Sunday, December 30, 2007

May we help you?

There was an article in the LA Times the other day about how the LAPD is employing colonies of feral cats to keep the rodents at bay at certain precinct headquarters. The article subtly implied that "working cats" are a rarity.

We hope none of you are under the impression that we are cats of leisure. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We hold key positions as support staff for this household.

We keep the office under control.

We send faxes.

We run the copier--or if it fails to deliver, we sit on it and act cute.

Elizabeth the Cat
Balrog the Kitten

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Essay Question

Is The Grinch actually a modern re-telling of the
Zaccheus story?


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Miss Manners says . . .

If you want to send your pastor a Christmas card, that's a fine, supportive, kind thing to do. Go for it.

If you want to share your critique of certain aspects of the church's ministry, it is also appropriate to write those thoughts down in a letter and sign your name to it--or better yet, call and make an appointment to talk about your concerns.

But to tuck a critical letter into your Christmas card?
Very. Very. Tacky.
El Tack-a-mundo

Don't do that, 'kay?

A visit from . . .

Last night I awoke to the sound of sleigh bells. Well, at least something that sounded like sleigh bells. First they sounded fast----ching,ching,ching,ching,ching, then they slowed up, ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching . . .
In my sleepy fog I wondered, did the kids get a hold of some jingle bells somehow? Was one of the neighbors playing some kind of elaborate hoax? Or could it be . . . possibly . . . the Big Guy? St. Nick himself? Drowzily I reached for my robe and got up to investigate.

And I found not St. Nick, but Peanut the Hamster running a mid-night half-marathon on his wheel.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Am I Raising a Future Mega Church Pastor?

My 10 year old son is singing the first verse of Once in Royal David's City as a solo at the beginning of our Lessons and Carols Service on Christmas Eve. This is his first solo ever. Last night I took him to a one-on-one rehearsal with our choir director prior to the main choir rehearsal. I sat in the "office" part of the music room while he and Ms. Director did their work.

As they concluded their work, Ms. Director told him he didn't need to wear a choir robe, just a nice pair of slacks and a dress shirt--and that he could sit in the front pew until it was his "turn".

My son was quiet for a moment. They I heard him say quite earnestly,
"Since this is Christmas Eve and we want everything to be really special, I think I should wear one of those red choir robes and that maybe we should have a spotlight on me . . ."

Can a Lucite pulpit and back-up praise band be far behind???

Thursday, December 20, 2007

In A Pickle

Okay, parents. Be warned.

Say your child comes home just before Thanksgiving with a class note announcing that her class is beginning a unit on "Pilgrims". Say what the teacher means by "Pilgrim" is anyone who has left their country to come to America. Say the assignment is for each child to identify a "pilgrim" in their family tree and write a report about this person and his/her country of origin. Also involved is the creation of a doll wearing some type of identifiable national garb. Say you encourage your child to pick her Russian-Jewish great-grandmother who actually has quite a dramatic story of escaping the Bolsheviks and surviving the Nazis before coming to America in 1946.

You should have seen it coming, but you didn't. The culmination of all this is that less than a week before Christmas yet another note comes home announcing that the grande finale of all this heritage study and celebration will be yet another of the dreaded Multi-Cultural Feasts in which each student is to bring a dish to share that represents her pilgrim and their country of origin.

This means that after surviving the Christmas pageant, submitting the Christmas Eve bulletin info and staying out till 10:30 at a Session meeting you will be up at 7, trolling the frozen food aisles at the local grocer hoping against hope that you will find some frozen pirogi or blintzes--but finally settling on a nice big jar of kosher dills, some lox and--yup, you guessed it--bagels. (This after agreeing with your 8 year old that the big jar of purple Borscht is NOT an option because no way in heck is she going to be known as the girl who brought BEET SOUP to the feast.)

So--think ahead. If an assignment like this comes your way, consider the culinary implications and pick the ancestor whose cuisine is most likely to appear in your grocer's freezer.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Carolling, Carolling--wha . . .?

Hee Hee

One of our youth group advisors is the forty-something father of one of the youth. Really nice guy. Cute in a middle-aged, balding with glasses kind of way.

Anyway--the youth went carolling Sunday evening. They went to both homes and to the nursing care wings of two of the retirement communities here in town. At one of these centers, they ran into members of the local Friends meeting. The Friends were there to distribute gifts to residents who had little or no family and might not receive many or, indeed, any gifts otherwise. They had a few very young kids with them who had obviously been given a big pep talk about the importance of their mission of providing gifts to lonely old people. A three year old, observing the leader of the Friends group talking earnestly with our youth advisor dived into the Friends' basket of presents and eagerly presented it to him--obviously having identified him as one of the lonely old people he was there to serve.

The youth group found this hysterical and began laughing so hard there was some question of it being THEIR incontinence and not the residents' that was going to be a problem.

Mr. Youth Adviser has advised us that he will be busy on the night of next December's Caroling event.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Friendly Beasts?

Hi! My name is Peanut. I'm a hamster. I was a birthday present to the little girl in this picture. I've been here in her house about a week. It's pretty nice. Clean cage. Soft bedding. Plenty of grub. Yesterday I met this creature

She seemed to really, really want to get to know me better. When the humans carried her out of little girl's room, I heard her begging and pleading to be let back in.

I have a funny feeling, though. Should I trust my instincts?

Thursday, December 13, 2007



Why, why in a fit of insanity during a relatively calm stretch of November did I agree to host the Christmas "Thank You" party for our church office volunteers at my house this afternoon??

Why did I forget that my spouse would be away at his Annual Big Meeting for People who Sell the Same Stuff he Sells ALL this week-- meaning that I'd be holding the bag for all household chores and kid schlepping during the days leading up to this event?

Why didn't you all remind me that if you are The Worst Housekeeper in the World and a Mom and a Pastor you don't volunteer to let ANYONE into your house during Advent?


Update: And WHY did the office volunteer who is here now just say to one of the deacons passing through, "Are you going to the party at Pastor Rebel's later?"
"What party?" asks Ms. Deacon.
"The one for church volunteers!"

NO NO NO! Church OFFICE volunteers, just the dozen or so of you who help out in the office on weekdays. NOT all the volunteers--'cause that would be, like--everybody? Now Ms. Deacon will think I left her out on purpose. How festive!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Merry Christmas--You're fired

Okay, not really.

But yesterday our Children's/Youth Music Director and I were having a spirited discussion about whether it was sufficient just to send the final pageant script electronically to all participants or if we needed to print up hard copies.

She felt that sending the script as an e-mail attachment was enough. "Everyone can print their own copy to bring to Saturday's rehearsal."

I argued that it was great to send the script by e-mail so folks would see it in advance, but that my guess was that one half to two thirds of the cast would forget to print the script and bring it to rehearsal with them--thus the need for hard copies.

Then Ms. Music said, "I guess we just have a generational difference regarding how much we rely on e-mail."

Ooooh. Wrong thing to say. Wrong. Especially since she is only SEVEN FREAKING YEARS YOUNGER THAN ME!

I may need to haul out the mistletoe so she can kiss my middle-aged butt.

Holiday stress much???

Monday, December 10, 2007

Advent Injuries

Years ago, around this same time of year, I attempted a children's sermon in which I needed to make a single cut through a folded piece of paper to produce a five-pointed star. I don't recall what point I was trying to make. I do remember that I had not completely thought through the logistics of folding, cutting and holding a hand-held mike simultaneously. When it came to the crucial moment, I tried to do all three things with two hands and ended up snipping about 1/8th of an inch of the skin between my middle and ring fingers. Blood spurted everywhere and I ended up leaving worship to drive myself to urgent care where I got three stitches.

What is it about Advent? This year during the Sundays of Advent we are focusing on stories in the Hebrew Scriptures that feature Bethlehem as their setting. Yesterday, we considered the annointing of David. You'll recall that that story contains the pithy quote, "The Lord does not see as mortals see. Mortals look on outward appearences, but God looks upon the heart."

So, for the children's sermon, I had the brilliant idea to take a can of Spaghettios and a can of liver flavored dog food and switch the labels. I would ask the kids which one they would choose as a treat and, when they' picked the Spaghettios, whip out the can opener and reveal---Yuck! Dog food! You can't always judge by appearances . . .

Ah! But I would not repeat my mistake from years past. Beforehand, my colleague an I arranged that when the crucial moment came, I would hold the mike and narrate and she would wield the can opener: collaberative AND safety minded. What could be better? Except--the can opener we snagged from the church kitchen had seen better days. It would not cut the whole way around the can lid even after several attempts. So my colleague tried to pry it open the rest of the way and----sliced her thumb so badly that SHE had leave worship and go to urgent care where she got three stitches.

At least purple hearts are the proper liturgical color.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Math for RevGals

Years ago now, I had to take the GRE as part of my seminary application process. I thought it was dumb that I had to take the math portion because, come on--how much math did a pastor need to know??

So, as evidence of the importance of doing your math homework I present these clergy math word problems-- they are all calculations I've had to do in the past two days.

1. Your congregation is supporting a holiday party for families in need (sponsored by a community organization). You have agreed to provide the hams. Sponsoring organization has informed you that they expect about 350 guests and will need 22 hams. Your cookbook at home says that ONE large ham will provide about twenty to thirty servings. In addition, you know that at least half of the guests will be children. Do you really need to buy 22 hams? If not, estimate how many hams you DO need to buy.

2. History shows that by mid December your church will have received 90% of the stewardship pledges it is going to receive for the following year. If you have received $X in pledges by Dec. 5, what can you estimate the total dollars pledged for 2008 will be?

3. It finally rained! Hard! The custodian has turned off the sprinkler system for now. If it rains again this weekend, he can keep the system turned off another week at least. If the church's water bill usually runs $x/week, how much money will you save by the end of the month if it keeps raining?

4. A keen minded Session member has noted that the cost of utilities to run your church's pre-school annually is roughly equal to the congregation's projected budget deficit for this year. Are they correct? Describe the process by which you would analyze what portion of the church's utility bill is ascribable to the preschool's utility use?

Seeing as how my verbal score was nearly 300 points higher than my analytic score on that darned test, it's a wonder they keep me employed around here . . .

Monday, December 03, 2007

Elizabeth's Advent Reflection

Advent Greetings!

Elizabeth the Cat here. I know there is a seasonal story about an Elizabeth who receives a visit from a young relative. The story makes it sound like she was pretty happy about it. I'd like to offer an alternative interpretation. She found her young relative mostly annoying. She wished she would go back where she came from. She was really thinking, "Why my house and not Aunt Johanna's?"

It could be that my own experiences with a certain kitten are affecting my exegesis.
What do you all think????

Elizabeth the Cat

Friday, November 30, 2007

Random Pre-Advent Dots

* Lots of rain! Yeah! We really need round here.

* I know it's hard to find purple candles for the church advent wreath when all the stores are full of red,white, gold and green-- but buying red candles and wrapping them round with purple wrapping paper simply will not work. Trust me on this, I'm a professional. Luckily, our Associate was making a visit that took her by a big Cokesbury store. We will save the red candles for Pentecost.

*New favorite word:
Ethnodoxology: the theological and anthropological study, and practical application, of how every cultural group might use its unqiue and diverse artistic expressions appropriately to worship the God of the Bible. I want to be an Ethnodoxologist when I grow up.

*Cats do not appreciate cat-sized Santa costumes you impulse-buy them at Target.

*Too bad about Evil Kneivel. He was my brother's hero back in the day.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Not Kosher

My Dad, visiting us for Thanksgiving, claims I must relinquish all claim to the Jewish heritage which I inherited through him. His basis for this pronouncement? He found Blueberry Bagels in my kitchen.

Can I get a rabbinic ruling on this????

Friday, November 16, 2007


My kids are in a stage production of School House Rock this week. Remember School House Rock? Those educational pieces that appeared between Saturday morning cartoons in the '70s? I remember them from a kid perspective. What I don't remember is whether the grown-ups back them found them at all controversial. Re-learning all these songs thirty years later provides an interesting reflection on how social consciousness has both evolved and devolved during those years.

For example: The exuberant "Elbow Room" is an enthusiastic romp through westward expansion. Today it would be suppressed/banned/attacked because it does not even mention the impact of manifest destiny on native populations.

On the other hand "The Great American Melting Pot" contains these lines:
"What great ingredients! Liberty and Immigrants!" and
"Just go and ask your Grandma, there's something she can tell
How it's great to be an American and something else as well . . ."
Great to be an American and something else as well???????
Toss those lines into any immigration debate today and see what happens.

Then there is the very frank discussion of "Tyrannosaurus Debt". Which I think would make the business community today a little nervous.

And "Suffering Until Suffrage"? Certainly some religious right group would jump all over the feminist mind poisoning of our children going down in THAT song.

And the Two Times Tables "Elementary My Dear" are presided over by Noah and the Ark which today would likely bring out the ACLU to make sure no public funds were used in the production of this blatantly Judeo-Christian material.

And so on and so on.

Anyway--I could go on, but I've got to get the kids to the theater on time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

We need a Word for it.

One of my best RevGal friends hereabouts is a woman who was the Associate Pastor at this church for about nine years a decade or so ago and now serves as pastor of a church about 45 minutes away. She's often able to give me history and insights on people and situations here; I bring her news of her old friends.

While lunching with her last week, I remembered a conversation I'd had with a group of pastors a few years back. There happened to be several of us at that particular gathering who had served the same congregations at different times--sometimes decades apart. We all agreed that there should be a name for pastors who have served the same congregation but at different times. It's a unique kind of relationship--sort of like in-laws, but not exactly. Maybe more like two people who both dated the same person but at different times. But that's not exactly right either.

What would you call it?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

And the Gerbil Is . . .

Rach for most creatively inserted gerbil into a blog post last week. Check it out here.

Honorable mention to PresbyGal for literary gerbil use and to Kathryn for gerbil post that best reflects my own state of mind this past week. (i.e. Gerbil on Speed).

And for today's surreal moment . . . . the whole family went to this event today. My kids decided they wanted to visit the face painting booth, but we did not know where it was. While I held their cotton candy, they raced across the path to ask directions from the kindly gentleman in a Pilgrim costume who was sitting in the information booth. As he pointed them in the right direction, I recognized this kindly pilgrim as none other than world renowned Process Theologian John Cobb.

For the record, his directions were entirely accurate.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Gerbils on my Mind

The Gabriel/Gerbil mix up last week reminded me of another Gerbil story.

Many years ago I was taking a writing class through the local community center. One of the guys in the class was an aspiring novelist. His day job, while he waited for his big break, was answering phones at the state income tax office. This was about a decade before the internet and clickable FAQs. He basically spent his day answering the same dozen or so common questions most people called that office about. If anyone asked a really complicated question he was supposed to transfer them to the specialist upstairs. He was one of about half a dozen people working the phones. It would have been deadly except that the most of them were also creative types who had taken that particular job while on the way, they hoped, to dazzling careers in print, theater, academia or whatever.

As they anticipated their busy season between January and April, they decided to liven things up with a little competition. A fabulous prize would go to the member of their team who was able to work the word "gerbil" into their conversations with callers most frequently during a particular work day.

"Hello, New York State Income Tax bureau. I'll have to put you on hold--we're busier than gerbils around here."

"You'd better get that form turned in faster than a speeding gerbil!"

"No, you can't deduct veterinary medical costs--not even for gerbils."

Well you get the picture. Apparently it raised moral exceptionally.

So--as we come into a busy time of year for most clergy, I propose a contest. Best use of the word "gerbil" in a blog during the coming week. You can't mention the contest. Leave a link in the comments so we can all enjoy.
Winner announced next Saturday.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A New Twist

Last night I was sitting on the couch, browsing through a book of Advent/Christmas resources. My daughter came and curled up next to me, reading over my shoulder. She is a pretty good reader for a second grader, but she still gets mixed up sometimes.

"Mom? Is that play you are reading really about Mary and a gerbil?"

(I scan the pages quickly, trying to figure out where she is getting this)

"You mean Mary and Gabriel?" I ask.

"Oh," she says. "I thought that word (pointing to Gabriel) was gerbil"

Much hilarity ensues as we imagine if the the Annunciation really had involved a gerbil rather than an angel.

That would certainly pep up the old Sunday School pageant, wouldn't it??

Friday, October 26, 2007

A New One for Me

In my life I've experienced events being cancelled due to
snow, freezing rain, flooding, tornado warnings, hurricanes, and bomb threats
but this is a new one for me: all soccer games cancelled this weekend because of bad air quality caused by smoke from all the fires round here.

Better than a cancelled house, though.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Eighteen years ago this week

I stood in front of a full congregation and promised to serve the people with "energy, intelligence, imagination and love." (From the Presbyterian ordination vows.)

I was twenty-five years old. I was single. Folks from the church lent me furniture for my house because I owned almost nothing of my own aside from a futon and a TV. My mom and grandma were both elders, so they were among those who laid hands on me during the ordination. I invited lots of my seminary friends to the event. It just so happened that most of the ones who could make it were male. This started tongues wagging about "all those boyfriends." (Though, in fact, only one of them had actually been my boyfriend in real life--and that only briefly.)

I've been a pastor longer than I've been a spouse, longer than I've been mother, and almost as long as I've been an adult. (I started seminary six weeks after my 21st birthday.)

As an ordination gift, the Senior Pastor gave me a book of Fairy Tales and wrote on the flyleaf, " . . . given on the day you are set apart to tell The Greatest Story of All."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dead Heat

And it's Eastern Orthodoxy and Calvinism, folks. You read it here first.

Eucharistic theology You scored as a Orthodox
You are Orthodox, worshiping the mystery of the Holy Trinity in the great liturgy whereby Jesus is present through the Spirit in a real yet mysterious way, a meal that is also a sacrifice.

Try it yourself here

Please Pray . . .

For the members and friends of Malibu Presbyterian Church, destroyed by a massive wildfire yesterday morning.

Friday, October 19, 2007

What SpellCheck Doesn't Catch

We are also searching for a Director of Children's Ministry. This morning I reviewed a resume of a woman who listed among her references a man who is chair of the Pastor-Perish Relations Committee at her church.

A little Halloween Humor maybe? Or a Freudian slip? Do you have one of those committees at your church???

Friday, October 12, 2007


Okay. Now I'm mad.

I went to a local coffee shop this afternoon to work on my sermon. At a table near mine there was a young man reading a book on 21st century Christianity. Presently an older gentleman arrived and joined him. I recognized this gentleman as one of the movers and shakers in the local chapter of an organization for Christians of the progressive persuasion. I've met him before, but he did not give any sign of recognizing me.

They were close enough to me that I couldn't have avoided overhearing their conversation unless I'd actually gotten up and moved. It turns out, the young man is moving soon to a Town Down the Road. He wondered if Progressive Older Gentleman might have any suggestions regarding like-minded clergy there he might get in touch with when he arrives.

POG responded that, until recently, he would have suggested RevGal Friend of Mine, but that when he had approached her about being involved in the Organization for Christians of the Progressive Persuasion, "she really gave me the cold shoulder."

Here's the thing. Another POG approached me about the same thing. Specifically, he wanted me to be on the steering committee of the local chapter. I heard him out, then responded that being the working mother of two young children, I had to choose my commitments carefully. I said that I support many of the OCPP's goals, but regretfully, I can't take on a leadership role right now. People pleaser that I am, I felt badly about this and said so in a conversation with RevGal Friend of Mine. She shared that she too had been approached about joining the steering committee and had responded exactly as I had. (Well, the number of children is different in her case.)

That a self-proclaimed "progressive" would interpret a working mother's struggle to balance her ministry calling with her family's needs as "giving him the cold shoulder" makes me just about catatonic with rage.

Got a deal for you bud. You come to my house, make dinner for my family, fold five loads of laundry and help my kids with their homework. Then I'll go to your damn meetings. So there.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Remind me cause I'm having a hard time getting there on my own:

Is there anything good about being a pastor during STewardship season?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How do you say "Flannel Board" en Espanol?

Do any of you have suggestions for a Sunday school curriculum designed to be used in a bilingual setting? I don't mean a regular curriculum that has been translated into Spanish/Korean/Chinese or whatever for a Spanish,Korean, or Chinese speaking congregation. I mean something created with the idea that it would be used in a setting where English speaking and non-English speaking children would be learning together--something that give potential leaders some background and guidance on how to make that work.

It occurs to me that if such a curriculum doesn't exist, someone with the right language skills and CE background could probably find a market if s/he developed one.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Lost Pleasures

In spite of the many high tech advantages and entertainments available to today's kids, there are some joys they are missing.

This morning my kids were watching some freakishly awful cartoon involving Alvin and the Chipmunks and a Werewolf.

"Where do they find singers who have such high, squeaky voices?" my second-grader wondered aloud.

"They don't," I explained. "Those are just regular singers' voices played back on a higher speed."

She looked puzzled. And I realized that my kids have never and never will relieve an afternoon's boredom by putting random 33s on the turntable, playing them at 45speed and giggling hysterically. The day my best girlfriend and I tried this with "Barry Manilow Live" we about peed our pants. It also turned Rod Stewart's "Do You Think I'm Sexy" into an entirely different kind of song.

Ipod, Schmipod.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Blogging Ethics

So--my church is looking for an Associate Pastor. (We have an interim Associate right now.) In my denomination, the Head of Staff isn't supposed to direct or overly influence the search process, so I've only been to a few key meetings of the search committee. They do, however, copy me on their e-mails.

In reading through their last round of e-mails, I discovered that a committee member has googled the name of one candidate they are particularly interested in. From the results of that google search it was only a matter of a few mouse clicks to discover this person's blog. Now the whole committee is checking out this persons blog and discussing it amongst themselves. For some, reading the blog makes this candidate even more appealing. Some of the folks who are less familiar with blogging find the blog juvenile and worry about potential breaches of confidence that might occur. One actually posed the question, "Would we feel comfortable with a pastor who blogs?"

Of course, they already HAVE a pastor who blogs. Me. But I blog under a pseudonym and if anyone in the church has discovered my secret identity, they are keeping very quiet about it.

The ethical dilemmas abound. Knowing that having a blogging pastor could be an issue for some, am I honor bound to come clean? As a fellow blogger should I let this candidate know that the search committee has discovered and is reading their blog?

What do you all think?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

One absentee speaks

I had my haircut today. My hairdresser is a guy who was singing in the choir at my church off and on the first six months I was here. Then, he stopped coming at all. I figured it was because his voice teacher had applied to be our new Director of Music, but was not chosen for the position. I figured he was mad on her behalf and was thus staying away. I kept going to him for haircuts, though I didn't bring up the subject because there were usually quite a few others in the shop at the time and I didn't think it was appropiate to bring up the topic in a "public" place.

Today I was the only one there. I came at it obliquely. "Are you doing any singing?"

He enthusiastcaly told me about a Master Choral Society he had just joined and invited me to their Christmas concert.

"That's great!" I said. "We sure miss your voice in our choir, though."

He sighed. Then he told me that in the last year his daughter had left her husband and moved in with him bringing her two pre-schooler sons. Also, his parents' health had taken a downward turn and they were able to do less and less for themselves, becoming more and more isolated.

He said, "I feel bad about church, but on Sunday mornings I either spend time with my two grandsons. They've been pretty torn up by the whole divorce and need some grandpa attention. Or I drive out to my parents, (about an hour away), and spend Sunday doing stuff for them around their house or taking them out to errands since neither of them drive anymore."

Our eyes met in the big salon mirror.

"It sounds like you are too busy being a good Christian on Sundays to get to church." I told him.

He smiled. "I guess I never thought about it that way."

Monday, October 01, 2007

Elizabetha and Balrog: The Interview

Thanks for interviewing us, Amie!

For Elizabeth:

1. You are obviously a cat of high standing, with others who look up to you. What is the most important thing that Balrog can learn from you about being a successful and fulfilled cat?
I don't know that I want Balrog to be successful. Isn't enough of a success for her that she was chosen by MY family to come live at MY house and share MY territory? But anyway--she really ought to consider:

You won't be cute forever, so you'd better cultivate some manners.
Humans don't like raw sparrow, so you can stop bringing them to the back patio.
If you think the kids are annoying now, you should have met them five years ago.

2. Where do you stand on the issue of peaceful coexistence with dogs? (Full disclosure: The whole idea of peaceful coexistence with cats is a stumbling block for me. Perhaps we can find some common ground.)

Frankly, I prefer dogs to other cats. Especially one particular other cat who lives in this house.

3. In the interest of peace and reconciliation, what one thing do you think dogs need to understand about cats?

Dogs don't need to understand us. They just need to leave us in peace. And those leashes?? Ha!

4. Are you a good hunter?

My reflexes aren't what they used to be. In my prime, I used to hide in the fushia bush behind my old house, waiting for a hummingbird to come within range. When one did, SWIPE! and that was all she wrote. Now I just watch them and remember.

5. How do you show your humans that you love them?

I sit on them. Especially if they are reading.

For Balrog:

1. Do you remember much about your life before you came to your current home?

Not too much. My family adopted me when I was just six weeks old. I remember my sisters and brother and of course, Mama Cat. I still see my first Human Mom pretty often since she comes over here a lot to look after they boy and girl of this house when the Mom and Dad of the house both need to be gone at the same time. She always exclaims about how much I've grown and brings me news of my Mom and siblings who all still live with her.

2. Where do you stand on the issue of peaceful coexistence with dogs? (This may be an opportunity to provide a good example to your elders.)

Dogs scare me. There is one who lives next door who barks a lot. I try to stay out of his way.

3. It seems that Elizabeth has not been all that welcoming to you. What is the main thing you want to learn from her, if she will teach you?

How to get humans to let you sleep in bed with them. Elizabeth gets to sleep in Mom and Dad's bed every night. But no one will let me sleep with them. Why not? I don't get it! I try really hard to make sure it's a fun time: I leap, I do around-the-room races, I play soccer with earrings, I chase moths, I shred homework, I do arias---but every night they put me out in the hallway and shut all the bedroom doors so I can't get in. What's up with that?

4. What is your favorite cat/human activity?

I like the game where I hide outside when it starts to get dark. If I hide long enough, they'll get out a can of wet cat food and tap the edge of it with a spoon. That means I WIN and I can come out my hiding spot and get some of that delicious stuff.
5. You are still a growing kitten. What do you hope to achieve over the next year?
I'm looking forward to eating some Thanksgiving turkey and climbing the Christmas Tree.

Thanks for your answers!

In the interest of cross-cultural communication,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Worship or model U.N.?

The World Communon Sunday tradition around here is to have a joint worship service with the Spanish speaking Presbyterian congregation with whom we share our building.

A number of folks--from our congregation and theirs--always choose to stay home on this day. The main complaint from the "sit this one out" folks from our church is that they don't speak Spanish and it's a pain to sit through a service where they don't understand half of what's being said. (Despite the fact that we always have translations printed in the bulletin.) The main complaint from the absentees in the other congregation is that our church is so big and their church is so small that they always feel like guests at OUR church rather than equal participants in a joint service--even if their choir sings, their pastor preaches, their elders serve communion, etc. At least 85% of the folks in the Hispanic church speak English, so comprehension is not the big issue for most of them.

My experience last year, (remember I've only been here 18 months) was that the service was well planned and executed, but it still felt more like an excersize in diplomacy than a worship service

So--here's my question. Have any of you been part of a bilingual service that "worked"? What made it tick? Could you recommend any resources?

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Case of the Vanishing Members

At a stewardship committee meeting yesterday the subject arose of formerly active members who seem be taking a vacation from church life. How to encourage them to return?

The big push seemed to be for a high tech solution. If we could do a better job collecting the data from the little "friendship pads" in the pew, we could manipulate that data on a regular basis, (quarterly seemed to be general consensus),to find out who had missed worship more than, say, 10 times. The Pastors could then call on those folks to see what's going on and, so the theory goes, nip potential discontent and unhappiness in the bud.

My response was that the most sophisticated "attendence tracking" program available would not resolve this issue. What is needed is the very low tech, but apparently too difficult and awkward, strategy of being community for one another. If you notice someone hasn't been around in a while, give them a call. Or if that seems to "in your face" wait until you run into them at the grocery store and say, "The choir's Easter music was amazing! I was so sorry you missed it!" Or something. When I have contacted inactive members in the past the most common lament I've heard was, "When I stopped coming NONE OF MY FRIENDS FROM CHURCH seemed to notice." A computer program can't replace people actually paying attention.

Or am I the crazy one?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Feline Metaphor

It's raining here in Academic Suburb. There has not been measureable rainfall here since April 22nd. Balrog the Kitten was born March 30th and wasn't getting out much yetin mid April.

This morning she made her usual joyful dash into the back yard as soon as we woke up and opened the door for her. She screeched to a halt-- paws back-pedaling, just like in a cartoon--and stood transfixed in fascination and horror. Her familiar world was gone, replaced with one in which wet stuff falls out of the sky and her favorite napping spots have become puddles. She looked back towards the door at me and gave me an accusing look that said, "What did you do?" She stood there for a few more moments until an extra big drip from the tree hit her smack on the head, at which point she sprinted back into the house.

I sometimes feel like the church today is like that kitten in the rain--utterly undone by what seems like an overnight change in our familiar world, blinking in confusion, accusing any nearby and likey target of having caused this calamity, retreating farther and farther into what still seems like safe territory.

Waiting for the sun to come back out.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Feline Ethics

Elizabeth the Cat here.

I am not happy. Repeat--NOT HAPPY.

That kitten is getting bigger and more annoying every second. Here she is stalking me at my second favorite napping spot. It is too hot to go outside and enjoy my first favorite spot under the grapefruit tree.

I need your advice on a matter of ethics. I am not a pacifist. How much violence is permissable in this situation?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

History of Us

As I've mentioned before, my second grade daughter is a big American Girl fan. Due to this passion, I have recently been made aware that AG is debuting a new historical American Girl book/doll/associated paraphenalia very soon. This new American Girl will introduce today's youngsters to that long ago era of American history-----wait for it -------The 1970's!!!!

Check it out

Does anyone but me feel that this is just sick and wrong????

(Off to buy more Geritol . . .)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Good-bye Madeleine

I don't think I would have survived sixth grade without A Wrinkle In Time.

Rest in peace.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Morning Without Make-up

Today was the second day of school. I spent the morning filling out the piles of forms, permission slips, etc. that came home with the kids yesterday. (My son's new teacher fiendishly promised any child who turned in all his/her forms by this morning 50pts of Classroom Currency which can later be traded in for fabulous prizes or privileges.)

Also, today is the day that the Domestic Goddesses make one of their twice-monthly visits to my home, so I was also frantically trying to de-clutter the house sufficiently for them to arrive and do their thing.

Finally, the little cat, who is not supposed to spend the day outside unattended, got out just before we were ready to leave and we had to launch an (ultimately unsuccessful) search and capture mission.

The bottom line is that I completely missed the "apply make-up" portion of my personal morning routine.

Oh well.

As I was walking across the church lawn to my office, I met a friendly woman walking her dog. We chatted a bit. Turns out her niece goes to the same school my kids go to. She has the same first grade teacher my daughter had last year.

"Wow!" said my new best friend, "You have a second grader? You must have started late!"

I sure did, Buttercup. But at least the Politeness Fairy didn't pass over my house.

Tomorrow: lipstick and face powder.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Varieties of Domestic Experience

Last spring our youth director decided to have a cookie baking night with the youth group. She had the idea that baking together would be good fellowship and that the cookies produced might be taken to shut-ins, etc.

Well, she was stunned at the lack of kitchen experience among our teenagers. It seems many of them were completely unable to follow a recipe, use your most basic cooking implements, or set the controls on a non-microwave type oven. After one batch of dough was finally assembled, our youth director caught one of the girls putting the mixing bowl directly into the oven.

I was very smug upon hearing this report. I bake with my kids regularly. I always have them read the recipe out loud to me, they measure out the ingredients, and they certainly know how plop drop cookies onto a baking pan. If MY kids were old enough for youth group, THEY would have been able to take charge. HMPH!

However . . . the other night we went out for Sushi. My husband ordered saki. At one point my daughter exclaimed,

"Gosh, dad! You're drinking a lot of that!"

"Not really," I pointed out. "That saki cup isn't much bigger than a thimble."

Whereupon my kids asked in unison:


My grandma would be so ashamed.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Broken Cup and a Confused Neighbor

I was cutting up some meat to marinate for our dinner. Balrog the Kitten couldn't keep her nose out of it and kept jumping onto the counter. I asked my daughter,

"Could you take that cat out of here!?!"

So she grabbed the kitten and carried her out of the kitchen.


Balrog was so demented by raw meat frenzy that she squirmed out of my daughter's arms, made a frantic leap for freedom------and landed on the coffee table, knocking this mug to the floor where it shattered.

I was naturally upset. Upset with the cat. Upset with my daughter. Upset with myself for leaving the mug on the table.

The kids were upset, too, having appreciated the peculiar humor of that mug ever since it arrived at our house.

"Oh no! Not the one that says, 'Does this pulpit make my butt look big?'" they lamented.

"That says what?" asked the neighbor boy who had come over to play with my son.

"Does this pulpit make my butt look big?" my kids repeated.

Cue Crickets

"I don't get it", says neighbor boy shaking his head.

I guess the priest at the Catholic church where he and his family go does not have such a mug, huh?

Dueling Guilts equal Lousy Vacation

My kids have been going to daycamp all summer except for our 10 days of vacation in late June. They've liked it okay, but I've been feeling guilty that they haven't been able to have any of the good, old fashioned, summer-vacation-nuthin'-to-do but watch-junk-TV-and-ride-bikes time like I did every summer growing up. So I decided to take this last week before school starts as vacation.

But--this is also the final week of ramp-up-for-Sunday-school, Presbtery-is-meeting-here-in-ten-days craziness--so I also felt guilty for not being at work, so I told everyone I would be around, could be reached by phone and e-mail, and would come in for staff meeting.

So--I've been resentfully taking way too many phone calls and responding to way too many e-mails. Meanwhile my kids have been whining that they are B-O-R-E-D and why didn't I sign them up for the last week of daycamp where actual FUN is being had?

Definetly the worst of both worlds. Don't try this at home.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Could I get some legal advice?

Hi all. We're trying to get our technological act together to podcast our services. As our website folks were enthusiastically describing the horizons they believe this will open for us, a couple of folks raised the issue of what we can legally podcast. Will ASCAP come after us if we podcast the choir' anthem? Do we need to get publisher's permission to broadcast the scripture reading? What about prayers or poems that were written by someone other than the pastor?

After much discussion the conclusion was that I should consult with Very Recently Retired Pastor of the Bigger Church down the street whose congregation has been podcasting for a couple of years already. When I asked VRRP what kind of licensing or legal arrangements they had made before they started podcasting he grinned a bad boy grin and said they just went ahead figuring they'd deal with the legal issues if anyone came after them. In the thirty or so months since they've been podcasting their entire service, they've not heard a peep from any legal eagles.

Somehow, I don't think I can, in good conscience, advise our congregation to proceed with that same devil may care attitude. Do any of you podcast your service? Which parts? What kind of licenses/permits/copyrights have you obtained before doing so? Is there a website that explains in layperson's language exactly what the legal issues are? Thanks.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sing a New Song

My congregation are pretty much not Praise Song folks, but they are pretty good sports about trying out new hymns or songs as long as I don't go overboard and pack each and every liturgy with brand new pieces. So, my question for today is, what new worship music are you excited about right now? Particular songs? New collections? Hymn writers? Composers? A friend last year introduced me to this guy's work which I like. What have you discovered lately?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who is Clueless--them or me?

So there was a wedding last Saturday. Not surprising for a Saturday in August, right? No one in the bride or groom's family has a connection to our church: they chose it because it is pretty and close to their reception venue. The couple is nice enough and we've met for several pre-marital counseling sessions.

As I'm chatting with members of teh wedding party before the ceremony the Father of the Bride asked me, "I bet you have lots of stories. What's the most outrageous thing you've ever seen at a wedding?" I told a couple of funny moments. Hah Hah.

But after this wedding, I now have another story. The one where the Father of the Bride made big production after the ceremony of presenting me with--------twenty bucks.

Okay folks. Listen up. No honorarium is fine. Really. I'm a pastor. Pastors do weddngs. It's part of the territory.

Receiving the honorarium suggested in our "Weddings at Our Church" brochure and on our wedding contract is also really nice. As a general rule, I donate these to whichever mission or youth project at our church most needs donations at that point.

But twenty bucks? Are they clueless or am I being petty?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Balrog the Kitten says . . .

Only two things that money can't buy and that's:

True love and Home Grown Tomatoes

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Scouts Honor?

Does your church sponsor a Boy Scout troop or host one in your building? My church has sponsored the same troop for decades. However, there is an on-going debate which has recently heated up again, about whether we should continue our sponsorship given the national BSA policy discriminating against gays. There are some folks who are all for giving them the boot, but many more feel torn about this. They don't like the national policy, but scouting was a really important part of their growing up and they want it to be there for their sons as well. Since our local troop isn't actively or vocally anti-gay, they can deal.

Has your church had this conversation? What did you end up doing, if anything?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Paris? Is that You?

Our office administrator just reported that we received a call from a woman who is being required by the courts to do community service hours. This woman was wondering: if she made a contribution to our church would we write a letter saying she has done her community service hours here?


But then I got to thinking--just on the off chance it was Ms. Hilton, Lohan or Ritchie calling, (we are only a short drive from L.A. after all), perhaps we should have tested to see just how high she was prepared to go. We are pretty much wiping out our Capital Maintenance Reserves by resurfacing the parking lot next week. . . .

Mindy? Rach? Do you know what the going rate for this kind of bribery might be?

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Series of Fortunate (preaching) events?

Hi all. We're working on our worship/preaching plans for the coming year round here. I've always tried to do lectionary preaching interspersed with two or three off-lectionary series. What series have you preached or experienced from the pew that were particularly helpful and meaningful? Any that fell flat?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Prodigal Cat and a Theological Dilemma

We had a very anxious day yesterday as our big cat, Elizabeth went missing. We always bring her in at night because of the coyotes and bobcats that love our suburb near the mountains. But Saturday night, we could not find her to bring her in. We went to bed concerned, but not frantic. This has happened a few times before and she has always been at the patio door first thing in the morning--irritated and wondering where her breakfast is.

But Sunday morning, she was not there. We walked all around the neighborhood calling and searching, but no kitty. We went to church hoping that she would be home when we returned, but no. All afternoon long, we'd look hopefully out the window hoping to see her in one of her favorite spots, but no. She had never stayed gone that long and we feared the worst. Our town in notorious for cats that disappear around the same time an urban coyote is spotted.

At bedtime, my son was in tears--already grieving the loss of the pet he has known nearly all his life. I suggested we pray. So we did. "God, if Elizabeth is still alive, please help her find her way home to us."

Twenty mintues later, as I was reading in bed myself, I thought I heard a cat outside. I threw on my robe and opened the patio door-----and there was Elizabeth! She was meowing her head off and loping toward the house. I woke our boy up and put her in his bed. He was overjoyed. He hugged me hard and said, "Our prayer worked!"

At some point in the not too distant future, he will discover that prayers are not usually that immediately efficacious, are very often not answered on precisely the terms you've set out, and frequently appear not to be answered at all. Do I bring that up now? Or let it ride?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Tightrope anyone?

In the last week I have received:

1) An e-mail from mid-thirty-ish member informing me that he is going to be "transitioning to other involvements". His reason? I have not supported all of his suggestions for moving our congregation fully into 21st century realities. He's an insightful person and I actually have agreed with a great deal of what he says. However, I drew the line at his hope that we would do away with any affirmation of faith in Christ as a requirement for membership, and his contention that we need to do away with all written, corporate prayers as these, by their very nature, stifle spiritual liberty and coerce a heirachically imposed and false uniformity. In his e-mail he used phrases such as "auto-pilot traditionalism" and "sustaining a spiritual retirment home."

2)A thoughtful and sincere letter from another member lamenting that the core leadership of our congregation is so liberal and progressive that our more traditional and conservative members feel out of the loop and disenfranchised.

I tell ya, it doesn't pay to be a moderate.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Famous Compliment--maybe

I got a mailing today about an upcoming conference at which Indigo Girl Emily Saliers will be sort-of present via a taped message.

This reminded me that it is possible that Emily Saliers complimented me on one of my very early preaching efforts. Here is how it might have happened:

Emily's sister, Jenny Saliers, went to college with me. We weren't friends exactly, but our friendship circles overlapped. We were more than nodding acquaintances. I was very involved in the church on campus and was often involved in planning student-led services. This was the case on the weekend in question. In fact, my role in that service was "preacher" or what was passing for preaching that day. Jenny's sister happened to be visiting her on campus that weekend and they came to the service. I ran into them later that day and Jenny said something like, "Good job, Rebel!" And her sister agreed, "Yes, that was a really, really good message!"

But here's the thing. I'm pretty sure Jenny has more than one sister. Was the one that complimented me the one who went on to superstardom? Or another one? This was a good five years before the Indigo Girls hit the big time. I didn't know I needed to pay attention--so I'll probably never know.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Next Question

Our congregation is getting ready to build a Memorial Garden. Construction will begin this fall and will probably be completed by early 2008.

Do any of your churches have memorial gardens? What have you found to be good about them? Bad? Any best practices to recommend?

I recently went with a few members of the planning group to visit other churches in our community that have such gardens. Their administrative practices around selling the plots/niches/whatever and keeping track of who is buried or scattered where spanned the whole spectrum: from mind bogglingly complex,(contracts in triplicate with one set of copies in a safe off site)to frighteningly casual,(church secretary has hand-written list in a folder in her desk drawer). The first church I served had a Revolutionary War Era cemetary surrounding it. This will be a little different, I think.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Awaiting Confirmation

We are in the process of re-thinking how we do confirmation here at our church. What we've done isn't all that bad, but not anything to write home about either. So my questions for you all are:

What are you doing in this area that you think is really exciting and replicatable for other congregations?

What age(s) do you include?

Are you using a particular curriculum? So far, we've found that we like parts of several curricula but aren't sold on the whole package of any.

What are the assumptions going in about the end goal? I ask this because there has been discussion here that if you state the "end goal" as joining the church, the youth who choose not to join,(and their parents), end up feeling that there is some stigma attached to that decision--and the adults who lead the classes are set up to have folks wonder what they did "wrong" with the class that it couldn't make Christianity and church membership seem like a compelling choice for these kids. Is there a different way to frame the whole process?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Multiple Intelligences

In this corner:
Two pastors and one church custodian. Two MDivs, 19 years of combined pastoral ministry, 25 year track record of custodial experience.

In the other corner: A dunk tank borrowed from the local Rotary Club for our church summer picnic. Some assembly required.

4 hours, much head scratching, some swearing, breaks for internet searches and cold water then finally . . .


How was your day?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

All manner of things . . .

So: Last sentence of last Harry Potter--deliberate allusion to Julian of Norwich or total coincidence????

Results In

The report from camp is that it was "really good and I want to go back next year."

One sad bit of news, though. Due to the extreme fire danger level in So.California right now, they were allowed NO campfires. (In this case the, "it only takes a spark to get a fire going" turns out to be a life and death matter.) I understand why this has to be, but for me the nightly campfire was practically the whole POINT of camp. Let's pray for a rainy winter so they can have proper campfires next summer.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Camps Songs

Tomorrow we awake early and drive into the mountains to retrieve our boy. As we wind up camp memories week, please share your favorite and least favorite camp song off all time.

For me:

Favorite--It's a toss up between Green Grow the Rushes, ho! and Oo-ooh, I wanna linger ooo-ooh, a little longer . . .The first is really fun to sing, especially if you and your friends get to be "Three! Three! The rivals!" and really ham it up. The second song we always sang as part of the last night ritual at girl scout camp as we set our candle boats adrift on the lake. Very emotional.

Least Favorite? No question here. Pass It On Bleah. The summer I learned this song there was a toothpast commercial clogging the airwaves that had the same basic slogan: "Your mouth will taste so fresh and clean you'll want to pass it on . . . . (roll image of couple kissing)" So in my young brain this song was bonded to mental images of this uber-cheesey ad. But even without that association, this song has issues, IMHO. Who decided that the phrase, "once you've experienced it" is singable?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Things were different then

At camp 30 years ago:

A Girl Scout pocket knife was on our required "to bring" list for camp. Imagine: 80+ girls between 8 and 16 roaming around armed with a weapon you can't even put in your carry-on luggage today.

At one camp, if the trail head for that day's hike was too far from camp to walk to, they piled us in the back of a couple of old pick-up trucks and drove us there. Squirrely kids in the back of a truck on winding mountain roads: What a great idea!

We brought drugs to camp with us. We had to turn in prescription meds to the camp nurse, but we all had a small pharmacy in our tents and shared aspirin, cough drops, eye drops and midol as needed.

We had to eat at least "three girl scout bites" of everything we were served.

Not better, necessarily. But different.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fuzzy Thinking

As camp memories continue . . .

At every camp I ever attended in the 1970's--church camp, girl scout camp, sixth grade outdoor school--you name it, at every camp we were told the story of the Warm Fuzzies and the Cold Pricklies. All the grown-ups seem to have drunk the kool-aid on this one. They seemed positively evangelical in their zeal for this fable.

Usually, after we heard the story, we had a craft time during which we made yarn puff balls that were meant to symbolize Warm Fuzzies. Sometimes we glued googly eyes and/or antennae onto them. Some grown-up would then encourage us to secretly gift each other with these puff balls throughout the day. Oh joy.

I'm pretty sure we can trace many of the deficiancies in our nation's current social policies to an over-reliance on this story in the moral formation of youth 30 years ago.

Can I get a witness???

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Even Happier Campers

I continue to mark the days my first born is away at church camp by remembering my own camp experiences.

The summer following the great tent transfer incident, my family was living in a different place and plans were made for me to go to church camp with Carolyn, a friend from both regular school and church school. For some reason, now long forgotten, we had to be dropped off at camp a couple of hours before the official drop off time. One of our parents called ahead to be sure this was okay and the staff said that was fine.

However, the supervision offered to us during this "gap" time was extremely minimal. After my folks dropped us off, a staff member told us we were free to explore the main camp compound, but not to go down the trail that led to the lake. He then gave us a red, playground ball and pointed us in the direction of an open field.

Neither Carolyn or I were the sporty types, so we tossed the red ball aside immediately and went to explore. We checked out the cabins. We inspected the bath house. We poked our heads into the dining hall which looked very promising as there was a piano in there, but the staff was having some kind of meeting there, and they asked us to go play somewhere else. We went into the woods and played Pioneer Girls for a while. Then it occurred to us that we were hungry.

I can't remember if it was actually lunch time or if we just had the munchies. At any rate, we had no food with us. The most logical solution would have been to march into the kitchen and say, "Hey, got any cookies?" But we did not do this, partly because we were too shy and partly because it was greatly more appealing to us to imagine ourselves in crisis: needing to live by our wits.

We discussed whether the little red berries on one of the bushes in the woods were poison. We finally decided that we should try a couple. They tasted just awful, so we abandoned this line of inquiry. We snuck back to the dining hall and peeked inside. The staff meeting appeared to be over. In fact, there were no staff anywhere in sight. With me standing look-out, Carolyn zipped into the dining hall and snatched a big handful of sugar packets off one of the tables and a squeeze bottle of ketchup from the serving counter.

With our ill-gotten booty, we streaked back into the woods and spent the next half hour happily eating the packets of sugar and taking turns squirting ketchup into each other's mouths. We were well pleased with our daring and ingenuity. By the time we finished, the rest of the campers were starting to arrive. Our only problem was how to return the empty squeeze bottle without being caught. We ended up leaving it on the dining hall porch.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Happy Campers

Yesterday we dropped off my nine-year-old son for his first week of "sleep-away" camp at the Presbyterian camp for our Synod. It brought back memories of my own first camp experience at about the same age. It was an experience in early independence and adventure--and also an early experience of blatant racism, thought I didn't figure that out until much later.

It was the summer of 1973 at a Girl Scout camp in the mountains of North Carolina. When I arrived, a friendly young counsellor told me I would be in Tent #8. We hauled my gear over there and met my tentmates: three girls from Ashville who were friendly, funny and black. We campers did not spend much time in our tents that first evening, but I had the comfortable feeling that we would be friends.

However, the next morning at breakfast, the lead counselor for our area informed me that I would be moving to tent #4. I found this confusing, but obediently gulped down the rest of my pancakes and went to gather my belongings. Later that morning, during craft time, the same counsellor sidled up to me and whispered that she hoped I hadn't had too bad a night, but that she had rescued me as soon as she could.


After lunch, the Camp Director visited our area. I noticed that she and the lead counselor were looking in my direction and having what looked like a very tense discussion. The camp director got all the girls from my section together, sat us down and gave us a "talk" about how we were all Girl Scouts together at this camp and that we would ALL treat EVERYONE with KINDNESS and RESPECT.

Okay. Pretty much what we were used to hearing from grown-ups, but she sounded mad.

After that things settled down and I enjoyed the rest of my time there, although I lost half my stuff and wrote a famous letter home which began, "Dear Mom: I am a mess!"

When my parents came to pick me up, they questioned me about the tent reassignment and gave each other a meaningful look. My Mom sighed and said, "Well, look at it this way. Ten years ago those black girls probably wouldn't even have been allowed to come. "

This was my first hint that my whole, perplexing first 24 hours of camp had something to do with the skin color of my first tentmates.

Years later I hypothesized that the lead counselor had filled the fourth bed in the "segregated" tent with the girl with the funny, foreign sounding last name. When the little girl showed up and proved to be a perfectly "normal" looking white girl, she rushed to fix her "mistake". (Though if she had know about the half-Jewish part, she might have left me where I was.)

We moved later that summer, so I never went back to that particular camp. I wonder whatever became of that lead counselor.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I'm no prude but . . .

I just don't get why anyone, much less a roundish, forty-something woman, thinks it's a good idea to wear a dress that just barely covers her bottom TO A FUNERAL!

I'm just sayin'

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ministry Sorting Hat Revisited

In anticipation of the Big Movie Event this week, I'm reprising the "Hogwart's Styles of Ministry posts from 2005. What's your style?

Ravenclaw: You delight in the intellectual aspects of ministry: the study of theology, the crafting of sermons, the assimilation of vast knowledge regarding church history, polity and tradition. Your study is your sanctuary--it is here that you feel the presence of God. Your keen mind penetrates to the heart of ethical and ecclessial dilemmas. However, the relational aspects of ministry can be hard for you. You have to drag yourself out of your study to connect to people on an emotional rather than intellectual level. You have a limited amount of social energy, so you have to focus it carefully and pace yourself. Alternate careers: Professor, author, librarian.

Hufflepuff: Hufflepuffs loooved their Practical Theology classes at seminary. Your greatest delight in ministry is the actual tasks of ministry: pastoral care, visitation, organizing programs, recruiting volunteers, managing the organization. You know where the church furnace is located and could fix it in a pinch. You are generally quite popular with your congregation for your hard work and availability. However, your focus on the practicalities of ministry sometimes keeps your from seeing a grander vision, a bigger picture. Your congregations will be solid and healthy, but will seldom make the news for taking daring stands or developing cutting edge ministries. Some folks will exploit your willingness to work hard, so you have to guard against early burnout. Alternate careers: Director of community center, chef.

Gryffindor: You are attracted to the ministry because it offers a context for your need to be involved in a heroic quest: Defending the Truth, Working for Justice, Spreading the Gospel; Building God's Kingdom. You are willing to take a stand, be part of an embattled minority, sacrifice everything for The Cause. Your ministry is inspiring. As a charismatic leader you can motivate your people to great undertakings. However, you are easily dillusioned with the petty realities that inevitably crop up in congregational and denominational life. The day-to-day routine of running a church can make you tired and frustrated. You have absolutely no patience with church politics or polity and can become enraged when you run smack into it while on your quest for Truth and Justice. Alternate careers: missionary, non-profit founder, social work

Sytherin: You have incredible entrepenuerial skills. You look at a swath of farmland on the edge of the suburbs and get that Megachurch gleam in your eye. You can size up a congregation or community and immediately identify who has resources and connections that can be tapped for the success of your latest project. You may scorn denominational structures and rules, but you know how to use them to promote your mission---or to take down your enemies. Members of your church are grateful for the growth and money you bring to your congregations, but deep down they may feel that you don't care about them personally. They may hesitate to approach you with problems, feeling that you only want to hear "success stories". Alternate careers: business owner, Archbishop.

Hogwarts Churches Reprise

In honor of the Big Movie Premier this week, I thought I'd re-run these Sorting Hat "Styles of Ministry" posts from 2005. Some of you weren't yet readers then and I thought maybe even some of you who were might enjoy seeing them again.

Ravenclaw Churches
The church member who first uttered the sentence, "Let us appoint a committee to study the matter," surely was part of a Ravenclaw church. These congregations love to discuss, ponder, debate and contemplate. Once in a great while they might actually get around to doing something. Lay theologians and bible study lovers thrive in these churches. They like scholarly preaching and can sniff out a theologically incoherant argument from miles away. If they receive a huge bequest, they will likely use it to endow an annual lecture series.

Griffyndor Churches
These are cause driven churches. While other congregations also address current issues, in Griffyndor congregations issues are THE focus. These churches are animated by commitment to some kind of crusade: anti-war, pro-life, inclusion of GLBT persons, converting the lost, justice for the poor, saving the traditional family---you will find these congregations across the entire theological/political spectrum. These churches are very exciting places to be and you are never in doubt about what they stand for. However, since members of these congregations are nearly required to think alike, the spiritual growth that comes from seeing Christ in "the other" is often lacking.

Hufflepuff Churches
Think Jan Karon's Mitford congregation. Deep down, we all probably wish we had a Hufflepuff church in our lives. These congregations are not particularly intellectual or activist. They are ordinary places where ordinary people can experience the love of Christ at work in their lives. These churches are comfortable rather than exciting or stimulating. They have the best pot lucks. The same person has probably been directing the Christmas Pagaent since 1972, but if you go into emergency surgery, the pastor will be in the waiting room when you come out--not buried in her study, not marching on Washington. Because they are traditional and conflict averse, these churches have a hard time adapting to rapid social and cultural change. They thrive on stability and may not survive if their community changes drastically.

Syltherin Churches
These churches sincerely believe that we bear the best witness to the gospel if we employ the very best tools the world places at our disposal: imposing physical plants, state-of-the-art technology, a staff of hard working ministry specialists, and the best mass communication access money can buy. Syltherin congregations attach much importance to quantifiable measures of success: numbers, money, market share. They are convinced that nostalgia for quaint, old traditions is getting in the way of proclaiming the good news in a world where secular forces are arrayed against the faithful as never before. They challenge the rest of us to re-think old ways and strive for excellence, but they can also get so caught up in the tools of the culture that the culture captures them after all.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Virtual Wedding Singers

I have HAD IT!!! Starting about five years ago I began to notice a trend toward couples wanting some sort of pre-recorded music as part of their wedding ceremony. At my previous church, we did not have the technology for this, so it was easy to say "sorry, no."

But my current church does have a CD player than can play through the sound system. We purchased it primarily to be able to record sermons, choir music, etc. on CD--the fact that we could play CDs that way in the sanctuary was an afterthought.

I've worked with several couples that had some song or other they wanted to play. If it was appropriate for a Christian wedding ceremony, I agreed. Then more and more soloists for weddings were showing up with a "karaoke" track recording they wanted to use as their accompaniment.

But last night took the prize. For six months of meeting and planning, the bride's cousin has been lined up to play piano for the processional and recessional. But the bride showed up at the rehearsal last night with the news that there had been a death in her cousin's husband's family and she would not be able to play after all. They had it all covered though--she handed me a CD with pre-recorded music to substitute.

I was NOT PLEASED, but faced with the prospect of scrapping family plans to spend the rest of last night and this morning beating the bushes for an organist, (I alreay knew ours was not available), I reluctantly agreed. But I think it makes the whole ceremony feel like a tacky, early 80's music video.

I'm about to mount the dias and declare Pastor Rebel's Complete Ban on Pre-Recorded Music during weddings. (I think we could do this based on legal issues alone. Aren't there penalties for playing commercial recordings in public without permission?) Our wedding coordinator says she will back me up on this and gladly. But before issuing the decree, I thought I'd check in with you all and see how you are handling this.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

One Rig to Rule Them All

My husband has a new job. Same industy, different company. For the first time ever, he will have a company vehicle. He does not get to pick: he will inherit the one that was used by the guy he is replacing who is retiring. The vehicle in question is a big, white SUV.

Now, you have to understand that for the 14+ years that I have known him, my husband has never uttered the phrase "sports utility vehicle" without a certain modifier preceding it--sometimes two certain modifiers, the first profane, the second obscene. And now it turns out he will be driving one on a regular basis.

He took it out for a trial run the other morning--to drop the kids off at daycamp enroute to dropping me off at the church and then on to a meeting of his own. After we dropped the kids off, we came to an intersection with Yield sign. We patiently waited until it was our turn because, as my hubby said, "I'm not going to be like all the other SUV drivers who think the rules don't apply to them."

"I don't know," I said. "I think it may be like the Ring of Power. You think you're different, but eventually it turns you."

We shall see.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hard Landing

Yikes. Sometimes it doesn't pay to come home from vacation. While I was gone, three of our elderly members died and there was a major tragedy in the Presbyterian church in the next town over. Please be in prayer for that congregation. They lost three teenagers and the wife of their youth director in a terrible road accident coming back from their summer mission trip. As a veteran of many such trips, I always said, tongue in cheek, that it was a miracle that we all got home alive. Or something.

On a lighter note, both cats survived our absence, though Balrog the kitten got an eye infection from his either his mother or sibling to whose home he returned for the ten days of our trip.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Finally--Eight Random Things

I sucessfully achieved escape velocity at around midnight last night and am now officially on vacation! Now I can respond to the several of you who tagged me days and days ago for the eight random things meme.

Eight Random Things

1. I can't remember the rules to card games. Except for War, you will have to tell me how to play again every time. There is a card playing gene in my family tree that seems to get passed down in the ON or OFF position. For me it is definetly OFF. My Dad is a duplicate bridge fanatic and was quite the poker player in his youth. One of my great-grandmothers reportedly died of a heart attack after a very successful night of card playing. Me, I'm lucky if I can get through a round of gin rummy without embarassing myself.

2. I can wiggle my ears.

3. I sort of never graduated from high school. My family was living overseas and I'd attended three different high schools which all had very different programs. I had learned tons, but did not have a set of credits that added up to a diploma in any given system. So my parents hatched the brilliant plan that I should simply get my GED, tuck my SAT scores under my arm and apply to college for the next semester. I started college in January of what would, under normal circumstances, have been my Senior year in an American high school.

4. This scheme only worked because my Dad had been college buddies with the man who had become Director of Admissions at their alma mater, (which would become my alma mater as well.) So although I usually am only too willing to jump on the bandwagon when criticisms of our current president start flying, when folks start talking about how he only got into the college he got into because of who his parents knew, I keep my mouth shut.

5. I'm the oldest child in my family, but also the shortest. What's up with that?

6. There is also a neatness gene in my family tree that gets passed on in the ON or OFF position. For me it is OFF.

7. I have had twelve cats in my lifetime. I figured this out the other night when my daughter asked me how many cats I'd had. Here's to: CAT, Pussyfoots, Licorice, Gingham, Alexander, Ralph, Spider, Prince Later in the Week, Precious, Lilith, Elizabeth, and Balrog.

8. This list does not include the kittens of Licorice or Gingham who passed through the household quickly before going to new homes. It does not include various neighbor cats who were part of our lives during times when my family or I could not have a cat of our own: Orange Blossom and Black Cat in North Carolina, Marmalade from England or Souvlaki in Greece. It also doesn't include Schniklefritz and Shmuzel, my German Professor's cats who I lived with the summer I sublet her apartment while she was in Germany.

If you haven't already played this game, TAG! You're it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


So. I finally had my first pedicure. I dealt with the guilt factor by making it a mother-daughter quality time bonding experience. (My husband and son had gone to a Dodger's game as a father's day weekend adventure, so we needed an equivalent "girl thing".)

I must say it was something like the first time I went into a Starbucks. Just as a dozen years ago I didn't know the difference between a Latte, a Breve and a Chai , I stood staring at the options/prices list completely bewildered by a foreign vocabulary. What is a Full Set Crystal and how does it differ from a Full Set Silk? What could a Pink and White Fill be? What is a Spa Ped.w/Parf.? We stuck with what we knew: a plain manicure/pedicure. My daughter chose bright blue polish.

The other eye-opening bit was the number of men in the shop. Regular looking guys--one there with his own young daughter. I guess it just makes sense in a part of the country where we all go around in sandals a good chunk of the time that everyone wants their feet to look good. And Lord knows I've seen enough guys with SCARY looking feet. Still, my inner midwesterner was exclaiming, "Well, I'll be jiggered!"

All in all an educational experience.

Now, does anyone have a copy of "Nail-Shop Lingo for Dummies?"

Saturday, June 16, 2007

In which I discover my true calling

While the people at my house have been busy with "end of the school year" festivities, I snuck out to the movies. I now understand my true vocation and identity: SPIDER CAT.
The Mom of the House says she is very sorry she has not been posting much or responding to your kind "tags" for the Eight Random Things meme. She has been really busy lately. The people are going on vacation soon. I'll bet she will catch up with you then.
Off to practice my web-casting!
Balrog the Kitten

Friday, June 08, 2007

Hysterical Relief

I'm very relieved that the new passport rules have been temporarily suspended. I was this close to cancelling my plane reservations to Canada for week after next in despair that my new passport would not arrive in time. When I went on-line to print out my passport application receipt, I accidently typed in assport instead of passport.

Well, you can tell it is late Friday afternoon because my colleague and I just about expired from laughing about this and snickering about people we know whose assports need to be confiscated.
Good thing everyone else has left the office for the day.

Monday, June 04, 2007


Sympathy seems to be leaning toward my adversary, so I think you all need to see what I am dealing with on a daily basis.

Here I am, trying to enjoy a quiet breakfast. But Noooooooooo. I have to watch my back because that damn kitten is lying in wait on the bookshelf.

You see? What kind of a life is this?

Elizabeth the Cat

A Little TOO Ordinary, Perhaps

My sermon yesterday was a plea for folks to be open to God speaking to us in extra-ordinary ways during Ordinary Time.

Five minutes after the service was over, several sharp-eyed members noticed that we had what appeared to be a big plumbing disaster in the works. The cap of one of the outside clean-outs had blown clear off and sewage was belching out into the parking lot. Our Sunday custodian pretty much is just a set up and clean up guy--not a diagnose and repair guy. After some head-scratching and some half-hearted searching for a plumber's snake, we all concluded that the only reasonable course of action at that point was to call Rescue Rooter.

They promised to send someone within the hour. So I settled down on a bench at a discrete distance to await his arrival. I could hear the Spanish service beginning and blissed out on their singing for a while. In due course the Rooter guy arrived and I spent the first Sunday of Ordinary Time watching him run a 90 foot snake through our sewer line. Then, as if that were not exciting enough he offered to run a free camera through the line to see what was really going on down there. Roots, of course. Growing through the offset joints in our fifty year old terra cotta sewer pipes.

As I drove home two hours after our service had ended I could almost hear God chortling, "Was that ORDINARY enough for yah, Honey?"

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My Turn

Hi. I'm a kitten. My name is Balrog. The Boy of the House came up with that idea for a name while he was playing his Lord of the Rings computer game. The Mom of the House said it was a good name for me because I need a fearsome name to give me confidence in facing down The Big Cat Who Hates Me.

I don't get that cat at all. Why is she so grumpy? I've done everything I know how to be friendly but all she does is hiss at me and whap me on the nose.

But just wait. The Dad of the House says he can tell by looking at my paws that one day I will be A Huge Cat. Then she will be sorry she was so mean to me.

Balrog the Kitten

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Blessing the Un-confirmed

Hi all--
Have any of you developed good ways to bless/affirm/comission kids who have gone through the whole confirmation class process and choose not to be confirmed?

Because I want the youth to see confirmation as a serious commitment, I always have told them it's okay to say, "I'm not sure, or I'm not ready." Because I want to honor their God-given freedom and integrity, I've always said, "This class constitutes an invitation. You are free to say, "no".

Yet it is hard to avoid there being some stigma attached to the kids who choose not to join. Their parents and other adults in the congregation wonder what went wrong. Was it the class? The teacher? The whole idea of confirmation itself? One of the grad students that has been helping lead the confirmation group this year went on a bit of a rant at Session last night saying essentially that, "We disenfranchise the honest kids and embrace the ones that just go with the flow."

I don't agree completely with his diagnosis. There are some kids who just go with the flow and don't take the whole thing very seriously, but there are also kids who do see confirmation as a meaningful commitment--one they are making freely and joyfully. I also don't think that all the kids who say "no" are brave non-conformists. Some are, but others make that choice to disoblige their parents, or differentiate themselves from a sibling, or because the guy they have a crush on thinks Christianity is lame.

Here the heart of the question, I think. How do we privately and publicly affirm the choice of the kids who say "This isn't the right choice for me right now," yet still somehow convey to them and the gathered community that, ultimately, it DOES matter whether one chooses to be a follower of Jesus or not.

How have you worked this out at your place?

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Invasion: Day 9

  1. Fellow Cat Bloggers,
  2. I'm writing as well as I can with the foul stentch of KITTEN everywhere in the air. At first they kept the little ankle scratcher confined in LIttle Girl's bedroom, but in the last few days, they've let it roam loose in the house.

It has made friendly overtures, which I have most emphatically rejected. I've taken to spending most of my day outside. So far they have not allowed the furry little interloper to invade that portion of my territory. But it's probably only a matter of time. Sigh.

Elizabeth the Cat

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Five RGBP Meet-up edition

One of the stated goals of the RevGalBlogPals is to apply for grants to support such things as an International get together of folks associated with the ring. Today's Friday Five asks us to dream about that event.

1. What would the meeting be like? (Continuing Ed? Retreat? Outside Speakers? Interest Groups? Workshops? Hot Stone Massages? Pedicures? Glorified Slumber Party?)

Probably needs to have something other than just support groups if we are to justify the trip to our various boards/congregations. Obvious topics for workshops or speakers would be technology in ministry and issues particular to women in ministry. We probably have folks within the ring that could lead the workshops, thus eliminating high fees for outside speakers. Workshop leaders could have their registration and room fee comped.

2. When in 2008 might you be able to attend? January? Shortly after Easter? Summer? Fall? Some other time?
Could we tag it on to the beginning or end of some other even that lots of us might be going to anyway, like the Festival of Homiletics? I don't know when/where that is happening in 2008, but if the RGBP event was a two day affair just before or just after, then we'd only have to buy one plane ticket and take one block of time away from home/work. And there is already a tradition of RGBPs meeting up around that event.

3. Where would your dream meeting location be? (Urban Hotel? Rural Retreat Center? New England Camp? Southwestern Fantasy Hotel? Far away from civilization? Nearby Outlets or Really Great Thrift Stores?)

If we don't want huge shuttle and/or rental car costs in addition to registration and airline tickets, it probably ought to be an airport hotel or a city that has really good cab service or public transit to the airport.

4. Who would make a great keynote speaker? (That's if #1 leads us in that direction.)

As I said, I think we could find leadership within the ring.

Anything else?

We'll need to address the confidentiality/anonymity issue. Enough of us have had problems with individuals or congregations having strong negative reactions to discovering a pastor's blog that this will be a concern I think. Hypothetical nightmare situation: RGBP on the plane on the way home to seatmate, "Oh I was just at the most wonderful conference of clergy-bloggers. I met a woman from Xville who writes the most hysterical blog posts about the dumb things her clerk of session does. . . . " Seatmate: "That's interesting. I'm the clerk of Session in Xville." So we'll need to think about how to handle this.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Joy and Harmony

I told my seven and nine year old children that they need to set a good example for our Big Cat and the new kitten by working hard to get along and resolve their conflicts peaceably. Think they'll buy that????

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Naked Acolytes

Well not entirely.

We have a rota of acolytes who light the worship candles at the opening of worship. There is also a rota of acolyte parents who are supposed to make sure the kids are robed, the lighters properly wicked, etc. before the service begins.

This past Sunday, the two acolytes were 13 year old girls who are long time veterans of acolyte duty. Given that the girls are old pros, the parent in charge decided the girls could handle things on their own. They certainly did. They made the unilateral, last minute decision that they would not wear their robes. This would not have been sooo bad, except that both of them were wearing the shortest possible skirts that one could still call skirts not handkercheifs. And since acolyte duty here involves reaching up to light the taller candles---well, I'll let your imaginations work on that one for a while.

In working through how this happened, I encountered an attitude that seems to run rampant these days--even in my own family sometimes. It goes like this, "I want my kids to come to church. They don't really like church very much, so please don't make this harder for me by requiring anything that might make church more irksome for them than it already is. " Like asking them to dress appropriately.

In my last church, I made one kid go across the street to his Aunt's house and change when he showed up in a Hooters shirt. Don't think I could do that here for a variety of reasons.

Have you run into this attitude? How have you handled it?