Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jacob's Family-Our Family: Blessed and Disfunctional

Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Dante's Vision of Rachel and Leah. 1855.
One of the dangers/benefits of interim ministry is that you can easily get away with pulling old sermons out of the barrel.   Serving three churches where there were two before me, I confess to having succumbed to that habit for a few months.  It got so I was afraid I would forget how to write a sermon.  Then the alternate continuous readings option came up in the lectionary.  And I knew I had to take this on.  I love these stories.  They are so real.

Of course when you preach these texts you have to tell the whole story.  The pericopes are not enough.  You cannot assume that everyone knows these stories anymore.  They do not.    Like last week the pericope ends with Jacob praising God and erecting a shrine after God appears to him in a dream promising to be with him and bring him back to his homeland.   It should have ended with Jacob saying "Yea well IF you do what you promise, then you can be my God"

Today's lesson should have ended with   "So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah" because that is the sad reality of this story.  Jacob has left one dysfunctional family for another.

As much as  I love telling these stories, when writing this sermon, I was stuck for awhile.  It's one thing to tell the story in an entertaining manner, but at some point you have to figure out what we are supposed to get out of this sad family mess?  Where is the good news?  

I perused around the net to see what other preachers had done with this story.  Mostly it's just a bunch of moralizing.  Don't be a cheater like Jacob and you won't be cheated.  Don't be jealous and bitter like Leah and Rachel.  Don't be like them and you'll have a better family life than them. 

Well sure yea, we know we shouldn't lie and cheat like Jacob.  We shouldn't play favorites with our children like Rebekah and Isaac.  And we shouldn't dress up our children like someone else to fool our husband or our new son-in-law.   But as much as we try to do the right thing, we screw up.  We make mistakes with our children.  Sometimes mistakes that cannot be undone.  We have to live with consequences of our mistakes.  And even when we do the best we can, our families don't turn out the the way we thought they would.

Maybe the good news is that nobody's family is perfect.  The big lie that too often gets told in the church is that if you love God and follow the rules, you will have a happy family.  But the hidden truth in our congregations is that people are living all kinds of damaged dreams in their families.  Some of it can't be fixed.  The good news of these stories is that damaged, dysfunctional families can be blessed.  The Good News is that God loves us even if we are not the pretty sister.  Here's how I ended my sermon:

Life is messy.  Families are messy.  Love isn’t always pretty.  But there is goodness in all of it.  You don’t get everything you want, life doesn’t turn out the way you planned, but if you look and are open to receiving it, you will see graces and blessings that God has sent your way.  Human love is not enough, but God’s love is more than enough for all. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ryan & Tatum - A Reality Show Worth Watching

I know, I know....Reality shows are bad for us.  It's all voyeurism.  Bad TV. Bad people for airing their dirty laundry for a few minutes of fame.   Bad networks for giving it to us.  Bad us for watching it.

But Ryan & Tatum: The O'Neals on OWN  is pretty compelling TV for me anyway.  It's about a dysfunctional family trying to come back together.   It's about forgiveness.  If you are going to be a voyeur (and come-- on we ALL are) - this is something to watch.  You have to hand it to Oprah (and OWN is her network) --she became an icon taking something that was probably bad for us and using it to educate us.

The short version of the sordid story of this family is that Tatum's father Ryan and mother broke up when she was very young.  For the first six years of her life she lived with her mother who was an alcoholic.  Ryan got custody of her and for the next several years it was just the two of them and they were very close.  Then he met Farrah Fawcett and nobody else existed for those two.  Not even their children.

Tatum never got over her father's abandonment and refused to speak to him for 25 years.  Her life spiraled out of control with substance abuse.  But she got sober, Farah died and father and daughter are trying to find their way back to one another.  On camera.  And it's pretty compelling TV.

Yes I know they are both actors and this could all be put on for our sake.  I can be kind of gullible (It took several episodes of "Pit Boss" before it occurred to me some of these situations HAD to be contrived and set up).

But it rings true.  Tantum is 47 years old and she is still desperate to please her father and worries about saying something to him that will make him mad.  Ryan thinks he's the victim and SHE abandoned him.  He says in all seriousness to his therapist that when he met Farrah "Tatum got left at the curb.  But I told her - STAY there and I'll come back and get you"  But of course she did not wait for him at the curb and he's still can't quite understand why.

 But they love each other and keep trying.  They go to therapy.  He goes to her AA meeting and is surprised that the people are there are "smart and good looking"   Ryan comes off as the clueless one here.  And yet he loves his daughter desperately and keeps trying and you have to admire that. 

This is  a story played out in countless families across the country.  If someone can watch this and get some insight, some understanding or some inspiration to reach out and repair a broken relationship, well ...isn't that what it is all about?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I seem to be uninspired to rant these days. Perhaps trying to pastor THREE churches has something to do with it.  Ah but there IS always food.

I don't like raw tomatoes.  The tomatoes I grow in my garden are the paste variety and I cook them into a sauce and can them.  I think next year I will grow grape tomatoes to make bruschetta.

Mostly I say that because I like that they serve big slices of shaved Parmesan cheese on top.  Of course MY brucschetta is the best.  This is what I do to raw tomatoes so that I will eat them:

2 Cup  Grape Tomatoes  -- fresh, diced.  This is rather labor intensive.  
3 Cloves Garlic,  diced
2 Tbl or so of Olive Oil
A little sugar
1 Tbl or so of Balsamic Vinegar
A few leaves of Fresh Basil, cut up
a little course salt
 French bread

Mix this all up in a bow.  Let it sit and marry for a few hours or if you are like me and can't wait, eat right away.

Slice the bread and butter it.  (it's better with REAL butter).  You can toast it in the toaster oven.  Or grill it.  Tonight I used my son's George Foreman Grill.  That worked really well.

Spoon the tomato mixture on the bread, drizzle the juice over the bread.  Top it with shaved Parmesan cheese - You can buy that now in containers or you can buy a hunk of Parmesan cheese and slice with a peeler.   Do not even TALK to me if you want to use that stuff in a can.
It's really wonderful.

Once I posted this recipe in a gardener's group and someone said she didn't use olive oil or sugar.  Or cheese.  Like she was so healthy.  Puleeze.  A little sugar to cut the bitter of the tomato (which is what I don't like) won't hurt.   And olive oil is good for you.   Everything in moderation.  And real food is always good.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Since Everyone Else seems entitled to have an opinion.....

Here are some of mine on the Casey Anthony case:

My own personal speculation is that the baby's death was an accident due to neglect, and someone besides Casey was in on the cover up.  I think probably the whole family is screwed up.

I think the justice system worked.

I think nobody benefited more from the death of Caylee Anthony than Nancy Grace.

Every year six million children die from malnutrition before their 5th birthday.  Millions more are sold into slavery. What would happen if we saw pictures of them on TV every night?  Would people do more turn on the porch light for them?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

This is NOT Finland's National Anthem -

But wouldn't it be cool if it were?  The words were written by Lloyd Stone in 1934 to the tune of Finlandia

This is my song, Oh God of all the nations,

A song of peace for lands afar and mine.

This is my home, the country where my heart is;

Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.

But other hearts in other lands are beating,

With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,

And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.

But other lands have sunlight too and clover,

And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.

Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations,

A song of peace for their land and for mine.

May truth and freedom come to every nation;

may peace abound where strife has raged so long;

that each may seek to love and build together,

a world united, righting every wrong;

a world united in its love for freedom,

proclaiming peace together in one song.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Sofrito is a staple in Puerto Rican cooking.  It is what gives it a distinctive flavor.    Of course I would like it since it is made up of my favorite cooking staples~~  onions and peppers. This is my version:

1 Yellow onion
1/2 Red bell pepper
1/2 Green bell pepper
1/2 Jalapeno pepper
2 Cloves garlic
1 handful of cilantro
1 tbl olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
2 TBl  Olive oil
1 Tbl Lime juice

Chop the vegetables up just enough to fit in the food processor.  You really need a food processor for this because you want this to all blend into a smooth sauce.  Throw everything into the food processor and blend until fairly smooth - like the picture.  

You can make up more and freeze it.   You can put this is stews and soups and sauces.  I like it on rice.