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.