Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Green side up

I was walking the dog, giving thanks for the gorgeous day. I greeted a neighbor planting sod. But he looked at me urgently, intently, and said, "green side up." I felt as though I'd been given a secret message. Maybe the words signal something I'm to be thinking about over the next several days, while we're away. If so, I'll report back.

Early tomorrow, we fly to Hartford, and a dear friend from our grad school days at Duke will pick us up and take us to New Haven. I'll finally see Yale's Institute of Sacred Music, hear the Monteverdi 1610 Vespers and then Noah's all-Bach recital. On Sunday, we'll meet the wonderful people at St. Thomas's Church, who have provided what it takes to create the best job N has ever had.

I'm packed. I haven't travelled anywhere except for church-related conferences for a year, so this feels like such a vacation! Sure, this trip still is church-related, but our only job will be soaking up all the holy, heavenly music, for which we are so hungry.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Forsythia, toilet paper, and a little wild organ music

It's our 1st wedding anniversary! That is, today marks the anniversary of the famous Horn-Horn wedding in the Seabury Chapel last spring, one of the merrier moments in Play Church class and our seminary careers.

For those unfamiliar with Play Church, the class actually is called "Practicum in Liturgical Celebration," and allows students to practice celebrating at baptisms, weddings, funerals, and Sunday Eucharists. Each year, two students sign up to be bride and groom. Yes, we did. And our friends threw us a surprise wedding shower.

My maid of honor, L, created a lovely wedding veil made of fresh forsythia and an entire roll of toilet paper, which unrolled as I walked down the aisle. The processional music was the first minute of a rowdy Vierne organ piece, which many thought sounded like the opening music from Jaws.

When it came to repeating our vows, though, the ceremony felt absolutely serious, nothing like play at all, and showed once again how the powerful words of our liturgical celebrations mark life's occasions as sanctified by God.

Monday, April 14, 2008

For the young ones

I don't always remember that the young people in our congregations watch those of us up front, sometimes with intense seriousness. One petite acolyte has kept her eye on me lately, asking many questions. Yesterday, her mom told me that this dear young person, in charge of their table prayers, has decided that she wants to be like me. So, for their mealtime prayers, she extends her arms out and begins to chant the Sursum Corda. The mom told me this with tears in her eyes.

I don't always remember that I serve as a role model. In this case, girls see a priest who happens to be a woman, and they know that they can dream about being behind the altar, too. Not only that, but this young girl was at the organ bench after the service, playing much more than random notes. I've had her on my heart and mind all day. For her, and for all the young ones, I thank God.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Excuses, excuses

Some excuses simply don't work. When Noah was in grade school, our dog loved paper and literally ate Noah's homework. Imagine how well that excuse went over.

Yesterday I was in my office in Iowa City, awaiting Mitch's arrival from another part of state (no, not governor Mitch of Indiana -- the other Mitch, the one who's mapping out the Waters of Hope bike ride around Iowa to raise $$ for clean water in Swaziland and the Sudan). We'd talked about where to go for lunch to catch up with one another's ministries. I was looking forward to it.

But then Mitch called to say that wouldn't be able to meet till much later, because he had driven a fancy rental car BACKWARDS off of a cliff from a wet, slick clay road. This is way more creative than "my dog ate my homework," and unfortunately, it really happened. But Mitch is okay -- just very sore.

This winter and spring weather have created more bad driving conditions than I've seen in the 25 years we've lived in Iowa. We're expecting snow tomorrow. People are getting grouchier by the day. But Mitch? He was actually laughing at his ridiculous accident by the time he arrived at my office!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Worth waiting for

Last fall while meeting new students, sending them e-mail messages and snail mail invitations, I indicated my willingness to meet in the coffee house around the corner from our downtown church, thinking that the setting would be less formal and perhaps less intimidating than an office. Though we'd had lunch together in small groups, no one asked to meet privately for coffee, and I wondered if any of them would ever decide that talking with a university chaplain was something they'd want to do.

It's easy to lose sight of how long it takes to build trust. Of course, I'd wanted it right away, or certainly by late fall. Finally, yesterday, I met with a lively student at the coffee house. We talked about her educational and vocational plans, literature and scripture, art and texture, and what it means to be human. I had to be careful because, once or twice, I stepped out of the conversation as if watching a movie, thinking, "Is this great, rich conversation really happening?" and "I get paid for this joyful time?"

So, ten months into the job and eight months into the academic year, the pot is starting to bubble, and I am all but bouncing with gratitude.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Give me a word

It's sermon writing time, and my mind is wandering terribly, contemplating such peculiar things as a current TV ad for paper plates: "I buy ____, because I deserve a paper plate as strong as I am." You've got to be kidding.

In seminary, a few times when we'd get stuck while writing a sermon, one or the other of us would invite each other to "give me a word." Then the challenge becomes weaving that word (or as many of the words that come in) into the sermon. Strangely enough, this works to start the creative process in a new direction, even when the words are as of a clearly silly nature, such as "elephant."

In that spirit, I invite you to give me a word.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


On this first of April, I didn't feel much like joking. More than one friend is dealing with serious loss. And last week in Iowa City (though not at our church), a brutal and senseless tragedy resulted in the death of five family members. A thousand people attended the funeral; friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers alike still report trouble sleeping. Our rector went to help out today as a member of the city's critical incident stress management team. The rest of us on staff, as a sign of affection, sprang into action when he slipped out before lunch.

Because he loves a good joke, we transformed his office in a matter of minutes. Using several potted palm trees as tall as humans, some sizeable forsythia plants, Easter lilies, and every other green thing we could find, we created a jungle. Soon, there was no clear pathway to his desk and it was almost impossible to move without whacking a big plant. Perfect! Our parish administrator found a ferocious lion online and pasted our rector's mug shot into the center, with a caption reading "King of the Jungle" for his door. We accomplished amazingly quick teamwork, especially with both the organist's and the sexton's help carrying the biggest palm "trees."

I think that playing together helped all of us, in more ways than we know. The reaction we got? Holy, hearty laughter. And, besides, it's always good to remember: it's a jungle out there.