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?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Trinity Sunday

Since my old church was actually called Trinity, I had several options open to me each year when Trinity Sunday rolled around. If I did not feel a brilliant, insightful, witty-yet-profound sermon on the doctrine of the Trinity coming on, I could pull back and make the Sunday about our Trinity. I could preach a sort of "state of the congregation" sermon, or--as I did a couple of years back--speak very little myself and invite members of the congregation to give testimony about how Trinity Church had shaped their lives and faith.

Now that I'm at Academic Suburb Church, the latter two options have evaporated like dew in the 100 degree plus heat we've been having here in SoCal the past few days. What to do? A brilliant, insightful, witty-yet-profound sermon on the doctrine of the Trinity has actually never happend for me. Tediously academic and heady, yes. Fairly insipid and lamely invoking shamrocks, yes. But anything actually edifying for the folks out there in the pews? I don't think I've hit that note yet.

What about you? Do you do THE TRINITY or do you go with your upcoming VBS theme and hope no one notices??

Friday, June 02, 2006

I got rhythm---well, sorta, maybe

What work rhythm works for you? I haven't seemed to be able to hit the sweet spot here in my new place. For six years I was working part time, and I basically just worked frantically on whatever was most urgent during the few hours of the day I had childcare. Since I was the only one in the church office, it didn't matter much whether I worked from there or from home: church folks knew to try both places till they got me, and on days I worked from home, I checked the church answering machine at regular intervals.

Now I'm back in a church office well populated with other staff and that keeps regular business hours. Before I arrived, I heard that a major complaint about one of my predecessors was that, "he was never in the office and no one knew where he was," so I'm trying to be at the church more often than not. But I do find it hard to do creative thinking there--too many distractions, interruptions, people to chat with, etc. I find myself sort of scattered, my attention jumping from one thing to another--feeling at the end of the day that I've not really done much that was worth doing.

Do you have ways you divide up your day for maximum impact? How much time is a legitimate amonut of the work day to spend out of the office? Where do you write your sermons? Where do you do your "creative thinking?" Are coffee shops acceptable "auxilliary offices"? What about local libraries?

If you are a lay person, how do you feel about these issues? If you ran into your pastor at the local cafe at 2:00 on a workday, would you assume she was slacking off or doing important contemplative reflection??