Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Curiouser and Curiouser" -- I''m Still the Pastor

That is our district superintendant (like a biship) up front, not me. (LOL) He was here some time back as we rededicated our building after major remodeling.

Readers of this blog know that I recently resigned as pastor of my church. My last Sunday was supposed to be this next one, March 2nd. I know that many people, some who know me in real life and many who do not, have been concerned and have been praying for me and for the church. I thank each of you for the prayer, and for the encouragment and emails, and so on.

No one was more surprised than I was when things began to change. I don't know how to explain it, so I'll just post an edited version of the letter I wrote to the church.

Dear Jubilee Congregation,

... I intended to share...last week, but the ice storm prevented us from having a church service. Today I am in Seattle because of my sister’s funeral. Next Sunday was scheduled to be my last day as your pastor.

...I was sensing something new. I contacted our deacons and asked them to pray earnestly with me for God’s direction...
I am going to stay as your pastor, if you will permit me.

As I have already told you, I left for my sabbatical feeling deeply disturbed...I believe the Holy Spirit spoke two things to me. That is not a phrase I use lightly....
The second was that I needed to “step out of the road.” I returned...still unclear about what to do...I wanted to be sure not to make a mistake...I simply had to trust and obey God. This realization brought peace, even though I was sad.

So I resigned and tearfully told you all good bye...
Almost immediately, I began to resolve, new commitment, new generosity, and new love among us.

Resigning was not a mistake—it was a strange part of what needed to happen here. It helped many of us wake up and face facts. Something happened in your hearts...Something also happened in me as I surrendered each of you completely to God. For reasons only God fully knows, I had to take that...step. You had to take it with me. And somehow in the middle of it all, God was at work.

God may keep me [at the church] for six months, a year, or ten years. We will leave that in God’s hands. Meanwhile, let’s love each other and love our Savior with all our hearts. Let’s work side by side. Let’s pick up our spiritual armor and put it on once again. I will stand together with those of you who will join me.

Pastor "SingingOwl"

Well, I said it was edited. :-)
I know, lots of you know my real name, but that is beside the point.
I still expect some change in my life. I intend to do some writing, and perhaps there will be something that Iwill do (ministry-wise) that is in addition to pastoring here, or perhaps it will be totally new but will come to my attention some time in the future. Or perhaps none of that will happen. I don't know. We are not "out of the woods' here at my church, but we will see what we will see. Meanwhile, here I am.

Life is strange, you know?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Back From Washington

Thank you so much to all who told me, one way or another, of your thoughts and prayers and well-wishes. They truly did warm my heart.

The Washington weather was wonderful. After days of sub-zero temps, 45 degrees feels warm! In Seattle the grass is green and even though the trees are bare there are buds on flower bushes. Approaching the Seattle/Tacoma airport is interesting, because the flight is over some of the glorious Cascade Mountains, and at this time of year their craggy peaks are snow-covered and magnificent. Then comes Puget Sound and the beautiful water, and then the green of Seattle, a classy city.

My brother in law, Larry, pictured here with me on the day of the memorial service, picked me up, along with my nephew's wife, Jessica. You see Jessica, my nephew, Grady, and me, below.

I thought it would be difficult to arrive at my sister's home, but I wasn't sad. I wasn't much of anything. I just--was. What a disconcerting feeling that was--feeling nothing much at all. I know it was a defense of my mind and emotions, and it worked, but I didn't much like it because it felt like I didn't care. I've never experienced anything quite like it before. That feeling, or lack thereof, did wear off, but it took a couple of days.

Later, Adryenne (Grady and Jessica's 18 year old daughter) came over and we all drove to the cemetery where Darlaine's ashes will be placed. It is a beautiful site. Here is the view looking towards the exit. I know Darlaine probably has much more wondrous vistas to admire, but I liked that Mt. Rainier is sort of watching over the place where her earthly remains will be. Like me, Darlaine loved the mountains.

Later, family arrived. Larry's son Dan and his French Canadian wife, Sylvie, Larry and Darlaine's daughters Shantell, and Franchesska (Frankie), Frankie's husband Matt and their two children. Others came the day of the service, and afterwards Larry's little place was packed with family.

The weather continued to be beautiful for the entire time I was there. The day of the service was no exception, and the sunshine buoyed our spirits. The chapel was full of people, and that made us all glad. The service was truly a celebration, and many people shared how Darlaine had ncouraged them in their faith and blessed their lives in various ways. The time at Larry's place with family after the reception was enjoyable as well. After many years of hearing about them, I met Larry's brother, Tony, and Tony's wife, Marie. There was other family there too, nearly 20 of us. We laughed and talked and enjoyed one another. (Hallelujah!) God was with us.

It was a little hard to leave. I don't know if I will ever visit there again, and good-byes are difficult. The flight was long but uneventful till icy rain caused delay at one of the connecting airports. It ended up that I missed the plane to Milwaukee. However, even that wasn't all bad, because I was in Minneapolis. So my son-in-law, Daryl, picked me up and I spent the night on the couch. Next morning I ate breakfast with Kris and the beautiful and charming Trinity Ann before dashing off to the airport for the final stretch.

I did well during the trip, but did not sleep much for about four nights, and when I finally arrived home yesterday afternoon I crashed. I emptied my suitcase and dropped into bed and slept for hours.....uh oh. I thought that would mean I wouldn't sleep last night, but I did.

This morning I am looking out on deep snow. The roads are icy. The sun is shining but it is cold. My car won't start--again! I think a new battery is in order. For now, I have a charger on it, and I'm waiting. I have lots to do, so it won't be so bad if I'm unable to get to the office. Sermon notes are here, and laundry, and....home again, home again.

Once again, thanks to all who prayed and wished me well.

A Few Pictures for the Family

Grady is a lot like his mother--nose in a book!

Adryenne gives Sylvie a manicure. I got one too.

Grady, Jessica, Adryenne, Dan, Sylive

Two beautiful women, Franky and Marie

Franky's husband, Matt, and their cute little daughter, Skyler. They also have a little boy, Micah, but I did not manage to get a picture.

Larry's brother, Tony, and Jessica. Tony is a funny guy.

Shantell and Larry.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Heavenly Friday Five

I am in Seattle assisting with family stuff and preparing to attend a memorial service (Saturday) for my sister who died of complications of early-onset Alzheimer's disease. I am not grieving much, since the shock and tears and goodbyes and losses have been many and have occurred for a long time now. I am mostly relieved that my wonderful sister and best friend is free from pain and confusion, and I am thinking of eternity. That sounds somber, but I don't mean it to be. I decided to have a little fun with the idea. So how about we share five "heavenly" things? These can be serious or funny or a combination of the two.

What is your idea of a heavenly (i.e. wonderful and perfect) :

1. Family get-together

All the family will be there. That includes those who have passed on, but also present ones. That way my grandfather could meet his new great great granddaughter, Trinity. We will be at his home in Texas, like in days long past. We will eat perfect fried chicken with all the southern side dishes. We'll finish with my grandmother's pecan pie, and none of it will have calories. There will be music and singing and games and laughter. We will have time to talk with everyone. There will be NO mosquito's and no chiggers!

2. Song or musical piece

That will be a large choir, singing in a cathedral with wonderful acoustics and beautiful surroundings. There will be a pipe organ, but also drums. The music will be written and directed by my friend, Psalmist, who will have become a famous composer.

3. Gift

Homemade but beautiful. Doesn't matter what it is.

4. You choose whatever you like-food, pair of shoes, vacation, house, or something else. Just tell us what it is and what a heavenly version of it would be.

How about a heavenly makeover. Let's see. I'll weigh 135. I will have no wrinkles and no turkey neck. I'll be a wonderful singer who can preach with such power that people all know God is present. I will not have glasses but 20\20 vision, no bunions or walking problems, be graceful, organized, patient, loving, and creative. Ah, that's a makeover. And I'll get a manicure and a pedicure and a great massage as part of the deal.

5. And for a serious moment, or what would you like your entrance into the next life to be like?
What, from your vantage point now, would make Heaven "heavenly?"

Being with God will be joy "unspeakable and full of glory." Besides that I will enjoy love without misunderstanding and miscommunication. The earth will be new, beautiful as only God could create, without the messes we have made. I hope my dog, Cassie, will bark a greeting as she sees me coming, and I hope we really will be able to pet a lion. People who have gone before me will watch for me, and there will joy all around as we get to know one another again. And creativity, the joy of discovery, work to do, worship without earthly restraints and limitations--and my sister and I will talk like we used to, only better.

I am not sure how much time I'll have on my BIL's computer, but will read as many responses as I can, and I'll look forward to reading others when I get home next week.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Voting and Leaving

This morning I headed off to the polls to vote in the primary. I was done and off to work by 8 a.m. This afternoon I recieved calls from Hillary C., Mike H. , John McC. and and Barak O. I must be very important, don't you think? Oh well, too late. Voted already.

I'm heading off to Milwaukee to spend the night in a motel. Tomorrow before daylight (my husband, the ex Marine says, "at O dark thirty") I leave for Seattle where I will attend my sister Darlaine's memorial service. I'll be back in a week.

Blog on.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Baptism Friday Five

REVHROD over at Rev. Gals & Pals gives us baptism questions this week;

For today's five, tell us about your baptismal experiences.

1. When and where were you baptized? Do you remember it? Know any interesting tidbits?

I was baptized at First Baptist Church, Pacoima, California by my beloved pastor Rev. L. Stanley Polk.

I was six years old, but I remember it vividly. A week or so before, "Brother Polk" was preaching about baptism, and I was sitting between my parents listening intently. We always had an "invitation" at the close of the service in those days at First Baptist--a time to come forward and pray with someone, to tell the pastor of a decision, etc. I recall tugging at my dad's sleeve and saying "I am getting baptized! I am a Christian and Jesus is my Savior. Why am I not baptized?" My dad said something about my young age, and I said, "I am a Christian!" And out the row I went and straight up to the pastor, where I shook his hand and whispered "I am here to tell you I am a Christian and I want to be baptized." Remembering this, and knowing what a timid little thing I was, I must have really felt it all quite strongly! Makes me smile to recall it.

About a month later, I was baptized in the baptismal pool, one of those kind that is raised above the congregation on the wall. I wore a white robe, as did Bro. Polk, and I had to stand on a couple of cinder block bricks because I was so short. I had a moment of panic as I looked out at the people, but it was short lived. My dad later told me that the congregation could see my little feet as I paddled back to the steps to exit after I was immersed.

2. What's the most unexpected thing you've ever witnessed at a baptism?

Top half, pierced nipples. Bottom half: orange swimming trunks with palm trees on them. No, we don't usually baptize folks half nekkid. Don't ask.

3. Does your congregation have any special traditions surrounding baptisms?

Not so much. Sometimes in summer we do them out at a lake not far from church. Those are my favorite kinds of baptism services. We always sing "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus." And usually I do not pray for the baptismal candidate, but someone who knows them well or has had a significant role in their spiritual life does the honors.

4. Are you a godparent or baptismal sponsor?

Well we don't baptise infants, but we do dedicate them, and odly enough, no, never been a godparent. Phooey!

5. Do you have a favorite baptismal song or hymn?

See number three. :-) Not my favorite, but what sticks in my mind because we always sing it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

BakerWoman God

My friend Tom's post about being a puzzle in God's hands reminded me of a poem. Another friend, Ruth, posted this poem "BakerWoman God" on another site long ago and far away. Initially, I was a bit uncomfortable with the poem's feminine imagery for God.
I said it was long ago. :-)
BakerWoman God
Bakerwoman God,
I am your living Bread.
Strong, brown, Bakerwoman God.
I am your low, soft, and being-shaped loaf.

I am your rising bread,
well-kneaded by some divine and knotty pair of knuckles,
by your warm earth-hands.
I am bread well-kneaded.

Put me in fire, Bakerwoman God,
put me in your own bright fire.
I am warm, warm as you from fire.
I am white and gold, soft and hard, brown and round.
I am so warm from fire.

Break me, Bakerwoman God!
I am broken under your caring Word.
Bakerwoman God,
Remake me.
Alla Bozarth-Campbell

I am still most comfortable with calling God "Father" because that is what Jesus did. However, I am also enriched by understanding that God's divine image is reflected in both male and female. As I searched the internet for this poem, I came across a site which called it "blasphemous godess worship." How sad. If you need a scripture reference where God was portrayed as female, I offer some wisdom from Dr. Ben Witherington.
One of the things scholars have noted about...parables is that Jesus seemed to like to tell them in pairs. In this case we have the parable of the lost sheep, paired with the parable of the lost coin, and in fact the real meaning of these two parables is basically the same—God seeks and saves the lost. But why tell that story in these two different ways? One reason, clearly enough is that Jesus was a radical. He is the first Jewish teacher we know of that had both men and women as disciples, and indeed not just casual disciples, traveling disciples (see Lk. 8.1-3).

Strikingly, in the first of these two parables God is portrayed as like the male shepherd, leaving behind the 99 sheep to go and find the one lost one, whereas in the second parable he is said to be like the woman who is frantically sweeping the dirt floor of her house looking for a lost coin. We have here God portrayed as both a man and a woman seeking the lost.

This must have surprised quite a few people... It doesn’t surprise me though—not only was Jesus an equal opportunity redeemer of all sorts of people, both male and female, God, who in the divine nature is Spirit, neither male nor female, has no problems with being said to be like either a man or a woman who seeks to find what is lost. It’s some of us that get hung up on such a notion.
(That was an exerpt from a sermon, posted here, just in case you'd like to read the whole thing).
As I reread the "puzzle" post this morning I found myself remembering this poem about being kneaded and shaped--just how I feel right now. I hope you enjoyed it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Puzzle

One of my "church guys" was thinking about God's plans after we had a phone converstion, and he sent his thoughts in an email. I liked what he worote and asked if I could share it here. He agreed, and so I have a guest blogger for the first time. Welcome, Tom D.

Our lives are similar to a jigsaw puzzle!

At our birth, God opens a new box of pieces and dumps them haphazardly upon the worktable. At first look, the disarray of pieces seems utterly and completely confusing,but God in His wisdom can already envision His finished handiwork. He only needs us to comply with His will. Some people are willing to comply with His plan from the onset; others will withstand at first and then comply, and some will continually resist His construction for eternity. Yet throughout the lives of those "unwilling" (and often the willing) God returns to their puzzles periodically to give them another opportunity to allow God to resume His work. But the choice to be assembled by God will always be ours - our free will.

As we begin our lives, God slowly begins to assemble the pieces. He carefully aligns each piece to interlock with the consecutive pieces. Sometimes He assembles the easy parts first. Sometimes He concentrates on assembling the difficult parts. But once each piece is completed and secured into place, He picks another piece and begins again. Slowly, as each area is assembled, a part of "the big picture" is revealed.

But we anxious and impatient humans often neglect to take the time to look at what God has accomplished to this point. Instead we want to rush to the completion. We want to see the whole picture before we continue -- we crave security-- even though God has promised to complete us in His time.

Sometimes when we arrive at difficult parts of the puzzle, we want God to rush to the completion of that portion. We take matters into our own hands and choose pieces of the puzzle that look as if they might fit together, trying to force them to fit the way we want reality to fit. We then have choices. We can allow God to remove those pieces and assemble them properly acording to His plan, or we can live with the reality that our completed puzzle might not be all that God planned for us.

Even though we may refuse to be reassembled, God sent His Son to cover those parts for us. As God assembles each significant piece of our puzzle, we must learn to trust His workmanship and accept each individual piece placement. We need to be patient - not usually one of our greatest human attributes.

Some people have "many pieces" puzzles, and some have "few pieces" puzzles, yet we need to accept the puzzle God has provided us. We can earn to respect God's design and anticipate the completion with joy, allowing Him to assemble our puzzles without resistance.

Sometimes God will work on our borders. Sometimes He will piece together part of the left lower corner. Sometimes the upper right corner. Sometimes He works on the center. In confusion, we often question how and if all these portions can possibly fit together. We want a continuous, ordered assembly, an assembly that WE find logical, not chaotic. We yearn for the security of knowing that each piece has a definitive reason for placement. Sometimes we demand an explanation of that specific placement. Yet slowly and gently and methodically, God directs each part for a perfect fit and smoothes the connections once we accept His placement.

Day in and day out, year in and year out, God continues to assemble our puzzle. One day God will place the last piece of our puzzle into place. His masterpiece is completed! He will call us to His side, put His arm around our shoulder and gently say, "See, child? Look and see the beauty of the completed picture my well-placed pieces have formed. What you thought was disarray and confusion has become ordered and beautiful. My completion of your puzzle is perfect. Look! What you once saw as a pile of small, unrelated, scattered pieces now displays my divine workmanship, worthy to displayed and treasured in My house!"

Saturday, February 09, 2008

In the Storm

This is for my friends in the storm, especially Much2Ponder.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Book Meme

Dr. Platypus has tagged me for a book meme. Hey, this is fun!

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)

Find Page 123.

Find the first 5 sentences.

Post the next 3 sentences.

Tag 5 people.

Like Dr. P., I am sitting by a bookshelf, so I reached backwards and pulled one out. It is Off-Road Disciplines, and on page 123 Dr. Earl Creps begins a study of "The Discipline of Discernment." Here are the requested sentences:

These tiny mobile billboards also host more aggresive copy: "God was my copilot, but we crashed in the mountains and I had to eat him," or "Sorry I missed church, but I've been studying witchcraft and becoming a lesbian." Eastern spirituality finds expression in stickers like, "That was Zen; this is Tao," and Islam speaks to us at sevently miles per hour with "Man gets and forgets; Allah gives and forgives." Christian fundamentalists push back with slogans such as, "Caution: Non-exposure to the Son will cause burning."

I tag Psalmist, Jeni, Kievas, Cheesehead, and Proclaiming Softly.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Matthew 4:1-13

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you,and they will lift you up in their hands,so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' "

Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' "

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.


Is different from a desert
More cut off
More arid
Closer at hand.

Nothing else is there
Except our doubts
And our wants
And our desire to leave.

There’s only one way out,
To admit that we are there
To be prepared to stay
To lose all fear of being alone.

After we laugh at the liars,
Resist temptation,
Reject earthly power
We are allowed to leave.

~~Elizabeth H. Theofan

This poem was copied from over at RevGals, courtesy of Listing Straight. I am in a wilderness today. It feels like a wilderness of fear, dispair, anger, frustration, walls, prejudice, anger, tears, and anger. And anger? Oh yes.

Perhaps if I can use the anger to spur me on to positive action I can leave the wilderness? Can I prepare to stay, as the poet says? I don't know. I'm not an angry woman, usually. Today I am angry. Perhaps it is righteous anger, or maybe it is just self pity. More likely that.

Do you suppose Jesus was angry during his wilderness experience? Frustrated? Afraid? Or just determined to overcome?

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Little Mahalia Jackson

The late great Mahalia Jackson was among my sister Darlaine's favorite singers. I wish I could have found a clip of "Walkin' in Jerusalem" (a song about walking, talking and singing high up in "Jerusalem" after we die) but this one is a good substitute. It takes me back years ago to Sunday mornings at her house as we blasted gospel music and sang or danced along while we got ready for church. One line in this song used to make my sister smile. It's the one about joining the heavenly choir where we can "sing and never get tired."

The clip is rather poor quality--but oh that voice--!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

My Sister is With the Lord

My sister, Darlaine, passed on this morning. Those of you who have known me, or read my blog for a while, know that Darlaine was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.

I am not sad. This is the last of so many good byes over the many losses as the disease ravaged her once bright mind and stole her beautiful smile and her humor and simple joy in living. Right now I am rejoicing that she is free from any pain or fear, and most of all free from the terrible confusion that haunted her days for a long time now.

I am sure I will have sad moments. I loved my sister dearly, and I would not be the person I am without having had her loving presence in my life. She was my sister, my friend, and in many ways she was my mother too.

She stored up many treasures in Heaven. Hearing the news of her death, I pictured a welcoming pary sent to the "shore" to welcome her over as she passed from this life to the next. Our "Daddy" was there, with our grandfather and grandmother , friends, several beloved aunts and uncles, a few cousins, a little brother we never knew, and a sister who maybe looks a little like me. :-) . Are twins still twins there? Anyway, I could see them in my mind's eye, looking gleeful and exclaiming, "Oh, here she comes now!" Then hugs, and some happy tears and smiles, much like it was years ago when we showed up at our grandfather's house in Texas.

Darlaine and Baby Me

About Two Years Ago

The Alzheimer's was advanced, but she was still trying to have fun and joke with me. It was a bittersweet day.

Dearest Darlaine,

What joy you must be having as you explore your new world.

Thanks for loving me always and sharing so much of my life. I'm finally reading the book you gave me a few years ago. I couldn't do it till recently, but a few days ago it felt right. As I read it, I'll picture you reading together with me as we so often did.

Hey, sweetie, sing a duet with Mahalia Jackson for me! How about "Walkin' in Jerusalem"? Oh, perfect! I wish I could hear you.

I love you, little big sister. Jesus must have been so happy to see you arrive! I'll be with you soon.