Sunday, September 30, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Your children make it impossible to regret your past; their its finest fruits, sometimes it's only fruits." --Franny Benedeta Black and Blue

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Preaching Prayer

May the Spirit infiltrate my mind that I may have clarity in my reading, discerning, and preaching. May this message be of God and for God. May my person be diminished and that of the Christ glorified. Amen.

The sabbath ritual part II

To my body:
Forgive me my sister for I have not loved you with my whole heart.
Ashamedly, sometimes, I have not loved you at all.
Forgive me for resenting you or for wanting to trade you for someone else's.
Forgive me beloved one.
Forgive me for not trusting your instincts or your passion to care for me.
Your violent outbursts were but an act of warning and protection and so often I have ignored you. Forgive me I pray.
As I change my approach and try to honor you and hear your cry, forgive me.
Forgive me for putting you in knowing danger and for not running when we were under attack. I cannot erase those moments; I can only hope to do better by you in the future.
I am grateful for you and all that you offer me--
constant companionship,
newness of life,
and wholeness.
Let us be whole.
Let us be one.

The sabbath ritual part I

My body is precious
My body is beautiful
Each crevice and nook
Each curve and line
My body is precious
My body is mine
It's mine to love
It's mine to hold
Mine to cherish
To dance big and move bold
Each knuckle and bend
Each nail and hair
It is beautiful and perfect
Just as I am to be
My eyes and ears
Fingers and feet
My breasts and bum
They're mine each one
Mine to honor, mine to love
My body is precious
Designed just right by God above

I love my body

Body image has been something I've struggled with for years...probably close to 15 years now...but really struggled with it since a doctor's visit when my sister and I were both present about 12 years ago. In the course of about 10 minutes he asked if we were feeding my sister (since she was a long and lean size 3) and then told me I was fat (a huskier size 16). From there I started exercising, not much diet involved, and lost about 30 pounds in the course of a year, plus grew another 2 inches or so in height. Despite my transformed figure, I was overly self-conscious (or maybe just typically self-conscious for a teenager) all throughout high school. There were other body issues that arose for me too, one being that when I got super nervous (read: dates, academic competitions, major stress situations), I'd throw up. I hated that. I hated that my body wasn't *normal*.

Then during my last year of seminary, coupled with counseling to keep me sane through CPE, being stalked, and life, I had a realization about my body and the throwing up issues...I realized by body wasn't defunct, it was actually trying to warn me when I was in *dangerous* situations. The nausea and vomiting were my body's warning signal to get the heck out of dodge. I was able to reflect and realize that when I heeded my body's nausea and got out, I didn't generally vomit, but when I didn't, I other words the vomiting was my body's way of saying...if you're not gonna get yourself outta here, I'm gonna force the issue. As a part of that realization, I created a ritual to honor my body....well, that's poorly stated, I didn't create the ritual in a pre-planned fashion, rather, it just emerged out of a sabbath ritual one day. In honoring my sabbath, I took a bath, did a nude painting of myself, and then basically blessed each part of my body saying, "My _______ (e.g., foot, leg, breast, head....etc) is beautiful, my ________ is precious, my __________ is holy." It sounds a bit corny and strange, but it was beautiful and I didn't allow myself to critique my body parts in that time. If a critique emerged in my mind, "well, it would be if it weren't so fat...." I pushed that thought aside and said, "not today, maybe tomorrow, but today my ________ is beautiful, precious, and holy." Later that year, I made that body blessing my Lenten discipline, I really needed to honor my body and see it as a gift from God.

As someone prone to self-deprecation, that wasn't always easy for me. (all of that was a rather loooooong introduction to the actual heart of today's piece). Today it struck me, I love my body. I love being in my body. I love using my body to walk, write, move, stretch, cook, whatever. I love my body. I feel at one with it. Not constantly critiquing from an outside perspective, but simply loving my body. It's far from perfect, a "work in progress" for sure, but currently none of that seems to matter. I'm just enjoying that I have a fully functional body with which I can live, move, and have my being. And it's great!

Ahh the new office

Last year when I arrived at HUMC, the outgoing associate pastor was keeping his office here because he is doing a church plant nearby and they didn’t have building space of their own. The way the campus is configured, there are two pastor offices attached to the main office and then the third office is in a separate building. The senior and the outgoing associate had been in the two offices in the main section and the Latino Ministry pastor had been in the separate building. They gave me the option when I got here of which office I wanted, that of the associate or that of the Latino minister. I chose the LM office because it had windows and I thought it would be nice to provide continuity for the Latino congregation. Well, over time I realized that office was less than ideal, namely for the lack of internet and then also because of a poor heating and cooling system. In the summer months it meant my office was SWELTERING and I never had a *functional* office, at least not by modern standards, because without email and internet access, it proved useless.

Over time, I stopped using the office almost entirely. It became a storage closet for paint projects, decorations, baby gifts and supplies for those in need….and anything anyone felt would be fun to throw my way. Well D got into his new house (where his office is now housed) about a month or two ago. I was delighted because that meant I could move into the regular office and finally have internet and regular heating and cooling. Only, about 5 seconds after I had that thought, my new senior told me he wanted to do a switch-er-oo and put me in the now financial office (that’s bigger with windows) and move the financial folks into D’s old office. I can’t say that I was thrilled, but I figured whatever and decided to let him negotiate it with trustees and the like.

Last week during our one on one meeting after a litany of other conversation, I asked, “is there anything else?” to which he gruffly replied, “yeah, are you gonna move into that other office? Because if you’re not I want the nursery school folks to.” I said that last time we had talked he had a different plan, and that I had been out so much there hadn’t been a chance to revisit the issue. He reiterated his question and his frustration and I said I would like to make the move. So, this week, on Tuesday one of the young adults/youth workers came and helped me move all the books, boxes, and whatever else lay in my cluttered office to the new office. Then Wednesday night our former secretary, now friend, came and helped me organize. We moved furniture, threw out junk, organized stuff for donations, and organized the closet.

I was then out all day Thursday for covenant group (in San Diego) and then picking up my car (in Palmdale), but when I came in Friday, it was so nice to have a clean office that was functional (though I did have trouble connecting to the internet, go figure!) I didn’t even have a stack of paperwork to sort through, so I got to light a couple candles and enjoy my office space. It might have been a simple pleasure, but it was good. And the better part was when I had to do a funeral consult, my office was RIGHT there, clean, and ready to receive them. Ahh….life is good!

Get up and go!

This morning I just feel kind a blah. Taylor got me up at 6:30 and we walked for close to an hour, which was good. It was overcast, gray, and cool--perfect walking weather in my mind! I got home, had breakfast, stretched, and worked on emails, and now I don't have ganas to do much of anything. I had thought of going to T.H.E. Center (The place where they use horses to do therapy and strength training with folks with moderate to severe disabilities) to volunteer; I know they need help and yet right now I'm just not feeling it. My relationship with them makes me think of other folks and church. In essence, I treat going out there like others do church--when it's convenient, when I don't have "more important" commitments to attend to. I like it when I'm there but feel embarrassed, lazy, and uncommitted when I don't go, which always makes it harder to return. So, more time passes, and then more, and then after awhile returning just seems silly and out of the question. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but that's how I feel. Never mind the regular correspondence I receive, or even the calls pleading for help whenever I can....and even though I know I get a lot out of it, I hesitate. Strange, eh?

I even know that's where I worship God and feel restored. It is my church in many ways, it is a community of love and support, it is where I invest of myself in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling, it is where I can lend a hand, it is where I can clear my head of all the nonsense that fills my brain and consumes me. So why wouldn't I go back?!?! Shame? Embarrassment? Aren't those the main things that we fear in returning to God after we've turned away? And yet, I know that when I go people will be delighted I'm there, excited to see me, and grateful for the help. Ironic, I think. And yet, anticipating their warm welcome almost makes it shows such contrast to my reluctance and fear that they almost seem to grow in light of joy and hospitality.

Now that I've written all that, it's clear to me I just need to put on my jeans and tennis shoes and go. Just push myself out the door, especially in light of my lethargy and darkened mood. Just go! That's what my heart is urging me to do. Just go.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Robert Fulghum's self-reflection questions

Monday on my sabbath I had time to watch Oprah. The show was on bipolar disorder, which is something that has come to the forefront in my ministry as of late. It was a really interesting show and there was an autobiographical book recommended written by Dr. Kay Jamison who struggles with bipolar disorder herself. So, I went to the library to pick up "An Unquiet Mind", but they didn't have it, but while I was there I managed to pickup a couple of other books, one of which is "What on earth have I done?" by Robert Fulgham. In the book he asks himself three questions I think are good for self-reflection:

1) What on earth have I done? "After all these years--what? I think it's useful to inquire of myself about the quality of my existence and my contribution to the commonweal. Never mind what I set out to do. What have I done? What's my record as a citizen of Earth?

2) What in the name of God am I doing? "...queries my actions on behalf of all that I say I believe and hold sacred."

3) What will I think of next? " a way of asking if my mind is a stagnant cesspool of worn-out notions or if I am mentally active--still replacing archaic information with fresh and better ideas? Am I still thinking--still asking--still learning?"

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dad's musings....

With explicit permission from the original author, I post my dad's thoughts here:
(this may be the best post on my blog!!!)

Good morning, I hope no one else is up and that you are all warm and comfortable in your beds. I will go back there soon. I have decided I like this retirement stuff -- I can sleep when I want and I have extra time for reading and writing and, occasionally, thinking. I do have some thoughts that I want to offer that seem to me to relate to our ongoing discussion about pathways to discipleship. I have been thinking about my arrogance, self-satisfaction, and self-righteousness. I am too often pleased with the amount of time that I spend in prayer, and, even though it may be much less than the time that you spend in prayer, I am sure it is much more than most folks. I am pretty satisfied with the amount of time that I spend in worship -- corporate and individual (even in writing this I can't keep a straight face). I am so good about the amount of time that I have for Bible study and devotion and I am oh so knowledgeable (I'm laughing). I reason that God wants me and us to be doing these things and that God is pleased when we do them. So if I am doing what God wants and doing them more than most folks, of course, I must be better than most folks -- that makes sense to me. And while I know that's not quite how it works, it is hard to get away from that logic. But then I have been thinking about Caddy's comments in his sermon this last week about grace and Jesus' turning things upside down and God's laughing even while we are confounded. Perhaps I should think of prayer, worship, study, devotion, service, and giving more along the lines of participating in the party. [I'm not suggesting that this is what Caddy was saying, only a tangent I am following.] If I go to more parties than Bill, am I better than Bill? Of course, not! If I laugh more regularly than Carole, am I better than Carole? No. If I get to dance more often than Travis, am I better than Travis? Again, no. Those acts of discipleship that bring me closer in relationship to God and to doing the ministries that God calls me to do do not make me better, just more fortunate, more blessed, more purpose filled, more alive. As we work to define the pathways to discipleship and then seek to explain those pathways to the congregation, we might be more effective if we describe discipleship not in terms of accomplishing more than we accomplish now or more than someone else, but in terms of going to more parties and dancing more often and laughing out loud. I don't want to suggest that discipleship is easy -- we heard in the sermon the prior week about how demanding discipleship truly is, but I do want to say that following the pathways does not make me or any of us "better" than anyone else. I don't want to offer pathways where people either feel guilty because they don't do it or prideful because they do. I'm not sure that this is line of reasoning is correct and it is certainly not complete, but these are my thoughts at 5 a.m. At least these thoughts do provide a different perspective for me on my arrogance, self-satisfaction, and self-righteousness. Anyway, some things for you to think about if you are retired and have lots of time. Now, back to bed. JC

Monday, September 24, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Following Jesus means a journey of challenge, discovery and service. It is a life directed outward towards the world in service and compassion. Without denying the importance of feeling, what is more important is the objective truth of the promises we have received. Moments of introspection are inevitable and even helpful, but to be permanently engaged in soul-searching is to miss Jesus’ point. Don’t follow Jesus because of how it makes you feel. Follow him because he is the way." --Richard Hall

Hat tip: John M

Ahhh car trouble

call #1 from R at Ford:
R: Hi Deb, this is R, we checked out your car and your transmission is shot. A rebuild averages $2000, if the torque converter is bad, which we won't know until we crack it open, that's another $800. If you replace it, it's $3190 with a 3 year 50,000 mile warranty.
D: Excellent.
R: Do you want to think about it?
D: Yeah, give me a few minutes and I'll get back to you.

Call #2 to JP
D: Hi J, I got the call back from the dealer, $2000 for the rebuild plus $800 if torque converter is bad. $3190 for the replacement.
J: Wow that's a lot of money. The torque converter? it shifts from 1st to 2nd, there shouldn't be a problem with the torque converter. I wonder what Murray's tranmission would say...
D: If I called do you think they'd give me a quote?
J: No, but I think they'd give me a quote. Give me a minute and I'll call you back.
D: Okay.

Call #3 from JP
J: I talked to Murray's son and he said to do the complete rebuild, one end to the other, (if the complete is even necessary), plus the torque converter would be $1990.
D: Really??
J: Yep, so basically just have AAA tow your car over and they will take care of it. Tell them I sent you. And if you need any help, ask my son, he'd be more than happy to help you.
D: Thanks J.

Call #4 to AAA
(getting the car towed from one place to the next. Need someone to release the car at one end or the other).

Call #5 to JW
No answer.

Call #6 to GP
D: Hey G. It's Deb.
G: Hey Deb. How are you?
D: Good. I'm actually calling to ask a favor. J helped me get my car to Ford on Saturday and now I need to get it towed to the transmission place, but I need someone to release my car to the towing company. So I'm wondering if you might be available today or tomorrow to go over and release the car.
G: Sure. They can do it either day?
D: Well, AAA will do it when I ask them to, so whenever you have time and I'll have them work around your schedule.
G: well, I've got time after 3:30 today.
D: Okay great. I'll call you back to confirm. Thanks G.

Call #7 to AAA
D: reorder the tow.
AAA: You need someone at both ends....
D: both ends?
AAA: Yep.
D: can it be a mechanic?
AAA: Yep. Just need a name. As long as the car is registered in your name, someone else can release it.
D: Okay. The mechanic at Ford is R, but I don't know if he'll be there in the afternoon.
AAA: Well, we'll put R down, and if you need to call back and change the name later, that's fine.
D: Okay. Then GP will be at Murray's.
AAA: great. Thanks Ms. C.

Call #8 to R at Ford
No answer. Please call back.

Call #9 to Dad
Dad: You out car shopping?
D: No. I'm working on getting the car fixed. So, Ford says my car will cost.....and the transmission place is $1000 less, so I'm gonna have AAA pick it up and tow it over. Is the car registered in my name?
Dad: It's in both our names, but let me double check the papers. Yep. Yours then mine.
D: Okay, good, 'cause if it were your name then you'd have to call AAA and make the arrangements. GP is going to sign for it at Murray's and the mechanic will at Ford. But wait, if the mechanic can sign then I don't need GP, right? Okay, I'm gonna call Murray's then and see if they have someone there who can sign for it.
Dad: Okay.

Call #10 to F at Murray's
D: Hi, I'm DC, JP referred me to you. I wanted to let you know AAA will be dropping off my car.
F: takes information. Okay. We'll call you with an estimate.
D: F, will you be there? I thought the person who had to sign had to be a friend or something of mine, but if you can sign, that'd be great.
F: yeah we can sign, no problem.
D: Great. Thanks.

Call #11 to GP
D: Hey GP, just talked to AAA and the transmission place and the mechanic can sign, so I don't need you to do it afterall.
G: Really? I can do it.
D: No, they don't care whether it's G or F, so it might as well be F. But thank you.
G: No problem.

Call #12 to R at Ford.
D: Hi R. I'm not gonna have you all do the service, I'm gonna have the car taken to a transmission place.
R: Oh. Okay.
D: But while I have you on the phone I want to go ahead and pay my bill with you.
R: Well, you'll need to fax your card info to the cashier. You have to send the card number, expiration, work order #, your signature, the date, print the card number, etc. And the total to be paid.
D: Okay. How much is the total?
R: $181.88 for the transmission diagnostic.
D: Okay. Thanks R. Oh, and so you know, AAA will be coming over to get the car and they will ask for you to release it.
R: what?
D: AAA will be coming over to get the car and they will ask for you to release it.
R: Oh. Okay. Just so long as you take care of the payment before they get here.
D: Consider it done. thanks.

Call #13 to AAA
D: Hi, I made a call for a tow earlier and need to correct the info. G will not be accepting the car at Murray's F will, and since it's a different person, you can go ahead and do it right away. The sooner the better.
AAA: Okay, it should be about 45 minutes.
D: Great.

Call #14 to F at Murray's
D: Hi F, just talked to AAA and they said the truck will be out in about 45, so I expect they'll be to you in an hour fifteen or an hour and a half.
F: okay, great.
D: There's a $10 charge b/c the tow is 2 miles further than my 7 mile AAA allowance, can you all pay that?
F: Yeah, no problem. We'll pay it and you can reimburse us.
D: Great.
F: So we'll give you a call after we check out the car and do an estimate.
D: Great. thanks.

Call #15 from R at Ford.
R: Hi Deb, there's a change on the bill, they did do the oil change gold you had request which is $47, so that will be added.
D: Okay. so what's the total?
R: I don't know, the cashier will have to do that. Give her a call in about 15 minutes.
D: Okay.

Call #16 to Cashier at Ford (7 minutes later)
D: Hi this is DC and I need the total for my car.
C: takes info. That isn't closed out yet, they're still working on it.
D: Well R called and told me to call you for the total.
C: I have to transfer you back to R since it isn't closed out.
D: Okay.
R: Hi this is R.
D: Hi R this is Deb. I talked to the Cashier and she said the bill wasn't closed out, so she sent me back to you.
R: I told you to wait 15 minutes.
D: Yeah, I get that, but I wanted to make sure the bill was paid before AAA gets there.
R: Well the technician has to do blah blah blah and calculate that with thus and such and then the cashier gets it and totals it out. So you need to wait 15 minutes.
D: Okay. thanks.

Call #17 (while on the phone with Ford) from JW (returning earlier message)
J: Hey.
D: hey, I got it all taken care of. I needed someone to release my car, but I've got it covered and have Ford on the other line.
J: Oh. Okay. Good, well call me back if you want.
D: Okay. thanks.

Call #18 to Cashier at Ford (15 minutes later)
D: Hi this is DC, I'm calling about the total on my car.
C: Okay. name?
D: Deb
C: Mechanic?
D: R. I have my work order number if that helps?
C: yes please
D: #####
C: Oh, C_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. I thought you said C_ _ _ _. Hold on.
D: Okay.
C: The total is $225.
D: Okay. And can I confirm the fax #?
C: - - - - - - - - - -
D: Okay, great. Any thing else?
C: Just be sure to print the card number because the copy of the card won't come through.
D: Already done. Thanks.

So much for sabbath rest....

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Quote of the Day

"I realize that forgiveness should be the most intimate of gifts for yourself, a way to avoid the emotional trap of victimhood. The motivation to forgive should be selfish, to allow you to be present and alive in the moment instead of damaged and bitter in the past." --Brooklyn Masala

The car analogy

Friday on my way to Lancaster I had some car trouble. I managed to drive the 10, 215, and 15 without any trouble at all, no indication of the trouble that lay ahead even. But about half way across the 18 I was driving behind a semi and was stuck at about 60 mph. The RPMs were rev'd up to 4000, but I figured the car was just at that spot where it was too slow to switch gears but too slow to lower the RPMs....that was until I had the opportunity to pass and hit the gas and the RPMs hit 7000 and there was no speeding up. Oh man. I tried again, same thing. this is not good! I pulled over and switched to 2nd, to drive, to neutral, and back to drive wondering if maybe the gears had simply slipped. No good. I called an old friend who trained to be a mechanic and asked his advice: maybe the transmission fluid is low. I pulled off and checked it--a little low, but nothing too bad. This time when I went back to drive, I couldn't get over 20mph without maxing the RPMs, so I switched to 2nd and kept on driving. I called around, asked more advice, told the people who were expecting me I was having difficulty and would get there when I could.

I stopped at a gas station and bought transmission fluid and called my mechanic friend back (ashamedly I didn't know where to put my recent purchase). We talked some more and he decided maybe I shouldn't add it, just drive to town if I could and then get help there. So I hit the road again at my top speed of 55mph and pulled into Lancaster. I tried stopping into Pep Boys for help, but they decided the problem was too big for them and sent me on my way. Saturday morning I drove my car to the dealer and left it with them. They wouldn't be able to touch it until Monday when their trani guy comes in. So, I left my car and waited to get a rental. While I waited, an area pastor and friend took me and his son to breakfast. We talked cars and he suggested I get mine fixed and then sell it while it still has fewer than 100,000 miles and go for something with better mileage and that has potential of lasting to 200,000 miles. He test drives cars and suggested a Nissan Versa. The conversation was actually somewhat comic.

J: I'm driving the Nissan versa right now, I'd really recommend it.
D: Really?
J: Yeah. I recommended it to my sister and she bought one, and I recommended it to a parishioner and he bought two.
D: I'm a Honda girl. We've always had Hondas, is the Nissan comparable?
J: Oh yeah. In order to compete with Honda the other companies have had to step it up. And actually, when you go to buy the car Nissan includes a bunch of extra stuff at no extra cost because they have to make the car appealing. Honda will only include it at a cost.
D: Yeah?
J: Yep, you get a 6 disc cd changer, extra airbags, etc, etc...
D: But J, I'm a Honda girl. I'm kinda like an old time parishioner on this. I've never tried a Nissan.
J: Well, maybe you need to buy a Honda then....

Our conversation was reminiscent of how I think my congregants view my *hair brained* worship ideas. They are used to driving a Honda (read: traditional worship), they've always driven a Honda, they trust it, it's reliable, they'd recommend it to others. If they are gonna request something it's gonna be a Honda. Then here I come and I recommend a Nissan (read: contemporary, gospel, spanish, or emergent worship). Now I've driven the Nissan, I like it, it's comfortable, it drives well, it's fun and sporty. I tell everyone I know to drive the Nissan. And then my congregants look at me and say, "But pastor, we've always driven a Honda. What's wrong with the Honda?" Nothing is wrong with the Honda, but the Nissan is great, why not give it a try? "Well Pastor, 'cause we've always driven the Honda."

Today I had my congregation take a little "test drive". We sang a prayer and mixed up "This is the day" and actually sang it call and response. They really liked the car analogy, many came up to me after worship and told me which car they drive, like, recommend, etc. I promised they didn't have to trade in their Honda, only that they should give the Nissan a test drive!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

One tired little girl

Last night I went to Lancaster UMC to speak at their lock-in and I took Taylor along with me. I felt very much like Paris Hilton toting along my little dog, but she goes where I go, so along she went. As usual, everyone loved her and she adored having everyone and their brother rub her belly. She ran around the room greeting people and let anyone who wanted to pick her up for extra attention. As is typical with lock-ins, there was little sleep to be had, though I got more than most as I claimed I was too old to stay up all night (especially knowing I had to drive back, write 2 sermons, and then preach 2 sermons the next day!) But Taylor and I were still up until 1:30, then slept for about 45 minutes, then up again until 3:30 and then slept until 7:30. She loved running around, checking things out, and in the morning she was wild with energy running all over the place. Well, for an 8 year old dog who normally spends 18 hours + sleeping everyday, it was a bit much for her. When we got in the car to ride home she immediately went to sleep. Took nap #1 with me at my brothers. Slept in the car to Hemet. Slept on the floor while I showered. Slept on the couch while I worked. Took nap #2 with me. And has been asleep most of the night ever since. Though she was awake long enough to eat. It's pretty hilarious to watch her because she is so tired she can hardly open her eyes to check and make sure I am still here beside her. I love my little girl and am very amused by how worn out she is.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Speaking the "truth" in love...

Yesterday I was confronted by a colleague in ministry. He thought he was speaking the truth in love and helping to make me a better pastor. I found him to be hurtful, offensive, and thought he was projecting all over me. (as a side note, when people project their issues on me, it often feels as if someone has vomited all over me....). Contrary to my normal behaviors of shelling up and thinking it over for 3 days before responding, I immediately responded by telling him how I felt (hurt, offended, and disgusted). Let's just say it was not a pleasant conversation. It was not edifying, it was not constructive, and it was not helpful. David posted this image on his site and I think it says how my colleagues feels I reacted. If I were to redraw the image I would make the one "speaking truth in love" the one in armor and the one receiving the so-called truth completely befuddled....that's how yesterday's experience seems anyway.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Comfort clothes

The true sign that fall is here is when I can open the windows at night and need to wear sweats or wrap up in a blanket to be comfortably warm....and let me tell you friends: FALL IS HERE!!! Well, kind of, in that California desert kind of way--cool mornings, 90 degree days, and then cool nights...but hey, I'll take it. It feels so nice to be able to turn the oven on and not cook to death, and to snuggle in sweats as I work on my sermon!

The Belly of a whale

This month I am preaching call stories. The first week I preached Moses (full of excuses), last week I did a pulpit swap, so I didn't stick with the theme. This week I am preaching Jonah (the yellow-bellied man who tried again and again to get out of his call). I am only beginning the exegesis but something struck me as I read the Spanish version of the text. 1:17 of the NIV reads "But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights." But the Spanish NVI reads: "El Senor, por su parte, dispuso un enorme pez para que se tragara a Jonas, quien paso tres dias y tres noches en su vientre." Vientre is the word that struck me. The translations are varied--belly, stomach, and womb. More often than not vientre is used as womb while estomago is used for stomach and panza is used for belly. So I am wondering, what if Jonah was returned to a womb for his disobedience, that when he was expelled 3 days later he was actually reborn...??? Like I said, this train of thought has only just begun, so I may go a little farther and discover it is WAY off course and completely unhelpful. But for the moment I am curious about the implications of the need to be reborn before we will be obedient to God and follow our calling....

Quick and Easy Cookie Recipe

Tonight as I worked on my sermon I remembered I am supposed to bring cookies for coffee hour tomorrow. I had just gone to the store and was not excited about going back. Then I remembered my friend S has a simple recipe that uses cake mix, so I called. No answer. Well, God bless Google 'cause they found it for me:

it's just a box of cake mix, 1/2 c. of butter and an egg mixed and then presto--9-12 minutes at 350 and you have homemade cookies! I don't think it gets any easier than that!

that's the buzzer....gotta go!

Cell Phone Mythology

A couple months ago the battery on one of my phones stopped holding a charge. I took it into the store and they replaced it--despite the $5 per month I pay in insurance, I had to pay the full cost of $40 because the insurance somehow doesn't cover the battery....anyway, the clerk told me not to charge the phone all night because it begins to overcharge the battery and then it won't hold the charge. So I stopped that practice. Well, then recently my other phone stopped holding a charge. I finally took it in today and the clerk today told me it was the car charger. She said I should only use the car charger for 30 minutes max, even if the phone isn't done charging. I told her what the other clerk had said and she and the manager both disagreed. Supposedly it is safe to charge it all 8 hours of the night on the indoor charger but really is not okay to charge it for more than a half hour in the car. Go figure! (as a side note, it was OH SO nice of them to share this information when I bought the phone!)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Vacation pics

toes in the sand of Coney Island

Coney Island with the kids

Our Columbian playmate who helped entertain the kids during the 3 hour wait for Shakespeare in the Park tickets

Goggle man!

N's first time fishing and he caught a 16" eel! Way to go little man!

Fondue for the Birthday celebration

Reunion with an old friend

The garden at Mt. Vernon

Catching up on the hugs we've been missing

G's baptism

it is such an amazing privilege to be a god-parent. I wasn't sure the vows would actually hit home when we spoke them, but they did. And then the other day I explained the concept of god-parents to a friend who was unfamiliar with the practice and the power of the role of parenting a child into faith became even more real.

The beautiful baby girl!

Proud parents!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Super stoked

I spent the last couple of days at clergy convocation and had a marvelous time. After letting go of resentment last week, I have been feeling great. I see that right now there is no major chaos at my church, my personal life is on the up and up, I've had a recent vacation, I have a plan for the next few months of ministry and am working on extending the plan---life is good! I am so amazed at how wonderfully blessed I feel and how well things are going. On the way home tonight I was reveling in the joy of the present and thought, "maybe this is the calm before the storm", which was promptly followed by, "well, if it is, then I am going to enjoy this before I have to struggle through another storm."

This morning as I caught up with a mentor/friend/pastor he asked how my ministry is and I responded with an unconscious shrug of my shoulders, "really well." His response: "you don't have to be apologetic about it. I know sometimes around here it seems like you do, but really, you should be proud of it and enjoy it!" Amen. It is a really good thing that my ministry is going so well. It is great I have volunteers, it is great we have new ministries underway, it is great we have visitors to youth and to the Latino ministry is all so great! And for that I am thankful!

A little pity...

...can go a long way. Tonight I had my first youth team meeting. Finally, after a year of youth ministry, I have a total of 6 volunteers to help with Bible study, special events, and fundraisers. So tonight we had our first planning meeting. The goal was to plan the next year of ministry for our youth--including Bible study/education, worship, evangelism/outreach, fellowship, fundraising, mission, and conference events. One of the leaders made dinner for us and we talked over dinner and then got to work. We started with scripture and then prayed for our time together and planning. For our check-in, I asked each person to share why she is there and either what she is looking forward to or what she is anxious or concerned about in regard to working with the youth. I found at that 2 of the 4, who later roped in their partners, at the table began helping because they felt sorry for me! They either saw me as over worked or stressed or whatever and decided to lend a hand because they pity me. So, apparently I looked pretty pathetic in my ministry almost a year ago now, but the upside is it won me 4 really great youth workers! So, it wasn't all bad. =)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Message from Kimball Coburn

Reading Kimball's message for the fall, I was pleased to see his words...I thought they were worthy of sharing:

Sometimes I wish I could start my life in ministry now. I say that because I know so much more now than I knew when i was young. But when I was young I had so much more energy and was much hopper and suited to lead the church of "what's happening now."

The Church needs wisdom. The Church needs energy. The Church needs leadership attune to what's going on in the world today. So this is what we expect of our ministers:

We expect our young ministers to be wise.
We expect our old ministers to be hip.

We expect our young ministers to think less outside the box and take care of what's already inside the box. We expect our old ministers to come up with some new ideas.

We expect our young ministers to dream dreams.
We expect our old ministers to see visions.

The Church needs so much and most ministers are finding it hard to fulfill those needs.

I have good news for our young ministers. You can be humble and at the same time assert your leadership. You can respect the elderly and at the same time energize the youth. You can be pastoral and at the same time preach prophetically. You can honor the traditions and at the same time introduce new ways of worship. You can be a daily servant and at the same time see visions. You must work harder but the results can be greater.

I also have good news for you older ministers. Because of what you know and have experienced, your older years can be the most fruitful. Visions are not limited to the young. Now they come with a touch of reality which can make them even more relevant. Physically you have slowed down, but mentally you are on top of your game.

Only laziness will keep you from being a good pastor. Only close-mindedness will keep you from being in touch with society. Only getting too comfortable will dampen your prophetic spirit. You are a storehouse of gifts and graces for ministry. Let them explode onto your church.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Getting over myself

For a couple months now I have been irritated and resentful of someone who has insulted me, belittled my work, and generally has just gotten under my skin. And not only have I been holding onto that resentment, but I also have, by sharing my stories of offense, in a sense, been rallying others to be equally irritated by him. In the meantime, I have refused to have that conversation with him--confronting him about my hurt and frustration, and really have just begun avoiding him in all things serious or significantly important. While I know I need to have that conversation with him, I am not super excited about it, but was basically accepting its necessity. But then yesterday I was talking with some parishioners, one struggling with the aftermath of a sexual assault, and various others who are dealing with domestic violence issues. And then it hit me--why in the world am I investing so much time and energy in being irritated with this person when there are SO many things that are more important? So he offended me--so what?!?! Like that's never happened before?!? Right. I finally saw how ridiculous I was being, not that what he said and did was okay, but just that it isn't worth all that energy. There are real problems in the world, and, for the record, being offended by the arrogance and/or ignorance of another is not actually at the top of the list.

So, yes, I had a nice piece of humble pie yesterday. Time to move on.

Going home

It has been an eternity since I have been home (home home that is....), okay, not that long, but a really long time, over a year, which is a long time for me. I have wanted to visit to see my grandmother after her cancer surgery and haven't made it home yet to see her. So when my best friend from high school was home, my high school English teacher/friend asked for one of our famous lunches, and I had a free day, I jumped at the opportunity. (Though it probably indicates that I have lost my mind since it is a 5 hour drive both ways, I wasn't leaving until 8:30pm and had to be back the following night since I had a youth beach trip the following day....but, whatever. right??). So I hit the road (fortunately my bro decided to tag along, which made the long drive much better and less sleepy).

So, being from a small town, there are certain things that are obligatory. I think I covered most, if not all, of them:

  • seeing high school math teacher--check.
  • lunch with high school English teacher (now friend)--check.
  • breakfast and a walk with h.s. best friend--check.
  • staring at the amazing site of the amazingly star-studded sky--check.
  • seeing parents of former classmates and hearing how they are doing--check.
  • seeing h.s. sweetheart--check.
  • visiting the world famous bakery--check.
  • Visiting with family--double check.
  • Drinking pure, straight from the tap, well water--check.
  • Seeing people who never left or came back to town still working there--check.
  • taking a package that's been sitting in the car for 3 weeks to UPS at home 5 hours away because somehow it's easier--check.
  • seeing pastor--check.
  • Soaking in the beauty of the mountains--check.
  • Struggling with the bittersweet sensations of *going home*--check, and double check.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Quote of the Day

(after arriving home from a long day of work)

A: Hi honey. I have dinner ready.
B: Really?!?!?!?
A: Well, there's a lean cuisine in the freezer for you.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Amazing pics

My friend LA just returned from Africa and has some AMAZING pictures. For all intents and purposes, she should get credit for them, I just don't know if she wants her name posted. Here are a just a few:

I am SO incredibly jealous and ready to get the heck out of dodge right now to get myself to Africa!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Prayer requests for September

As a part of my planning for the Latino Ministry, I created a 6 month plan, which includes preaching themes, outreach programs, evangelism plans, advertising, and prayer focuses. Each month we have a specific focus for our prayers. The following are those prayer concerns. Feel free to send one up for us! But before I share them, as a way of explaining, part of what we have been doing is praying for 5 people. Starting in July, I challenged our folks to choose 5 people to pray for. The people can be known or unknown. I know none of mine, just chose 5 (6 actually) names out of the air. I pray for their jobs, their relationships, and their faith walk. My hope is that a large number of those for whom we are praying will come to the church. If each of our 5 folks came to the church, we'd have some 225 people, that's pretty exciting in my book! So, anyway, basically when I say--"continue praying for our 5" that's who I mean.

We pray for the UMW that they would be strengthen in fellowship and the education they receive at their event on the 8th.
2) We pray for the English class.
3) We pray for the children’s ministry.
4) We will begin praying for new small groups, for the leadership—that they might discern their call and get excited about doing God’s work.

5) We continue to pray for our 5 people.

6) We pray for musicians who can lead us in new and different (more contemporary) music.

Inspiration on top of inspiration

My friend Chai, in addition to being a power house of a woman, has been training for a marathon. A few months back I mentioned her fundraising efforts, and continue to encourage you to support her. She has already met her first goal of $5000 and is up'ing her goal in order to provide more for her honored heroes. Today I read her blog and she posted an interview with one of her honored heroes--who also serves as an inspiration with her amazingly beautiful voice and her courageous fight against cancer. In talking with Chai, she told me, "It's so weird to me how people think running this marathon is such an amazing thing. I mean, for me it's just something you do. It's a duty considering all these people have been through."

I am one of those people who stands in awe of Chai's marathon training, in large part because I have trouble motivating myself to do the exercise I need to be in the kind of shape I want, let alone train to run 26.2 miles!! I am inspired by Chai, and I am inspired to do more of my "duty" in supporting those who struggle/fight/win against/& lose against cancer. My sensitivities are heightened especially now as so many in my life have been diagnosed with cancer in the last few months. My prayers are strong for all those who fight this battle, but especially for MC, RS, AS, and CN, and my heart breaks for AP who lost her earthly battle but won her spiritual battle so many years ago and was an amazing woman of faith, an incredible example, compassionate heart, and radiant spirit. May each of these women, and so many others, be blessed, made whole, and cured--spiritually, emotionally, and physically in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Sabbath rest

For the last 2.5 years I have practiced Sabbath. I was convicted about it mid-way through my seminary career. I was listening to a campus minister at Emory talk of her sabbath practices (going to the mall, the movies, getting a pedicure--but NOT working) and decided it was something I needed to add to my routine. The following week or so I decided to start. Being a working seminary student with church obligations, Saturday became the only choice. My first rule was "no work". So I didn't do homework or anything related to my job, church or admissions. That was all well and good but as soon as my friends heard I was taking Saturday "off" they began to sign up to hang out. Now, not that I didn't love my friends, but I found Saturdays booked up in nothing flat and it was not terribly restful for me. So I created a new rule--No committing myself to anyone. It may seem a bit strict, but for me it had to be that way so I could declare clear boundaries. In time, the two rules morphed into one "I don't do anything I have to do." Basically that meant if I said "I need to ____________." It was immediately taken off the list for sabbath day possibilities--that might have meant returning a phone call, doing homework, cleaning the house, or running errands. It also meant I didn't make commitments that I would then have to fulfill on my sabbath day. With time, my friends began to understand my rule and no longer took offense to my rigid rules, which later meant I felt free to call them up on Saturday to see if they wanted to hang out. Because our time together was not pre-scheduled it didn't feel like it was hanging over me or that I was going to let someone down if I decided it didn't quite fit in the rest I needed for the day.

I have continued to be diligent in my sabbath practices, sometimes I feel like a sabbath Nazi. Guru might be a better choice of words but I don't know that I am sage enough to merit such a title...anyway, I have found sabbath to be invaluable. If I have to miss sabbath for whatever reason, I find I am short tempered and exhausted all week. I never realized how much I needed that day free of obligations until I actually instituted it. More and more I am finding myself reminding others to take a sabbath day as well. Even a half day can be restorative.

As I look around at people and the demands of the American culture I am overwhelmed by the need to do something. Early on in my sabbath practice I could hardly figure out what to do with myself on those days, I felt useless and worthless if I didn't do something. I realized that was problematic, that doing didn't make me a more valuable person (which is extremely counter-cultural here in the U.S. of A.) Honoring the sabbath and honoring my person was a legitimate way to spend my day even if I only slept or watched TV for that period of time. Encountering and embracing the value of rest has made me a more whole person--I am less run down, less bitter, and more energized when I do work because I have had a real rest, not just a time where I am too tired to do anything and feel guilty the whole time for not getting more accomplished.

Now that I am in the parish, Saturdays as a sabbath day are a complete joke. There's no way I could take a Saturday, so Mondays are my official day. I turn off my church phone (I have two cells, one for work and one for friends and family), try not to read work related emails, and do my best not to even think of work. I wake up when I want and feel which way the wind blows and what I want to do for the day. I may make a big breakfast, or have coffee on the balcony, sleep, watch a movie, talk on the phone, read a book, paint, create, go hiking...whatever I want really, it is my day to do whatever feeds my soul.

Today, I began reading Sabbath by Wayne Muller. My dad gave it to me a few months back and I have had yet to crack it, but this morning I opened it and was glad I did. One of the first things I read was:

"A 'successful' life has become a violent enterprise. We make war on our own bodies, pushing them beyond their limits; war on our children, because we cannot find enough time to be with them when they are hurt and afraid, and need our company; war on our spirit, because we are too preoccupied to listen to the quiet voices that seek to nourish and refresh us; war on our communities, because we are fearfully protecting what we have, and do not feel safe enough to be kind and generous; war on the earth, because we cannot take the time to place our feet on the ground and allow it to feed us, to taste its blessings and give thanks." --Wayne Muller Sabbath

Muller's words rang loud in my heart. I too believe we do violence to ourselves, our relationships, and our world when we neglect rest. We cannot maintain the fast pace the world tries to demand of us and when we do we get sick, we become burnout or bitter, or we simply invoke violence on others by our neglect of them. We become so greedy for accomplishments that we become eternally myopic. We cannot see 2 feet in front of us. Life becomes an exile of sorts. We focus on the past--past accomplishments, past relationships or recognition, and we become crisis focused, we can only attend to the immediate problem before us. We cannot look with hope or vision to 5 or 10 years in the future. And without such future thinking, we become self destructive. We get stuck in the mire of past failures and present short-comings. We fail to see potential. We become numb to hope and as a result, we slowly injure ourselves and those around us.

So this Labor day, this day where we should all be freed by the national holiday to take a day of rest, I encourage you to think of your practices of sabbath and rest. Whether you realize it or not, you need times of silence, mediation, play, creativity, and rest. You are not less valuable, the world will not collapse because you fail to get some bit of work done, and you will become more whole. That's not my promise, it is God's! The fourth commandment is: thou shalt honor the sabbath and keep it holy. J. Ellsworth Kalas translates that commandment into: The sabbath shall keep you. Keeping sabbath is not about another thing to is about letting God's rest restore us--letting it keep us sane, happy, and healthy. When we honor God's laws, God honors God's promises, so honor the sabbath my friends and keep it holy--free yourself of obligations and let the sabbath keep you.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

the pace of things

just as an example of how crazy busy things have been this summer, tonight I went to change my calendar to September and saw that I never even had a chance to change it from July to August....yeah, bit nuts!

Miss Teen South Carolina Calls 911

This farce sums up the prior post quite nicely!

Miss Teen USA 2007 - South Carolina answers a question

This video pains scares me to think that a top finalist
(at least top five) could have such an incomprehensible and ridiculous answer...

Toby Mac - Diverse City

My birthday cd from B has this song on it and I love it. I like the message and the beat. I think if I had to sum up my hope for the church it would be that we would truly be a "Diverse City"

Young Adult Ministries

Young adult ministries is my most neglected area of ministry. I hate to admit it, but I have let the ball drop in this area. The preceeding associate had told me that he had struggled with this ministry, that he had invested a lot of time and energy and not a lot came from it, that if he wasn't running it, then generally it didn't happen, that the folks weren't generally motivated to get things taken care of. So, I came in knowing I would have to organize things and push a bit to make it happen. I did a few activities last summer (game nights and going to local theatre productions namely) and then followed that with Bible studies. We rotated houses for awhile and did a Wesley study of sorts, and then we broke for Christmas and came back in the New Year for a "controversial topics" study. Now, starting last summer I had 4 active young adults (between 18-35) and didn't have a whole lot of other folks to pull from. Well, by Christmas 2 of them had transferred to another church because of worship and leadership opportunities. So, I was left with 2 active young adults, and of those two one read diligently and came prepared with questions and ideas. The other NEVER read and occasionally showed up. So, technically I had 1.5 young adults. Now, one doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that it is hard to get inspired to invest hours of time and energy on a quality Bible study for just 1.5 people. We finished the controversial topics study about the time of Lent and so I encouraged them to come to the Wednesday night Lent studies in lieu of doing an exclusive YA study. Well, then after Easter came and went I didn't get organized enough to do another study. I have found it difficult to be motivated and regret my reluctance, but have had a 100 other things that have managed to keep me occupied and full of excuses. Now, over the summer we have had a few new young adults come to the church and some others return, so now, I could have a base of 6-8 young adults, and that is a much more inspiring number, and one I can't really justify ignoring, I need to get my act together and do something for them. By in large, they like real studies, Bible studies, learning. They don't simply want fluff. So, now the question become what to do for/with them. What study do we do? What resources do I use? Or do I simply make it up, like normal? Any ideas about what would be good for a small group of young adults, ranging in age from 18, just graduated, to 35, married with 2 kids--all women??

I have never been a part of a quality young adult ministry. As a young adult I have mainly been in leadership, so I don't even really know what the best of programs would look like....any words of wisdom or creative ideas would be much appreciated!

I heart my new youth worker

In July/August, I deaned Sr. High summer camp and as part of that, I worked on recruiting counselors. One of those I managed to bring on is a recent college graduate who has just returned home to work. She was super excited to come to camp and was a huge asset. Now that we are off the mountain, she has begun working with our youth. She is inspiring and ambitious and on top of things! Yay for on top of things. (for the record, I was always one of those who disdained group projects because I ended up doing most of the work because the others didn't work up to par or didn't bother to work at all, so working with folks who are reliable and proactive is so much better for me!) She is truly committed, this week she called to see if youth was still on since it is a holiday weekend. I have yet to learn the "no-youth-on-holiday-weekend" rule, so, yes, it is on. She said she has family in town that will still be there Sunday night so she can't come the whole time. I told her I understand and that she doesn't need to come, that she can stay with her family. She said she would come because she had made this commitment and that she could come for half the time, and had me decide which half would be better. I can't tell you how cool that was for me. I mean, I did youth on my own for about 6 months here and then got 2 adult volunteers who come in once and month and have been great, but I still organize everything and am the default for anything (driving, lock-ins, programs, coffee hour, etc), and it is so incredible to have someone who is both willing and able AND truly committed. Yay K!

The super added bonus was I had left a book for her to read while I was gone. It's called "Creating an Authentic Youth Ministry". I think it is a great book and that it gives good perspective on how we do youth ministry, the true foundations, not just great music or cool programs. Now, having been gone for almost 2 weeks, yesterday I couldn't even remember if I had told her I had left the book for her to pick up. But today when she called she said she had started the book and has some ideas! No way! Sweet! I am so excited that she is rearing to go for this ministry. I am so excited I don't have to poke and prod her. I am so excited that I can lean on her to do Bible studies and activities without having to pre-fab everything first! Oh man am I excited!

less than ideal care

Today I had to head to the hospital to visit a parishioner. Being a Saturday there was no volunteer to tell me her room number, nor was there anyone at the admitting desk, so off to the ER I went. The only trouble is that the ER has recently been remodeled and it is a bit of a trick to get there, so I wandered inside and out and finally had to ask for directions, which were poor in and of themselves. Once I did arrive, I stood at the window for someone to help me. No dice. I waited some more until another woman came in having a panic attack, I buzzed the nurses for her and they attended to her (well, as much as one might consider "fill out the form and go sit until we call you" *attending*) and then didn't bother to ask what I needed. I waited a bit longer and behind me a line started to form. There were easily 8 people waiting for help, and really no one to take their intake forms or answer their questions. I finally got someone to give me a room number and I headed upstairs. I visited with my parishioner for a bit and talked with her about the lack of care she was receiving and how slow things were to happen. As I talked with her, I thought she might have had heat stroke (she had yet to see the doctor and receive a diagnosis) and she definitely looked dehydrated, and she failed the skin pinch test. I told her she might want to talk to her doctor about an IV for fluids when she saw him. As I left, the nurse came in, apologizing for forgetting to bring her headache medicine, a request she had received over a half hour prior, a request the patient had made to another nurse over 2 hours before that, while she was there my parishioner asked about dehydration and I mentioned the failed skin test and the nurse said "oh that's normal for old people". She said her chem panel looked normal, but I still had my doubts. I mean, it seems to me that when the temperature has topped 110 over the last few days and you have a patient who is fatigued, light headed, nauseus, and fails the pinch test that fluids might just help the situation, but what do I know?! I realize Hemet doesn't have the worst medical care possible, I have seen much worse, but I do know it is bad, at the very best mediocre. No one I know actually trusts the medical care provided here and the nurses I know generally tend to head out of town for any kind of hospital that's bad when you won't even go to the hospital where you work because you know how poor the care is. Yikes!

Inspiration and Accountability

A couple of days ago I had the chance to sit and chat with C. She and I have known each other for 7 years now and she has always been an inspiration to me. C is smart and capable and she is a go-getter. She takes on challenges and lives a life worth imitating. As I talked with her, she relayed her mission for her work place: bringing community service into their work. Her passion and efforts reminded me of how much work there is to be done, and hearing her talk about conferences and education projects she has been to or is working on, I was reminded of how limited my own knowledge is--my need for continued training in Domestic Violence and other issues. Hearing of the many things C is doing made me feel like a lazy bum. Her words served as a poker in the bum to recharge me to go above and beyond. C reminded me I can't get too comfortable in my work, that I must constantly push myself to do more and work harder because there is still so much to be done. There are kids sleeping in homeless shelters without school supplies, there are women in shelters without hygiene products or basic clothing supplies, there are soup kitchens lacking volunteers, and there are cancer patients fighting to hold onto life who need treatments and support from as many people as possible. Thanks C for bringing me back to a place of inspiration and accountability. Rock on Sister!