Saturday, August 30, 2008

Separated at Birth?

Helen Crump/Sarah Palin

Just sayin'

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

From the Back to School Shopping Front

Hands on hips, my eight-year-old daughter declares:

Mom. I am OVER character backpacks.

Alrighty then.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hermeneutics Fifth grade style

Yesterday my son came stomping home from his best friend's house across the street. Sensing that there had been an altercation of some sort, I asked what had happened.

"We were playing Monopoly," my son explained. "As usual, we were kind of making up our own rules. When Tom landed on the square where I had a hotel he owed me, like, $1000-but I let him move his piece one more square forward so he wouldn't totally lose all his money. Then when I landed on his railroad, he wouldn't let ME skip ahead. He said I had to pay him the $50 dollars I owed him. So I flipped the board over and came home."

"Hmmm, I said. You know, there's a story in the bible kind of like that . . ."

His eyes widened.

"Oh yeah! We heard that story at camp!" And he proceeded to recount for me the parable of the unmerciful servant--triumphantly concluding that this biblical story proved that he was right to upend the Monopoly board and come home. He retold the part about the master grabbing the unmerciful servant by the throat with particular relish.

"But the bible also says we shouldn't let the sun go down on our anger." I pointed out. "Maybe that means that after you've cooled down a while, you should go back over to Tom's house and try to patch things up."

Long silence.

"Well, I don't have to do everything the bible says."

Wow. He's already absorbed our modern hermeneutic. Stand by what enables you to feel righteous and justifiably outraged. Ignore what would be really difficult and might force you to change your heart.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I'm working on a sermon exploring the concept of Sabbath. Do you think I could get away with using the "When Harry Met Sally" days-of-the-week underwear conversation as an illustration of a twisted view of Sabbath-keeping???

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Family Friendly vs. Safety and Liability

I always laugh when "Take our Children to Work" day rolls around each year. Any clergy mom--well any clergy parent for that matter--takes their kids to their workplace at least weekly, usually more: more than either they or we really want to, truth be told.

However, we are running into a situation here where some of our staff are bringing their kids to work all the time--like every day before and after school. Personnel brought this up as a safety/liability issue.

They have a point. If any staff child were injured here on site, we'd be in a mess. If any staff child injured someone else or damaged someones car or property--even if accidentally, we'd be in a mess.

So, the thought from Personnel is that we should send out a general memo saying no more kids coming to work--except for the rare emergency or if they are coming to an event that is meant for family members of all ages.

But here's the thing: some of the staff doing this really cannot readily afford the childcare option offered by our school district and scholarship assistance is limited. Also, I don't want us to get into having to judge what is an appropriate "rare emergency situation" and what isnt'. Finally, I have kids myself who show up here from time to time. They do go to afterschool care--but they have been know to appear occassionally when logistics dictate that they hang out here for 20 minutes between say, the end of student council meeting and the beginning of soccer practice. It even happened once that the after school student council meeting was cancelled, so my son showed up at church an hour earlier than scheduled and I was off doing hospital visits, so he sat in the office and "entertained" everyone until I got back. (He's 10 and his school is right across the street from the church). So I'm far from a disinterested party in this discussion.

Has this come up where you are? How have you handled it?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mystery Cactus

For some years now, our church has been trying to adopt greener practices campus-wide. One thing we did was to get rid of part of the lawn and replace if with native, drought resistant landscaping.

Last month the person in charge of maintaining this space asked me, "Who planted those cactuses on the berm?"

"I don't know. I assumed it was you." I answered. But no. It was not. Further inquiry did not lead us to the answer. Not that we don't LIKE the cactuses, but it would be nice to know where they came from.

At last night's Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting, the question came up again: "Where did those cactuses come from??"

No one could say. Somberly, I suggested that perhaps we were dealing with a genuine miracle. One committee member asked if there is a patron saint of cactuses. But we had all been raised Protestant. No one had a clue.

At home I asked my Roman Catholic husband. He said there might be a patron saint of cactuses, but small town, midwestern Catholics like himself would not be familiar with such a Saint.

Today I googled it and found this:

The patron saint of thorny places

December 12 is the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, who made her first appearance in Mexico on this date. Aransas, also named for a manifestation of Mary, seems strangely connected to that event.
The story begins in 1470, when a Basque shepherd, working the rugged land of north central Spain, saw a vision of the Virgin in a thorn bush. "Aransazu?" he cried out, meaning, in Basque, "You, sitting in the stickers?"

Friends--this is serious. Do have any idea what it could mean if a genuine Marian manifestation is appearing right here on the grounds of Academic Suburb Presbyterian Church?? And on the brink of the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin!

Should I call the Pope? Bruce Reyes-Chow? Please advise!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cool--At My Age It's All Relative

Just got off the phone with my buddy RevGal down the road. She reported the following conversation with her teen-aged daughter.

TAD: Mom. You have got to let me help you with your Facebook page. Yours is so lame.

RGDR: Really? Is it that bad?

TAD: Yes. It is. Even Pastor Rebel has a cooler Facebook page than you do.

Which, being translated means: Even Pastor Rebel, as middle aged and boring as she is, has somehow managed to put together a Facebook page that is not a complete embarrassment to her children. Why can't you make the effort?

Thanks. I think.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Garmin Lady

Now that I have my inherited Garmin gps system in my car, I am getting to know the Garmin Lady--that disembodied female voice that instructs me on how to reach my destinations. She seems competent, but I'm not sure I like her.

For one thing, when I go a different way than she tells me to,(at the beginning of trips, close to home where I know what I'm doing, dammit), she always says "RECALCULATING . . ." I think she sounds incredibly snotty and ticked off when she says it. Like she's trying to make me feel guilty. I mentioned this to my husband and he said he had noticed this too and was glad it isn't just him.

Also, she seems not to have made any efforts to become multi-culturally sensitive. She mispronounces the Spanish street and place names around here all the time. Like today, I had to turn onto La Verne Avenue and she said it to rhyme with Auburn rather than with Lucerne. In this day and age, that's just inexcusable--don't you think?

Finally, I don't like the way she only gives you little bits of information about the journey at a time rather than laying it all out from the start. I like knowing what's coming more than .7 miles at a time. And don't tell me you're trying to get me to live more in the moment. You're just a control freak, sister.

Are there other voices available? I'm thinking maybe Father Mulcahey.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Time Zones

Later this month we will be welcoming a Japanese exchange student into our home for 10 days. A few days ago we attended an orientation session to prepare us for the experience. One thing the program coordinator told the host families is that in Japan, it is considered very rude to be late. Our students will become upset and anxious if they perceive that we are going to be late to a scheduled group activity or appointment and embarrassed if we actually ARE late. Therefore we need to make every effort to get our students to their engagements on time.

Yesterday, I attended a baby shower for a woman from South America. The invitation said three o'clock. When I arrived at 3:10, I was the only non-family member there. Over the next forty-five minutes more guests arrived every five minutes or so until, around four, everyone was there and the festivities began in earnest. ONe of my friends who arrived around 3:40 remarked to me, "Oh I knew there was not point in showing up at 3. No one would be there yet." The thing is, I kind of knew that too. But I couldn't shake the notion that, as a relative outsider to this particular group, for ME to show up half and hour late would still seem rude.

Then there is the concept of "basically on time". I always maintain that if you arrive within 10 minutes of the appointed hour, you are "basically on time". Ten minutes is an acceptable margin of error that takes into account the phone call that arrives just as you are leaving the house/office, traffic delays, the wrong turn that makes you double back, etc. My spouse maintains that ten minutes after the appointed hour is late and to be avoided by leaving more time that you think you will need to arrive at your destination. Quite often, when his strategy carries the day, we end up arriving 10 to 15 minutes EARLY for an engagement, which I find extremely awkward,

What kind of time culture do you live in?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Face Book Guy

This morning I got a "friend" request from a guy I knew in Jr High and High School. We were in lots of classes together,lived in the same general neighborhood, and got along well but he was never part of my "inner circle" of close friends. Nevertheless, I've thought of him through the years mostly because of an insight he sparked in me which I ignored for years--to my detriment.

One day in 8th grade, my school bus was pulling into the long drive that led from the main road to our school. Future Facebook Guy was at the corner, leaning against a telephone pole. I thought to my thirteen year old self: "You know--he's pretty cute and a really nice guy. Why have I never considered him "crush" material??" And in a flash I realized that I had ridiculous preconditions in my head where boys were concerned: They had to be super-intellectual, artistic/musical/poetic, with sophisticated senses of humor. I mistrusted serious athletes, thinking that anyone who would rather play football or run track than read great literature must be a loser. It occurred to me "Someone like Future Facebook Guy would probably be a lot better for me than Tortured Genius I'm Currently Agonizing Over."

But the bus pulled up to the school. The day began and I shook it off. For nearly two decades--though from time to time when my romantic life was going badly the image of Future Facebook Guy standing at the corner by our old school would drift through my mind.

Finally, years and years later I met and married a guy who, to hear him describe his youth, was a great deal like FFBG during his high school years.

Sometimes it takes us a long time to learn what we need to learn.

Monday, August 04, 2008

How I Got A Garmin

My husband had a Garmin gps system in his car. He is a regional sales manager with a multi-state territory, so he regularly visits customers in unfamiliar cities--so he decided it was worth it to purchase one even though this was out of pocket and not covered by his employer.

Several days ago he reported that the gps system was not functioning. At all. It appeared to be totally kaput. He had tried several things to fix it, but to no avail. Worse, he was one week past the one year warranty on the thing.

I made several tentative suggestions about other things he might try. These were met with the curt reminder that he had been using this system every day for more than a year and I had never personally used it at all, so I should butt out.

Which I did.

Later my spouse reported that he had called the local Garmin store and discovered that the cost of gps technology has dropped dramatically in the last year. For the cost of having the old Garmin fixed, he would be more than half-way to the cost of their newest, spiffiest model.

I said hmmmmm.

A few hours after this, my husband came home with the new system.

That night, I cradled the old Garmin in my hands--thinking, thinking. I went on-line. Googled "Garmin gps systems--troubleshooting" and by following the instructions on the first entry of the first website in the search results was able to discover that prying off the face plate with a pen knife and pushing the reset button would likely solve the problem.

It did.

Now I have a functioning--if old model--Garmin gps system in my car.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Squealing in Worship

No, this is not a new Charismatic movement.

For the last several months we have had increasing problems with people's hearing aids emiting ear-splitting squeals in the middle of worship. Most of the time, the person whose hearing aid is doing the squealing seems not to be aware that this is happening. Either the squealing goes on and on until we are all ready to run shrieking from the building, or someone nudges their neighbor to let them know there's a problem or one of the ushers stalks up and down the side aisles until they identify the "culprit". Also, many people assume the problem is with our sound system and exit church following worship grumbling, "Can't you DO something about all that feedback??"

Now it is possible that feedback between our sound system, individuals' personal hearing aids and the hearing assistance devices we pass out is part of what sets things off. We're trying to figure out the technical issues this presents.

Have any of you all run into this? How have you addressed it? Input on the technical stuff would be welcome, but so would insights on how to handle this pastorally. A member of the worship committee suggested reintroducing the old Puritan office of someone going around with a long stick to clonk offenders on the head--snoring back in the old days, faulty hearing aids now--but I'm not sure that's the appropriate strategy here.

Go ahead. I'm all ears.