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Saturday, December 27, 2008

When Hackers Ruled the World

I don't know why but this article about a guy who tried to take over all the hacking industry (um... i'm not sure this is what it's called) really fascinated me. Check it out if you've ever had your credit card stolen or feared credit card theft.

This man has a gift, a talent, a joy. it's just that it happens to manifest itself as criminal activity. The crazy part is, I always thought credit cards were stolen by pickpocketers. I'm so naive. This article is nuts.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

'Twas the Night Before Christmas... at the Pittman's

'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse
(neither were the squirrels in the attic but that's another story)

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicolas soon would be there;

Little Emily was nestled all snug in her bed,
While visions of iPhones danced in her head;

Carol in her jammies, and Mike in his cap
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.

Away past the window I flew like a flash
Tore open the door by where coats are all stashed;

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But my sister, Amy, and her doggy so dear,

With a giant, spry labrador, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment that it wasn't St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles my dog also came,
And we whistled, and shouted, and called them bad names;

"Now, Sophie! now, Janie! now, stop that! Get down!
No barking! No jumping! Stop horsing around!

To the top of the couch! to the top of the wall!
They dashed away! dashed away! dashed away all!"

So all over house then the coursers they flew,
Drug their leashes behind, and their mommies too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the stair
The determined descent of the one with red hair.

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the stairs Crazy Carol came with a bound.

A wink of her eye and a twist of her head,
Soon gave us to know we had nothing to dread;

She spoke not a word, but went straight to the fridge,
And pulled out two bones; then turned with a jerk,

And pointing her finger at the fighting canines,
And giving a nod, they sat on their behinds;

She sprang to the microwave, punched defrost, set the clock
And the tails they both swished liked they'd just hit the jackpot.

Then I heard her exclaim, ere she tossed them the bones..
Merry Christmas to all, and to family come home!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Vacation Day 1: Driving and Sleeping

But not behind the wheel, thank God.

When I left Austin, Texas it was 46 degrees. When I arrived in Wichita, Kansas it was 11 degrees. I lost about ten per state. And yes, it is cold. Uber cold.

Janie is pacing around the motel room. i can't tell if she's still checking the place out or just really has to pee. But it's so cold, I don't want to take her out again.

Ha! Now's she's stopped to look at herself in the full length mirror. Fabulous. My dog's a narcissist. Or just recognizes super duper cuteness when she sees it. One of the two.

The cats are probably shivering since I turned off the heat and... yes... left them in Austin. I know. I was teary when I pulled out of the driveway too. Anyone left in Austin over the holidays, feel free to go visit them. Even Satan's Little Helper gets lonely, you know. Clarence the wonder-neighbor is feeding them.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Toujours Tingo

Hilarious. Words we use. I mean, who knew there even was a sound that a grandfather clock makes right before it strikes and who knew we would need to name that sound?

I also like the word for the person chosen by a woman to tell her boyfriend she's broken up with him. You mean that happens outside of the sixth grade?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Loving God: A Sermon

No, Jesus cannot be your boyfriend.

I overheard a couple of young ministers talking once about the singles ministry at their church in podunctville, tx (I should have known the story was going downhill). He said that for Valentine’s day the ministry was throwing a "Jesus Is My Valentine" party.

No.

No. No. No.

You may not throw a party with that title.

Bad theology. Bad gimmick. Bad idea.

What does that tell singles?
"No one wants you but Jesus... lucky you!"
"You're too ugly to get a real boyfriend, so you get Jesus!"
"That bit about a nice personality doesn't date well, but an invisible savior does!"

I can't believe we buy into that. Jesus is not our lover. Gross. He's a god, not a boyfriend. We don't snuggle up with God under a plush blanket and watch chick flicks. We don't get flowers from God. We don't kiss God good night. And we sure as hell don't...well...you know….

Yuck. Not to mention that if you call God "Him," you've got a bunch of single men calling God their Valentine. So I guess homosexuality isn’t an issue for conservatives anymore?

Okay, I know. I've crossed the line. It's just that I hate that crap. I hate feel-good, cheesy, substitute-Jesus-for-what-culture-says-I'm-lacking-in crap. It's not right.

Yes, Jesus loves you.
Yes, people love you.
Yes, you are okay single and alone.
Yes, it sucks that your friends are being mushy with their significant others and you're going to watch your 159th rerun of Sex in the City. But it's all good. I love Sex in the City.

So if that’s not what it means to love God, what does it mean? What does it mean to love Jesus?

Jesus tells us during his ministry that the greatest commandment is to love God. He pulls from the ancient Jewish code to Love God as well. You can see those scriptures posted on the wall. So what does loving God look like? What does that mean? Jesus elaborates by saying that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor, so perhaps loving our neighbors is a fleshing out of what it means to love God.

But it seems to me that somewhere in between Jesus is my boyfriend and I love God through social justice, there has to be a middle ground.

In the Christmas story, the magi, the astrologers, the three kings, whatever you want to call them showed up at Jesus’ playpen with three fantastic and expensive gifts. They were the intellectuals of their day using reason and science to get to the baby King. The shepherds were there before them though, travelling with their sheep, their livelihood, perhaps in fear from the appearance of the angels, perhaps in awe of something so full of love that even shepherds could get a slice of it. There were also the devout religious people who greeted the baby. And although we don’t include them in our nativity scenes, Simeon and Anna spent hours in prayer, pouring over scripture, waiting for the appearance of the messiah only to have him placed in their arms. All these people, the scholars, the blue-collar workers, the religious fanatics, all journeyed in their own way to see the child-king.

What was their motivation?

What is ours?

Is the answer love?

While I don’t tend to get along well with the types of people who put this on their car and while we all still manage to anger each other in traffic, I can appreciate the bumper sticker: “real men love Jesus.” According to Society in 2008 Men are supposed to be strong, financial providers, hard-hearted. They don’t like chick flicks, they don’t cry at funerals and they sure as hell don’t get all mushy about God. So while I would never date a man with this bumper sticker on his car, I appreciate the counter-cultural nature of it’s text: I can surrender, I can let down my guard, I can admit that I am weak, I can admit I can’t do this on my own, I know I need a Savior… Real Men Love Jesus.

Real men love their wives too. They understand that when Jesus hollers at the Pharisees when they ask him about divorce: “should the woman serve the papers, or can just a man divorce his wife, blah, blah, blah;” what Jesus is really telling the Pharisees is, “it doesn’t matter!” What does matter is that the Pharisees are missing the whole point of love. While the law is concerned with rules, God is concerned with the heart. So who cares who serves who the divorce papers? “Don’t even look at a woman lustfully,” Jesus says. Because at the root of the issue is love, not the law. Before there is divorce there is adultery. Before there is adultery there is lust. Before there is lust, there is a heart and mind that views women as objects. This is an issue of the heart, Jesus says.

So what motivates you?

What’s in your heart?

It’s pretty easy to love a baby boy in a manger, but as Carley Bobby says in Talladega Nights, “Jesus did grow up.” So what does it mean to wrestle with the idea that a God became a man? What does it mean to love a God who asks us to pray for our enemies? What does it mean that God died on a cross and in doing so supposedly wiped away our sin? Does it make you grateful? Teary-eyed? Or just confused?

Sometimes it’s easier to feed a homeless person than it is to accept the idea that God loves you.

Sometimes it’s easier to donate all your giftedness to the church: singing in choirs, going to Sunday school, buying presents for Angel Tree children than it is to explore what it means to live completely surrendered and dependent on God.

Sometimes it’s easier to memorize all the stories and know all the answers and heck maybe even some of the questions too than it is to admit that your life is changed, that your heart is changed because of your relationship with Jesus Christ.

I don’t know where that leaves us except in a place of mystery. And so this holiday season I pray that in the baby you will experience the wonder, mystery and joy of God becoming like us. And as that baby grows into a child, so will your relationship with Him grow as you learn God’s character and begin to model it in your own life. And the child grows into a teen and you begin to take greater steps yourself, steps of spiritual discipline, challenging yourself to grow. And the teen becomes a man and suddenly you realize that man who will die on a cross is as fragile as your own humanity and yet it is infused with God and on God you will both rely, live and eventually die. Greater love has no man than this that he would lay down his life for a friend and so Jesus did as well. For a friend, for a dream, for a kingdom. And now it’s our turn to love so deeply, so intimately that we would die to ourselves to live in Christ.

Amen.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Chuckle and a Smile

Most amusing headline of the day: Wonder why Illinois governor didn't just put Obama's seat on eBay? by John Kelso, Austin American Statesman's Opinion Columnist. What a mess.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Christmas Sermon

I have a secret... I don't like Christmas.

Remember when you were a kid and you used to ask your friends, "What's your favorite holiday?" and then you'd quickly qualify it with "...Other than Christmas." I heard myself asking someone that earlier this year and a thought blew threw my mind, "Actually Christmas isn't my favorite holiday." But I quickly identified it as heresy and as soon as it had appeared in my head it was gone.

After some hard speculation this week though, I've decided it's actually the case: Christmas is not my favorite holiday.

Now, Halloween, I love. Yes, the devils' holiday. The holiday some Christians won't even "celebrate" or acknowledge because it's so anti-Jesus or pro-Satan or something. I don't know. The Devil only showed up to one of my Halloween parties and he looked suspiciously like my friend Alysa Little, so quite frankly I'm not confident it was really him.

But I like Halloween. I like Halloween because you get to be creative and dress up and pretend you're someone you're not and everyone knows you're pretending because they're pretending too and it's not the kind of pretending you have to go to therapy over, it's just fun and it makes people laugh. And not only do you have the Princesses and the Super Heroes and the Cartoon characters but you've got the ghosts and ghouls and an occasional hobo. So I like Halloween; it’s well rounded.

But I’m starting to not like Christmas. Because at Christmas many people put up beautiful decorations all over their houses, their offices even sometimes their cars: silver bells and gold balls and red bows and draped greenery and shimmering lights and on and on and on. At my parents’ house each room is color coordinated. There's the gold room where the decorations are predominately gold or gold glitter. The bows are gold, gold stars are wrapped into the garland. It's the gold room. Likewise we have the pink and white room with the softer colored tree ornaments and the white ribbons and the pink poinsettias and the white angel on top of the tree. And finally there is the red room. Nutcrackers, ornaments, bows, ribbons, lights, bears, plants, all are decorated with white lights and red or complimentary to red... things.

And it is beautiful.

Beautiful.

Every Christmas in high school and especially in college I would think of any excuse to have a party and invite friends over to see my house. It is breathtaking and homey with a fire in the fireplace and a family that gets along most of the time and cinnamon cider on the stove and delicious little delicacies in the oven...

It was great. And everyone always loved being there even if it was a little cold in that old drafty house.

But for some reason now I almost resent it. While I will appreciate the decorations, the house is beautiful without them. While I know churches work hard on putting together special music or dramas, I'd just as soon stick to a normal Sunday schedule. And my father knows I gave up on picking out "the perfect tree" years ago even when I lived in town and was able to attend that ritualistic family outing.

So why? Why isn't Christmas my favorite holiday anymore?

No, it's not because of commercialization. It's not because we spend a lot of money giving people we love presents. It's not because "the secular world" has taken over our "religious celebration." Please. Look at what we've stolen from them.

I think it's because I hate pretending.

But didn't you just say that Halloween is your favorite holiday because you get to pretend?

Yes. But we all know we're doing it.

What I hate about Christmas is the pretend perfection of it: the effort spent beautifying things that aren't inherently beautiful. The effort spent lighting up and decorating and lives when our souls remain hidden dully in darkness. The dressing up of what's down. I hate pretending when people pretend they aren't pretending. Glowing lights on your house doesn’t always mean you’re glowing on the inside. Finding the tallest fullest tree doesn’t fill up the emptiness in your heart. It makes me feel like I’m faking Christmas cheer.

I've never been one for living like that. When I was six I told my babysitter I hated the hamburger she made me for lunch and I did. It was a big fat hamburger (I evidently recognized I wasn't fond of meat at an early age) cooked and then placed on a slice of raisin bread. Seriously? Who puts a slab of beef on cinnamon raisin bread? Gross. So when she asked me if I liked it, I didn’t even try to pretend. “No,” I said.

This inability to "fake it" has carried with me.

Do you like wearing dresses? No.
Do you like Chemistry? No.
Do you like sexism? No.
Do you think racism is a good thing? No.
Do you think adultery is cool? No.
Do you think the porn industry should get tax breaks? No.
Do you think having a sweet little baby will solve a couple's marital issues? No.
Do you think a little baby Jesus will solve your salvation issue? No. No I don't.

I Don't.

I don't think you can decorate your depravity and sing happy songs about a baby being born and suddenly expect to have meaning in your life!

It's dishonest.

But maybe it’s a means to an end. If we sing about Jesus maybe we’ll start to believe in Jesus. If we dress up in pretty red velvet maybe we’ll start to feel pretty inside. Maybe not.

And so I’m having trouble getting into the carols and the costumes and the lights and the decorations… it feels too dishonest.

Maybe it'd be a little better if we hung hobo ornaments on our tree. Hung pictures of our broken families on our walls. Framed our divorce certificates and put our D+ test scores on the fridge. Maybe we could get a gift for that lump growing in mom's breast. Put an ankle bracelet on the snowman we rolled in our front yard - he's under house arrest, you know.

I hate that we put so much effort into making life beautiful that we miss the absolute ugliness of it.

Perhaps I'm bothered by this because it's actually in the ugliness that I find Jesus. In a feces-splattered, dark and dingy barn we find an exhausted mother and a father cleaning up afterbirth.

Last night on the tea bag I put into my mug full of hot water, I read, "Let things come to you."

"Please," I thought. “Nothing comes to you. You have to work hard for everything. Grades. Promotions. Relationships. Book deals. Physical health and beauty. Nothing comes to us. We have to go and get it.”

Grumpily, I passed my decorated palm plant and slumped down into the couch next to my decorated fake evergreen tree. I felt overwhelmed by the desire to make the world a better place in 2009 when Christmas is over and we look to New Year’s. Unfortunately, I completely lack the confidence to do so though, let alone the know-how. And then I realized I was wrong. Christmas and New Year’s and even Peace on Earth isn’t about that. I was wrong.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Jesus comes to us.

In a world that asks us to give give give to this charity, that organization, this board, that event, this church, that family...
In a world that expects us to work work work for happiness, for success, for money, for normalcy, work to be the best...

What if it's time to receive receive receive?

Stop pretending. Stop pretending that the pretty lights and the purple stoles and the gingerbread houses and the scented candles and the olive wood creches cover the stench of our lives... the stench of a stable.

And the receive the gift, the gift of salvation that started before there was a baby and a virgin, even before there was a prophecy and a people... a savior before there was earth but on earth came into the chaos we call life and lived and laughed and said yes and said no and was put to death for saying to much and came alive again because he had much more to say... a gift of salvation that keeps on speaking into our lives and saving us every single day.

So let it come to you. Stop seeking and working to make things look better this holiday season on your house or in your heart, because Jesus has come to wrap you in the most beautiful gift of all... life…lived honestly…amidst the slime of sin with the sacredness that only comes in receiving the Savior.

Stop. Stop the dreams, the wish lists, the therapy sessions, the home makeovers. Stop trying and start receiving.

The light is already shining...

It’s a difficult concept for a culture that doesn’t take siestas, a culture that takes their iPhones with them on vacation. A culture that pushes students to prep their resumes for college, pushes moms to have the baby and the career all at once, pushes dads to give so much to their family that they spend more time making money than they do making memories.

When resumes require job experience and education and continuing education and field work and community volunteering and the model family…

When are we ever told to receive?
Where does that go on the resume? When is that listed in our job description? When were we graded on that in school?

When are we told to receive, to stop trying, to get the gift of grace?
When are we told to stop praying and volunteering and trying to be the best and to instead receive the best: the baby in a barn, a stable, a cave?

Receive the love of God. Receive the salvation of Christ. Stop fretting for it. Stop working for it. Stop pretending you’re full and start letting go. Release your grip on the Christmas lights and see the stable. Remember what brought Jesus into this world and remember that we’re still waiting for God’s Kingdom to be realized on earth. And when you do that, pause. Let the grief overwhelm you. Let your sin embarrass you. Let yourself go, and be released into the arms of a child, of a Savior.

And hang a picture of that on your Christmas tree.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Lisa and the Legless Man

So on Facebook there are these magical little things called "status updates" and it works like it sounds. You update your status ("Ann is sick"... "Ann is at work"... "Ann is wishing she wasn't at work"... "Ann is still sick"... etc. and Facebook tells your friends you've updated your status so they may always keep an eye on you - oops, i mean, keep up with you.

So a few days ago I read this in my newsreel about my friend Lisa in Africa (I've written about her before)...

"Lisa was acosted and held hostage by a man without legs. [yes, i'm fine.]"

And yes, what you just uttered under your breath or perhaps exclaimed out loud is exactly what i said.

So of course all of her friends instantly begged for more details on her facebook page to which Lisa responded with this brief recap:

"let's just say, christmas shopping in monrovia doesn't exactly put one in the 'christmas spirit'! downtown + drunk, former rebel fighter + white woman = opportunity for financial gain! the guy grabbed my legs then followed me in to the car...hopped on my lap and wouldn't leave the vehicle until he got his money. 10 min. later, legless man still not budging and 25 people surrounded the car yelling and adding to the chaos - best show in town apparently! all ended well somehow...although not sure what the crowd did to my little friend after we left...ah, sweet christmas memories in monrovia."

Obviously, I can not add anything else to this story, so i will stop now.

Except to say... I have the coolest friends with the craziest lives.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Oh To Be Rich

...and "struggling." Check out this excerpt from an article in Vanity Fair. My favorite is the coupon lady...

Only months ago, ordering that $1,950 bottle of 2003 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon at Craft restaurant or the $26-per-ounce Wagyu beef at Nobu, or sliding into Masa for the $600 prix fixe dinner (not including tax, tip, or drinks), was a way of life for many Wall Street investment bankers. “The culture was that if you didn’t spend extravagantly you’d be ridiculed at work,” says a former Lehmanite. But that was when there were investment banks. Now many bankers, along with discovering $15 bottles of wine, are finding other ways to cut back—if not out of necessity, then from collective guilt and fear: the fitness trainer from three times a week to once a week; the haircut and highlights every eight weeks instead of every five. One prominent “hedgie” recently flew to China for business—but not on a private plane, as before. “Why should I pay $250,000 for a private plane,” he said to a friend, “when I can pay $20,000 to fly commercial first class?”

The new thriftiness takes a bit of getting used to. “I was at the Food Emporium in Bedford [in Westchester County] yesterday, using my Food Emporium discount card,” recounts one Greenwich woman. “The well-dressed wife of a Wall Street guy was standing behind me. She asked me how to get one. Then she said, ‘Have you ever used coupons?’ I said, ‘Sure, maybe not lately, but sure.’ She said, ‘It’s all the rage now—where do you get them?’”

One former Lehman executive in her 40s stood in her vast clothes closet not long ago, talking to her personal stylist. On shelves around her were at least 10 designer handbags that had cost her anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 each.

“I don’t know what to do,” she said. “I guess I’ll have to get rid of the maid.”

Why not sell a few of those bags?, the stylist thought, but didn’t say so.

“Well,” the executive said after a moment, “I guess I’ll cut her from five days a week to four.”

Friday, December 05, 2008

Promptness is next to Godliness when it comes to Godless Christmas shopping.

Dear Family,

I have yet to receive any of your Christmas lists. Dad usually requires us to have them by Thanksgiving which means you're tardy. My list was posted on time of course. :) However, since Dad also likes our lists to be decorated creatively with markers and glitter and chalk and whatever else you artists can muster up and since I have no talent in this area, mine is just a typed list with links to items. Grr. Deal with it. Maybe I'll creatively sing my list to you when I get home or something. Anyway, if I'm going to lose the creative award with regard to Christmas lists as always, at least I'll win the most timely award.

Long story short, either fax or email me your duly decorated lists pronto, otherwise, lord only knows what i'll get a hankering to buy you...

Love,
Ann

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

At the end of the homily I wrote and delivered at my friend's wedding three weeks ago, I reviewed the love songs from musicals we'd listened to as teenagers. While you here in texas were singing the chants of your favorite football team, we were singing, "All I Ask of You" from Phantom and "Love Changes Everything" from Aspects of Love. But throughout the brief homily I delivered at Moxi's wedding, I didn't use those songs or other grandiose love songs, rather, I chose "Being Alive" from Stephen Sondheim's musical, Company. It's a song about a man deciding that indeed he wants someone to sit in his chair, to hold him too close, and to ruin his sleep. As far as love songs go, this one may be the most unromantic, but it's my favorite.

I guess that's because I don't often find love in grandiouse acts of benevolence. Rarely does someone rescue me from a mountaintop as I dangle from a broken rope. Rarely am I the love interest of some soldier leaving for war who writes me endearing love letters from across the ocean and weathers gunshells and grenades just to talk to me on the phone. Rarely does a phantom of an opera fall in love with me and i must be rescued by my childhood sweatheart. Rather, I find love in a gentle smile, an unsolicited kind act, a day spent playing cards with friends, or reading side by side with your favorite person on a couch or at the beach. This is how we do life together. The highs, while important to teenagers going to Youth Camp and Winter Retreats are nice, but they will not sustain adults or children. We thrive not on the momentous but often on the insignificant. In my sermon I said reminded the bride and groom that "the holy and the mundane... sometimes they are indistinguishable."

The weekend following the wedding, I taught a Disciple Now weekend for seniors in high school (Wyatt Park Baptists, think "Spark"). Students gathered at a churchmember's house with a leader to have bible study, recreation, do service projects and inevitably, drink Mountain Dew. The theme of our weekend was friendship and to kick off Friday night's discussion, each groups watched Stranger Than Fiction.

You've seen it, I'm sure, and if you haven't you ought to. It's an excellent story about narrative and well, stories, but not necessarily fictional ones. It's about our stories as individuals, communities, heros and nobodies.

And as my former pastor used to say when we studied our God in the Movies series in big church, "I'm about to ruin the story for you," but hopefully you'll forgive me.

At the end of the movie though, the author (who has been narrating Harold Crick's life throughout the film and thus causing Harold great dismay) ends her book with these final thoughts. Accompanying them are visual images of the different friendships formed in the movie and how they have essentially affected one another. The narrator writes,

"As Harold took a bite of Bavarian sugar cookie, he finally felt as if everything was going to be ok. Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren't any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin (the camera cuts to Harold's girlfriend gently putting her face next to Harold's hand which is cast and in a sling), or a kind and loving gesture (the camera goes to Harold's best friend who has just received from Harold a brochure to attend Adult Space Camp), or subtle encouragement (the camera shows the Narrator's assistant putting a box of Nicorette gum on her dest), or a loving embrace" (we see a child and a father embracing - you get the picture), So the narrator says, "And, fortunately, when there aren't any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true. And, so it was, a wristwatch saved Harold Crick.

I've got to tell you, the more I learn about life and happiness, it's those things, "the nuances, the anomalies," the subtleties, the mundane moments, the seemingly insignificant occurences that I am thankful for.

Obviously I work at a church, so I spend a lot of time giving. It's my job. And so sometimes I forget that I'm at church. I call doing church, "work" and being with church people, "my job,". Sometimes I forget that church is church too, and not just your church, but mine too. And so when my last boyfriend broke up with me, my heart melted when four people from church showed up at my door the next morning (a work day, mind you) with donuts (yes, I ate three), flowers, condolences and love.

And while they've probably all forgotten that insignificant day, I treasure it. I give thanks for it.

I treasure the squeal of joy when one of my college students realizes I've sent a care package and runs down to the dorm's mailbox to get it. I give thanks that I have a job where I can love on others. I sigh contentedly when one of my cats, even the man-eating-devil-cat curls up in my lap on the couch and purrs contentedly himself. I give thanks for my Austin family, even if they are mostly felines. And while I may sigh jealously and pout loudly on the phone as my family relays stories of eating at my favorite restaurant in St. Jo and watching the snow fall, secretly, inside I smile. Because I'm giving thanks that I have a family that I miss and wish I could see more often. I love scrapbooking and reliving my mini-memories all over again. I love planting cactii and pretending I could have contributed to the Garden of so long long ago. I love reading Faulkner in all his dysfunction. I love eating outside at Opal Divine's. I love watching the various dogs walk by at Joe's Coffeeshop. I love bubble lights and bubble baths. I love playing rummi with my good friend Chris and watching Westerns with my new friend Jeremy and listening to my best friend Michelle say the potential boy and girl names of the little baby growing in her womb.

And all these moments, while they may not be monumental, may nevertheless be holy moments where authentic community happens, faith exploration happens, unity of body, soul, mind and earth happens, peace happens, happiness happens... and I give thanks.

I give thanks.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Priest Excommunicated

AWESOME!!

Well... not for him.

This Catholic priest got excommunicated for ordaining a woman. Although it's sad and he laments being kicked out of his religion, his faith couldn't let him renig on the ordination. That is amazing. THANK YOU Rev. Roy Bourgeois for standing up for women and for the mystery of God. In doing so he lost his right (as a Catholic christian) to not only administer but to receive the sacraments. He lost his job and now won't have health care. His response... doing what is right is the most important - many people don't have health care, now i will be joining them.

Holy cow, Reverend. You're my new hero. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Moxi & Kevin's Wedding Day 3: Friday

I woke up in this bed Friday morning EARLY.



Fortunately, I woke up to room service. So I ate my eggs and wheat toast and quickly dressed for Temple.



When I arrived Moxi was still getting ready. Since we were still unable to wash our hands (no water until Friday night at the earliest!), and since I only had one figure mehendi'd on each hand, I had to put Moxi's contacts in her eyes. On her eyeballs. Yes, I love this woman.



She looked beautiful, of course, but the ceremony wasn't exactly what I expected. For example, when it began, no one stopped talking. A few people sat down in the chairs provided, but the chatter didn't cease. In fact it just got louder now that people had to talk over the priest.

Of course, I was in the front row glued to the ceremony wondering what in the world was going on. Fortunately, Moxi's Uncle (my favorite one) sat down next to me and began to interpret. This was a blessing ceremony. Currently, the priest was passing a blessing onto Moxi's sister and brother in law who would then pass it on to them.



Shraddha and Shawn and the priest were appeasing the inner demons, beseeching them to allow peace and harmony in all the cosmos to reign until at least after Moxi and Kevin were married. I sort of got a little bored there for a while and snapped these great shots.

About half an hour later, Moxi and Kevin joined the ceremony. They first had to go upstairs to the room where all the gods were kept and prayed with her parents. Then they returned and the second part of the blessing began.



And then their whole family (both sides and extended) got on the stage with them for the end of the ceremony. And of course, there were more presents bestowed on the couple.



Note to self: Marry a Hindu.

Friends began arriving as the ceremony ended including a friend from St Jo Mo: Ryan Crie,



and everyone ate lunch together before heading back to the hotel.

After a brief nap, (I actually just got on the internet I think), we were summoned to the ballroom for the rehearsal. I kid you not, there were three people there when I arrived. I accepted a glass of champaigne from the hotel staff there waiting on us and waited for the Indians to show up. As they put it, we were all stuck on IST: Indian Standard Time. 45 minutes later, we walked through the ceremony and headed to the boat.


That's right. They're rehearsal dinner was on a boat that boated around the Baltimore harbor for the evening.

AWESOME!

There I saw more old friends including Rachel Young and her husband Eric Runde (not actually pictured below) and Jessica Novak!



Several Indian families from St. Joseph had flown in and I saw Ashish and Neeley's parents. For this evening, I had asked Moxi if she wanted me in Indian or Western dress. She chose an American dress I had brought and I borrowed her sister's engagement jewelry to wear. BEAUTIFUL!



Because I didn't have any cash and I was with some over-zealous bridesmaids, we WALKED from the boat back to the hotel. And people, you should have seen the heels i was in. Not one of my better moments.

Finally, Friday night, Ryan and I gathered together Moxi and Kevin to teach them how to dance. 11pm, teaching an already stressed out, going on seven days of wedding ceremony already, cranky lovebirds was not a thrill, but I'll be damned if their hard work and our gentle promptings didn't pay off because they got EVERY dance move right during their first dance... but that's Saturday night and I've gotten ahead of myself...

Historic Home

This is a news article about a family in our church who I have blogged about several times on here. And here is the video of the report.

I have a dream...

It still continues.

All I Want For Christmas

- Ally McBeal: The Complete DVD Collection [Region 2 Import] (yes, thanks to Santa 2007 I have a Region Two DVD Player) $122.57

- The Tree Line Water Bottle $20 COOL PEOPLE CARE

- Wind of Peace Tee-shirt size small $26.95 THE RAINFOREST SITE

- Meow Tee-Shirt size small salmon color (or green) $14.95 THE ANIMAL RESCUE SITE

- The Tree Line Tee-shirt size small women's fern green $20 COOL PEOPLE CARE

- William Jewell College Red Shirt V Notch Hoodie in vintage red (or white but i don't want gray or black) $39.98 LOCAL

- Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere Speakers $129.95 with free shipping or Sony - CD-R/RW Boombox with Built-In Apple® iPod® Dock $109.99

- Oneida Open Skillet 8" (my old one was in a cooking accident) $24.99

- Laptop Case light blue (or dark blue) $65 TRADE AS ONE

- Book Boosters Bookends red $24.95 WORLD OF GOOD

- Organic Long Drawstring Skirt size small in Expresso (or avacado or denim) $32 THE ANIMAL RESCUE SITE

- Freedom Tree Shopping Tote color: olive $12 THE LITERACY SITE

- Organic Embroidered Jody Tee size small $22.95 THE RAIN FOREST SITE

- Medium Tote Bag light green $29 TRADE AS ONE


And in case you want to help decorate my christmas tree...

- Artisan Glass Peace Crane $9.95 THE RAINFOREST SITE

- Olivewood Camel Ornaments $9.95 THE RAINFOREST SITE

- Dangle Cat Ornament $12.95 THE ANIMAL RESCUE SITE


Gift Certificates always work too...

- My favorite nursery, Big Red Sun LOCAL

- My favorite nursery that is farther away, The Natural Gardener LOCAL

- Home Depot

- Victoria's Secret


Note: Most of these items are Fair Trade and/or Local items... when you buy them you will be either supporting fair trade and paying directly to third world countries for their goods or money will be donated to save the rainforests, animals or literacy programs. There are a couple of exceptions. ...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A November Letter

Dear Santa,

I know it's only November 18th (my un-birthday), but i wanted to let you know early that I have been a good girl this year. A very good girl.

I appreciate the african american president. that was nice of you to deliver complete with wife and wrapped in Narciso. and i would hate to come across as needy but seeing as i have been an exceptionally good girl this year (i doubt i need to remind you of hours spent in therapy trying to be a better person, the hundreds spent in waxing trying to be a better woman, and the number of this-is-a-bad-idea-relationships i've turn down) surely you don't mind me asking for one or two more things...

1. world peace (that includes the usual... iraq, darfur, the congo, but don't forget austin, kansas city and chicago too please).

2. equal rights for women (um, equal pay, equal opportunity [even among baptists] and no more sex trafficking. oh and sorry to put so many people out, but the porn industry has got to go too).

3. recycling - as not only an opportunity but an obligation that everyone complies with. naturally following that is, um, an end to global warming.

4. a cure to cancer and also the common cold.

Now i realize that last request may put you over the edge, but did i mention what a good girl i've been?...

Merry Christmas, Santa. Tell the elves I say hello.

yours truly,
ann

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Moxi & Kevin's Wedding Day 2: Thursday

Thursday I awoke around 4am, wide awake. Nerves probably. Although it might have been the plastic bags I had rubber banded around my wrists. Inside, my hands were sweating (so was my entire body, truth be told) and I ripped the bags off my hands and threw them to the floor. I stumbled into the bathroom and stood blinking for a few minutes beside the sink. I stared down at my mehendi-ed hands. There was still mehendi caked on in places. Already feeling suffocated from being bagged up all night, I began rubbing furiously at my hands with my fingernails trying to free my skin from it’s tormentor. No use. The remaining mehendi was not coming off. I gave up, used the toilet and retuned to bed.

Five hours later I awoke to find Moxi in the bathroom scraping at her arm with a dinner knife. She was still covered in Mehendi. I grabbed another butter knife and for an hour (and another hour after a break for breakfast) Moxi and I scraped at her body. The mehendi resisted, but eventually came off.

Thursday was a day of work: clean house, pay bills, wrap appreciation gifts, pack for the wedding, load the car, get our nails finished, shower and dress… all before 6pm. Did that happen? No.

But we did manage to get our nails done at the salon that will forever be known to Moxi and I as “The I’m Mr. Plastic” salon. On the flat screen t.v. mounted to the wall played the cheesiest and most vulgar music videos I’ve ever seen in public. Women grinding on each other while some guy sings in a foreign language. Then up on the screen pops cartoon colors and a little green cylinder begins to sing “I’m a fantastic lover. I’m Mr. Plastic!” I kid you not. Moxi and I about died.

Thursday evening everyone already in town for the wedding: extended family and friends gathered at Moxi and Kevin’s for dinner and drinks. Then came yet another Hindu ritual: Pati, or as I like to call it, “The Pasting Ceremony.”



In this event, Moxi and Kevin sit in chairs while close friends and family (actually all family and I eventually) smeared goop on Moxi and Kevin’s face, arms and legs. This paste turns their skin orange and is symbolic of something that I’ve already forgotten. Then the bride and groom are showered with gifts, most of them bills and then Renu and Ajit gave Moxi some jewelry that Ajit’s parents had given to Renu when she was married.



It was a fun evening, but unfortunately it was not over. Remember all the things we were supposed to accomplish? Well, packing was one that missed the boat. So at 11pm, we headed upstairs to pack Moxi and Kevin for the wedding weekend at the hotel.

Then we drove to the hotel… in Baltimore.

Fortunately, Maryland is small and the time it took was comprable to driving from my house to the Salt Lick.

Around 1am, we crashed in our (awesome!) beds at the hotel and alarms were set for 6:55am Friday morning.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Moxi's Wedding: Day One

Tuesday/Wednesday... These days sort of blur together for me. I ended Tuesday in bed at 12:30am but struggled with sleeping. When my alarm went off at 3:45, it felt like I had just taken a nap, but up I got to dress and head toward the airport.

5:45am my flight was delayed and I arrived tardy to Houston, barely missing my flight to Baltimore. "You must be from Austin," the woman at the counter said.

Almost FIVE hours later I took plane number two to Baltimore. What did I do during those five hours in a airplane with only two and a half hours of sleep the night before? I lamented. I yearned for my bed and my pets. And eventually I forked over the 7.95 for internet fees, got a Starbucks Carmel Frappichino and got online. I worked on the wedding ceremony. I checked Facebook five hundred times. I caught up on blogs. Then I walked around the continental wing of the airport and window shopped in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, some tax free fake jewelry place and finally bought myself some chapstick at the bookstore. I listened to the same news stories FOUR times since the Airport News Channel plays the same thing over and over and over.

DYK...
that one of the teens suspected in the high school girl disappearance a couple of years ago in the Caribbean or wherever was caught on tape hiring "models" aka prostitutes in Amsterdam or somewhere?
that Obama's kids might get a guest appearance on Sister, Sister and people are still talking about Michelle's dress from last Tuesday?
that a preacher in Texas is asking his congregation members to have sex with their spouse 7 days in a row (it was in his sermon and yes, this breaking news made people laugh every single time)?
that the Congo wasn't mentioned even ONCE?

And you know what else? I enjoyed myself! I did. I reminesced and wrote my homily. I people-watched. I talked to my mom on the phone. But mostly I was just quiet, and for some reason... awake.

When I did finally arrive in Baltimore, I unzipped my bag, pulled out my coat, scarf and gloves and bundled up. Moxi's fiance Kevin picked me up and we headed home where we met Moxi, her mom, Renu, her father Ajit and a host of aunts and an uncle.

It was mehendi night for the bride (think henna)
so her mom and the aunts got their hands done while Moxi and I went to get the first portion of our mani and pedicures (sans polish). We came home and ate delicious Indian food (don't ask me what), and then I got my mehendi...

After I was finished came the hard part... waiting for it to dry. Fortunately for me, Moxi received her bridal henna after me so i had PLENTY of time to wait.
Briday mehendi takes FOUR HOURS. I kid you not. We did not get done watching Moxi get drawn on until 1am. So while we waited I took pictures of my hands (carefully!). The dark mehendi is the dye when it first goes on. After it begins flaking off, you can see the real color coming through underneath. This morning when I woke up it was even darker.



They say that the darker the color is, the more in love someone is with you. The scientific explanation is that the higher your body heat and temperature, the darker the color. So palms are usually darker. This morning I woke up and my mehendi was pretty dark. So I guess I'm either someone is in love with me or I'm scottish and have pasty white skin that brown can't help but show up on.

Here Moxi and I are post paint! (but before the henna has to be scraped off!)


Monday, November 10, 2008

Reflections on Relationships

i have an interesting life.

unfortunately much of it is spent comparing myself to others, but whose isn't, i mean, really? (except for maybe all those spiritual sufis who manage to meditate everything away - not all of us can be so enlightened).

did you ever have (or did you ever get old enough to say) "at least i'll get married before so-n-so!" or "surely i'll get married before him/her!" or "if this person gets married before me, that's the last straw."

i cannot tell you how many of those i have.

and now all those fill-in-the-blanks are not only all married (before me) but are now on to having babies. for heaven's sake! let a girl catch up why don't ya!

okay, so they're not all having babies; fill-in-the-blanks big phil, bwack, jessy, julie, lance, kc and frank are all still without child... as far as i know. thank god.

i, on the other hand, while dancing with a young man at a dance hall the other night (yes i go swing, lindy, jitterbug, even polka dancing usually once a week), received this compliment :

"You're a vegetable."

seriously? seriously?! seriously.

you think i'm gonna fall for "you're a vegetable!?"

It only got worse.

"You thought i wasn't going to ask you to dance," he said. one, two, rock-and. "I asked all the other girls in your group to dance before i asked you, but i like to eat my desserts first. You however are a vegetable, and I love veggies."

oh. my. god.

i guess I should be grateful he didn't call me a piece of meat. i should count my blessings.

pastors always count their blessings.

a couple of weeks ago i was riding home to austin in a car full of people. of course i was smooshed into the middle back seat position and as we were filing like clowns into the car one woman called out, "It's a Pastor Ann Sandwich!" ha ha. very funny until one guy decided to make it alliterative, "Pastor Ann Sandwich Porn, that sounds fun!"

no. you did not just put my name and the word porn in the same sentence.

Oh but he did.

on yet another occasion, yet another guy told me i was five foot six.

wait for the context.

he said he has a tendency to think of girls he "likes" as being the same height as him. he's 5'10. when i said i was 5'1 (no comments from the peanut gallery) he said, "really? i thought you were 5'6."

does that mean he sort of likes me? not 5'10 likes me, but definitely more than 5'1 likes me? i mean, how do i respond back to that? i 5'6 like you too?

when did men get so complicated?

they used to call me smart, cute, funny, strong-willed, sexy, compassionate, talented, a little intimidating at times...

now look at me. i'm a 5'6 vegetable sandwich.

my best friend says my "life moves to a different rhythm." my mom says i should "defy gravity because everyone deserves a chance to fly." my grandma says i'm too picky.

i say i have an interesting life. so if stella gets her groove back or i happen to run into the wizard of oz, i'll give those opportunities my best shot.

but for now i'm cutting vegetables out of my diet.

and i'm scheduling an appointment with my therapist.

and i'll probably have ice cream for dinner and watch Bridget Jones' Diary tonight in case any other veggies or marrieds or pregos want to come over and hang out tonight.

What Does Church Mean To You?

The following conversation occurred between my mom-friend-Cinda and her three and a half year-old daughter Chloe in the car on the way to church yesterday morning...

CHLOE: Why are we going to church again?
CINDA: Because it's Sunday and we go to church every Sunday.
CHLOE: Is church Ann's school?

Hmm. What does that mean? Is church Ann's school?

I'm affording my readers the opportunity to interpret Choe's question.

Okay. Go.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Let It Go GOP.

Okay, it's no surprise to you that I thought Sarah Palin was competely inadequate to be one heartbeat away from the presidency. She showed us that herself. I mean, the woman thought that because russian airplanes few over Alaska she was qualified to administer the United States' Foreign Policy. And so, because she did an sufficient job of convicing America that she was no more qualified to be Vice-President that some of us, we took our votes elsewhere.

However, I don't think it's right that the GOP (including Fox News!) is now releasing even more embarrassing stories (does it get much worse than "I can see Russia from my backyard"?) about Sarah Palin's ignorance and inexperience. She was made the laughing stock of America. And "real America" voted 92% to elect Obama. Just let the woman go back to Alaska and raise her baby and soon to be grandchild.



I appreciate what Campbell says about this in this clip. First you call Obama a terrorist. Now you're calling Palin an idiot. While some of these statements may be closer to the truth, it is nevertheless time to stop tearing others down to make yourselves look better. You chose Palin. You said the economy was in a good place. GOP, it's time to go home. Take a nap. Read Micah 6:8 and start all over. And play nicely next time.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

First Dogs

So I'm kind of in love with this Time article. My favorites are Coolidge, Harding and Washington. Drunkard the Dog, a biscuit birthday cake and a pet bobcat are AWESOME! You have to check this out. And there're pictures!

Creation: The Cosmos

I love the creation story. I love both creation stories actually. But for the purpose of tonight’s theme, Creation: The Cosmos, I want to focus on the first one, in Genesis One.

In fact, I love this text so much that it became the basis for this worship service almost three years ago, Beresheth. Bereshit is the first word of Genesis 1 and it means, “In the beginning.” And while the Genesis text goes on to explain how the world was created, it says very little about the science of it all. I appreciate this because, quite frankly, I don’t understand science. But I do understand stories. And Genesis is a storybook.

Our “Once Upon A Time” takes us all the way back to the beginning. And “In the beginning,” Genesis says, there was God.

God who imagined what could be. God who’s spirit roamed around the nothingness longing to create. God whose Word was waiting to be spoken.

And then it was.

Spoken, that is.

And the black nothingness begins to move, to draw in breathe, to stretch it’s wings and birth galaxies, solar systems, suns, planets, moons, black holes, stars, more galaxies and… Can you hear all that? All the explosions? All the swirling? The rush of objects not there two minutes before now hurtling through the atmosphere to far away places where maybe, just maybe, there will be just the right elements… sun… water… oxygen… and life will begin to grow? Maybe not. But can you hear creation?

Can you see it? The bursts of light, the colors stinging your eyes? No rainbows here, rather spectrums! with millions of colors bursting forth and fading away. Spectacular!

Can you feel it? The energy? The pushing of molecule upon molecule as they bond and break? Can you feel the movement as inertia compels us onward?

Can you smell it? The sulfer? The metals?

God speaks and creation comes into existence and our senses, would we have been there, would have been completely overwhelmed. And had we been born on that first “day” we would have fallen to our knees and worshipped with every part of our being. With and through all our senses we would have known God and witnessed God and praised God.

And that’s before God even got to the good stuff like magnolia trees and orchids and elephants and rain forests and blowfish and kittens.

And that is what I imagine worship is supposed to be like: something that involves light and sound and images and a spoken word, but a short one, because all God said was “Let there be…” and “It was good.” 

Of course, I took the Hebrew word for “In the Beginning” and transliterated it a bit. From B-E-R-E-S-H-I-T-H, I created beresheth since a transliteration is technically just a word scholars guess at how to spell anyway.

And now here we are. In worship. Sitting in chairs, in a chapel, in a church…

There’s a line from Our Town a play that I love. The young girl in the play is talking to her older brother and tells him about a letter a woman in town received…

Rebecca reports: “And on the envelope the address was like this, it said, Jane Crofut, the Crofut Farm, Grover’s Corners, Sutton County, New Hampshire, United States of America, Continent of North America, Western Hemisphere, The Earth, The Solar System, The Universe, The Mind of God. That’s what it said on the envelope. Yep, and the postman brought it just the same.”

I love that line because it reminds us how small we are and how big our world actually is. And of course we could go on even further with that couldn’t we? The Universe is huge. Within it are galaxies, lots of galaxies. And we’re just one. One of many. I’m reminded of that by the movie clip that’s playing, the ending of Men In Black where it pans out from the car they drive away in to the city and quickly to the world to a galaxy which is one of many in a ball that ends up being a marble some alien is playing with in another universe.

The universe is great. We are small.

My sister had a boyfriend in High School whose parents offered him a choice for his graduation gift. He could either receive a trip around Europe or he could have a telescope. Being the scientist that he was, he chose the telescope. I remember the night he took us out to a field on the edge of town. He set up the enormous instrument and spent a few minutes pointing and adjusting it toward the stars, ever so slightly. Finally he said, “Look.” My sisters, my mom and I each took turns oohing and ahhing over the burning balls we call stars in the vast darkness we call the sky. “That cluster in the middle,” he said. “That’s the Milky Way Galaxy. That’s us.”

I didn’t understand how I could be looking at myself through a telescope and I probably never will. Nor did I understand that night the physics of what had suddenly been brought quite near to my eye. But I knew that it made me feel small. Very small.

Sometimes it takes a great big universe, a great big event, a great big change to remind us of our place in this world, to give us a perspective on life. Sometimes gaining perspective can give us peace, relief. Other times it can make us feel inadequate or petty. When one hears stories about violence in Darfur, it makes the hunt for the two men with guns this morning on Berkman seem like child’s play. When one hears about the gang-raping of women, even children, in the Congo, it seems silly to complain about ex-boyfriends. When we think of the enormity of people dying from AIDS in the world today it seems too overwhelming. How do we help MILLIONS of people get well? One woman said once of prayer, “I find it very difficult to ask God for things in the way that I was taught as a child. Do I believe God is going to take away my illness when he turned an entirely deaf ear to the 6 million Jews who went into the gas chambers?”

The enormity of things overwhelm us here on earth. Wrapping our minds around the idea that we could be one little planet in one little solar system in one little galaxy, in potentially one universe is beyond our comprehension.

Thinking about it gives us perspective, but it may also rob us of our hope. Often people don’t vote because they don’t think out of all the people in America that their voice counts. People don’t recycle because it’s just one can, one bottle, one person’s trash. We feel miniscule in a world that is getting bigger and bigger. What can one person do anyway?

We must return to the text. And after we read about the sky and stars and land and water and trees and shrubbery and fish and animals we finally reach the climax of the story… humanity. In the same breath that God used to create the cosmos, God created us. But whereas the Cosmos was good. We were very good.

Very good.

If if God calls us very good, we should allot ourselves the same grace. Yes, we are just specks on the sand in God’s eye, but each sand is treasured and ooh’d and ahh’d over by God just the same.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And you and me.

Amidst the light and the dark and the stars and the planets came hands and feet and hearts and minds. And it was good.

Like creation that will cry out, so let us cry out with our lives, “God is good. God is good. Let us worship the God of the Universe and of us.”

Amen.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes We Can!

Wow. What a night.

My boss cried in staff meeting.
My father called because he "wanted to share the joy."
Three friends text messaged, "woohoo!" "unbelievable," and "hell yeah."
Innumerable members of my facebook network cyber-communicated their unbridled excitement.
And my CBF colleague in Abilene said, "We just elected a black, muslim, arab, socialist, husein-name-havin' president. Totally ruined my monster truck rally."

He was joking.

What a night. What a day.

I woke up early. I never do this. And never of my own accord. But I was excited. So at 7:45 I pulled on my workout clothes, grabbed my iPod, phone and ID and of course my dog Janie, and we walked/ran to my precinct.

"You know this is Precinct 129?" the woman said when I walked in the door.
"Yes."
"Is this where you're supposed to vote?"
"Yes."
"Okay then." And she let me pass.

Thank God. If I'd have been turned away from my polling place because I was a little white girl, I would have been very put out considering I intended to vote for a black man.

Volma Overton is dancing in his grave. And America is dancing in the streets.

After pushing Cast Ballot, I felt satisfied I had made history. Of course Janie sat right beside me (overweight and tired from the short walk over) the whole time as I scrolled through every office and made my selection. As we walked out of the school someone said, "Well did you two vote today?" I nodded and smiled. "Yes, we did."

I thought McCain's speech was gracious and I thought Obama's speech was inspiring. If McCain had behaved with that much respect and responsibility over the past six months, I would have had much more sympathy towards his campaign.

What a day. No matter who you voted for, surely all of America is wise and honorable enough to know the significance of this day. We elected a Minority to be President of the United States of America. We elected a good, fair man to be President of the United States. We allowed our voices to be heard and finally decided we will not to be silenced again.

Can't Sleep... So I Guess It's Time To Wake Up.

I"m so excited about the election, I can't sleep. It's 12:30am as I read the clock right now and although my body is tired, i have a nervous energy flowing through me. The contacts came out hours ago and i've cleaned everything the allows for quiet cleaning (so as not to wake up the roommate) in the whole house. I've brushed my teeth and flossed and hung up my halloween costume. I've posted pictures on facebook, stripped the bed, put new sheets on and started the dishwasher.

Now I'm in bed, finally, and blogging because there's so much anticipation, I can't sleep.

To think that we could be on the brink of gaining the respect of other nations again is exciting.
To think that we could be on the edge of making ethical decisions regarding war, poverty and the environment is overwhelming.
To think that we could be turning the page from the president most closely resembling a dictator and his dictator-in-disguise-vice-president to a government of checks and balances that our forefathers fathomed long ago is... well it makes me sigh with relief.

And so fellow citizens, our journey has just begun. Voting tomorrow (ahem, I mean today) is our first step toward victory. Let's start dreaming about all we can do here in America. So much is broken here and abroad, but working together we can take steps, all be they baby ones, towards healthier, righteous living...

Hooray!

Monday, November 03, 2008

This Is What Protesting Will Do For You (and US).

Congratulations Citizens! Because you responded to this atrocity that i blogged about in october, the following occurred...

-- The New York Times made a strong critique of McCain's racist tactics in their endorsement of Senator Obama;

-- Several GOP senators came out against the RNC robo-calls;

-- Paid callers in Wisconsin and West Virginia quit their jobs--refusing to read the Obama terrorism script;

-- John Kerry's PAC took a similar action--asking their supporters to call on members of Congress to denounce the robo-calls.

See, even though the white house has told us the past 8 years that if we protest or rally together to speak to our elected officials we will be ignored because the president will do whatever he wants anyway, the times are changing, slowly but surely.

Good job America! We can do this! Fair policies! Truthful reporting! Living within our means! Politics of integrity! Ethical decision-making! Slowly but surely...

And don't forget to vote tomorrow (whomever you're voting for) if you haven't already!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You Can Vote However You Like

You guys, have you seen this?! My youngest sister who teaches essentially an at inner city school in Kansas City called and told me she was going to teach her class this song (since she's not allowed to show videos on youtube). This teacher should get a medal for her work. It's amazing. (P.S. Grandma et al., this is a take off the rap song "Whatever You Like" by T.I.)

This Is Dedicated To the One I Love

29 years ago, this one was born...



So Happy Birthday, Amy (she's the second one over - I'm the fifth, circa 1988 maybe).



From your loving sister Ann.



Oh and Emily loves you too...



October 29, 1979, my life changed forever.



Thanks be to God.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Don't Forget To Vote!

"My fellow liberal elitists are more dependent on other people. I am, that's for sure. I need other people to fix my car, raise my vegetables, build bookshelves, launder my shirts and clean my house, and since I need those people, I should take some passing interest in the schools their children attend and the sort of medical care available. I don't believe in indentured servitude, and so I want to live in a society in which the women who launder and fold my shirts get a fair deal. I don't want my breakfast sausage to come from a packing plant like the one in Iowa that employed undocumented Mexicans and treated them like medieval serfs. So I'm a Democrat. It's the party that has a better record of looking after the interests of people who earn less than a hundred grand a year." -- Garrison Keillor

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Wondering Poem

So, while at home several weeks ago, I discovered a yellow folder in my filing cabinet. (I could only bear to clean out half a drawer). It is Book of Poems by Ann Pittman from my 7th Grade Odyssey class.

Tee hee.

And in light of a heated political climate and an ever-pressing need as a minister to encourage people to usher in the Kingdom of God (which ultimately points us away from ourselves and into the love of God - remember, to lose yourself is to find yourself!), I thought I would post this not-so-brilliant, but very honest poem by middle-schooler, Ann Pittman (Keep in mind there were patterns we were asked to follow which although it does not excuse the irrelevancy of stanza two, may make it forgivable).

A Wondering Poem

I do not understand
why clowns act as they do
why clowns play stupid for money
why children believe in them

But most of all I do not understand
why we study English
why we are graded on it
(Poets are the only ones who understand themselves anyway).

What I do understand is
that people are blind to the world's problems
because people are so caught up in themselves
and that's not what we're here for.

Yeah. Take that world. In case you were wondering, "that's not what we're here for."

Hey Austin Voters

So even if you know which candidate you're voting for for president, do you know who else you'll cast a ballot on? What other issues you'll vote for or against?

If not, this is a nonpartisan website where you can print out info on candidates and issues and even mark it up and take it to the polls with you.

Be informed. Vote discerningly.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mizzou-rah... Mizzou-rah... TIGERS!

The No. 11 Mizzou football team travels to Austin, Texas this weekend for a matchup with No. 1 ranked Texas. The game will kickoff at 7 p.m on Saturday and will air on ABC.



Go Mizzou! I'll be there watching you! And I'm going to this if any of you Missourians will be there too!

MIZZOU ALUMNI ASSOCIATION TAILGATE - The Mizzou Alumni Association will host a Tiger Tailgate prior to the game on Saturday. The tailgate will start at 5 p.m. and will be located at the Rec Center near Darrell K. Royal-Memorial Stadium. Pre-registration for the tailgate is closed, but a limited number of tickets will be available at the door on a first-come-first-served basis.

I love the MUTigers website it's hilarious. I just hope everyone keeps this in mind...

MIZZOU PRIDE POINTS - Remember our Pride Points that encompass all of the above:
1. Wear Gold
2. Be Responsible
3. Arrive Early/Stay Late
4. Celebrate Our Traditions
5. Respect The Game

My family's pretty jealous but they're all watching it on TV. Don't worry guys, if out of the 100,000 people, the ESPN camera happens to fall on me, I'll wave to you. :)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sum Sum Summertime!

What a beautiful summer day!

Except it's not summer.

But it should be.

80 degrees and sunny outside. I planted another cacti in the garden this afternoon while the neighborhood kids played football down the street and the Jehovah's Witnesses went door to door trying to convert people (haven't they reached 144,000 yet?!). My dog is lazily laying in the shade of a tree. I'm sipping on a cold Ace Pear and relaxing. The windows of my house are open (the ones that open), and the bees are flying in and out of the screen-less squares. If I just had a pool to go take a quick swim in, I'd be in heaven.

October in Texas. Summer's finest!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

True Story

Man In Department Store Hits Mother of Two Wearing Obama Button.

This is an email I received today from my friend E about an experience she and her young son, Ben had. They live in Missouri, a swing state... pun intended.

"Ann, after signing the petition you emailed out yesterday Ben and I went to Cabela's to hang out for the day. I was wearing my YES WE CAN button. At guest services on the way out Ben and I stopped to pick up a catalog. While at Cabela's I broke down and bought a soda for the both of us to share...root beer. Ben's first! Anyway, Ben asks me if he can have a drink and I said yes. Not a nanosecond later this elderly man HITS me and starts yelling 'No! NO he can't!' I am already feeling guilty about giving my kid soda, but really? I need to be HIT for it? So the man continues yelling at me and I now can tell he's pointing to my button. He SHOUTS that I am a communist and that if I vote for Obama I would be giving my money to the poor and the only way I would ever consider voting for him is if I was on welfare. Then he leans in close and asks 'are you on welfare?' Seriously????? He told me if I did my reading I would throw away my button! I calmly told him there was no way I would do that."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Big Ones

My sister called last night with this question, "What does the Bible say about homosexuality?"
"Not much," was my answer, "Why?"

Of course, she'd been having a discussion with several doctors about the issue of homosexuality and Christianity. (Yes, this is what your surgeons do as they're rearranging the organs inside your body).

I gave her some of my initial thoughts and then offered to send her a transcript of a lecture Roger gave once on the issue.

Then I got to thinking... didn't I post a blog about this once?... Sure enough. Four years ago, just before the last election, I posted this in response to an email I had received from a man encouraging me to vote for Bush. Now while my blog was in response to allegations in the arrogant email I had received, my thoughts still ring true for me for the most part. Here's a couple of additional thoughts and amendments to my four year old blog.

• Single issue voting is dangerous and if you're going to do it, make sure your lifestyle backs up that one issue you're willing to go to the polls over.

• George W. Bush doesn't actually go to church. That was bad reporting on my part. Neither did his idol, Reagan. And they're the only two presidents in the HISTORY of American presidents who haven't.

• Homosexuality is not only mentioned a whopping 6 times in the Bible, but if you're going to hand-pick what verses you want to cling to as truth (for example Lev. 18:22) then our conversation is over. It is impossible to talk to someone who wants to reject an entire book of the Bible (I'm assuming the person who quotes Lev. 18:22 ignores Lev. 15:16-18, 16:29, 18:19, 19:19, 19:27, 20:9, 20:10, 25:10, all of chapter 11 and unfortunately 19:13-18) but keeps one verse of it as the one that trumps over 31,000 other verses in the Bible. In addition, if you're going to cite Sodom and Gomorrah, you've got some hard ethical work to do because the story seems to be about hospitality and it's solution to inhospitable neighbors is sketchy at best and wrong at face value. I.E. the host protects the visitor by offering his virgin daughters to the lustful, violent citizens. However, if you're willing to move away from hand-picking one of six verses and really talk about what's going on in the stories, then I and others would willingly dialogue with you. That suggests a healthy pursuit of living out one's Christianity in community and conversation.

Okay I'm too tired to write any more. Amy, I hope this helps.

Be informed. Vote discerningly.

This Has to Stop

At the beginning of this campaign (what feels like YEARS ago), everyone kept saying McCain was a great guy, and I almost believed them. However, the McCain/Palin ticket is ridiculous in their smears, negativity and flat our LIES. And there is no way in hell I would vote for him now. What ever happened to integrity as a quality we look for in a president?



Let us say this again. Obama is NOT a muslim, a terrorist, a traitor, or any of the other things uninformed Americans (who won't get set straight by their party leaders i.e. John or Sarah, indeed are being fed by their party leaders) are saying about Senator Obama.

This is ugly. McCain, you need to stop this.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Columbus Day

Okay, so how many people showed up to work today only to discover it was a holiday? Raise your hands. Don't be shy.

I did the same thing.

I'd planned on going in at noon for a short six hour day, but when i showed up at 901 Trinity St, i discovered the office alarm set and the lights off. Hmm. Obviously FBC is on holiday.

The funny (stupid) thing is I had a friend over to my house last night who told me he didn't have to work Monday because of Columbus Day. Of course it didn't occur to me that I might have it off too. Because I never bring my calendar home which says what i do everyday.

So, instead of scheduling meetings, reading books, answering emails, planning a worship service and cleaning my office i...

weeded my cacti garden, scrapbooked with bethany while listening to the Wicked soundtrack, watched Corpse Bride for the second time in less than 24 hours, and kept the neighbor kids out of a fistfight.

What a productive day off.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I bought 3 pumpkins today

But I didn't use them to decorate exactly in this way... !

Halloween's awesome.

Be Careful In Your Car!

Dear Austinites,

Please drive carefully. I drove past this just after it happened. I know not cause i saw it, but because i saw the cars starting to line up. And after an hour's worth of errands there were miles of cars stuck. So when I came home and received this article in my inbox from my local newspaper, I learned why.

My dad used to read Amy and I stories of bad accidents that happened to teenagers who were reckless drivers. Not saying occasional scare tactics are always a good way to influence behavior (i am certainly opposed to it in religion), but when it happens on a road you travel ALL THE TIME, maybe there's some good to reporting it.

So please, neighbors and friends. Drive safely.