Thursday, June 30, 2005

Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi

My mother in law arrives this afternoon. This means that, after doing VBS this morning I have only two more hours to whip this house into some semblance of order. If you've ever been in my house, you know that "semblance" is a very, very vague concept around here and "order", well--let's just not even go there.

My husband tried to reassure me last night. He said his home growing up was far from spotless. I reposited that this was because he was one of ten children and I didn't have that excuse. He hypothisized that being a working mother of two was perhaps equivalent to being a stay at home mother of ten. Only a Dad would say such a thing.

The thing is that, working mom or not, I am just not hard wired for tidiness. I'm not lazy, but my house/apartment/dorm room has always been a combination of disaster area and public health hazzard. I don't care what Tom Cruise says, if there were a drug I could take to make this go away, I would gladly take it.

When we visited my sister in Mobile, my kids expressed the desire to move to her house. "Everything here is clean and smooth!" said my five year old daughter. As opposed to our place, I suppose.

"Use the Force, Luke" Well, I'll try. At least maybe I can find the clean sheets before the plane touches down.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Funniest vacation moment #3

The kids stayed with Mom on their own for a few days so I could attend a pastor-theologian conference in Santa Fe. One night after lectures, etc. a bunch of us headed out to a bar down the road aways. They had a really good blues band and quite an eclectic clientele. We'd each had a few drinks when a really, really eclectic looking guy came in wearing a colorful cowboy jacket covered with fringe and sequins. Definetly not something that wanders into your average mainline church on your average Sunday. As we pastors-who-don't-get-out-often-enough are trying to figure our where to put this guy in our mental file-o-fax, Jeff the California Lutheran peers over his beer mug and says, "The guy's name is Joseph and he's got eleven big brothers who are about to come in here and kick his ass."

Well, it seemed mighty funny at the time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Vacation Observations

Things there are more of in Pensacola than in Portland:

George Bush bumper stickers
Gulf Shrimp
Sweet Tea
Women in full make-up
People who call me "ma'am"
American Flags
Sun rooms
Fried Mullet
Country music stations
Baptist churches
Sunny days
white sand beaches
Men in uniform
Live oaks
Air conditioners
Christian book stores

Sunday, June 19, 2005

funniest vacation moment #2

Visits to my parents' church are some of the few opportunities I get to pew sit. This is the church where I was confirmed at age twelve, where I was an officer in the high school youth group many moons ago. My old pastor from back in the day retired about seven years ago. His successor has led the church in a more evangelical direction--enough so that if I were to relocate here as a layperson, I might well choose to go somewhere else. Today he preached a Promise Keepers-inspired sermon about the importance of christian fatherhood. I allowed my mind to wander just a tad, checking out how old my former Sunday school teachers look these days, admiring the new pipe organ. The preacher began to drive home his main point: fathers have a sacred responsibility to provide their children an example of a godly life. At that instant I glanced over at my own father----who was providing me a godly example by sleeping soundly through the whole thing.

Friday, June 17, 2005

funniest vacation moment #1

So we are standing on the river walk looking out over the main square in the French Quarter. My son is very impressed by the huge statue of a man on horseback that has pride of place in the center of the plaza.

"Who do you think that could be?" I ask him.

"Abraham Lincoln?" he guesses.

"In New Orleans? I don't think so, sweetheart."

"I'll give you a hint," says his aunt. "This place is called Jackson Square. Now do can you guess?"

"Jackson Pollock?" he asks.

(Brief interlude while my sister and I help each other up off the ground where we have collapsed in hysterics.)

"Actually, it's Andrew Jackson." I tell him.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

And play some more

My uncle once told me our family was descended from royalty. He did not specify which branch.

Never in my life have I watched an episode of Survivor.

High school was eventful. I went to three different high schools in three different countries.

I'll never forget my grandparents.

I once met a guy who used to date Madonna before she got famous.

Once in a bar in Kosovo I told elephant jokes to some cute Albanian guys.

By noon I'm usually hungry.

Last night my cat sat at the foot of the bed an whined until I let her out.

If only I had a dishwasher.

Next time I go to church I get to sit in a pew and doodle on my bulletin.

When I turn my head left I see cabinets full of snack food and stale cereal.

When I turn my head right I see a sinkful of unwashed dishes. (See "If only I had" above)

You know I'm lying when I say I'm going to start getting more excersize.

Everyday I think about my relatives in far places.

By this time next year I will probably have a different job.

I have a hard time understanding why anyone thinks George Bush is a good guy.

You know I like you when I tell you the penguin joke.

If I won an award, the first person I would thank would be my family.

My ideal breakfast is lox and bagels.

Song I love but don't have: Home By Another Way by James Taylor

If you visit my home town I suggest you get a rail pass. I've lived so many places I'd have a hard time picking just one.

Why won't anyone fix the healthcare coverage debacle in this country?

If you spend the night with us you will have to wait in line for the bathroom.

I'd stop my wedding to bitch slap a truly annoying wedding photographer.

The world could do without lima beans.

I'd rather lick the belly of a cockroach than the belly of a republican

Paper clips are more useful than most committee meetings.

And by the way, have you seen my keys?

Last time I was drunk was in the company of lots of other pastors.

And with that, folks, I leave for vacation! Maybe some remote blogging as well.

Okay, I'll play

Book meme:

How many books do you own? Lots and lots. Too scary to contemplate counting.

Last book bought: The Kingfisher Dinosaur Dictionary. Okay, this wasn't for me. It was the last Scholastic Book Order of the school year.

Last book read: Barbara Rossing, The Rapture Exposed

Books that mean a lot: The whole Little House series, Chaim Potok, Madeline L'Engle, mystery novels--especially ones starring clergywoman slueths, MFK Fisher, other narrative style cookbooks, Jane Austen, Susan Howatch

Tag Five People: Okay, y'all are it.

What magazines do you read regularly: Christian Century, Books and Culture, Theology Today, whatever is on the table in the waiting room at the pediatrician's office.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Aren't we missing something??

Thanks to Sarah Dylan Breuer for pointing us to this interesting quiz: What theologian are you?

I came out as Jurgen Moltmann, which is fine with me. However, I couldn't help but notice that there did not appear to be any female theologians among the possible results. What's up with that? It appears, from the quiz farm home page, that anyone can invent a quiz on any topic. (I.e. "What kind of gay man are you?" I have not taken this one yet, but I'm interested to learn my results.) Could we come up with one for girl theologians?? I don't have much time in the next few days. I have to wind up my kids' school year, finish an academic paper and pack for a trip to South Alabama/NW Florida to visit family. But maybe some of you are on vacation already and could work on this? Who shall we include? Hildegaard of Bingen? Theresa of Avilla? Catherine of Siena? Please--share your ideas . . .

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Pomp and Circumstance

We graduate from pre-school this week. Really. Stick a fork in us, we are done. Next fall Little Princess will head off to kindergarten with her second grader brother.

Both my kids went through the little co-op preschool that rents the basement of our church. Mostly this has been wonderful, though there were some dicey moments when there were Landlord/Tenant issues and I had a foot in both camps. In a way it is providential that the end of my kids' preschool years and the end of my time at this church will come out roughly even. But it means that, in one fell swoop, I'm losing both of my primary communities. That is making me feel anxious and fearful.

This happened once before. I did an interim stint at a church which ended six weeks before my first child was born. This was great in that I didn't have to decide whether to quit work or not--I was unemployed already. We did decide that the ride would be smoother if I didn't seek a new call right away. So there I was, a new Mom. Separation ethics prevented me from going back to the church I'd just left. We needed the extra income from me doing pulpit supply, so we couldn't take shelter in a temporary church home until I took another call. My husband was at work all day. My clergy woman friends were at work even more than that. We did have a few non-churchy friends, but most of them were childless and baffled by our new lack of spontenaity and late-night stamina. It was really pretty awful. "My God," I thought, "How do people live like this?" It gave me a new perspective on church. Christ-centered community is really THE thing the church has to offer in our atomized, disconnected culture.

So I am facing graduation day with some fear and trembling. I doh't like working without a net. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

up a creek

I'm just back from a weekend at "Mom and Me" Camp with my 7 year old. Beautiful weather on the Oregon Coast, lots of fun camp stuff. If you've been doing camp for 30+ years, you forget how truely amazing it all seems to first and second graders experiencing it for the first time.

On Saturday afternoon we headed to the ye olde boathouse for a little R&R on the lake. My son raced over to a green canoe and began to jump up and down, speaking in tongues. I'm not an expert canoer by any means, but I know one end of the paddle from the other. I figured there was no actual danger in the two of us embarking on a brief cruise. We set off. The breeze was at our backs, we had no particular destination in mind so it did not matter than the kid's random, enthusiastic paddling was causing us to take a zig-zag course across the water. We saw birds, water bugs, fish, etc. Lovely stuff.

After twenty minutes or so, though, we were ready to head in. Now the wind was against us--and it had picked up. We had a goal in mind: the dock. Suddenly it was important that the kid follow my instructions on wielding his little paddle. But no. Twenty minutes on the open water and he considered himself an Olympic canoer. He had theories and opinons. We drifted farther and farther off course. We hit a partially submergerd tree. Finally I screeched at him to PUT HIS PADDLE DOWN AND SIT STILL. Sulking, he did. Five minutes later we pulled up to the dock. The lifeguard remarked, "I was thinking I was going to have to come out in the camp boat and get you!"

"Yeah," replies kiddo. "My Mom's not a very good rower."

After collapsing onto my bunk that night I reflected that perhaps this little excursion could teach me something about my spiritual life right at this juncture. I seem to have hit a patch of choppy water, yet I'm still up front paddling wildly--full of theories and opinions on how to get back to shore. Maybe at this point I'm meant to pull my paddle out of the water for a bit and let God chart the course.

What do you think? Does God sometimes hand us the paddle and say, "See where you can go with this . . ." And other times screech, "Put that paddle down and sit still for crying out loud!" And how do you know which instructions you're getting at any given point?

Friday, June 03, 2005

How to choose a seminary

There is an article in the current Christian Century listing the top reasons people pick the seminaries they pick. It's an interesting list. I'm glad to hear that so many people choose seminaries for such profound reasons. But for anyone considering seminary who might wonder if they are capable of such nobility, I offer my own list based on the system I used, with mixed results, exactly twenty years ago.

1. Eliminate the seminary your Mom wants you to attend. You are twenty-one years old and this is your life, damnit!

2. Eliminate the seminary your home church pastor urges you to consider. He only has thirty years of wise and fruitful ministry to his credit. What does he know??

3. Eliminate all seminaries which ex-boyfriends are attending or planning to attend. If you spent your college years dating your fellow religion majors, this is going to cut the list by quite a lot.

4. Barely manage to hide your disgust when two of your favorite professors suggest that, as you are already carrying significant student loan debt, you might want to focus on seminaries with healthy endowments that can offer generous financial aid packages. Those middle aged sellouts!!! How dare they suggest that something as worldy and tainted as MONEY would influence such a spiritually important decision.

5. Conisder which cities best suit your current self-image as a daring, hip seminary chick on the brink of greatness. Apply to schools in these cities. Choose the one at which a recent alum of your college is Director of Admissions and therefore knows exactly what to say to convince you that this school is the only logical next step for you.

6. Create a plausible story to tell the Committee on Preparation for Ministry: you want to attend an interdenominational seminary since you have attended a denominational college. You want to attend an urban seminary because you are interested in urban ministry. Both these things will be true, but they are entirely besides the point, really.

The seminary you attend will not be the one you probably should have chosen, but you will have a wild ride and learn a lot, though not necessarily about ministry.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

If I forget thee O Jerusalem

I had lunch yesterday to share woes with a couple of other micro church pastors. One of them commented that one barrier to creative thinking about renewal in these churches is their members' intense connection to THAT community in THAT spot in THAT building. The desire for growth/renewal gets all mixed up with the desire to preserve the particular congregation and their, (almost always), historic building. Instead of longing to build the body of Christ, it gets to be all about marshaling resources to save the institution and its real estate.

I agree up to a point. As my own congregation first explored options for the future, they quickly skipped over options that would mean leaving our building in favor of options that centered on staying put. So yes, their self-identity as a particular group of folks in a particular spot stymied what might have been some creative thinking about other possibilities.

But, you know, there is a deep and ancient part of our spirituality that IS about a sense of place. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth," as the Psalmist laments. "By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion." There is something true and old about finding joy in worshipping in the spot your grandparents worshipped, about bringing your own child there to be baptized, about your heart lifting when you see the place where you have met God and God has met you year after year after year. It runs counter to modern sensibilities, to be sure. It's not efficient or pragmatic or adaptive or any of those things we need to be to get along in this culture. But I'm not quite ready to hit my people up-side the head and tell them to just GET OVER IT already. I think this is part of the human spirit we don't want to dump overboard just because it weighs us down a bit.