Thursday, April 30, 2009

Homemade cold pack

Just a neat trick/tip:
if you need to make an ice/cold pack....
simply put Karo (corn) syrup in a ziplock bag, seal, and freeze.
It comes out flexible and easy to use (unlike a bag full of ice).

Ht: R.S.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chocolate Carmel Crack(ers)

For the record....this is amazing!!! You should definitely make it, and have friends over so you don't eat it all yourself!

And you just smiled and nodded

In the first month of my appointment in Riverside, I preached on relationships. I preached on balance, on humility, on love, on mutuality. Each week was a different text and focus. Now, relationships come in many shapes and sizes and I have lots of relationships (professional, familial, collegial, platonic, etc). And I studied psychology and sociology and pastoral care well enough to understand a fair number of dynamics within a relationship. So, I won't say that I preached in complete ignorance, but this year I have started dating and I am learning a lot.

The other day I was talking with my best friend about the challenges of communication, especially in conflict, and said, you know, everyone says relationships are hard work, but seriously, this is nuts...and all those times I preached about relationships people just smiled and nodded. She laughed and said, yeah...but really, you just can't describe it unless you are in it. She's right. There is something distinctive about the dynamics of an emotionally intimate relationship that requires much more work and diligence in keeping it functional than other types of relationships. And that level of work isn't really describable to an outsider.

So today I give thanks for all the members of my congregation who have experienced years and years of that dynamic and sat and listened to my naive sermons anyway. I appreciate that they didn't laugh me out of the pulpit or even name my ignorance, but instead appreciated whatever it was I had to say with grace and love.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Enjoy it while it lasts

These days I have missed being an associate. I have missed having someone else to work with, to brainstorm with, with whom to share the load and I have longed to be an associate again. Or at least I have wished I had fully appreciated what it meant to be an associate when I was one.

Please don't get me wrong. I don't think being an associate is an easy job, and I'm not sure if it's "easier" than being a senior, but it is different. There are different expectations (sometimes greater, sometimes lesser) and it is a different role.

As an associate, I don't think I fully appreciated the responsibility my senior(s) had of visioning and leading the church as a whole to something greater. I don't think I got a full taste of the conflicts that threatened to divide the church, even when they confronted me daily.

As an associate, there were days I longed for more authority...the power to decide a sermon series, or to change a worship service as I saw most appropriate, or to focus on an area of discipleship...those weren't my calls, and there were many times when it was hard to fully grasp what my senior wanted, and still other days when I didn't want to grasp it, let alone follow it. But now, as the one in charge, I long for days when everything didn't fall to my lap, when I didn't hold the last word.

Being a senior pastor isn't all bad. It definitely has perks, but so does being an associate, and if you are an associate, I'd encourage you to revel in some of those perks before they disappear.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Apostles of Comedy

RS introduced me to the Apostles of Comedy and I LOVE THEM!! They crack me up. It's good clean humor and they are hilarious! AND....they are coming to town!! They will be in Murrieta tomorrow (Tuesday) night and we are headed down for a night of laughter, but they also have other tour dates. If they are coming to your area, I highly recommend you go see them, they are well worth it! For a sampling, click here, here or here. This guy is the most crass of them all, he doesn't top my charts, but he does have some funny stuff.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fair Trade Opportunity

Three Weeks and 30 Tons to Go:
Fair Trade Deadline Approaches

New York, NY, April 16, 2009-The United Methodist Committee on Relief
(UMCOR) is 30 tons short, with only three weeks to go, in a year-old
campaign to sell 100-tons of fairly traded goods in a year.

The 100-Ton Challenge will end on May 9, 2009, a year after it was
launched in partnership with Equal Exchange, a cooperative company that
ensures farmers receive a fair price for their labors and products.
Goods include chocolate, coffee, and tea.

In an effort to reach the goal, UMCOR has issued a challenge to United
Methodist annual conferences. An award will be given in two categories:
1) largest percentage of volume increase and 2) largest volume of sales
tabulated between April 1 and May 9.

*I*m confident the United Methodist connection will come through to
answer this challenge,* said June Kim, the UMCOR executive for hunger
and poverty. The goal could be met, she said, by even half of the
churches buying just one case of 12 ounce coffee bags. The coffee and
tea are good values for congregations that have "coffee hours" and/or
regular food service.

Ms. Kim explained that the goal of the 100-Ton Campaign is to
*increase awareness about fair trade in United Methodist churches
and enable us to put our faith in action by using our buying power to
eradicate the cycle of poverty affecting the lives of small-scale
farmers in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the United States.
Collectively, we can promote justice and improve the lives of many
persons around the world.*

Purchasing fairly-traded goods allows small-scale farmers to earn fair
prices, invest in farm improvements, reduce debt, and improve their
communities while providing a better life for themselves and their

Fair trade products-coffee, tea, chocolates and snacks-can be purchases
through the UMCOR Coffee Project and ordered on line at:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Susan Boyle

My dad sent me this this morning and I LOVED it!! It made me laugh and then made me cry...a good reminder that we should by less cynical and more open!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Even pastors need grace

I suppose this post should actually be titled "Especially pastors need grace". I had a very humbling moment last week, not crazy over the top Debbie-how-on-earth-could-you-do-such-a-stupid-thing, but still a humbling moment.

To be fair, I was exhausted and was getting sick with flu-like symptoms as I tried to make my final exit from the Sunday scene (but that's an explanation, not an excuse). I was headed down the hallway to my office (my last stop on Sunday mornings) and was stopped by a member for a quick question.

She pulled me aside to share some of discomfort and unease about the new ministry she was helping with. I validated her concerns and the reasons for her anxiety and told her that it might not be the right ministry for her, that she might be called to do something else and that that was ok. And then I added, but if you discern that this is your call, "then you need to put your big-girl panties on and get to work".

Now, in retrospect, that was not the most pastoral thing to ever come out of my mouth. We sort of tied up the conversation and I said I would pray for discernment for her as she decided her place in that ministry (or not). But as the week wore on, that conversation irked me. I couldn't believe I had said such a casual or crass thing to a very real concern. I felt like an idiot.

So late in the week I sent the following email (details eliminated to maintain anonymity)

Dear _______________,

I wanted to check in with you after Sunday's conversation about the (X MINISTRY). As I've thought about it, I've felt like I wasn't very helpful for you and that I didn't hear your concern well. (XXXXX ISSUES) clearly hits a tender spot in your heart, and I think it is important that you take those emotions seriously. What you feel is tremendously important in where you decide to do ministry.

What I wanted to convey (and did not do a good job with) is that sometimes those emotions are the sign that we should not be in ministry in that way at that time, and sometimes it is simply a challenge out of which we will experience greater spiritual growth. So, a part of your discernment in this time is figuring out which it is for you.

I'm not sure if that's super clear, so I'll use an example from my own life to try and clarify. At one of the churches where I worked, I was sent to lead Bible study with some staunch conservative folks. It was not a comfortable place for me and often I felt like it was theologically abusive (though they had no idea I was on such a different page from them....). To say it was hard is an understatement, it was tremendously difficult and made me reconsider ministry as a vocation. But, I definitely felt called to be there, so for me, those emotions of "get the heck out of here!!" were not a reflection of my call, they were a reflection of the challenge I needed to face in order to grow in grace and in understanding of other theological perspectives. The outcome of that time was positive, I learned a lot from them, both personally and theologically.

It was important for me to have people I could confide in at that time so that i wasn't journeying or struggling alone, and if you choose to stick with (X MINISTRY), I'd recommend you have a couple of people to journey with you, who understand your struggle and are willing to support and uplift you when you are struggling. If you choose this isn't where you feel called right now (or ever), THAT'S OK! Choosing away from this ministry is not a failure, it's faithfulness to your true call...and that's a good thing.

I hope that helps. My prayers are with you for further discernment and if I can help, please let me know.

This parishioner got my email over the weekend and responded with a thank you for my email and the truth that telling her to "put on her big-girl panties" was not terribly helpful....bothersome even.

I was thankful for her honesty and super frustrated with myself for saying such a thing to a church member. I don't like making mistakes, especially those that are potentially hurtful. As I reflected, I realized I haven't had to face this reality too many times in ministry, and then it struck me....that doesn't mean I haven't hurt/offended people, only that I didn't pick up on the inappropriate nature of my words, or that they weren't willing to tell me I had hurt/offended them.

I fear this will happen many more times in ministry, that this is only just the beginning. I have learned not only that I will say/do stupid things at times, and that I need to proactively apologize, but I have also learned that when I hit my limits of fatigue my conversation censor is not very active and I should better identify when I've hit my limits and bow out for some rest before something REALLY idiotic crosses my lips.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Little surprises

My back yard was a bit of a jungle. The church folks have worked and worked to clean it out and get rid of weeds and ivy and critters. It's been years since it was actually maintained and is still not great, but we are getting there. But there were many blessings this spring...remnants from the pastor's wife from more than 15 years ago. She was rumored to be quite the gardener and so I had many pleasant surprises all over the yard that blessed me signs of new life and new hope.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

paper plague

I don't know if any of you have the same problem I do, but piles of paper seem to accumulate both in my office and at home (normally on the dining room table). I have no idea how there can be such an obscene amount of paper. Every couple of months I will drag it all out and sift through it all and file the bills and throw away at least 2 boxes of paper and then the madness starts all over again. Here is the last sorting effort....piles and piles and piles. It's crazy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Maundy Thursday

I am working on our Maundy Thursday service and read this post and thought it was very touching. If you need inspiration, this might be the place to find it.

Ready for the resurrection

I am not good at being silent. You might not believe that if you try and follow this blog with any kind of regularity and have been left post-less for almost a month now, but my lack of posting is frustrating to me. Life these days has been hectic and full. It has been full of joy and full of chaos. There are many stories that cannot be shared until there is more distance between us and others that simply won't appear for lack of time or energy or both.

I love the work I do and can clearly see God at work in our midst and yet I am tired. I am constantly on the go with no time to simply be.

I need a quiet space. I need stillness. I need rest for my soul, not just for my body (though with some sort of illness trying to wage war on my holy week that is necessary too).

In these busy days with one commitment after another, I find myself longing. I long for the past. I long for another pastor with whom to share the pulpit, to share ideas and responsibilities, to share creativity and inspiration. I long for a home that is not the parsonage where I do not feel like I am constantly under the watchful eye of someone or another. I long for seminary days when I am surrounded by friends and can call one up for a spontaneous walk or casual dinner. I feel trapped by this hurried schedule I keep and am not sure where the emergency exit is.

Yesterday I read Beth's post and wished I felt so excited and invigorated by the onset of Holy Week. Instead I feel tired and weary and sick. Maybe this is the time I get to die to myself (again?!) before the resurrection. Maybe I need to set in this fatigue and weariness to fully appreciate the life-giving power of Easter?!

Easter promises new life and new beginnings and I am desperate for them. I am ready for the good news. I am ready to receive an infusion of new life.