Wednesday, February 28, 2007

God bless the youth pastors

This morning I finally made it to the Youth Ministry Network meeting. They meet every week and I haven't been able to make it as of yet, partly because of schedule, partly because 7:00 is before I even wake up, let alone get out the door dressed and awake and ready for a meeting. But it was SO wonderful to be there. I walked in and the room was full of people my age!!! What a concept. And not just that, but people my age who care and are committed to the work in the church, where we have common ground and common goals. They were a fun group too, joking, having fun, teasing one another, and working on some really cool events they will be doing for the youth in our area. Yay for youth pastors who inspired me to get re-energized about the youth work I am doing.

AND, yay for youth who write and thank me for the work I do and for the ways I help them feel welcomed! AND who want to work on inviting more people so we can grow as a group.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Three again

About two weeks ago I had gone over to our new mom's house (from the church) to take her two younger girls to the park so they could have a few moments of solace. I pulled them in their wagon and we had fun playing on the swings and going down the slide. There were some other young girls there and the two I had were perfectly at ease playing with the others. They were friends simply because they liked to slide together, swing together, and play tag. Period. So simple. Some days I wish I were three. I could just walk up to someone in the grocery store and say: "Will you be my friend?" Or we could walk, play tag, swing, whatever together and I would have a new best friend (not like I'm looking to replace the current one).

Clearly, I am having trouble with the isolation of a new place, new job, new everything, but yesterday I got to forget about all of that. Sunday night I drove 2.5 hours to the beach to see my best friend who has just moved down here. She and I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking (even though we talk nearly everyday). We spent Monday shopping, walking, talking, and with her pushing me around Target on the shopping cart. I'm a simple girl really, I don't need much to amuse me. She and I laughed as we lurched and squeeked around turns and got all kinds of strange looks from the other customers. It was good to be able to relax so fully. We walked on the beach at nearly midnight and had a grand time falling into our old routines.

I guess I got to be three yesterday! My old soul certainly enjoyed being a kid again. =)

Spiritual Non-direction

Some of you may recall that part of the impetus for me starting blogging was my musings from meeting with a spiritual director. Well, today we had our third meeting and it was horrible. I have known from the beginning that we simply do not click, and today was the ultimate proof of that. She spent about an half hour trying to get me to tell her something, which remains unclear to me even now. I kept thinking "what are you getting at?" And giving her that high-pitched noise dog look:

Finally after 30 minutes of futile and very frustrated questioning she named it: "I think we are too different to make this work. We understand God too differently and I don't have the words to communicate well with you." you got that right! I kept thinking of the place where I volunteer, we do horse back riding with kids with disabilities, and some kids simply respond better to certain people. The instructor can be top notch, but sometimes the kids just click better with someone else. I clearly needed someone different.

On my ride home I was frustrated and hurt. Frustrated for how it didn't work and the prospect of having to find someone different (along with the possibility that I may have presented a similar problem for someone I have counseled along the way). Hurt because the way she explained things made me feel absolutely inept, spiritually immature, and impossible to work with. The notion that came to me in those moments is that I need a soul whisperer. I mean really, there are dog whisperers and horse whisperers, I need a soul whisperer, someone who gets it and gets me. Where the resonance of our souls works in harmony and I can keep progressing in my faith journey.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Behind the Wall

For over a week now I have been hearing the fighting behind the wall of my bedroom. It used to be I would wake up to my neighbors' rendition of the Vagina Monologues, but lately it is just fighting--loud, obscenity-filled fighting. It seems I am either trying to fall asleep in the midst of it, or waking up to it. They need more than prayers, they need intervention, so I have a call into a woman I met the other day in my "community organizing" visits in the community. Hopefully she can help. In the meantime, please pray for peace, patience, and understanding.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

the (computer) devil ate my blessings

I was just finishing a post about how richly blessed I am. I talked about the beauty of our Ash Wednesday and how powerful it was to pray for the long list of folks that have been part of our prayer chain or prayer group, about how moving it was to see the carino between married couples and care between friends, and of how the retired minister and his wife had silently said goodbye and then shortly come to wait with me so I would not be alone. I was so moved by the care of their gesture that I began to think of the many blessings for which I am grateful and after I had enumerated a long list and got ready to "publish" the damn devil ate my post! There before me disappeared all internet windows and when I got back on and logged back in, my blessings were no where to be found. jerk! So, fully refusing to lose, I will reiterate my blessings, because indeed they are worthy of reiterating, not simply out of spite, but out of true gratitude. Hence, I am grateful:
  • for the retired minister and his wife, that he preaches so I can have a reprieve once a month and that she faithfully plays the organ and is always there and is willing to stop and start as needed so we can learn new songs
  • for a congregation that is flexible and willing to roll with the punches as we try new things in order to attain a worship service that is more representative of who we want to be
  • for a successful youth group discussion about worship and what we are truly called to do for worship, that they truly get it, and only hope the larger church does too before we lose these kids
  • for church leadership that is inspired and catching fire and being inventive and creative as they seek to find new life for and in our church
  • for church leaders who are spiritual adept and who are looking to grow in their faith walk
  • for long talks with friends
  • for a senior pastor who does not wish me to run myself into the ground and encourages me to take vacation, study days, and time for myself
  • for the opportunity to go to MS and do Katrina relief work, with BOTH of my parents!
  • that my congregation(s) love me, and trust me enough to share with me and let me attend to their vulnerable and sacred spaces, and that they (many anyway) will let me be their cheerleader and walk with them into new (and sometimes seemingly risky) territory
  • for a young adult group that enjoys the fact that I draw them into the ambiguous and difficult areas of belief and don't give them a pat answer
  • for my one young adult who always comes and always reads, which makes my job SO much easier (and my apologies to all of my teachers/professors for whom I did not...)

I could probably go on and on tonight, but I will leave you with those I have mentioned and count my other blessings into slumber!

These boots were(n't) made for walking

I started my day with my Lenten discipline of walking to work. Deciding to look professional for the day (due to the fact that we had an Ash Wednesday service) I ended up choosing an outfit that required I wear the MOST uncomfortable walking shoes I think I own. But aside from the sore feet problem, my walk was great. It started with the chorus of birds singing and led me through the streets smiling contendly (if that's a word) to myself. I gave my best "Mona Lisa" look to those who drove by and enjoyed seeing houses I've never seen before, greeting fellow walkers, or the occasional person working in their yard. During college I walked all over campus (though, with tail between my legs, almost always drove to Westwood!), living abroad we always walked to school (15 minutes in Costa Rica, 30 in Spain) and didn't think twice about it, and then my last year in seminary I walked to campus everyday for classes and work and apparently I have missed it. And I am delighted to be back at it!

Lenten Disciplines

Last night as I prepared for bed I thought to myself, "I don't know what my Lenten discipline will be, and if I don't decide ahead of time, I am bound to break a rule tomorrow." (As in, I would eat something on the "no" list or fail to read a scripture, etc). So I journaled a bit and decided (following my last post) that I should make time for a dance with God each day, I also wanted to be sure to do scripture reading each day (non-lectionary related). I have been so inspired by what my spiritual director has encouraged me to do that I thought a daily dose of scripture would add to my Lenten (and personal/pastoral) journey. I also thought I would incorporate fasting once a week. I have read a number of posts on prayer, intercession, casting out demons, etc lately and am more and more convicted that I need to be fasting with my prayers, so for our Thursday night prayer group I will go, having fasted all day. And finally, I want to be walking everyday. Not just because it will be good for my health, but because it will be better for the environment if I walk the +/-mile to work rather than emitting more carbon monoxide. But even more than both of those reasons because I am more prone to hear God when I am in nature, so walking (not on the treadmill) will draw me into greater consciousness of the ways God is speaking to me. There lies my guide to drawing nearer to God through the Lenten season. And for those of you who observe Lent, I'd be interested to hear where your faith walks are taking you .

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Can't eat just one

As you might have noticed, blogging is sort of like eatting Pringles for me. Somehow I can't simply write one post (unless my brain is overloaded). If I'm going to share one idea, I am probably going to share two or three. Hence the barage of posts whenever I am in a writing mood!
Dancing With God (author unknown)

When I meditated on the word Guidance, I kept seeing "dance" at the end of the word. I remember reading that doing God's will is a lot like dancing. When two people try to lead, nothing feels right. The movement doesn't flow with the music, and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky. When one person realizes that, and lets the other lead, both bodies begin to flow with the music. One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back or by pressing Lightly in one direction or another. It's as if two become one body, moving beautifully. The dance takes surrender, willingness, and attentiveness from one person and gentle guidance and skill from the other. My eyes drew back to the word Guidance. When I saw "G: I thought of God, followed by "u" and "i". "God, "u" and "i" dance." God, you, and I dance. As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust that I would get guidance about my life. Once again, I became willing to let God lead. My prayer for you today is that God's blessings and mercies be upon you on this day and everyday. May you abide in God as God abides in you. Dance together with God, trusting God to lead and to guide you through each season of your life.
And I Hope You Dance
I think this might be the perfect meditation for me at this point. I need to be relying more on God (and others in my ministry) and less on my own capabilities. I need to let the rhythm of the moment lead me and speak to me. And I need to let God lead. For those of you who know me well, this is not something I take to easily, I mean on some levels, sure, I let God lead, but with dancing in general, I do not follow well. The person leading has to be a dang good dancer (and leader) or I tend to be a bit rebellious in my following. If my lead is shoddy, I can't truly let myself go in the dance, and that is, after all, the point. Isn't it?? To lose yourself in the dance? To lose yourself in the ministry? To lose yourself in the moment?
And my hunch is, call me crazy, that God knows how to lead. =) I know, it's radical and a new idea, and gonna be rough for many of you to wrap your heads around! =) But I think God and I are going to start dancing: a little ballroom, una salsa, la merengue, maybe some line dancing or swing. God and I are going to have fun, get lost in the moment, and let the rhythms move us.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Move Yo, Get out the Road

My mantra this morning was "get out of the way so the people can see God." In re-evaluating what it is I think people should get out of my sermons, I boiled things down to wanting people to truly hear the Word and see God. So, as I sat preparing myself to lead worship, my prayer was to stand aside, for it to be Christ the people saw, and not me, God the people heard, not me. I have no idea what the people actually saw or heard (I rarely do), but I at least felt the onus of what they receive not so much on me as on God. I think I may need to be doing more getting out of the way. It's so simple and yet I somehow have to continuously relearn it. I think it was one of the first ministry mantras I happened upon: "It's not about me, it's about God and allowing God to work through me." I guess it's back to the basics for me.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mental Vacation

As of Thursday my brain has taken an unapproved vacation. I got up in the morning thinking of the 101 things I have to get done, ate breakfast, did my daily devotional, and that was all my brain was willing to do. So I went back to bed for a couple of hours, got up, had lunch, went by the church (why I'm not sure because nothing actually was accomplished), ran an errand, and was home and back to sleep. Even after my second nap of the day my mental fog had not cleared. Seriously, my mental capacities are on strike. And frankly, I kind of need them. I have a sermon to preach (and put to paper first), programs to plan, vacation time arrangements to make, volunteers to organize, curriculum to write, youth studies to construct. I need my brain and it is checked out. C'est la vie, I guess.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Liberal? Conservative? or?

I have been thinking lately of how I don't really want to be fully associated with either "side" of the church or of politics. I definitely have leanings to the "left", but there are other places where I am at least more moderate if not "right" leaning. So my new approach is to consider myself an "inclusivist". There are definitely areas where I am more bull-headed than others, and yet, I think the voice of the "other" calls us into accountability. Maybe I'm not making clear sense. Let me try and explain.

When I was in seminary it became very clear to me that every theological movement is a reaction against some other theological stance. God is all powerful.....what about free will?? Grace cleanses us forever....aren't we totally depraved? Works are necessary....but isn't that only because they are the fruit of our inner relationship and change? In other words, each theology calls us into accountability with the other. Hence, both are important. I would argue that similarly something happens with politics/economics etc--the dialectical nature of things should draw us into accountability, and shouldn't push us off the deep end in either direction. I'm an inclusivist in so far as I want everyone to feel loved, be known, and be a part.

Granted, I would wrestle with the notion of the Klan walking into my church and being "honored" or "respected" for their stance. I can respect that they have a stance, but don't have to respect it. And yet, my hope is that in honest, caring community, we can all grow closer to the ideals of understanding, mercy, and justice. Now, if you are opposed to those ideals in and of themselves, I don't know what to do with you because I am not sure what "accountability" offers. I think I am rambling....maybe I should stop before I get too far behind...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Love Connection

Why yes, I guess I can pray that they might have a love connection. I guess.
Tonight a concerned friend of the woman I visited yesterday called about the woman's condition. I shared that I thought she would be fine but that she would have a couple of weeks of recovery. At the end of the conversation she shared, "now this is a secret, but maybe you can pray for this too, she has a crush on _____." Yes, I can pray for that too.

On some level, it feels a little silly, but it's nothing that I haven't done before (lord knows I have said my fair share on my behalf.) And afterall, we pray for married folks all the time, that there would be a love connection, understaning, listening, and the like, why not for single folks???

Meet Deb Black

Yesterday I went to the hospital to see a congregant who had fallen and broken her shoulder. As they were preparing to move her from the ER to her room, we were waiting in the hallway and there was another woman on a gurney across the hall from us. We smiled at each other and she fixed her eyes on me, so I walked over to her. She told me, "I am ready to die." Now, last time I checked I was not death incarnate like Joe Black. Maybe I have seriously misjudged my call and/or my identity, but that is not a role I had considered for myself. (Now, to be fair, having worked as a chaplain in a hospital, I did have occasion for folks to tell me they were ready to die, but generally they knew that I was "one of God's servants" and hoped I would have a direct line to convey the message). However, this woman did not know me, I was not wearing a collar or a robe or anything that would identify my office. I asked if she was ready to die and she said yes, that she had been for awhile and that she simply wanted God to take her in her sleep. Yes ma'am. I pray God takes you peacefully and that you might know the glory of heaven as you have hoped. Peace be with you dear one, peace be with you.

Preaching Deadly Sins

The man who first voiced contempt for my Lenten discernment about showering had this link on his blog. The title appealed to and so I read and found places of sinfulness in my own preaching life. I am stuck on #6 like a broken record. In 7 months of weekly preaching, I think maybe 2 or 3 times did I walk away saying "that was a good sermon" and not something derrogatory or self-depricating. My mother and my best friend regularly tell me I am too hard on myself or expecting too much. "Are you really expecting to preach something novel again??" Well, actually, yes. The standards of preaching I shared with my spiritual director were: moving, transformative, profound, provacative, insightful, cohesive, flowing...

Anyway, you get the idea. This week, pre-deadly sins reading, I had an epiphany, it came to me: if I am trying for transformation every week, that means I think people should be changing every week, and not just minor changes, life changing differences. That's completely unrealistic. I mean really. I can hardly deal with major life transformation once or twice a year--that really profound soul-searching, the painful stuff that takes you into the dark corners of your soul's closets and moves you into new space. That's a pretty big expectation to place on congregants every week. Bigger than anything I would want to have asked of me by a preacher. So, I think it is time to reign in my expectations and think about more realistic goals for what can and should be the take away from my weekly preaching.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Over the last week, the Ignatius Method of discernment has come up quite a bit in conversations. I taught it to a leadership group from the church last night, shared it with a former youth tonight, and should have shared it with my covenant group last week as we discussed conflict and prayerful decision making in the church.

So, either I am supposed to be discerning something in my own life and so I keep receiving divine nudges (earlier today I was inclined to say "goosed by the Holy Spirit"--that made me laugh!) OR I truly need to share this with as many others as possible because it is so helpful. So, ignorant of what I might be discerning for myself--though I did use it for a decision not to move to a house--I thought I would share. I recommend this for major decisions in life, in leadership, and hope it proves as useful for you as it has for me.

Step One: Listing
Note to user: you can either list "pros and cons" if the option is singular, OR you can do a comparative list if you are deciding between 2 (or 3) options. If you do the comparative list, you should list all pros and cons of each option on their respective sides:

smell nice
clean hair
shaved legs

No Shower
save time
save water
no razor burn

Step Two: Numbering
Numbering should be done on a scale of 1-3. 3 being higher importance, 1 being lower importance--if you mix this up, it seriously screws up the math and the end result

3 smell nice
2 clean hair
1 shaved legs
Total: 6

No Shower

3 save time
2 save water
3 no razor burn
Total: 8

Clearly in this instance, no shower wins out at first glance.

Step Three: Prayer & Listening for Confirmation
At this point you should take this issue to prayer and ask God for signs of confirmation (or disconfirmation as the case may be). During this time you should not share your decision with others, simply let God speak to you through actions, ideas, possibilities and the like.

Step Four: Sharing with a confidant
After a couple of weeks of listening, you should share your leanings and learnings with a trusted confidant. Ask him/her to share his/her thoughts and then to also pray for you and your decision.

Step Five: More prayer and listening
Return to prayer and listen for continued confirmation (or lack thereof) regarding your decision. Possibly share with a couple additional trusted friends/family.

Step Six: Move forward with your decision
Provided you have received the confirmations needed for assurance about your decision, at this point you could be ready to move forward with your decision. If not, return to step 1, be more discriminating in your numbering in step 2 and continue on in prayer and listening.

As you can tell, I apparently will not be showering until Easter as I listen for confirmations that "no shower" is the right decision for me! =)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Experiencing the *real* world

Today had me out and about for a number of different things: 1) to visit a woman in our church who just had her baby 2) for a massage 3) to get exact change for the massage 4) at a bank 5) getting an oil change. I say this is out in the real world for me because quite honestly, most of the time I am at church things with church people. I do see *other* people at the grocery store and there are good folks where I volunteer. But otherwise, there are ATMs, pay at the pump gas stations, and I am rarely at a restaurant or other such lugar, so I simply don't have natural occasions to interact with folks outside the church.

Anyway, my lack of interaction was not supposed to be the focus of this post, rather, how interesting it is to have conversations with some of the folks I encounter. The guy who helped with most of my car stuff (including the actual maintenance) looked like he was probably in ROP through the high school. He was helpful, but not terribly talkative. But as soon as his manager came in to do the biling, the whole experience shifted. The manager was outright flirting (an aspect of life I sometimes forget actually exists--it's not really a popular past time of serving communion or teaching Bible study to older adults). And he as much said he was flirting. (well, rather, asked for space from the other guy so he could flirt). I'm okay with that, it, at the very least, provides entertainment. So we chatted about where they were from (VA and OH) and places I might visit when I go to VA in a couple of weeks. Then Mr. "Excuse-me-so-I-can-flirt" tells me his 5th baby was just born. Wait, you just had a 5th child and you're flirting with me because why?? Yeah, graduated a year ahead of me and is on baby #5 (no wedding band) and is reveling in flirting. Definitely a reality check for me. I didn't have the _________ to interrupt him (people often get skiddish around me when they find out what I do) when he told me that when he was in HS he "didn't like any of [his] classmates, so [he] started fornicating with the underclassmen". They say confession is good for the soul, and I wholy believe it, but he definitely did not know to whom he was confessing, and I am not quite sure why he was confessing.

It's a strange strange world friends. A strange strange world.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

realizing the expanse

It was only a couple of days ago that I began to grasp how quickly and widespread one's voice becomes with a blog. I know, I should have seen it earlier. It is after all via the WORLD WIDE web. Anyway, it made me think, there are probably pastors and others who are trying to be bi/multi-cultural in worship, or who are struggling to find answers around immigration, and thought, you know, for all the work I do in these areas, I sure haven't blogged much about it for people to know that.

On that note: Today we had a bilingual worship service. (We have two congregations--one that is Spanish speaking and one that is English speaking and to encourage fellowship, awareness, unity and community, we started doing bilingual worship together about every 8 weeks) Today was the 4th we have done since I have been at this church. The first was a prayer and healing service (
the one where people walked out), the 2nd was for World Communion Sunday , the 3rd was for Christmas Eve where we did a Las Posadas Service, and the 4th was today as we celebrated "Golden Weds Sunday" (a celebration and renewal of vows for those couples who have been married for 50+ years--for which we had at least 15 couples).

I am grateful for wisdom I had received from
Heidi Neumark (whose book "Breathing Space" I HIGHLY recommend). She had shared that her church had to do 8 bilingual services before they found the rhythm and balance that fit them. This has been helpful to share with our congregation as many struggle with the adjustment (including the power point people who try and create slides with translations and yet don't understand the language). Knowing that this new form of worship will take time to take hold and for all involved to feel honored, welcomed, and able to participate is a wonderful gift.

Today's service allowed me to finally see us moving forward on this front--(1) During the welcome my Senior introduced me (for the sake of visitors or late-arrival "snow birds") and welcomed the Hispanic congregation to the larger service at which point a man in the front row began to clap loudly. I was so moved by his act of hospitality and encouragement, I almost began to cry. Being together is about celebration and welcome of the other "half" (though percentage wise only 1/10th) of our church. We are two congregations but we are one church. And that man got it--and acted in a way that would encourage others to get it. God is moving in our church! (2) After service I had a couple of folks (non-Spanish speakers) come up and tell me how much they enjoyed the Spanish. They liked hearing the rhythm and smoothness of it. Praise Jesus!

Which is all to say, I am grateful for the ways the Holy Spirit is opening people up to one another and to new experiences and I pray that we might keep moving forward toward a
Pentecost reality. Our next bilingual service will be Palm Sunday and then again for the celebration of Pentecost in May.

Note: If you, or your church, are interested in bilingual or multi-cultural worship (even if you are not a bilingual church) and would appreciate some resources or direction, I am happy to help in any way I can. I can send a sample liturgy, translated prayers, or song suggestions--even an intro into the concept of this *fusion* worship that would hopefully give insight into how to go about this.

Is this what worship should be?

Tonight at youth group we read 2 Samuel 6:-12-16 and talked about David's acts of worship and how his wife thought he was acting crazy dancing about. He basically said to heck with you and kept on dancing and praising God. Then we watched Sister Act 2 (looking for ways people worshipped and then ways they worshipped that others might not accept). Afterward we talked about ways they worship, and how any act can be an act of worship. They named their favorite things to do (dance, run, play sports) and we talked about how those can be acts of thanksgiving, praise, or adoration. Then they named things they hate doing (academic classes, dishes, cleaning their rooms) and we talked about how they might transform those acts into acts of worship. They really did a good job with the discussion--using each dish like a prayer bead and saying a prayer for someone, or turning on music while doing chores and praising God through singing or movement.

Knowing that I struggle with what our youth group is right now, my brother asked tonight over the phone how it went. I recounted it and he referred me to this site. She too is a pastor and had posted this video (

Her follow up question was then: is this what worship should be?

Now, having just promoted Sister Act 2, it would be hypocritical to say "no". I do believe this is a perfectly legitimate form of worship. However, I WOULD NOT advocate that this is the only way we are to worship. I believe stillness and meditation are just as valuable as dancing and contemporary music. One of the things I have been encouraging one of my congregations to do is to embrace the fact that one of the things we have to offer is diversity of experience--we are bilingual, we are multi-cultural, we are multi-generational, and as we revamp worship, we don't have to trade in all of the "old" for all of the "new". We have the opportunity to do *fusion* worship. We can use the best of both worlds. We don't have to choose either or.

So in direct answer to Rev Abi's question (as a good Methodist)--yes & no. =) Yes, absolutely we can respect and utilize this style of worship, and no, this is not what all worship SHOULD be. But on a more general level, it is what worship could be (and should be) in that it: (1) is engaging (2) encourages people to participate (3) recognizes the importance of the whole body in worship (4) allows *fun* activities (like dancing) to be part of how we honor God (5) is relevant to those who are attending worship.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Spiritual Formation Goals

The other day, I received a package from Upper Room Ministries. I don't think I had ordered the book Creating an Authentic Youth Ministry, but was delighted to see it as I am having to rethink our youth program. I am only on chapter 4, but so far, I think the book is a gold mine of true wisdom. The author asserts that youth ministry cannot be independently healthy (at least not for long). He posits that the youth group's health is a DIRECT REFLECTION of the health of the larger congregation. That makes perfect sense to me, but I had never thought of it like that. I think all those in youth ministry should read this book, and especially those (no matter your role) who are at a church that wants youth ministry but can't seem to get it off the ground. From my reading this morning, I was left with a question (which I think gets answered in chapter 6, but I would like to hear your feedback): if we are to focus on spiritual formation (rather than leadership development or activities) what are the goals or benchmarks we are to cultivate and look for (either for our youth or for adults)?

Friday, February 9, 2007


Betty Crocker's Pancake mix does not compare with her Bisquick. The consistency and fluff of the pancakes are the same, but the flavor is lacking.

Betty Crocker's individual microwave cake things DO compare with the 9x13 full box kind--and provide less temptation for eating the rest of the cake, which at the same time does not allow for a slice of cake to tide you over before your morning cereal! =)

What's she telling me?

On my sabbath before last, I was working on "The Illustrated Discovery Journal". Basically, it asks you to look for images pertaining to a variety of themes and then to journal about what you see and which images are speaking to you. Well, I had images from 7 years ago, when I originally started searching for said images, and then those from the present. Curiously, the images of women very similar to this one kept appearing. So, now the question is, what is she telling me? Why am I so drawn to her presence? What message does she have for me? .......................

Tortilla Soup

Chai has recently taken on the challenge of becoming a full time vegan. i say challenge, because I am SO far from such a life move, it's not even funny. Though I wish I were dedicated enough to see something like that's just not gonna happen right now. But, in honor of her new endeavor (and her current cold), here is one of my favorite veggie recipes (which easily becomes vegan friendly too):

Tortilla Soup:
In a large pot (over medium heat)
melt 2 Tbsp butter
add 1 Tbsp cumin seeds (you can substitute 1 tsp of cumin powder if necessary)
cook 2 minutes
add 3 cloves garlic, minced
cook 2 minutes
2 14oz cans (3 1/2 cups) vegetable (or chicken) broth
1 cup salsa
2 cans diced tomatoes

Cook covered for 30 minutes. Turn off heat. Add 1/4 cup chopped cilantro.

Serve immediately with fried tortilla strips (or tortilla chips) (and 1/4 cubed monterey jack cheese)

3 things

Chai tagged me for this, and at first I was so excited, like I was the first person to be picked for softball during recess, and then I thought, oh no, what if she meant her other friend Deb? and I had the feeling when you see someone and they smile and wave, so you smile and wave back and then they walk right by you....(this is known as overthinking things!) and then I decided I was overreacting, and that even if Chai did mean the other Deb that she would tell me she meant me....cause she's cook like that! So here goes:

3 things that scare me:
1) snakes
2) hurting others
3) being attacked by a tiger while I am out walking... ;)

3 people who make me laugh:
1) My brother in law
2) my nephew
3) Michelle

3 things I love:
1) hiking, walking, and exploring (especially if there is someone to talk with along the way)
2) Sitting on my dad's lap (yes, still.)
3) Nuzzling

3 things I hate: (including my own)
1) racism
2) prejudice
3) ignorance

3 things I don't understand:
1) the power of prayer
2) hate
3) all those math lessons Karl used to tell me about in college

3 things on my desk:
1) a sewing machine
2) canisters to do fun stitches with said machine
3) fabric??

3 things I'm doing right now:
1) Listening to music
2) Drinking Kaluha, coffee, and milk on ice
3) digesting dinner (cashew shrimp curry)

3 things I want to do before I die: (I'd be satisfied with my life doings if I died tonight, so these are just added bonuses)
1) Go to Macchu Picchu
2) Travel around India
3) Get married and be a mom

3 things I can do:
1) cook
2) give massages
3) listen

3 things you should listen to:
1) God
2) affirmations & compliments (a.k.a. "warm fuzzies")
3) Music you can dance to

3 things you should never listen to:
1) hate (it tends to breed like wildfire)
2) the creaks and moans of a house when you are home alone
3) self-doubt

3 things I'd like to learn:
1) how to be a really good pastor (who empowers and fosters discipleship and personal growth in the congregation
2) how to make really good (and authentic) Indian food
3) to fully accept all offerings of grace

3 favorite foods: (for the record, limiting this to three is nearly impossible)
1) pancakes
2) Indian food from Madras in Atlanta
3) Freshly baked chocolate cake--no frosting

3 things I drink regularly:
1) Water
2) Coffee
3) Freshly squeezed fruit and veggie juice

3 shows/books I watched/read as a kid: (wasn't a big reader until after HS, so...)
1) Cosby show
2) Murder She Wrote
3) Saved by the Bell (I must have seen each episode AT LEAST three times)

3 People I want to tag: (this is hardly fair as I only know a few bloggers)
1) Revcamp
2) Forever a Gringa
3) Endangered Species Church


Roberta Bondi, a seminary professor of mine, used to tell us "Accept grace where grace is offered." Many of us, preparing to be ministers, enjoyed helping others, but we often found great difficulty in allowing others to help us. Now, grace isn't just about being helped, it is about love, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and understanding. So accepting *grace* is also about accepting those other things. So this week I found grace in three particular places.

1) I had a brilliant idea for our Lent studies, and like many of my brilliant ideas, the work involved to do it right is a bit overwhelming. With my other responsibilities as of late, I just haven't had a chance to plan like I would have wanted. On Tuesday I went in to meet with my Senior pastor, stressed about all that would need to be done, and he began to tell me which groups and folks were going to prepare the meals and lead the groups. Of the 6 weeks of Lent, 4 were ready to go! Woohoo!! God's mercy was abundant that day as I no longer had to keep myself up in order to get this done.

2) We are planning a baby shower for a mother in our congregation. This is her 5th child and she doesn't really need "stuff", so instead it is a "service shower". We are encouraging members of our church to give gifts of service (folding a load of laundry, making a meal, taking another child to the park so mom can sleep, etc). I have been able to recruit two helpers, but I am still the primary person in charge. Well, with two 12 hour days this week, I have hardly thought twice about it. Nevertheless, on Thursday, helper #1 called and checked to see if there was anything she could take care of and offered to pay for the cake. =) And helper #2 said food was all taken care of and had one game idea (and liked my other 2) and said she would take care of door prizes. Woohoo! amen for people who get things done without me reminding them!

3) I attended the UMW luncheon today and after lunch I was serving eclairs to the other women at my table. (just for the record, eclairs are one of my favorites). Well, I was also drawn into conversations with others around the room and by the time I finished serving everyone else, there weren't any eclairs left. I checked the kitchen and the caterer was gone. No eclair. =( so I sat back down next to this adorable woman who runs our food pantry. She asked where mine was and I said I was fine without. She said, "Well, aren't there any left?" I said no and she said, "well, take mine." I refused and so she told me to take half, which I did. We shared our eclair and I received my extra helping of grace.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Post Script thinking

After I wrote my post earlier today, I continued to think about why I want the people with whom I agree to hold opinions with which I will always agree. I think naming it as not wanting conflict is not fully right. Granted, conflict isn't my favorite, but (if you know me well) you have to admit, I'm pretty confrontational. No, conflict isn't the real issue. As I thought (and I may have to think more about this particular issue), I came to the conclusion that the reason why I want such a standard is because of fear. I don't want to get hurt in the mix of things. In other words, if I expect us to generally be in agreement about things, I am more prone to put my guard down, and then, if you (whomever the second party happens to be) say something far afield from where I expect you to be, I am more likely to get wounded. I think more than avoiding conflict, it's avoiding getting hurt.

Case in point, the example of the people at my church who walked out. In a sense, I had let my guard down. I had exposed myself, my passions, and my convictions in that particular worship setting. And I was wounded. Never in my life, would I have imagined church people walking out on me. Never. Maybe I should have, but that isn't the point. The point is, I trusted them to receive a service of worship, prayer, and healing that joined our two congregations (including the spanish speaking congregation THEY had started) and they (at least those 7) didn't. And it hurt.

So, if you are one who knows you differ from me on something, the sentiment I hope to express here is not that I don't want conflict (b/c you can probably bet your shorts that if it's there I will attend to it), or that I will disregard you for holding a differing opinion, it's more about me creating my own awareness about why the case of Hays (or others that are similar) was so troubling for me.

Self reflection

The last few weeks have drawn me into some serious self reflection. It was primarily prompted by my work with my spiritual director and has been coupled with reading The Dance of Anger. There is one part of me that LOVES this endeavor--I like being productive, seeing progress, moving forward, setting goals (another part of my self work has been doing a personality test for work--it has aptly diagnosed me as: Entrepreneur: aggressive, persuasive, active, and extremely independent....a supreme individualist: confident, energetic, persistent...stubborn itch for greener pastures....You get the idea). So, in sum, I enjoy self work because it gives me something to focus on that is concrete and can be evaluated for progress. The other part of me is not such a big fan of recognizing my short-comings and doing the REALLY HARD work of changing.

My process has drawn me into a heightened sense of awareness--what am I doing and why? Why do I blog the things I do? Why do I react like I do? etc etc etc.

According to my theology (sanctification is a process of moving closer to God), this work will never be done. To be quite honest, that's not all that inspiring--no matter how much work I do, I won't get there. (Yes, methodists, I know, Wesley says *perfection* is possible, but really...I'm not sure I buy it. though yes, of course, I will tell my BOOM that I am well on my way and of course with the intent of arriving). =) It kinda makes me tired just thinking about. There is always work to do (not just on the self but in the world). I think now is when I need the other part of my theology, the prevenient grace part, where God loves us first in spite of ourselves, or maybe even because of ourselves.

Relearning an old lesson

For the last 4 weeks, I have been teaching a Bible study on "controversial topics". We started the first week with the Wesleyan quadrilateral (Scripture, tradition, reason, experience) and set up norms and questions pertinent to each area that we would then apply to our controversial topics. Our "test case" was women in the pulpit--an issue that has been *decided* in our denomination for 50 years now (yet still remains controversial or prohibited in many others). Because we as a group have little to no tension or dissent about women in the pulpit, it was an easy place to start.

The next week we covered war, last week abortion, and this week homosexuality. In addition to the texts about where Methodists come down on these issues, we've been reading applicable chapters from The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard Hays. His arguments feel balanced and moderate though his positions are fairly radical (in the sense of against the norm). For instance, re: war he argues that no war or violence is ever acceptable, on the part of a Christian, even in cases of self-defense. Re: abortion--he suggests that maybe the need for abortion (except for instances of rape/incest or danger to the woman) might not be necessary if the Christian community were to step up and say, we will provide for and care for you (mother) and your baby in whatever is necessary (i.e., health care, emotional and spiritual support, finances, child care, etc.) Both of these weeks, our group was not quite as radical as the author, yet through his writing we managed a balanced discussion.

This week, however was different. There wasn't "wiggle room" in his stance. Hays came down like an iron fist with a staunch "no" against homosexuality (while still advocating love, grace, and embrace in our churches). To be quite honest, I was not looking forward to this discussion after this reading. And besides my own dissent and disagreement, I also had to wrestle with the notion that I have come to respect him and his loyalty to scripture and authentic exegetical work.

This was the old lesson re-learned: We won't always agree, even if we agree on many other things and that is a tension to be dealth with, not avoided or dismissed. I would like people who are "right" or "reasonable" to always be so (at least according to the laws of Deb). I know it's not very advanced of me, but I don't like conflict and it's easier to avoid when other people agree with me, or when I agree with them.

I had had to revist this lesson a few months back when 7 congregants walked out of a bilingual worship service because "This is America and we speak English here." (Nevermind the scripture teachings of "there is no Mexican or American"...I mean, Jew nor Greek--meaning, Christian community is supposed to be more focused on the fact that our faith in Christ unifies above all else--nationality, language, etc). I had to restrain myself not to blanketly (I doubt that's a real word) dismiss each of those who called me to share their racist opinions and instead try and look for places where I could engage them and hopefully regain respect for them as individuals, as thinkers, and as Christians.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Day Dreaming

"What do you spend your time day dreaming about?" That was the question I got when I played the Ungame with my youth last week. dream? I was stumped. Like being a princess? or a magician? or like finding prince charming ? Or is this more like what I wish would happen at my church and the wonderful bilingual band of musicians I keep praying will knock on our front door ready to lead really amazing worship? (oh, sorry, that was more of a delusion....) anyway, the point is, I was stunned and saddened to realize I don't really day dream anymore. So my question and challenge (if you are stiffled in your daydreaming as I am) to you is: "what do you day dream about?"

tangent: Pet Peeve

I realize that being annoyed with SPAM is not a new concept. But recently it has really gotten under my skin that I get 30 messages a week wanting me to have 500% more sperm--last time I checked, my body doesn't even make sperm. So I guess, doing the math, 500% of that would still be zero--so I shouldn't be so peeved about them offering me nothing, except, if you're gonna offer nothing, then why email me? really, that's false advertising, and it's irritating. Or, better, yet, I could add 3 inches...don't need that either. Who in the world decided I had a penis and needed to enlarge it?? Honestly, is this all we can be consumed with is working on penis enlargement?? What about real issues? what about poverty? lack of health care? unjust laws? famine? torture? domestic violence? child abuse? couldn't those folks spend just SOME time invested in issues of depth? (no pun intended) Seriously, if we (I say we because even though I don't spend billions on anything I do believe that collectively we play more of a role than I would like) spent one iota of the money from movies, advertising, or sports on any of the above, just think of where we'd be. Damn the man. (here ends my rant).

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Oatmeal Mask

Tonight when I got home from youth group I found myself on the phone and being distracted by that "ick" feeling of oily skin after a long day. So, I googled "oatmeal mask" and decided I would try it. So I cooked my oatmeal and water and added the honey and then began to make a big mess in the bathroom--because quite frankly oatmeal doesn't go on nice and neat. It gloops and globs and drops all over (kinda like the whip cream mask in "Mrs Doubtfire"). I have to say, as a woman who was never allowed to play with food, this was a very fun endeavor. It gave me ganas to cover myself in oatmeal--just the kind of thing that makes the inner person smile and giggle a bit. After 7 minutes or so of letting the mask dry, I found myself feeling the sticky oatmeal and thinking, "this is like being covered in boogers!" (another thing that makes me laugh way down deep). Note to future oatmeal maskers: this will make a mess. I recommend installing a garbage disposal in your shower (or maybe just one of those drain strainers to save you on the plummer's bill)!

Saturday, February 3, 2007


Hoy estuve en una reunion de la comision junta (pagina 6) de la iglesia metodista de Mexico y la unida de California. Fue la primera vez que fui, mas que nada, para ver a un pastor que conoci hace 3 anos en Cuba. El es un pastor verdadero, y un sabio increible. Puedo imaginarme a sus pies aprendiendo por horas (y eso no lo digo de mucha gente).

En este ambiente, me encontre tan comoda--por el lenguaje (bilingue), el entendimiento (del mestizaje de identidad), y de metas (mejorar la vida de los de la frontera, compartir el evangelio, y esforzar la iglesia, tanto de los dos lados que juntos). Y alli me apreciaron. Traduci mucha de la reunion, y por esto me agradecieron, pero tambien, 2 me pidieron que les ayudara con sus ministerios, uno como oradora de un acampamiento de jovenes, y otro (el sabio) de ser maestra de una clase del seminario.

Aqui no me encuentro con esta aprobacion, aqui todavia estoy luchando por entendimiento, en contra del racismo, por vision, por unidad, y con ellos, simplemente soy (por lo menos asi me siento). Esto es parte del mestizaje que vivo, por un lado nunca sere uno de ellos, y al otro lado, ya no soy uno de los "mios" tampoco...

Friday, February 2, 2007

Prince charming....

I was talking with a good friend from seminary tonight and in addition to enjoying safe and sacred space for sharing, we continued a long standing conversation about our willingness to get back on a relationship wagon. We both have a host of reasons for why we don't date (mine includes a history of prospects that think acts of stalking constitute love). We also shared our tentative hopes for relationships in the future. He asked, "Is Jesus a good enough husband for you?" As in, would you be willing to be single for life? Kinda. I mean, if I had some very VERY clear sign from God--like a posting on my front door, and then again on the fridge, and again on the bathroom mirror--that that was my calling, I could be okay with that, but really, I dig the idea of a life partner. My friend does too. And while, he does not readily believe God will answer all petitions for miraculous physical healing from cancer or AIDS (per his experience as a hospital chaplain where there is much suffering), he is willing to place full responsibility on God for bringing his future wife knocking on his front door. A bit skewed. We both recognize that. But, without actively seeking a date (or even places where I could meet a date), I'm not quite sure how else God will manage our encounter. And yet, while my friend looks forward to her knock, I think, "I'd call the police." I'm far from trusting that said knocker isn't a nut. Guess that leaves me, well, where does that leave me? Certainly not waiting for Prince Charming to knock, but also not out wooing the masses with hope that he might be amongst them....

Thursday, February 1, 2007


As I work on developing new relationships in my life, I am confronted with issues of intimacy (not the romantic connotation kind of intimacy, simply intimacy). On one hand, I crave it, I want to open up and share, to been seen, truly heard, and known for who I am at my core, not just on the surface, and yet the reality of that vulnerability right now scares me to death. Here’s why: when I first moved to this new city, there was so much turmoil, change, and chaos surrounding me that I moved into the shallow waters of intimacy, vulnerability, and risk. I didn’t want to drown in my new setting, so I got myself into a safer position. (I’m okay with that part). Trouble is, I have now been there for so long that I, albeit unreasonably, now fear that I don’t know how to “swim” anymore. Even though I used to be a good swimmer, I’ve been self-protecting so much that now the prospect of that plunge is even scarier.

I don’t think the theological import is very far off. We crave intimacy with God and yet it’s scary as hell because God truly knows us and that vulnerability feels life threatening—the creator, the giver of life, the omnipotent one sees it all—Holy ****! That’s scary, beyond scary even. Granted, the reward for such sharing is huge and yet in the moment of risk—who cares?!?! We move right into self-protection. It has potential for literally making me dizzy thinking of how much could be lost. I know. Fear. It’s always focused on the negative, what could be lost rather than on gain, hope, or possibility. And yet, that’s what’s real—running from God for fear that we might be revealed for what we truly are.

I know, the irony is God has already seen, but that’s hardly of consequence when you’re running. I mean, the runaway car in a police chase hardly seems to register: “I know I will be caught in the end, so I might as well throw in the towel now.” Spiritual speaking, I doubt we rarely think, “God’s seen it all anyway, so I might as well give over my struggle to hide my shame now.” In a sense, in a very vulgar way, I have already lost that battle—of hiding myself, my sin, my shame, my imperfections from God—so why keep trying? It’s fruitless. So why expend the energy? Especially when God says, “so what? I love you anyway. I loved you before, I love you now, and I will love you always.” God’s made that claim on our lives, we can’t change the fact that God loves us. God pretty much can’t help God’s self (not as I understand it anyway) from loving us…which basically leaves me with a big “SO THERE!” to deal with. (well, you too, for that matter if you struggle like I do). =)