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.