Monday, March 28, 2005

A Beautiful Day for Golf

The children were home today for Spring Break. Spring Break this year means Good Friday and Easter Monday vacation days. That's all! I'd enjoy having them home more. We ran errands together to finish projects, they slept late after staying up late. LD had friends over for spend-the-nights (called "sleepovers" in other areas).

This afternoon, the LH left the office a tad early and we went to play nine holes of golf. When I say "we" I mean he and I played. We left the children at home. The weather was too beautiful: bright clear blue sky and cool but not cold or chilly. I drove the golf cart (similar to being allowed to use the tv remote). I watched the LH play because I decided after two hours of early morning azalea pruning this morning that I was too sore to swing a club for nine holes. I drank Diet Coke and watched LH swing and snort. The best snort was when he whopped a chain link fence and lesser snorts erupted the three times he lost balls in the water hazards. I can laugh because he is a much better player than I am. I really play at golf rather than play golf. I'm so bad that no one wants to play with me unless they are stuck with me.

Being inept at golf is a good thing. All of us need something we don't do well but enjoy on our life lists. I love the idea of golf, the history, the accessories, the clubs! All of it! I like swinging a club and making a whack sound when I hit well. I like putting. But, I'm rotten. I'm not being humble. I am a rotten golfer. Happy but rotten.

What do you enjoy but don't do well?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Christ is Risen!

Up early because Andy the Cat's paw is healing. He felt well enough to jump on our bed then tickle our faces with happy whiskers. Even Old Man Cat is perky this morning!

Who wouldn't be perky and have happy whiskers on this wonderful day?

Christ is Risen! The tomb is empty! The strife is over, the battle won!


Saturday, March 26, 2005

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday reminds me of a cake our grandmother made. She used salt in the scratch cake batter instead of sugar, iced the cake and served it. When the mistake was discovered, at first bite, she broke into tears at the dinner table. All of us children just looked at her but our mother, realizing the mistake and knowing the growing frailty of her mother went to comfort her. All the effort of making a coconut cake for the meal came to nothing. Inedible, repugnant, a mistake offered as a treat but not even worthy of being thrown out for the birds and squirrels. A cake of no-use.

Today is like that. Nothing ventured will be gained as the Light is out. With no Light, it’s all for naught. Today may look like a day but it isn’t a Day. We’ll move through whatever weather we have as though in a deep fog of no-light. You may be able to see your hand in front of your face in this light but what’s the point?

You and I know that tomorrow will come. We know the end of the Story but today we see fitfully because we realize that without the Light we have made for ourselves a pretty cake with salt.

Wade through today as you can. Think about what your life is like in this darkness before the Third Day. Remember your days of baking with salt. Look around to see how the world, like we children at the table, don’t know what is going on but know something is wrong.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Maundy Thursday Evening Service

Where did I read that equity is assumed by those who take the sacrament of the Lord's Supper?

I can't find it in the B of O or Book of Common Worship. Drives me nuts when I cannot find what I've read. I'll bet this bothers you, too.

I'm thinking about the practice in churches of serving the Lord's Supper to the congregation then asking the congregation to hold the elements (bread and cup) until everyone is served before eating and drinking.

We did this tonight at the LH's church. I began to think about this practice which is not in the Book of Order/Directory of Worship nor is it in the Book of Common Worship. I suppose it started so that in a large congregation when serving the sacrament takes several minutes the people can wait, then take it simultaneously to feel close with one another. Nothing wrong with that. Rather Southern when you think about it, because you are 'sposed to wait until everyone has been served to begin eating (especially you wait for the Mama to raise her fork before you "dig in.")

However, if equity before God at God's Table is assumed, then waiting until all are served makes no particular sense. We ARE God's people and we are TOGETHER in worship taking the sacrament. The Lord's Supper isn't just a personal moment, it's a corporate Body of Christ moment. The holding the sacrament until all are served then seems awkward and fussy.

By the way, sitting in a lavish sanctuary with a trained choir, wonderful pipe organ, great organist and a woodwind ensemble and a gorgeous Communion set gave me a glimpse into how some "country" churches get in a snit about city churches being too fancy. My congregation worships in a very plain Calvinist sanctuary. We have little or no adornment. Adding candlesticks to the worship space was considered a tad too "high church" when I suggested it but I think we are all at peace with candlesticks now. I'm giggling because I must have some bloggy readers who are hooting at the goofiness of church folk. Ok. Ok. We have the little battles with one another over mostly nothing because we all seem to think we are doing church the right way.

Tonight I looked around me and felt a shiver of "whoa! this is so visually stimulating that I am being distracted." And I grew up in a downtown East Coast sanctuary with a killer pipe organ, paid choir members, carvings, Louis C. Tiffany windows, and beautiful plaques and accroutements. Now I serve in country plain and see the simple beauty of this. Both types of spaces honor God.

I loved the hymns, readings and prayers tonight. I loved sitting between my LD and LH and being able to reach out to hold their hands during worship. What a treat to sit in a pew!

Collared but not Collards (too early in the season for Southern Greens)

Every month I pray a meal blessing for a women's civic organization as the chaplain. I'm the first ordained person to hold this position for the group. I'd crow about this but let's be truthful:
clergywomen are sparse here and if any other clergy gal was asked, she'd be too busy.

I attend this group to visit with friends I don't see ordinarily.

In the interest of unbiased reporting I must admit that this group is one of the last places where I am a "younger" member. No further comment.

I wore my clerical collar yesterday because it's Holy Week and I'm busy. This was the first time I'd appeared at this luncheon in my uniform.

One woman told me that if she ever married again, she'd want me to do the service.
Another told me I needed to have my portrait done wearing the collar.
A third woman told me I looked beautiful.

My dress is rather plain most of the time. I'm not fashionable or drab most days but I'm no stunner.

I think I surprised the women by looking like what I am and what I do. Perhaps they don't think of me as clergy because they see me running around with my children, hugging my husband and hot-footing it through the grocery store. I doubt they see clergy women often. I can think of only one other woman down here who wears a collar.

It's taken me several years to get comfortable with collar wearing. At first, years ago, I'd find myself being called "Mother" by strangers and would forget to respond unless they were in my face. I can operate under the clergy radar scanner when I'm not "collared" and I can understand the strengths of stealth ministry. I can get into conversations with people without the initial "oh! you are a preacher!" paragraph.

But, still and all, I am clergy. I am a preacher. I do pastor a congregation. I am a public prayer.
Wearing the collar opens up conversations that I wouldn't have most days. I ran through the High School office yesterday to do an errand for the LS and was stopped by two kids and one staff member to talk. Without the collar I would be just another invisible Mom.

It's Maundy Thursday. We go to worship tonight at the LH's church. I'm looking forward to sitting in the pew with my family.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Pruning Joy

So what if I have the internet access of an 18th c. woman? Why should I care? My writing program has disappeared as have all of my favorite sites for religious info, blog buddies and how can I do a bulletin if I can't publish? So what?

I am in the midst of Holy Week and the brief days of bug-free gardening. Holy Week takes care of itself but being able to work outside in our yard without gnats, mosquitoes, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets and fire ants is bliss. Pure bliss.

I've attacked pruning the shubbery with a maniacal vengenance. I have the proper pruning tools this year----brand new ones! Tools not forgotten by other family members in the bushes, drive way and left out in the rain. Fresh sharp blades to cut, shape and spurn growth. Mountains of yard debris mounts by my street waiting for the City to pick up. I saw a mountain leave today when the truck came by. Hours later, another mountain of my great bliss sat ready to be carted off. I am very happy.

Every muscle in my winter body is sore from the effort. Who cares? I don't. This is my time of year to spend hours working, plotting and planning my yard. No bugs. No heat. Not much is better than this. I have only a few more days as I'll be working on presbytery stuff most days next week indoors.

Young Andy the Cat loves having me outside swinging branches into a mess for him to throw himself into. He climbs the trees I prune, falls from the branches and acts as though he meant to look ridiculous. I love that about cats. They never let you see them embarrassed.

I don't have time to blog. There's no way for me to back up my posts so they are often lost when my computer collapses. I can count on the yard work, this effort may or may not appear here.

Have a good Holy Week, y'all. I'm giving Easter gifts this year to everyone who slows down enough to receive one. Seems to me that Easter's message presents a greater message of Gift than does Christmas. See you the next time I can sign on.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Palm Sunday

Before driving to my church this morning I'll cut palm fronds to take. I'm not sure the big plant is actually a palm but it's probably in the palm family and will have to do.

The church doesn't have a Maundy Thursday service, nor does it have Holy Week services. How strange to go from Palm Sunday and the triumphant entry of Jesus on a donkey to the resurrection. I've not been there long enough to make the parishoners long for Holy Week.

I've placed the solemn reproaches of the Cross to the service but unless I do a good job explaining the presence of these prayers, I'll be the only one who gets the move from happy donkey riding to the murder. And, how happy was that donkey ride for the One who knew what was coming?

Blessings to each of you who read this. The computer guy hasn't shown up but returned one phone call which resulted in instructions that didn't work. Sorry that my postings have been slow. I miss seeing your blogs and leaving comments for you, too.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Mall and Ministry

I was useless today. Not productive. No errands run or chores completed by me. I’ve been known to value myself based on how much I accomplish. Not today. I was a slug.

I had my hair cut. I snuggled with the Old Man Cat. I went to the Mall.

I did learn a lesson today. While at the Mall, I asked a sales clerk where to find X. She didn’t know, didn’t try to find it. I smiled and walked away. At the next department, I asked a sales clerk for help finding a window valance. She said to look in the comforter and bedspreads. Ok. That was some direction for the search. I asked the third sales clerk where the "really good bargains were" and she said with a toss of her head, "Back there." Ok. I began my search for the best bargain in the department.

The window valances were not with the comforters and bedspreads. I found them in other places. I found X by myself and on sale. The "really good bargains" were in the back but when I brought them to the cashier area I was ignored by the two salesclerks standing within five feet of me who were chatting. I lost interest in one item and put it back. I bought the other item but the salesclerk was indifferent.

Granted that retail jobs at large department stores at the Mall aren’t the brain-snapping, pulse-pounding, intellectually stimulating pleasures of the Age. I know this. However, I do think that if you work in sales it makes sense to know your stock and sell it. Move that stuff out the door!
Thinking about this as I drove home in the crawling traffic of life here in the Backwater, I began to think of my experiences at the department store and it’s similarities to ministry.

For example, how often do I give directions to seekers in the most off-handed manner that does not invite further questions from them? How often do I blow off interest in the church by assuming things that may not fit the situation? Do I seem indifferent to those who approach me?
Do I know my "stock" so that I can answer questions about it? Can I move people INTO the doors of a church?

I dunno.

May God forgive me if I am indifferent to others. Forgive me when I am arrogant and withholding of myself in the face of need and questions about God. May I be approachable, please. Help me to be available to those who are searching. Amen.
I suppose it makes sense to have computer access problems during Lent. If we are to recall/relearn our dependence on God for these forty days, not being able to use the computer makes sense. We bought one of the first Mac’s in about 1983 for several thousand dollars. I doubt either of us has gone more than 24 hours without some computer contact (not counting out of the country trips or illness). The LH has wireless throughout the house so he can use his laptop while cutting the grass or sitting on the toilet. I have this computer in my study and sit here in a comfy chair staring at this screen for several hours a day. I don’t even criticize myself for how much time I may be wasting each day.

Lent is about giving up what we think makes us safe so that we recall Who is our safety, really.
Putting aside the comforts we don’t even notice to learn once more for a good look at our values.
I sure value computer access. Most of my news reading comes from the internet. Local TV news and our dreadful Backwater Gazette aren’t enough for me. Local news is distracting as we have the whitest white woman on the planet as an anchorwoman. I can hardly hear past her looks. It doesn’t help that in person she is not the brightest light in the box and that I know where she goes to get her lip and brows waxed. I may be pale but I don’t have yellow blonde hair and raccoon make-up eyes. It appears that her greatest talent is reading a tele-prompter and smiling with every tooth showing.

The Backwater Gazette is all filler from other newspapers and ads. I do like the ads. Today is grocery ad day and I look forward to seeing who has the best 12 pack prices on Diet Coke.
Lent? Oh. I got distracted.

Distraction is exactly what we hope a "good" Lent addresses. Pay attention. Focus. Be quiet.

I can focus like a pit bull when studying or listening to a lecture. Or while reading. Give me a good book and the world can blow up without my notice. Screams! Flames! What? I’m reading. Didn’t notice.

But, Lord Have Mercy, I can be distracted a zillion times while going through my day. Pay attention to what distracts, listen more closely to what is being said, honor the day by looking and considering one’s place in the world. Ok. Ok.

As I am dependent on God for each breath, I am dependent on Ray the Computer Guy Who Does Not Return Phone Calls for Jesus Or Any One Else. Until I hear from Ray, I’m in trouble on the tech front. The LH has many talents with the computer but even he is bumfuzzled about the problem.

I hope to hear from Ray. I hope to hear from God. I hope to hear from you.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Mother Daughter Stuff

Computer probs continue at our home.

The St. Paddy’s day parade goes right by the LH’s office. The parking lot in front attracts the drunks at the bar across the street like magnets. An off-duty police officer helps keep cars out of the office lot and discourages drunks from toddling over to use the bushes. Just a note to let you know I live in the real world.

Further evidence of real world problems in the Casserole Family bloomed up yesterday when the LD was called by a friend’s mom who found LD’s cell phone number among her daughter’s things. While I was napping, our LD called every kid she knows at the school to help this mom find her daughter who’d not come home Friday night. LD even spoke to the police about where to look for the daughter because the mom was too upset to talk. The missing daughter, another girl and two boys (of course!)were found and returned to their homes. The mom called today to tell me how much LD helped and how much she appreciated our daughter.

Two days ago, I had a Mother-Daughter chat with LD about knowing when to help at school with her classmates’ problems and when to stay out of it. LD knows everyone, knows everyone’s social connections and is rather remarkable with these skills. Unfortunately, school personnel teach the children to keep out of fights, arguments and etc. when they are not the primaries. LD sees all interactions as her business (where did she get this idea???) so she involves herself. Not good at her age according to the school.
LD’s skills with people will be great for her when she’s an adult but now she keeps getting into trouble. So, we had our Mother -Daughter Summit on the issue two days ago.

This afternoon, when LD returns with LH from policing the office, I hug her and tell her about the phone call from the grateful mom. I tell LD thank you for helping the family and getting that girl home safely. Thank you for making all those phone calls, I say. I know it’s confusing to know when to intercede and when to stay out of it. You did very well here, girlie.

I’ll try to blog more this week. Hope all is well with you and that you are ready for tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Computer probs plague our household this week.

I drove to church on Sunday not sure what to expect. It’s not that I know what to expect any Sunday because I never do. General expectations may come to mind but the "what will happen today" expectations are unknown. I knew we were celebrating the Lord’s Supper but I was unsure if the Altar Guild of One remembered so I stopped to get po-boy bread and a four pack of tiny Welch’s cans.

I’ve prepared the sacrament once for a congregation. Churches are so good at having things ready that I’ve fixed the cups and trays one time. Sunday I was unsure about the planning so I carried my own supplies as well as my lil’ communion kit. The kit is a small black case with a plastic bottle for grape juice and box for bread along with disposable cups and a little plate. I hoped to take the sacrament to a family of shut-ins.
Earlier in the week I read again the communion information from our Directory of Worship. Bread for the sacrament may be what is appropriate locally. If wine is served then grape juice should be provided so that people have a choice. Disposal of the elements after the sacrament is to be respectful and what the Session agrees upon. Order of service for the sacrament is outlined with scripture cites. The D of W has a great deal more information about the sacrament.

The drive to church showed more signs of spring with wild trees blooming, fields becoming green and the roadside weeds blooming. It is the loveliest of drives. Hardly any traffic on an early Sunday morning so one can browse the fields and pastures to see cattle, sheep and goats along with fields of green. The road follows a canopy of trees for several miles so that the light and shadows in early morning are so beautiful.

I arrived to find the Lord’s Supper ready. Beautifully ready. The Altar Guild uses real linen cloths ironed to perfection. Fresh flowers from her yard were arranged in a vase for the pedestal.

I wish that I’d been ready. I was the hold up. My sermon was the pits. I have been muddled for the past couple of weeks and that muddling has affected my sermons. Proof of this was shown in the congregation’s faces and in my own regret on the drive back home. What’s the problem? The Gospel texts have been very long for the past weeks. Verses and verses and verses. I’ve had two Sundays of doing more teaching than preaching. Ask me later what the difference is. I studied the texts to make sure I understood, as best I could, what was going on and then couldn’t seem to condense my thoughts or focus on one verse or another. Just all of the verses which makes for poor preaching when long texts are used. I’m not a verse by verse preacher because I’m not a verse by verse hearer. The tale of the whole interests me, not piece by piece.

I’m facing another long Gospel text for Sunday. The story of Lazarus in John 11:1-45. I am considering using v.35 " Jesus began to weep"(NRSV) as my focal point but it’s Wednesday morning and the process/study/exegesis is not finished enough to know yet.

Focus, Rev. Mrs. Casserole. Focus!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Jaye over at Winding Road in an Urban Area ( has an entry about her rules. She asks for our rules. Here are mine:

I’m a Christian and I believe it is difficult to follow Jesus. I’m not easy with unconditional acceptance, mysterious grace and hope for the future but I believe in Jesus.

I believe all politics are local and relate to territory. Everything is political if you think about it.

I believe that the insurance industry is the bad guy in the tort reform thing and that if lawyers had a better lobbying group the public might understand the truth about insurance.

Preaching is an odd form of communication. Writing a sermon is difficult work every week.

I believe that most clergy are so serious that I must buck the trend and tell you my REAL rules which are as follows:

I believe that open toed high heel shoes are unattractive unless the shoes are really Manalo Blahniks which I do not own.

I believe that white shoes are unattractive unless you are wearing them as part of a required uniform.
I believe that no white shoes, except as a uniform, or white purses or belts should be worn before Easter or after Memorial Day.

I believe that solid colors are better than patterns and that sweaters with appliques of ducks, school buses and animals make you look old.

I believe in good skin care, quality foundation make-up and good mascara. I believe that Lancome has the best mascara. I have researched this.

I believe in having friends over to dinner and serving something good but not complex. I believe that the friends care more about the fellowship than they do about the cleanliness of our home.

I believe that sterling flatware, good china and your Waterford crystal should be used daily or at least weekly. I believe in cloth napkins for environmental and graciousness reasons.

I believe that if people can misunderstand you, they will but that most people are more accepting and generous than we expect them to be.

I believe that Swiffer dusters, Mr. Clean white spongey things and Cetaphil facial cleanser are three products that really do what they were created to do.

I believe that you should not have too much decorative stuff on the front of your home or in your front yard no matter what Curb Appeal suggests. More power to you if you have a cement rabbit statue by your kitchen door.

I believe that material possessions are much more valuable and entertaining if purchased on from an estate or garage or rummage sale.

New shoes scuff if purchased at full retail. Shoes on sale neither scuff nor stain for the first year of wearing.
Wearing jewelry is good. Having purses you like is good. Shoes are wonderful and uplift one’s spirits if you have the money. Perhaps a shoe fund should be started.

A good hair cut and "conditioning" (note: we do not color our hair, we ‘condition’ it.) is a good use of one’s funds.

A Kitchen Aide mixer is a great investment, does what is supposed to do, and lasts endlessly.

I believe that a good woman friend is a great blessing and that many women friends are an even greater joy.

Never play poker with a man named "Doc."

Don’t buy anything you can’t afford. Pay cash whenever you can.

A loving marriage is one of the great benefits of adulthood.
I’m glad Martha is out of prison. Her punishment doesn’t make sense to me. I read the charges against her and cannot believe that she, a former stockbroker, would risk her livelihood for a transaction about 50K. Doesn’t make sense to me.

I’m bothered when smart women are targeted. I realize that justice is relative rather than conclusive but when smart women are punished more harshly than their white male counterparts I get suspicious.
In the same way, I don’t understand the hostility towards Hillary R. Clinton. What has she done deserve hate? When she was First Lady and worked on health care issues it was a public service gesture. What’s wrong with that? She used her abilities to try to solve a great U.S. misery which, to this day, troubles all Americans. Our health care system is the pits.

Did I care if Sen. Clinton changed her hairstyle? Nope. Did it bother me that she has a brain in her head and spoke out? Nope. Do I care if she obtained residency in NY and ran for the Senate? Nope.

I do feel sorry for her having to cope with an unfaithful spouse. It’s even worse that all of us know about it. I’m glad she’s out and about rather than home in a dark room in a dirty bathrobe drinking bad scotch.

I’m not scared of strong gals. Why would anyone be? I’m scared of mean gals and mean men. I’m scared of people with no boundaries. I’m scared of greedy, power hungry people. I’m scared of sociopaths.

Afraid of strong women? Not me. I’m glad strong women are out there so our daughters can see assertiveness. Note to Universe: teach girls to be assertive; teach boys to be gentle because the culture doesn’t teach this to children.

I hope Martha has a good friend with whom she can vent her anger. Maybe we should all send her new cuss words to assist her. Like "hot jumping rats tails!" or " Blizzard Bunching Pustules." Some mean words to help her get the anger out. I’d be mad as fire.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Thanks to all of you who commented on my post on forgiveness.

I found Smede's book on forgiveness at the Salvation Army thrift shop.

Forgiving others is a problem for many people, maybe it's a problem for all people. I am touched that you responded to my post. I woke up in the night worrying that I shouldn't have posted my thoughts. As time passed, I realized that I need to hear what you all had to say.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

People Who Are Called to Lead

"The people who are called to lead are almost always the wrong people. It is almost as if God goes out of God's way to pick those who, at least on the face of it, have no virtues or qualities that suggest that they would be good leaders. I'm thinking of Jacob, Sarah, Mary, Peter and Paul here, as well as of Moses. Perhaps God likes a challenge. Maybe a Creator who makes something out of nothing considers vocation a continuing aspect of creation. Any God who could make a man like Moses into a wonderful leader must be some God."

William H. Willimon, in the April 24-May1, 2002 Christian Century