Thursday, June 30, 2005
I saw the movie, based on the book, with Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte. It was dreadful. I like Barbra's movies and saw Nick in Tides before I saw his mug shot at www.thesmokinggun.com. I like Nick as an actor, too. However, the movie is the pits and does not convey the power of the novel. Many movies from novels are not good but Tides was a big disappointment.
I found Tides on audio tape at a garage sale. Richard Thomas, an actor I appreciate and think of as a decent guy, reads the novel.
I could just cry. Thomas reads Conroy badly. First, Thomas' Southern accent is hokey and silly. He doesn't even pronounce "kudzu" correctly. His researchers should have prompted him on the loveliness of a masculine South Carolina accent. Nope. He reads or declaims the novel as though it the words don't matter.
Conroy's narrator, Tom Wingo, is not a fool or silly. He should be read with seriousness, not mockery as he tells a story of great pain and betrayal. The prose is beautiful enough to make me cry but the reading was dreadful. Thomas' voice is appealing in other settings but the man cannot do a Southern accent and I wish a Southerner could have heard Thomas and stopped him from doing the audio book.
I fret that people who saw the movie or heard the audio book won't read the novel. The novel is wonderful with funny stories, astounding meanness and an appreciation for the South that resonates with me.
I listen to audio tapes weekly because of my child-hauling and trips up through the county to church. I love this medium of hearing books spoken out loud.
I'm trashing the Tides audio tapes. I don't want another person to be put off the novel by listening to the tapes. I mean it.
Thank you for the dead dove you presented outside the study door. I didn't realize you had given this gift to me until I noticed the flies and feathers. You were kind to think of me.
I understand that kill gifts are high praise from you and I want you to know I am grateful.
Your thoughtfulness at placing the gift right where I step out of the door into the courtyard
convinces me of your loving gesture.
I saw a little lizard without a full tail and think that he may have been intended as a gift for me, too. Your good wishes for me touch me deeply.
StCasserole, She Who Feeds and Waits on Cats Hand and Paw
First, go get a pair of Crocs. These weird lightweight shoes are too comfortable for words. TLD and I ordered pairs from www.shoestation.com after seeing pairs being worn all over the Backwater. I'm wearing the Crocs now and making quite the fashion statement. These aren't pretty shoes but Lord Have Mercy they make yer dawgs feel happy.
Years ago when Birkenstock sandals were rare down here, I was in a hospital cafeteria line wearing my birks. The cashier looked down at my feet and said, "Honey what happened to your feet?" She thought I was wearing therapeutic apparatus.
Crocs are big and odd. My pair are lime green and look like space shoes.
Go get a pair. I plan to wear mine everywhere and may buy the black color Crocs for pastoral footwear.
She is a creative priest with curiousity, many interests and a busy life. She's on tour with her University choir. Traveling mercies go out to her.
Monday, June 27, 2005
I arranged for the speaker to address the congregation after my sermon, after our offering but before our final hymn. I thought I could contain the amount of time he spoke if I'd finished my sermon and the majority of the service. I've learned that speakers, unless very experienced, go over their time allotment if not "contained."
We are a one hour worship service church and if we cross that noon hour the Baptists will get all the chicken at the Country Club buffet. The Holy Spirit better get going during that one hour because that's all she will get at the Presbyterian Church. (Note to Seminarians: this vital information is NOT taught uppada Seminary.)
The speaker did fine. He was anxious which wasn't necessary as my congregation is tolerant and gracious. He told stories and waved his arms.
The thing I noticed most about our speaker were his constant references to my gender. Whoa Nelly! I must have upset his nerves. He mentioned the "lady preacher" and "your lady" more times than he mentioned Jesus. I'd be pleased with the ranking but worship isn't about me or my gender. Worship is about praising God. I suppose the speaker was not comfortable with a gal preacher.
He didn't have to compete with me nor me with him. He's not Presbyterian, he's not clergy. He was on my "territory" which in men-terms meant, I guess, that he had to establish his own turf.
All this is so silly and unconscious and I'm sick of it.
I seldom rant about the gender stuff and yesterday wasn't as bad as I've seen, but this morning I'm not feeling very patient with a world where gender is the first task of ministry.
I'm impatient with waiting for people to catch up with me. I'm over it. I've been doing this for years. Clergywomen aren't a rarity anymore even down here in the Backwater. What's the big deal?
Ok. I feel better. Things going ok for you?
Thursday, June 23, 2005
When I was a seminarian, I observed older pastors who had no sparkle. They had dead eyes. I wondered about this and began observing that the general poplulation, at around 40, got dead eyes. Not all, but enough so that I promised myself I'd try to keep my sparkle.
You've seen these preachers at meetings. They sit there like lumps with no interest flowing anywhere. They are enduring the meeting. They may be holding their tongues. They are mentally at the golf course, tennnis court or in a Lazy Boy in the den. Who knows? Whatever is going on with them gives off no energy.
I know we can't be "on" all the time but what's engaging about someone who is dead-eyed unless you are the therapist trying to help them?
So, having said this, I give you the St.Casserole 27th Ordination Anniversary Coming-Up Sparkle Advice.
1. Take care of yourself. Sleep. Eat. Walk around. Dig a trench. Do something to keep yourself feeling as good as you can.
2. Have as many interests outside of your work as you can. Do something creative whether you think you are good at it or not. Read. Read theology, biblical studies or whatever your interest is in ministry. Read novels, biographies, history, science. Read magazines. Read and think. Read widely then put the new information together with your old thoughts.
3. Make some friends with people outside of the church. I know this is difficult but you need people to relax with and say what you want to say.
4. Spend time without your preacher-self "on". Drop that facade so you won't forget who you were before you became holy. I'm not talking returning to the sin dens of your youth but many pastors have a pastoral affect which is stilted, pious, goofy with holiness and silly. Put that aside and don't be a twit all the time.
5. Ministry is tough. Ministry is demanding. Find humor where you can. Watch a silly movie. I suggest the original "Arsenic and Old Lace", "Airport", "Spaceballs", "Harvey".
6. Please do not try to bring the Kingdom in by yourself. This is a team effort.
7. Ask God to help you balance what needs to be done in your ministry with doing nothing. We are poor models for stewardship of time if we work 24/7. Learn to be useless. Back off.
8. Keep your devotional disciplines going. Read your Bible, pray for others, sit in silence, meditate, put yourself into the scripture passage. Pray and listen.
9. Let's say you just can't get it together. You are sour, crabby and worn-out. Go see your internist and find out what's going on.
10. Get it wrong every now and then. Wear an outfit that doesn't work. Put on lipstick. (I write from my perspective so if you don't wear lipstick because you shave a heavy beard everyday, get a better haircut than you've had).
I've left plenty out. What would you add to this list?
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Hearing a man "AMEN" me in a staid church. I stopped and started laughing. First time it ever happened to me! Little did I know I'd be the preacher for an African American congregation where I became addicted to the energy of being "amened", "tell it, Preacher!" and "I know that's right!"
Preaching with my alb inside out. Didn't notice until later.
Seeing myself on wedding videos. Even worse than the wedding pictures. Thank goodness, weddings aren't about me.
Dropping the lids of the communion trays loud enough to make the organist gasp.
Hearing the organist hit single long notes during the service when she fell asleep at the keyboard.
Watching a man pick his nose during the entire sermon. Fascinating.... He didn't realize that I can see everything? Is this a benefit of far-sightedness or a curse? Discuss among yourselves.
Doing a funeral with a Baptist pastor who referred to the dead person by my name throughout the entire service and keeping a straight face.
Being shown scars, incisions, body parts by patients in the hospital. I am modest. I hope I never do this to anyone.
Having a hospital patient explain to me that her boyfriend's you-know untied her tubes during sex. Having to leave the room before I doubled over laughing.
Co-officiating with an Episcopal priest who had an erection while doing a wedding. I wouldn't have noticed but the bride was hysterical. The congregation thought she was just happy. I couldn't get through with that service fast enough. Top that for inappropriate behavior!
Once, during a funeral in a driving thunderstorm, the double doors to the sanctuary blew open with a rush and the candles blew out on the Communion table. Then the power went off. Just like in a horror movie......
Once in worship, a congregant was trying to kill a wasp with a hymnbook against the window pane. Windows were plain clear glass in the very old church. He pushed the hymnbook on the glass to squish the wasp and the hymnbook, wasp and window pane fell out towards the ground.
I heard something during the prayer and thought, what's that? It was an elder CLIPPING HIS FINGER NAILS during the prayer.
During worship, the senior pastor grabbed his Book of Common Worship, slammed the choir door to the sanctuary, got into his car and drove away. Catch that? During the worship service!
He was having a temper fit just before Communion.
During a Session meeting, one elder SPIT on another elder. Not an accidental spray (which is gross enough) but hocked a louie.
During the service, a toddler got away from her mama and wandered to the pulpit and stood there with her arms up high for me to pick her up. I thought that was important enough to stop my preaching and snuggle with her.
Being told to make the sermon short because the sanctuary was cold and "ol' man So and So" might have another heart attack if he got chilled.
Hearing the Moderator of Presbytery explain to the Presbytery that if they didn't like lady preachers it was ok for them to vote against my reception as pastor.
Having a newspaper editorial written about me in small town Virginia. Not about my abilities or work but about my gender. The letters to the Editor in response continued for six months.
Having a young child ask me if I was God's wife.
More later. Time for more coffee. Happy Summer, by the way. First day of summer and all that begins. It's 75 degrees here before 7 am. this morning.
Monday, June 20, 2005
"Do you want to stay there?" "Yes" "OK"
He sat next to me through the service. He looked at me and watched the congregation. Never a word, sound or interruption. When it came time to take up the offering he was happy to help the elder.
This wouldn't happen in a big church. Or in a stuffy church. Yet, there we were with a child who wanted to be close to see everything.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
In a week, I'll celebrate the 27th anniversary of my ordination. I cannot believe I've done anything this long. The years of seminary before my ordination were years of ministry, too, but not as an ordained person.
I believe God called me to the ministry of the Word and Sacrament because there isn't enough to me on my own to accomplish hearing and responding to the call as I have. I'm not being humble here or self-depreciating about my abilities. I am caught up in the mystery of hearing and responding to God's call to me. My home church agreed that I had a call, my professors agreed then the calling presbytery (who had NEVER ordained a woman) confirmed my call.
After all these years my call feels like a brand-new gift. Unbelievable. I am grateful for God's movement in my life.
At my Coffee Drinking Pastor's group on Wednesdays, we talk about our calls.
One of the funny riffs is how often my colleagues decide they are going to "give up" the ministry and do something (anything) else. I see humor in what they say because if you are bright enough to study scripture and compose a sermon, you are smart enough to understand that no one is really worthy enough to stand up in the pulpit and preach God's word.
And, if the riff is about how church members can upset the calmest of God's servants and church people do the silliest things at the worst times, and really! can't a person find a more workable structure than the institutional church(???) then I understand this, too.
Common piety demands that a pastor never doubt, never get angry, never wish to demit the ministry and never decry the entire church.
Real piety knows that the work is relentless.
The people are flawed.
The world stinks with misery every durn day.
So I just laugh and ask the complainer, "what was it that brought you back to ministry?" Then we hear of a scripture text that came to mind and healed the upset, or of a church member who acted with unseasonable kindness or the preacher got a good night's sleep. Or something.
Is that marvelous or what?
Have we not been called to walk on the most mysterious and beautiful path or what?
I mean it.
Thank you, God, for this life.
Friday, June 17, 2005
I read your blog, too. If I don't leave a comment it's because I am touched and thinking about your words. Sometimes, I don't have anything in my brain but dustbunnies and Diet Cokes which leaves me with no words.
The Reverendmother comments on the previous post that I am a candidate for the Calvin Cops, The Predestination Police and the GA Gestapo. Uncle Mike demands that I turn in my CTS mug and get my buttage out of the Richards Center (references to our seminary).
All this because I woke up at 1:30am. the other night after tossing and turning listening to TLH's purring, the children talking, cell phones beeping and then the helpful chat of two cats who must have been hungry because they became silent sleeping fur balls after a dish of cat kibbles.
I was not at my best. I closed the door to our bedroom and left TLH to snore, I mean purr, as he wished. I fussed at the children. I demanded that cell phones be silent until daylight at least and I dealt with the cats. As the house quieted down, I was wide awake.
Or, so I thought.
I took the stoopid test and now I'm wearing a John Wesley T-Shirt and wondering if my heart is warmed or if I need to take Tums.
Life is so lifey.
However, and I am making a transition here, Reverend Mother is on to something with her talk of GA Gestapo, etc. Have you noticed how people are being more attentive to buzz concepts, ranking the orthodoxy of others and marginalizing those with suspect theology? Those of us who are theological wunderkinds have been ranking people's theology for years going around announcing who has BAD theology and who makes the cut.
Oh yeah. That was different. But not that we seem to be splitting into camps, it is scaring the grape juice out of me.
I expect compliance with the Westminster Confessions and Creeds of the Church even though those documents conflict with each other at points (being historical documents and all). I consider myself orthodox and for that very reason did not spend one minute reading the LEFT BEHIND series with it's rapture mess. And there's more. But I am not defending my own pristine understanding of God here, I'm saying that we are stomping dangerous ground when we start being Gestapo GA, Predestination Police etc.
Just thinking here.........
The cats have been fed, TLH is purring wildly dreaming of closing arguments, I just got a text message from TLD and it is not yet sunrise.
Glad to see you. Thanks for being here.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Good grief! I'm this???
You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.
What's your theological worldview?
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Wednesday, June 15, 2005
The speaker is a few years older than I, not much, but enough that he blew off his lack of technological curiosity. My bloggie readers can see that I'm not tech enough to hyperlink, know how to add pictures or do anything creative with media on this blog. However, I am aware of these gaps in my ability and intend to learn the basics. I need to be shown. When I find someone who will sit long enough to show me, I'll get it. Reading directions about tech stuff confuses me.
I mention this because I am aware that the world is changing quickly and technology is a key to this change. My world is larger because of the internet both in how I research issues as well as how I interact with a larger world without seeing my partners or hearing their voices.
One of his points was that people have moved their loyalty from denominations to local churches. Where before people were loyal to the Presbyterian Church, now they are loyal to their local flavor of presbyterianism. I've seen this coming. The larger Church is distant, institutional, difficult to navigate and huge.
What troubles me about this change in loyalty is that a strength of the larger Church is it's ability to do mission on a big scale and keep believers from investing their energies in a particular pastor. We've seen, throughout history, the problems with following a pastor rather than following a group. We Presbyterians, on paper, do a good job of not putting church members in a Jim Bakker/PTL Club kind of boundary-less cult of personality.
The problem with our traditional manner is that it is impersonal. We have no titular head whose leadership goes on for years and frames our lives together across the country. There is no single person to point to as the "flavor" of our Church. Nowadays, people want to feel connected to a person, not an institution. All the correctives of restraining a cult following of an individual are falling away.
I feel the shift under my feet of the old forms crumbling. Some days I think I am turning into an old fart bemoaning how great the past was. All older people think the younger generation is going to hell in a handbasket. Is this what I am sensing?
I don't think the past Church was great. It was exclusive in class, gender and race issues. The presence of God was supplanted by thinking about God. You had to know the language to participate. As a generational Presbyterian, even as a sixth generation Scottish immigrant, I, who could be a poster child for cradle Presbyterianism, felt excluded and can document exclusion.
But the new forms of church life? Will we be better off broken away from each other into smaller groups? I fear that schism is coming around the time that the report on the Peace and Purity of the Church Taskforce is published (Sept.15, 2005).
Monday, June 13, 2005
1. Number of books I own: about 4ooo not counting the books in the family room, the children's books and TLH's professional library. I didn't count book by book but counted a smaller bookcase then multiplied by how many other bookcases we have.
2. The last book I bought: Gilead (read it, please, it's so very rich)
3. Last book I read: Gilead (not finished as yet), Bread of Angels by Barbara Brown Taylor.
4. Books that mean a lot to me: Wind in the Willows, Gone with the Wind, All Frederick Buechner's non-fiction, C.S. Lewis, Bruggeman, Generation to Generation by Edwin Friedman, Prayer books of all kinds, Anne Perry's mysteries, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, Willie Morris, To Kill A Mockingbird, and many more I will be grumpy about for not remembering to list here.
5. Tag 5 Other Bloggers: If you are reading this, you are TAGGED.
6. What magazines do you read regularly: New Yorker, Christian Century, Presbyterian Outlook, Southern Living and church newsletters from all over the U.S.
Friday, June 10, 2005
No garage sales tomorrow because of the rain. Today's sales were poor to miserable. My pal picked up a rusted Revlon lipstick holder asking the price. The seller sniffed, "Seventy-five dollars..." My pal gasped and the seller announced, "It's 40 years old and quite collectible."
Pal nodded and placed it back on the table. Pal knows more about market value of vanity items than does anyone in the Southeast. After getting out of the over-priced and pitiful items and back to the car, we began to laugh. Oh yeah, $75 bucks for a common, beat-up lipstick holder.
It's great that sellers feel good about the things they sell; pride of ownership and all that but at a tag-sale, junk is junk. Your old mothball smelling wool coat from 8 years ago won't sell for $35 unless it's a designer, immaculate condition piece and it's a good day.
Pal and I reflected on the different affects of sellers: pleasant, welcoming, afraid you'll steal their used tupperware lids, pushy because they need the money for rent, snobby because they let you on their property and their stuff is valuable.
My favorite sellers are Sophie, who has beautiful things, redecorates every year or so and sells her things for very fair prices; the local cathedral sales because the stuff is varied and the church people delightful and the Big UMC Church up county with almost too much stuff to dig through. All three of these sellers make for a great happy day of digging and buying. Treasures are to be found at each. Besides, when I see what Sophie sells, I can tell what is out of fashion. She lives in the most fashionable neighborhood and has clever, pretty taste.
Can you hear the frogs singing from where you are? I think they are praising God for rain and each other.
Read your Christian Century (June 14) issue immediately. I've read CC for many years with great appreciation but this issue moved me to tears. First, see the "Pastors In Need of Friends" by Lillian Daniel. Then, read Miroslav Volf's article "The Gift of Infertility" in Faith Matters.
We are expecting a tropical storm from down in Cuba to go into the Gulf today. The frogs and mosquitos 'round here are delighted. I'm glad I haven't washed my car, watered my plants or planned on having good hair days until next week.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Tonight, or excuse me, this morning, I'm thinking about the Rev. Dr. Carter Heyward who wouldn't know me if I wore a flip chart of our interconnectedness. She came to mind while I was reading Louie Crew's website entries. Louie, an Alabama native, is an Episcopal layman who keeps things stirred up for his Church. He's retired from the faculty at Rutgers but has a schedule (included on his site) which exhausts me just to read the number of entries.
I grew up in Carter's neighborhood. She's a few years ahead of me but she came from the same pasture. She left the Carolinas to study and become one of the famous '74 Episcopal Church ordinands. I was ordained as a Presbyterian pastor four years later.
Our paths are divergent in that she is outspoken, an author, seminary faculty and has shown courage all of her life. My route is more timid, softer spoken and unknown to the world. She is a advocate for lesbi-gay issues, which I follow because the justice issues involved are clear to me. My life follows the tradition of marriage and family, women's clubs and car-pools.
In my growing up home, in the den, was an end table filled with detritus. Pencils with broken lead, rubber bands, grocery coupons, dead batteries and lots of bits of newspaper. My mother tore out coupons, society columns, Billy Graham's column and department store advertisements. Among the paper bits was an article about a party given for Carter Heyward around the time of her society debut. I read that article over and over when I was home from seminary. Recalling the adage that, "the teacher appears when the student is ready", there was proof in a drawer of miscellany that someone (me) from my neighborhood could do the parent-expected thing (debut) and still reach out to honor God's call to ministry (whew!). I suppose the Carter clipping was several years old when I found it.
I heard my mother's friends fussing about the ordination-of-women-thingie these wild women priests had done. I read about Carter's book, A Priest Forever, and read it. Even if she and I were different in tone and bravery she was a called women, I was a called women.
She is a wedge of encouragement from years ago. I treasure her and this memory for all it did for me, quietly and without anyone else noticing, to give me a bridge to my own obedience to God's call.
Monday, June 06, 2005
We don't care about jazz club cool, or knowing all the newest info cool, just staying cool and not melting away in summer heat.
It's not quite 7am. as I write this. It's hot. It's close to 80F. Our air conditioning is running to keep us cool.
Heat like this (and worse) will continue until October. Hard to believe, isn't it? I think of you in your cool New England places where your growing season for flowers and tomatoes is short.
My hibiscus, begonias and etc. stayed outside during "winter" and began blooming again in March.
It's flip-flop weather. Better get your pedicure ready. Iron your linen clothing. Take two showers a day. Drink lots of iced tea and water. Don't do heavy yard work in the middle of the day.
My friend, Karen, says we cannot complain about the weather until August. I disagree.
Let's go throw ourselves in the pool.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
I think I am fooling myself.
Meetings, meetings and a few more meetings this week have left me feeling that I must rush everything else I want to do.
I've observed people who stay busy all the time. I've watched them learn to expect busyness and become addicted to a frantic pace. I don't want to do that. I stopped trying to bring in the Kingdom several years ago when I realized that my job is to be faithful. Not perfect, not pushing myself all the time, not attempting to go and do what no woman has ever done before. I took off that paper SuperGal cape and stomped on it.
However, I do seem to have plenty to do. I'm not bored. I'm not trying for perfection. I have things to do.
I'm contemplative by nature while also being an extrovert. Such a fun combination. I charge myself up by being quiet and alone. I get re-charged by being with people. Finding a balance of alone-time with people-time takes some doing (as we say down heah.)
I know someone who isn't happy alone nor does she want to be with people. She spends her time working full-time and taking a different class every evening year round. She has several degrees and many certifications. I am not fond of her. Her busyness puts me off. Her activities keep her from forming deep relationships and from having an interior life.
Critical, aren't I? I see her and think, "O Lord, please don't let me be like that."
I have many interests, friends and younger children. I could fill every minute with church, home and community work. But, I'm not going to do this. I want a full life of staring into space, being deeply engaged, living in the present, enjoying simple pleasures and being a good partner to my husband, mother to my children and pastor to my people.
How's it going with you?
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Millions of people live like this.
The paid employees at the charity are there to learn work skills of responsibility. For the employees, coming to work on time and doing the assigned tasks are the skills which may help them succeed in the world. All are adults, none are very young, all have long histories of substance abuse, unemployment and distress. I'm not a leader. I'm one of the workers albeit one who isn't getting paid. A big difference between us is that I am able to count on having groceries without the charity's paycheck.
Before someone suggests how dilettante-y this is, I am aware I am only dipping a safe toe into a world of poverty.
However, because I live a rarefied life of three meals a day, a safe home, healthcare and so on, I need to have contact with those who do not. We are all in this together and if I separate myself from others, I may lose my compassion. Or, start to think that because of my circumstances that I am more valuable than those who don't have what I have. Or, I may not even notice the have-nots. And because Jesus said to get with the folks.
I began noticing the differences between my usual work and the charity work yesterday. I'm sure I'll observe more but my observations today are:
I'm not in charge. My leadership skills aren't needed.
My personal life isn't interesting.
My humor, personal style and advice don't matter.
My education and world view don't matter.
I'm not putting myself down. It's my body and strength that are valued. Do I do the work assigned? Do I help the organization or cause trouble?
I'm liking this. It's different. Makes my world larger to try to see the world as the workers see it without teaching them. I'm not the teacher, they are. I have no seniority, no standing there.
With a grateful heart, I am,