Monday, May 30, 2005

After worship yesterday, one of the men said to another man, "Memorial Day is a day for ghosts."

I agree. We remember, recall and attempt to hold in our minds what war does to our families, our communities and the world. Death, destruction, crushed dreams, broken futures. Great loss.
Orphans, widows and misery.

I am barely holding on to my rage at the loss of life here in the Backwater of young men and women. This war counts on National Guard troops to fight. Backwater, being a poor place, has a long history of citizens joining the Guard to supplement income. I know other places do this but here in Poverty Central, how did it come to this that our people would vote and agree to serve against their best interests? We are so poor. We are so ignorant. We are dealing with heavy losses.

I'm not proud. I do not understand it. I am sitting on the razor's edge of being supportive of those who choose to go to Iraq and outrage that American lives are being lost in a battle built on lies, oil and greed.

We put out American flags down the church walk yesterday. I'm fine with that. I don't want American flags in the sanctuary but outside, on Memorial Day, seemed sympathetic and aware of God's ability to heal.

We've been praying for rain and a thunderstorm began during worship. I felt a sigh of relief roll through the pews because cows will be happier, gardens will grow and dusty back roads will be mud rather than choking dust. It's raining now.

The LH and I will go to lunch then do errands. Maybe we'll go look at "property" which is fun for us and torture for the Casserole Kids.
LD is off at church camp. Unlike the advice my mother gave me, I told her to "blow it out." She grinned and said "ok" but would avoid being "sent home."
The LS is sleeping with OMC on the bed with him. Young Cat is asleep on the sofa purring.

I'm not as proud to be an American as I once was. Today is problematic.
What's going on with you?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

I'm listening to Anne Perry's Long Spoon Lane, a Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novel. I love listening to audio tapes while I drive. I keep a book going most of the time since I spend so many hours in the car. The NYT today has an article on the rise in popularity of audio books. I'm literal minded about the difference between listening and reading so I say I've listened to a book and reading when I hold a book in my paws to read.

I'm reading Reluctant Saint The Life of Francis of Assisi by Donald Spoto. Spoto is quite the teacher which shows in this book in the best manner. Very interesting history of Francis' times and the extraordinary life of the Saint. I'm not familar with the piety surrounding this saint (or most other saints) because of my Protestant background so his life, as Spoto writes it, is new to me.

I'm wearing Jergens' Natural Glow, some new kind of moisturizer which contains a tanning formula. Glow comes in fair to dark shades so I picked the fair. I've gone the route of turning from casket white to Life in the Bahamas overnight which astounds me and causes my buddies to hoot with laughter. Don't know if this latest product will give me that sun glazed look or not. I've waited my entire life for dead pasty white to return to fashion but it hasn't happened. If there is great interest among my readers, I'll report how the Glow works. (I hope you have better things to do with your time....)

I've had too many meetings this week. One set of meetings is important, the rest are just a way for organizations to pass time. I've been away from home so much that I haven't spent time with our children as I'd like. The older child has lost his driver's license so we'll go to the bureau to apply for another today. The younger child is off to church camp Sunday and she needs an appropriate bathing suit. Pray for me, bathing suit shopping is right up there with checking for head lice and cleaning up spew.

The elder cat is looking more frail to me but I think I'm just grieving over discovering that he is 21 years old. Preliminary grief doesn't accomplish much as we need to leave grieving for the actual end. Save some grief for the end, as a pastoral counselor told me once.

Young cat is busy on yard patrol chasing tree frogs, lizards and climbing trees on the run. He comes in for meals and the semi-obligatory cuddle then meows to go out.

The LH is getting up a golf game for tomorrow with three buddies. One buddy bailed this morning so getting another golfer is on his mind. Watching men make social contacts is entertaining. They don't do it as we do. I've been asked to purchase more golf balls. I swear I need to buy golf balls at garage sales by the grocery bag to keep up with the demand of spreading Mr. Casserole golf balls over a two county area.

Oh? Yes, I am preaching Sunday.
On what?
Well, I'm not quite that far as yet. It's only Thursday morning. Ekks! Ye Gads!
Oh! Best get to it........

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


We say goodbye to a clergy couple this week. I can't tell you how sick I am of clergy folk moving around! They're moving about three hours north of here but this means that I can't see them often and their focus will change to a new place, new congregations, etc. I wish everyone would stay in one place so I could enjoy them for years.

I've mentioned that the majority of my clergy pals are UMC. These are my coffee drinking buddies who can cut through the bull faster than a butcher, love you when you are love-less and make you laugh when you have abdominal stitches. I'm not kidding, these people are treasures to me.

But, durn it, they are UMCs. Those folks move around about every 2-4 years. It's not that we presbyies don't move, but we seem to flow through the Bible Belt at a more leisurely pace. I don't move. My husband has an established business so we stay here. I may wander off into the country, but I live HERE. This has made me a senior member of my presbytery for longevity alone. And, I've become familar with seeing my sisters and brothers in Christ leave the area.


Everyone needs friends. We all need people we can relax with, tell stuff we won't mean tomorrow and reflect on how dreadful/beautiful life is for us. I think that clergy may need friendship with peers even more. We aren't friends with our congregants. We love and cherish them but our leadership/shepherd stuff means that no matter how close our hearts are to the other, we are their pastor, not pal.

So, it's good to find other clergy and become friends. I may have the best situation as my clergy pals are UMC while I'm PC (USA). We don't compete over professionally or over territory.

I can call these folks any time of day or night. Quite an accomplishment for me when I've spent so many years feeling isolated in ministry.

I'm becoming dependent on another group of clergy, my bloggie gal pals in ministry. We resonate. We hyper-ventilate. We laugh. We are daff. Oh! Thank you, Lord for them! See my comments sections for links to these GREAT GALS.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Everyone is Welcome

As I study for my sermon, then begin to write portions, I think about my listeners.

I consider the needs of my congregation by thinking about issues they discuss like health, family concerns or what's going on in the community. I review national events and what implications these might have worshippers. Most of my people are gardeners, so I think about what is blooming. I'm almost an hour south of them so I can anticipate what will be blooming by looking at my own garden although down here we are often a few degrees cooler. (Lord knows that's significant because this morning, it was 89 degrees at 4:15 am.)

Exegeting the "buzz" of my particular congregation is a blend of observation skills, understanding their history as individuals and as a group, and intuition. I suppose all of us do this prep work unless we are composing sermons to place on top of listener's heads. I hope sermons go into people's hearts not in an emotional labile manner (I'm Presbyterian afterall) but in a way which integrates the Gospel with life.

The Bible is our story. Read the lives of the people in the Bible and it becomes easy to see how their lives are a mirror of our own no matter how separated we are by time and cultures. Something extraordinary happens to the disciples at Pentecost and the general public dismisses it as drunkeness. The woman with the issue of blood makes astounding resonance with a menopausal woman. Jacob and Essau are examples of sibling rivalry. The early Church upsets with outside influences, inclusion and doctrine are like the conflicts we discuss now.

But, I digress.

Sunday, as I drove the country roads to my sweet Church, I wondered who would be there in the congregation. Members are vacationing, going to weddings and graduations so I expected some empty pews. I thought about visitors. Of course, I want us to have visitors. Our bulletin of the order of worship is designed to explain why we do what we do for first-timers to a Presbyterian service. I explain anything and everything as I go through the service so that it is clear why we call our readings "lessons", for example. Visitors are welcome and we mean it.

However, visitors, because I do not know them can't be exegeted. If they are adult children visiting parent members, I can disciper something about them. At least I think I can. Adult children visit for Mother's and Father's Day, holidays and on a parent's birthday. If they visit other times, my ears prickle to find out what is going on.

We get visitors off the street and some become members. First off, I notice if they are twitching over a clergywoman. Not much I can do about that. I've had visitors who come in, look at me then keep looking at the door of my office wondering when the boy preacher will come out and take over. Some beam at me from beginning to end, mostly women do this, thrilled to see a woman in the pulpit. Or, my paranoia escalates into wondering if they are just very entertained to see me a la Dr. Johnson. Remember, I'm in the dark Backwater. I try to see the worship service through the visitor's eyes. Just guessing with this, but trying.

Over the years I've learned to interpret my congregant's faces during the service. I read their expressions and body movements. I know which families share little jokes during the service. Which members grimmace through the sermon (that's how they concentrate), which sit slack jawed listening to me, which will doze if I don't change the pacing of my speech, etc. With visitors, I don't have a clue.

What's your thinking about this?

Friday, May 20, 2005

How Was My Day?

I woke with a start this morning thinking it was a school day for the children. Whoops... they can sleep late. School is out.

The early start led me to the Methodist Men's rummage sale. Arrived at the church 30 minutes early with a big crowd waiting until the doors opened at 8. Nothing like a men's sale especially if the men are doing the pricing. Men's pricing means high tool prices, low everything else.

I found: sturdy metal table to repaint for the courtyard, a Jesus puppet (ponder that for a moment), a bag of scapulas, religious medals, mass cards and etc. My favorites are the St. Michael medal and a sterling silver St. Benedict. Several Roman Catholic piety booklets were mixed in with enough Reader's Digest books to choke a library. The Reader's Digest books were $1 each. I wanted to tell them that should sell them 5 for a dollar since not many people want those. I don't know why the RC stuff was at this Methodist sale but Backwater is very RC so I suppose they were a family member's or such.

I drove over to my favorite charity shop afterwards. Their pricing is confusing. A passable golf print with custom framing, non-reflective glass was $2.99. A velvet, I mean it!, painting of flowers in a large yukky frame was $9.99. Seldom is anything priced so high. I left both for other customers. Out in the book section I found 4 Sotheby's catalogs from the 1980's. Cost? $1. Go figure.

It's warm here. Getting warmer. I'm about finished with the pruning, planting, fertilizing and general yard stuff. I wish I had a few more coolish mornings. There's a branch hanging over the roof which needs cutting so I'll ask the LD to climb up there to sweep then prune. I'll do the gutters while she's up there. Don't think I won't do anything to keep the LH OFF the roof.

What's with you?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wearing: OPI Cajun Shrimp pedicure

Thinking about: seeing Star Wars new episode

Shallow Factor: Quite Immense

St. Dunstan's Day

St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury (961-980) was known for outsmarting the devil. Dunstan is the patron saint of goldsmiths and others. After all his good works and long service to the Church he is most remembered by this piece of doggrell:

St. Dunstan, as the story goes,
Once pull'd the devil by the nose.
With red-hot tongs, which made him roar,
That he was heard three miles or more.

Tongs are a symbol of St. Dunstan as are horseshoes. Before serving as a bishop, Dunstan was a blacksmith and when, asked to shoe the devil's horse, he hammered a horseshoe on the devil's own hoof.The story goes that Dunstan let go of the devil when the devil promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door. This may be the origin of the lucky horseshoe idea. Reminds me of the Angel of death passing over the homes of the Hebrews whose doors were marked during the plagues.

Several questions for discussion:

1.Dunstan is remembered by a verse of poetry....How will you be remembered?
2. The saint lived in a world which personified evil as a devil. Other than the insurance industry, how is evil personified in our age?
3. What symbol would you choose for yourself? Tongs?
4. Do you think Wikipedia is a reliable and accurate source of information? How will high school students researching at the last minute be able to tell the difference between accurate information in Wikipedia and the work of a clever prankster?

Please place your name at the top right hand corner of your paper. Give your work to the teaching assistant wearing the red shirt with the horseshoe baseball cap as you go out.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Happy Monday to My LLS

Things to make you smile:
1. What cha doing? Eating Chocolate...
2. "Life in these United States..."
3. Stella means "star"
4. We had jelly donuts before you were born.
5. A big pinch
6. I'll always be older than you.
7. You learned all your bad language from me.
8. Brandon
9. Hector
10. I don't read fiction.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself. I went to lunch with my Presbyterian colleagues on Monday which is newish for us because we don’t send time together except at Presbytery meetings three times a year. There are about 14 of us (active and retired) living within a three county area. I have one friend in the group. I don’t know the rest. I might know a little about some of them but they are strangers and not who I’d call if I needed help. Getting together for lunch without any agenda may help us become friends.

We have no agenda for the lunches. There are no assigned readings or reports to give. Yet, we can’t seem to meet without the conversation jolting over to what we are going to do when the denomination splits. The group has two younger preachers and the rest of us are seasoned in the Lord’s service (I’m being pious here, and kidding). The preachers assume that in a few years the denomination will be gone and replaced with a new configuration of Presbyterians.
This makes me want to weep.

I was born and educated in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. and when I announced that as far as I could determine that God called me to the Gospel ministry, I was ordained as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament.

Our history, both in Scotland and here in the USA, is one of schism. We hate and fear schism but our history has seen us split into any number of groups. In 1973, the Presbyterian Church in America was formed from our body over the issue of authority of scripture particularly the ordination of women. In 1883, the Presbyterian Church in the US (known as the Southern church) merged with the Northern branch of the church and we became the PC (U.S.A.). This was called "Reunion" as the Southern church broke with the Northern Church in the 1860's over the issue of authority of scripture, particularly the question of "could baptized Christians own baptized Christians?"

You’ve got your Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), your Presbyterian Church in America (this group considers us to be apostate which is the churchy way of suggesting that we are stinky and our momma’s aren’t nice), the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and I’m sure a few more that I can’t remember.
Breaking apart seems to be our tradition.

In 1977, the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. began to discuss in a public manner the ordination of gay and lesbian persons for ministry. I was ordained in 1978.

I hadn’t considered gay and lesbian ordination for one moment as I did not know any gay or lesbian people seeking to be ordained (looking back, I must have been blind as a bat and I’m sorry). I was coping with the newness in the Deep South of the idea of women preachers. I took some amazing heat about being a minister and when I tell those stories, today’s women seminarians think I’m being dramatic and exaggerating.

I thought then that my denomination was proactive to ordain women. Little did I realize that the denomination beat the idea to death for years, discussed it endlessly in committee and that many pastors were against the idea. We ordained our first woman pastor in 1964. The Northern church ordained a woman in 1956.

The Church, the body of Christ Jesus, moves slowly.

Since 1977, my denominational conversations have rotated around the ordination of gays and lesbians. We don’t move forward in the discussion. We don’t move backwards. We stay at arm’s length and blast each other. Just like our culture, we are not civil with one another.
Summer before last the Confessing Church movement began with a group of pastors and churches who felt that they must stand up and defeat any incursion by the proponents of opening ordination standards.

Other groups who support the ordination of gay and lesbian persons sprang up.
I’ll have to say that the nay sayers get crabby faster than a cornered cat. I read more of the nay-sayers group’s info then I do the supporter’s info. When I read the supporter’s info, I notice more charity and a greater willingness to talk.

I can’t work out the issue for my bloggie readers. My point, and there is a point, is that my entire ministry has been spent within the discussion of ordaining gay and lesbian persons.
Many days, I feel discouraged about hearing about the issues over and over. I think of the opportunities we’ve missed to do mission because we’ve gotten to the point that the evangelicals hate the liberals and the liberals want to protect the world from the evangelicals.
We’ve changed from four Presbytery meetings a year to three. We’ve moved from annual General Assemblies to biennial Assemblies. Does this make sense? The big guns say this saves the denomination money but I see it as a mis-guided attempt to keep the conversations civil by limiting discussion time.

I believe that we should move in more closely when there is conflict, not move away.
I do not like this conflict. I do not like the effort spent on protecting the church rather than doing mission. I wish the pro-ordination people presented clear biblical arguments for their case. I wish the no-ord people would put aside their self-righteousness and egos. I wish we could all get along so that we could start new churches, encourage people to enter the ministry and nurture them on that path. I wish we could focus our attentions on great preaching, teaching and help for our people and seekers.

I wish we would learn to pray as Jesus’ taught us before yelling at one another. I wish we would allow the Holy Spirit to move our hearts to see this issue and our history in a larger, more loving view.

I've been punished in my presbytery for commenting on this issue.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Come Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
with all Thy quickening powers.
Come spread abroad the Saviour's love
and that shall quicken ours.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


I'm applying for a grant for my preacher group to provide us with books and a trip to study preaching uppada East Coast.

Any suggestions for books on preaching, commentaries or periodicals we might add to our list?

I read The Journal for Preachers from Columbia Theological Seminary each quarter, so it's on the list. The UMC preacher's like William Willimon's subscription preaching journal which is on their list of needed reading. What else do we need?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Many thanks to the reader who was the 4k visitor here. Not that I notice numbers or anything...

The Slump

Hitting a slump while playing a game, working on a project or writing a blog isn't fun. There's not much humor in being slump-y or stuck.

I'm stuck. I'm slumpy. I'm not hitting any of my targets. I think my sermons are boring; my blog is listless and my general demeanor is blah.

I'm getting enough sleep, exercise and green vegetables. I'm not so sure what's going on.

However, I do have a clue and I'm ready to publicly throw blame at my ennui

The LH signed up for Netflix. The LLS and TLSiL like Netflix so LH had to get it, too.

We began with the Vicar of Dibley (a favorite of mine), then Father Ted (not so funny), Ballykissangel (wonderful but we ran out of seasons to watch), Monarch of the Glen (watched all of those, too, then couldn't get more). Then it happened.

Under the influence of Rei, we began watching Deadwood, an HBO production. We've avoided HBO because of thrift and the desire to have some control over what the LS and LD watch. The first two episodes horrified me. I was outraged with the characters, the profanity of language and behavior. Profane. Rei warned me but I continued to watch.

We had to turn off the sound and stop the dvd when children came in to see us. I think I'm open to the culture but I must not be very open because the language began to wear on me. Repeated references to body parts and activities and dreadful treatment of women, disregard for life, greed, etc.

I got involved in the story of Deadwood. Characters like the despipable Al Swearingen had compassion; beaten down women rose up; Farnum reminds me of people I know here in the Backwater. I began to hum the theme music.

My pal Susan suggests that "garbage in/garbage out" is not good for me and for someone as suggestible as I needs to monitor what I see and hear. Duh. Of course.

There is much in culture I avoid because it doesn't interest me, repels me or seems part of the death-loving misery I don't believe in. If I walk through a casino, I get depressed watching the oldsters at the slots looking dead faced. Why don't they find an activity which enriches their spirits instead of paying the house to kill the hours? I don't hang out in bars because I don't see drinking as entertainment and I can visit with people in other environments with less noise and unpickled perspectives.

I know myself well enough to know I want to watch all of Deadwood. I want to know why the characters behave as they do and if there is any resolution for their conflicts. I want to see if they become better people or reconcile with one another. I want to see if hope emerges. Is there something these characters can teach me?

I mess with something until I master it or until I lose interest. No excuses here but I think Deadwood is getting to me and I best get to that place where I can let it go or I'll be known as "slump blogger".

You doing ok? How's it for you?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Cute Girls

When 13 year old girls are cute, they are very cute. Sans attitude and expressions of repulsion, they are so very pretty and, even, fun. We have two in our home right now. I hear lots of laughing and giggling going on in the LD's room. My study is across the hallway from her room so I eavesdrop. The girls are going to the teen center tonight and will be wearing matching pink t-shirts.

Garage sales were wonderful today. I came home with three projects: a bedside table to paint, an antique vanity mirror stand with drawer to repair and flower pots to fill with begonias and impatiens. I found the following: sterling silver cross from Mexico .25; sterling and brass cross .75; counted cross stitch picture .75, Hard Rock cafe zippered hoodie $1; CD holder which looks like a rotating book rack $4; Eileen Fisher summer dress $1; 2 Lemony Snickert books .50; a faux leather painting kit $1; a Harley Davidson cat collar for Andy .10; outside table to hold books while in the hot tub $6; and, a pair of Tommy Bahama new mules .25. Sorry to be putting prices beside the purchases. There is something tacky about talking money but I did want you to see the thrift I used as well as the deals I got. The only downside of the morning was the dry as dust banana bread we bought at the church rummage sale (Susan and I hollared "Squirrels!" and threw it out the car windows after first bite) and stopping our shopping so Suz could run home to take her boy to a ballgame.

I love Saturday mornings. I receive a few hours free from the drip...drip...drip of dwelling on my sermon. I'm ready for tomorrow or at least I think I am ready. The Ascension drove me nuts for years but I think I've finally gotten a clue about it.

Glad to see you. What's going on with you?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

School Buildings: An Introduction to Ugly Spaces

The public school year ends on May 17th. I'll be glad to have the LS and LD home more with a vacation schedule. They can stay up later, take fewer before bed baths and enjoy the ten weeks of vacation. Both children have full schedules for the summer.

Yesterday when I picked up the LD at school I looked hard at her school buildings. The buildings are ugly. Brick and metal boxes with ugly doors, bad colors, no style at all. The interior of the school buildings don't look better. Every detail of the school is utilitarian; nothing beautiful to enjoy. Nothing.

Does this matter?

My elementary school was a red brick neighborhood school with entrance pediments, shaped columns, arched windows on the facade and a curving stairway inside. My middle school was a brick and metal box. My high school was more brick and metal boxes. Does the architecture of the school effect the learning? I would think it does. My living environment sure makes a difference in how our family functions. Lighting, colors, ceiling height and furniture impact how we interact with one another.

I must remember to tell the children that their colleges will have pretty campuses. I think this will surprise them as the ugly functionality of school buildings is all they know. I remember watching LS see the Duke campus for the first time. Looking back, I'm not sure he comprehended a group of harmonious building.

We have a Session meeting this afternoon. One of the agenda items is discussion of painting and repairing the sanctuary. It's time for the congregation to freshen our historic space with repairs and new paint.

I'm preaching on Ascension texts Sunday. Let us be in prayer for one another.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Thucydides and Thomas Cahill

Cahill, author of The Gifts of the Jews, How the Irish Saved Civilization and Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea Why the Greeks Matter quotes Thucydides in the Greeks book:

Practically the whole of the of the Hellenic world was convulsed, with rival parites in every state---democratic leaders trying to bring in the Athenians, and oligarchs trying to bring in the Spartans... To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member; to think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disquise one's unmanly character; ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action. Fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man, and to plot against an enemy behind his back was perfectly legitmate self-defense. Anyone who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect... As a result...there was a general deterioration of character throughout the Greek world. The plain way of looking at things, which is so much the mark of a noble nature, was regarded as a ridiculous quality and soon ceased to exist. Society became divided in to camps in which no man trusted his fellow. (Thucydides pg 191-2 Why the Greeks Matter, Thomas Cahill 2003 Nan Talese Doubleday)

What do you think about this?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Note to Self

When I preach I will never use sheep illustrations until I have spoken with a sheep farmer. I will not use a shepherd's crook to explain leadership, either.

I will not pronounce Greek place words with a Southern accent until I have both looked up the Greek text twice to check the word and spoken with an contemporary educated Greek person to check how they pronounce it.

I will not ask children during the children's time a question until I have considered every possible answer that might be given to the delight of the congregation.