Saturday, June 30, 2007

Many days, O God, the pains of our world are too much to bear. And so as we remember your sons and daughters around the world, we turn to you.

We pray for those on the front lines. For those in North Korea, Darfur, the Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Palestine, and Israel. for those who fear the explosion of another bomb, For those who cannot sleep because of the piercing sounds of gunshots. for those who have declared their own cities and towns a war zone through gang fights and drive by shootings.

We pray for those who have suffered destruction. For those whose homes have been flooded. For those whose homes were swept away by the wind. For those who have no home to speak of and make do with cardboard box or with only a blanket.

We pray for those who are afflicted by illness. For those with HIV/AIDS. For those with cancer. For those with diseases. For those with mental illness. For those who have unidentified illnesses.
We pray for those who suffer abuse. For children who fear for their lives and safety in their own homes. For spouses who fear the touch of their partner. For the elderly who are mistreated. For victims of sexual violence. For children who endure the taunts of bullies.

We pray for so many others who are in our hearts and on our minds.

Today we seek refuge in you. We seek safety in your embrace. We seek solace in your comfort. We seek healing from your anointing. We seek peace from the Prince of peace. We seek reconciliation through the redemption of the Christ. In you, O God, there is hope. We hope for an answer. We hope for healing and for help. In you we trust, and to you we turn. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Four things

Because I am a dutiful sister

Four Jobs I've Had: Manor True Value Hardware--cashier (6 years), Resident Assistant--UCLA, Youth Director, Pastor

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over: Miss Congeniality, Life is Beautiful, The Cutting Edge, Shawshank Redemption

Four Places I've Lived: Bishop, CA; San Jose, Costa Rica; Granada, Spain; Atlanta, GA.

Four Places I've Vacationed: Cuba, Seattle, Portugal, New York City

Four of My Favorite Dishes: Chocolate cake, Indian food (it's hard to narrow it to one), pulled pork sandwich, chicken pot pie

Four Sites I Visit Daily: AOL, Gmail,, ??

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now: On the beach, at the cabin, Atlanta, NYC

Four People I'm Tagging: any four who need to procrastinate or need something to blog about

7 things

I received this meme the other day and am finally getting around to it.
My 7 are 7 things you (probably) don't know about me:
1) I hate unloading the dishwasher and folding laundry. I don't mind the washing part of either task, but those five final minutes...they get to me everytime.
2) As a freshman in college I did not believe evolution to be fact. In fact, as I began anthropology "101" (actually the number was anthro 7--same difference), I was irritated that the professor held evolution to be a fact and not simply a theory. I even considered dropping the class but decided at the very least it would be good for me to be stretched by considering other beliefs. By the following year, I apparently came to accept evolution as fact and was arguing in class that the Bible and creation were not mutually exclusive. And then now, while I believe in evolution, when I imagine the "beginnings" the images I have in my head often move between the clean lines of creation and the murky growth of evolution.
3) My pre-seminary career goal was to become a massage therapist.
4) It was only at 24 that I learned to love climbing trees.
5) I love to cook for other people. In fact, I miss cooking for other people. At school I could always find someone to feed! It's been harder to do since moving. My neighbor friends are coming for dinner and a movie next week and gave me permission to cook anything I want since they don't think I can go wrong--sweet! That's a cook's dream!
6) I'm a sucker for a freshly baked chocolate cake (no frosting)
7) I turn into a giddy 15 year old girl when I'm attracted to someone.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Immigration (again)

Recently I have been disheartened, and, on occasion, disgusted, with how politicians have handled the issue of immigration. It appears that the lives, welfare, future, and dignity of immigrants have become a flippant matter of winning constituent votes, and playing political games on Capitol Hill. These actions on behalf of politicians concern me because immigration legislation is not a simple matter of X number of visas, and Y number of permits, and Z number of deportations. This legislation concerns real people, real lives, real jobs, and real sacrifices. In order to please the masses the legislation has oversimplified this very complex issue. As someone who works daily with both documented and undocumented immigrants, I have heard and come to understand the circumstances and experiences that necessitate immigration, either legally or illegally. I have learned more about poverty, the unjust consequences of NAFTA, abusive political structures, the lure of “The American Dream”, and much more. I have come to identify the wants and needs of immigrants with the aspirations, hopes, and dreams I recognize in myself and for my own family—those of health, education, livable conditions, and a future for the next generation. As legislation continues to be negotiated and amended, I urge you to recognize the complexities and various layers that play a role in immigration; I urge you to hear the stories of those directly affected by the decisions you make regarding this legislation; and I urge you to address this issue both for the long term and for more than political pandering.

My prayers this day

My concerns
1) a family in a serious Domestic violence situation
2) 3 families that are struggling at home, could use parenting help, which has been offered, and that are inconsistent in their church involvement
3) the time of transition as we receive a new senior pastor
4) A time of gathering and study in July for the Latino ministries pastors of our conference in July--for unity, for fellowship, for understanding, and for vision
5) for continued growth in the Latino congregation (spiritual and numerical)
6) for me to seek and find outlets to have more "fun" in my free time and in my work.

at the same time I give thanks for:
1) growth in the Hispanic ministry, causing the need for new hymnals, which was met immediately by the conference
2) health and healing for a couple of friends battling cancer
3) time with my family
4) an annual conference that did not feel as heated and divided as in years past
5) a food and family ministry that is reaching people
6) the opportunity to have worked with and learned from JLT

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Today I called to check in with a friend from seminary. We caught up on the news of our lives--conference things, ambitions, trials and the like. At one point in the conversation he asked, "What are you doing for fun?" Hmmm....I think my minute of silence was pretty indicative. Uh-oh. Fun, eh? Some more silence. Dang. Who realized I was so dull?? I told him that I do a lot of things on my own, and I am content flying solo. Really, I am. I walk, paint, read, cook, whatever I want really. But the "fun" things, those I normally associate with things done with company. Hmmm....not much of that in these parts. His challenge to me now is: Do something fun. It's times like these I miss my days abroad where fun was so easily achieved---nights out dancing, tea time, fiestas, weekend beach trips, trapsing around the country (whichever country I happened to be in at the time). The times where we had all been launched from our comfort zone, making us instant friends with no obligations other than a few hours of class each day. Ahhh....the free life!

Mule Country

Maybe it’s a product of growing up in the Mule Capitol of the World, but I definitely have some mule-like qualities. For those who don’t know their mule facts—one of the most basic is that they are unbelievably stubborn. If you know me well, you’re probably thinking—“I know where this is going.” And you would probably be right. Case in point, this last week at conference I had a fellow pastor approach me after a luncheon. He and I had met about 6 weeks ago at the District meeting and have seen each other in passing a few times since. After the luncheon he said, “I know how difficult it is to be a pastor, how hard it is for all of us. And for you, as one of the few (fewer than 17) young adult clergy, I want to be as supportive as possible. If there is anything I can do for you, please let me know. If it’s talking to someone who hardly knows you or if you need a Starbucks’ card, just give me a call and let me know.” I was overwhelmed at his offer. While I hardly know the man, he is one of those that resonates with me for whatever reason. He has the kind of spirit I feel I can trust without reservation. And then the mule in me rears her head! As desperately as I have wanted and needed such support over the last year, I know myself and know it would have to be REALLY bad before I would call. On one level, that’s not the way I want it to be—I would love to be able to have the support and encouragement he was offering. On the other level not asking for help (a.k.a. asking for/receiving grace) is probably one of my larger sins. I can be a real bruta in this regard. Only a few months ago I was in a spiritual and emotional desert—I was pretty close to bottom and at random a retired clergy friend of mine called. He and his wife had been at a retired clergy meeting (where they had found my name on the retired clergy list) and one of the things that was highlighted at the meeting was the high “drop-out” rate for young clergy (especially women). He and his wife were alarmed at the statistic and hated to think that something similar might happen with me. So they were calling to offer support—for me to tell them if there was anything they could do for me. I stood there, tears streaming down my cheeks, and could not muster one ounce of courage to tell him how badly I was hurting, how desperately I needed their support as listening ears for the trials and pain I was experiencing.

I realize I should make it a goal to ask for help more often and to not wait so long in doing so. (Ask me how excited I am to make such a change)! As I sit here typing, my little girl is looking at me quivering, ready for my nod of approval for her to approach and get her dose of “lovin”. She is so uninhibited in her petitions. If she wants some love and attention, she walks over and gets it. Sometimes she waits for the nod and sometimes she whimpers until I attend to her needs. Maybe the lesson I need to learn begins here with my pooch—maybe everything I need to learn will come from my dog! (She can re-train me from what the mules taught).

All Fired Up (the translation)

This last week we had the Cal-Pac Annual Conference. For 5 days we had meetings, decisions, fellowship and the like. Saturday, we had a reunion of LAMAG, and there we talked about the sale of our (Latina) churches. The DS was there to answer questions and attend to concerns. What became clear was that those who made the decision (I don’t know who they were) had not consulted with any caucus or Latino ministry group. And from there things went down hill. Well, they talked and decided to meet again that night so they could finish their discussion. But, at the same all (or at least some) of the “demons” (complaints, conflicts, etc) that exist between folks came out. I know there isn’t any group that will not have problems—it’s a fact of our reality, but at the same time, some of the problems that exist could be resolved without much effort (for example, having a meeting2 months before conference to discuss what will happen at conference—the resolutions, rules, etc; looking for a common vision, etc.). It seems to me there is no “group think” taking place—in other words, there isn’t a group of people that gets together to think and plan things that have to do with Latino ministries. And believe me when I say, THERE IS A NEED. We need to be more united in who we are, more united in our vision, and not be left each to him/herself—we need the strength of unity and right now we don’t have it.
It seems to me we are waiting for someone to tell us: “Do this. Take care of that.” But, brothers and sisters, we don’t have that person and we can’t keep waiting for him/her. If there isn’t such a person, which there isn’t, then we have to do it ourselves. We can’t wait until the conference understands or until they have someone in front—it is us who need to lead, us who need to plan for the future. We have to do the work. And yes, many of us need more tools, but we also can’t keep waiting for someone to give them to us. We have to look for them, and then look for the teaching on how to use them, and then do the work. We are the ones who are called. We are the ones who have been blessed by God to do the work of Latino ministries, and others are looking to us for the example of how to do ministry with Latinos here in California (and Hawaii).

At the end of the day, we are not all going to have a church of 4000, but there is no reason why some of us can’t have one (that’s to say, that we can’t create one) and for the others, there is no reason why we can’t have a church of 300-500 people. We have the people and we have the gospel—and if we truly believe in the power of the Word, in the power of Christ, in the transformative power of an encounter with God—there is no reason why we can’t “achieve” more people for the Christian community. But first we have to believe in the power of the gospel, we have to believe it offers something to people (something different that you can’t find in any other place), believe that YES we can do the work as Methodists (without being Catholic or Pentecostal) and then set to work at sharing the gospel.


Monday, June 25, 2007

The Fuss about Young People

For awhile now the UMC has been worrying about the lack of young presence in the church. More recently still, the concern over the lack of clergy has also arisen. There is much talk about the need to find and support young folks who have a call to ministry. The emphasis often being "they are the future of the church." Then at our District meeting, an older, second-career clergy woman stood up and voiced her frustration at the constant concern for young people in the ministry. In a sense she was claiming "reverse ageism" (which seems to resemble notions of "reverse racism"). She felt excluded and ignored because of the focus on young ministers, of whom she is not feel a part.

In thinking through these issues for myself, while I am concerned at the lack of young clergy in our conference (and others), I don't believe it is for exactly the same reasons. (Though you may find my musings to be a mere matter of semantics). The two major concerns that I have heard are: 1) without young pastors, there is no future leadership for the church. 2) without young pastors to put into retirement plans, health care and the like, our church will go bankrupt trying to pay for the pensions and healthcare of all the "old and retired" clergy. I do not believe that either of these things should be the focus or main concern of our church regarding young people.

Regarding #1--if God wants future leadership for the church, God will continue to provide future leadership for the church--from whomever is around. If we were on a secluded island of only "old people" and God wanted there to be leadership, I believe God would provide said leadership--even out of the "old people". For me, age is not the determining factor in whom God chooses to fulfill the call to ministry. The future leadership of the church lies with all those whom God has called and equipped, regardless of age--retired ministers, second career pastors, and yes, youth and young adults as well.

Regarding #2--this reasoning is purely based in fear and scarcity, which makes it devoid of hope. And the concern for money, while understandable, is not where the focus of the church should be in the first place. As soon as we become consumed with the "lack of _________" and convinced of shortages, we have exchanged hope and faith, for fear and unbelief--neither of which are trademarks of the gospel we proclaim.

What I believe: the need for young people should not be based on either of the above reasons. The need to pursue and find young people with a call is because God does call us, at a variety of ages and the lack of their presence means either 1) we have failed to raise/train/teach our children, youth, and young adults in Christian discipleship--thus failing to produce "the pool of candidates" from which we might garner additional young leadership or 2) we are not hearing the calls placed on people's lives that they might respond to God in a faithful way and be encouraged by their brothers and sisters in the faith to pursue God's call. Either way, the crux of my concern is not for the future "lack of" but for the present where we are missing out on an opportunity to foster young leadership--leadership that has ALREADY heard God's call on their lives. To be really simplistic about this, if we boil things down to a matter of probability and statistics (yes, I know, not exactly the most profound or spiritual way of doing things)--I believe that God is probably calling, or has called, an equal number of folks from EACH generation. Yes, I did say it was simplistic, but if we go on that assumption alone, then we should find numbers proportionate to the demographics of our cities/states/etc. I would argue something similar to gender or race issues--I do not believe that more men are called than women, or more blacks than Latinos--rather that God shares the bounty of God's gifts and call across borders of age, race, gender, nationality, language, and yes, sexuality. Thus, when we see disproportionate numbers, we should attend to those areas not out of fear and scarcity but out of gratefulness and bounty (recognizing that God has probably ALREADY been at work in the lives of those folks and it our responsibility to gather around them and help them hear the call, clarify the call, and follow the call) for God is calling a whole host of people into the ministry to share the Good News in tangible and effective ways through ministries of compassion, justice, engagement, honesty, and faithfulness.

All Fired Up

La semana pasada tuvimos la conferencia anual de Cal-Pac. Estuvimos por unos 5 dias de reuniones, decisiones, companerismo, y lo demas. El sabado tuvimos una reunion de LAMAG, y alli discutimos la venta de una iglesia nuestra (es decir, Latina). Estuvo el superintendente para contestar la preguntas y atender a las preocupaciones. Lo que surgio fue que los que habian decidido (ni se quienes son) no habian consultado con ningun caucus ni grupo de los ministerios latinos. Y de alli, practicamente, se hundio la cosa. Bueno, platicaron y se pusieron de acuerdo para tener otra reunion por la noche donde podian discutir todo lo que habia por platicar. Pero, al mismo tiempo, todos (o por lo menos algunos) de los *demonios* (las quejas, los conflictos, etc) que hay entre la gente salieron. Yo se que no se va a encontrar a ningun grupo que no tenga problemas--esto es parte de la humanidad, pero al mismo tiempo, algunos de los problemas que habian se puede resolver sin mucho trabajo (por ejemplo, tener una reunion 2 meses antes de la conferencia anual para platicar las cosas que van a ver--las resoluciones, reglas etc., buscar la vision colectiva que tenemos...etc). Me parece que no hay un "group think" entre el grupo--es decir, no hay una massa de personas que se reune para pensar en y planear las cosas que tienen que ver con los ministerios latinos. Y creeme cuando digo: HACE FALTA. Necesitamos estar mas unidos en lo que somos, mas unidos en nuestra vision, y no ser dejados cada uno por si mismo hacer lo que sea--necesitamos la fuerza de la unidad y ahora no lo tenemos.

Me parece que estamos esperando a alguien que nos diga: "Haced esto. Cumplid con el otro." Pero hermanos y hermanas, no tenemos a esta persona y no podemos esperar mas tiempo. Si no hay, y no lo hay, tenemos que serlo nosotros. No podemos esperar a la conferencia hasta que entiendan los demas o que tengan a alguien en frente, somos nosotros los que necesitan guiar, ser los lideres, planear para el futuro. Tenemos que hacer el trabajo. Y claro, muchos necesitamos mas herramientas, pero tampoco podemos esperar hasta que alguien nos las de. Tenemos que buscarlos, buscar la ensenanza de como usarlas, y despues hacer el trabajo. Somos nosotros los llamados. Somos nosotros los que han sido bendecido por Dios para la obra de ministerios Latinos, y nos estan mirando a nosotros por el ejemplo de como hacer ministerio con los latinos aqui en California (y Hawaii).

A fin de cuentas, no todos vamos a tener una iglesia de 4000, pero no hay razon que unos cuantos no la tienen (es decir, que no la hagan...) y para los demas, no hay razon por no tener una iglesia de 300-500 personas. Tenemos la gente, y tenemos al evangelio--y si de verdad confiamos en el poder de la palabra, el poder de Cristo, el poder de la transformacion de un encuentro con Dios--no hay razon por lo cual no podemos lograr mas gente para la comunidad cristiana. Pero tenemos primero que creer en el poder del evangelio, creer que ofrece algo a la gente (y algo diferente que no se puede lograr en otra parte), creer que SI podemos nosotros hacer la obra como metodistas (sin ser catolicos ni pentecostales) y importarnos por el trabajo de compartirlo.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Special Needs

Today as I was walking to worship after breakfast I passed a woman who had a note attached to her nametag. It read, “Special Needs”. Now, I understand why she has it, she had a knee brace and probably needs help with issues of accessibility around the campus, and the disability group wants others to be aware of the need to heed her requests for a seat, a ramp, an arm, whatever, and to offer help. And yet I couldn’t help but cringe at how she was “marked” as different--“special” but not necessarily in a good way. And I was reminded of how we so often want to mark others as different or special: “He’s the new guy.” “She’s never been here before; she doesn’t know better.” However it is that we choose to mark people—sure, in some ways, those markers help us attend to their needs, to pay attention to how our own actions affect theirs, and yet at the same time, we are distinguishing, separating, and in some ways, alienating those same people.

Unfortunately, today I don’t have a “good alternative” to suggest. The only thing of importance from this is my added awareness about these issues, and hopefully a dose of awareness for you as well.

Safe Sanctuary

Last night during the Bishop’s sermon, she underscored how we as a conference “conference” in the sanctuary at Redlands. The Annual Conference coordinators have tried for other venues—stadiums, conference centers, etc, but we want to be “here” in this sanctuary. We are church people and we want to be reminded of that during our holy conferencing. And, for me, part of being in a sanctuary is its safety. Sanctuary is a time to be yourself, to be open, honest, vulnerable, and willing to be changed by and for the sake of the gospel.
Earlier in the day as we went through the various votes in clergy session, followed by a prayer for each group on whom we had just voted, I thought how bland those prayers felt, just another motion to go through as we made our way through the agenda. I was saddened by the lack of importance the prayers seemed to hold. People continued in their conversations, looked around the room (obviously I, too, was guilty of this for I witnessed the others), filled our forms, or flipped through papers. The business and “worship” were so mixed that they were virtually indistinguishable (and not in a good way). In that I was reminded of the importance of our offerings (prayer, song, silence, clap) to God and how they should not be so trivial in our work as the church, in our hours and hours of conferencing. And what stayed with me was not how we need to reshape how we worship so that it stands out in conferencing, but rather, how we need to reshape conferencing so that it is an integral and faithful part of our worship to God as a Christian Community.
Then, at the close of clergy session, a suggestion was made, a judicial council decision which overrules the suggestion was cited, and then the safe space of our conferencing sanctuary was violated. Blame was laid where it did not belong and the sanctuary was no more. I was deeply saddened by this violation of sacred trust. And I think that it was facilitated by how we fail to remember how conferencing is part of worship rather than how worship is just another part of conferencing. We have come to distinguishing casting votes, attending to business, (re)creating rules/laws and what we do prayerfully, graciously, mercifully, and compassionately as the people of God gathered together for the betterment of the “Kin-dom” of God.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Sure Sign I'm Working TOO Much:

Regularly I think "I'm not getting enough done." And, as is typical in my profession, even when I get all 25 items on my to-do list finished, there is more to be done. As someone who likes to produce, accomplish, and finish--the endless cycle of things to do does not always bode well for me. But the surest sign that I am working too much is when on my sabbath day I spend the wee hours of the morning trying desperately NOT to think of work things. "Don't think about work. Don't think about work. Don't think about work." was becoming my mantra this morning. Now, one might be tempted to say/do (as I often am), "Well, if I just get X, Y, Z done THEN I can enjoy the rest of my sabbath." For the record, I would whole-heartedly claim that assertion to be FALSE! My experience is that as soon as you give into the work bug on your day off, that train pulls out of the station and is off and running like a locamotive, no chance of getting it to stop. Period.

Now, I say that the mania of constantly being plagued by work ideas is an indicator that I am working too much, because when I follow my general work rules (only working 8 hours a day--6 days a week, making sure I take time for myself during the day, etc) then generally my sabbath is a carefree day where I can just relax and enjoy myself, reading, loafing, watching movies, walking, hiking, painting, whatever really. But when I "work, work, work" then slowing my working brain down becomes tediously difficult. Really, really, frustrating!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Stranger than fiction

As I wrote my "Dentist Take 2" musings, I went to find another teeth picture I could use. In the process, I ran across this website proclaiming "gold miracles". Ever the skeptic, I can't help but roll my eyes. But I'll let you judge for yourself. Here's a taste to spark your appetite:

Gold teeth were reported there from an early date. It's also reported that in El Salvador there was a "half-hour clap-offering to the Lord" after which "a kind of gold cloud came down upon the stadium". The woman who sparked off the current gold-dust manifestation comes from Brazil. She dusts "holy dust" like dandruff out of her hair and her pastor collects it and uses it to anoint the sick.

**please note, I did not read the webpage in its entirety, only enough to hear of the gold miracles and see a few examples...

The Dentist Take 2

About a week ago, I wrote about my visit to the dentist (after two years) and how there were great similarities to the spiritual walk in my mind. Well, yesterday I got to go in again. I didn't have a dental emergency, rather the hygentist from last time said she'd like to see me back in a couple of weeks after the swelling in my gums went down so she could finish the cleaning. greaaaat. another day of scraping and bleeding. My favorite. They were booked, so instead of booking the appointment, the office put me on a list to call in case of cancellations. Well, yesterday was the lucky day. I went in and she (a different woman) went right to work. Scraping and cleaning, and then polishing. The whole time I was thinking--dang, this is messed up. I take good care of my teeth, do what I'm supposed to do (I've even started flossing DAILY, a first in my life, since my last visit), and there is still stuff for her to scrape away just a month after my last visit. Man. My last post still fresh in my mind, I also kept thinking about how I might blog about the continued similarities.

So, here it is: like I said before, the scraping is a necessary part of our spiritual health. Even when we are the most faithful of brushers, plaque builds up--similarly, even the most faithful disciples/believers end up with "build up". It just is what it is. Follow the daily regimine just as prescribed and you will still have plaque. There will still be that junk that builds up, and it must be attended to, a professional has to be allowed to look, examine, clean, and scrape.

Spiritually speaking, from a Christian perspective, the ultimate cleaning happens through baptism and then communion. These practices do the scrubbing and the polishing for us--but we too must work to maintain the clean, and if we have gone a long while between "cleanings" then the cleaning/scraping process might just cause a bit of swelling, meaning we won't be able to get it all that first time around. And even as the "plaque" is scraped away, we might bleed a bit--it is not guaranteed to be painless--though it is guaranteed to lead you to better health--but even that is dependent upon your daily care, your eating habits, and sometimes even your overall physical wellness. In other words, none of this happens in a vacuum. The professional cleanings alone can't cut it, nor can your daily habits of hygiene and good health. They must work in concert, and you must attend to both with faithfulness, regularity, and care.

Sometimes you just shake your head

Today while I was in the office, our volunteer, who had just called the Prayer tree folks, said that the prayer ministry was struggling, that people were taking their names off the list—they are too busy, don’t have enough time….who knows what the other reasons are. A little stunned, I sort of laughed—I asked, “and people wonder why our church isn’t growing?” I mean really, we are so concerned (seemingly anyway) about the vitality and welfare of our church, and yet we don’t have time to pray? We’ve gone from 20 or so on the prayer tree to maybe 10. Does this concern anyone else? I encouraged the volunteer to go ahead and reorganize the lists so that we don’t have just one person on a branch of the tree. I also turned to our secretary and said, “How about you put something in the bulletin, say we are reorganizing the prayer trees and we would like to add folks to the prayer ministry of our church, if people are interested, please submit name and phone number.” “I’ll get it in this week,” she quickly replied.

Meanwhile, across the pews in the “other” congregation, we continue to meet weekly for prayer. The same 4 folks and me, faithfully. We pray. We pray for each other, for those on the prayer chain, for our church, our ministries, our loved ones, our nation, and our world. We pray. We believe God changes things and responds to our petitions. And almost to underscore the discrepancy, I had shared with them at Bible study this morning (pre-talk with the volunteer) that I have been so grateful all week—Sunday we had 27 in worship, compared to the 6 that were there when I started a year ago! God is doing great things. And I am convinced it is in spite of me and my own efforts. We are growing, we are learning, we have hope, we have energy, we have new ministries. And I, along with the Bible study group, attribute that growth to prayer and to God’s answers.

So, my two thoughts for today:
1) Get on your knees and pray. It works!
2) (for those who pastor a church or lead a ministry, or run a non-profit, or just want significant change to happen at home or at work) get your people to pray. We should ALL always be able to find time to pray. For the success of our efforts, for them to truly not about us but beyond us, we must be founded in prayer, in God’s goodness and faithfulness.

End of sermon.

UMC on immigration

Commentary: Illegal immigrants are being dehumanized (UMNS) By the Rev. Humberto Casanova
The living situation for illegal immigrants in the United States is deteriorating every day in many respects. Many do not have adequate legal support in our judicial system. Without financial resources and with little understanding of English, they swarm the courts and assent to whatever judgment is imposed on them. The government is not assigning lawyers, and two-thirds of the 350,000 illegal immigration cases in 2006 were conducted "pro se." A typical case goes like this: An undocumented worker is called before the judge by a case number. An interpreter is instructed to ask the defendant if he or she has a lawyer. The immigrant answers "no" and, therefore, represents himself throughout the proceedings. The judge explains that the government doesn't see any legal basis for him to remain in the United States, and the immigrant is given three months to leave the country voluntarily. Moreover, immigrants are detained without bond and deported without appeal for minor infractions with a rage and intensity that baffles the mind. The system is not only attacking undocumented immigrants, but thousands of legal permanent residents are also deported for crimes considered misdemeanors under state law that don't impose jail time. One legal resident was returned to Cambodia for urinating in public. It is urgent for churches to provide legal assistance to immigrants to increase the possibility of a fair hearing and to plan a good defense. Experience shows that a third of cases with legal representation are successful. Especially painful are those cases in which children are separated from one or both parents because of an ineffective defense. For more on this story, log on to

United Methodist couple struggles as undocumented workers (UMNS) By Amanda Bachus
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - In many ways, Darwin and Perla Alvarez are a typical hard-working couple struggling to achieve the American dream. Darwin works on a construction crew hanging vinyl siding, while Perla cares for their 6- and-3-year-old daughters. Active in their local United Methodist Church, Darwin is a lay leader and occasionally steps into the pulpit to deliver the sermon. But unlike their U.S.-born neighbors, they live in constant fear they will be ripped from their home, sent back to lives of poverty, leaving their children orphans. Darwin and Perla and millions of other undocumented workers are hoping and praying the U.S. Congress will pass a compassionate comprehensive immigration law that takes family values into consideration. For more on this story, log on to

U.S. Senate tackles immigration reform compromise (UMNS)By Kathy L. Gilbert
A comprehensive immigration reform bill in the U.S. Congress has sparked 108 amendments with a variety of outcomes that could dramatically affect the fate of at least 12 million undocumented workers in the United States. The Senate resumed debate on the bill June 4 and was expected to vote on the matter by June 8. The debate will focus on a bipartisan compromise agreement labeled a "grand bargain" during a May 17 announcement by Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. The proposal (S. 1348) would legalize millions of unlawful immigrants, tighten border security and mandate that employers verify they are hiring legal workers. Conservative opponents say the compromise would reward between 12-20 million illegal aliens with amnesty and encourage legal immigration. Supporters say the bill, while not perfect, is a good starting point toward fixing an immigration policy that has long been broken. The United Methodist Board of Church and Society is among faith-based groups supporting the agreement as a starting framework - with some reservations about parts of the bill that apply to families. The denomination's social advocacy agency is urging United Methodists to support three family-based amendments in particular: the Mendendez-Hagel amendment delaying the family backlog cutoff date; the Clinton-Hagel amendment to designate minor children and spouses as immediate relatives of lawful permanent residents; and the Dodd-Hatch amendment, regarding foreign-born parents of U.S. citizens. For more on this story, log on to

ES on immigration bill

Having not followed the amendments to the current immigration bill as closely as I would have liked, I asked a friend of mine from seminary for his thoughts. I think he offers a pretty concrete and reflective perspective, so I thought I would share (the translated version):

The immigration law does not look good. You have to understand that even after all of the amendments about who can apply and request residency or citizenship—the resultant is staying on a waiting list almost indefinitely (remember that this lay looks at the individual, there are not family petitions, it eliminates immigration based on family ties, it’s through a point system that people are able to “win” immigration possibilities. This part of the law will be applied after securing the border (that which, obviously, will never happen). First, secure borders, then immigration. Additionally, you should know that the temporary worker program was cut from 400,000 (I believe annually) to 200,000, on the one hand this is far from the quota of requests that businesses (American) make, on on the other hand, it is a system of temporary workers who will be limited in their labor possibilities because they can only work for one employer. In actuality, this means that an employer can confiscate passports and documents and confine the workers to one inhumane place for living and working. As of now, there are not government workers who supervise the employers of temporary workers, which means that the employers can abuse the workers. They can’t leave their place of work, which in many cases is the same place where they live, they aren’t allowed to manage their own money, they can’t leave to go shopping, they eat what they are given, in a way it’s a new form of slavery. This situation will not improve under the new law. It’s rather complicated. I agree with those who say that this new law will create a permanent sub-class of workers who are poorly paid and abused.
On the other hand, it won’t stop immigration. Immigration is a problem of poverty. In fewer than ten years we will have a problem that is even worse.

The democrats don’t know what to do. In the beginning, they were firm on having a process that would be quick and clear toward citizenship; since they started with the restrictive amendments, which has almost completely eliminated the possibility for short term road to citizenship, their position has changed. The latino votes they hope to have from the millions who are legalized have gone up in smoke because the government will not be legalizing others—neither all of them, nor quickly. In that case, they will not get Latino votes in the short run for the democratic party. Now, they are trying to get the votes just for the next election. The sad thing is that they already lost Iraq and getting the troops out and it looks like they will lose with immigration as well. Kennedy has tried to maintain the minimum of the originally proposed bill. Though I could be mistaken. Latinos deserve something better. It seems to me that the majority of national Hispanic organizations are now against the law as it currently stands. I believe they are out of money to continue paying for professional lobbyists. The law does not represent family reunification, a road to citizenship or residency, and sets forth a complicated and limited program for guest workers.
This is what I can tell you for now. It’s not very encouraging. Hispanic people do not look well on a temporary worker’s permit for those who are here. As far as they can tell it’s a means of control so that the government can know who’s who and where they are so that later it’s easier to deport them—that’s because this permit is not connected to an authorization for permanent work. It’s safer to continue with things the way they are now.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Supporting the Cause

...Lymphoma and Leukemia cancer research that is. Three of my friends (one from college and 2 from seminary) are training for marathons/triathlons to support cancer research. Each is charged not only with the daunting (as I see it) task of getting fit to run 26 miles or to run/bike/swim (for far longer than I would ever dream!), but also each has to do fundraising for the cause. I encourage you, at the very least to take a look at their blogs to see what wonderful things they are finding in their journies, the amazing stories survivors and co-runners are sharing, and the inspiration of their commitment both to brutal exercise routines and to fighting cancer. And, if you have a little loose change in your wallet (even $10) think about giving to support a worthy cause--and a worthy woman!

Just because I liked it....

Quote of the Day

"A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't nececssarily want to go, but ought to be." --Rosalyn Carter

Friday, June 8, 2007

Breast Cancer Clicks

The Breast Cancer Site is trying to make June their breast cancer month. They have a donor who will give $20,000 if they get 6,000,000 clicks. With 21 days left they are only at 21%--take a minute and click, and then take another minute to encourage others to click, and make a difference!

Thursday, June 7, 2007


While we were in Mississippi doing Katrina rebuild work, I was on the drywall team. I think I mentioned that before. Anyway, while attending to the mudding aspect, our team lead, S, (a.k.a. “boss”) discovered that whoever had done the corners, prior to our arrival, had done a less than acceptable job. So the boss decided my dad and I would take care of the corners. That meant scraping off the “oops” areas and then redoing the corners with the cornering tool.
Have I mentioned that neither of us had mudded before? Neither of us had done corners before? Well, S showed us once how to do it and that was it. He was off and running to the other house. So we went ahead with what worked for us. Cornering was slow going when I worked solo, so we decided we’d team up at it. One of us would put up the mud and the other would use the cornering tool to scrape away and make it clean and neat. Dad decided he liked to mud better, which left me using the cornering tool. After a couple hours at it, we were doing fairly well and feeling pretty confident. We spent two and half days at this task—scraping and mudding and using the corner tool. I think I also mentioned before that we thought we were done before we had actually finished….so we had packed up everything and taken it over to the other house. Hence, the following day when the boss said we would be cornering again at house #1, we were without a tool. So, I made a call, told him we needed a corner tool along with some other tools and could he send them over? He did and we set to work finishing the mudding on the drywall we had hung.
Well, the first thing I noticed was they had brought a DIFFERENT tool than I had been using for the last couple days. I was frustrated. I had to hold my hand differently. I had to apply different pressure. It was awkward and I immediately went from an (amateur) expert to just another awkward amateur. Simply replacing one simple tool complicated the whole process and forced me to relearn everything I had been practicing.
Again, I’m now a trained theologian and simply couldn’t help myself. I started thinking about the parallels. I figure that when we give our congregations new songs, new prayers, new worship styles that it is similar to this experience of “retooling”. To those trained at using a variety of tools, the difference is hardly noticeable. But to those less familiar with a variety of the same tool—those who have been using the same tool for all of their work, the change is drastic. It takes them from expert to amateur in nothing flat. Our “veteran” congregants who felt comfortable and confident in their faith walk and spiritual disciplines now feel awkward, inadequate, and ill-equipped. No wonder people get flustered and frustrated with the changes we (the clergy) make to worship. We force them to feel “less than”, or stupid, or ill-trained, or whatever.
Now, let it be known that after a couple go’s with the new cornering tool, I was able to finish the corners just fine, and even went to the next house and felt even more confident and then could use either tool in my work. This, too, should be a lesson for the worshipping communities—we have to be willing to give it a go with the new tools we receive, to try and make them work, and then we can use EITHER one—in essence we become more adept, more capable, more trained, more able. So even though we passed through a time of “trial” in learning to use the “new thing”—we come out of it able to do even more, with greater confidence, and greater flexibility.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Quote of the Day

Most Christian men pray like wimps and brag like warriors. The truth is that real spiritual warriors are men who pray. --T.D. Jakes

The Dentist

A few weeks ago I went to the dentist for the first time in about 2 years. My dental coverage through the church finally came through and I was able to get in. The dentist was delighted with my teeth. Straight despite never having braces. No wisdom teeth to fret with. No cavities. “The easiest patient of the day.” Sweet. The dental hygienist, however, was not so delighted. She did not like having to deal with two years of plaque…not like I blame her. She was a fun and energetic woman, a professed Christian and we had a good time talking with one another. She is a PK (a.k.a. pastor’s kid) and was thrilled that I was so young and a pastor—she thought it would be great if I could come and talk to her women’s group. And despite her enthusiasm toward me, or maybe because of it, she was also firm about the whole flossing every day bit. LOL. I do my brushing regime, don’t get me wrong, my dental hygiene is good, just not big on the flossing thing, I’ve never gotten in the habit. But she dug around and scraped and was insistent that I floss and that I change the way I brush. She wanted me to start with the inside lower gum area and then move to the visible parts. I have heard the flossing bit, oh, every time I have visited the dentist, but never the brush inside bit. And because I liked her, I didn’t want to return not having done what she asked. I was ready to follow her instructions. Flossing every day (or two…) and starting on the inside lower gum. Check!
And being the theologian I am, I couldn’t help myself. I immediately started thinking of the parallels to the spiritual life. It dawned on me, I have always brushed the outside/visible part of my teeth first and more furiously—that’s the part people see. That’s the part they notice first. I don’t worry about the very back part of my last molar, and I have never even thought to worry about the inside lower gum. Not until the hygienist mentioned it that is. And more than that, I never would have known that I had ‘black tartar’ in the way back of my molars if I had not made myself vulnerable to the ‘experts’. Now for the parallel—I think our spiritual life often functions the same way. We take care of the visible parts—the parts people see (Sunday morning worship, mass, temple) maybe even the parts we feel something stuck in (daily prayer, mission) but then there are the “way back there” parts—the parts that collect tartar. The parts that need an expert to examine them to know what is really going on. And not just someone who can examine, but someone who can help scrape off the plaque, the build up, and who will be honest with you and day, “you need to do a better job at this, this is what you ought to do.”
There was one other catch I thought was apt in all of this. I was talking with D the other day and it has been 6 or 7 years since D’s last visit to the dentist. After hearing about my visit, D was less than excited to book one—it’s not going to be good. That too sounds like our spiritual lives—if we don’t do the maintenance we know we should, we know that plaque builds up, that cavities (read: spiritual wounds) develop, our “gums” get raw—all of those things, and the longer we wait, the more painful we know the exam and cleaning will be. And yet, all the more necessary they become. If we allow our spiritual “mouth” to go unchecked for years, we know problems will develop—even for the most faithful flosser and brusher. Check-ups are part of the deal. We need experts to take a look in the dark crevices and let us know what plaque has built up there, to scrape it off, and to give us a fresh start—with some added instruction for how to take better care of ourselves. We need all of those things. But they won’t just happen for us. We must make the appointment, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and we must follow the directions of the experts when we receive it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Generosity of Folks

Today was a day of receiving. Last week I had met a man in need of assistance as I sat working on my sermon at a coffee shop. I had taken him to get a food card and food from the pantry at my church and then went back and met his fiance who was in a neck brace from their car accident, which had left them without their wallets, without resources, without anything. I had also paid for an extra night in their hotel so they could stay without worry. There were plans for them to try and get home, but he had said he would try and make it to church if for some chance they were still here. So he called Saturday and asked if he could get a ride to church. I worked it out and he came with a big smile and hugged me and talked with me in the "reception line". Then today I got another call from him, he said they wanted to give a gift to the church, could I come by? I said of course and went to meet with them. They handed me an envelope when I got there and we talked and then I drove them to the bank. After dropping them at the bank I opened the envelope and found a VERY generous check to the church--expressing their thanks for our support in their time of need. Quite frankly, I was stunned. 5 days ago this couple couldn't afford breakfast and now that they had had a chance to get their things in order, they were overwhelmingly generous. I was floored! I put 1/2 of the money in the general fund and put the other 1/2 toward the pantry and our families in need ministries. I figured they had received due to the support of others toward those ministries, so it was only appropriate that they too offer support through their gift.

Also, our church has been doing a blanket ministry for about 7 months now. Some of our women who quilt gather monthly to make 36"x36" baby blankets. Simple doubled sided flannel or flannel and cotton. They go to the hospital, the police department, or the fire department. We have made close to 200 by now. The women are taking a break for the summer, partly due to travel plans, and partly because it is scorching hot here in the summer, and partly because it is time for a sabbath. But before they break, they had a silent auction with a quilt one of our women had pieced and another had quilted. We put the blanket out last week after worship and people started bidding, and then M (who organizes the quilting) talked with a friend and the friend also wanted to donate a quilt, so she did. So this week we had two quilts up for the silent auction--together they went for over $500! All of that money goes directly toward supplies for our baby blanket ministry!!

Then tonight my neighbors had me go over. They had gone to a university near by for one of their surplus sales--sort of a like a giant garage sale from what I gather. They had shown me the list of possible items yesterday and asked if I wanted them to pick anything up for me, I said the only thing would be a laser printer. So I went tonight and they had one for me. I tried to pay them for it, but they refused. They wanted to give me a gift. And they underscored their desire with, "and if you intend to take it only to turn around and give us another gift in exchange, we'll take the money!" It was so very sweet.

I am regularly amazed at how abundantly I have received. Being the youngest child I am not ashamed of hand-me-downs and I have received some very nice second hand gifts this year--things I certainly could not afford on my own (not now anyway)--and I am thankful. Ever thankful for the many many ways I have been blessed.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Reading List

When I first left seminary, I felt freed of the necessity of reading and thus was compelled to read all that I could. Then I was promptly thrust into full-time ministry where I felt overly ill-prepared for the task at hand, so I took up more reading to feel more prepared for my responsibilities. I can't tell you how many books (or parts of books as the case may be) I have read in the last year, but I thought I would share some of the top ranking books of this year:

1) Kite Runner

2) The Memory Keeper's Daughter

3) The Stupidest Angel

4) Deepening Your Effectiveness

5) The Measure of a Man

suggestions for the next year of reading?

Quote of the day

One purpose of a liberal arts education is to make your head a more interesting place to live inside of for the rest of your life. --Mary Patterson McPherson

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Worship Prayer

Almighty God we welcome you to this place.
We give thanks for your presence here among us.
We desire to worship you O God.
We want to give you all the glory, honor, and praise you deserve.
We come today with open hearts—may you fill us with your spirit and make us whole.
We come to you with open ears that you might teach us and speak to us through your Word.
We enter into this sanctuary—your home with burdens and concerns of our own,
Please God hear our hearts, listen to our worries and our frustrations. Hear our laments.
God of all nations, be with all people everywhere who honor you and worship you this day.
Remind us that through holy communion we are intimately connected to you and to all our brothers and sisters around the world.
Let us be healed this day.
Let us be made new this day.
Let us be transformed this day.
We pray all of these things in the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.