Saturday, September 30, 2006
After posting the family photo a few posts below I took the original to the nursing home and tacked it up on a bulletin board. My mother and I talked about each person-- aunts, uncles or cousins. And the matriarch in front (Neta) holds a special place in both my mother's heart and mine. We remembered (well,I did and mom listened) things about each one. There have been many deaths in the last two or three years. Looking at the picture made us think of that. It seemed strange.
I recalled trips to Texas when all the aunts, uncles and cousins (my mother had 7 siblings) would gather at my grandfather's house to wait for us to arrive. We would be greeted by a phalanyx of family members smiling and drawling a Texas hello, hugging us, exclaiming about how much we'd grown, planting kisses on our cheeks. The aroma of Neta's famous pecan pies wafted through the rooms. Cousins would appear from all corners of the big brick house, shyly checking out the California contingent of the family. My handsome uncle, C.G. (we thought him even more good-looking than Clark Gable), would say a blessing and then we'd sit down to a meal of dishes we seldom ate in California. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans cooked with bacon till very soft, black-eyed peas, fried okra, and either biscuits or cornbread We washed it all down with sweet iced tea.
Then the men disappeared into the den to play "42" (a domino game). The women cleaned up while the younger cousins (my group) played "red light, green light" or "statuemaker" on the lawn, and the older cousins went upstairs to the huge loft bedroom to listen to rock and roll and dance the bop. One of our cousins played "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" so many times that I can never hear the song without thinking of Texas. I got a bad case of "chiggers" once from playing on that lawn. If you don't know what that is, you don't want to. Pure misery in the form of a tiny insect.
We didn't have a lot of money so these family reunions were all too few and far between. My Grandfather (known as Papa) was a genial white-haired southern gentleman whom all adored. We really did not know him as well as we longed to, and we envied our Texas cousins who got to do things together as a family all the time.
They in turn envied us. We were from the "glamorous" state of California. They'd quiz us about whether we'd seen any movie stars or had been to Disneyland lately. My eldest sister once danced with Richie Valens (of "La Bamba" fame) at a San Fernando High School dance, but that was about as exciting as it got.
We loved the small west Texas town in which they all lived. It seemed safe and warm and like something out of a storybook. Visiting at my favorite aunt's house, I'd wake up at dawn listening to the rooster crow and look out the window to see miles of red dirt and cotton fields instead of pastel-hued stucco houses and palm trees. "Whoooo wheeee," my dad would exclaim, gazing at the green cotton plants, "Have you ever seen anything so purty?" I had. I preferred mountains and trees, but I didn't tell him so. I just put my hands on my hips and gazed over the fields with him.
A trip to Texas always required, to my chagrin, a visit to " Robbie's Beauty Salon." There my aunt would cut and perm my hair, pulling and teasing it so tightly afterwards that tears came to my eyes. Big hair, it seemed, was required for even a visiting 10 year-old neice. I loved her too much to tell her I hated what she did to my hair. The beauty shop was like none I'd seen in California. It was a social center. I'd sit in the chair and watch women come and go, listening with a tinge of amusement to their heavy accents as they gossiped about the goings-on in the town. When I watched "Steel Magnolias" years later, I cried because it made me miss my beloved Aunt Robbie Jo who died many years ago of cancer.
At night my cousins would cruise "the strip." They'd pile in a car and circle the square in the center of town, honking and calling out to other teenagers. Around the square, down the highway to the little fast food joint outside of town, back up the highway and around the square and up to the gas station at the other end of town. And back to the square and down to the drive in and back....over and over.
The last time I was in Texas I drove past Papa and Neta's home. Papa died almost 30 years ago, and sweet Neta is living in the "rest home." The house sat vacant. The paint was peeling badly and the yard was overgrown and dry. Weeds pushed up in the cracked cement of the driveway. I got out of the car and walked to the rear of the house, feeling like a trespasser. I was remembering a large enclosed porch where we'd sit in a glider and watch fireflies flit among the pecan trees and listen to the whirring locusts. The screens were ripped, and the door to the porch swung crookedly on one twisted hinge. I was surprised to see that the glider still sat in it's former place, but it was rusted and broken. "I shouldn't have gone back here," I thought with a pang of sadness. Last year I heard that the beautiful old house had been renovated and a young family had moved in. I am glad about that.
This afternoon my daughter called to tell me she had emailed the picture of us. It looks like it should be called, "Pink Ladies." She said, "Mom, I am getting big. Suddenly I look really pregnant." She's painting butterfly stencils in the nursery today. Her husband says he is trying to restrain her from covering every surface. She never does anything in a small way.
My mother is forgetting that a baby is coming to the family. I am trying to mention it every day. She will be coming home next week, we hope, and a woman from our congregation will be staying with her while I am not home. She needs the money and my mother needs the company, so I hope this works out. I do have many concerns, but I am watching my mother grow more and more depressed in the nursing home. She's had yet another small stroke, and even though she recovered quickly, it makes me anxious for what is yet to come. Looking at the family picture I couldn't help but wonder if it will be my mother or my Aunt Pauline (standing next to her) who will go first. Gloomy thoughts, perhaps, but part of life.
And then I started thinking about families. In those long-ago days a trip to Texas was better than Christmas. I had yet to realize it, but my own family was disintegrating. And the idyllic feelings I have about those years? Was it real? Well, what I remember most is the warm love and acceptance we received from my Texas relatives.
How strange that today I live in a town that is smaller than my mother's home town was then. Along with the family, that town is fading away, growing smaller and poorer. It's heyday, when the farmers came to town and the square was packed with pedestrians, is long gone.
What memories will happen for our little granddaughter? No big house, no farm, no rooster, no large family and (so far) no cousins. Her mommy's brother will be a great uncle though. And her grandpa will take her camping. I can make a really good pecan pie. When I am gone and she is reminiscing, what will she say?
Psalms 100: 5
For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.
Friday, September 29, 2006
The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it.
The world and all its people belong to him.
For he laid the earth's foundation on the seas
and built it on the ocean depths.
Who may climb the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
Only those whose hands and hearts are pure,
who do not worship idols and never tell lies.
They will receive the LORD's blessing
and have right standing with God their savior.
They alone may enter God's presence
and worship the God of Israel.
Open up, ancient gates!
Open up, ancient doors,
and let the King of glory enter.
Who is the King of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, invincible in battle.
Open up, ancient gates!
Open up, ancient doors,
and let the King of glory enter.
Who is the King of glory?
The LORD Almighty--
He is the King of glory
Last night was “Church Night with the Bucks.” The Milwaukee Bucks,that is. I accompanied a group of small boys and their adult leaders to a National Basketball Association (NBA) game. The boys, and a few of the adults, had anticipated this trip for weeks, saving money for souvenirs, discussing their favorite players, and generally bringing the tenor or anticipation to a fever pitch. As they entered the church before leaving for the game, the excitement was evident. After a rather lengthy wait as we drove our van to Milwaukee, we arrived at the sports arena.
We saw others arrive from many neighboring areas. Bright shirts identified many of the boys as church kids. Shouts of recognition rang out as boys recognized friends. We entered the large building and headed up the escalator. Our senses were already on overload as our noses smelled the scent of popcorn and cheese nachos, our ears pulsed with the exciting, loud music, our eyes took in the bright spotlights, flashing scoreboard, prancing cheerleaders, revolving neon and more.
By the time we reached our seats the boys were bouncing with anticipation. An air of excitement filled the place as more and more people arrived. And the shouting was intense when the Bucks were introduced. WooHoo! Little Joey in the seat next to me waved his pennant with reckless enthusiasm and then leaned over, eyes wide and wearing an ear-to-ear grin. “I’m all about the Bucks!” he proclaimed with joy. “I’m so excited!”
I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 24 and, for just a moment, contrast their joy and anticipation as they welcomed their heroes into the stadium with the joy we will express when our King of Glory enters! They leaped to their feet, shouted, clapped, and slapped each other on the back.
They planned, anticipated, saw others dressed as they were, entered the place of “glory” and cheered their heads off. The parallels are obvious, aren’t they? It was energizing and joyful. I had a great time, actually.
Our reading for today, is a splendid song of worship. I believe this Psalm refers to the solemn bringing in of the ark into the tent David pitched for it, or the temple Solomon built for it. Can you picture the scene as the people of God shout, clap their hands, and sing with abandon?
Perhaps it is a foreshadowing of the rejoicing heard in Heaven itself when the King of Glory, the risen and now ascended Christ, enters in triumph.
Now that is an amazing event to try to imagine! in the Book of Revelation, the writer uses numerous metaphors when describing Heaven. Light, walls of jewels, gates of pearl, a river of crystal, gold streets…I’m sure all these earthly things pale in the revelation of the Heavenly realities, but it is the best John can do.
The angles, faithful servants of God, the cherubim and seraphim, mighty Michael, Gabriel with his trumpet--who knows how many throngs of beautiful beings, row upon row, all rejoicing as only angels could do, perhaps singing and playing music that our loveliest symphonies only hint at.
Into this comes the KING OF GLORY, the Lord of all the watching angelic hosts, victorious over death and Hell and the grave.
Now that is sensory overload!
The angels were to worship him. In Heb 1:6: they ask with wonder, “Who is he?” It is answered that he is strong and mighty; mighty in battle to save his people, and to subdue his and their enemies.
And we, beloved ones, are part of this very place of celebration. Wonder of wonders, Christ has entered into the spirits of his creation, men and women, by his word and Spirit, that they may be his temples.
“Behold, he stands at the door, and knocks.” Rev 3:20. The gates, the very doors of our spiritual hearts are to be opened to him. We are his possession, and he is the rightful owner.
Could this also speak of his second coming with glorious power? Can you imagine a time when we ascend the hill of the Lord? When we stand in his holy place? David said in another Psalm, “Lord, if you marked our transgressions, who could stand?”
We can stand. Thanks be to our Lord and Savior that by his life and the grace of God, we can be among the company of those who have “clean hands and pure hearts” We will joyfully receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from the God of our salvation. Such is the company of those who seek him.
Could we be “all about Jesus? Could we open wide the gates of our hearts? Could we anticipate his entrance with abandon and joy?
Prayer: Lord, open the everlasting door of our souls by your wonderful grace, that we may now receive you, and be wholly yours, and that, at last, we may be numbered with the hosts of those who even now adore you in Heaven.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Veneration: showing deep respect towards a person or an object.
When I traveled to the gulf coast for Katrina relief I was very surprised to witness a degree of pastoral veneration that I found, well frankly I found it rather alarming. When the pastor spoke people listened, but more than that they tended to treat him with respect that (to me) bordered on the ridiculous. When he met with the deacon board, everyone was shushed and scooted away from the room as if the president was meeting with the cabinet--or a king with his knights. He walked around his church with a small retinue. It made me uncomfortable to hear people say, "The pastor is here"almost as if they all had to stop what they were doing to bow.
I found it amazing, and so did my husband. More than once we glanced at one another in disbelief. It bordered on idolatry, in my opinion. (A side note: he was thanked for coming to help and recognized as being a minister. I was not. Wonder why? But that is a separate issue.) I am concerned that such an attitude could lead to an atmosphere ripe for all kinds of spiritual abuse.
Sometimes this is geographic or cultural, but 'round these parts we tend to be much more casual when it comes to pastor-congregation interaction. Some people in my church call me Pastor. Some call me SingingOwl and some call me "Pastor SingingOwl." (Hmmm. I like the sound of Pastor SingingOwl. Don't you?) Sometimes the same person calls me all of the above, depending on the situation and circumstances. That is fine with me. I don't much care about titles, though I admit I worked hard for that "pastor" one so it does have a nice ring to it.
I bet no one ever took this guy lightly. Perhaps the key is to practice a steely gaze, never smile, and wear a BIG cross. I'm looking at this picture and my picture and I think I see the problem!
Point is, I tend to feel that a clergyperson is just one part of the whole. An important part to be sure, but the work of the Kingdom is teamwork. The pastor is not the only minister. He or she is given the task of equipping others for ministry. Is the pastor more holy, more blessed than others in the church? Maybe, but maybe not. Probably not. I remember my fellow ministers-to-be all too well. LOL!
However, last week after a few episodes that were not exactly polite, in fact bordered on a kind of veiled contempt, I found myself thinking of that particular Mississippi pastor with a tinge of envy. How nice to be treated with such respect. It would be good (sometimes) to enter a room and encounter an expectation that God was going to do something important because I am in the room.
Okay, I don't really mean that. But do you see where I'm trying to go? In our more casual culture have we lost something?
I recall reading the wonderful old book "The Little Minister" by Barre and being quite struck by the respect and graciousness extended to the hero of the story just because he was the new minister in town. I was a teenager when I first read the book, but even in the long-ago '60s the attitude toward my pastor was nothing like what I read in the book which was set in the 1800s.
My fellow Wisconsinite and Rev Gal member, "Cheesehead in Paradise", posted recently about how some parishioners took the opportunity to aim some painful arrows of criticism her way during (of all things) a worship service when she had requested they write some comments related to vision for their church. Vision for their future! And they found that an appropriate time to slam their pastor?!
That made me very angry, perhaps because I recalled my husband's similar experience with a group of critics in a long-ago parish. Those particular folks would have been overjoyed to see harm come to all of our family and made that clear during a meeting in the church sanctuary.
Popular culture certainly does not help. Do you often see a positive view of clergy in current books, television or movies? (Don't even get me started on that one.) In a survey I saw recently, ministers rated just above used-care salesmen on the trust and respect scale. Of course, the scandals of the 90s and the Catholic Church's handling of pedophile priests has added a lot of fuel to the fire. Sadly.
Are most clergy untrustworthy? Sometimes I wonder. I do not believe so, but I've had many conversations with people who seem to think so and will not go to church in spite of being Christians, partly because of autocratic pastors. And yes, I do know some. I also know many others who are kind and hard-working and dedicated to God and people.
I just like basic R.E.S.P.E.C.T. I want to always give it--and I want to receive it.
What do you think? Is there a balance we have lost? Is it cultural? Is there something we should change? Have we (ministers) brought this upon ourselves? Are we too casual? Too formal?
Am I overreacting?
Two follow-up comments:
1. I just read an article which says that the trend of vilifying clergy may be ending. Read about positive (fictional) clergy role models if you like.
2. To the two or three of my dear church folk who occasionally stop in here, don't worry. You are not guilty.
Monday, September 25, 2006
There are Amish communities in Wisconsin and Minnesota. This picture was taken not far from the Twin Cities. Kris said she was driving, and she noticed the horses first. Then she slowed down and saw the farmer. She quickly pulled over and called out to him, "Beautiful horses!" and he smiled and waved as he continued plowing. She commented, "This could be a picture from the past. I almost felt like I was the one who was somehow misplaced in time."
If you live in Minnesota and need a photographer, here is a website. It has not been updated in several years though--and I take no responsibility for the picture of Kris. ;-) The pictures posted there now are mostly shirtless guys, but she has lots of beautiful wedding photos and landscapes and other things. She is hoping to update it soon.
In addition to freelance photography, she works here part time.
End of commercial.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Soybeans in Summer
Soybeans are a Beautiful Orange in Autumn
I am not a country girl. I was born in Good Samaritan Hosptial, Los Angeles, California. I grew up in the smoggy, congested San Fernando Valley. After living in North Carolina, Washington, D.C. (while Ken served in the USMC) and North Dakota (now that is rural!) while finishing our theological education, we ended up in Wisconsin. Wisconsin? I didn't know where Wisconsin was when I was young. I still love the city, and I miss Milwaukee where I worked for seven years. But I love the country too.
The pictures above are of soybeans. As I said in my previous post, autumn has arrived in Wisconsin. We are seeing more and more soybean fields around our area. They are a beautiful crop--glossy and dark green in summer, then yellow-gold and finally orange. Right now there are places where all three shades can be seen.
Thank you, God, for the blessings of living in the country. Thank you for color, and change, and seasons, and beautiful crops.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
"...may your strength match the length of your days! There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the clouds of the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor...The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you."
This is another in the series of blessing-counting posts, even though the day didn't start out with me feeling blessed.
It was a sad morning. I went to bed last night close to tears and aware of painfully tight neck and shoulder muscles. I felt tense, stressed and anxious. I woke with sore shoulders and a headache. As I greeted the day, and the Lord, I asked for grace to have a heart of peace and thankfulness.
I went to the nursing home early to drop off clean clothes. I usually go there in the evening, so don't often see much of the daytime procedure.
Today the occupational therapist was asking a series of simple questions. Mom was supposed to say how two words were the same. For example-- cat, dog. She couldn't do it. She slowly, and with great effort, answered about two of 10 questions. They went on to other exercises and I listened silently, growing increasingly sad as I bent wire hangers back in shape and sorted clothes in the cramped closet. It was one of my mother's "blank" days.
Like most southern women, she is very particular about her clothes, her makeup, her jewelry and her hair. Wisconsin women, even elderly ones, do not usually wear bright green or fuscia or royal blue polyester pants. Not so southern women! My mother's Texas tastes run to bright colors. She worked in a small clothing store from about age 70 till 80 when she finally "retired" because the owner died and the store closed. I thought about those things as I placed socks and pajamas in the tiny drawer and hung colorful blouses with "Southern Lady" on the label tag, placing them beside the bright-hued slacks. I pictured her at 80, waiting on customers and finding clothes and shoes and purses, smiling at wealthy women and silently enduring the disdain of her employer.
I glanced at her, sitting quietly on her bedside, afghan over her knees as she knit her brows and tried desperately to answer a few simple questions. Her hair was sticking up in several directions, but she looked cute in a striped shirt and blue jeans with cuffs rolled up. She chuckled self-consciously and glanced over at me with a kind of desperation. "I know this is easy. I know I should be able to answer" she said with embarrassment in her voice. The therapist was kind and tried to be reassuring. It didn't work. Tears filled my eyes and I left the room for a quick stroll down the hall to regain my composure.
A C.D. player was blaring old-time tunes in the front room. "Nothin' but blue skies....from now on..." I was not feeling too peaceful or thankful so far.
Autumn has arrived in Wisconsin. The air is a bit cool and the leaves are getting tinged with the first hints of fall color. There is a patio at the nursing home, so when the therapist left I took my mother outside, being careful to punch the right combination into the keypad by the door so as not to be blasted with an alarm. I have actually been missing her daily weather comments.
Gaudy, glitter-decked lawn ornaments featuring glowing pumpkins and cornucopias decorated the walkway. "Oh, look at those pretty fall decorations!" said my mother in childlike glee. She sat at the wrought-iron table and sipped a cappucino I had brought from the local Kwik Trip. "Mmm. This is good." She smiled and relaxed a little. "Look at those beautiful clouds." She pulled her sweater closer as a cool breeze lifted the fake leaf garlands wound around the fence marked, KEEP CLOSED FOR THE SAFETY OF RESIDENTS.
"What a beautiful fall day. Look at the pretty leaves. And look at those beautiful clouds." She grew silent and looked at me seriously. "I am not all here" she said. "I can't remember things." "I know" I replied simply, and she looked surprised. "What do you mean, you know? How can you tell?"
"I talk to you. I understand that you can't remember things. I can tell that you are changing. I know it makes you sad. It makes me sad too. " Surprise filled her face again. She said, "I hope I get better." "Me too" I said.
"You know what?" I blurted out, suddenly feeling more cheerful, "You can be glad you are partly here. Your roommate is younger than you, but she lies curled up most of the time. She cannot walk. She cannot communicate. She does not look at the bird feeder outside her window. You can sit here on this nice patio, look at the clouds, taste a cappucino and enjoy the morning. For a woman aged 89, that's not so bad!"
My mother's face brightened. "I can. That is good. Thank you for bringing me outside."
A moment passed. "Have you noticed those beautiful clouds and the blue color of the sky?"
"Yep, I sure have" I replied.
Thank you, Jesus the Creator of all , for the crisp air, the beautiful fluffy clouds and the bright blue color of the sky. May your everlasting arms be under us.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The collage is a sample of something we did at church this past weekend. (I'm not sure why it chopped off the top of so many heads.)
A while back we decided that since quite a few of us are interested in reenacting (thanks to my husband) we should turn this into an outreach/event. After plastering three towns with posters and other advertisements, we erected two tipis and 6 other lodges in a small 1820-style camp and invited the town. We had demonstrations of fur-trade era skills, held kids games that were true to the period (anyone ever played "Graces?"), threw tomahawks at a target, and told stories and had fun around a campfire at night. Our special guest, the man in the lower right corner, was "Jacques LaChristian: the French Voyaguer." He kept us all laughing with his French Canadian accent and his tall tales. (In reality his name is David and he is from Minnesota.)
Sunday morning we held our worship service outdoors. Rain was forecast, but you can see from the pictures that the day was clear and beautiful. We did not have as many townspeople visit our encampment as we had hoped, but we did have many visitors join us on Sunday morning and many indications of God's Holy Spirit working in lives. It was a good start to what we plan to make an annual event.
Does it look like a fun way to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Here is a close up of Janques LaChristian, and below is a picture of some of those in attendance Sunday morning.
Monday, September 18, 2006
"To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death." Manuel II Paleologus
Benedict quoted this statement in the context of the contention that faith and reason go together. It is actually quite similar to this quotation from a prominent Baptist leader from the early 20th century:
"Christ's religion needs no prop of any kind from any worldly source, and to the degree that it is thus supported is a millstone hanged about its neck." George W. Truett
You notice there is no reference to forced conversion at the point of a sword (or a rifle) in Rev. Truett's words. There is a very simple reason for that: even a hundred years ago it was inconceivable that Christians--even the most ardent church-state entanglers--would advocate such a violation of one's human rights.
Today, however, mayhem ensues because six or seven hundred years ago a Christian ruler whose city was under siege from Muslim conquerors indicated that he thought the idea of forced conversions repugnant.
Well, I agree with Manuel II, George W. Truett, and the Pope that violence and coercion in the name of God is indeed repugnant, atrocious, ugly, and blasphemous. I am glad we have largely settled that issue in the church, and continue to pray for the tiny minority of Christian extremists who haven't quite figured it out yet.
If that upsets people who, I am forced to conclude, worship a god vastly different from my own, I have no choice but to confess, Ich bin ein Katholischer.
Disclaimer: No, I am not unaware that Christian kings and emperors have occasionally threatened (or used) force in order to convert unbelievers to Christ. Charlemagne's dealings with the Saxons come immediately to mind. No doubt there were similar lapses of Christian charity during the Crusades (which, it must be noted, occurred several centuries after Muslim conquerors conquered and began oppressing the non-Muslim inhabitants of formerly Christian-dominant places like Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and North Africa, in a period of growing mistreatment of Christian pilgrims attempting to visit their holy sites). Still, I am not aware of any such atrocities occurring in the last couple hundred years. We must be making at least a little progress!
Committing such acts clearly violates both the teaching and example of Jesus, as contemporary Christians concede with unanimity.
P.S. from Singing Owl
A certain politician with presidential aspirations (IMO) should stop making reference to this "great religion" in order to score political correctness points. And yes, I know not all Muslims are extremists. Benedict did not say they were.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
No time for coherent thought or blogging this a.m., but I did a little surfing last night and found some worthwhile reading.
Jesus Creed is beginning a series on Women in Ministry. It promises to be lengthly but interesting and worthwhile.
From there I went to Ruth Tucker's (author of "Daughters of the Church") website and read, with mounting sorrow and anger, her account of how she left Calvin Theological Seminary. It is very disturbing.
And one more post of note (shorter this time) is from John Trott. He writes of Albert Mohler's response to the recent dismissal of Mary Lambert from her positon as Sunday School teacher.
The direction of my former denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, continues to dismay and anger me. It is despicable to make Pastor LeBouf a poster boy for biblical correctness and use it as yet another springboard to slap women who dare to think they can lead. Yes, I said despicable.
Jesus, help your Church.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
It's pretty simple.
These are the questions that I will be answering.
1. Name something over which you had no control that you got teased about as a kid.
2. Describe a choice you made that you got teased about as a kid.
3. What do you remember most about your first boyfriend or girlfriend?
4. What was something your parents did that embarassed you?
5. What was something your parents did that made you proud?
6. What piece of furniture first comes to mind from the earliest house in which you remember living?
7. When did you first break a bone or get a bad cut?
8. How did you get your first traffic ticket?
9. When you were a kid, who or what did you dress up as for make-believe?
10. Which of the previous experiences have you thought about most recently (before taking this quiz)?
Monday, September 11, 2006
On the way to a chiropractic appointment this morning, the conversation in the car went something like this:
Mom: Those clouds sure do look rainy.
S.O. Yep. Actually, it is raining right now.
Mom: My hand looks awful (pulling dressing back to inspect her palm)!
S.O. You need to stop pulling on the dressing, okay?
Mom: My back sure is painful (wincing). It hurt bad all night.
S.O. Remember we've talked about this? When you are in pain you can ask the nurse and they will give you something for it.
Mom: I don't have anything.
S.O. I know. Just ask the nurse. She will have some.
Mom: Those clouds sure look dark and rainy.
S.O. Yes, but it is raining. That's good because we really need rain. .
Mom: My hand sure looks terrible(pulling dressing back to inspect her palm).
S.O. Please stop pulling on the dressing,okay? Every time you do that you pull on the wound a little.
Mom: I can look at my hand if I want to. It hurts. And my back hurts.
S.O. Remember, ask and they will give you something for pain.
Mom: Who will?
S.O. The nurse who brings your medications. She will have some Tylenol.
Mom: Those clouds look like rain clouds.
S.O. Yes, they sure do. In fact, it is raining right now. See the drops on the windshield?
Variations of this conversation are repeated several more times over the next ten minutes. Then...
Mom: Oooooh, my back is so sore.
S.O. (Trying something different) Mmmmm...my back kind of hurts too. Maybe it is the damp weather.
Mom: Did you take some Tylenol?
Mom: Well I guess next time I'll just have to remind you.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
A few days ago my mother was very 'bad." She could not hold a thought for more than 30 seconds or so, and she knew something was very wrong. She was afraid, and crying, and so I was crying as well. :-( My mother is a classic southern "steel magnolia." She does not cry. Usually.
I left and picked my husband up for a short drive to our former church. The Imperials were presenting a concert. Do you remember the Imperials? Their heyday was the 70s and early 80s. Founded by southern gospel legend, the late Jake Hess, the Imperials were a phenomenon in the gospel music world because they combined their southern gospel roots with a contemporary sound that was cutting edge at the time..
"Sail on, when the water gets high, sail on when the wind starts to die...sail on"
"I listen to the trumpet of Jesus while the world hears a different sound. I march to the drumbeat of God Almighty...While some others just wander around..I hear the voice of a supernatural singer like only those who know Him can..."
"Oh, let the Wind blow...blow as hard as it can..."
The Imperials faded from the scene as the group members left or aged. They are back, four young guys carrying on the tradition. They sang the standards, blending their voices in some great old-time harmony. Then they sang some new material and rocked the house! They were more than entertaining however. They ministered to my heart in a badly needed way. I cried and laughed and sang and worshipped.
God is good. Today's thanks is for the gift of music. What would my life be without music? I don't want to think about it! Check out the new Imperials here if you like southern gospel with an updated sound. I recommend the new album--the first from the new group.
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides for ever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people,
from this time on and for evermore.
For the sceptre of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,
so that the righteous may not stretch out
their hands to do wrong.
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
and to those who are upright in their hearts.
But those who turn aside to their own crooked ways
the Lord will lead away with evildoers.
Peace be upon Israel!
Psalm 125 (RSV)
In today's reading, the psalmist uses a mountain as a metaphor for those who trust in the Lord. He goes on in the next verse to describe the Lord in a similar way--a range of mountains surrounding the city of Jerusalem.
I presently live in the upper midwest of the United States. It is rather flat in this part of the country. People here don't seem to understnd mountains.
Not long after arriving at our first church, my husband and I were searching for the home of one of our parishoners. The penciled map we had been given seemed simple enough, and in a phone conversation we had been directed to drive down a certain country road until we came to a "series of hills." Just past the hills, which we were assured we could not miss, we would see their farmhouse on the left side of the road.
We drove for miles. We watched for hills. We grew puzzled, and we backtracked, wondering if we had missed a turn somewhere. No, we were on the right road. A trip that should have taken minutes stretched into an hour. We grew increasingly frustrated as we searched the horizon for hills that never materialized. Then, on our third trip over the same road, I realized that our car was moving over some bumps in the road. Small bumps. A series of small bumps. "This is it!" I yelled. "Turn left!" Sure enough, there was a familar figure in the yard as we pulled onto a dirt road and then down a long driveway. "Did ya have any trouble findin' us?" "Oh no," my husband said with a grin in my direction. "We just watched for the hills."
Bumps in the road were hills. And in this part of the country, people sometimes say "mountains" to describe what we would call "hills."
I love my adopted home, a state with rolling hillsides, green fields, red barns and black and white Holstein cattle. It is lovely country. But it lacks mountains.
Sometimes I long for the mountains that surrounded my childhood home. I could look down the street and see the foothills of California's Sierra Madre mountains. We lived in a large valley surrounded by purple mountain ranges. The majestic Rockies were in driving disance. My happiest days were spent in the mountains, driving up, up, up on winding roads that made us catch our breath as we looked over steep drops with only small guardrails for protection. The car chugged as the elevation got steeper, but my two sisters and I bounced with excitment in the back seat, sniffing the air for the first whiff of the the wonderful mountain pines. That scent is one of my favorite things. As the distant purple mountains became close-up brown and green and grey, I felt happy and secure. The air was cleaner, the sunshine was brighter, the rocks were bigger. Streams rushed in hidden canyons and burbled over stones. Birds sang in the high treetops. My little-girl heart was always glad in the mountains, always at peace.
Not much was secure in my life back then. Life seemed like sand beneath my feet. But the mountains--ah, there was something so strong, so unchanging, so long-lasting, so eternal about my beloved mountains. Year after year, they never changed. They were always present, always beautiful, always surrounding us with their great arms.
How like God! I love this metaphor for the Almighty. Strong, majestic, beautiful, unmovable, protecting, towering, peaceful, and full of delights.
But me? "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides for ever." How can this be? I am weak, flawed, small, insignificant. There must be something I cannot see. I love the Lord, so I am like Mt. Zion, says the singer of Psalms.
What glory! We who love God can be called a mountain--strong, beautiful and eternal. Created us with something of the divine image, we are, somehow, like God.
Does life seems insecure, changing, and unstable? Are you longing for peace, for delight, for strength? Look to the Lord, the eternal one whose love surrounds you like a mountain range of protection. Draw from that security, and realize anew that you are capable and beautiful and amazing--made in the image of God!
Prayer: God who is like mountains, surround us with your protection, your peace and your awesome and beautiful power this day. Reveal hidden joys as we draw closer to you. Give us the strength that comes only from loving you. Grant that we may stand strong and face what comes with courage and endurance, knowing that we, like you, are eternal. Amen
Thursday, September 07, 2006
As someone who let off a whole lot of steam about this subject, on this very blog, may I suggest some interesting reading at the Evangelical Outpost, "Iron Jesus and the Masculinized Church." The quote above is just a small sample from this excellent post.
HUH! (Said in a deep voice with my fist pumping the air.)
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things... And the God of peace will be with you.
I've been a bit morose of late. I could make a list of things to be grumpy about, not the least of which is that I have no sermon for Sunday and no ideas. I didn't go to sleep until about 2 p.m. so I just woke up, which is a good thing under such circumstances. I need to get going. But I'm taking time to start a list that I will add to as I can for the next few days.
1. I can see. There was a time that such a simple statement was in danger of not being true.
2. I can walk and talk and think. See above.
3. I am alive to greet this beautiful day.
4. It is a beautiful day. The weather lately has been wonderful.
5. Patches the Cat no longer has a face full of sores. (Yuck. But true. Thanks to those who prayed for the cat a while back.)
6. I can take the cat into the nursing home, where she has curled up next to her "mom", behaved superbly, and comforted my mother with her purring and her soft fur and her round green eyes and her presence.
7. I have a job to go to. Which I will do very soon. That job is not just a job, it is a ministry, and I have a nice office in which to pray and read and think and work.
8. My husband loves me, and he tells me that many times a day.
9. People who have never met me have thought of me and prayed and blessed me and found ways to show it. (Thank you, dear Connie. What a precious woman you must be.)
10. Tomorrow I am going with Pat, Kelly, Nancy, and Donna to beautiful Door County. These are "church ladies" and we are doing a mini retreat in this lovely peninsula surrounded by Lake Michigan on one side and Green Bay (the bay, not the city) on the other. Nancy is allowing us to use her family property for free. Otherwise we could never afford this little trip.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
It had rained earlier, but now the sun shone through the green ceiling of trees, casting shifting patterns of light and shadow. The leaves shook small showers of droplets onto our heads. It was quiet in the woods (except for us, being silly) and it was not hard to imagine a little of what it was like for Native Americans, Mountain Men or Voyaguers to pad softly through the woods with moccasined feet.
According to the scenario, Miss McC. the daughter of a prominent settler in the area, had been abducted by "hostiles." A "woods walk," as this is called, requires everyone to keep a sharp eye out for various targets, pop-ups, and other surprises. The situation may call for a black powder rifle or for a tomahawk. Some woods walks involve archery but this one did not.
No, we really are not violent people.
Much2Ponder looks like Peter Pan to me in this picture. (Really, I'm just saying that because I am coveting her buckskin dress.)
Her husband, Little Too Much, and Jesse get ready to trek on There is no sign of poor Rebekah yet.
Jesse takes careful aim and fires. He's a good shot.
And here they are with Rebekah Mc Clue, who is tied to a post. Jesse's son, Nick, Ken (Bearded Eagle), Ray (Little Too Much) and Jesse. Pat (Much2Ponder) says she thinks that Rebekah and I are related since we share a specific physical resemblence. I do not know what she means.
Monday, September 04, 2006
I'm spending my labor day laboring. I spent time in my mother's room--I vacuumed, dusted, polished, and then I scrubbed her bathroom. I threw away stacks of old magazines and catalogs and appeal letters from various regliious organizations and political figures. I felt a little guilty--did it anyhow.
Now...on to MY room!
Saturday, September 02, 2006
I assure you, anyone who doesn't have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God." Then he took the children into his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.
Sunday dawned clear and beautiful. Here is the conversation inside our lodge.
Bearded Eagle: This choker has a cross on it, so would it be good for church? Does it match my shirt okay? Where is my Bible?
Singing Owl: You look fine! I can't find my chemise...maybe I should dress in my beaded Indian dress instead? What am I thinking? Why did I say I'd baptize a baby?
People gathered on the grassy center of camp. Some brought benches or chairs. Some sat on the grass. This picture looks like it should be called "the children's section."
Ken's sermon was "Jesus Will Meet You Where You Are" from the passage about Jesus and the disciples on the shore after the resurrection. He spoke eloquently about the different places we find ourselves, and how the Lord will come to us in that place of need. More tears. One girl was openly weeping, and I could tell that the man seated next to me was struggling with some deep emotions.
Mother, Father and about-to-be-baptized Child were seated in the front row.
Ken concluded with a time of silent reflection and prayer, allowing each of us to talk to God about our current situations and to invite the Lord into them.
It turned out the man who had spoken to me about baptizing a child was the little boy's grandfather. Here we are: me (looking like Old Mother Hubbard), grandfather, grandmother, sister, mother and toddler. And in the second photo, dad has stepped up, his hair still very short from his recent stint in the Middle East.
People were invited to stay for the baptism if they wished, and everyone did. It was a beautiful scene. The sky was bright blue; the sun warmed our backs as we sat in the green clearing. I was nervous (will I do this right?) and I was feeling a little strange about doing something I never thought I'd be doing. And this may sound odd, but I did have a sense of God smiling at us, maybe even chuckling at my discomfort. Does God chuckle? Perhaps.
Look closely at the group picture and you will see a piece of pottery on the table. It is a little creamer pitcher-- very suitable for baptisms of the "pouring " variety, I thought.
From the Old Testament I read scripture about our responsibility to share the works of God with our children and grandchildren. From the New Testament I read about Jesus blessing the children. We prayed for the family and for little Ethan, who has some disabilities. I led them in statements of intention, and I asked those assembled to do nothing that would hinder the work of God in this little one's life.
The words of baptism, "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" felt strange in my mouth as I poured a stream of water over little Ethan's head. He winced. God smiled.
As people began to disperse, the man who had sat next to me told me that he was a Christian who had once been strong in his faith. He said he had not been in church for over a year and he had been questioning God's existence. He went on to say that his wife had left him and their two teenagers, and he had left church and God behind at the same time--struggling through the pain of divorce and feeling estranged from God--very angry. He said, "This was so beautiful, and it was just what I needed. I would not have gone to a church building, but this seemed all right. I know God was speaking to me and is going to meet me where I am." I told him I'd be praying for him and trusting that his journey back to faith would be something he could share with others in days to come.
Later, Grandfather approached with another of his several grandchildren. His voice was uncharacteristicly soft as he thanked me for baptizing his little grandson, and he handed me this little pottery vase. The buckskin-clad boy who stood by his side looked up at me shyly as he told me he had picked the Goldenrod himself. A $20 bill was tucked inside the vase. I think this little vase will stay with me long after my chemise and Ken's choker are dim memories.
Praise be to God, who does all things well.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Friday night after we had settled in at the rendezvous site near Silver Cliff, one of the camp leaders approached me carrying a candle lantern for light and looking a little timid.
He said, "Each year we have something special here. For the last two years we've had weddings. And this year there is a family who have been waiting till dad came home from Iraq to get their little boy baptized. Pastr, could you do a baptism at church on Sunday? They just moved into the area and haven't found a church home yet. They really want to haver their child baptized at a rendezvous, and it seems perfect, since this year we have a parson in attendance, and dad is home."
I immediately thought of Questing Parson and a few of the RevGals and wished they were in attendance. Is there a Lutheran...a Methodist...an Episcopalian in the house?
Uh, I mean, in the group...in the meadow..somewhere? Oh dear.
I gently said that Assemblies of God pastors do not baptize infants. He looked confused, so I briefly explained that their are two main schools of thought on baptism. We dedicate babies to the Lord in a special ceremony, and we baptize those who, later on, decide to follow Jesus Christ as savior. "Oh, fine," he said. Just dedicate him, and then baptize him."
Hmm. I saw that my doctrinal fine points had escaped him. Consternation...and then...the still small voice of--the Holy Spirit? "Baptise him." Uh...God...is that You? "Baptize him."
I took a deep breath. "I would be honored to do that. I'd love to. I'd like to talk with the parents though." "Wonderful!" he said, with a big smile.
Next day I wished for my computer. I do not know how to conduct an infant baptism. What to do? "God, why is this happening, dang it!" Then it was clear. Do what the man had said. Dedicate him and then baptize him.
I then wished for my little black book of clergy necessities. Another deep breath. I settled down with my notebook, Bible, pen, and solitude. I wrote, and it flowed easily. I looked up scriptures and found them quickly. Something was happening in me--a kind of joy.
I joked to my husband, "Don't tell _________." (Our presbyter.) We decided that on Sunday morning Ken would preach and I'd do the baptism and we'd share the other parts.
It is midnight. I'll share the rest tomorrow. Yawn...