Wednesday, December 19, 2007

7 Random Things



I was tagged in a meme by Hipchickmama, and I'm needing a break, so I figured I might as well. My challenge is to post 7 random things about myself. I'll leave out the more incriminating factoids.

1. A man at my church when I was growing up would buy warts for a penny. He'd rub the penny on the wart, then give me the penny. It always worked! The warts would go away. I wonder what he did with all those warts?
2. I like sweet potatoes -raw or cooked. I get that from my dad, I'm sure. The little old ladies at church would get a kiss from dad whenever they brought sweet potatoes to a potluck. Often there were five or six casserole dishes of baked sweet potatoes - and it wasn't that big of a church!





3. I had a pet hermit crab in 7th grade.


4. I used to be a skinny kid. My first husband actually wanted me to gain weight - If he could see me now! (Not! I really don't care if I ever see him again!)
5. I'm a music and instrument junkie. I took piano lessons as a child, voice lessons in high school and before my daughter was born, hammer dulcimer lessons after my daughter was born, and taught hammer dulcimer before moving to KC 14 years ago. That doesn't even count the guitar lessons (off and on), the fiddle lessons (two months), and the miscellaneous other instruments that I've collected and attempted in the 46 years of my life. I'm taking piano lessons (occasionally) again now and have recently again been tempted to teach hammer dulcimer.

6. I bought a grand piano at the KCK Habitat ReStore in September. It turned out to be a really nice piano! (that's part of why I'm taking lessons again!)

7. The Christmas tree is up, but not yet decorated. The house is a disaster area; my MIL gets in Monday night, and I'll be at a funeral ALL DAY on Saturday, so I have no idea how the house will get clean unless the kids really kick it up a notch and Steve does some this weekend.

Now I have to tag some folks, but I know so few that have blogs that Crystal didn't already tag! I may just have to edit to tag them.

Are you happy now Crystal? I posted something.

Later!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What We've Always Known

2 Timothy 3:14 - 4:5
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

It came as quite a shock…these things always do. Sure, Timothy had always known the day would come. He even vaguely recalled having heard that the old man had been ill, but he had been so busy, the news just sort of slipped by without registering.

It had been so long since he had seen him…How long had it been? And now this. The old man’s wife had called and said that there was something she needed to give him – something personal. Well, curiosity finally got the better of him and he decided to make the trip to meet with her.

It was a beautiful fall day. Just like a postcard, only windier. The hotel was just on the edge of town, and the day was so gorgeous, it seemed just as easy to walk over to her house. As he walked along, Timothy remembered the days when he had run down these streets. Days that seemed without end. Summers of baseball and wandering in the woods. Fishing in the creek down alongside the tracks. Riding his bike up the hill as far as the cemetery, then freewheeling all the way back down into town and almost out the other side.

Goodness knows that was a long time ago. But this was a place he’d always known. Somehow, coming back in the fall seemed right. Those days of childhood were long gone, fall had begun to settle in on him, too.

As he walked, his thoughts turned to the old man. Well, he seemed old back then, maybe he really wasn’t THAT old. He remembered how their odd friendship began. Timmy had been up the hill – he was Timmy back then - and was freewheeling down on his bike, just like he always did, when suddenly, some stray dog ran right out in front of him right there in front of the old guy’s house. As he swerved to miss the dog, he crashed through the front fence and flew off the bike landing right in the middle of the flower bed. The old man came running out of his house asking if he was hurt…only his ego was bruised, but the man told him what a spectacular stunt he had just witnessed. There was just something about the guy that made Timmy feel special, Like he’s known him all his life, and it wasn’t long before they became friends. The old guy said to call him Paul.

About that time, Timothy arrived at the house. The fence had long since been repaired, but the house was just as he remembered it, fence flowerbeds and all. Just like he’d always known. As he walked to the door, Paul’s wife noticed him coming and stepped up to the screen door and opened it wide. She invited him in, and deciding he had probably long since outgrown milk, offered him cookies and coffee. He accepted, thanked her, and sat down.

After the conventional small talk and formalities, Paul’s widow stood up and said, “Excuse me a moment…I have something for you.”

She returned shortly, carrying a box. From the box, she removed a sealed envelope with “Timmy” written on the front. She handed him the letter, and as he turned it over in his hands, she explained that Paul had asked her to give it to Timmy if she ever saw him again. Well that simply wasn’t good enough for her, and that is why she had tracked him down to ask him to come.

She poured more coffee, then excused herself from the room once again and left him alone to read Paul’s final epistle to his young friend Timothy.

The letter was long. Paul was always pretty long-winded. It said nice things about Timothy’s mom and grandmother, and talked about how much he had missed Timmy in the later years.

But then it took a turn. Paul spoke of those people who had lost track of what scripture taught. He told Timothy to hold fast to what he had learned and believed, knowing from whom he had learned it and how from childhood Timothy had known the scriptures that had instructed him about salvation through faith in Christ.

My, how those memories came rushing back. Timmy had never even been to church, but after his crash landing in Paul’s yard, and Paul saying how it had been a miracle and all that he hadn’t even been hurt, Timmy started going to church with Paul and his wife. He loved going there with them, and it made him feel good when all the grown-ups there would ask him about baseball and fishing and other stuff that he liked doing.

He would go to Sunday School with the other kids his age, and over the years he learned a lot about God and Jesus, and stories that sometimes didn’t make a lot of sense but were fun to listen to anyway. True, he really didn’t enjoy the memory verses, but even now, he found it funny how sometimes they would just pop into his head without warning. Could that be what Paul was talking about; knowing the scriptures that had instructed him about faith?

Paul used to talk to Timmy a lot about faith. It was all part of the way that Paul had mentored him through those years until he left town. Paul would tell him how the scriptures were inspired by God. He explained that the word “Inspired” had the same root as the word respiration, and that meant that the words of scripture had been breathed by God. Just like God breathed life into people when they were created, God had breathed life into the scriptures. He went on to say that the Greek work for Spirit, like in “holy Spirit” was from the same word, too! That had been a lot for a ten-year-old boy to take in, but now it was starting to make sense.

Timothy continued to read, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”

Again, Timothy’s mind wandered. He sure had run into a few of those folks who thought it was their duty to reproach and correct. If only they would concentrate more on the training and teaching part. Even though it had been a long time since Timothy had read any scripture, he did remember that there was a lot in there about God’s love, especially in the stories of Jesus that Paul had talked to him about. He told him that the love of God could be found in the love of the people around him who cared for him. Sure, sometimes it was important for those who love us to correct us, or at least our behavior, but the overriding message of scripture is that God is always with us and will never leave us stranded. What was that verse? “God’s steadfast love endures forever.” Hadn’t he always known that?!?

Paul’s letter went on to urge Timothy to proclaim the message, to be persistent in good or bad times, to convince people with reason, to correct them when necessary, and to encourage and build people up with patience. He wanted him to understand above all that there was a need for people to hear the message that he had tried to teach him, that there was a time coming when people would become impatient with the gospel, that they would have what he called “itching ears” and would jump from teacher to teacher to hear what suited them instead of the truth.

Timothy thought about this some more. What was it that he had read? Amazon has in its listings more than 140,000 books on various self-help topics. And over 38,000 of those are in the areas of religion and spirituality. The self-improvement market including infomercials, mail-order catalogs, holistic institutes, books, audio cassettes, motivational speaker seminars, personal coaching, weight-loss and stress-management programs was worth over $8.5 billion in 2003, and is expected to top out over $11 Billion in 2008. Seems like a lot of itching ears there. What is it that all these people are looking for? Don’t they know they can find the answers from the sources they’ve always known? Why do they have to spend so much money looking for new and exciting answers? Aren’t the old answers enough? Can’t people see that all these programs and over hyped techniques are just ways to enrich the people who come up with them and they really do nothing for the purchasers and readers?

As he neared the end of the letter, Timothy read, “As for you, keep your head together, put up with whatever you have to, even if it means suffering, tell the story of the good news in doing the work of an evangelist, and carry out your ministry fully.”

This last part confused him a little. Where did Paul ever get the idea that Timothy was an evangelist? What is this about carrying out ministry? Timothy was appalled by the thought! Him? An Evangelist? No way! What in the world could Paul be talking about? Sure, he had tried to live the way he’d been taught, he’d always had a good sense of right and wrong, but how could he tell people about it. After all, he was just a regular guy. Evangelist, indeed!

Feeling somewhat threatened by the implication he quickly folded the letter and stuffed it into his pocket.

Just then, Paul’s wife returned to the room. She asked, “What did he have to say?”

Timothy collected himself and calmly responded, “He rambled quite a bit. Talked about scripture and my ‘ministry’. He obviously knew nothing about how I turned out. I’m afraid he was sadly mistaken about me.”

She replied, “No, you’re mistaken. Paul was lucid until the end and throughout his life he had a gift for reading people and knowing just how to see their potential. He saw it in you that first time you crashed your bike in the yard. Every one of us has a story to tell, and if you don’t tell it, it will haunt you until you do. You have always known what it is to be loved and mentored by someone who cares. Just as he taught you the story of the gospel, you have those words and God’s love written on your heart and you know it to be true. Whatever he said to you, it’s because he knew it to be true. It’s now up to you. You can share the message you’ve always known or forget it. It’s up to you.

Timothy, thanked her for her hospitality and for Paul’s letter, and then silently walked toward the door. As he stepped off the porch and looked at the flower bed where he had landed all those years ago, he heard her say through the screen, “That’s the way it is with the things we’ve always known. They’re easier to remember than they are to forget. And they are remembered in the telling. Paul’s gone. If he meant anything to you at all, you’ll tell the story, not just yours, not just Paul’s, God’s story. You’ve always known it. Don’t be afraid to share it.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Thank you???

"Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'? 8 Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? 9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'" Luke 17:7-10

It’s a thankless job, being a mother…Get up early, get the kids ready and off to school, a quick shower and then out the door to face the day. Nine hours at the office, all day long being told to do this and told to do that. Make some coffee, make some copies, get the mail, deliver the proposal, answer the phone, order supplies. Lunch was from the vending machine. Was it a nice day today? No way to know. It’s already dark, fighting the traffic back home. Walk in the door and before she even sets her purse down, the kids begin to ask, “What’s for supper?” Forty five minutes later the dinner is prepared and consumed, and it’s time to go to scouts and to piano lessons, and “Oh, yeah, mom, I forgot to tell you, I need some poster board for a school project tomorrow and two dozen brownies – in baggies for the bake sale.” Is the homework all done? “Come on, children; brush your teeth; get ready for bed; you say you want a story?”

Oh, for a minute to herself. Just a chance to put her feet up, maybe take a bubble bath, read a magazine – nothing heavy, nothing too deep. Too tired to think or even move, she collapses in a chair and thinks, “Sure would be nice if somebody would’ve at least said thanks.”

It’s a thankless job on the line. Nineteen years on the job. Smoke and dust in the air, a little space, a lot of noise, too hot, always the same – boredom and monotony day in, day out, day in, day out.

“What’s that? The boss wants to talk to me? Right away, boss. What’s up?”

“Laid off? How can that be? I’m never sick, never late. Always accept overtime when asked. I’ve been here nearly twenty years. One more month and I’ll have enough points in to retire. But you say I’ve been laid off. How can that be?”

It’s a thankless job, going to school. When she got home from school, she called her mom to tell her about her grades. Four A’s, two B’s, and a C. It really is a report card to be proud of! Afterward, she calls her best friend. “Can you believe it?!? All mom cared about was the C! And one of those A’s used to be a B! I guess that’ll teach me to get good grades!”

Thankless jobs. We all know them. Maybe some of us have had them. We work hard and we expect something in return. We see those who don’t work hard, and they seem to get the same as the rest of us.

But I guess that is how it’s always been. Even in Jesus’ day, there were thankless jobs. In our text, Jesus begins by asking the disciples a series of questions. The first he asks is about common household practices: “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’?”

A simple enough question. We know the answer to this one- “Well, nobody, of course,” we answer with the disciples.

Jesus asks, “Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink.” It’s not in the scripture, but I’m sure the disciples are nodding their heads up and down, murmuring, “Of course, that is exactly what we would do.” That was really just restating and reasserting the first question, right?

“Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?”

We’re on a roll, now! “Of course not!”

***

I once had a boss, one of the smartest men I’ve ever known, and he had a habit of asking questions of his employees. Often, he already knew the answer, and it was like going through oral exams every time he stopped to talk to you or called you into his office. It really made one doubt his or her own expertise. George would ask a question, and the brain would go into panic – “Does he want to know what I think or is he testing me to see if I really know this small aspect of my job?”

Asking questions has long been an established instructional method. It’s the method popularized by Socrates. Luke, the writer of this text was no doubt aware of the method. Jesus probably was, too. Or maybe Jesus was playing a game with the disciples – getting them in the habit of agreeing so that he could turn them around. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time!

Quite a fisherman, that Jesus! Just throw out a little bait – you know, get them to agree with you, …jiggle the hook a little, - oh, yeah, they’re starting to come along.…feel the nibble – almost there… and set the hook – “Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?”… and reel ‘em on in.

But we’re on to Jesus’ game! We have the luxury of time and distance and the whole story to help us respond. The disciples cry out, “Of course not!” and we see it coming. We now know slavery to be a bad thing, and we want them to know it , too. We know how tricky Jesus can be at times, and we don’t want the disciples getting caught. They’re really just like us. We want to call back to them across time and space that of course you do thank people who serve you. Since we first learned to talk, we’ve been taught to say thank you. I imagine even now if I were to observe someone handing something to another person and I would ask, “What do you say?” the automatic response of the receiver would be, “Thank you.” Those scripts of our mothers’ teachings are just way too ingrained in us.

Not only that, when we go to a performance in an eating or drinking establishment, the announcer always reminds us, “Be sure to tip your waiters and waitresses.” In other words, “Remember to say thank you.”

And haven’t we all had those thankless jobs; those jobs where we did all the work and someone else got all the credit? We know how important it is to hear, “Thank you.”

But then, Jesus hits us with “Well then you don’t get it either!”

Now, wait just a minute, Jesus, are you talking to us or to the disciples?

Jesus didn’t actually say, “Well then you don’t get it either!”, at least not in the NRSV. That’s my paraphrase of what Jesus said. What this translation says is that Jesus said to them: “So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’” The disciples had been looking for glory for themselves, and Jesus made it clear they weren’t going to get it.

And then, we remember the older brother a few chapters back who used similar words in speaking to his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.” But we never really liked him. Sure, at times, we sort of identify with him, but he didn’t get it, and we do so want to be among those who understand. So we go the other way. We think, “Oh, poor baby.” While he was standing on the porch feeling sorry for himself, looking for the thanks he thought he deserved, the rest of the family was already inside the house partying it up. He seemed to forget that everything his father had was also his.

Jesus has done a really good job of dragging the disciples along to make his point, but let’s look at it another way. What if Jesus really had intended that last question, “Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?” to be answered, “Yes”?

It’s the ‘what-if’s that really mess with our minds when we look at the things that Jesus taught. There are so many ways we can dissect this and rearrange it.

We’re told to be kind to others. Isn’t it appropriate to thank people who help us out? Isn’t that part of being kind? Isn’t that what Jesus would do?

Maybe Jesus is the master in this text. When we do the work that is commanded to us on behalf Jesus, the Christ, do we do so expecting to be thanked? Maybe not, but as servants of the kingdom do we expect, or at least hope to be rewarded in the kingdom?

Do we find ourselves asking of Jesus, the master, “Do you thank the slave for doing what is commanded?”, hoping that maybe, just this once, he will?

But what if Jesus is the servant? We know from Philippians 2:5-8 that Jesus Christ, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Christ made the ultimate sacrifice of his very life to obey the command of his master, God, but at the same time to serve and save all of humanity. That was certainly a thankless job!

So do we thank the servant or don’t we? It’s hard to know. Jesus closes his discourse by saying, “So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’” The word translated “worthless” means those to whom nothing is owed. Perhaps a better reading would be, “You don’t owe us anything, we have only done what we ought to have done.”

The disciples are directed by Jesus to say that they are not owed anything because they have done only what they were commanded to do. As disciples, are we to infer from this that we should just do that which is commanded without expectation of recognition or reward? Maybe. But does the example of Jesus as servant also suggest that perhaps we should do even more?

As we wind up our stewardship campaign, we look to Christ’s example, ask those same questions, and ponder the implications. What if Jesus really wanted the disciples, and through them, us, to respond differently to all of his questions?

"Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'?” If Jesus is our Lord and we are the servants, does not the master regularly invite us to come to the table and eat alongside him whenever and wherever open communion is served. We are called to be present.

“Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink.”

And we are called to respond, “No, Lord. What you have done for us is already too much. Let us honor you with our gifts and our service.”

“Do you thank the servant for doing what was commanded?” Do we honor God for all that has been given to us? Do we adequately acknowledge the gift of Jesus’ life being given in suffering and death for the sake of our salvation? After all, he was just doing what was commanded. Are we truly thankful?

Truth forces our response, “Not nearly enough, Lord, not nearly enough.”

When Jesus asks the questions, we, as Christians are called to respond. Do we do what we’ve always done because it was what was commanded? Or do we do more so that we do not have to respond, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’?”

Is it about us? Or is it about God?

Friday, September 28, 2007

At loose ends - Calgon take me away!



I'm having some job struggles right now.


On Sunday and Monday, and at odd times during the week, I work very focusedly on my pastoring gig. On Tuesday and Wednesday, it's time to be a student. On Thursday and Friday, I am a consulting engineer. Recently, the engineering gig has been causing me some stress.


The engineering work has been a little slow as of late, and I'm not really enjoying it much anymore, but it does help get the bills paid. A week ago yesterday, my boss and I had a heart-to-heart about some goofy things happening at the corporate level that I'm very disturbed about, and also about how little work we have in our office right now. Bottom-line: If we don't round up some work soon, I will be one of the first to go since I'm almost entirely overhead. Because of my part-time status, my project involvement is very limited - mostly doing QA/QC.




That evening, I went home in a bit of a funk. Even though I don't enjoy the job much anymore, I'm not really quite ready to cut the cord. On the way home, I called a friend with another firm to see if they needed anyone on a short-term, part-time basis. He said he would get back to me by Monday. I still haven't heard from him.


I called another friend at another firm...this one more conveniently located to my church job. His firm is the same boat as ours right now.


On the drive home, I formulated a variety of alternatives and scenarios, including the possibility of picking up something on an interim basis at the seminary.




When my husband got home I told him what was going on, and we had wine with dinner.


On Friday morning, I stopped on my way to work to visit with my former employer who is now a client as well. I told him honestly the situation and asked if there might be anything at all they could send our way on the on-call services agreement our firm has with them. He promised to do some checking around and get back to me.


On Tuesday afternoon, I spoke with one of the deans at the seminary, and he said that if something would happen that would leave me stranded, to get back with him because he had a project that he needed help with and it was probably something I would be capable of doing with very little direction.


On Wednesday, one of my friends who owns an architectural firm that my engineering firm has worked with before came into class and frantically told me that they had gotten more on some huge projects than they expected to get and needed help in a big way. I asked if there was anything we might be able to help them with, and she called her partner and returned to tell me "Yes, have your people call my people." I called my boss to let him know, but he was out until Friday.




Yesterday, I sent an email reminder to former boss/client asking if he had come up with anything. Today, I met with a client in the morning, and while in that meeting, my former boss/client called with an emergency project that needed immediate attention. I contacted the office and set the right people onto it to get it moving. My current boss is now playing phone tag with the architectural firm. So, it looks like I may have found us some work!


So why do I feel like I'm not going to see any of the benefits of it? Right now, I still feel like my job is on the line. And frankly, I don't know if that is bothering me as much as it probably should. I'm afraid that even though I scrambled my a$$ off this last week and got us some work, I may get laid-off anyway, and if I do, it will leave a very sour taste in my mouth. I wanted to be able to leave here on good terms, but if what feels like may happen does actually happen - the work comes in, but I get sent away anyway - it may be very difficult to take the high road, and it may be very harmful to the firm in the long run, regardless of how gracious I am in leaving. Former boss/client was burned once before when a consulting firm let his friend go, leaving his friend and his project high and dry. If this firm lets me - also his friend - go, especially after I got the work for them, he won't be happy, regardless of what I say or don't say. And that combined with the corporate thing I mentioned before will make it all the worse since it will function as connecting the firm that burned his other friend with this firm. Clear as mud...huh?


And all this in the midst of a denominationally related paperwork storm!


Thanks for letting me vent.









Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Five: Seasons Change...

It's Labor Day weekend here in the United States, also known as Summer's Last Hurrah. So let's say goodbye to summer and hello to the autumn. (People in other climes, feel free to adapt as needed.)

1. Share a highlight from this summer.

I had a really great summer!

I had a class with Revhipchick and got to know her a lot better.

I had time to read some things that weren't required.

I helped my professor move her office.

I lived vicariously through my daughter who spent three weeks in Costa Rica.

But probably best of all, I had a great time spending a lot more time with my kids than I have in past years. My son went to a camp in mid-Missouri, so we had some good car time together, and my daughter took driver's ed, so we've also had quite a bit of good car time. It's kind of cool that my kids actually enjoy hanging out with me. The week before school started, the kids and I went to Omaha (3 hours away) to go to the zoo there. We had heard it was a good zoo and we weren't disappointed. It was in the high 90's in KC that week, and Omaha was in the low 80's so our timing was perfect. And daughter dear drove the whole trip!


2. Are you glad to see this summer end? Why or why not?

Yes and no. I'm glad to be getting back to school where all my friends hang out, but I'm also a little nervous about having more work to do than I have in the past even though I'm carrying less hours. Weird...I'm not sure where that is coming from. I also realize that it is the beginning of the end of my seminary education. I'll be graduating in May. Then comes the big transition of letting go once and for all of the engineering job that has supported our family for so long and relying on God through the auspices of my denomination. God help us all! Maybe I'm just getting ahead of myself. Live in the moment, Kim.


3. Name one or two things you're looking forward to this fall.

1. A road trip with three of my best buds
to Tulsa for the Stacey Preachers' Workshop featuring BBT and Fred Craddock in mid September.

2. Officiating at my niece's wedding in mid October and then going to my best friend from grade school's annual bonfire and hayride later that evening.


4. Do you have any special preparations or activities to mark the transition from one season to another? (Cleaning of house, putting away summer clothes, one last trip to the beach)

I'm cleaning house today, but that is mostly because my MIL is coming in tonight to spend the weekend with us. We are also planning to paint the barn Saturday and Monday, and to attend Irish Fest after church on Sunday. Our biggest end of summer ritual is our daughter's birthday which falls on August 29. Other than that, going back to school for all of us is the main thing.

It's funny, the first year I was out of college, August/September hit, and I felt this strange need to go spend exorbitant amounts of money on books and office/school supplies. Maybe that is the real end-of-summer ritual for me!

5. I'll know that fall is really here when __________________________________.

The trees begin to catch fire with all the colors of the rainbow and I can smell that indescribable spicy aroma that I assume is decomposing leaves but has always just meant autumn to me. And I can start comfortable wearing knitted sweaters again.

Kim

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Spouses of Pastors

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about my husband and his role in my career(s). What follows are miscellaneous ramblings on the topic of career, marriage and ministry in no particular order.

Sunday, one of my churches had a potluck in my honor, and one of the trustees rose and made a speech in which he was very good about acknowledging not only me, but my family as well. He recognized that even though I was called to ministry, chances were good that my family had not been, and therefore, he was certain that there were a lot of adjustments that had to be made because the family had just gotten a lot bigger with many more demands on Mom’s time. He thanked them for sharing me with the church and for supporting me in my work.

Then, this morning I read a couple of blogs written by pastor’s husbands: http://marriedtothechurch.blogspot.com/
and http://www.mitchross.com/blog/.

My husband is a manufacturing engineer. Ministry is my second career, having been a civil engineer for 20+ years. Throughout my career, I have held positions of some authority. We often attended functions related to my job where people would speak to him first (because he was male) and then become very confused when his employer didn't match up with anyone they knew. Most significant was when I worked for a major public works consulting firm, and we were attending a retirement party for one of the higher-ups of the municipal wastewater utility. During the mingling and mixing, someone began speaking with my husband, and eventually asked, “Where do you work?” He said, “I’m with [insert name of major aircraft manufacturing conglomerate well-known in the area].” The person who asked got a puzzled look on his face and said, “Oh…why are you here?” My wonderful husband then replied, “I’m with her. She works for [insert name of well-known local consulting firm].” And I said, “Hi, I’m Kim.” Following some initial awkwardness and continued conversation the person apologetically excused himself and walked away (presumably to remove the egg from his face). We still chuckle over it.

My husband has often played the role of “spouse.” He always seemed to enjoy himself. He’s somewhat introverted, but always enjoyed the free food and drinks. He’ll speak if spoken to, and of course he can always talk about guy things. Most of the professional activities in engineering are “guy things” so he holds his own in conversation. I’ve done less of the corporate spouse thing because his coworkers don’t seem to socialize all that much. Frankly, it’s a role that feels a little weird to me. Sure, I can talk about my children ad nauseum with the other wives, but I do other things, too, like attend seminary, work part-time as a consulting engineer, pastor two churches, and occasionally teach knitting. I’ve never done submissive, shy, diminutive, and retreating very well. I’m pretty WYSIWYG and sometimes a little in-your-face, but in a nice way, and I’ve always worked around men, and am often more comfortable around men than around women. It’s really been only in the last five years or so, since I started seminary and have become more involved in knitting, that I’ve really had many women friends.

And what does the church call the husband of the pastor (other than his name)? At my former church, they called the pastor wives “first ladies.” I found that rather offensive. It seems to give the pastor an authority, that, I’m sorry, I find rather inappropriate in this denomination. I also felted it was very dismissive (is that where “dis” comes from?) and disrespectful (or is that?) of my husband because he was still a member there after I began pastoring elsewhere. Not all of the women who were called "first ladies" were married to pastors at that church. One was a widow of pastor from another denomination, one is the wife of a pastor in another denomination who does interim gigs, so the family remains there for stability. So what should the pastor’s husband be called? One of the bloggers mentioned above suggested “first husband,” but that won’t work for mine because he is really my second husband.

One of my friends has an even more unique situation (though probably less so than we realize). Her spouse is female. It’s not likely that she’ll be ordained in our denomination anytime soon for just that reason, and I guess “first lady” would work, but even so, her challenges will probably be even greater when that time comes. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be called “first lady” if my spouse were the pastor.

So let’s put on our highly creative thinking caps and come up with a name for the spouses of pastors that works in a generic, gender-neutral way.

GO!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

In Memoriam

Our beautiful, 13-1/2 year old black lab died today. I worked at church this morning and had some errands to run, and while I was on the highway en route to one of those errands, my cell phone rang.

It was my daughter. The kids were home from school today for a advocacy meetings, and I could tell right off that something wasn't quite right. Eileen was crying and I had a very hard time understanding her. The only word I could understand was "Star." I suspected what proved to be true.

Star's health has been failing for some time now. when she was 8 we had a large mass removed that the vet told us was a very severe cancer. Since then there have been other lumps that we haven't bothered having biopsied. We knew what they were.

When Star was ten, we could see her beginning to fail. Her arthritis was getting worse, but she still seemed to enjoy life. We knew she might not be around much longer so we got another dog to prefill the anticipated loss. We were also hopeful that she might help in the training of the youngster, which she did. Funny thing was, this new puppy took about three years off of Star's age, and she found a new lease on life and what appeared to be new joy.

Over the last few months, we have come out to the back porch in the morning to find "accidents." I had begun to suspect the end was coming.

This morning, it was much worse. I think I knew then that it wouldn't be long. When I told my husband what had happened , he said it really didn't surprise him after this morning.

I have been thinking for some time that we might soon have to make a decision. But Star was still happy. She still ate well, and just yesterday, as we took the three-year-old through his routine of tricks, Star had to show our son that she still had a few tricks left, too. She rolled over several times for him, just to show off.

Star has been my daughter's dog since she was two and a half. We never worried when Eileen would climb trees because Star mothered her so well that if Eileen would have fallen, she would have landed on her whimpering, worried dog. As she got older, many times we observed Star removing burrs from my or my daughters sweatpant legs with her teeth - grooming us as we often did her. Eileen will be sixteen next week, and it's so sad for her to have lost such a good friend, especially so close to her birthday.

Our former neighbor died two weeks ago. He and his wife always spoiled Star rotten while we were at work. I like to think that Guy will take care of our Star puppy now that she is in heaven.

I finally was able to cry a little this evening when the children weren't looking. They had enough grief of their own without seeing mine.

We took her body to the vet to have her cremated. We should get the ashes back in a couple of weeks, and then we will have a memorial service. It was a good thing that the kids and I were home today. It was a very hot day, and the required tasks could have been much more unpleasant than they already were if she had laid there in the yard all day.

The younger dog still hasn't seemed to figure it out. It will sink in soon.

Please pray for my family as we grieve and heal from our loss.

Kim

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The ballad of the vineyard – based on Isaiah 5:1-7

To the tune of Barbara Allen (or anything 8.7.8.7.)

Come listen, love, unto my song

A song about a vineyard.

A vineyard on a fertile hill

A finely cared for vineyard.


My love he dug and cleared the stones.

He planted only good vines.

A tower to watch over it,

A vat and press to make wine.


He thought it would yield choicest grapes

But all he got were rotten.

So judge ye well, all people here,

Why is this all he’s gotten?

***

“So I will tear down all the hedge.

The vines shall be devoured!

I’ll break the wall and tramp it down,

For giving grapes so sour.


I’ll make it waste, not prune nor hoe.

With thorns it will be covered!

Through briers thick, no rain will fall,

On this vineyard.” said my lover.

***

The vineyard is this very place.

The people are God’s planting.

God hoped for righteousness and peace,

Found bloodshed, hate, and ranting.

***

This is my song, I’ve sung it well.

And now it comes to you friends.

Seek justice, peace, and righteousness

In all the plantings you tend.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Praying for you


Yesterday, as I was leaving my engineering job at midday to go to an eye doctor appointment, my low fuel light came on.

I knew it was an ozone alert day, but I also knew that I had a lot more driving to do before dark, and I wouldn't make it.

I also recognize that gas prices are on average a nickel a gallon less in Missouri than in Kansas, so I determined to stop for gas before crossing the state line.
As I swiped my credit card, I saw this little fellow peering out at me.
I have always been fascinated by praying (or is it preying) mantis (What is the plural? - Mantises?). I remember in elementary school how we would have one in a terrarium in the classroom and we would catch grasshoppers at recess to feed them.
This one just looked so friendly, and he was really pretty big - I'd guess about four inches long (that's 10 cm for you metric folks).
This was in a highly industrialized area, with nary a speck of greenspace to be found and a 100+ day to boot! Another indication that God touches us with creation everywhere.
And in that weird state that I was in, (not Missouri, although I was), I started thinking about prayer and how I say that I will pray for someone, and then, for whatever reason, I don't specifically name that person later in my prayers. Sometimes, I forget. Or I remember I said I would pray for someone, but I forget who and why. It makes me wonder if my intent is enough.
I don't really think so. And sometimes, I'll think a prayer quickly and hope I remember it later.
It was interesting I saw this creature when I did, because the prayer chain at my smaller church had just been activated on behalf of the membership secretary's granddaughter who is five months pregnant and had just been rushed to the ER with a 102 degree fever and what was believed to be a ruptured appendix. They were fearful that she would lose the baby. I took the "pray quickly while driving" option on this one.
I talked to the grandmother late last night. The appendix had not ruptured and was removed. A drain was inserted, premature labor had been stopped, but it is touch and go for the next 48 - 72 hours. I wonder if Heather will be on bedrest for the remainder of her pregnancy?
So how do you keep track? When you say you will pray for someone, how do you remember to? Do you carry a list? Are you surreptitious about adding names or do you just yank out the list and write it down then and there in front of them? OR do you just avoid saying "I'll pray for you" because you know you won't? Comments welcome.

Friday, August 10, 2007

RevGal Friday Five Stress Busting edition

Sally writes: I am off to spend a few days at the beach chilling out after a hectic few weeks and before I head off for Summer School...
So with that in mind this weeks questions are looking at how you deal with the stress monster!!!???
1. First, and before we start busting stress, what causes you the most stress, is it big things or the small stuff ? Hard to say...usually the small stuff. It tends to pile up without me noticing until I get so overwhelmed with it that I'm immobilized. That's when I find myself yelling at the kids, and then I feel bad about it. I feel really good when I can get all those little things taken care of when they need to be.
2. Exercise or chocolate for stress busting ( or maybe something else) ? Should be exercise, tends to be chocolate, but if the stress is huge, I can't eat. I was just talking to somebody about that this morning. At one point in my life I wondered if anorexia could be physiological in addition to psychological. I was very thin. I liked to eat, but still was always very thin as a younger person. If I didn't eat right when I was hungry, the feeling would pass, and I wouldn't be able to eat when I did get food. Looking back, the time when I experienced that the greatest was during a period of intense stress with a MIL who, suffice it to say, had issues.
3.What is your favourite music to chill out to? Anything on the Windham Hill or Narada labels. Do they still call that New Age music? Please don't tell my fundy friends. I also really enjoy singer/songwriter folk and Celtic.
4. Where do you go to chill? When I need to chill, I prefer to be alone. I try to go to the front porch - one or both of my children tend to follow me there. So I go to pet the dogs. Again, I'm followed. If it really gets bad, I go to the grocery store. They usually don't want to go there with me.
5. Extrovert or introvert, do you relax at a party, or do you prefer a solitary walk? Definitely an extrovert, but people energize me. To relax, the solitary walk is much preferable.

Bonus- share your favourite stress busting tip! Lying in my hammock, staring at the sky, or as I sometimes refer to it - contemplating the color blue. If I happen to fall asleep, all the better. A good nap never hurt anything.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Fair Follow-up

The Wyandotte County Fair ended on Saturday. I picked up my knitting and that big prize check!

I received 6 blue first place ribbons and two red second place ribbons. Two of the blues also qualified as Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion.

And they got it right! The Grand Champion was the best thing I entered - a circular lace shawl. The Reserve was also a deserving piece of knitting - a wall hanging of my own design depicting images from the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes. Some of my classmates have seen this one.

The wall hanging has another blog-worthy story attached to it, but I'll have to write it up when I have a little more time.

So I can now say that I am an award-winning fiber artist since someone commented on the shawl when I wore it a few weeks back and referred to me as a fiber artist. Also, the wall hanging was truly a piece of art.

Oh, and the big check? $7.25!!!! I'll try not to spend it all in one place!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Misty morning

As I was writing my blog post this morning, I found these pictures on my camera. They were taken in the cemetery adjacent to one of my churches this past spring in a heavy fog.
The cemetery is quite old and somewhat historic for the area. The church is named for Moses Grinter, who is believed to be one of the first permanent white residents of Wyandotte County, KS, and he donated the land. He and his wife, brother, and sister-in-law are buried in the cemetery. Theirs are the large tombstones under the tree in the picture on the right.
Moses Grinter's sister-in-law, Rosanna Grinter (She was both the sister of his wife and the wife of his brother) is mentioned in the abstract of our house. Apparently the original owners of our home borrowed money from her and she held a mortgage on the house/property. I find this particularly interesting because she was not only a woman, but also a Delaware Indian. I would think such business dealings would have been unusual in the late 1800's!

Fair Knitting

The Wyandotte County Fair starts tonight. We'll probably go tomorrow night. I entered eight items in the open class. Looks like I'm only competing with myself. When dropped off my entries yesterday, I saw a lot of crochet, but only my knitting. The judging was to occur at 9 AM yesterday.

The above picture includes, starting with the red item and proceeding clockwise: A mobius shawl in red wool, an entrelac bag I carry a large water bottle in, a grey/green felted purse, and orange triangular lace shawl, a white circular lace scarf, an ivory mohair circular lace shawl (I'm really proud of this one!), and a soysilk summer shell.

The picture on the right is a wall hanging I made for my Qohelet class project last semester. I depicted images from Ecclesiastes 1:1-2:11 in knitting. I included a copy of the scripture with the pertinent verses highlighted.

The judging of the knitted items at the fair is always a little funny. I think all the judges are crocheters and don't understand knitting. They are always so impressed with entrelac - and it is really pretty simple. Cable work doesn't seem to interest them, and this is my first time offering lace and mixed color and texture. Both the lace and the wall hanging are much more complex projects, but they may not recognize that. The mobius is seamless and intentionally twisted, and some don't understand that either.

I'll update when I find out how I did!

Back again

I've been away a while. The trip to Rolla and St. Louis were good, but expensive.

The tires on my car have been giving me a bit of trouble, so when I went on this trip, I took an air tank with me in case they got low.

After dropping off my son at his camp program, I spent some time driving around Rolla, checking out my college haunts and discovering the changes since I last attended school there 19 years ago.

I checked in on the campus ministry where my husband and I met. I was disturbed that the Missouri Conference has just determined that it is no longer going to fund campus ministry. Apparently, the payback just isn't there. Personally, I think they are measuring the wrong things. I know many people who came to ministry through campus ministry, and I wouldn't be United Methodist if it hadn't been for my friendships in that particular campus ministry. Makes me glad to be in Kansas where we just voted for a capital campaign to pour $9 million into campus ministry.

The Wesley house that I knew is now a parking lot. I went to the house that I was aware they had moved to. There was a sign on the door: MOVED TO THE METHODIST CHURCH (and the address - I knew where it was.) I went there to try to get answers. The lovely woman in the office introduced herself - she looked vaguely familiar, but I've been away a long time - and explained the situation to me. She said Wesley still had their own space, but it is in the parish hall/rec. center that has been built across the street from the church. As we talked, I realized that she may be the wife of one of the professors I knew from the Wesley Board when I was a student. So I asked, "Are you Jack's wife?" She said yes. I explained that I went to Panama on the mission trip with her husband in 1983. That is why she looked familiar to me. Then our conversation was more like that of old friends. I finished my visit, and returned to my wanderings.

I ate lunch in the greasy pizza joint where we used to hang out. IT HAD NOT CHANGED.

I then proceeded with the next leg of my journey...on to St. Louis. The plan was to maybe try to catch a matinee of License to Wed before meeting with my niece and her fiance that evening to work on wedding stuff. About halfway to St. Louis, there was an incredible downpour. At the same time, traffic lanes were reduced for construction. About the time it became to let up and open up, a car came flying up next to me to point out that my tire was flat.

I pulled over to the side, got out my air tank and began to refill the tire. It was still dripping rain a little, so I just needed enough to get to the next exit which I knew had a service station. One car started to pull off to help me, but when I saw him/her signal, I waved him/her on to let them know I had things under control.

When I pulled off at the next exit, the station even had FREE air! I refilled the air tank and knelt to finish filling my tire. Then I saw the screw in the tread. Okay, I was going to need to get that fixed. I knew the next exit had some real car repair places, maybe even a real service station, so I went off in search of a tire repair.

The first place I stopped looked reputable...solid business, been there a long time. The mechanic told me he could fix it, but it would be a couple of hours before he could get to it. I asked if there were any other places he could recommend, and he told me there was a tire place up behind Pizza Hut. I went there. The screw was too close to the sidewall to make a good repair, and my back tires were down to the wear bars anyway. I still had 35% remaining on the front tires. The store did not have a tire that would match my existing tires. Because my car is all-time AWD, I needed matched tires. I bought four tires, but only paid for three because the front ones could be reused. I was due. Actually it was good that it happened at a time when I actually had time to deal with it. I sat in the waiting room and read. That was part of my plan for my days away anyway.

On to St. Louis....

I got to my niece's neighborhood a little early, so I drove around the park where she planned to have her ceremony. Catholic Supply was just around the corner, so I stopped in to look around. I'd seen their website when I was looking for clergy shirts, and had made a mental note at that time to look for them if I had time while in St. Louis. How convenient that it was so close. I bought a black clergy shirt and two collars.

I had a nice visit with Lindsey and Dave and then went on to visit my mom and dad for two nights. I shopped with my mom and aunt, read a lot, and didn't do a bit of knitting - strange for me. I did go see License to Wed, but not before meeting with Lindsey and Dave, so they were spared. It was a cute movie - had a few good lines, but I'm glad I only paid matinee prices. Rent the DVD.

When I picked up son at Rolla, he had lost his dorm keys. I was charged an additional $120 for the replacement of the keys. I was livid! They said they had to core and rekey three locks and that was to cover the cost of that. I know for a fact that the University has people on staff that can accomplish that in a matter of about half and hour for all three! I've had locks cored and rekeyed. They probably even have a stock bin full of locks that they just have to change out!

You know, the $400 for the tires didn't bother me. I needed new tires, and as my dad said, good tires are cheap insurance. But that $120 for keys was like nails on a chalkboard to me. This is the university where my 10-year-old son has already decided he wants to go to college. This is the university that calls me and my husband at least twice a year asking for money. This is the university that has changed so many things on campus that it doesn't even feel like our Alma mater anymore. This is the university that is changing its name in January, and it WON'T be where we went. Maybe that's the real source of my anger - no acknowledgement of the past as they barrel ahead into the future. I think the grief I felt in all of the losses I experienced as I saw the town and the campus and the Wesley foundation chose to exhibit itself in anger as I wrote the check for the keys.

Yes, it was an expensive trip.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Preaching the Gospel - Epilogue

Well, I performed the funeral today. Everyone behaved themselves. Daughter R., Daughter D., and Son R. each emailed something for me to read, and I did. I preached a gospel message, but I didn't have an altar call, and even the grandson who caused the commotion at the grandmother's funeral came up to me after the service and said, "Nice service, Pastor. Just keep preaching the Gospel and you can't miss."

Thank you for your support.

Dinner was provided by the church ladies, and it was good, and then I had to run off to a meeting with my new DS.

It all went well. I told him about the funeral. He said I handled it well.

I asked him about my performing my niece's wedding in October. I'm a licensed local pastor, and she is in another state - I wondered if I needed permission from a DS or Bishop there. He reasoned the same way that I had that since marriage is not a sacrament in the UMC, and I was authorized here, I am authorized anywhere. That was good to hear since I'm meeting with the couple tomorrow.

Finally, I spoke with him about my churches and my desire to stay with them after graduation 3/4-time to keep them from having to pay for insurance which I have through my husband. I'm currently half-time. He seemed to think we could make it work.

We visited about some other things, he offered a prayer, and I left. I think he is going to be good DS. He seems supportive and open, and acts like he wants to be available and helpful to his pastors. Today was a good day.

After my visit with the DS, I went back to the office, checked in with the chair of Staff-parish to fill her in on the meeting, and went to visit one of my shut-ins that I hadn't seen in a while. There were flowers left from the funeral, and recognizing that they wouldn't last until Sunday, I took them to F. for her enjoyment.

As I signed the visitor book at the nursing home, I noticed the name above mine was that of the son of our former neighbor. He was there visiting his father (who I didn't know was in the nursing home.) After visiting F. and taking her the flowers, I decided to stop by and see G.

His wife and son were both there, and G and his wife recognized me when I came in. We visited for a bit, and G. told me to tell Steve and the kids "hi" for him. L. (the wife) walked me out of the room and told me that G. has an inoperable brain tumor that is very fast-growing. All this only came up in the last two-three weeks, and she is beside herself. G. is 80 years old, and until this happened two weeks ago, he was still mowing the lawn every other day. I gave her my card and told her to please call me. She was so glad I had come by. I was glad I did too. When we moved away from them 7 years ago, we knew that we would miss having them as neighbors. Since that time I wondered if we would know if something happened to one of them. I have long feared that we might not know if one of them died unless we just happened to read the obituaries on that day. It sounds strange, but I'm glad to know what's going on with them. Not glad for the news, mind you, but it's truly a GOD thing that I just happened to see the name in the visitor book and reconnect.

I'm off tomorrow to take son to aerospace camp at the University where Steve and I both got our engineering degrees. From there, I head on to St. Louis to meet with my niece and her fiance, and to spend some time with my parents. I pick up son on Thursday about noon. I'm looking forward to a couple of days off. I may see a movie, do some reading and some knitting.
Some time I have to get Sunday's services planned, but I'm not going to panic about them. I had planned to do that today, but then the funeral kinda sucked up the day.

I think it's gonna be a good week.

Later.....

Friday, July 13, 2007

Establishing My Turf - Preaching the Gospel

Let me begin by saying that I am NOT a territorial person. I try to exude hospitality and welcoming to any and all of every persuasion. I tend to be an encourager of those who lack confidence or self-esteem, and try to help those at different places in their spiritual development find their voice. I think those who know me personally will chime in here and affirm that. (Hipchick?, Mandy? Nick?)

Now a situation has arisen in my parish that has forced me into a territorial position.

One of my parishioners died this morning. It was not unexpected. He has been in a nursing home for 2-1/2 years, and for at least the last six months, he has been so heavily sedated when I went in to visit him that I really expected him to go at any time. I really felt that during my last visit on July 2 and even said as much to my husband and some others in the parish. He was 96 (97?) years old.

I got a call from his daughter R. about 9:30 this morning informing me of the death, and to check my schedule. Mind you, only the deceased and his wife who preceded him in death were members of my church. I have only met one of his sons (W.) in person once at the nursing home, and have spoken to daughter R. by telephone on one occasion prior to today. When she called this morning, she mentioned that there had been a problem with her nephew G., (son of daughter D. and grandson of the deceased) at her mother's funeral, and she hoped that it wouldn't happen again. She felt that her sister D would not go there again, as it was somewhat embarrassing to the whole family. She did not elaborate on the nature of the problem, but I did seem to recall the pastor before me mentioning something. I let it go, and agreed to talk with her later about funeral details after she had a chance to visit with the funeral home about arrangements.

This afternoon, as I was returning from lunch, my cell phone rang. It was brother R. He wanted to make sure that I understood the situation, and wanted to brainstorm ways to prevent its recurrence. It seems that nephew G. is a newly called fundamentalist Baptist minister. At his grandmother's funeral two years ago he got up to speak (I don't know if it he was scheduled by the pastor as a speaker or if he responded to a request that if anyone wished to say something they could) and proceeded to preach a hellfire and damnation sermon proclaiming all in attendance to be hell-bound sinners including the deceased. He then proceeded to have an altar call. Needless to say, the presiding pastor and several members of the family were livid, and found it totally inappropriate. Brother R. told me that he was probably the only one who would speak up about it, but he wanted to make sure that it wouldn't happen again.

On the spot, I made an executive decision. I hope it's the right one. I told him that I was all for keeping things as simple as possible, and I would be the only one to speak at the funeral. If others, like family members wished to share something, I would be happy to read it on the family's behalf, but I would be the only one speaking. He liked that solution. I suggested that people email me their remembrances so that I would have a chance to look them over before the funeral. I also told him that I would close the loop with sister R, and that if they needed anything else, please call.

I picked up my phone to call sister R., and before I could dial, the phone rang. It was sister D. the mother of G. She told me that her son would like to speak at the funeral, and she recognized that as the presiding pastor, that needed to be cleared with me. He wished to bring a gospel message as he had done at her mother's funeral.

I explained to her that I understood that there had been some conflict and tension related to that at her mother's funeral, and I had been requested by other family members to assure that would not happen again. I explained to her that I would be bringing a gospel message, and also a celebration of her father's life. I also told her that I would be the only one speaking, but if others had something they wished to share, I would be happy to read their statements. I told her that her parents were members of this United Methodist Church, and that we must all be respectful of their church family and their beliefs. I reiterated that I would read statements of remembrance. She told me that she didn't think that her son would want me to read his message. I told her that was his decision. She said that she respected my decision and understood my position, and hung up.

I immediately called sister R. and filled her in on all the details of the discussion with brother R and sister D. She thanked me for handling it.

I also called the chair of staff-parish to make sure she knew I had exerted this authority. Call it a CYA call.

Meanwhile, I'm still shaking. I feel this is the right way to approach this, but it feels so darn territorial. I feel it is necessary to be honest and up front about the problem, but at the same time not to let it overwhelm the remembrance of the deceased. I'm struggling a little with taking such a strong stance, but at the same time, I somewhat resent the implication that I will not be bringing a gospel message. I will, but the gospel that I will bring is a message of God's prevailing grace available to all, of God's love for all of humanity, of the resurrection of Christ for the salvation of all. The deceased once said to me, "That's my church. I was baptized in that church. I did a lot of bad things in my life, but Jesus saved me. All that's gone away now, because Jesus saved me."

That's the Gospel I'm gonna preach.

Rev Gal Blog Pals Friday Five - Muggle version

So today's F5 is a Choose Your Own Adventure: do the magical version or the Muggle one, or both:

1. Former U.S. First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson died this week. In honor of her love of the land and the environment, share your favorite flower or wildflower.

Has to be the plain white daisy. We used to stop the car and pick big bouquets along the side of the road. They don't grow like that around where I live now. We have sunflowers here. I tried picking those once, and ended up with yellow pollen covering everything in my car and office, including my clothing.

For domesticated flowers, I love lilacs - on the bush or cut and in a vase. I love the smell.

2. A man flew almost 200 miles in a lawn chair, held aloft by helium balloons. Share something zany you'd like to try someday.
I tend to be fairly risk averse. Extreme for me is the fact that at 45 years old I ride a scooter. I've wrecked twice, but with gas at >$3/gallon I really appreciate the 80+ mpg. Anyway, I would love to do a camping road trip on my scooter. A scooter acquaintance of mine, twenty-something female, bought a scooter and rode solo from KC to Utah and back while she still had temporary tags. My husband once did a long motorcycle trip, camping on the way. I planned a bicycle trip when I was in high school, but never did it. I've never done anything so irrational and adventurous - unless you count attending seminary.

3. Do you have an iPhone? If not, would you want one?
I don't need an iPhone. I have a variety of SmartPhone that pretty much does everything that I think the iPhone is supposed to do. It's a PDA, a camera, and an MP3 player. I can surf the web and I can even make phone calls! My only real gripe is that the touch pad for dialing numbers is more difficult than real push buttons might be. It doesn't have GPS, but I don't see the need, either.

4. Speaking of which, Blendtec Blenders put an iPhone in one of their super-duper blenders as part of their "Will It Blend?" series. What would YOU like to see ground up, whizzed up or otherwise pulverized in a blender?
An aircraft black box. They are supposed to be indestructible. I read (or listened to the audiobook) a story once about a man who ate a plane. He was doing fine until he got to the black box and wasn't sure how to proceed. The book is called The Man Who Ate the 747 by Ben Sherwood.

5. According to News of the Weird, a jury in Weld County, Colo., declined to hold Kathleen Ensz accountable for leaving a flier containing her dog's droppings on the doorstep of U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, apparently agreeing with Ensz that she was merely exercising free speech. What do you think? Is doggy doo-doo protected by the First Amendment?
Seems it would depend on the leash and curbing laws of the area. Most places you can't leave dog feces in public places or on private property other than your own. And a flier, too. Definitely littering. It seems that one could find more culturally appropriate ways to exercise free speech, like by having the flier and dog doo delivered to the person. Much classier.