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.


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.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Another Saturday in Paradise

Steve is about to take the kids swimming. I have a sermon to write. Soon the house will be quiet and I will be able to think. I usually end up writing my sermons during the wee hours of the morning because it is the only time to do so without distractions. Of course, there is always the web, though, if I do need a distraction or procrastination excuse.

We should have been going to piano lessons, but the kids' teacher called last night to cancel. Aaron has a friend over anyway - he's a very nice young man. two and a half years older than Aaron, but they get along so well, he's extremely polite, and therefore, definitely someone that I want my kid to be around.

I finished knitting a shawl this morning and started another one. I also started a purse that I got the pattern for yesterday. I ordered some yarn last week that is supposed to be here Tuesday. My plan for it is a dress. I figure that if I start now, I may actually have a dress to wear for commencement next May.

I have a lot of reading that I want to do. I also have paper that I need to write - or at least rework an old one - before Friday.

I went to the farmer's market this morning and got corn and cabbage and snap peas and peppers. I'm growing peppers on the front porch, and a couple are almost big enough to pick, but I'm hoping to leave them on until they start to turn red, yellow or orange. I think I planted some of each. I think I have some pork steaks in the freezer. We can throw those on the grill with the corn and call it supper tonight. We may go to a fireworks display tonight, but it doesn't start until fairly late, so we'll just have to see. (When I was a kid, and my mother said, "We'll see." that always meant, "No.")

Well, I better get writing. I probably won't get much sleep tonight anyway.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

On Writing

Nope, not the Stephen King book. (Although it is pretty good. I listened to the audiobook back in 2001, shortly after 9/11. I know when it was because I remember that I flew to a conference in Atlanta only one week after the planes were flying again, and I distinctly remember walking about Atlanta listening to that book.)

No, I've been thinking about writing because I need to be writing. I started this blog, thinking that it would encourage me to write. As the sparsity of the posts witnesses to, that hasn't exactly worked.

I've often bought lovely journals thinking that would encourage me. It just never works. I have many lovely journals with three to five pages used and then, nothing.

Of course, I write a sermon every week. That's something, but they are intended for speaking, not reading. It's just not the same (but I must admit, I'm better at talking through thoughts than sorting them on paper).

I've even talked to one of my mentors about journaling. I recognize there is that hand/mind right-brain connection when one writes longhand that just doesn't seem to exist when typing - a very left-brain activity. But then, to capture it for posterity or at least to use pieces later, it needs to be typed. What to do, what to do? Write and retype? Seems too redundant and subject to editing.

One of my parishioners has kept a journal for 50 years. She says she has never lost an argument because everything is in her journals. She can look up the exact date things occurred because she writes everything down. Even phone numbers and addresses end up in her journals.

Yesterday, I got another idea. When I was a teenager, I used to write long, detailed letters to select friends and relatives cataloguing every little thing going on. Usually these were just a method to combat boredom during the summer months, some of it was pure drivel used only to fill space, but as I think back on them, they did a nice job chronicling my life at the time.

SOOOOOO.... my next experiment is to start writing letters - never to be sent - but to keep a record of my thoughts, feelings, activities. If anything is worth keeping, maybe I'll retype it into the blog, or at least a file.

Now, if I can just find some good paper and a new pen.........