesting enough and kept my un-caffeinated attention for many internet paragraphs. Then I stopped.  I couldn't go on.  Neither the question nor the content of the answer mattered.  What struck me cold was the opening line to an answer, 'Well, since before you were born...'.

An accomplished woman, certainly not to be considered a tyke in style or looks.  She was interviewing beside an esteemed and chronologically-advanced gentleman.  The remark hung in front of my eyes, I re-read it.  He brought up her age in a mix of condescension and diminishment.  That intro to the answer was unnecessary, and to me, outrageous.  This wasn't a law school hallway or a journalist out of her league.  A wise priest once told me that ministry is the only business where grey hair is an advantage.  As I strive onward across the boundary of four decades completed: I have to wonder.  Not about the advantage but about the only; and I have to wonder how it may vary across gender.

Is there an age or a stage when such nonsense ends?    I know I make similar quips, but I work with children, tweens, emerging adults and teens.  They are young.  There are things they haven't earned or experienced.  These young people are not accomplished professionals with over 18 years of worldwide credentials.  And while it is no excuse for the times when I have said such things, they also have not been broadcast worldwide.  Still, do my little quips contribute to the acceptability of such age diminishment?  

I don't know if she took offense, I don't know if she felt brushed aside or diminished.   I don't desire to believe that was the intention of the interviewee.  I hope one of the smart women in his life noticed it and called him on it.  Yet, there it is. In black and white (and full living color, but I haven't found the footage). Since before you were born. He showed his golden trump card and then didn't really reply to you. When he had so many options.   At what age and stage does such stuff end?  


Monday, September 23, 2013

Parabolic Point of View

There once was a master who did such unusual things, and said such strange things, that the people who heard him were easily confused. This Master was in command of everything he could see.  From one horizon all the way to the other, everything from the dirt in the ground to the leaves on the trees, everything was his. This master was full of love for everything on his estate.  Yet as much as he loved it, he could not care for it all by himself.  So he invited his friends to help him take care of the estate. One day a child came to him and whispered in his ear, “Master, your friend is wasting the estate.”  The master panicked.  He got upset.  He got angry.  And he himself, he became confused. 

When his friend found out that the master was unhappy, this friend, he did not panic. He went to all the other friends on the estate, who may, or may not, have been also wasting the estate, and said,” What do you owe our master..5? Lets make it 3.  You owe 8?  Let’s make it 4”.  He gave away the master's stuff'; this friend he kept giving it all away. When the master found out about what his friend was doing, what did he do?  The Master did not get mad.  He celebrated.  The Master remembered how much he loved his estate, and how much he wanted to share it with his friends. The Master who said such confusing things and did such surprising things, he celebrated with all his friends who may have been giving his estate away.  And the people have been confused ever since.

Greed, love, passion, want: these feelings make us want to clutch and grab and hold and lock things up.  Greed and passion and want: These feelings lead us into the sins that our friend Amos today was yelling about.  Greed and grab and clutch and panic.  That is not how Jesus lived, and not how he calls his disciples, how he calls you and me to live.  Blessed the bread, broke the bread and he did what?  He shared it with his friends. The gifts of God are for the people of God. 

Some of us have a hard time with metaphor.  Perhaps you felt more than a bit uncomfortable when you heard today’s parable.  You may have been uncomfortable, perhaps because Jesus said these strange words.  Or maybe, you felt prickly because we are in church and you expected to hear about safe values and blessed security.  Perhaps you felt distressed because he was talking about valuable, earthly, material stuff.  A popular translation says this guy was ‘Wasting the estate’.  Some of us, for nearly two millennia, have had a hard time with the parables, the living metaphors Jesus offers.  Stories  like today’s where the neither servant, nor master, seem to be ‘properly’ managing the estate.  Good stories, the ones we remember, they rarely are centered in moderation and propriety or meek and mild behavior.  A parable is a story, a created fiction, an imagined verbal skit.  A story within a story.  Parables tell the kinds of truth that facts simply cannot explain.   Jesus is not offering us a peer reviewed study suggesting that fraud is a better for life expectancy.  Nope.  Because it is a metaphor, a parable.

Whatever Jesus said, it was a good story.  And perhaps Luke doesn’t do the story justice.  However it is hard to forget.  Yet only the Lukan community dared to write it down. Luke who is heartily focused on the outcast and the oppressed, Luke who dives into subject of the challenges of wealth like no other gospel.  However most scholars agree that the end of the reading today, the part after the parable, probably was not the original ending.  It seems that almost as soon as this parable was put onto parchment, someone, probably multiple well meaning, inspired someone’s, got so caught in clutch and grab that they inserted the rather confusing interpretations on the end of the confusing parable.  It may be an example of 1st century spin.  Trying to walk back what the superstar said,  even if what the superstar said wasn't wrong. 

Jesus isn't endorsing employee fraud.  It doesn’t take an interpretive somersault to get there.  How?  Because it is a parable!  A holy bit of fiction! Did you enjoy the story of Robin Hood?  or what about Oceans 11?  Did you finish the film and think: stealing millions from a casino looks safe, fun and plausible?  Gosh I hope not.  You seem smarter than that.   Yet clever people have been bent out of shape by this parable, even long, long ago in a region far, far away. 

Over the last few weeks we have watched homes and lives destroyed by astonishing rains.  I watch the status updates of old friends in Colorado and New Mexico with awe and alarm.   Old neighbors who have soaked floors and wet computer cpu’s, and their neighbors who no longer have houses to call home.  In that context what matters is generosity and compassion; self sacrifice and the blessing of life itself.   When push comes to shove, will you leave it all behind and live, or die trying to stay with your estate?   This parable is about what are you going to do,         when everything else is pushed out of view.  This is a kingdom parable; a reign of God parable, a radical invitation to the last things.  There are formal church seasons, like Advent and Easter.  They get colors and festivals. Then there are the informal church seasons...like fall.  Through which we always hear more lessons about property and stewardship      About what we own and what owns us.  We also hear more about the reign of God, about God’s time that is already, but also not yet.  This will only escalate as the nights lengthen and the baseball season wraps up.  The commercial world is counting the days till Christmas, and so to our lessons, but in a rather oppositional tone.  The jing aling will tell you that you need more stuff,          but God demands that we have turned away from his and his people when we let our stuff be the masters of our lives. 

We are being called by the master to account for how we have taken care of his estate.  It is there in the plain text of the Greek.   This ridiculously wealthy landowner, this fella is called Lord by the servant.  Called master….in the Greek kyrios; in the Greek text of the New Testament this word is used over 700 times!  ‘My soul magnifies the Lord’, the Master, the kyrios.  ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that the Lord (Master, kyrios) has made known to us.’  It is the end of the line for the steward, and his master wants to know how he lived.  What if wasting the estate, what if the squandering was that the steward didn't share enough?  What if the waste is hungry neighbors and sick children on the street?

At the end of our days, the master, the Lord, the kyrios, wants to know how we lived.  The true stories about how we lived,  He wants to hear of our passion for his estate, our generosity to his people and he wants to know of our love for the Master in the testimony of how we lived.  It seems like a crooked story about crooked people and crooked lives.  It isn't a real story.  Except when it is our story, told from the Master's point of view.  Our crooked stories from our crooked lives.  What amazing thing has he said for us to do?   Invest in relationships.  Commit to people loving people and the whole creation abundantly.  There once was a master who did such unusual things and said such strange things,  that the people who heard him were easily confused. Don’t be those peopleBe smart. Even be sassy.  Be awesome.  Live our life together in holiness and righteousness, from the Master’s point of view.

Parabolic Point of View
September 22, 2013

Proper 20, Year C, RCL Track2

Jane Alice Gober
St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Walla Walla , Washington

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Point Break

Cast and extras (teens living with cancer),
 and author, from the set of TFIOS
Break.  To swerve suddenly.  Sometimes hitting the brakes is a good thing.  It is the big thing not done badly.  It means that something does not separate into parts with suddenness or violence.  It can be all about reason properly beating adrenaline back into its corner.  Hitting the brakes, to soon, to hard can also be a sign of timidity, inertia; it is life lost in the panic. In the accolade winning nerdfighter novel 'The Fault in Our Stars' the young amputee Augustus has not re-learned how to brake and/or accelerate with his prosthetic right foot.  As the novel's heroine says: "his driving was so astonishingly poor that I could think of nothing else".  The ability to use the brakes properly may be the true test of driving ability, whether the brakes are made of steel and rubber or the soles of your feet.  We strive to teach stop buttons and brake usage (and for some brake un-use) in the young people we serve.  Brakes really matter, but what does data about braking really tell us?   Beep.

Break.  To cause to discontinue a habit. When I moved I had to get a new insurance policy.  The friendly agent on the phone offered me a possible future discount if I signed up for the 'Snapshot' program.  Perhaps you have seen the saccharine commercials for the little silver half capsule: you plug this into the computer port on your car and it tracks your driving.  The friendly agent told me that it would beep when the car starts up, and when you apply the brakes strongly.  What it is most keeping track of is the ratio of driving to hard brake moments.  I have to wonder, how is this new metric arrived at?  Applying the brakes can be caused by a multitude of occasions. Children chasing a ball.  Lost college freshman.  Poor road sign visibility.  Inebriated wine consumers unable to navigate a crosswalk.  Ducks, turkeys, cows, horses, squirrels and/or dogs in the road.  Beep.

Break.  To make tractable or submissive.  Insurance liability is certainly influenced by a multitude of factors that have nothing to do with the driver, with her skill or experience.  The ability of the drivers in her neighborhood, and certainly the general traffic goings on are important information to have if you are an insurance company.  These factors may not officially influence rates, but I can see how they could. What officially influences car insurance rates more closely resemble census statistics.  Age and education, gender and marital status.  Could this new information be adding to the matrix of rates?  Could the new albatross be the fact that I live in a semi-rural town with its interesting in town fauna, that I live in the midst of college students on foot and bicycle, and that this same hometown is sprinkled liberally with winery tourists?  Will this data increase the rates for everyone in my neighborhood because the tempestuous nature of driving in this shire has been revealed?  There is something nefarious lurking in this 'snapshot.'  Yet it may be something beyond the notion that this data may not be helpful or thrifty at all.  Is the boggart that my driving has become attentive to avoiding that hard brake beep?

Break. To achieve success in a striking way.   I know the device is there, and I do not want to hear it beep.   I can see how this could lead to safer driving. Yet I notice myself making more 'california stops' to avoid any hint of a hard brake beep, which isn't really safer at all.   It also reminds me of the BBC miniseries 'The Last Enemy.'  Set in a near-future Britain where every moment of every life is monitored in the name of freedom from terrorism.  Recently returned from abroad the reclusive Dr. Ezard (played by the Cumberbatch man himself) is late for a funeral.  He asks the taxi driver to speed up.  The driver says he cannot, because of 'monitored speed'.  Beep.  I find myself feeling more monitored than thrifty.  Have I been led down the primrose path?  Not in the name of safety, but in the name of saving pennies?  When it comes to the arguments about technology and surveillance I generally depart from many of my closest political allies with the selfish sentiment that 'I have nothing to hide.' A privileged woman of devotion and morality can say that more easily than many others.  Where is the forgiveness in this monitoring?  Where is the freewill?  That series was really frightening, and a little to close to home to be easily forgotten.  What are we willing to give up in the name of safety and savings? If he is for us then we are to be for all people, not just those with our blessings.  Is the albatross here plural?  Is it not only data but monitoring?

I was thinking about the word handle, and all the unholdable things that get handled. -Hazel (TfiOS)










Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Blue

I bought the shirt.  It was dark blue.

My freshman orientation was over twenty years ago.  I had not met then the women who would remain my friends all these years later.  I do not recall the tables I visited, but I did walk away with at least one blue shirt. From the Episcopal campus ministry table.  On the back it had an imitation wood carving of a devil.  It said 'if all you want out of religion is hellfire and brimstone, burn this shirt.'

At the time I might have told you I was Episcopalian, despite not having attended a liturgy in years, but I would never have claimed to be Christian.  Not after three years in south Texas and three days in the mid-south.  My participation was three semesters in the future then, and this vocation would have been an absurd suggestion.  Yet I bought the shirt.  My mom borrowed it at some point, and I don't recall that it was returned.  Later I learned that it was a borrowed advertisement, but it was a good one.  Provocative and thoughtful, funny and outrageous.  In case you think this was an out of the ordinary rebel offering, I will let you know that both priests at that parish at the time, are now both bishops (in neighboring dioceses no less).

All these years later, I am the person at the table.  No shirts, instead some silly and provocative flyers and home baked cookies.  It was hard not to feel a bit like was in a scene from 'Blue Like Jazz'.  A campus of a similar ilk, liberal arts known for its outdoor education and agnostics.  I heard a lot of 'I am not religious' responses to my inquiry of, 'would you like a homemade cookie?'  I also heard about how pretty our church is.  I met some very nice people, including our table neighbors: classics society (Go Homer!) and the 'trap shooting club' (eavesdropping let me know I was not the only person who didn't know what that is).  It seemed like we were the only church there.  We did manage to give away all the cookies and most of the flyers, running out of the Bilbo meme and the Noah/Ikea cartoon.  I went as much to meet students as to watch part of my new neighborhood at work. 

It was a very good day that makes me recall that blue shirt, and it makes me wonder.  What starts the journey? For my friends who met online, was it when they filled out a profile, or when a match appeared that didn't make one run way screaming?  In my telling that blue shirt was a strange foreshadowing of the lifetime to come.  I know it reminded me that even though I rejected all sorts of varieties of the Christian religion, there was a place, that was beautifully unusual and a good match for my tastes and priorities.  It was an open door that I wouldn't try for a while, but remembered when I needed to.

I was a bit disappointed that the shooting group had more names and emails than we did (my hippie is showing).  Because an explosive power and an almost empty table seem to catch folks attention.  Which also makes me wonder.  (What does non-violent explosiveness look like?) Still, I am glad for the conversations and connections I made.  Not because it might put bums in pews but because God willing we put a gospel face on our pretty and classic church.

Recently an office of the church center put out a series of ad's that I found to be snide, feeble and hardly gospel.  They seemed to me to be more like a 'dead end' sign than a friendly emoticon.    How do we become more like a plate of warm cookies and less like a green jello salad?  How do we do this loudly without seeming self aggrandizing?  Is there such a part of our life together that could be as attractive as gunpowder and a balm in Gilead?

 What began your journey into something brave and worthy?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cliff Dwellings

For the last half dozen years every time I made the journey to St. Mary's in the Moonlight we took a pause at Canyon de Chelly.  There is the fabulously out of a time warp Thunderbird Lodge cafeteria where you can have a Salisbury steak or old school ambrosia or a Navajo Taco as big as your noggin.  It is a deep valley of sandstone cliffs and the famous Spider Rock.  This is a valley where the Anasazi may have been, the Hopi people have been, and the Navajo people still live raising livestock and orchards.

One of the most amazing overlooks is the one that looks down at cliff dwelling ruins, called 'the White House' by some wise ass.  Cliff dwellings always raise for me the question of who thought of it first?  Which man or woman looked at his tribe and said, "we would be safe from the floods and our enemies if we carved out homes, way up there, in that cliff."  Clearly this person won their argument, but I presume there was an argument about the notion.
Cliff dwellings in the tiny nook 

Those cliff dwellings and that valley have been occupied by different tribal groups over time.  They are known to argue over who was there when and 'whose it is' and how they may or may not be related to one another.  However,my point is this: there is almost always someone who was there before you.  I have never moved into a new home or a new church.  By new I mean completely previously unoccupied. There are dozens of things that make me wonder: whose idea was that? In my previous setting more than one person thought that avoiding right angles was a good choice for Sunday school classrooms.  At another parish the classrooms originally didn't have windows.  The fire escape plan was to somehow get lots of panicking people out through a SKYLIGHT.  A new era and the experience of living make these ideas seem ill conceived.  However, more than one person thought they were good enough to build them that way.  Which serves to remind me that no matter how awesome and agreed upon our new ideas may be, a future generation may scratch their heads and wonder 'what the heck were they thinking.'

In my new setting there are interesting choices all over the place.  I wonder about the holes in the backs of pews that once held something; a careful choice well funded that later was erased; leaving only neat little screw holes in dark wood.  I wonder about the hands that have rubbed the pew backs from their dark stain to something much lighter.  I also have a half dozen ideas about how we can best serve this era with this space; and hopefully without frustrating the servants who come after us.  

What old choices have you encountered in a parish or home or new work setting that made you wonder or created frustration?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rear View Mirror: 5 Things I Will Not Miss

I am rather amused that I only have five things.  At least five I am willing to publish.  They say that folks either love or hate the ABQ.  I managed to circumvent that notion by loving the activities and the food and the people.  However, I have serious reservations about the loveliness of the climate.  It has been pleasingly cool for the last few days.  More similar to a day at a Pacific beach than the typical ABQ summer weather.  An employee at Starbucks told me he had heard people complain.  Apparently some folks like scorching sun and sand blowing in your face.


So to follow up on a few of the things I will miss, I have a few that I will not.

Fading.  Everything fades in the consistent mile high sunshine.  Pieces of paper that are nowhere near the window, fade.  Books inside a home, where the blinds are always closed, inside a glass cabinet, fade.  Playground equipment and road signs, you name it.  The sun scalds you when it is freezing outside. A similar volume of sun would be fine, just a little bit further away please.

Dog Pee on Hot Xeriscaping Rocks: It smells worse than the worst day at a hot beach with no wind and lots of dead creatures rotting in the sun.  The sight of poo on xeriscaping, also not a favorite.  Why does it look less awful on grass??  Actually I won't miss the xeriscaping at all.  At least not the rocks type. A garden of untamed wildflowers would be prettier.  Xeriscaping has come a long way in the last decade or so, yet it still is just one more item for the high spring winds to pick up and hurl in your face.  I failed to convince myself that the elaborate rock and crushed granite displays were better than nothing.

Evaporation Beyond Belief: In cleaning out my house I discovered a jar of jewelry cleaner that I had forgotten about.  You know the watery stinky ones that are not very good for your jewelry.  Anyways it was sealed and in a drawer in the bathroom and ALL THE LIQUID EVAPORATED.  Through the plastic.  Then there is this darling glitter globe ring given to me a decade ago by a young friend.  It was a fantastic conversation piece.  However after about one year, ALL THE LIQUID EVAPORATED.  Through the plastic.

Vege-what? New Mexico is sort of like what would happen if you mixed up Texas, California and Colorado, and covered it in green chile stew.   I have been a vegetarian for almost 20 years. It has never been harder.  This was surprising, given the hippie streak in New Mexico. Apparently here the norm is bacon loving hippie-ness.   My diet was less stressful in Arkansas and Mississippi!  Watching folks refuse meatless options like they were horrible insulting alien dishes; encountering folks who seem insulted by my choice.  Catered event dinners with nothing healthy or vegetarian on the menu. Dinner of cornbread, anyone, anyone?

Those days when the swamp cooler doesn't really work.  Evaporative cooling is more physics than chemistry.  For it to be effective it needs to be under 95 degrees (f) and under 35% humidity, or something like that.  When those factors are in play, I prefer swamp coolers.  They are moist rather than drying; they are usually a comfortable cool rather than a frigid one.  Some folks feel that it is environmentally better than AC; and it is certainly a much simpler contraption.   However, there are always days in the summer when neither of the 2 factors listed above are present.  On those days, which must total about 20 a summer, then the SC is a joke.  Last summer while in Indianapolis I had dinner at a restaurant whose AC was non-functional.  Everyone else at the dinner party was very uncomfortable.  I found it normal, normal for when it is one of those days when the swamp cooler just ain't gonna cool anything.  I noticed a few swamp coolers in my new small town...which is more humid than here.  I wonder how that is gonna work.

What life factors here in the ABQ are forgettable for you?