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