Friday, December 29, 2006

Greetings from the Land of Jello Salads

Hurried greetings from Little Town on the Prairie whither we have travelled for my Mother-in-law's 75th birthday celebration. All ten of her children will be here as well as most of her grandchildren. My California children are dreadfully disappointed that there is no snow on the ground. However, they are enjoying their numerous cousins and other relations. If we could get just a small, manageable snowfall AFTER the party is over, but before we have to drive out of town again, that would be lovely.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Bing---This year, I REALLY get it . . .

The sun is shining, the grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway.
There's never been such a day
In Beverly Hills L.A.

But it's December the twenty-fourth, and I'm longing to be up north . . .

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Icons of the Incarnation

I firmly believe that children's Christmas pageants are icons of the Incarnation, vivid reminders of both the frailty and beauty of the human flesh in which the Spirit of God was pleased to dwell.

In our pageant this past Sunday we had:

One teenage chorister who nearly lit himself on fire by backing into the advent wreath

One very small angel who ran up to her Mom while she was directing the youth choir, yanked on her skirt and demanded to be taken to the bathroom RIGHT AWAY!!!

Two shepherds engaging in fisticuffs while processing down the aisle behind Mary and Joseph and

One third grade shepherd whose hat thingy kept slipping down over his eyes and getting more tangled and disheveled the more he messed with it. Finally people started laughing which so enraged this shepherd that his mother had to sneak up and take the hat away from him between musical numbers. (Ahem, this shepherd was my son and the mother sneaking onto the chancel to intervene was me.)

How about you? What have been your favorite Christmas Pageant Misadventures?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Grave Thoughts

There was a very awkward moment at the cemetery yesterday, one which I've experienced once before with another bereaved family. Everybody listen up now:

Cemeteries: You simply MUST explain clearly to bereaved families that if they wish to be present when the casket is lowered, this has to be pre-arranged. I know this is not standard operating procedure and it is more work for you, but believe it or not, there are still people who want to accompany their loved ones to the very end of their earthly journey and do not want to be antiseptically whisked away after the pastor's final words. The family I was with yesterday really, really did not need to be informed by your representative that viewing the interment was not included in the "package" they selected.

Pastors: Double check on this with both the family and the rep from the cemetery before the graveside service begins. The family may tell you that they intend to be present when the casket is lowered, but that does not mean that they have cleared it with the cemetery. They may just assume that this is what always happens. (Because that's the way it is in the movies.) And you also need to explain to them that, while the movies include a grizzled old man standing by with ropes and a shovel, in contemporary life what will happen is that two young Mexican guys will drive in with a winch and a back-hoe and toss around the pieces of astro turf that were artfully concealing the fact that there is a real grave beneath that attractive platform.

Otherwise--much distress and anguish

Monday, December 18, 2006

Committee Jigsaw Missing Pieces

I rashly stated at our November Session meeting that I planned to announce at our December Session meeting the names of those folks who had agreed to chair various Comittees at our church for the next year.

Turns out, this is a more complicated puzzle than I'd imagined it would be. After four weeks of consulting, conversing, and cajoling, I still have some Big Holes. There are the folks who would do a great job but have said "No" because they are too busy. There are the folks who are eager to chair a very particular committee that they have had their eye on but who are manifestly unsuited to do so, and then there are the folks who are open to going wherever you need them, but who you don't really know well enough to foresee if they would be a Huge Success or a Total Disaster.

I'm ready to put Committee names in a hat and force everyone to draw one. Any wisdom from those of you who've put this puzzle together successfully??

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Lift up your heads

The parrots were back again this morning. Instead of just buzzing the neighborhood as they did yesterday, they actually landed in the trees and on the high wires.

I'll tell you what: It was something else to see all those jaded southern Californians standing outside in their robes and pajamas, looking up into the sky in astonishment and wonder.

Lift up your heads for your redemption is drawing near . . .

Friday, December 15, 2006

Green skies overhead

The parrots DID come back. I woke up this morning to the sound of a great commotion that I gradually gained sufficient consciousness to recognize as avian in nature. I got up, pulled on my robe and dashed to the patio just in time to see literally hundereds of parrots flying high overhead. Soon the kids came outside too and ran in and out for the rest of the time before school reporting various parrot sightings.

You know what you call a flock of parrots??? A Pandemonium of Parrots.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Comfort Ye My People

Hard, hard week. A mother of three in our congregation dropped dead of an apparent heart attack this past weekend. Her oldest child found her slumped over the computer in her home office. (Let this be a caution to us all . . .) She was exactly my age and her two older children are exactly my kids' age. We didn't know the father very well: she came to church on her own with the kids. It's emerging that there are serious questions about his ability to cope on his own as a single dad. Please keep the whole extended family in your prayers.

On a lighter, almost surreal note: We have Parrots! Yes, really. This morning our preschool director came running in to tell us that a flock of wild parrots had landed in the trees near the playground. Unbeknownst to me, Southern California is home to thousands of wild parrots, descendants of pet parrots who flew the coop, so to speak. No one in the office could remember seeing them here in our town, though. They are bright green and red. Very Christmasy. I saw at least a dozen. By afternoon, they seemed to have gone. Maybe they will come back.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Friday Five Christmas Carol Referendum

This morning's Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals encourages us to reflect on Christmas music good, bad and ugly.

1. A favorite 'secular' Christmas song.
Rebel Jesus by Jackson Browne or Home By Another Way by James Taylor

2. Christmas song that chokes you up (maybe even in spite of yourself--the cheesier the better)The last verse of It Came Upon a Minight Clear

For Lo, the days are hastening on, by prophet bards foretold
When with the ever circling years comes round the age of gold
When Peace shall over all the earth her solemn splendors fling
And all the world give back the song that now the angels sing.

3. Christmas song that makes you want to stuff your ears with chestnuts roasted on an open fire.
O Holy Night sang by a warbly soprano or tenor who really should know better.

4. The Twelve Days of Christmas: is there *any* redeeming value to that song? Discuss.
The theory that this is a coded catechism is intruguing. Even if it's only a legend, it's stil fun. The Partridge in the Pear Tree is Jesus. (Mother Partridges apparently will sacrifice themselves for their chicks by leading predators away from the nest.) Two Turtledoves are the Old and New Testament. Three French Hens=The Trinity, Four Calling Birds=the four gospels, Five Golden Rings=The Pentatuch, Six Geese a Laying=the six days of creation, Seven Swans a Swimming=the seven gifts of the spirit, Eight Maids a Milking=the eight beatitudes, Nine Ladies Dancing=the nine fruits of the spirit, Ten Drummers a Drummin=the Ten Commandments, Eleven pipers Piping=the eleven faithful disciples,(minus Judas)and Twelve Lords a'leaping are the twelve points of the Apostles Creed.

5. A favorite Christmas album
Still have to go with my childhood fave: A Captain Kangaroo Christmas

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Happy St. Nicholas Day

Yes, I know St. Nicholas Day is not on the Presbyterian calendar. But I might be more into Saints than your average Presbyterian. I think it started years ago when I read something C.S. Lewis wrote. He said that if one really believes in the Communion of the Saints, that the church is made up of Christians across space and time, then why wouldn't you consider asking both the living and the dead to intercede for you when you are in need of prayer? This made sense to me. I'm more likely to go to one of my grandparents or beloved, departed members of congregations I've served--but every once in a while, I'll call on one of the official Saints whose story I've found inspiring or who I know is a patron of the type of person or situation I'm concerned about.

Day before yesterday, I lost my calendar. I know your guts are all clenching in anxious sympathy. At first I wasn't too worried. I'm an absent-minded person where stuff is concerned. I lose things all the time. Usually the lost thing surfaces within a couple of hours. But my calendar was gone for two days. Two. Whole. Days.

I was awake at 3:30 a.m. stewing about this. I had a sense that I have several appointments and meetings on Thursday and Friday, but I couldn't remember exactly what they were. It occurred to me to ask St. Anthony for help. St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost items and also the saint for whom my husband is named. A formerly Roman Catholic member of one of my former congregations years ago taught me the traditional prayer Catholic children are taught to pray when searching for something they've lost: Tony, Tony! Look around. Something's lost that must be found!
Couldn't hurt, might help, I thought. And so I prayed.

After about ten seconds, I heard a voice in my head say, "Look in the trunk." And then I went to sleep.

This morning I got up, went to the garage, popped open the trunk of my car and sure enough--there in the trunk was a box of books I had decided to tranfer from my office back to the house, and perched on top of the box was TA DA!!!! My calendar!

I'm not headed for Rome any time soon, I'm just tellin' ya what happened.

Update: As I was doing a little research on St. Nicholas for staff devotions today, I was reminded of a unique part of his story. Nicholas was made Bishop of Myra even though he was a layperson, not a priest. This was highly unusual--irregular even. Now I'm asking: who believes that laypeople should be the ruling elders of the church? Uh huh, that's right: Presbyterians!!! St. Nick is OURS, baby.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Invade my Privacy---Please

It's official. The world has gone mad.

My daughter and I finally negotiated a Birthday Celebration plan we both could live with. All that remained was to invite the chosen classmates to the event. My kids' school has a strict rule forbidding the distribution of party invitations on campus. I totally understand and support this rule which tries to spare children the life-scarring trauma of being one of the non-invited ones.

HOWEVER, starting this year, due to concerns for confidentiality, safety, privacy and liability the PTA decided not to publish a student body directory. Also, the office and individual teachers are not to release a student's address or phone number without the parents' written permission.

In other words, one may not distribute invitations on campus and one is also prevented from obtaining the information whereby one might deliver invitations by phone or mail.

Crazy, yes? If it were only a birthday party inconvenience, I'd let it ride. But there are so many small ways this breaks down a school community. How can you call a friend to get homework when you're out sick? How do parents arrange carpools? How do you call three or four other Moms to see if they share your concern about _________that is going on at the school?

And this confidentialy thing is also profoundly affecting how churches care for people who are in the hospital. Back in the old days, (late 1980's) when I was starting out, pastors would swing by the local hospital(s) a few times a week and check the New Admits list to see if there was someone from the church in the hospital that s/he did not know about. One would also discover on that list folks one knew from the community who were not, strictly speaking, church goers but who nevertheless appreciated a pastoral visit in a time of need. Church members who worked at local hospitals would often call the church to alert the staff to late breaking pastoral care crises.

Now, of course, you have to know that a specific person is in a specific hospital and arrive armed with that person's correctly spelled, full name before the volunteer at the front desk will divulge the room number in which that person might be found. And with insurance companies shortening hospital stays ever more drastically, the chance that you will get this info before a person is discharged grows smaller every day. And any member working at a hospital who calls the church and releases this confidential info could lose his or her job.

It's a good thing I'm not a conspiracy theorist, because if I were I would have to conclude that the Powers and Principalities of this world want us all to be as isolated and disconnected from each other as possible so that there will be no possibility of Organized Resistance to anything they want us to do, think or be.

But that would be crazy, wouldn't it?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

And Jesus Races for the Cat Dish . . .

Check this out . . .

Update: Tell the folks at Left Behind Games you are not impressed.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Cosmic Justice

I am pretty sure the incident described below is cosmic justice for this incident in my past:

It is the spring of my freshman year in college. I have just signed up to be a reporter for the college newspaper. I am seventeen years old.

The editor, a preppy/conservative guy who was also vice-president of the Young Republicans, sized me up and sent me off to interview the woman who was visiting campus that week as Theologian in Residence. I had never heard of her, but since the senior religion majors were pronouncing the name Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenze in hushed tones, I figured she might be Someone Important.

In those days I was much given to dressing in fanciful, New Wave inspired ensembles. I buttoned up my Adam Ant pirate shirt, sharpened my pencil, and knocked on the door of the guest house at the edge of campus where Prof. Fiorenze was staying. She received me politely, but without the affable mid-western friendliness that was the dominant culture on that campus. Thinking to warm up the tone of the conversation, I gushed: "Oh gosh Dr. Fiorenze! I'm so honored to be here! This is my first interview for the Small Presbyterian College Gazette!" Rather than warming things up, this outburst seemed to deepen my subject's reserve.

Undaunted, I whipped out my freshly sharpened pencil and asked my first keen and penetrating question: "Dr. Fiorenze, could you highlight some examples of women's liberation that you see in the Bible?"

She answered my questions for another twenty minutes or so, then invoked a pending appointment and sent me on my merry way. I went back to the dorm and wrote my article, which the editor promptly buried on the inside of the back page.

As I say, cosmic justice.

Stay tuned for our next episode when, in her sophmore year, Yet-to-be-Reverend Rebel accompanies her sort-of boyfriend as he drives guest lecturer Phyllis Trible back to the Cleveland airport and peppers her with sophomoric questions. More cosmic justice may be needed.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Better talk fast

Hee Hee. A young woman from a local college called the other day. She is taking a class in Feminisit Reading of Scriptures and needed to interview a clergy woman. She guessed her questions would take about ten minutes.

She arrived today at 3:30, bright and enthusiastic, with her list of questions.
#1: Please discuss issues of authorship, canonicity and reading methods in regards to women and your faith's scripture

Right. Ten minutes.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What would Clair do?

I'm trying to channel my inner TV Mom as I grapple with The Birthday Party dilemma. Can I just say how much I dislike kids' birthday parties? They are just barely tolerable when all the children involved are small and adorable. By elementary school, however, any residual cuteness has worn off and you are left with semi-jaded kids expecting to be entertained in ever more thrilling venues. Bleh.

I've been hinting, not at all subtly, to my very soon to be 7 year old daughter that it would be wonderful to celebrate her birthday be inviting ONE OR TWO special friends to join us for the local performance of The Nutcracker followed by desert at the local ice cream and candy emporium. She is cool to this idea, lobbying instead for inviting all the girls in her class to a blow-out at John's Incredible Pizza, (that's Chuck E Cheese on steroids for those who don't have one in your area). I cannot tell you how unexcited I am about that idea.

Of course, it is her bad luck to have been born smack in the middle of Advent to a clergy mom whose available time and energy to plan and execute birthday bonanzas at this time of year is always going to be just about nil.

We are reaching the point of no return soon. We either have to send out invitations or decide not to. Have any of you successful transitioned your off-spring from the kids' birthday party to more subtle and mature forms of birthday celebration? How did you accomplish this?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Well, at least I'm not Carol Brady

Quiz: Which TV Mom Are You?
By Terri Isidro-Cloudas

Your Results

Clair Huxtable, The Cosby Show
You're a modern yet sensible mom. You keep up with trends you feel like following, and ignore the rest (platform shoes? don't think so!). Often, you're the most rational head in the family -- including your partner! And when all hell breaks loose, you know exactly how to cut through the nonsense. Still, you're not a killjoy -- you encourage your kids to have fun. But they definitely know who's boss. The Bottom Line: Your parenting style is based on open communication, discipline, and reasoning.

Discover your results here

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

You know you live in California when . . .

You know you live in California when your daughter's first grade class is having a Thanksgiving Feast the centerpiece of which is Nachos topped with ground turkey. You receive a note from the Class Parent requesting that you contribute two jars of salsa,(mild).

What's next? Cranberry-Avocado sauce???

Update: Sure enough, someone already thought of that. But in Texas.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Celebrate Delurking Week!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hiring Practices

Our Choir Director Search Committee has reached a decision. Their choice is not the one church/choir member who applied for the position. This person is a gifted musician, very qualified, but not, in the committee's opinion, the very best choice for our congregation at this point in its journey.

She is naturally very disappointed. I believe this will resolve itself in time, but if she or her family or good friends should choose to make waves about this, they could be big waves. I know she is a classy, professional person--but we all know that when we are feeling wounded, we don't always lead with our best qualities.

This brings me to a question. What is the policy where you are on hiring church members? I know some congregations just flat don't do it because of all the potential for hard feelings when members either don't get the job or, even worse, do get the job but it doesn't work out. Other congregations seem to do nothing but hire in house. If you have been on staff at your own church, how did that work out for you? Would you recommend it?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Return of SPM

Yesterday our new Interim Associate shared with me an e-mail she had received from
Sweeping Proclamation Man in which he lamented that, "last summer Pastor Rebel informed me that she never intended to speak with me about Adult Education ever again."

WTF!!!!!! Last summer SPM and his wife invited me for yet another pre Adult Education Committee meeting lunch to push their agenda for Adult Ed and inform me how the program as it is currently organized is ruining our congregation, (and quite possibly Western Civilization as we know it.) I politely declined, saying I thought it would be much more fruitful to discuss these issues with the whole committee.

This stuff, as Anne Lamott writes, must make Jesus want to drink gin straight from the cat dish.

How are your favorite passive aggressive members doing today???

Friday, November 10, 2006

Advent vs. Christmas: The Annual Battle

There has been some encouragement on several blogs lately about girding up our pastoral loins to engage the annual battle to preserve the integrity of Advent against all the pressures to begin celebrating Christmas as soon as the Turkey has been cleared from the table.

A couple of years ago, I found this article intriguing. It addresses the pressures we face and suggests some creative ways to work with those pressures. I've never actually done what the article suggests, but I think he makes some good points--that there might be some good reasons to spend a whole month on Christmas.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Discouraging Discovery

Today the sign at the check-out at the grocery reminded me that in only a few short weeks all the babies born in the year I graduated from college will be legally allowed to purchase alcohol.

What is up with that???

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Compassion Fatigue

I recently had an e-mail exchange with a woman in my congregation. She was basically coming unglued over an incident that took place at the home of another church member. Member #2 was hosting a meeting in her home for a community organization working on local environmental stuff. The meeting was just a few days before Halloween, and at the close of the meeting, Memeber #2 passed out chocolates in pumpkin goodie bags to the meeting attenders.

"How could she do that? Doesn't she know that 70% of chocolate worldwide is harvested by child slaves in the Ivory Coast? How can she host a meeting for local environmental advocacy and then pass out "treats" produced by slave labor. When I asked her about this, she just laughed at me. I used to respect her so much, but now I just think HYPOCRITE whenever I see her . . ."

Member #1 then pointed out, correctly more or less, some other stuff our church does that is not perfectly consistent with our stated mission of sharing the compassion of Christ with our community and our world.

My response to her is that folks tend to fall into roughly two categories: those that don't want to know the ways their lifestyle makes them complicit in the oppression of others and those who do want to know, but often get overwhelmed by the enorminty and complexity of the problem. Folks in category #1 do not respond well to an all out frontal assalt. It makes them retreat even more deeply into their caves. Folks in category #2 (and I counted myself in this category), are funny. We can be eager learners, making changes in how we live in small and large ways. But then we can reach a limit on how much more we can handle. Also, it's easy to just want to give up when it becomes clear that there is no "easy fix" for so many of the problems. And we can act out our compassion fatigue in wierd ways. Like laughing at the person who brings you the latest bit of bad news. I said that, knowing the woman in question, the seemingly callous response probably could better be translated,

"Look, I already bike to work, boycott Walmart and eat only dolphin-safe tuna. I was really excited about alternative fuels until I read an article that said ethenol and biodiesel production will quickly propell Archer-Daniels-Midland forward in its bid to take over the universe. Don't push me on this chocolate thing, because I'm just about the throw in the towel and quit trying."

I think this "compassion fatigue" is a big factor in our ministries. When we try, as church leaders, to encourage our folks to live in ways that are consistent with the gospel as we understand it, we have to take into account that people are all over the place in terms of their capacity to receive information and absorb that information in ways that will inspire them to make changes. We also have to take into account family dynamics and economics. I remember hearing some moms in my kids' preschool a few years ago talking about how they had switched to hormone-free milk and free range eggs, etc. etc. that they were buying from a local independent farmer. At the time, our family was not doing well financialy at all and I was just happy to be able to buy milk and eggs when they were loss leaders at the local grocery, and was very ready not to ask questions about where those eggs came from. The "free range mamas" struck me as elitist snobs at the time.

HOw do you deal with this where you are?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Delayed Gratification--or not

In the collective Halloween lore of our family is the near legendary story of the time my mother, as a young girl, made her Halloween candy last all the way until Easter by limiting herself to one piece a day.

As I was repeating this story for my children last night, I somehow shifted into parenting hyper-drive and turned it into a math problem. "Hey guys. It's October thirty-first. Easter is on April 8th this spring. How many pieces of Halloween candy would you need to make it last until Easter if you were eating one piece a day."

Well, they found this mildly interesting. They put their heads together and figured out, (with a little help), that there are 159 days between Halloween and Easter this year.

"So, when we get home from Trick-or-Treating, you can count your candy and see if you have enough to make it!" I concluded happily.

Silence from the back seat--then, "Are you kidding? I'm not saving my candy clear till Easter!"

"Yeah! No way!"

From all this I can only conclude that the children of today are every bit as smart as their grandparents, but lack their grandparents' discipline and attention span.

(In the light of full disclosure, I tried this myself once as a child but only made it until early December. Whether this was due to limited loot or sudden binging, I don't quite recall . . .)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Halloween Friday Five

1. Do you enjoy a good fright?
Not so much an actual REAL fright, but a good vicarious fright in a scary book or movie, yes.

2. Scariest movie you've ever seen
I got totally freaked out watching "The Other" on TV when I was about 10 years old.

3. Bobbing for apples: choose one and discuss:
a) Nothing scary about that! Good wholesome fun.
b) Are you *kidding* me?!? The germs, the germs!

Great for kids who don't really think about germs. Not so much a grown-up activity.

4. Real-life phobia
High speeds, making "cold" phone calls

5. Favorite "ghost story"
When my son was a few months old I had a dream that my mother and grandmother came to visit. At that time my grandmother had been dead nearly three years. In the dream, my grandma was thrilled to pieces to meet her first great-grandchild. She cuddled him and cooed and pressed her cheek to the top of his fuzzy baby head. I woke up feeling wistful that this meeting could not happen in real life. Then I went to get my son out of his crib--and when I picked him up his hair smelled like my grandma's perfume . . .

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Big sigh of relief

Yeah! Last night our session invited a recent seminary grad to serve as our Interim Associate Pastor. This means I might actually have time to blog, fix dinner, read something longer than one can read during a bathroom break, and visit parishoners who just need a visit rather than doing only the Big Crises. We pray God will bless this new ministry in our midst.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Property Issues

Here's the thing. I don't see how you can read Acts 4:32-36, and the follow-up cautionary tale about Ananias and Saphira in chapter 5 and come away with the idea that, "We have the right to do anything we want with our property," is a gospel value.

Now the community of believers were of one heart and soul. No one said that anything he had was his own, but they held all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and great grace was upon them all. There was no one in need among them for anyone who had lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds and laid them at the apostles feet; so distribution was made unto eveyone according as any had need.

In fact, this passage seems to draw a direct correlation between "holding all things in common" and "a powerful witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

I think our big problem is that practically the only time the "common ownership" principle is invoked in our common life is in the midst of acrimonious property disputes that flair up when a congregation want to leave the denomination. We don't actually teach and practice this principle with any depth in other areas of our common lives or our personal lives. We all own our own houses, cars, lawn-mowers, TVs, washers and dryers, boats, campers, stereo systems, etc. If I suggested to a member of my church that she should sell her vacation home on the beach so we could help some of our young families buy their first homes in this wildly expensive market, I'd be strung up on one of our fancy banner hangers. If I asked one of our elders to sell some stock so we could pay for the prescription meds that some of our elderly members can't afford, it wouldn't go over so well, would it?

But since we don't practice "common ownership" in any intentional way, it seems coersive and arbitrary to say that as a Church we are all co-owners of each others' buildings, property and other real assets. It is arbitrary because it is not the logical extension of practices that are occuring regularly at the local level.

Another thing I notice about this passage is that it mentions that the community of believers were of one heart and soul but it doesn't mention that they were of one mind. Maybe they'd already figured out--even in those early days--that THAT wasn't going to happen with any regularity, so their unity would have to be grounded in something else.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Picture Day

In my first grade picture my two front teeth are missing, I have messy hair, and I am wearing a tatty blue and white crotcheted poncho. If you look closely, you can see that UNDER the tatty poncho, I have on a red dress.

My mother had dressed me carefully that morning in my nice red dress and combed my hair. At the last minute, she decided it was a bit chilly out and popped my old poncho over my head. My class had its time for pictures just after morning recess. This meant that my hair was a mess and I forgot to take my poncho back off again. The results were a disappointing first school picture. As I recall there was even a bit of discussion as to whether the picture would actually be sent to the grandmother who had a thing about messy hair.

Today was picture day at my kids' school. I was all set to give myself very high marks in the competent parenting department because:

1)We remembered it was picture day.
2)We launched a successful search and rescue mission for the picture order forms which came home from school ten days ago and promptly disappeared into the black hole of countertop clutter.
3)We made sure the kids had bathed recently and were wearing clean shirts that did not have words on them.

But as I was pulling out of the school parking lot this morning, I noticed one little girl whose Mom is the team mom for my son's soccer team. She was wearing just the cutest little dress and her hair had obviously been Worked On. The Mom kissed the little girl goodbye and walked back towards her home across the street which has a fabulous display of homemade Halloween decorations all over the front yard.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Buildings and Grounds (and bears, oh my)

Part of my job description is to be the pastor attached to the Property and Finance Committee. I'm okay with the finance part. Over the years I've come to have an appreciation for the subtleties of church finance. It's still not my favorite, but I can roll up my sleeves and get to work on the thing. Financial reports don't make my eyes roll back in their sockets like they used to when I was a newly minted pastor, so to speak.

But buildings and grounds? Just. Shoot. Me. Now. Last night we had a half hour discussion about plantings. My feeling on gardening is that if you can't eat it, what's the freaking point. But I sat still in my chair for thirty minutes while we discussed:

What shall we plant in place of the azaleas which aren't doing well and look awful. Native species that don't need as much water. Good idea. Nothing works here that needs water. Why? Because the sprinklers don't work properly. Why don't they work? Because the Jr. High group tramples on them in their games. Should we ask them to stay away from that area? No. It has nothing to do with the Jr. Highs. The new custodian doesn't have the timers set properly. No, he has them set properly. The timers don't work right. No. The timers work fine. The sprinklers are rusted shut. No. The sprinklers aren't rusted, but they are the wrong type of sprinklers. They are too difuse. They spray over the azaelas. Can we adjust them? We won't have to if we plant stuff that doesn't need so much water. How about yarrow? Or Manzanita? Are those toxic? We have little kids running around . . .

Well, you get the picture. At one point I thought about poking my eye out with my pencil to provide an amusing diversion. I guess we all have one area of complete disconnect and disinterest when it comes to the daily stuff that keeps the church going. This is definetly mine. What's yours??

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Can I Borrow Your Punk Rock Hymnal??

The toughest part about preaching on Job is not the sermon writing, though that's challenging enough. The toughest part is that THERE ARE NO HYMNS THAT GO WITH JOB! Whether you're a hymnal person or a praise chorus person, there just aren't the despairing, pissed off, furious laments that these texts seem to require. Even the good old solemn classics call God a Mighty Fortress, orThe King of Mercy. And here's Job coming along saying, "Like hell He is!" And as for "You are the Air I Breath . . ." I could just see Job telling the happy little praise band to stuff that up their amplifier.

Any suggestions??

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Quick, Somewhat Panicky Stewardship Philosophy Question

I'm doing stewarship season in a new church this year--and on a bigger scale than I've done before. Here's my question: There are two main philosophies out there regarding balanced budgets:

Philosophy One: Always present the congregation with a balanced budget. This shows responsible oversight, prudence, and thrift. Members will respond gladly when they see that their leaders are careful and trustworthy in financial matters.

Philosophy Two: Never present the congregation with a balanced budget. Growing, vital churches always envision more ministry and mission than can possibly be supported by current resources. A balanced buget encourages a congregation to "think small". A deficit/challenge budget encourages a congregation to "think big" and trust God to provide the people and finacialy resources to make their vision a reality.

We've got a Stewardship Committee meeting coming right up. There are folks who adhere to both of these philosophies on our team. I tend to lean toward philosophy #2, but can understand the other side as well.

What has worked best where you are???

(Update: I e-mailed an "elder sister" in ministry who is Pastor of a Really Really Big Church and asked if she had any words of wisdom for me in the midst of my first biggish church stewardship campaign. Her response: "It's a lot like Lamaze. You prepare like hell and then ask for drugs." Sounds resonable to me.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Confusion in the House of Tooth

Just as we were enjoying the last moments of morning slumber, our daughter appeared in the doorway and announced dejectedly that the Tooth Fairy had failed to deliver. I groaned and silently awarded myself another Bad Mom of the Week award. Then I explained that if the Tooth Fairy has many deliveries to make in a particular town, she sometimes can't get it all done by morning, so she should check her pillow again after breakfast.

She followed my advice and came racing into the family room shouting, "Mom! You won't believe it! The Tooth Fairy left me TWO dollars this time!" My spouse and I exchanged glances, silently working out that we had both snuck into her bedroom and slipped a single under her pillow.

Meanwhile, big brother explodes, "That's not FAIR! The Tooth Fairy only left me ONE dollar last time and once she only left me 65 cents!"

I'll tell you what's not fair. Monday the dentist informed me that neither of them has enough room in their mouth for all their permanent teeth and gave me a referral to an orthodontist.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

True Loyalties

We are watching the Ohio vs. Iowa game. I'm not a real football person, but if pressed, I will declare my loyalty to my native state and to the school upon whose campus I spent the first year of my life. I placed three buck-eyes on the TV as token of my pledge. My husband who spent the first 25 years of his life in Iowa naturally has different loyalties, (and much deeper passions where football is concerned.)

Midway into the first quarter, we decided it would be wonderful to order pizza. The order was duly placed. Soon afterward, my daughter whispered in my ear, "Mom, I don't really care about the game, I just want the pizza."

That's my girl!

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Group Friday Five

And speaking of groups...

1. Tell us about any group(s) you currently belong to. (e.g. book club, knitting circle, walking buddies, etc.)

I belong to a lectionary study group that meets annually. I'm also becoming part of a small clergywomen's group that meets monthly. I assume, of course, that we're not counting all the countless committees one necessarily is part of in this line of work.

2. Do you feel energized or drained by being in a group situation? If the answer is "it depends," on what does it depend?
I tend to find committees draining. Groups oriented around study, discussion or mutual support are more energizing.

3. Is there a role you naturally find yourself playing in group situations? That is, do you naturally fall into the leader role, or the one who always makes sure the new person feels welcome, or the quiet one who sits back and lets others shine, or the host?
I guess I tend to move into a leadership role--especially if it seems like no one else is doing that. I can't stand the French Impressionist style of meeting management where we make random brush-strokes and hope it will look coherant in the end.

4. Handshakes vs. hugs: discuss.

Frankly, I'm more of a handshake person. I appreciate a well-timed hug from a good friend, and I don't mind giving a hug to someone who seems to really be in need of one. But promiscuous social hugging??? Meh.

5. Ice breakers: a playful way to build community in a lighthearted manner, or a complete and utter hell of forced fun and awkwardness?

If anyone tapes a piece of paper on my back and tells me to walk around the room asking questions to guess what is written on the papers on other people's backs ever again, I will bite them.

Bonus: If you answered "playful and lighthearted," share your favorite ice breaker.
This isnt' really an ice breaker, but I am known in certain circles as the purveyor of the "wine list game". This really only works when you are out to dinner with good friends, (which is why it is not an ice breaker). You take the wine list, read the description of a particular wine, (oaky with hints of mulberry and smoke), and decide which member of the group this best describes. This game is even more fun if you have already had something to drink before you arrive at the restaurant.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

And then there are times you have to have your wits about you

When I shared the story below with a colleague, he shared this story.

Phone rings at church.

Female voice: Hello, coolpastor? I'm the daugther of friend-of-a-friend. I've heard that you're usually willing to be part of non-traditional weddings, so I'm calling to ask you if you would do the service for me and my fiance.

Coolpastor: I see. Well, yes, I have participated in some services that were pretty different from the one in the Prayer Book. Why don't you tell me a little bit about what you're thinking of for your wedding?

Female Voice: Well, it's going to be in Vancouver in September . . . . and it's going to be a nudist wedding.

Coolpastor: I'm sorry. I couldn't possibly participate. September is very busy here and there's no way I could make a trip clear out to the west coast.

Nudist wedding avoided, reputation for coolness preserved. Brilliant, I'd say.

Of course another colleague who was present when this story was shared proposed that he should have simply responded, "Sorry, I'm not up for that."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I get the Absent Minded Pastor Award of the Week: Don't even try to fight me for it.

So ten minutes before last evening's wedding, the very small, still functioning portion of my brain reminds me,

"Uh, Pastor Rebel? This is the couple that wants to receive communion after their vows, remember?"

"Of course they are. I knew that!", my preoccupied, mostly nonfunctioning self replied.

"And did you also remember that two weeks ago when you and the Wedding Coordinator discussed this service you said that YOU would be sure the elements were prepared and ready to go?"

"Holy Shit."

I raced across the church lawn, robe flapping, berating myself in the harshest manner while simultaneously praying that there would be bread and grape juice in the church refrigerator. I must not have berated myself quite harshly enough, however, because when I opened the church refrigerator I found------CranRaspberry Juice and garlic bread.

Well, you work with what you've got.

The marriage is off to an interesting start.

Friday, September 22, 2006

New Members: Beyond Hoop Jumping

At almost the last minute, we cancelled our scheduled new member class. This was not because there is no one out there who is interested in joining our church. We have a healthy list of folks who have indicated, one way or another, that they are, in fact, interested in just that very thing. What they are not interested in, (or at least unable to commit to), is two consecutive Sunday afternoons of New Member Class followed by a Sunday morning breakfast meeting with our Session to be officially received. Yes, child care was available for all three events.

So the chair of our Evangelism Committee and I started looking at the church calendar to see when we could reschedule. But after a minute, we realized we were having another conversation. Why "reschedule" something that doesn't seem to be working? I've only been here six months, but apparently it's been hard getting new member classes filled for a few years now. It's always the same issue: a nice list of folks who have indicated an interest, but can't fit our "hoops" into their busy lives. And each new member is assigned a sponsor to stand with them as they make their membership promises and to help integrate them into the life of the church--but this "sponsorship" in most cases seems to be one of those ideas that works well in theory, but not so much in real life.

When I think of most new member classes I've been part of, it often seems, in retropect, that they were hoops for the sake of hoops, so to speak. "We can't just take everyone who walks in the door and says they love Jesus! We have to have requirements! We have to give them information! We have make sure all those former Baptists/Catholics/Mormons/Non-denominationalists know what it meanst to be Presbyterian!" But mostly the classes seemed like something all of us were enduring rather than enjoying.

So, I'm looking for new ideas. What do you do? How do you receive new members into your church? Do you feel that what you are doing is life-giving and helpful? What moved you beyond hoops for the sake of hoops?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Day Off

While another clergy friend and I were trying to schedule lunch together recently, we discovered that we don't share a day off. I take Mondays, she takes Fridays.

"Oh, I'd never take Mondays off," she said. "I'm so wasted from Sundays that I'd be good for absolutely nothing. I need to be productive in other areas of my life on my day off."

"You have a point," I replied. "But I know myself. I'm enough of a procrastinator that if I took Fridays off, I'd just end up using my day off to write my sermon. On Mondays, the next Sunday seems miles off so I'm not tempted."

Then there is another pastor I know who told me he takes Saturdays off. Now that made me feel guilty. I often do work at least part of Saturday: weddings, funerals, pastoral care crises, and sermon completion mostly. However, I always have in the back of my head the notion that should there be no wedding, funeral, or pastoral care crisis and if my sermon is somehow miraculously complete, I could, theoretically, spend Saturday on the patio with a book and a drink. That, in addition to my normal weekday off.

On the other hand, one Senior Pastor I worked with in the past always came to the office on Saturday mornings. He said he and his wife had decided long ago simply to concede that Saturday was a work day and plan for that rather than the family hoping, hoping, hoping, that this Saturday he'd be home and having those hopes disappointed at least half the time.

What about you? Which day(s) do you take off? Do you consider Saturday a work day or a day on which you might work but are not absolutely obligated too? I've been considering proposing that I simply work every weekday--but only during school hours and necessary evenings. Then my kids would not need to be in afterschool care. I think the hours would work out the same as taking one full weekday off. Has anyone tried that? How did it work?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Famous Friday Five

1.Tell us about a time you met someone famous.

Depends on how strictly you define "met".

One day in October 1989 I was rushing through the Boston airport. I had arrived in town for a friend's ordination on a flight that was nearly an hour late. I was lurching toward the taxi stand, dragging my suitcase and carrying my still quite new pulpit robe in its garment bag. All at once, I locked eyes with a gentleman standing about 10 yards away who was watching my so-called progress. It was former governor, former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. He smiled encouragingly, I smiled back, then lurched onward to catch a taxi and arrive half an hour late for the service.
Apparently, I also met Maurice Sendak when I was three years old. He was giving a reading at the college where my Dad taught and my parents took me. They say I was quite overawed at the time, but I don't remember it.

2. Tell us about a celebrity you'd like to meet.
Hmm. Probably some of my favorite writers: J.K Rowling probably the only one who rises to true celebrity status.

3. Tell us about someone great who's *not* famous that you think everyone oughta have a chance to meet.

I'm thinking of a member of my previous church who was courageous and compassionate and also a little crazy. She's passed on, though.

4. Do you have any autographs of famous people?
Garrison Keillor. I guess I sort of met him, too. I went to a reading he did at Powells Bookstore in Portland. It was two days before my son was born. Once again, I arrived late and it was standing room only. I was determined to stay--though I nearly fainted. At the end, you could stand in line and get a personalized autograph, or simply purchase some of the pre-autographed books available at the checkout. I opted for the latter and went home and took a nap.

5. If you were to become famous, what would you want to become famous for?
Coolest blog maybe??

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ethics Problem

A certain clergywoman has a son who has Aikido class every Thursday at five. One week the clergywoman's husband was going to be out of town for work AND there was a wedding rehersal scheduled for Thursday at 4:00. Clever clergywoman figures out that there is no way the rehersal will be over in time for her to pick up kids from afterschool program and get across town to Aikido class by five. Regretfully, she figures son will simply have to miss class that day. HOWEVER, that same day son returns from Aikido class with the thrilling information that that very Thursday is the day they will be testing for new belt levels and it is VERY IMPORTANT that EVERYONE be in class that day ON TIME.

As this clergywoman is puzzling about this dilemma, the church office adminstrator informs her that the couple has called and wants to know if it would be okay to change the rehersal to 3:00. Does the clergywoman thank God and shout YES! YES! and AMEN! or does she remind the couple, (who do not actually live in the LA area) that this reschedule will mean they will likely be trying to get the wedding party to the rehersal dinner location at the very highes possible point of rush hour traffic???

Monday, September 11, 2006


Yesterday was our "Kick-Off" Sunday: the start of the new Church School year, classrooms newly supplied, curriculum selected and purchased, teachers exhuastively recruited, families reminded, volunteers prayed over during worship. All went smoothly. Kids showed up--though not nearly as many as we have on our "potentials" list.

But my feeling at the end of the morning was, "Meh." Nothing was wrong--expect that there was no real sense of excitement or expectation. I'd say the primary feeling among staff and lay leaders was relief that we'd pulled it together for another year. The main feeling from parents was the satisfaction of having done the right thing by getting their kids there. And the main feeling from the kids was, "Okay, whatever."

Here's my question. Does Sunday School still work? It's been the cornerstone of how we form kids in the faith for so long that most of us can't even imagine that it could happen any other way. But really, it's a new development in terms of the history of the church--only about 150 or so years old. It was largely the product of industrialization and urbanization in the 19th Century and then spread from there. It didn't become a standard, middle class thing until the early years of the 20th century in most places. There are some places where it still seems to go very well, but I have to say that most churches I see are struggling to keep the thing afloat.

What do you do? I'd love to hear from faith communties that are doing Christian formation for kids and youth in other ways than the traditional hour on Sunday morning and/or a mid-week-in-competition-with-soccer/band/ballet/piano/karate/homework/parental exhaustion program.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Okay, that didn't work . . .

For years, we have grown our own basil for use in pesto and other summery sauces. There is always some excess that we can't use fresh and that we have always washed, patted dry, then nuked in the micorwave until it dries. Then we either crumble it by hand or whiz it quickly in the food processor and save it for dishes requiring dried basil flakes.

This morning as I was puttering in the kitchen, I noticed we were developing quite a pile of extra chili-peppers from the bumper crop in our backyard.

"Aha!" I thought. "I bet the same process we use on the basil would work on these little peppers! We can make our own red pepper flakes!"

So I washed and dried about a dozen of them, spread them out on some paper towel, and stuck them in the microwave. After about six seconds, I began to hear loud POPS that sounded suspiciously like exploding chili-peppers. I turned the microwave off and opened the door. The kitchen was immediately enveloped in a choking wave of pepper mist--kind of like the pepper spray they use to subdue violent criminals. We coughed, sneezed, and wiped our streaming eyes.

"I think," my husband said helpfully, "that we'd better let the rest just dry on the counter."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Beauty Tips for Ministers, The Third Grader Version

So it's been over 100 degrees here in SoCal the whole past week. I've been challenged trying to dress in a manner that preserves a reasonable core body temperature AND a modicum of professional dignity. Today I chose a dark, calf-length skirt, a camisole with built-in bra and over that a long sleeved, silk blouse unbuttoned. Not the height of professional fashion, but I thought I'd done as well as I could given the circumstances. But as we were headed out the door this morning, my eight year old son gave me an appraising look and said, "You need to button your shirt, Mom. Your boob crack is showing."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Six Wierd Things About Me

Continuing with the blogger's block-I-can't-come-up-with-any-interesting-new-material theme, I shall participate in the Six Wierd Things About Me meme that currently seems to be going around.

Six Wierd Things About Me

1. I lose my keys. All. The. Time. My husband, my kids, the rest of the church staff and many members of congregations present and past are very familiar with the routine of helping me retrace my steps,and knowing my faviorite "set-down" places. Remarkably, though this happens several times each week, the keys are seldom missing for more than ten minutes at a time.

2. I twirl my hair. My mom reports that she found me in my crib stroking the back of my still mostly bald head when I was no more than a few months old. I never quit. Until I was seven, I sucked my thumb too as part of the deal, but I got over that. I can tie spectacular knots that magically disentangle themselves when I let go of them. When my hair is really long, I can crochet a strand it with my thumb and forefinger. I can't really wear hats or scarves for long periods of time because it interferes with the habit.

3. I can't keep house. I'm not lazy or stupid, but I cannot keep my house in order without outside intervention.

4. I believe cats understand everything you say to them.

5. I've been know to go a mile out of my way in order to avoid making a tricky left turn.

6. I can't play anything that involves a ball. Back in P.E. class I totally rocked the gymnastics, folk dancing, archery, and trampoline units--but I was totally hopeless at kick-ball, volleyball, tennis, basketball, soccer, or anything else that involved tracking, hitting or catching a projectile of any sort. Things have not gotten better over the years.

Tag, you're it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Highway Friday Five

Hey all,
My brain feels kind of fried lately. I can't think of anything original to blog about. Thank goodness for Friday Five.

1. Driving: an enjoyable way to clear the mind? a means to an end? a chance to be quiet with one's thoughts? a necessary evil? the downfall of our planet and its fossil fuels? Discuss.

I don't really like driving very much. I don't too much mind highway driving in light traffic--but I hate city freeway driving. My family moved overseas three weeks after I got my driver's license, and though I moaned bitterly about the unfairness of it all, deep inside I was going, "Phew! I can put THAT off for another year or two."

2. Do you drive the speed limit? A little faster? Slower? Have you ever gotten a ticket?

Around the speed limit mostly. Not so good here in SoCal where SPEED is the thing.

3. Do you take public transportation? When? What's your opinion of the experience?

I would a thousand times rather take public transport than drive myself. I was perfectly happy in NYC the years I lived there. I just wish inter-city train travel in the US wasn't such a total joke.

4. Complete this sentence: _____________ has the worst drivers I've ever experienced.

5. According to the Census Bureau, reverendmother's fair city has the 6th longest average commute in the United States at 29 minutes each way. How does your personal commute rate? Three minutes by car, 8 minutes on foot.

Bonus for the brutally honest: It has been said, and the MythBusters have confirmed, that cell phones can impede driving ability almost as much as drinking. Do you talk on a cell phone while driving?

I've never gotten into the habit of putting my cell phone where I can reach it when I'm driving, so it usually goes to voicemail long before I can locate it.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Back to School Friday Five

1. What is your earliest memory of school?
At some point in my very early childhood, my Mom signed us up for an Observation Class in which the children played under a teacher's supervision while the Moms watched. Then the Moms and one of the teachers withdrew to a classroom to discuss our interactions in light of various child development books they were reading together. My memory is of the deep sense of anxiety I felt at the point when the Moms went away.

2. Who was a favorite teacher in your early education?
Mr Nielson, my second grade teacher. She started off reading the Little House Books aloud to us early in the year and later invited the good readers to take over that task for her. Thus my discovery that I was a good reader.

3. What do you remember about school “back then” that is different from what you know about schools now?
Corporal Punishment. My teachers had paddles and they used them. My first grade teacher's paddle was one of those that is usually attached to a long band and a rubber ball that you try to whack with it. So we're not talking serious lumber here, but it did smart when you got smacked with it. (I need to add here that my first grade teacher was really very nice and caring. She was just of the old school that believed a good smack on the behinder was the best way to get the attention of an unruly kid.) In the high school I attended in the 70's, if you were in trouble, you'd get the option of dentention or "licks". If memory serves, the girls nearly always chose detention and the boys nearly always chose licks.

4. Did you have to memorize in school? If so, share a poem or song you learned.
He who knows and knows that he knows is a wise man, follow him.
He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep, waken him.
He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a student, teach him.
He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool, shun him.

5. Did you ever get in trouble at school? Were there any embarrassing moments you can share?
I suppose the most spectacular trouble was getting kicked out of my eighth grade English class. Our teacher was a true stinker and had just done something really outrageous involving the grades of the entire class. Someone started a note around the room asking, "What are we going to DO about Mrs. X?!!" The note was intercepted, of course. My brilliant contribution? "How does one hire a hit man?" Oh yeah. I was in trouble. But it turned out okay. The teacher whose class they switched me too was a much better teacher. At home, I got grounded for a week--but my Mom also sent the note the Dean sent home enumerating my sins back to him with his grammer and spelling corrected in red ink. All in all, it was a good thing it was almost time for me to move on down the road to the high school.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

When did it happen for you?

Quote from my six year old this morning:

"Mom, I don't want school to start because first grade is when things start to get really serious."

Now, myself--I didn't think first grade was nearly serious enough. Way too many mimeographed work sheets being colored and counting songs being sung when we could have been reading for real and doing experiments on bugs. To me things got serious in third grade with the arrival of long division and borrowing in subtraction: the first schoolwork related things I remember not "getting" on the first go.

When did it happen for you?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Another Sartorial Warning

You'd think I would have learned my lesson after that near miss a few weeks ago--but no. My whole family and I went to Ghost Ranch two weeks ago: I for a seminar, the rest for a little Rand R. Ghost Ranch is a pretty rugged place and we were staying in little adobe casitas about half a mile from the dining hall and class space. One night it rained really hard so that the roads and paths were muddy. I'd only brought two pairs of shoes with me: flimsy sandles and sturdy hiking boots. Given the general muddiness that morning, I donned the big, heavy hiking boots for the walk to breakfast and then to my class. At midday, the temperature spiked. My tooties were baking inside the boots so I discretely removed them under the seminar table and let my toes wiggle deliciously in their cool, cotton socks.

At afternoon break time, our teacher said, "Let's take a class picture!" and whipped out his digital camera.

"Are our feet going to show in this picture?" I asked pointedly.

"No, no. Just from the waist up." he assured me.

So I didn't go put my boots back on. Silly me. Yesterday the teacher e-mailed all of us that he had put some of our work from the seminar on his website along with the class picture. Sure enough--there I am on the world-wide web, smiling sweetly, with my stocking feet clearly visible for the whole universe to see. (You'll forgive me if I don't provide the link.)

So: To my reminder: "Always dress as if the cameras will be rolling.", I add, "And always assume that the cameras will reveal all--from head to toe."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Clergy and Crime

I've mentioned several times in this blog that I'm a murder mystery reader. It's my drug of choice--I choose it over romance, chick lit, sci fi or "serious" fiction as my primary escape/stress reliever. I've even gone so far as to read stuff written about the genre as a cultural phenomenon. One thing I have read is that, in particular, the "amateur sleuth" is a completely imaginary construct. In real life there is no such thing. There are only one or two recorded incidents of a "layperson" solving a series of crimes over a period of time. The life of the average middle class person, (the class most amateur sleuths in fiction belong to), the writer claimed, does not include dead bodies popping up on a regular basis.

But you know--based on my own experience and the experiences of some colleagues and others in this blog ring, I'd have to say that the idea of the amateur clergy sleuth, ( a well-known sub-genre within the mystery fiction realm), is not that far fetched. Many of us have been praying this week for Cheesehead, whose congregation just lost a beloved member to a horrific murder. In my own years in ministry I've seen:

an elder murdered by her husband of 30 years
the son of a member killed in a mob hit because the trash collection business he ran refused to pay its "tithe" to the local mafia bosses who dominated that industry
an older couple who committed suicide together, only one of them didn't die and emerged from a coma to face a wrongful death investigation
a member who ran our soundboard on Sundays arrested for the attempted murder of a former colleague
a youth group member accidently ( or so he said) shooting another youth group member with an air rifle
a youth group member whose mother disappeared and was never heard from again
a stalker who left threatening notes for one of the pastors on staff over a period of weeks before she was identified and restrained
a girl who came to our children's ministry who was living in a car with her drug dealer mother and her boyfriend
an assistant custodian we hired from a transitional program for homeless women who went back on meth, lost her apartment and was sleeping in the church for a few weeks until we figured it out
a series of minor thefts from our church which finally stopped when we changed the locks on the door it appeared the culprit was entering. (You know, the old, "We have no idea where all our church keys are or who might have access to one" dilemma.)
The grandson of a retired pastor shot to death in his apartment in a botched robbery attempt
The tragic death two weeks ago of an older lady from our church struck by a car driven by another elderly gentleman who may face vehicular manslaughter charges.

You might conclude that I've served mostly in tough, inner city churches but you would be wrong. I've served in suburban or relatively affluent urban neighborhoods.

What do you think? Do clergy see more crime up close than folks in other professions? Or does everyone who works with the public in some way have a list like mine, (and yours too maybe?)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

plate spinning and sword juggling

Hi everyone,
I'm back from my journeys and trying to get my sea legs again. Part of the challenge is that the winds of changea are blowing. I haven't blogged about this much, but since I arrived here nearly six months ago the original custodian, office manager, music director and Associate Pastor have all moved on. Most of these were changes that were anticipated before I arrived, so it's not like I didn't know they were on the horizon. Still, we are in the middle of a Choir Director search and pulling together an Interim Assoicate search group--at the same time that we are ramping up for the beginning of the Sunday School year. So if my blog seems strangely silent, it's not because I've forgotten you all. I'm just up to my eyeballs. I'll keep you all posted when I can. If you know any potential Choir Directors or Interim APs send them our way!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Till next week

Hi All,
Not much time to post. I'm out of town and away from ready internet access. I hope you are well and enjoying these last weeks of summer. See you next week.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Prayers Please

I witnessed a terrible accident yesterday at lunch time. An elderly woman who sometimes attends our church was hit and killed by a car driven by another elderly gentleman. It happened just two blocks from our church, across the street from where this woman lives.

A younger woman probably would not have stepped off the curb in the middle of a block into oncoming traffic. A younger driver might have been able to hit the breaks the split second sooner that might have made the difference between fatal and non-fatal impact. Both victim and driver were in their 80's.

Pray especially for the driver. He was weeping and praying the Hail Mary when I arrived on the scene.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Establish Thou the Work of Our Hands

I have come to the conclusion that a major part of the value of mission trips is to reaquaint middle class church-goers with the reality of manual labor. In fact, as I reflect, most of the non-housework related manual labor I've ever done in my life has been related to the church: from raking leaves for youth group service projects to digging drainage ditches in Mexico to ripping out moldy drywall in the Katrina zone.

Our work group included a preacher, a teacher, a lab technician, a lawyer, a high school student, a retired police officer, and a retired teacher. The only person whose job involves any physical work on a regular basis was a guy who supervises road crews for LA county, but even he is far enough up the food chain that he actually climbs into the cab of a back-hoe or bulldozer only sporadically.

Most of the guys in the group had done manual labor type jobs in their young years, mostly to pay their way through college or grad school. The women in our group had accomplished the same goal by waiting tables or babysitting.

Surprisingly, the result of this "reaquaintance" was not primarily, "Thank God for desk jobs!", but thoughtful reflection on what is lost when our daily work is largely disembodied. A few quotes.

"When you rip drywall and insulation all morning you are really hungry for your noon meal: not hungry as in 'Do I feel like Thai or Mexican?' but hungry as in 'Where's the food?' And you come away from the meal recharged, not over-full and sleepy."

"Wow, did I sleep well!"

"Hmm. There really is a reason why these jobs usually get done by young men, not middle aged women."

"Antiperspirant is completely beside the point . . ."

"I've been drinking water like a fiend, but I still haven't peed in six hours."

"I'm actually less exhausted than I usually am after a day at the office."

"If Jesus was really a carpenter, he must have been incredibly tough!"

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

In McDonalds We Trust

The Volunteer Village manager instructed us to grab something to eat on our way from the airport. The village kitchen and food supplies would not be available to us until Sunday morning and we were arriving Saturday evening. So we drove east on I-10, away from the New Orleans airport and toward Mississippi. Even from the freeway you can see the devastation: acres upon acres of empty apartment buildings, boarded up stores, blue-roofed homes with FEMA trailers parked in the backyard.

Numbly, we turned our thoughts back to dinner. We were approaching an exit which promised the usual array of fast food choices, so we floated into the exit lane turned off. Someone had neglected to tell the sign people to remove the advertising. There were fast food restaurants there, all right. Boarded up. Locked. Weeds growing in the parking lot. Roofs buckling. Paint peeling. We got back in the van and tried the next exit. Same thing.

We were sick with horror. We're a group of sophisticated suburbanites who roll our eyes at fast food and eat in these establishments only when faced with a lack of options and/or a car full of whining children. Still, in the deepest parts of our souls, we know that, should we ever really need them, McDonalds will be there for us. No matter where, no matter when. Even if we devouered "Supersize Me", the golden arches are embedded in our psyches as unshakable proof that we live in a world that is safe and secure.

McDonalds gone? Shuttered and abandoned? We stood blinking like idiots. Of all the things we saw in the "Katrina Zone" this may be the one that will haunt our nightmares.

Friday, July 21, 2006

RGBP Memories

1) What is your first memory of the RevGalBlogPals?

I was noodling around on The Text This Week doing a little sermon work when by chance I clicked on Sarah Dylan's Lectionary Blog. From there it was a short hop to checking out some folks who were on her blogroll. Within a week I had started my own blog and Linda(FM) commented on one of my early posts inviting me to "be part of a group of female clergy who read and comment on each other's blogs." This was about three months before the famous St. Casserole 100 comment post that made the whole thing official.

2) Have you met any of the other ring members in real life?
Kathy at Any Day A Beautiful Change. She lives not too far from me and has friends in my town. I'm hoping to add to the list later this week!

3) Of those you haven't met, name a few you would love to know in

As many as possible! Which reminds me: I've been meaning to post that I'll be here from the 7-13th of next month. Anyone else?? Leave a note in the comments and we'll figure out a way to meet up.

4) What has Ring Membership added to your life?
RGBP came into being at a really stressful time in my professional life. It was so important to have a safe, supportive place to explore my thoughts and feelings about that.

5) Describe a hope for the future of the WebRing.
More books! Some kind of conference/event--maybe even annually.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Cautionary tale #2

3 tickets to Gulf Coastal parental home---around $1200.

1 bottle industrial strength mosquito repellant---about $6.98

Another opportunity to remind the sister eight years younger than you, in front of witnesses, that when she visited your new home two months ago several people asked, "Now which of you is older?"----Priceless.

And therein lies another cautionary tale for any of you youngsters reading this: In your teens, if you have a choice between being an indoorsy, bookish nerd or a hot, bikini clad, coconut oil slathered beach bunny, you may want to look beyond obvious short term benefits to how your choice might play out skin-wise twenty years down the line. You may discover in your thirties that even if you work out like a maniac and have a bod to die for, you can't change the fact that from the neck up you don't look much different from your forty-something big sister.

Sunscreen! Or better yet, stay inside and read a book.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Yikes! A Sartorial Cautionary Tale

Last night our Adult Education Committee sponsored an event at our church: a mini-forum on Christian responses to Immigration Issues. This committee has planned a four-part Sunday school class on this topic for fall and last evening's event was supposed to be a "teaser" for that.
I had not planned to go: we leave in a few hours for vacation/mission trip and I was in the midst of getting ready for that, but something came up and our Associate was not able to go. I felt that at least one pastor should make an appearance to support the Adult Ed committee in taking on this topic which is so controversial in our part of the world.

I made a deal with myself. I would break from trip preperations briefly and attend PART of the event. They were showing a video and then opening it up for discussion and comment. I'd go to the first part, meet and greet a little, watch the video, then slip out during the break between the video and the discussion. This I did.

Well, when I dropped by the church office this morning to pick up some stuff related to the mission trip portion of our upcoming journey,the office was abuzz with the news that shortly after I left last night a news crew from the local Spanish language cable station had arrived to film the discussion and (they hoped) interview the Pastor. (They did not call in advance to let anyone know this.)

My first reaction was to feel horribly guilty for slipping out early and not being on hand when the press arrived. My second response was one of profound relief that I'd dodged that bullet because I'd dashed away from my packing project wearing modest but not at all dressy shorts, a sleeveless shirt and thong sandals. Also I had not "refreshed" my face in any way.

As it turns out, a Puerto Rican seminary professor who is a member of the Hispanic congregation that shares our building was on the scene and gave an eloquent interview highlighting the Presbyterian church's concern for immigrants, and the existence of many Spanish speaking Presbyterians in California. Much better than the garbled nonsense I would probably have spouted.

The Lesson: Always Dress As If The Cameras Will Be Rolling!!!!

Friday, July 14, 2006


At our weekly meeting this week my colleague and I discovered that in the last ten days we had both been invited to lunch by the same member of the congregation. Said member spent the hour unloading about (to our minds) relatively minor personal problems and airing legitimate but nitpick-y complaints about our church. As we tried to figure out if there were a deeper motive behind this pastoral care double-dipping, my colleague shrugged and said, "Maybe she's just jonesin' for pastors right now."

I thought this was a brilliant diagnosis of the situation and also a valuable addition to our "Guide to North American Pew Folk"

Do you have JFPs amongst your flock? How do you care for them lovingly without allowing them to eat up enormous amounts of available time and energy?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I've never thought of that!

Okay. Somebody is going to have to explain this to me. It's probably total cultural ignorance on my part--and I'm ready to be educated.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Birthday reflections

I turn 42 today. Birthdays always put me in the frame of mind to remember other birthdays. Today for some reason I'm reeling back 20 years to my 22nd birthday. I was in the middle of a romance with a PhD student at the same seminary where I was working on my MDiv. The romance was hot, the summer was hot--is it warming up in this room or is it just me??? Anyway. The romance ended about six months later and I was very sad about that. So sad, in fact, that I made a solemn vow not to get involved with any more tortured geniuses. I'd made the same mistake in college but apparently hadn't learned my lesson well enough. So far, this is a vow I've kept. I may have yearned after a few more TGs, but I miraculously managed to marry a guy who is just regular smart and relatively sane on most days.

The other thing I remember from my twenty-second birthday is that my good friend, her TG, My TG and I all went out to celebrate at a dance club downtown. As we were all leaving the seminary to head out at around 10:00 p.m. we ran into a "mature seminarian" who exclaimed, "You're just going out NOW????" And I thought to myself, how sad to be middle aged.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bad News RevGals: We are the whole problem

On the other hand, maybe I should just forget the whole thing. Charlotte Allen has cleverly worked out that women clergy are at the heart of the decline of mainline Protestantism . . .

A quote from her op ed piece in today's L.A. times:

It doesn't help matters that the mainline churches were pioneers in ordaining women to the clergy, to the point that 25% of all Episcopal priests these days are female, as are 29% of all Presbyterian pastors, according to the two churches. A causal connection between a critical mass of female clergy and a mass exodus from the churches, especially among men, would be difficult to establish, but is it entirely a coincidence? Sociologist Rodney Stark ("The Rise of Christianity") and historian Philip Jenkins ("The Next Christendom") contend that the more demands, ethical and doctrinal, that a faith places upon its adherents, the deeper the adherents' commitment to that faith. Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, which preach biblical morality, have no trouble saying that Jesus is Lord, and they generally eschew women's ordination. The churches are growing robustly, both in the United States and around the world.

Fashionista Advice Solicited

Girls--Where do you get your pulpit robes? I really need to replace both of mine. My black robe was a gift from my now-departed grandmother upon my ordination seventeen years ago. It's in okay shape--except for a little melted part on the bottom of one sleeve: the result of an unfortunate Advent Wreath Incident a few years back. My white robe was purchased for me by a well-meaning but clueless group at a previous church. They bought it at the Christian Bookstore in their town and it is basically a white baptismal robe that looks kind of dorky and has no pockets.

For the first time in years, I'm actually in a place where I have an expense allowance that enables me to even think about buying new robes. But in surfing the web and leafing through catalogues, I'm not finding any robes designed for clergywomen that do not absolutely REEK of primness. I'm not looking for sleek and sexy, necessarily--just something with a little more flair and pizzaz. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Field Guide to North American Pew Folk

A few weeks back we all sympathized with Wills Smama in her interactions with Random Thought Woman and many of us admitted having her twin sister or clone in our own faith community.

I'm wondering if any of you have had experience with another congregation member prototype: Sweeping Proclaimation Man, (SPM hereafter). At my church, SPM is not on the Session and serves only a minor role on one Committee--however he considers himself so supremely knowledgable about church affairs locally, regionally, and nationally that he feels the need regularly to inform me and other chosen church leaders when we are being clueless and wrong-headed.

For example, two weeks ago we had a very sucessful VBS week. We changed curriculum after several years and everyone was happy with the switch, we had more kids than we'd had the last couple of summers, and we were gratified to see many "unfamiliar faces"--kids from families not involved at our church. However--SPM, who was not present on campus at any point during VBS, felt it necessary to e-mail me and every member of the Christian Ed Committee to inform us that we had neglected to notice that several of the neighboring school districts were still in session at the time of our VBS and this was why our VBS was such a dismal failure as an outreach project. But if we wanted out VBS to continue as "merely entertainment for our own youngsters" by all means, carry on.

If he had asked, we'd have told him that we agonized about this issue, but finally came to the conclusion that if we waited until a later week, we'd be up against our own school district's high quality, very popular summer school offerings with the result that fewer kids from our church and community would participate. (And thus, fewer parents would volunteer, fewer teens would be availabe to assist, etc., etc. etc.)

Have any of you seen this man or his female counterpart? Strategies for dealing???

Monday, July 03, 2006

Too many Ravenclaws

Just one more thing on this and then I'll shut up, I promise.

I believe the folks who appointed the PUP Task Force did not keep my Harry Pottor Hogwarts House Temperment Sorter sufficiently in mind. The Task Force was not balanced in that regard.

I submit that the membership of that Task Force was overwhelmingly Ravenclaw: cerebral, irenic types who love to ponder and discuss complex ideas and institutions; people who by inclination and training like to look at all sides of an issue and try to understand opposing points of view. I would further submit that it was, in large part, their common Ravenclawiness that enabled this group to experience the astonishing depth of community to which they all attest.

However, this group's experience will be evaluated and its proposals carried out in arenas dominated by Gryffindor Crusaders and Slytherin Politicos. Therefore, I don't hold out much hope that their vision will be realized.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Too many Gryffindors

Another lament filling the Presbyblogwaves is, "Commissioners to GA don't reflect the average person in the pew." There is some truth to this, I think and here is my Theory of Why This Is based, once again on Harry Potter Hogwarts House typology.

The folks that are most enthusiastic about church politics and therefore are more likely to stand for election as Commissioners or to attend as a representative of an affinity or advocacy group are Gryffindors and Slytherins.

Gryfinndors see being a GA comissioner as an opportunity to further their Great Quest--whatever their Great Quest is: saving the church from Godless Liberals, saving the church from fundamentalist bigotry, saving the church from hidebound irrelevence, transforming the church into a force for peace and justice--Gryfinndors see GA as their chance to be in the thick of the fray, battling for The Truth and Against Evil.

Slytherins love GA because they are political animals. They love the power plays, the finessing of the Process, making the BOO work to their advantage, massaging the press, harnassing all that wild Gryfinndor energy into a finely tuned political force. There are Slytherins across the theological spectrum, but frankly at some point in every Slytherin's life her theological convictions are overtaken by her desire for power--sometimes without the person even realizing that this has happened.

On the other hand:
Ravenclaws may enjoy following GA from a distance--perhaps even attending as an observer--but feel no real compulsion to be a voting commissioner or lobbyist. Ravenclaws will analyse, discuss, and blog about the issues before GA and make predictions and prognostications about what will happen next, but they'd really rather read and write about GA than be down there on the Assembly floor.

Hufflepuffs would be content never to hear about GA at all. They love their local church, they enjoy hearing about what the Presbyterian church across town is up to--but GA? Not on their radar. If Hufflepuffs get involved beyond the congregational level it will probably in Presbytery Camps, or Presbyterian Women, or in some kind of co-operative mission project. When an action of GA is brought to their attention, (usually by agitated Gryffindors), they tend to be mystified, confused, or oblivious.

And, IMHO, there are more Hufflepuffs in the pew than anything else,and this is why GA commissioners aren't great reflectors of the average person in the pew.

Thus endeth the analysis of Yours Truly, a True Ravenclaw

Friday, June 30, 2006

My Grandma would be so proud

Your Inner European is Russian!
Mysterious and exotic.You've got a great balance of danger and allure.
My Inner European is RUSSIAN!
(Sorry to my other ancestors--the slavic blood seems to have won out)

Friday Five Independence Day

1. Do you celebrate the 4th of July?
Yes--but I really think it is a civil and not a Christian celebration and as such we don't turn the Sunday nearest the day into a RedWhite/Blue GodBlessAmericafest.

2.When was the first time you felt really independent?
When I first began to have friends with driver's licenses and cars. I wasn't extremely keen to drive myself, (frankly--I'd still rather take public transport or ride with someone else), but I felt a definite power surge being out on the town w/o benefit of parents.

3. Are you grilling? If so what?
Probably. I'd guess something sophisticated for the grown-ups and hot-dogs for the kids.

4. Strawberry Shortcake: sponge cake or biscuit?
Actually, I like it with really good pound cake.

5. Fireworks experinces best and worst.
Best--NYC Central Park, summer of 1987 Worst: A Party in Portland where we were supposed to be able to see the downtown fireworks in the distance, but the hosts had not actually verified this and it turned out we couldn't see anything.

6. Bonus questions for 1776 fans:
Favorite Patriot--Thomas Jefferson
Favorite Tory--Dickinson
Favorite wife--Martha definetly gets the better song.
Favorite song--In the wake of Presbyterian GA, "Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve" is ringing true. As a young girl, however I loved, "He plays the Violin" and I am sorry to confess that I often tweaked this song and replaced, "Tom" with the name of whatever boy I was madly in love with and "fiddle" with a word that signified whatever the boy in question was particularly good at. (I tended to fall for theatrical/musical types, so this wasn't too difficult.)
Favorite Line: Mr. Adams, leave me ALONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Payoff

After much exclaiming and fussing on all sides last week regarding the acceptance of the PUP report at GA, this week more folks, again on all sides, seem to be saying, "It looks like not much has changed."

Why is that, do you suppose? Counselors teach that no one repeats the same behavior over and over unless there is some sort of payoff involved. So if the PCUSA has remained deadlocked on this issue for two decades and repeatedly avoids taking dramatic or decisive action that would change that, there must be some payoff involved for all the major players.

My theory: We've all gotten really comforable in our chosen roles. As long as the deadlock holds, the conservatives get to keep playing the harrassed, persecuted champions of truth and orthodoxy. As long as the deadlock holds, the progressives get to continue playing the harrassed, persecuted champions of grace-filled diversity and loving acceptance. As long as the deadlock holds, the moderates get to keep playing the harried, long-suffering family peacemakers. We all know exactly who our friends and our enemies are and we know all our lines by heart. The payoff is too great to rock the boat.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Lesson in Biblical Geography

Last week was VBS at our place. I missed the last day due to my departure for Sedona. When I got home today my kids showed me the "goody bags" they received at Friday's Grand Finale. My daughter had received a nice calligraphy card with one of their memory verses on it:
Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God .

"Can you tell me who said that?" I asked her.
"Of course! Ruth said that to Wyoming!" she replied.

Right--they were on the road from Cheyenne to Laramie at the time, I think.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Challenge for the Church

One of our speakers at the conference this morning said an interesting thing. He is from the U.K. and was remarking on the big US market for "conspiracy theory" books about Christianity and the origins of the church/bible. He claims that, while the Da Vinci Code sold well in Europe, these "conspiracy theory" books aren't finding the wide and eager reception there that they seem to be finding on this side of the pond.

His theory: since the church is not nearly the community presence and cultural force in Europe as it is in the States, there are fewer people there who have had a really bad encounter with practicing Christians--either through their own negative experience within a church or through encountering pushy evangelists or having someone they know inform them that they are going to hell---whatever. Since more Americans have had an experience that makes them feel bad about Christianity, there is a big market here for books that help people feel good about feeling bad about Christianity.

To me, this has a certain ring of truth to it. It also seems to me that if this is true, many of us Christians have responded in exactly the wrong way: by publishing books intended to make people feel bad about feeling bad about Christianity, which is not going to work. These books may help some Christians feel good about feeling bad about people who feel bad about Christianity, but it won't really do much to effect a change of heart in the folks who have been turned off or outright wounded by an encounter with certain manifestations of the church.

To me the better strategy is to be the church in a way that gives people reasons to feel good about Christianity again--which is harder than it sounds, eh?

Friday, June 23, 2006

It just occured to me . . .

. . . . while I was sitting in a plenary session for this Pastor/Theologian conference I'm at in Sedona that maybe, just maybe there might be one or two fellow bloggers among those gathered--and maybe they, too, are checking their blogs back in their rooms during breaks. So--here's a shout out to anyone who might stop by. If you're here, leave a note in the comments and we'll figure out how to hook up.

To everyone else . . . wish you were here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My Two Cents

For what it's worth, here is what I think will happen next now that the PUP report has been approved.

1. The national press will screw it up. They are not known for their grasp of the nuances of reformed theology or Presbyterian polity. The stories that hit the papers will seem to those of us who have been in the thick of this for a long time like they were written by spastic possums on qualudes.

2. Some churches and pastors will leave, but most will stay.

3. We will spend the next several years testing exactly how this "national standards, local application" thing will work out in real life. Some good people will get bruised and bloodied in the process.

4. Some of the churches that leave will make a big stink about taking their property. This will spill over into the secular courts and bring the whole tax status of churches thing back into the cross-hairs of the nation's legal system--which could have huge implications for churches everywhere.

5.Nevertheless, daily life for your average Presbyterian will not change all that much.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Flash of Insight

A few weeks ago I was experiencing lots of pain in my neck and shoulders. I vaguely attributed this to job-related stress. My colleague gave me a reference to her massage therapist, but then the pain went away and I never made the appointment. I sort of forgot the whole episode.

Then yesterday we all went to Disneyland for a Father's Day treat. As we were coming out of a wild, hairpin turn on the Mulholland Madness mini-coaster, I suddenly felt the pain return. In a blinding flash of insight, I realized that the previous episode of neck/shoulder pain occurred right after our previous Disneyland trip when my sister visited around Memorial Day. (Why, yes. We did get Southern California Resident Annual Passes, why do you ask?)

So--apparently my discomfort had nothing to do with my oh so important and and stressful job and everything to do with going on thrill rides with my children at my advanced age.

Well, shit.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Soccer to Session in Twenty Minutes

I have been very much enjoying Peacebang's Beauty Tips for Ministers. Check it out right away if you have not already. However, I would appreciate it if someone out there with more fashion savvy than I have would start a Beauty Tips for Clergy Moms column. As much as I appreciate Peacebang's wisdom, I just can't figure out how to put her advice into action when, after waking, feeding and turning out two elementary schoolers in presentable clothes each morning, I have about 7 minutes to spend on my own morning beauty/fashion routine. Also hard to know how to dress stylishly yet practically for a day that includes staff meetings, hospital visits, soccer practice, dinner preparation, and an evening committee meeting. For years, I just sort of gave up. But now that I'm in a slightly higher profile church, I'm feeling the need to TAKE STEPS.

Anyone have any great ideas???

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Summer Preaching

School's out day after tomorrow. We are straying from the lectionary during the summer months. That's one thing I like about being PResbyterian--the lectionary is there for you as a helpful guide and resource, but you are also free to toss it for a while when the Spirit moves. Our summer preaching theme is "Sunday School Stories for Grown-ups" in which we pull out some of the old stories,(particularly from the Old Testament), many folks have not heard since children's church school and which either don't show up in the lectionary or do so only on widely separate occassions and/or when they are upstaged by being paired with NT lections that are more important to the point in the liturgical year in which they appear.

So--what was your favorite bible story as a kid? Why do you think it was your favorite? Have you ever preached on it as an adult? (Or heard a sermon on it for layfolks out there.) Which of the old Sunday School classics would you most like to hear a sermon on now, in your ahem mature years?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Judgement Call

Say you are a pastor of a big but not huge church. On Friday morning, a member in her sixties dies of breast cancer after a long struggle. The family chooses Sunday afternoon for a memorial service as many of their extended family who have gathered to walk with her husband and children through the final days need to be back at work Monday morning.

There has been a fellowship event for another group in the church planned for this same Sunday afternoon for months. It has been publicized in the newsletter, bulletin and pre-worship announcements. It is not happening at church, but in a nearby park. Because of the size of the congregation and a bit of a generational difference, most of the folks in the group sponsoring the fellowship event are not close to the deceased, some did not know her at all. A complicating factor is that, if the fellowship event goes forward, one of the pastors will need to be there rather than at the funeral. Friday, after quick consultation among staff and with the event planners, the decision gets made to go ahead with the fellowship event as previously planned.

Saturday evening, you receive a call at home that some "people" are upset that the fellowship event was not cancelled, given the circumstances. At this point it would be very hard, though not entirely impossible if you dropped everything and spent the night on the phone, to pull the plug on the fellowship event. You let the original decision stand. Did you do the right thing?