Wednesday, July 30, 2008


It has been a busy couple of weeks here at the new church. There has been worship to plan, sermons to write, impromptu trustee meetings to attend, VBS, dinners, lunches, meetings, visitation, hospice care, and funeral planning. I love the people here and I love what I am doing. I feel like it really is a good fit for me despite my initial hesitation. In the midst of it there has also been a week of vacation, a new niece arriving, and camp preparation. Senior high camp is next week and I can't believe it is already here. I am in charge of curriculum and sadly to say, I still have yet to hammer it out. I know I shouldn't admit that, but there it is. It's not that I've been procrastinating it's that I just moved and there has been NO TIME. I can't believe how packed and insane my schedule has been and now that the deadline is here and I know it has to be done, I'm so busy and stressed that I have no energy to do anything at the end of the day and I'm almost resentful of the task I signed up for because I really enjoy doing it. Today is a big funeral (2 services) for a long time member and hopefully once I make it through that (it's the first at this church) then I can spend the next couple of days hammering out curriculum so that camp will be fabulous. Hopefully. Prayers are needed and if you have any great ideas of activities to do surrounding John 4 (the woman at the well) and not thirsting anymore, feel free to send them my way...

May you be washed in peace and free from stress this day.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On ministry and haircuts

Over the last year I've had probably 5 haircuts. I never used to get many haircuts, maybe once every 6 months, but more likely once a year. It was never a big deal, I usually wore my hair long and hardly got bangs, so it didn't need to be "kept up." But this last year I got it cut short and it has been one haircut after another of trying to get it right and keeping it looking less like a mullet and more like a pastor's haircut.

When I lived in Atlanta I would go to the Aveda school and get $12 haircuts from their students, who, after graduation, would charge $50+ for the same cut. Normally I would walk in, and say, "do whatever you want or think looks good" and I'd come out with a great haircut. There was only one time it failed me. I had told her to cut it for a curly style and she gave me HUGE hair (not something desirable for someone with naturally curly and very voluminous hair), after that I always told them, "just cut it as if it were straight and I'll take care of the rest."

This year has not gone so smoothly. I have offered everything from vague direction "do whatever you want" or "just trim it a bit" to more specific guidelines about what and how to cut. I've found that the more direction I give, the more likely I am to get a cut I want. There's the occasional stylist who "gets it" and just does a fabulous job with my vague direction, but there are others who need lots of guidance.

So now, many a haircut later, I've decided leading ministry is like getting a haircut. There are some people I can give very little instruction and they "get it" and go do the ministry and everything is fabulous and as I envisioned it. There are others who are completely lost without a full detail to do list. There are others you give instruction and they do their own thing anyway and it comes out better than you could have expected.

Mostly I think it's a matter of trial and error of figuring out how to direct each person. There's no way to simply look at them and know whether they need a lot of direction or none at all. You can only try it out and see. But generally, you're bound to get the results you desire if you have a clear vision of what you want and acquire and use the terms they understand to explain your vision.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What's in a name?

Tomorrow is my fourth Sunday at the new church and so far, so good. There's a million (okay, maybe only 1000) things I could blog about but 1) there's too much to do and not enough time to do it, let alone to blog 2) This congregation is internet savvy. But I'll see if I can get a few posts written in the next few days to get back into the habit and share some of my thoughts and possible insights.

This post doesn't really deal with a novel concept, but it's always such an interesting dance when I enter back into it--it's the conversations about what to call me. You'd think this would be simple--call me by my name, but it's not. It's not simple at all, apparently. People want to know whether to call me Pastor or Reverend or Minister. They want to know if I prefer my nickname or my given name, or if they need to call me by my last name. On my first Sunday, a man was asking how I wanted my name printed on the door of the office at the church. I said Rev. Debbie Camphouse was fine. He argued a bit and wanted to use my given name. I said I preferred Debbie and he said, "that's because you're a kid." Excuse me?! No....actually, that's because I prefer Debbie. We went round and round and finally he relented.

I guess part of me finds all the hoopla about what to call me weird because growing up we always called the pastor by his first name. He was never "Pastor" "Reverend" or "Pastor _____" He was just _____. Period. So to me, being called Debbie is not a sign of disrespect or a lack of acknowledgment of my role/office, but a lot of folks see it that way.

I've had discussion after discussion about how I don't take offense either way, to do what is comfortable, but also trying to explain how for some people it's difficult to accept me as "The Pastor" because of my age or gender and so for those folks, I sometimes find it helpful to reinforce my role as pastor by using the title. So, we've come to a basic accord (at least for those who wrestle with this issue), if they are introducing me to someone, they use "Pastor Debbie" and if they are simply talking with me, they just use Debbie. Most people seem ok with that. Mostly.

Then last night I had about 15 parishioners over for dinner as a thank you for the hours they put in cleaning up at the parsonage and helping to paint, weed, and unpack boxes. At one point one of the women turned to ask me a question and said, "Deb...." To be honest, I didn't even notice that she had called me "Deb" and not "Debbie". But immediately she came right close and said, "Oh my goodness, I called you Deb, is that ok?" Yes! Totally ok.

In all fairness, I appreciate their interest in showing me the utmost respect and honoring my wishes--it's caring, attentive, and an act of love. And yet, I can't help but giggle to myself because it's really not that big of a deal. Not yet anyway...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Woman at the Well

The woman at the well text is one of my favorites and it's the heart of our camp curriculum this year. This monologue is very powerful.

The Parsongage

The parsonage has been a mixed bag--I think that's written into parsonage law somewhere....that's what I hear anyway. It is a huge house (4 bedrooms) which is far more space than I will ever need as a single woman, but have no fear, I've managed to find ways to fill it up creating two guest rooms and an office with the extra rooms. It has beautiful wood floors, which I have always coveted (that is until I got them and had two dogs who shed like they want to go bald and make me a cleaning lunatic to get rid of the dog hair). There's a fenced backyard, which, after a lot of clean-up, is great for the dogs and I can almost walk barefoot around.

Upon arrival we painted 3 bedrooms, the hall, a bathroom and the dining/living room. While I was on vacation I got a new kitchen floor and counter tops, so now I can paint the kitchen and pantry, and then all that's left is the back bathroom which is toilet-less and needs lots of help. Each brush stroke of paint has made it feel more like
my home, and that's a nice feeling. I still have too many boxes to unpack and more painting than I want at this point, but hopefully it will all come together soon and I can breathe a sign of relief.

Here are a few pics so you can see just how far we've come...

This is the dining/living room space with a view into the kitchen. The periwinkle blue is the color I couldn't handle, the mocha on the right is for the living room space and you can see the almond color coming along for the dining room area. (Hi Mom!)

This is guest bedroom number one. The walls to the let were all wood paneling--not my favorite. So we painted it! My SPRC chair claims the colors are kitchen worthy, not bedroom worthy, but I like 'em. (Except the parts that peeled when we took the tape off. There are touch-ups to do, but with company coming to town and church folks coming over next week I figured I better put the room together, more or less, and do the touch ups when time allows). I caved and bought the bedspreads I had seen 2 weeks ago. They were full price, but I couldn't resist, so now they're mine.

Can we say avoidance?! This is theoretically the office and project room. It is also the room with the most boxes that have yet to be unpacked. It is also the room I find every excuse in the book not to work on. I know it just needs to get done, but man am I tired of unpacking boxes and finding a place to put things.

Quote of the Day

"Usually, their doubts are somewhat eased, but mine still rage. Do I really know anything about relationships? If I did, wouldn’t I be in one? What do I know about sharing a life with someone? Accommodating my dog is about all the space I can make for another being in my life on most days. What business do I have counseling people about commitment? In seconds, I am back in that same hopelessly inadequate frame of mind, terrified that nothing in either my education or my life experience has prepared me to be a pastor in this situation.

In one particular session, inevitably, we’re talking about unrealistic expectations; I jokingly mention the list I’d made in my early 20s of the characteristics I absolutely required in a partner. Let’s just say I was an academic snob who expected some combination between an adoring audience, a mind reader, and a professional hockey player - with a PhD. “Oh, that’s
why you’re still not married at your age,” says the shining young groom. Apparently I missed the memo that thirty is still considered old maid material. I have to bite back a snarky response about my hesitance to marry perhaps being related to the amount of time I spend listening to couples gripe at each other in front of a perfect stranger. I won’t say it, no matter how much I want to. I’m a professional."

--Stacy Midge

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Critters are not my friend. Animals yes. Critters no. I started my week arriving home to 2 gigantor rat traps...great. The trustee who did new tile floors and counter tops told me one ran across his foot when he moved the fridge. Fabulous. Boy does that make my day. Well, day two the rat trap made my day when it held one of our furry little non-friends. I quietly hoped he was the only one and that the other trap would remain empty. I still clean up like a crazy woman just in case. But a girl can hope, right?!

Then the telephone guy came and told me that a bunch of the cords under the house were chewed up by rats. Sweet. So, I relent on my dream of being rat free and go buy rat poison. I know--it's not very ecological or anything, but really...they're rats. If it were a 'posum or a 'coon, I'd opt for the humane route, but when it's a nasty little critter, sorry, it's not gonna happen.

So, as I go to throw my rat poison under the house (these things are like gummy snacks for rats and claim the rats will chew through the wrapping), I reach for one of the vent covers and what do a see but a little scaly face staring back at me and a long tail to add a cherry on top. I shirked back thinking it was a snake and then tried to peer through the wire to see how big it was and then realized it was a lizard--not my favorite but worlds better than a snake. So I shook the grate and got the lizard to move so I could throw my rat gummies under the house.

Then this afternoon I was near one of the grates and went to sneak a peek because the package of rat candy hadn't landed properly and it was GONE. Yep. Gone. G-O-N-E. Which, is a good thing I suppose b/c it means it was taken somewhere to be eaten, hopefully by every rat on the block so I never have to see one again, but also creepy that the rat candy was dragged away to some darker part of the underside of my house. Ick.

Finally, tonight, I went out to dinner with 4 ladies from the church who were an absolute hoot! They were fabulous. After dinner we went back to one of their homes and shared stories for hours and then topped it off with ice cream. At the end of the night I asked for the bathroom and what did I see as I turned the corner of the hallway but a 10" lizard making its way into one of the bedrooms. We chased it around and tried to scare it out and only succeeded in making it shed it's tail, which then wiggled like a little worm. I hoped, for her sake, that we could shush it out of the house and she could rest easy, but we failed.

Why can't the critters stay way away from my house? Oh yeah, probably because my house is way up in their territory...but seriously--NO MORE CRITTERS!

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I'm preaching regularly in English now, and hopefully will be able to post sermons semi-regularly. The second in a series (the first will be up soon...) is here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Relationships and Stereotypes

This week, in addition to enjoying vacation and seeing friends from seminary, I've also had the opportunity to see one of the women with whom I traveled and studied in Spain, and one who was on staff at ORL at UCLA with me. I love both of these women dearly and spending time with them is a taste of comfort and familiarity. I think the last time I visited I described it as "putting on an old worn in sweatshirt", or something along those lines--warmth, comfort, and familiarity.

It was good to see both Rachel and Chai, to hear what they are doing and how life is for them.

Thinking about our time together also made me think about the ways I was introduced to them and the amazing women they have become and the ways that each of them and my relationship with them has challenged me to confront stereotypes. With Rachel I knew her and spent time with her first and foremost as herself, as an exchange student in Spain, living with my senora's sister and mother. We walked to and from school together twice a day, almost every day for 5 months. We roadtripped across Spain, into Gibralter, and into Portugal together. We confronted culture shock, language fatigue, and homesickness together in our international journeys. It was later, after we came back to the states that she joined the Army. All of us who had grown to know her well knew it was a perfect fit for her character and work ethic, and talking with her now, it's easy to see how successful she is and how at ease she is in her role in the Army. That said, I have had to confront some of my biases about folks in the military. Having known her prior and already understood her character and respected her as a person, I couldn't make snap judgments about her decisions or motives and I even had to re-examine some general bias I had about folks in the military. To me it's a sign of how relationships make all the difference for changing one's perspective on something.

Chai is another example of this learning. She was my roommate for two weeks and my RA colleague for 9 months. We talked and shared, laughed and cried together. I knew her first, before I knew the title of "feminist" she would later claim for herself. Prior to my second year in college "feminist" was sort of a bad word--it had all sorts of ugly connotation. I think my high school definition of it would have been something like "man hating nazi lesbian". I am not proud to put those words in print, but the truth is what it is and my views were what they were. I have come a long way from that definition and those hateful stereotypes, but part of that progress is due in large part to people like Chai. People whom I knew as people first, people whom I respected and admired first, and then was forced to deal with my misconceptions and stereotypes. Chai has taught me what it really means to be a feminist (someone who believes in, promotes, and advocates for gender equality and justice, among other things...), along with 1000 other lessons about advocacy, justice, passion, commitment, and openness. Again, a lesson in the power of relationality.

The third lesson is actually about how someone else's experience with me did something similar for them. Also in Spain, I had the chance to get to know T. She was in our same program and she, Rachel, and I started spending time together early on. T is opinionated (which may even be an understatement in some cases--so much so that she will readily admit this to you and say it with pride) and is very convicted about her beliefs. It was early on in our stay, there were 3 or 4 of us out at a local tapas bar having blood sausage (not something I NEVER recommend) and probably sangria. I don't remember the content of the rest of our converation but at some point it came out that I was a Christian. T literally had drink come out of her nose. She was shocked. She immediately began to refute my claim. "You can't be..." We went back and forth about how I actually was a Christian and her disbelief. Turns out she knew Christians to be narrow-minded, bigoted, "Bible-thumpers" and I didn't fit any of her categories. Again, she had come to know me, and like me, and only later learned that I was one of "them". It didn't fit with her preconceptions or her prejudices, so she had to do a reframing and re-evalation of what she believed.

So, these days, I am a huge advocate for the power of relationships--both for myself and for others. You can see, after reading just a handful of examples, why I am so tied to my belief that meeting people of the "other" and respecting them as individuals first and foremost leads to tremendous transformation in our lives.

I guess the final piece (at least for tonight's post) is how this came true at annual conference this year. Every year at annual conference we have legislative sessions where we break out into smaller groups (sort of like senate sub-committees) and look at legislation/resolutions that have been proposed. We have discussion, can make amendments, and then vote concurrence, non-concurrence, or no recommendation. This year, considering the General Conference stance against same-sex marriage and the California ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, a group of folks had asked for time to be set aside for us to discuss the pastoral implications and responses we could/should take. There were a variety of ways this happened, including a panel of presenters (on both sides of the issues), debate on the floor of conference, and discussion groups that took place within the legislative sessions.

I had not attended legislative session earlier in the week (sorry Bishop), but was committed to this conversation and was interested in what would be shared, so I asked to join my father's group. Now, he and I have had this discussion many times over many years and we are both clear about where the other stands. But we were also joined by 3 men we did not know. Well, one young man had done Bible study with my father the days prior, but the other two were new to their small group. So, the five of us sat together and first we were asked to do Bible study together. We studied the passage about the different types of soil on which seed can be sown. Through Bible study we found the similarities between us--how we have each felt like we were "rocky soil" at times, or that the growth of God's seed had been thwarted by the weeds in our lives. We established common ground as Christians, but also simply as people. Once we finished the Bible study, we had the discussion about same-sex marriage rights and the pastoral/prophetic role of the church. This post is already long and I don't have my notes with me so I won't elaborate now, but our discussion was thoughtful, caring, and insightful. And I am fairly convinced that we would not have had such a civil discussion had we started with our point of (possible) disagreement instead of the Bible study which established us as people first. Yet another way where relationality makes all the difference in the world.

Life is good!

This week I am on vacation in Virginia visiting my best friend from seminary, her husband, and my two goddaughters. I have to admit that it is a very odd time to take vacation since I just took a new church a week ago, but I was scheduled to help with delivery of baby #2 and there weren't really two ways around that--except that she was breech and had to be delivered by c-section and came early. But by then the trip was planned, ticket purchased, and vacation time requested. And (wo)man is it nice.

I feel guilty for sleeping 8-9 hours a night and taking a nap in the daytime since I am officially here to "help" and I can't be much help when I'm catching z's. But I have made my offer to help day or night, even if it means waking me up, clear and so I know that if I'm really needed that they'll come and get me. Otherwise, it's catching up on some much needed sleep. Not being neurotic about unpacking boxes, painting walls, meeting new folks, and figuring out church business. And enjoying time with beloved friends. It's also snuggling with a precious newborn or playing and laughing with a toddler.

I have done more emailing and message checking and calls to the office than I would normally deem permissable for vacation time, but it's a really awkward time to be away and it's hard to make a good first impression when you're 3000 miles away.

So, I submit to work desires here and there and enjoy the time away and the extra hours of sleep and trust that when I officially return to work that I will indeed be refreshed and restored.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Back online...

Well, I am moved in. The rooms (except the kitchen, but including the living room/dining room, bathroom, hallway, and three bedrooms) are painted. Most of the furniture is in place. Most of the boxes are unpacked. The kitchen is use-able. The yard is coming along (thanks to my parents) with hope for more help tomorrow from church members. And my house feels like a home. It's a nice feeling.

Today my dad and I went to the church and put books on the shelf and put altar decorations away and knick knacks on the shelf, so now my office feels like it's mine and I can have people come in for meetings or questions or whatever and the desk is cleared off and there's sitting space in the corner (thanks to my brother's hand-me-downs). And life is good.

The poor cable guy was here on Wednesday and after he struggled for hours with the router connection and had to replace the DVR, I now have cable and internet with a landline to follow once I return from vacation.

I have a few musings to share at some point, but they're not forthcoming right now. So I will hold off on that for now.

Apparently I'm getting old...

It's less than a week until my birthday and the below forward is WAY too true for me these days...


Thank goodness there's a name for this disorder.
Somehow I feel better,even though I have it!!

Recently, I was diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D. -
Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.

This is how it manifests:

I decide to water my garden.
As I turn on the hose in the driveway,
I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.

As I start toward the garage,
I notice mail on the porch table that
I brought up from the mail box earlier.

I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.

I lay my car keys on the table,

put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table,
and notice that the can is full.

So, I decide to put the bills back
on the table and take out the garbage first.

But then I think,
since I'm going to be near the mailbox
when I take out the garbage anyway,
I may as well pay the bills first.

I take my check book off the table,
and see that there is only one check left.

My extra checks are in my desk in the study,
so I go inside the house to my desk where
I find the can of Pepsi I'd been drinking.

I'm going to look for my checks,
but first I need to push the Pepsi aside
so that I don't accidentally knock it over.

The Pepsi is getting warm,
and I decide to put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.

As I head toward the kitchen with the Pepsi,
a vase of flowers on the counter
catches my eye--they need water.

I put the Pepsi on the counter and
discover my reading glasses that
I've been searching for all morning.

I decide I better put them back on my desk,
but first I'm going to water the flowers.

I set the glasses back down on the counter,
fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote.
Someone left it on the kitchen table.

I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV,
I'll be looking for the remote,
but I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table,
so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs,
but first I'll water the flowers.

I pour some water in the flowers,
but quite a bit of it spills on the floor.

So, I set the remote back on the table,
get some towels and wipe up the spill.

Then, I head down the hall trying to
remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day:
the car isn't washed
the bills aren't paid
there is a warm can of Pepsi sitting on the counter
the flowers don't have enough water,
there is still only 1 check in my check book,
I can't find the remote,
I can't find my glasses,
and I don't remember what I did with the car keys.
Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today,
I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all damn day,
and I'm really tired.

I realize this is a serious problem,
and I'll try to get some help for it,
but first I'll check my e-mail....