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Saturday, December 29, 2007

She has arrived

770 miles later, I am back. With 36.5 mpg on the highway my new (to me) toyota corolla has done me well. She is a cousin of the late toyota corolla, BlackBelle may she rest in peace. The Kia Sportage on the other hand is stuck still in Fort Worth. She's in purgatory.

But I'm home.

I left Missouri and the 36 year record-breaking December snow to come home to dust and dirt.
Around Waco I lost the lower register of my voice and by Austin, the tickle in my throat had surfaced yet again. Is it possible to be allergic to a city, because I think I am.

Too bad I like it here. :)

This week brings not only the festivities and required reflection on 2007 and toward 2008, but it brings back work: two sermons to write, auditions to plan, emails to send, meetings to have, people to encourage, love and serve. And of course more Christmas shopping for co-workers since I was sick the week i was planning on finishing that up and handing gifts out. sigh. i'm already behind.

But, Lynnette and Sam will be here because Sam's speaking at my church tomorrow at 9:30 and they both will be leading in worship at 11!! To pick up a copy of Sam's new book, click here! Tomorrow's Sam's B-day, Lynnette's was just four weeks ago and New Year's Eve is upon us. We can't wait to celebrate!!

Only the medicine and computer bags have been unpacked. Always start with the essentials. Surely the rest will fall into place.

Like what in the world I'm going to do with a dead car in Fort Worth.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve.

After a few fights, a couple glasses of wine, a visit from the neverending neighbor, and a case of Diet Coke (the true spirits of the American family), the Pittman family managed to get to get dressed in our finest attire, attend the Christmas Eve Candlelight service, get our pictures taken and get into bed.



Of course, I have to get you to this point of sugarplums dancing in dreams first. Santa comes tonight, and I've got to get my last bits of goodness out, not to mention the naughty. And so it goes.

As you'll remember, Christmas began shortly before Halloween this year with the decoration change in department stores completely skipping Thanksgiving. The inability to find decorations for the current holiday to hang at your Halloween party due to the display of decorations for the holiday after next, may be indicative that we in America have gone a little overboard with the Christmas thing.

But I'm not a hater. I love Christmas. I politely wait until the day after Thanksgiving to turn on my lights (even if they're hung before), I always abbreviate X-Mas with the understanding that I'm not X-ing Christ out of Christmas, only using the original Greek symbol for his name; I even drink the eggnog (store bought) and don't think twice about the calories.

Neither do I mind the shopping. I admit, this year I had trouble thinking of things for my list. Working in downtown Austin can make one a little self-conscious about asking for things. And since in over two years I still haven't gotten over the fact that the paychecks keep coming in (who knew?) I feel overly blessed.

But after Mother's third menacing phone call, I mustered up a list and have been adding to it ever since.

"How will I know what to get you if you don't ask for a new car, Ann?" she threatened, making fun of the fact that every year since I was 16, I asked for a car for Christmas. Very funny mom. So I put a Vespa on my Christmas list as a joke.

Unfortunately, if any year I should have asked for a car, it's this one.

Four hours outside of Austin, my car overheated.

AND DIED.

Did I take it in to a groovy shop that shall remain anonymous (ahem!) for this very problem not five days earlier when my car overheated on the way to a nursing home? Yes I did. Did they put in a new radiator and radiator cap? Yes they did. Did they do a 72 point check and write down all the things wrong with my car that they found? Yes they did. Did they strongly suggest I get a new battery before I drove to Missouri? Yes they did. Did I buy one at Wal-Mart the day before I left? Yes I did.

Do I have a car now? No I don't.

Because it overheated, burnt the engine and died on the access road just outside of Fort Worth.

"Do you want McDonald's for breakfast or IHOP?"
"Um... McDonald's I guess. IHOP will take too long and if we do McDonald's we will make it by dinner to St. Joe."
"K." We begin to pull off the highway. "Uh... the car... it's hot... it's..."

After pushing the car into IHOP's parking lot and eating the breakfast I hadn't chosen, I began the arduous task of calling my parents.

"Mom, my car is broken. Get on the internet and figure out where I am."

Fortunately, my old friend from Seminary was raised in Fort Worth, so I called her. She called her dad who called a friend who eventually recommended Christian Brothers Autobody Shop. Then I called a tow truck. Then a cab.

Because I had two cats, a dog and a boyfriend stowed away in my car. I kid you not. And the tow truck had a two "people" max for it's cab and refused to "tow" anything living.

I thought the cab driver was going to crap his pants when I started tossing cats into his car, but he sucked it up and dropped us off. In I waddled into the autobody shop with Zorba, Potter and Janie.

When the mechanic came to talk to me about my car, he didn't do it from behind the counter as his did with everyone else who came in during the FOUR HOURS I sat in that shop. Rather, he came out the door into the waiting room, sat on the couch next to me and said remorsefully, "I have some bad news."

Long story short, we arrived in tact in St Joe around 10:30pm on Friday in a rental car without a CD player. "That's okay," encouraged Grandma, "You and your boyfriend can sing together, and talk, and really get to know each other."

Yep, great. Like a freaking CD player would have been too much to ask for after emerging from Hell.

"I was hoping you left Zorba at the mechanic's," Mother said over the phone.

Fabulous.

The cats have been locked in my room ever since because my sister's psycho dog scared the begeezus out of them when we walked into the house.

The other sister was having a party.

I walked into the kitchen after five days of lying ill in bed, two days on the road, $1000 on the credit card, after losing my car and after losing my mind (but not crying once the whole day), and I looked at all those 22 and 23 year olds in their swank clothes sipping on rum and cider, and sighed. "Will someone please get me a beer?"

Fortunately, things have managed to move up from that point. God graced my merciless travels with 6 inches of snow (consequently ruining the travels of the rest of the county) the morning after I arrived. Church was cancelled (hallelujah and forgive me Jesus) the next day the boyfriend who's never seen snow, the sister who never fails to rekindle her childhood, the neverending neighbor and I all went sledding. Amazing. About halfway through we realized that if someone stood at the bottom of the hill and called out to Amy's dog Sophie, she would tear down the hill with us on the leash and the sled behind her, thus doubling our speed and our sheer terror. It was awesome. I haven't done that since college.

And Christmas with the extended family went off without a hitch too. No one brought up Jesus or George Bush, so we all got along fairly well.



With no Sunday morning Church there was no way my sisters and I could get out of going to the service tonight despite our pleas to watch movies, eat out and open gifts. It was another winner, with the man in front of us moving over one seat to avoid my coughs and my mother refusing to allow me to go to the restroom during the prayer to get a tissue for my nose. Amy fell asleep, and Emily snorted, stifling laughter, when the smell of calliflower fart drifted our way. I got tired of waiting for the minister to tell us to eat the bread and drink the cup during communion, so I put my wafer in my mouth to get the ball rolling. With one eye on the family minister, my sisters and mother did the same which resulted in more stifled laughter from the youngest when she realized we were out of sync with the rest of the congregation.

These are not all the terribly normal and terribly disfunctional stories I have from my Christmas vacation thus far, but the confessions have begun and processing it now may save me some therapy time later. :) I will keep you posted for sure.

I just hope Santa still shows up.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas at Ann's House

Putting up my modest Christmas decorations...

Potter likes to climb into the tree and nap...

I added a deer to my outside lights this year!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Living Next to the Griswold's

Clarence finally finished his yard. This does not show the plethora of lights in the backyard - please keep this in mind as you feast on what he has prepared...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Merry Christmas From Regina...

Wish List

Dear Santa,

I don't have a fireplace. Most Texans don't. Grandma used to say you came in through the furnace in situations like this. I'm surprised I believed her.

So if it's true about the furnace thing, here's some things I'd like for Christmas...

a wii
new windows in my bedroom (just go ahead and put those in while you're here - i don't mind).
a pet turtle
or a pet bird
gift certificates to Home Depot, IKEA, Big Red Sun
movies: Little Miss Sunshine, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
any cool shoes size 6 women or size 4 children (i'll pass on those pointy things the elves wear though)
funky jewelry (especially earrings or necklaces)
cute long sleeve shirts
plants, especially cactii

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Travelers: Following the Story

First came the shepherds. They heard the news, through a chorus of angels no less. With such storytelling devices as bright light and trumpets and being able to fly, it’s no wonder the shepherds left their jobs and scurried off to Bethlehem. They followed the news to a stable - not quite a barn, more like a cave - where they found the child.

I wonder if the stray cats and dogs didn’t beat them to the manger first though. The moo’s and spitting and snorting of the barn animals with the screams of a young girl giving birth probably scared the stray animals away at first. But when the donkeys and sheep settled down and the mother began to rest from her hard work, I imagine the baby crying. Softly… loudly… not at all. I bet that baby’s cry silenced the barn animals and I picture the stray cats, always intrigued by a human’s tears, sneaking in around the stones, through the legs of the stalls and up on a ledge to spy on the newborn child.

Some people knew the story was coming, waiting to be told. They followed the story before they even met the characters or knew their names. Simeon and Anna were two such people. The story tells us that Simeon waited day after day; such was his faith that he would see the Messiah before he died. And without any hint except the urging of the Holy Spirit, Simeon went up to Mary, Joseph and Jesus and added to the story. He said the baby would bring salvation. Maybe he said this because the baby’s name means “God saves,” but he added that the child would be a light to all the people. He predicted pain would accompany salvation, but he blessed the new parents nonetheless. And Mary and Joseph were amazed as the story continued to unfold. Anna soon joined them and brought her prayers and blessing upon the child.

The magi too heard the story. They had to gather bits of it piece by piece. First there was the star. It didn’t seem a part of any constellation they knew, so they began to search for its origin. The learned more of the story of the birth and the location when they met the King of the Jews. And finally, they met the main character of this drama that had brought them from so far away. And they worshipped the young boy. They told the story of a child-king and true to their heritage, they offered the king expensive gifts to honor him.

And the story continued as people began to hear about the baby and follow the news to where the boy, the child, the man was.

Everywhere Jesus went, news of his nature preceded him. “Jesus, we have heard you can heal – heal me!” “Jesus we have heard that you raise people from the dead – raise my child” “Jesus, we have heard you are the Son of God – save yourself if this is true!” Everywhere people followed the story of a baby, the story of a man, the story of a God.

That’s what we do today too, is it not? We follow the story. Sometimes we stand far off and just watch God at work. Other times we gather in close, compelled by the awesome tale, and we peer into its mystery. We watch historical events unfold and we marvel at those stories retelling themselves even in our own lives. We follow the Jesus story just like we would follow any other story: the ice storm in the Midwest, the war in Iraq, what Brittany Spears has done now. But unlike these other stories, this story changes everything.

It doesn’t just change which icy roads we avoid or does it change national border lines… it changes us. It changed history. It changed rules. It changed people. It changed the world.

Which is probably why we keep on telling the story today. Why we follow the good news of a God who demonstrated love by becoming like those he loves. This is why we watch God moving in the world and we pray God will move in us. It is why we peer into ourselves, into our hearts, into our minds and open them to the mystery of God. When this happens, we stop following the story and begin experiencing it ourselves. Instead of just watching the story, we join the story. Like the shepherds we move from hearing the news to seeing the baby. Like the magi we move from one location to another - be it geographically or spiritually - in an effort to honor the king. Like Simeon, we who have waited to be healed, to feel whole, when we encounter the story, in the flesh, in front of our face, we are changed.

This is not just a story to accompany Santa Clause and Frosty the Snowman. It’s not just a picture book you read or a crèche you set up on a mantle. It’s not just a myth to put children to sleep or a fable to get children to behave. It’s the story of an event, of God breaking into human history as a human being. It’s a story of poverty and richness, of oppression and freedom, of love and betrayal. It’s a story we experience every day. And it’s the story that will save our souls.

Indeed this is a story that will change us. It will redeem us and help us to keep on going. It is a story that gives hope and peace. It’s a story we have to work hard at allowing to be the story that defines our lives. So many other stories will compete to define who you are, but stories of loss and shame and bitterness are not the stories God has told for you. God’s story may have elements of those in it, but Jesus’ story begins with a baby and ends with an empty tomb. God’s story begins before creation and calls us good. God’s story trumps whatever we have reduced ourselves to and opens us up to who we can become…and how we can change the world by telling our stories.

And in telling the world our stories, indeed, we are telling God’s.

Ann Pittman
Beresheth
December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Let It Snow... Let It Snow... Keep Your Ice...

"It's worse than the one in 94," my dad said on the phone. "Hold on," he continued, "I think I just caught my pillow on fire."

You may have seen my hometown on the news. St Joseph, Missouri making it big yet again as the recipient of one of the terrible ice storms destroying the midwest.

Mom, dad, grandma and grandpa spent the first day and night huddled around my parents' fireplace trying to find a hotel/motel (all booked) and wrestling with the idea of driving to kansas city (in an ice storm?) to find heat and a place to sleep.

Day two proved more productive. My home church has electricity, so the four of them headed out there for the day. While at the church, the youth minister showed up with a generator as a gift to my family! So last night they slept in heat!

Dad said there was a picture of my neighbor on national news. I guess our street looks really bad because the C Span truck is camped out at the end of our block.

I remember the storm of 94. I was a sophomore in high school and it is one of the most vivid memories I have. The ice makes you feel like you are in a wonderland, while feeling strangely scared at the same time. Everything glitters and glows. And when the transistors blow, a blue light bounces, radiating through all the ice. It's eerie too though because it is silent. Completely quiet. No sound except the sound of a gunshot (a branch breaking under the weight of ice) and then glass breaking (the ice shattering as it hits the ground). I'll never forget those four days in 94 with my family camped out in our living room with blankets and games and the fire blazing. It was surreal: like playing Little House on the Prairie except we didn't have to pretend the weather part.

So thanks to everyone for your questions and concern for my family. So far so good (in an ice storm). And as my dad said, "It's sad watching everything (the trees and nature) be destroyed, but we lost a lot in 94 too and we were surprised at what came back." There's something beautiful about watching something being reborn. Through the fire and now refined. Under the water and now reborn.

Sometimes there must be ice to appreciate the sun.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Transition...

Wednesday November 28…

I am lying in my bed propped up on pillows. My dog sleeps beside me stretched out where a boyfriend or husband should be. It is nighttime and I am processing my day.

A friend texted me this morning, panicking about another mutual friend. He said all these things and it hurt her feelings and he’s being a hypocrite and she can’t handle it and his new girlfriend is affecting their friendship… and finally we are at the heart of the issue. New and old. Just found and always been around.

This afternoon I listened to a son’s confession that his parents were divorcing. He told their story which is inextricably his story. From living quarters to family dynamics, much will be changing. Familiar and unfamiliar. Only known and the unknown.

Tonight I drove to a friend’s house to wish his mother good luck on a very invasive surgery scheduled for this weekend. Her daughter was there with her new baby and I watched my friend’s mom cuddle her grandchild. It was quite the juxtaposition: a healthy baby body held to the breast of a sick, older body. Even with the warmth and optimism of the family, the impending surgery and weeks of recovery reminded me what a transition this time would be in their lives. Everyone adjusts: gets assigned new tasks around the house, new weekends to drive to the hospital in Houston, new prayers to offer up to God.

Transition.

It’s constantly confronting us, is it not?

Starting college means saying goodbye to high school: it means making new friends, improving study habits, making new (to you) decisions, and it means learning to drop the teenage attitude and preparing to live maturely as an adult. Some of the transitions happen quickly like moving out of your house and into a dorm, others may take you the whole four years to process. Starting college means saying goodbye to high school.

Getting a new boyfriend means really letting go of the old one. It means stopping the obsessing over old injuries and giving someone new a chance to do something right. It means adjusting to different mannerisms, different habits, different favorite restaurants, different favorite songs. It means you take a risk to let this be its own relationship – not an extension of one you wish you still had or lament you ever engaged. Getting a new girlfriend means really letting go of the old one.

Losing your job means hunting for a new one and then adjusting to working in that new place. It means accepting terms of resignation and being faced with the option to improve. It means re-evaluating your dreams, goals, and desires in life. It means telling your family and friends, facing old hurts, creating new ones. It means settling for or gratefully accepting a new salary. It means meeting a new boss, new co-workers, discovering who makes the coffee in the office and whether or not it’s too strong. It means learning who to avoid on Monday mornings and who is great to go to with questions. It means taking down the pictures in your old cubby and deciding whether they are still fitting for your new one. Losing your job means hunting and adjusting.

Transition is all around us. And no matter what traditions we uphold to keep the past the present, change will always make its way in. Amidst they hymns come the praise songs; where there once were candles, flickering lights now brighten our tree. Summer of your sweet 16 comes summer of your sweet 26th and some things never stay the same.

This is the perfect week for transition. In most places in the country, the trees are fully colored and perhaps even turning brown. The first snows fall signaling winter and our house decorations experience their own changing of the guard as well. If you have managed to avoid Christmas until after the Thanksgiving holidays, then this past weekend you threw away the pumpkins and brought out the reindeer to decorate your yard. The red, brown and yellow fall leaves scattered across our tablecloths last week have given way to the green and red of holly and mistletoe. Boxes are pulled out, dusted off and emptied while others are returned, put away until next year. It’s transition time. We pull out our winter coats and hang up our jackets. In Texas, we put away our swimsuits and set out our scarves. Transition happens that fast.  Toys are changing, new, improved; faster, funnier, fuzzier toys take to the shelves and leave behind the competition.

It’s that time of year.

Transition. It is all around us. Some of it we anticipate, yearn for even – those warm fires, those happy holiday feelings. But some of it comes with the ebb and flow of life and it catches us off guard – almost every time.

Transition. The old is gone, the new has come. And that was just yesterday.

* * * *

The old has gone and the new has come and it has caught us off guard. Sometimes transition is slow and we feel like it is more manageable when we can adjust in small doses, but a death or a diagnosis never falls softer than a rock and even so it never hurts any less.

As the world changes around us, we have several choices. We can reject transition and pretend it isn’t happening. We can resist it with the core of our being and in doing so allow our own destruction, bitter and blinding. Or we can seek an alternative.

To everything, turn, turn, turn. The world is turning, our lives are changing, and we will make ourselves sick resisting transition.

But be transformed, God says, by the renewing of your mind.

When transition is frightening or even just unsettling, we must offer God our minds and our hearts, and in faith, we must allow God to change us and grow us. Transition will not destroy us unless we let it. But if we allow God to work good in our lives, then as transition comes, as the old moves on and the new moves in, we become more like Christ, more dependant on God to carry us through, more enabled to help others experiencing their own transition.

We must look up. When we are afraid, we must look up. When change overwhelms us, we must look up. God is with us and around us and in us and God will not let us live scared of newness and scared of life. Rather, God will give us the courage to face this changing world head on. God has given us community to work with, to encourage us, to love the world. God has given us beauty to give us hope, give us an outlet for creativity, to remind us God is present. God has given us the Spirit to comfort us, to stimulate us, to grow us, to sustain us, to enable us to change the world.

For even as the world seeks to change us, so do we challenge the world to change too.

The world will never stop turning and change will never leave us be. The same old, same old, doesn’t really exist and truly things are always changing. But we do not have to be afraid. We must take courage and be very brave. For in Christ even we are changed and offered the newness of life in Christ. Newness that will never end and newness that makes all the difference in the world…

Ann Pittman
Beresheth
Nov. 29, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Reflection

What does Thanksgiving mean to me?

I called my sister Thanksgiving morning to see how she was doing. She didn't answer so I called my parents. My dad answered. We chatted for a while about where I would eat lunch, to whose house I had been invited for the holidays, where he and Emily were in the decorating process, the usual. Then he said, "I'm going to tell you I love you, but don't cry - okay?"

"Okay."

Thanksgiving means family, and Amy, the middle sister, is spending her first holiday really alone, away from family. So when my father had his morning chat with her and told her he loved her, she burst into tears. Now she was on the phone with my mom who was trying to pick up the pieces. That's why she hadn't answered. She was talking to my parents.

I remember my first time really being away from home. Moving to Texas and being a poor seminary student didn't allow for the luxury of returning home for such pithy holidays as Thanksgiving and Easter. Only the really big ones like... Christmas and Summer. Since 2001 I've been learning what it means to be away from family, to be away from home, to re-create love in new places, places it perhaps needs to be nurtured, places perhaps where it just needs to be recognized. This love becomes the substitute for love Amy and I experienced as children and adults growing up in our family.

So, friends. Thanksgiving means friends. It means re-evaluating what family means and creating family out of friends. Thanksgiving helps me remember that community keeps us alive. We were designed for it and without it, we will perish. (Has anyone seen Into the Wild?) Community is not only who we "live" with, but also how we live. How we relate to people, how we treat one another, how we care for the downtrodden, how the encourage the excited - all this is community. Community is why I go to church, why I have people over for dinner parties, why I have a roommate, a boyfriend, a best friend. Community is why I tithe, why I pay my taxes, why I donate money to charity.

Thanksgiving means charity too. It means flipping through the World Vision catalogue and wondering which of my gift recipients would rather have 2 chickens given to a family in Uganda for Christmas instead of receiving a new sweater or CD. It means commitment Sunday at church. It means cutting back on consumerism and cutting checks for Compassion children. It means that even as I bask in the love of people in my community and in my family, I must remember there are many who do not have that luxury. There are lonely people in America who may have everything but no one to share it with, and there are family people in Laos who have no means to provide for those they love. Thanksgiving means sharing hope and sharing resources with those who will die without either. Thanksgiving means being mindful of my neighbor. It means sharing.

Thanksgiving means transitioning. It's the time we put away the leaves and pumpkins and scarecrows and pull out the lights and ornaments and light-up-Santas. It's a time that reminds us we are moving, moving from fall to winter, from pumpkins to evergreens, from thanksgiving to rejoicing. It means preparation (which always means transition): getting ready for Christmas, getting ready for winter, getting ready for the coming of the Christ and giving thanks. And transition always means remembering. As we move from one season to another, from one phase in our lives to new realizations and realities, transition teaches us to remember and to look forward. Thanksgiving means remembering to be thankful, being reminded to give thanks. It means remembering our neighbor and our God. It means looking back and looking forward, all at once.

This is what Thanksgiving means to me and so much more...

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Part I

Yea! Thanksgiving begins! Janie put on her very cute sweater (although very small!) because guests were coming over.




Chris and Michelle, Gabe and Bethany, Ginny, Frank and Alysa (and Chris and Michelle's dog Brandy) joined me for dinner tonight in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Bethany and Michelle made pies, salad, and homemade fig dressing. All day they cooked in my kitchen. I'm sure the kitchen was happy to be used :)




Even Zorba had a Thanksgiving feast. We saw him out the back door window capturing a mouse, playing with it for a while, and then settling down to eat his meal. I've never actually seen him (or any of the cats) do this before. It was almost fascinating seeing him gnaw on the bone, pulling off the last few pieces of meat. Just like the men do at Thanksgiving and Christmas. One of the many reasons I just might someday be a full fledged vegetarian.

I made "Crazy Carol's Speghetti" as requested. Everyone else brought wine, bread and ice cream. It was a great evening with "old" friends. It really made the day feel special - like the holiday it is - to have Chris and Michelle here. Tomorrow is Frank's birthday. 30. Half of us had been there and half of us are "looking forward" to the glorious year. What a fun time we had. Yea for Thanksgiving! Yea for friends! Yea for dogs! Yea for food!

Monday, November 19, 2007

It Has Begun

This morning I woke up to my neighbor Frank outside. He already had the reindeer and was starting in on the lights.



Ooh that means Clarence is going to be out soon. Sure enough, there he was, trying to get motivated by putting up the red lights. He's been frustrated cause he found a box full of real rats in his shed (which he promptly killed) and is still discovering the damage they'd done (especially to his christmas decorations). Nevertheless, alwasy a trooper (and never wanting to be outdone by a neighbor), he was putting up what lights he had left.



The competition has begun...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Eyes Wide Open

I would like to live with my eyes wide open. I would like to live aware of my surroundings, aware of God working, aware of the world’s evolving. I would like to live to see: see people around me, hear what they are really saying, experience how they are really loving… and hating… and see clearly enough to forgive them. And I would like to have my eyes open wide enough to see when they have to forgive me. I would like to live with my eyes wide open so I don’t miss a minute. Not a minute of the sunshine or the storms, the sand or the waves that break upon it. I want to see to love, see to discern, see to be humbled by my place in the world and the grace God gives me every single day. I would like to live with eyes wide open.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Goo Goo Dolls Might Save Your Life

This is why sometimes it's helpful to listen to pop radio.

I always feel guilty when people talk about listening to NPR or books on tape or when they talk about learning how to speak a new language just by driving home from work.

But today I didn't.

Because today while listening to Fergie or someone finishing up her song I heard my dj say, "If your heading towards the eastside, stay off of 12th in between springdale and webberville... there's a man who's blockaded himself into a building and police have the area blocked off."

Um... did I mention I was driving home? Cause to get home, I take 12th street east, pass springdale and turn left onto webberville to get to my home just a few blocks down.

I'm just sayin.

When I got home (via MLK), I went to Clarence and Tommie's to tell them not to head that direction if they were planning on driving anywhere. And I called church to warn Willard who lives a block closer to 12th than I do. While Clarence and I were talking, we heard voices calling out through megaphones. And two gunshots.

Lovely.

So that's why sometimes it's beneficial to do nothing constructive in the car besides listen to your local pop radio station. Gulp. I said it. So there. Criticize all you want, I'm at home alive, safe and sound.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bump On the Knee: A Child's Thoughts.

When my sister shared the following story with me, I told her I just had to put in on my blog. She responded, "glad your bloggin my life now as well as your own." But despite her sarcasm, I just couldn't let this 2nd grade story go untold...


From "Miss Pittman's" perspective (i.e. my sister...)

"Christopher comes up to me this morning asking to see the nurse. I immediately see he is walking holding up one pant leg while pointing to his knee. He had a tiny bump on his right knee. ( My thoughts... bug bite) Anyway, Christopher could not let this small bump go. About 20 minutes later I see precious little Christopher raising his hand and continuing to tell me that there was a bump on his knee, I decided to send him to the nurse knowing that she would put some sort of antibacterial cream on it which cures every ache and pain in the childs mind.

"I write out the pass, while he stands at my desk and says 'Miss Pittman what if it's, ya know, puberty?' I simply cannot hold it in so I look up and smile while I continue filling out the pass (while there was not a place to check 'tiny bump on the knee' I checked 'other'). Then Christopher continues on, and I can see his mind turning. 'What if I have puberty you know, like when you start to get chest hair?'

"I couldn't help but laugh"


Neither can I.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

All Saints Day Service Beresheth

Tuesday was the two year anniversary of my friend Kyle’s death. He was thirty-three when he unexpectedly died. For those of you who think that’s “old,” consider this – that’s only three years older than me, you college minister and seven years younger than Kevin, your youth minister. And he died; he was electrocuted when he went to baptize a friend. He died in front of 800 people. He died in front of his wife, his parents, and his friends. I tell you this, not to elicit sympathy or to manipulate your emotional perceptions, I tell you this simply so that you know that I understand. On some small level, I understand death.

Well, I understand it insofar as I have experienced it – second hand. I have been affected by death. I have felt the surprise, the grief, the confusion, the denial, the acceptance and the remembering.

The remembering.

On Tuesday I read 36 blogs trying to find someone who would give me one little snip-it of a memory of Kyle or a good story or anything that would make him seem alive – or at least keep his memory fresh. Because I live in a city where no one knew Kyle, it helps me feel connected to hear from other people about my friend. And of course, it helps Kyle stay alive.

I’m sure you’ve heard stories of people dealing with grief, who, in an effort to keep the person around, never change anything in the bedroom of the deceased person, the closet, the desk – everything remains the same. It’s their way of dealing with loss – and perhaps it helps them feel less lost themselves.

There’s something to our inherent desire to keep around those who have passed on. Often we keep a trinket, a photo, a letter, a tee-shirt to remind ourselves of them.

Other times, we fear the thought of it. To quote the Witch on Into the Woods, “When you’re dead, you’re dead,” she says callously, trying to cope with the death of her daughter, Rapunzel. That’s how I felt when my father’s parents, my grandparents died one week to the day of each other. For months, I dreamt they were still around: still sitting at the table at Thanksgiving. Still hovering over the hor d’oerves, still lingering in the kitchen, near the front door, in our house. “Can’t you see them?” I’d incredulously yell at my mother in my dream. But it was like she couldn’t hear me. Finally to my grandparents, to the ghosts/yet-not-ghosts still showing up in my dreams I tentatively asked, and then begged them to leave, to die already, for good – to not come back.

It seems cruel, but it was what I needed. I needed relief from the pressure of losing my grandparents, from the pressure their death put on me emotionally, I needed them gone.

But Kyle, Kyle I need back. He was the first person to let me preach in a church – and not just once, over and over I filled in for Kyle when he was gone, and sometimes when he was there. He helped me develop my preaching voice simply by giving me the opportunity to preach when others would not. And although our relationship was not perfect, I miss Kyle.

Perhaps that’s why Paul or the author of Hebrews says, “take heart my beloved children, you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses…” Be it Kyle or my grandparents, the witnesses of God’s glory are with us, “with us on our journey” as Burt Burleson asserts in the quote on the wall. They are here. Their stories are our stories! They are part of the great meta-narrative of God’s story in the world. It begins with Adam, or with Heidelberg man or Lucy or with whatever being first evolved and recognized God as her creator. From there we get Abraham and Hagar and Sarah and Joseph and Tamar and Moses and Rahab and David and Jesus and Paul and Augustine and Francis and Julian and Luther and Schleiermacher and John Paul II and Kyle and you and me…

Our stories are all connected and they are all wrapped into the story of God, the story of God ushering in the Kingdom through his Saints, through us. Truly we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. They have passed their strength on to us. Their stories are re-told with our own. Their faith and un-faith have helped created the world we live in today. They are with us! They are the fog that we attempt to see through, to plot out our own story, unable to see past our noses, to set ourselves into the world with the seal of God upon our hearts.

Rejoice, rejoice, again I say rejoice. Blessed are you who mourn because you know what it is to have tasted something good – and you are better equipped to create something more delightful yourself. Blessed are you who love God and love others for you have caught a glimpse of what it means to be children of God. I will weep when you weep for I know what it means to grieve and I will rejoice with you at the chance you had to glimpse a bit of God imaged in another person.

We touch each other – we touch each other’s lives. What we do and what we say and who we are makes a difference. Despite what the world tells us – we matter, we matter to each other. Even when we’re gone, our legacy, who we are in God is not insignificant, rather it may be the most important thing we do – love one other so that we may share the love of God.

And when you feel inadequate, when you feel like no one likes you or your job sucks or your life feels meaningless, put that behind you and look to the great cloud of witnesses who have helped you, loved you along the well – some of which are gone, but most of which are still here with you; vow to be that for someone else. You are a witness to someone else. You help their light shine in the darkness by sharing just a bit of yours.

And so this All Saints Day, we remember the saints, and ultimately the sinners who have gone before us; who have helped light the path only to merge eventually with the Great Light themselves. For them, we give thanks, for the exotically great and for the painfully normal; we give thanks for their souls. We light candles and declare that we remember. We light candles and shun the darkness’s desire to stifle our joy. We give thanks for our great cloud of witnesses.

Amen.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Boobies!

Grandma sent me this one...

Strike of the Cat

It wouldn't be Halloween without a little blood, right?

So I locked the doggy door so the cats (and the dog) cannot get outside. That's because psychos like to catnap cats on Halloween because they're PSYCHO. So I shut my cats inside. Lord knows I don't need anymore drama.

But Zorba was pissed. Not gonna lie. So after crying for an hour, he finally settled down to sleep on the scrapbook I was working on for my college group at church. Bored and alone on Halloween I took to doing the only available and interesting activity: picking fleas off the cat.



Except Zorba, already irritated, didn't appreciate me digging through his long hair and pulling out the little demonic fleas to crush and crunch beneith my fingers. Grossed out? It's Halloween, get over it. So he stuck and, talking on the phone and picking fleas and not paying attention, I wasn't quick enough to avoid his snap. So I got bit. It's bruised and bleeding.

Sigh.

Halloween.

Happy Halloween

In honor of Halloween and celebrating with my family (in spirit) by eating my mom's chili (with fritos and pickles and saltine crackers), playing in my dad's old theatre greasepaint and traipsing through the wet leaves and shivering up to the houses in our neighborhood hoping for chocolate and not Smarties, I share with you a story written by a little boy in my sister's second grade class...

"one spooky nite a boy lost his shoe and a gost eat him. Bogl bogle. give me your candey or I will eat you."

Most Excellent.

Wah ah ah...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Looking For Something...

I clicked on 36 blogs today looking for memories, stories, anything I could feast on. Memories other than mine, ones that would make me smile. Not that mine don't make me smile (or guffaw), but sometimes remembering can be difficult. It requires a journey backward when we try so hard to go forward (read: forget). Not all anniversaries are pleasant. Some require remembering things we wish had never happened. Other anniversaries are full of joy. This anniversary, I oscillated between the two: sadness and joy. That's a good step, I think.

Craig gave me a little bit of both. I should have expected that.

He was mentioned last night at the Friends of Truett dinner at the BGCT convention. It startled me. I was having a typical boring convention day, then attended the delicious dinner for the sake of free food, then schmoozed with some people, and then he was there, staring at me, grinning. Grinning and dead. And he had an award named after him.

I didn't cry. Sometimes when I'm startled, I cry. But I just sat there, remembering, and trying not to remember.

Shit. Now I'm remembering again... the worst parts... the viewing... the casket.

See, that's why I went to 36 blogs. I guess it still freaks me out. And I don't want to panic or be sad - just remember and be thankful and remember that we're all on this journey together - no one's really gone.

So thanks Craig, and thanks Kyle. Tell God I said hello and thanks for the memories.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I Heart Halloween and Here's Why...

Guess who came to dinner?


Tinker Bell and her Pirate

Gypsie

A Canadian Flight Attendant

Marilyn Monroe

David Bowie

Two guys from The Office

A Tree Nymph

Nacho Libre

A guy with spiral horns on his head

Bob the painter

A Mayan Priest

A Gypsie

A deranged Bride

Wonder Woman

A Gay Pirate

Wolverine

Spiderman

Elpheba

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sunday through Tuesday

Since Dr. Pittman works 15 hour days, I only see her around 4am when we eat breakfast in the kitchen and for about an hour and a half in the evening when we eat dinner and hang out before she goes to bed. Consequently, I spend much of the day with Sophie the dog. Sophie and I go for walks, nap, read (ahem, i read and she naps more), play with the half-eaten purple ball that gets thrown up and down the hallway, and eat.

Oh, and she has a licking fetish. I'm not sure when this started, but she loves kissing now. Sometimes at night when I'm trying to sleep, I have to tuck my head under the covers to protect my face from her long wet tongue. At first it was cute. She gives kisses! Now, I'm afraid I've got dog cooties.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Saturday

The weather was beautiful.
"Are you sure you're going to be warm enough?" Amy warned, and we went to her closet to grab a scarf and dress coat.
But it was beautiful.
"Your face got sunburned!" Amy guffawed at me later that night. "How do you live in Texas and come to Chicago and get sunburned?!"
"I wear sun block in Texas!" I defended myself, giggling with her.

Mom bought us tickets to go see Wicked on Saturday for Amy's birthday. Oh. My. Gosh. I don't know how I lucked out on that birthday present, but I did. And it was the "best birthday present ever!" as Amy exclaimed. I bought her a tee shirt to commemorate it.

The morning started off at the Handlebar, this great little restaurant tucked into the bottom floor of a building. And the wait staff was to die for. These casual cuties could have been imported from Austin to this delicious dive. So Amy and I enjoyed both the food and the sights!



From there we took the El downtown and after identifying the theatre where we needed to be in a few hours, we began walking towards the lake. Except we didn't. We walked the wrong way. An hour later, we did reach the lake though and the beautiful park, fountains and statues that nestled beside it. Brent and Matt, who we'd intended to meet there, were nowhere to be found, so we headed back toward the Oriental.

But first we had to change our shoes. We'd been wearing walk-able ones since we left the house this morning, but now we were going to the theatre and true to form, we pulled out our heels. "I don't know how Jessica does it," Amy lamented after we had walked a block beautifully in our theatre shoes. "Jessica Simpson wears high heels every day," Amy had informed me earlier when we were walking forever in the wrong direction. "You probably never wear nice shoes at the hospital I guess," I replied, proud that I was fairing better in the heels than my always dolled up sister. "I haven't dressed up in months," she replied.

The Oriental Theatre was gorgeous with all kinds of exquisite animals and gods sculpted into the walls and ceilings. I tried to take a picture of them, but was promptly yelled at and so just admired them through my opera glasses.

Right before the show started, a man came by yelling about water he was selling. "What? Are we at a ballgame? Is nothing sacred anymore?" I muttered under my breath.
"Is he selling food?" Amy asked.
"Yeah," I said.
"Twizzlers!" He held them up. "I want those," she said in classic I've returned to childhood persona, petitioning me with her big eyes, and unable to resist her request, I pulled out three dollars and bought them for her.

The show was amazing. Amy turned to me at intermission, "Is it over?" She had tears in her eyes.
"No honey, its just intermission."
"Did you cry?" she asked me.
"No," I giggled, "but obviously you did."



I did cry at the finale. It's really a lovely story about scapegoating and the power of the powerful and the manipulated to decide what's good and what's evil, when it often claims no root in reality. It's about gumption and doing the right thing and friendship. Mostly, it's about friendship and love. That's why I cried. It was so neat to share that with one of my best friends.

So we bought matching tee shirts. Rather, I bought them for us. We called it part of her birthday present. The I heart Oz purple ringer tees with Elpheba and Glenda in the heart. They're way cute and I love that we both have matching ones.

After returning back to our side of town, we ran to the grocery store so we could eat dinner that night and I could cook us dinner the rest of the week. Shocker, I know. But I'm actually quite domesticated even if I can only cook three meals. No one's asking for your opinion.

So we ate onion soup and Amy went to bed. I watched four episodes of Grey's Anatomy on my computer and am content that I am all caught up. I'm not satisfied with the plot, but I am caught up. George and Izzie, I swear...

So that's it. That's Saturday. That was our one day together. And it was perfect. Two sisters, two friends, two pairs of shoes, two tickets, two witches, two meals, too much walking, too much fun.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Windy City

Well, I'm here. I'm officially covered in hair, bruises, scratches and slobber. Amy's lab Sophie devoured me as soon as I walked in the door. After swinging my luggage at her and shouting, "no" and "down" a bunch of times, I found the treats on the counter and life became more bearable.

Ah, Chicago.

Some things remain the same, even when we switch cities.

From the Airport, I took the El to the designated stop. It felt like I was back in Europe. I love public transit. When I emerged from the train, the grey skies and unfamiliar buildings were refreshing if daunting. There's something about joining with the ranks of humanity and bearing full force into a city. I think our politicians should ride public transportation. With one leg pressed against some over-sized man in sports paraphernalia, while the other guards your backpack under your seat, you've got one hand clutching your purse as the other peruses your iPod which is connected via headphones into one ear while the other ear waits for a call on your Bluetooth that your grandma bought you. Your eyes dart from the cute guy in worn, black jeans and a navy sports coat with a v-neck grey tee underneath to the suspicious men who man be plotting to steal your stuff. Which thief is giving his partner "the look?" The cute guy looks my age but his hands are dirty and his brow is furrowed. Is he having a bad day or is he homeless? Am I checking out a homeless guy? Blue-collar workers get on and off, all of color. The only white people are me, the hot guy, the sports guy, and the rich guy across the aisle, foolishly attempting a business call on the El. One young black girl sleeps with her head against the glass. She looks college age. I hope she doesn't miss her stop.

That's public transit. That's America. Politicians should be put in this position of being one of a million, of no consequence, getting on and off trains.

But right now Sophie's whining. Is she disappointed I'm not Amy? I toss her another treat and say the important words, "take it easy," so she doesn't bite off my hand.

Amy's apartment may be in the ghetto but it is beautiful and of course is decorated impeccably. Just Amy's style. Like blue walls, matching watercolors she painted herself, pictures of her family and friends on every mantle. There's one of me as a first grader. I'm dressed by my father the clothing store manager as if I stepped out of a GQ magazine and am a boy. I have on a blue button up shirt with a navy sweater over it. There is a yellow ribbon in my hair. Though I can't see them, I am sure I am wearing penny loafers on my feet, pennies and all. I look slightly caught off guard as if pictures aren't my thing, but are something I should make the most of. I look innocent but not child-like. Or perhaps child-like but not innocent. It's hard to pinpoint in my smile, which was always bigger and showing more teeth. Especially if I was laughing.

There's my mom and dad and grandma and grandpa, the sisters, both by blood and by nature. It's comforting and I feel like I'm at home.

While feeling like I'm in a foreign country all at the same time.

How did Amy end up in this cave of mystery, this den of unexplored territory? It's like fraggle rock only without all the colors.

I like it.

I like Chicago.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

TV is a drug and I'm addicted. There is nothing better (okay, that's an exaggeration - and i'm sure I just spelled that word wrong - you can correct me later dad) than sitting in a hotel room in a foreign city with nothing to do but watch tv. Okay, that's not exactly true either. You could read the five magazines you brought with you that you've been meaning to devour for the past two months. You could blog. You could read the news online. You could see if they have a workout room at this hotel. There's a plethora of things really. But with a tv is set right in front of your full size bed with fluffy pillows, and there are no pets, no people, no house, no job, nothing to feel guilty about not doing or saying or seeing or working on - well, that's just too difficult a temptation to resist.

House is my second favorite show on television and it's on tuesday night. So when i have the night off, I watch Bones and then House. It's rare, but it happens. Unfortunately there's some baseball game on, but baseball's no good if it's not watched right there in the stadium. So I began sufing the channels.

And I landed on TNT. I should've known better. TNT knows drama and i am a drama queen. So after a typical law & order a newer show that i had never seen came on, Cold Case

TNT loves those blonde cop heroines. So the premise of this show is that old cases get re-opened. You meet the original cast of whatever year the crime took place and then you meet them (the non-dead ones) now. The killer (pun intended) is that the solving of the case is really touching. Each episode ends in a song showing the young and older characters settling in wherever they are... having received closure on the death of their loved one, having been carted off to prison, wherever. But those songs they play... geez! I mean, give a girl a chance to recover from the meladrama before you throw in the soundtrack.

After four episodes of Cold Case and feeling quite fond of my friends on the show, I decided five hours of television was plenty (don't forget i started with Law & Order) and turned off the tv.

Now if i can just turn off my brain...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Golly. What a day.

It started this morning when I made an extra attept to wake up early (I set the alarm for 8:30 and woke up at 9ish) so I could go to work and get a lot accomplished today.

When I walked into the church the alarm went off.

Today was a holiday and I'd forgotten.

So instead of mailing information, I drove it to the workplace of the recipient. And I went to the hospital since residents on my block are having serious issues right now. Tommie, after some sort of heart/passing out/not getting enough oxygen to the brain issue went into the hospital two weeks ago tonight. Miracle of all miracles, she's alive and talking and so excited for visitors. So i chatted with her for awile about my halloween lights and the dogs and what's been going on lately with everyone.

My roommate on the other hand, went into the hospital yesterday after I received a phone call asking me for tums. Now, you must understand that my roomie does NOT take medicine. Consequently, anything that could actually push her so far over the edge as to ask for medecine isn't going to be remedied by Tums. Come on. After an apendectomy 12 hours later, she's better, but I got kicked out of her room for making her laugh (unintentionally!) and requiring her to get back on her oxygen. damnit. and i thought I was getting better at hospital visits. to make matters worse, when I left the hospital parking garage I backed into a car and had to leave a business card with an apology telling them to call me for insurance information. UGH!

But, having discovered it was a holiday and visiting my two friends and running some errands, and quite determined to make the most of it, I went to IKEA to buy a twin bed for my little! back bedroom. I had picked everything out online. Tonight, Frank put it together tonight while Joe H. and I watched. We ordered pizza hut pizza and drank miller light and it was seriously a blast of an evening.

So that's Monday. Unusual for Monday, but greatly appreciated. That you God for surprises good and bad. They are the world. And they remind us the world turns. Turn with us. Amen.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Oh kids. Halloween is on the way!!!




Janie got a new halloween bone and some casual halloween costumes for outings and parties (i haven't decided on a final halloween costume for her yet). Potter and Zorba both got new halloween collars.

Orange and Purple lights are hung on the house (all by myself thank you!). Three pumpkins of varying sizes have been bought and I'm still looking for a glow in the dark skeleton for the back yard!! Yea!

I love playing dress-up!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I've Been Lazy. Not Dead.

The Death of Blogs

I'm sorry I've been neglecting you. I write so my friends and relatives can stay connected with what's going on in my life. I used to write long emails telling funny antedotes about my life in Texas after I moved here. When I discovered that not everyone appreciated receiving those emails, I discovered the blog world. Now you get to choose whether or not to stay near even when we are far apart.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Luke 16:1-13 Sermon

Read the scripture first. If you're zealous, read it in the NRSV version and The Message. This is my attempt at a sermon on this very difficult text.


I do not understand this passage of scripture at all. I can’t even repeat to you what I said when I first read it. What a puzzling piece of literature. I can’t wrap my mind around it. I mean, I guess I get the “you can’t have two masters: god and money” part, but I don’t really get the rest. Especially the part that says, “for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” Excuse me? Non-God-oriented-people are being praised for being shrewd? Children of light are being chided for not being shrewd? Perhaps Jesus referencing the “be shrewd as a snake and innocent as a dove” verse. I don’t know though, for he goes on to say, “Make friends for yourself by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.” Use means of dishonest wealth? HUH?

Eugene Peterson’s The Message version puts it much more gently. Instead of calling the manager shrewd, he calls him “streetwise.” In this version, Jesus admonishes the person of the light to “use every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival.” Okay, that sort of makes sense. But is that what Jesus is saying? I mean, how does, “use dishonest wealth” translate into “use adversity to survive creatively”?

I love Peterson, but this is a bit of a stretch for me.

Perhaps the story Jesus is telling is ironic. What if it’s supposed to be satirical of the Pharisees who constantly abuse money and are of course standing around listening to him? What if the story isn’t for the “people of the light” at all, but rather is a rhetorical devise designed to undercut the Pharisees?

In other words, “you, who take people’s land when they can’t offer a big enough bird at the Temple, let me tell you a story. Here’s a story to you who own plenty of wealth while your people suffer. Once upon a time there was a dishonest manager who was fired, but figured out a way to manipulate a financial situation to save his ass. That is a smart man, let me tell you! Freaking brilliant man of God, right there. Only those like him will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Do you hear the irony, the disapproval, the judgment imposed on the Pharisees?

Read verses 10 and following, “whoever is faithful in little is faithful in much. If you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust you to the true riches?” Were the Pharisees fair in the way they dealt with their people? Not always. Why then should the people look to the Pharisees for spiritual guidance?

On the other hand, this could be said of us too. Why should we be entrusted with things of eternal value when we don’t even use the little we’ve been given? After all, we don’t always appreciate the sunrise and sunset every day. We don’t always feed the poor when we have plenty in our refrigerators. We get tired of listening to our co-workers complain about their lives and we get tired of offering the hope we’ve found. We have too much to do in our daily lives to use our gifts to serve God outside of our jobs.

Look at us! We don’t always take advantage of the resources, the gifts God has given us! And so we are not shrewd, we are not street-smart to use our resources to do what is right in the world. We don’t choose to live resourcefully. And in that way, we’re no different than the “children of this age.”

But that doesn’t change the fact that we are “children of light.” Even if we do come dangerously close to behaving like the Pharisees some days, we are not called “children of the Pharisees;” we are called “children of God.” But we are also called to accountability. We do not serve the God of money, we serve the God of love. Though we may make money, we mustn’t love money. We must use it resourcefully and creatively to bring redemption to our world. And if we don’t make money, we must take what gifts we have been given to offer hope to broken people.

Of course, first we must acknowledge what we have been given…

The parable before this is on the prodigal son, or rather, the loving father. God, the father in the parable, gives the son all he has and of course the son runs away with it to live how he pleases. He doesn’t acknowledge the gifts he has been given. When he realizes how foolish and abusive he has been of his father’s love, he runs home repentant and sad. But the father is good and forgives him and offers him his very best again. So must we acknowledge what God has given us, all the good things he has provided for us. We must not take our gifts and our blessings and use them for our own good. Rather we must stand up, and living in God’s kingdom, we must use these provisions to provide for others.

If that’s what I am called to do – okay. If I am called to subversively manage to help others while using the gifts I have been given by God – okay. If I am called to go against my American culture of materialism and greed, for the sake of equality and opportunity – okay. If I am called to stop the abuse of God’s creation and start taking care of the beautiful earth God’s given to humanity – okay. If I am called to use my gifts of teaching and singing and art to communicate the hope I’ve found in God – okay. If I am called to take my seminary education and use it to disciple others – okay. If I am called to claim my identity as a follower of Christ even when the media paints Christianity in an evil hue – okay. Okay. Okay. Okay.

I’m ready to stand up for what is right. I’m ready to use the unique gifts God’s given me. I’m ready to be called shrewd and cunning and smart. But innocent too. A child of the light, working diligently even after hours, even in the dark to bring about the kingdom of God.

I choose to serve God.

Amen.

Rev. Ann Catherine Pittman
Bereseth
September 26, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom!

60 years ago today my mother was born. 30 years ago today my mother found out she was pregnant. I'm sure nothing can compare to that birthday greeting, but from that baby growing in your womb thirty years ago, here's hoping this day and this year is your best year yet. I love you.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jena 6

Maybe you pay more attention to the news than me, but I just learned about a case of segregation-era oppression happening today in Jena, Louisiana. It literally makes me sick at my stomach. So, I signed onto Color Of Change's campaign for justice in Jena, and want to invite you to do the same. The story as circulated by the NAACP and Snope's version of the story with updates is at Snopes.com Here's the version I heard...

Last fall in Jena, the day after two Black high school students sat beneath the "white tree" on their campus, nooses were hung from the tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," more Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney then came to the school accompanied by the town's police and demanded that the students end their protest, telling them, "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy... I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen."

A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

It's a story that reads like one from the Jim Crow era, when judges, lawyers and all-white juries used the justice system to keep blacks in "their place." But it's happening today. The families of these young men are fighting back, but the story has gotten minimal press.

The noose-hanging incident and the DA's visit to the school set the stage for everything that followed. Racial tension escalated over the next couple of months, and on November 30, the main academic building of Jena High School was burned down in an unsolved fire. Later the same weekend, a black student was beaten up by white students at a party. The next day, black students at a convenience store were threatened by a young white man with a shotgun. They wrestled the gun from him and ran away. While no charges were filed against the white man, the students were later arrested for the theft of the gun.

That Monday at school, a white student, who had been a vocal supporter of the students who hung the nooses, taunted the black student who was beaten up at the off-campus party and allegedly called several black students "nigger." After lunch, he was knocked down, punched and kicked by black students. He was taken to the hospital, but was released and was well enough to go to a social event that evening.

Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder. The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal's parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the judge could see them.

The Jena Six are lucky to have parents and loved ones who are fighting tooth and nail to free them. They have been threatened but they are standing strong. We know that if the families have to go it alone, their sons will be a long time coming home. But if we act now, we can make a difference.

You can make a difference by demanding that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco get involved to make sure that justice is served for EVERYONE by going to color of change

Racism is alive in America. White people, wake up! This is your battle too. An injustice done to an African American or a Caucasian is an injustice to ALL of us, no matter what our race. Humanity is humanity and we all deserve a shot at living a life where at the very least, in the courtroom, justice prevails and the punishment fits the crime. Life will not always be fair but we shouldn't expect our communities to function with nooses hanging from trees, schools being burned, youth being ignored or threatened by adults, and students being beaten. Do your part to end racism where you live. Speak the truth, stand up for those whose voice is not well heard, and live as though we were all created in the image of God. Because all we, God's children, were...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

ACL 2007

I was quite excited about ACL 2007 having had a love-hate relationship with the past two years of my Austin City Limits experience. Suffice it to say, my first year I was there (briefly) with my mother when we watched my beloved Death Cab for Cutie (whom she kept calling Deadly Taxi) and not only was it 107 degrees and a dust bowl (i know you all remember), but after remarking at the strong smell of weed, my mother spoke loudly enough for everyone within a tweny foot radius to hear, "I wonder if they're parents know they're smoking pot!?" At which point I pulled my pink cowgirl hat down over my face and we left.

This year I think I actually got high off of second hand smoke at the Stephen Marley concert.

But I guess that's to be expected. He's a Marley. The cloud of pot smoke was thick above the crowd. I left half-way through to go get something to eat.

However, that smoke was not as thick as the black mushroom that dominated the north east corner of the park on Friday. I was watching Pete Yorn play and noticed a lot of fans around me looking away from the stage. Weirdo's, I thought. But when I noticed the whole band on stage all looking the same direction as they sang, I became supicious. Was Elvis behind me? Some other famous icon? No.

I turned around to discover that a trailor and truck had blown up and a huge fire with black smoke was shooting up through the trees. Awesome. They stopped the concert briefly for announcements but everyone remained calm. Pete Yorn motioned prayer hands toward the cloud and the concert continued. On a mostly unrelated note, Pete Yorn wins for hottest arms. Not gonna lie.


Later that night we experienced fire number two when a speaker began shooting flames right as Bjork was "ending" her set. An encore was planned, so they merely waited for the security guy to spray a fire extenguisher on it before coming back on for the encore. Bjork of course needed no fire to spice up her show because she was PHENOMINAL. Definately suitable for my expectations. The stage had banners that I think were Kabhala symbols. Her brass ensemble from Iceland were in colorful garments that glowed when the black lights were on. Bjork herself was clothed in a large gold shimmery frock. Her music is so beautiful and creative, it was hard not to love it. Although I wasn't so convinced as i STOOD for 5.5 hours at the front of the AT&T stage before her concert. Shoot me now. But it turned out to be completely worth it once her show started.

What wasn't worth it was waiting for Regina Spektor. I hate to say it, but it's true. Regina was fabulous and definately wins the award for most awed by ACL and appreciative of the fans. But Angie and I busted our butts to get up close and i refused to empty my baseball sized bladder only to discover that although we were only two people away from the gate holding back the crowd, when Regina sat down, we couldn't see her behind the piano. it was disappointing, to say the very least. So I spent the rest of the concert with my neck craned to the east trying to see the jumbotron tv screen and block out the terribly loud hispanic women behind me singing along with EVERY WORD. But Regina's smile made everything all right. She was so adorable in her humility towards the crowd and getting to play ACL. She's rad.

Damien Rice also knocked our socks off. Granted, I LOVE him anyway, but in the middle of his set, his electric guitarist sat down on a bongo box (sorry, i don't know the real name for it) and began playing that in addition to the snare and high hat that were in front of him. He and the drummer began a drum solo/duet that even shut up the annoying college kids standing around chatting and waiting for Muse. At one point, I had to actually tell a drunk college kid to please stop talking to me because i was trying to watch the absolutely amazing show. Unbelievable. (The concert and the chit chat).

Winner of best crowd of fans has to go to Indigo Girls. Definately the most chill, the most fun, the least pushy, the best to dance to... just really fantastic. And even though they weren't the "headliners" the audience went so nuts when they were through, they came back on (to their own surprise) and played an encore. So genuine and still such fabulous musicians.

Also still going strong was Blonde Redhead. Their electronics were fantastic and I especially loved when she looped her voice and then sang over it. Very, very cool.

Spoon definatley wins LAMEST concert of them all with no verbal reference to Austin (even though they're from here), only one thank you, and a generally bored disposition. DeVotchKa was a surprisingly delightful concert and from the tuba to the accordian it was generally fantastic. Ben Kweller was fine (no coke-induced nose bleed this year) although I couldn't get over how YOUNG he looked. Holy cow. I would have guessed 15 if I'd have met him on the street. But then when a close-up of his hands reveiled a wedding band, I assumed I was wrong. But the man has NO FACIAL HAIR. He looks like a really talented little kid who writes great music. Joss Stone has a beautiful voice and great back-up singers, but was a thumbs down for me because her songs all sounded the same lyrically and musically.



ANN'S OVERVIEW:
Best Arms Playing the Guitar: Pete Yorn
Cutest Band Members: DeVotchaKa (lead singer and drummer!)
Best Show: Bjork
Best Drum Solo: Damien Rice
Best One Person Band: Regina Spektor (at one point she was drumming with one hand on a wooden chair, banging her foot on something on the stage and playing piano with the other hand)
Best Audience: Indigo Girls
Most Fun (overall concert): Indigo Girls
Most Exciting: Bjork
Most Adorable and Terribly Talented: Regina Spektor
Most Disappointing Performance: Spoon
Most Disappointing Choice of Crowd Placement On My Part: Damien Rice or Regina Spektor
Most Inspiring: Indigo Girls
Band With the Most Songs That Got Stuck In My Head: Blonde Redhead
Band I Will Most Likely Beg to Let Me Sing Back-up For: Damien Rice (he sang all the girl parts in falsetto)
Performer Who May Have Driven Me to Quit My Day Job: Regina Spektor.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Vehicular Violations

I felt a little violated when I woke up this morning. It wasn't because I remembered that six years ago terrorists hijacked at least four planes and attempted to kill innocent people, destroy american morale and shock our government. It was because something was wrong with my front yard.

As I unlocked my car after having slept through my alarm and awakened late for work, I realized that my roommate's bike lock that she uses to lock up her two bikes was in my driveway and not wrapped around the bikes... and was it...? it was... snipped, clean through.

We were robbed.

I surveyed the area: my roommate had owned two bikes. There were still two bikes at the house (three counting mine). One i found in the backyard, the one with the flat tire that busted last month. It was leaning against the house next to my piece of crap bike which is locked in only by the giant weeds entangling it. The other bike was laying on the ground in the side yard where her two bikes had been locked to a pole.

I was confused, so i called her at work. No answer, but she promptly texted back. Ah the beauty of communicating undercover. "If you're calling about my bike, it was stolen. Will you put the blue one in the back yard for me?" "Um, sure." But why are there still two bikes at my house?

Later I came to realize that not only did someone steal my roommate's $350 bike, her bike headlights, bike basket and helmet, but he left his own bike in my front yard as a trade-in! Apparently, after spotting Melissa's bikes, taking both of them for a test drive and then choosing the bike with the non-flat tire, he decided hers was better than his and he swapped bikes! And of course took all of her accessories.

Ridiculous.

So now, inside my house in my roommate's room are her busted tire bike (cause she doesn't want to risk it being stolen too) and the thief's bike. Very strange.

Very strange to have lost something and yet be left with something of the person's who took it. A constant reminder of your loss.

I suppose she will take the bike to Good Will after the police look at it, but still, the thief's bike is in her bedroom. The perpetrator's possession is in the victim's possession.

I'm having trouble processing that.

911

Love your enemies. It's a hard lesson on days like today.

Six years later we're still feeling empty, hopeful, angry and confused.

Six years later, we're still learning how to forgive.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Reflections on Luke 14:7-24

Yesterday as I sat in church, a giant of a man, mentally handicapped, sat behind me breathing so loudly, if I closed my eyes, it was easy to picture myself in a hospial with a respitory machine at my left shoulder... or maybe Darth Vader.

As Roger began preaching from the lectionary text, I heard a small voice coming from within the congregation. I looked at the woman sitting next to me and we smiled at each other, both recognizing and confirming the sound. It was a little girl, situated among the adults, so content with her placement that she was humming. Though I couldn't find her, I pictured her looking down at whatever picture she was drawing, or puzzle she was working, humming. Happily humming to herself.

The text was on the banqueting table, and never taking your place of honor, but remaining humble to be put in your place only by the host. Similarly, it was on who we invite to the feast, leaving the door open enough to not offer the easy invitations to our friends, the prestigious, the ones who make us look good, or the ones who are easy to be around. It is about being humble enough, comfortable enough with who we are, to acknowledge the least of these, those who really need to be at the banqueting table.

Roger said, if this doesn't make your stomach turn, you're either made it to true humility or you aren't processing what I've said. Invite the least.

I was sitting by Darth Vader and the humming child and I understood what he meant. And as I pictured in my mind the most difficult people it would be for me to invite to honor in my house, to shower a great feast upon, to spend time with, and as I lamented the thought, I was also struck by the beauty of where I was in that moment. I was a actually sitting by some people's least of these, and it was a beautiful picture of community.

I could tell that some people around the giant man whose breathing could be heard for pews and pews looked around with irritation. But others shook his hand and asked how his week had been. Some rolled their eyes at the little girl who never stopped humming, while others giggled and shrugged their shoulders. This was community. One another infringing on each other, overlapping the circles of our lives to join together before God.

The least of these and the greatest of these, all humbled before the cross, before communion, before the confirmation we receive as children of God. All ready to partake of the feast.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Ann is...

On facebook, the world's best networker, one's "status" is displayed as such, "Ann is..." and then you may fill in the blank. I like this feature, and moving beyond the "Ann is at home" or "Ann is at work," it's a fun way to communicate what you're thinking, doing, experiencing, etc.

So I thought I'd give the blogworld a taste. Ann is...

...relieved people only have to get tetnus shots once every ten years cause Ann can't even raise her left arm right now.

...thankful for Joe and Benjamin who chopped down a cherry tree in her front yard today. George Washington must've had a hell of a time doing it by himself.

...officially starting her new job as Minister to Young Adults and of Creative Discipleship today even though today is her day off. Startin' off strong!

...missing her sisters and wishing she could see them sooner than later.

...laying in bed with her computer and her cat after an exhausting day of watching boys labor in her yard for the mere price of an El Chilito lunch.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

three holes make a puncture wound

um, i was bitten by a dog today.

i am not lying.

janie and i were exercising via walking and the dog came up around behind me and lashed out at janie. i pulled on janie's leash to get her away from the dog and started yelling "no!"

the dog circled behind me and i expected him to go at janie again, but instead it bit me on the leg.

bit me on my damn calf!

of course i screamed out in pain and shock. and screamed "no!" some more and scurried up the street. the dog's owner came out and called the dog in back behind the fence (where he should be!) while i ran to put janie inside and wash the wound.

long story short: doctor's office, animal control, antibiotics, a dog owner who doesn't speak english, doctor's bills.

but i think i'm fine. a little traumatized, but generally fine.

the question is: who remembers when i got my last tetnus shot? 1994 or 2002?

crap.