BETH'S BLOG

Tuesday
Dec182012

Electorally Elected

I have lived in California for a total of 24 years:  four years  in the San Fernando Valley and 20 years here in Pomona and Claremont.  But I am ashamed to admit that I had never been to Sacramento.  Ever.  I didn’t even take my son to the state capitol when he was learning all about California history.  Even worse is that I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin’s capitol and I would walk through that building and explore its nooks and crannies all the time—it was the direct route from Wolf Kubly and Hersig department store and Woolworth’s.

So my trip to Sacramento this week was exciting.  I arrived early Sunday evening and met Teddy at the hotel.  We walked over to the Capitol and saw its dome swathed in light and the most beautiful Christmas tree in the world (or certainly in Sacramento) lighting the lawn.  Since tour guides had gone home  for the day the host of my visit, Speaker John A. Perez ,took us around and shared the building with the love and passion and respect he has for its historic legacy.

But the big day was Monday, when I was to give the prayer for the California Electoral College.   In each state the Electoral College meets on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December and casts the electoral votes based on the popular vote.  In years without controversy, such as this year, the event goes largely unnoticed.

Which is unfortunate, really, for those votes are the ones which officially choose the President and Vice President of the United States, as established in the Constitution.  And while there are many questions about the relevancy of the electoral college, it rests firmly within the law of the land.

To stand before the electors awed me.   Chosen from each of the 55 Congressional districts,  they were a very diverse group:  all colors of the rainbow, all faiths, all ages.   One of the two chosen to be a “teller” was an 18 year old high school student.  The woman chosen as President of the Electoral College was 94.

The day was solemn too, as we gathered in the aftermath of the Newtown horror.  The session began with a moment of silence, introduced eloquently by the Speaker.  And then I offered my prayer:

God of all, the people who have gathered here as the Electoral College have accepted a great responsibility.  As they cast their votes they cradle the common good and the cherished principles of our nation which are held firmly in the Constitution of our land.  Their actions today bridge the people of our country and the power of our country as their votes affirm the will of the citizens of our own state.

Our prayer today, O God of many names, is that the President whom they elect will guide us and lead us with gentle wisdom, responsible strength, and bold compassion, that the heart of the people will beat as his own, and that the tears of the broken hearted will wash his face as he shares our nation’s sorrow.

It is also our prayer that we the people of these United States will be likewise challenged to make certain that this is the government of all the people and for all the people and that every person can truly enjoy our unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  In these hopeful times we ask only for the fierce courage to bring the freedom and bounty of this nation to all your beloved children.  In your holy name we pray, Amen.

Thursday
Oct252012

feeling famous

As I have said more than once recently, if you want your 15 minutes of fame these weeks it isn’t going to be by your great athletic skills, your successful Hollywood career, your drop dead good looks or even your high profile business or political position.  Nope.  All you need to be famous these weeks is to be an undecided voter in Iowa, Virginia, Wisconsin, or best of all Florida or Ohio.  Everybody is waiting for you to make up your mind.  People are following you and polling you and pestering you.  But you may well end up on national television so it can’t be all bad.

I saw one of those fence sitters the other day.  She was in a diner in Iowa, and a reporter asked her, predictably, how she was going to make up her mind.  “How will you decide who gets your vote?”  She answered quickly, in so many words:  “The only thing I care about is what is best for the four of us.  My family.  That’s all that matters.”

At first I nodded.  But then I cringed.  Because I realized while that is the first instinct of most of us, this nation requires more of all of us. I remembered our own Congregational ancestors, those hearty Pilgrims who came to the New World so that could practice their faith as they experienced God, not as the king dictated.  It was November 21, 1620 when one of the most significant documents in the history of our country, and even the world was signed by all the men on the Mayflower.  The ship had arrived in the New World, but hundreds of miles north of their destination.  The land they first saw was not under British control, which meant there was no government ruling them.  So they wrote the Mayflower Compact whose words establish our national character. In modern language:

In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, ….,solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.  (as included in Wikepedia) 

Sometimes as citizens of this great nation we must look beyond our own lives to the lives of all of those who call themselves Americans.  We must make decisions not only for our good, but for the common good.  Certainly each Presidential candidate has tried to convince us that his platform will be best not just for some of us but all of us.  The stark differences in how that might happen become the richness of who we are as a democratic nation which values the right to speak, our right to vote, and our “inalienable rights:  life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

And so Vote on November 6…not just for you, but for us! 

 

Monday
Oct012012

More than enough

                                                                       More than enough

There is a lady on the radio who has a food show, which I used to listen to regularly until I got annoyed that she dominated Saturday morning radio and I couldn’t here my news alerts quite so often.  It wasn’t so much that I needed instant news but I like to know what is going on around me.  And that station has been my station for years, because their traffic reports are often and complete.  Despite the reality that my travel rarely gets me out of the valley or over the hill, I like knowing whose drive is particularly tough.  In case I get called somewhere unexpectedly.  In case I am waiting for someone to show up on my doorstep:  I heard the mattress fall on the freeway and knew that Jeff and Johna would be late.  Or there are times when lemons or  strawberries have been strewn on the highway and I chuckle cars coming to a dead stop to pick up that evening’s dessert. 

 This same radio lady also broadcasts a very short food news item just about the time I am driving home.  She sometimes shares recipes which are quick and easy and which makes me more dangerous when I copy them while I am driving than if I were texting, but so far there isn’t any law saying I can’t. 

 

Anyway, the other night she was particularly helpful when she talked about braising. I have heard about braising for years but wasn’t ever really sure what it was.  She explained that you take cuts of meats that might otherwise be tough and cook them for a long time to soften them.  The technique is used for everything from plain old pot roast to Osso Bucco.   A further advantage, she explained, is that you often cook more than you can eat in one meal.

So the next day, she told us excitedly, you can repurpose the meat!  Now over the years used cars have become “previously owned.”    Advance funeral arrangements are “pre need.”  I get that euphemisms make some realities more palatable:  I can’t afford a brand new car.  Someday I really will need a funeral home and a cemetery plot and someone who can help my family decide how to handle what once was me.

 

But “repurposing” meat?  Is there something I could be doing to meat besides eating it?    Or is she just suggesting I hide the LEFTOVERS under a sauce or in a pastry shell or mixed with pasta so I can  pretend it is just good as it was the first day I ate it? 

Then I wondered if sometimes we do the same things with our own lives.   We decide we need to spruce up how we look or what we do.  We want to make some changes because whoever we are now just doesn’t feel full enough or meaningful enough.   So we put on a new dress.  Or we add a title to our name.  Or we join some new groups.   We change what is on the outside,

But we forget about the inside.   And the truth is  we aren’t going to be transformed until we dig deep down to the bottom of our souls and find the good in us, the God in us.   We aren’t going to be transformed until we toss out what is old and tough:  the scars of resentment and jealousy and disappointment.  We aren’t going to be transformed until we let what saddens us and sorrows and darkens us feel the light of love fall upon us.  

It’s all about not putting new wine into old wineskins, I guess.  And the one who suggested we not do that is the very One who promises us new life as we follow him along a path of justice and mercy, peace and love.

Go figure.  I guess we can be “repurposed” after all!  Praise be to God!

Tuesday
Sep182012

MINIMIZING....

 

It was odd, really.  Though no one would dare to call me compulsive I do pay attention to some things.  And this thing was, well, odd.

It started a while ago when I was stacking tuna cans in the pantry.  Because I got them at a big lot sort of store there were lots of them.   And because I had gone a little crazy at that store I had plenty of stuff to fit on the shelves.  And thankfully I could stack them four cans high.

More recently I bought  four cans again, grateful and surprised that since the while ago the price hadn’t increased. I was  planning  to make a tuna casserole whenever Teddy was home next for a dinner. I carefully stacked them on the same shelf and noticed I could have fit one more can. I was puzzled, but thought that perhaps I was just remembering wrong.

Until I started to make that casserole.  It called for a 6 ½ oz. can.  Standard fare.  Had been making the same casserole with for years.  But somehow, there wasn’t as much fish.  There seemed to be more noodles.  I scratched my head.  And then looked at the can.  It was only 5 oz.  No warning.  No breaking news alert.  Just quietly, carefully, craftily the tuna fish people had added to their profit by subtracting fish.

I mentioned it to my cousin when we were bemoaning the state of the world.  (sometimes the state of the world is expressed in the most ordinary places).  She mentioned toilet paper.  Same kind of thing.  And I realized that the paper wasn’t disappearing quickly only because one of the dogs likes pulling it off the roller around the house.  Rather, each roll was smaller than it used to be.  Same number of sheets.  Just smaller sheets.

So I realized several things.  First of all, I am not as smart a shopper as my grocery store’s personalized online bargain center would like me to believe I am.  Secondly, I foolishly assume nothing changes and everything is also the same.  Finally I realized that if you try to be more than you are, you just might not stack up and you will ultimately, be discovered.

There is some spiritual advice hidden then on grocery store shelves.  It has to do with being humble before God.  It has to do with “not bearing false witness.”   Which all has to do with caring for and being honest with and just plain loving our neighbor.

All from a can of tuna and a roll of toilet paper.  Who would have thought……

Sunday
Aug122012

Better Butter

They say that no good deed goes unpunished.  I say that sometimes no bad deed goes unrewarded.

It began last week when I came home from camp.  Apparently, unbeknownst to me, my black dog, my  big bad boy Blue had found socks in my suitcase while I was unpacking.  We have had this problem in the past so I am usually on sock alert.  You see Blue eats socks.  He doesn’t chew socks or hide socks.  Blue eats socks.  But poodles are smart and Blue is sneaky.  He snuck in and got some.   Needless to say, the next few days were I spent lots of worry and lots of money making sure he was okay.   Although it took several days in the doggie hospital surgery was avoided.  And so, I promised will socks.  Be avoided.

True to my word I unpacked my bag from  my quick trip to Santa Barbara to perform a wedding carefully,  in the bedroom, with the door closed.  I took the laundry out and put it immediately in the middle of the table out of reach.  No socks available.  No fiber available.

But my dogs are tricky, and I got careless.  So worried I was about socks I didn’t think twice about leaving the butter on the counter so it could reach room temperature in case I wanted to bake (see blog “Cookie Dough).  And sure enough when I walked into the living room there were Rookie and Blue with butter still on their noses.  Bad Dogs! I yelled.  They politely cringed.

And I sighed.  I knew that this meant that sometime way before I wanted to get up, the boys would have to go out.  So we went to bed a bit early, and slept quickly and well.

Until 4:45.  A.M.  Between the butter they ate and the water they then had to drink (it was the salted kind of butter) it was inevitable.  Out we went. 

And there, above me, was God’s artwork.  There as bright as could be, shining with wild brilliance in a perfect line stretching across the sky  were Venus and the crescent moon and Jupiter.  Couldn’t have seen it so clearly any earlier.  Couldn’t have seen it at all any later.   By the grace of God and two naughty dogs I was there at the right time just before the breaking of dawn.

As I stopped and simply gazed I suddenly thought how incredible is our world.  Here I was seeing what we tiny humans have seen for millions of years. The far away planets and the stars and the sun and the moon connect us from the past to the present and into the future.  And at the same time  we are getting close up pictures of Mars, sent from the inquisitive Curiosity rover which landed on the red planet in perfect precision and which will unveil even more mysteries of the universe   All because of the intelligence and insight and imagination that God has given us and which and allows us to marvel more deeply at the intricacy and beauty of God’s creation.

The Psalmist wrote:  When I look at you heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?  Yet you have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor…O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

And I saw it all because of a stick of butter.   Amazing.