- I want to read "Getting Things Done," but I have too much to do.
- My sermon isn't even going to be started until Saturday.
- Why do people assume that you are doing only what they know you are doing, and that therefore you have some free time? They don't have any idea of the other six projects I'm involved with, each just as time-consuming as the one they know about.
- I'm getting better at saying "No."
- I'm getting better at asking for help.
- Ya gotta have friends (see #5). One friend offered to do my laundry--I talked her into working the church's bingo night instead!
- My daydreams these days involve three hours of free time with a good book and a full pot of coffee, instead of a deserted beach and a tall cool colorful drink. I'm trying to be realistic.
- Do funeral directors know how sensitive their work is? Depending on the attitude of the funeral director and funeral home, the time of mourning can be hell or can be made easier. It is so crucial to have someone who can read the family and be supportive in ways that they need (and each family is different). Some clearly understand it, and others should be clocked upside the head. At the moment, I'm dealing with a very good director. Thank you, God!
- The sermon topic--Exile (I'm off-lectionary for a few weeks)--will certainly resonate on many levels this week.
- There is no such thing as a part-time pastor. Some pastors may be paid for part-time work, but not one pastor of my acquaintance has ever actually worked just 20 hours a week.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
And she’s right. When our churches turn inward and focus on “inside activities,” like fundraisers and social hour and Bible studies, to the exclusion of those things that lead us out of the church, like community work, or missions work, then the church is stagnating. At one church I served, I knew we were in trouble when we could get lots of turnout for the annual Fall Festival fundraiser, but no volunteers for the CROP Walk for Hunger.
I’d like to see us move beyond the GLBT community as well, and work on a Habitat for Humanity house, or donate regularly to one of the food pantries in town, or work with one of the soup kitchens. That’s further down the road, but I think it’s the next step.
Worship services are important—they remind us of who we are and whose we are. But without the work, without the service, our worship is empty. We say to God, “we love you and praise you.” God says, “Show me.” Remember the great commandment: “As you have done it for the least of these my brothers and sisters, so you have done it for me.” Worship is part of our love and praise of God, a way to take time and remind ourselves of what we are about each week; but service is the heart of it.
Friday, August 25, 2006
1. What is your earliest memory of school?
My mother took me to meet my kindergarten teacher one day the summer before school started, and while they were chatting, I wandered out to the fenced-in “kindergarten playground” just off the kindergarten classrooms. I found it boring—only the cement “tunnels” cut from huge pipes and a sandbox—so I went on out to the “big playground” and starting swinging on the “big kids” swings. When I was found, I was told in no uncertain terms that kindergartners had to stay on the kindergarten playground. Sigh. Seems I’ve been going places I’m “not supposed to go” ever since.
2. Who was a favourite teacher in your early education?
Mrs. Emery, my third grade teacher. She read to us every day after lunch for half an hour or so; the bestsellers of kidlit of the times—“Dorp Dead” and “Beezus and Ramona” and “Pippi Longstocking.” She read all the stories I wrote, even when they were about horses. She encouraged me to learn math, too.
Mrs. Marquart, my fourth grade teacher, was pretty cool, too. We made a huge collage mural each season (Fall, Winter and Spring), and when it was time for the next one, we drew names to see who got the old one. I took home the winter mural! We also had a fishtank, and made sand sculptures, and she actually got the multiplication tables into my head! Yes, math was a challenge for me…
3. What do you remember about school “back then” that is different from what you know about schools now?
Clothes. I had to wear a dress/skirt to school until I was in third or fourth grade; even then, while you could wear slacks/jeans, a skirt or dress was preferred. This was in Michigan, walking to school in all weathers. Is it any wonder most of us wore pants to school under our dresses and took them off when we got there? I would never have been able to wear shorts to school under any circumstances (my mother’s rule, not the school’s). Today, my son and his friends wear pretty much whatever they like. The rules have more to do with what’s on the clothing (no alcohol/drug promotion, no obscenity or hate language) and the length (no belly t’s, no droopy pants). Oh, and no hats.
And of course computers. In grade 7, our school had a connection to the university computer. We could play “Hangman” with a computer. That was pretty cool and high-tech at the time. Now kids get in trouble for playing “Hangman” on the computer when they’re supposed to be studying.
4. Did you have to memorize in school? If so, share a poem or song you learned.
Somehow I got away with not having to memorize anything. I did, however, all on my own, memorize Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The coldest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.
I typed that in and then checked it. I only made one mistake: it’s the “darkest” evening of the year, not the “coldest.”
5. Did you ever get in trouble at school? Were there any embarrassing moments you can share?
Well, see above, with the kindergarten playground. Although since it was only my mother and the teacher, perhaps that doesn’t count. I was a boringly obedient child.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
- Always outline all the sermons in the series (at least, that you are going to preach) before you decide to do such a thing. This way, you will be sure you really have enough to say about each item in the series.
- Be sure the series is something you feel passionate about. I like David's story, I think it has a lot to say, but--I feel much more passionate about Psalms, or Peter, or the prophets.
- Try to have a theme that runs all the way through the series (using God's gifts, or bread-hah!-or good vs evil) to bring the units together.
- Alternatively, have a non-thematic series and just run with it. A mentor pastor had parishioners list questions they had on cards, and drop them in the offering plate. She did this over about a month. At the end of the month, she selected the ten most popular/interesting questions for the series, which was done during the summer. The only one I remember right now was about forgiveness; that was the one I preached on, as a guest. It was about four weeks after I came back from my trip to Poland and the concentration camps, so it was a very powerful question for me at the time. This was a very popular series, by the way--she had published the schedule of questions/sermon topics in the church newsletter, and so people made sure to come to church when a topic they were especially interested in was being preached--and most of them were the sort of thing that people were interested in--forgiveness, theodicy, the afterlife, etc.
- Be very sure you want to preach on these things for a while (see passion, above).
Another series. This one is off lectionary, however. I've almost never gone off-lectionary. I like the lectionary, it keeps me from preaching Luke, John, and Isaiah all the time, and won't let me avoid the difficult texts. However...
It's been a while since the congregation here rewrote their mission and vision statement. It's time. But we need to get ready for that. We also need to address church growth issues--Church Makeover is the title of the study series one of my leaders has put together. And then there's the issue of finding space--which is an ongoing drama. So I'm going to be preaching on the Exile to Babylon and the return, via the prophets and Esther.
It's a natural follow-on to David and Solomon--on Labour Day Sunday I'll talk about the kings after Solomon and the fall of the kingdom and the exile to Babylon and Jeremiah. Then I'll bring in Esther and Mordecai in two parts and move on to Ezekiel. Later we'll hear from Ezra about the return, and finally Nehemiah, rebuilding the temple, just as we prepare for the mission and vision retreat in October.
The whole story fits well into the history of the congregation, as well as our need for growth, and looking for a place to call home.
I feel much better about this than I did the David series--and it's shorter, too.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Once again, the RevGals have the best meme for a Friday. Here are my tongue-in-cheek definitions for these British terms:
Adverse Camber: A cranky mountain climber. The sort who always complains about the snow, the bad food, the cold, the lack of oxygen…who has no stiff upper lip at all.
Butts Wynd: A vulgar term for the terrible storms that come down from the
Free House: Parsonage; rectory; vicarage; a home given to the pastor of a church as part of a compensation package. See also: parsonage committee; repairs.
Mind the Gap: Warning to new seminary graduates going to first pastorates in communities with theologies vastly different from that taught in the seminary.
You would be wrong.
Last night I decided to check email one last time before heading to bed (I had sent off an email to several friends, and I was curious about the responses), against my better judgement (usually emails right before bed mean sleepless nights). I sat down at my desk, hit the "power on" button on my trusty laptop, and sat back to watch it go through its startup routine. It was then that I noticed the shadow fluttering around on the walls and the ceiling. "Geez, that's a big moth," I thought. "Maybe it's a Luna!" (I have always wanted to see a live Luna moth, and I couldn't imagine what other moth would be so large in these latitudes). I swung around to look--and it was a bat, fluttering towards me in that alarming way bats have of seeming slightly tipsy and uncertain of their flight path.
I jumped up and ran out of the room, screaming, if you will excuse the expression, like a girl. "Omigod, Omigod, there's a bat in there!" I screeched, closing the door to my study and hyperventilating. DP calmly says, "Well, reach in and turn off the light, then close the door. However it got in, it can get out the same way."
"No, my computer's on, I've got to turn it off!" (I've been having "issues" with the battery in my not-so-trusty laptop)
I dashed in, ducking and turning to avoid the poor terrified bat, to turn off the computer. I opened the door to the attic (which opens off my study) to let the critter get back upstairs and out, as I was assuming that it got in through a partially opened (although screened) window in the attic.
We closed the door, made sure it was latched, and went to bed. Twenty minutes later, I was awakened by the thump and clatter of Big Cat jumping after something, and DP said resignedly, "I think the bat got out."
I sat up, turned on the light, and sure enough, there was Kamikaze Bat, once again swooping madly about, trying to avoid the cat, the slowly-turning ceiling fan, the walls, and us. It came straight at me, and I reprised my shriek of earlier.
We got up, turned on all the lights upstairs in an effort to drive it downstairs, and I called the city hall information number, hoping that 1) Animal Control would come catch a bat, and 2) they would do it at 12:30 am (as recorded on my Zen clock at bedside). No to both. "If it's outside, like rats, we can lay poison," said the not-very-helpful young man at the city information desk (which did answer the phone at 12:30 am). "But if it's inside, you have to take care of that yourself--like maybe call a pest control company. But you'll probably have to call them in the morning. Are you sure it was a bat? I didn't think we had bats here."
Eedjit. I was very sure it was a bat--I know the difference between a bat and a moth, or a bat and a bird...Humph.
So DP and I had to concoct a plan. We devised one that involved "herding" the bat onto our back mudroom-type porch, from which it could escape through an open door. The bat had other ideas. It ended up in the bathroom, clinging to the bathmat draped over the side of the tub (so I got an extremely good look at it, and yes, it was a BAT). I took the screen out of the bathroom window, turned off the light, closed the bathroom door, and we blocked the bottom of the door with towels (I understand they can get through very small spaces). We went to bed.
This morning, the bat is gone. The cats have lost what they thought was a great play-toy. The screen has to get back in the window. The towels did their job.
Mr. M. slept through the whole thing. Guard dog, hah!
So, anyone want to clean the attic with me?
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Of course, we're now wondering if we want to move back into that office.
However, that is in the future. For now, we need to reorganize in the basement space where we've been temporarily moved, and figure out how to do church without an office (only a pile of boxes and a table with the computer on it, and a couple of chairs).
Many thanks for all the prayers and support over the last few weeks!
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Sermon procrastination time!
So I’ll run the book meme—I’ve been meaning to do it anyway…
One book that changed your life: Faith and Fratricide, by Rosemary Radford Reuther. It made me really look at the real-world effects of our exegesis, and brought home, painfully, that our exegesis is not done in isolation. We can hurt others with our thoughts.
One book that you’ve read more than once: The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien. I used to spend every Christmas break, from age 13 or so through 20, reading it again.
One book you’d want on a desert island: Fat Girls and Lawn Chairs, by Cheryl Peck, probably. As others have said, I’d need something to laugh at. On the other hand, being isolated on a desert island might be a good time to work though Augustine’s City of
One book that made you laugh: Besides the above mentioned Fat Girls and Lawn Chairs (laugh-out-loud), I like David Sedaris. Anything by David Sedaris. He wrote a phonebook? I’ll read it.
One book that made you cry: Up a Road Slowly, Irene Hunt. More recently, King Hereafter, by Dorothy Dunnett. A powerful book about the man Dunnett thinks was the “real” MacBeth.
One book you wish you had written: Just about anything by Marge Piercy or Dorothy Dunnett. I wish I had their command of language and their knowledge.
One book you wish had never been written: It never existed, but people thought it did, with horrible consequences: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I wish it had never even been imagined. Another choice is A Hammer for Witches, the handbook of the Inquisition.
One book you’re currently reading: The Illustrated History of Canada. Growing up in
One book you’ve been meaning to read: The
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
For some reason, I’ve been thinking about books a lot lately. They’ve been central to my life, certainly—as a reader from an early age, an English major as an undergraduate, with a library science degree and now a divinity degree, books are indispensable to my work.
I remember distinctly being taught by one of my elder sisters to read. It was “Are You My Mother?,” about a baby bird that falls out of its nest and looks for its mother in a variety of creatures—a cow, a dog, a steam shovel (for years, I called steam shovels “Snort” after the one in the book). The Snort puts the baby bird back in its nest, where it finds its mother waiting.
After that, there was no holding me back. Luckily, we had a large bookcase of children’s books, besides all those that my parents had, and my parents believed in weekly trips to the local library. I do remember at one point in my horse-crazy childhood, I was forbidden to get more than one horse book from the library each week.
I don’t remember my first “chapter book.” But I do remember that at one point I was reading almost a book a day—after school, I would curl up and read until dinner time.
Then when I was about 10, I became very ill. An auto-immune disorder (although they didn’t know it at the time, later research has figured that out) caused my spleen to destroy healthy platelets, which meant that I bled very easily and for a long time. As a result, I did not go outside for recess, I did not participate in gym class, and I spent long periods in the hospital. So, of course, I read. Lots. I stayed in the library while my class went to the gym or outside; I felt fine in the hospital, so again I did a lot of reading there.
This was when I read all those children’s classics (which I still like to reread from time to time): “The Good Master,” the Edward Eager books (“Magic by the
I majored in English as an undergraduate for two reasons—first, when I first went to university, I planned on going to law school and English seemed like it would useful in the practice of law; and second, I figured I’d get to do a lot of reading! I even took French so that, I thought, I could read L’Morte D’Arthur in the original (thinking that, having learned modern French, medieval French couldn’t be too difficult).
And of course, the library science degree was a natural progression. At the time, I didn’t appreciate the computer side of things. This was in the mid-1980s, when you still had to insert the program disk, then the data disk, and they were both five and a half inches across. Modems used acoustic couplers—foam cups that held a telephone receiver. The fax machine was the up-and-coming communication device, but it used thermal paper. (Geez, I feel old now. Anyone else remember those days, or am I the only one doddering in my rocking chair on the porch?). By the time I finished that Master of Library Science, though, I was much more comfortable with computers. My concern at the time was that books were still important and some library schools (and library professors and librarians) seemed so enamoured of computers that they had lost sight of the books! The irony is that I rarely worked with books as a major part of any information work I did—yes, I had libraries I administered, but I ordered, catalogued, and circulated the books in them—not much more. My days mostly consisted of online searches of various databases (which was much more cumbersome in those days, requiring special languages and training), and then obtaining the articles and documents found in those searches (what’s called “document delivery”). At the end of my information science career, I was maintaining a current awareness service for writers (surfing the internet as a job requirement—sweet!).
And then there was seminary. I got lots of reading in seminary…not always what I wanted to read, mind you (Moltmann, anyone? Barth?), but reading it was. And I did some student work in the seminary library as well. Books, books, books.
Theology is still carried out in print, for the most part, unlike some other disciplines that have wholeheartedly taken to computerization. It’s true that theologians’ work is often found online—but it’s generally an electronic version of a print article.
I really think that the way theology will become a presence on the internet is through groups like RevGalBlogPals—groups that discuss it, argue it, and work through it, without ever necessarily meeting in person. With the internet, individuals who might never have heard of each other’s ideas can have a spirited exchange and influence each other. Now, that’s not a new idea. But I think it’s accurate.
Books. I was talking about books. I was in a pastor’s study once, and someone said, “You can tell he’s a Methodist—look at all the books!” But the fact is that I don’t know of a pastor—of any denomination—that isn’t a reader, doesn’t have shelves and shelves of books, and doesn’t have three or four (if not more) books that she or he is reading at any one time.
I remember a lunch time in the seminary refectory, when a group of us was discussing some fine point of theology. Suddenly one of us stopped and said, “Listen to us! We’re talking about the meaning of an obscure Hebrew word over lunch! We are geeks!” To which someone else responded, “Of course we’re geeks, we’re in seminary.”
Pastors. We’re not just the God Squad, we’re the Geek Squad as well.
So read those books, people—it’s part of the job description.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
The workers started by removing the damaged plaster from the ceiling above the drop ceiling (what do you call that anyway? A sub-ceiling, like a sub-floor?). They discovered mould all through the plaster and the wood under the plaster. So now they have to do the bleach treatment; although I'm thinking they may have to remove some of the wood and replace it, if the mould has gotten too deep into the wood. And then they have to replaster. And then it has to dry. And then they have to install the (new) drop ceiling.
At one point I had thought we would be spending today moving back in. Now it looks like it will be the next weekend or the one after that...
I never realized all the implications when I walked into the office and saw our musician desperately snatching up the computer CPU, sloshing through three inches of water to the sanctuary and dashing back for the printer, dodging the ever-increasing drips from the ceiling. I didn't think of the way everything takes more time becauase we have to find our forms, instead of just opening a file drawer. Or how we have to re-organize where we put mail, so it doesn't get lost. Or just how long it might be before everything was back the way it should be.
Continue to keep us in your prayers, my friends. We still have a road ahead of us.
Pate Brisee (Short Crust Pastry)
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated white sugar
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.54 cm) pieces
1/8 to 1/4 cup (30 - 60 ml) ice water
Pate Brisee: In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds). Pour 1/8 cup (30 ml) water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water. Do not process more than 30 seconds.
Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about one hour before using. This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour.
After the dough has chilled sufficiently, place on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough and cut into 12 - 4 inch (10 cm) rounds. (To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards).) Gently place the rounds into a 12-cup muffin tin. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up the dough. Next, make the filling.
Butter Tart Filling:
2 large eggs
1/3 cup (70 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (215 grams) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) light cream (half-and-half) (10% butterfat)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pecans (toasted and chopped)
Please note: Do not, not, NOT use abominations like corn syrup, dates, coconut or walnuts in this recipe. It is NOT northern pecan pie.
They are very good plain, with iced tea on the front porch, or frosted with vanilla ice cream on a plate (the tart on a plate, not you, unless..oh, never mind).
Friday, August 04, 2006
Well, here we go with another version of the Friday Five meme! Today we're getting all uptown with Broadway! Get out that top hat and cane, or the greasepaint--are you ready for the Great White Way?
1. Describe the last play or musical you saw. (At least provide the what, when, where, and why). What was your opinion of it?
Just two weeks ago I saw "Norman, is That You?" It was a fund-raiser as part of the Pride activities here in Windsor. The beneficiary was the Rainbow Fund, a scholarship for GLBT students at the University. The fund was founded by the young man who was shot back in January. It was very funny--about a young gay man, Norman, living in New York City with his psychiatrist lover, when his father comes to stay with him because Norman's mother has run off to Montreal with Norman's uncle (his father's brother). You see, Norman has not come out to his parents. It's funny and bittersweet--some of the things Norman's father does are the stereotypical things parents do when their kids come out to them--blame the lover, try to set them up with a sex worker (if they're male), blame the other parent, berate themselves...it's all there. The cast was great--they begged to be in this play, and there are only five roles, so competition was rough.
2. All time favorite play? Musical?Play--probably either MacBeth or King Lear, although Lion in Winter is right up there too.
Musical--well, I know all the words to all the songs in Camelot. But I prefer the music in Evita, Cats, Cabaret and Carousel. I didn't say I was logical...
3. “The Producers,” “The Philadelphia Story,” “Hairspray,” “The Wedding Singer”…all were movies before they were musicals (okay “The Philadelphia Story” was a play and then a movie, and they changed its name when it became a musical, but whatever). What non-musical movie do you think should next get the musical treatment?
How about "Legally Blonde?" OK, OK. Perhaps "9 to 5?" It's halfway there already! I really can't think of one.
4. Favorite song from a musical? Why?
"When You Walk Through a Storm," from Carousel, because it helped me get through my freshman year at college (it was the musical my senior year of high school, plus I knew I sang it better than the girl who got the part). Well, or "The Jellicle Cats" from "Cats," because it's fun. Or "The Battle of the Thames," from the same musical, for the same reason. Or maybe "Buenes Aires," from Evita (except that Madonna never learned how to pronounce it properly), because it swoops you along and makes you want to go to "B.A.!" On the other hand, it was "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" that I sang last time I did karaoke... Of course, there are the "patter songs" from Gilbert and Sullivan--my favourite G&S is "The Pirates of Penzance." "I am the very model of a modern major-general!"
5. The most recent trend in Broadway musical revues is to construct a show around the oeuvre of a particular super-group or composer, where existing songs are woven together with some kind of through story. The most successful of these (“Jersey Boys” (The Four Seasons), “Mamma Mia” (ABBA), “Movin’ Out” (Billy Joel)) have made a mint, but many (“All Shook Up” (Elvis), “Hot Feet” (Earth, Wind and Fire)) have bombed. What great pop/rock singer/composer or super-group should be the next to be featured, and what might the story-line be for such a show?
The Moody Blues; about the sixties and a group/band that gathers in San Francisco, and has a poet for a songwriter. That's about all I can come with on the spur of the moment. Maybe they travel around the US on a bus. But definitely the Moody Blues.
Bonus question for singer/actors. Favorite part you’ve ever played/sung.
Haha! You all will love this! I played Gollum in a musical production of "The Hobbit" by a young people's theater group when I was fourteen. I wore a wet suit and green makeup, and loved every minute of it. "What has roots as no one sees, taller, taller, far than trees?" (yes, that's from "The Riddle Song") "What has it got in its pocketses?" "We hates it, we hates the Baggins! We hates it forever!" Chew that scenery... The only reason I let Andy Serkis do the role for the movies is that I don't have Gollum's, um, shape, anymore...
Whoa, it's off to the CD rack for me! Time to play some of that great music!
Personalities fascinate me--people do. One way I try to understand history and places is through people--which is why I love good histor...
Personalities fascinate me--people do. One way I try to understand history and places is through people--which is why I love good histor...
I was thinking in the shower this morning, as I often do, about what I was going to put on when I got out of the shower. It being Sunday, I ...
Note: This is the message for a friend's church, as they became the first United Church of Canada congregation in Essex County, ON ...