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.