Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Five

Singing Owl at RevGalBlogPals posts the following:

Yesterday I had two separate conversations in which people were musing about how much change is occurring. The WW II generation, of which my mom is a part, went from horse and buggy to automobiles, saw the lessening, or even the end of many diseases, went from widespread use of kerosene lamps and outhouses (in the country, and most folks were rural)) to a totally electrified and plumbed society. The fastest means of communication was a telegraph. The second conversation--gulp--was about MY generation and how much change occurred in the last half of the 20th century. The person said his 13 year old had not seen a vinyl record album until a few days before, couldn't remember a time without cell phones, and on and on.As for the questions!

1. What modern convenience/invention could you absolutely, positively not live without?
I'm spoiled and I admit it! I could live without most of our conveniences today, but I love having the ability to connect via internet and yes, cell phone.

2. What modern convenience/invention do you wish had never seen the light of day?Why?
VideoGames (for my son) and Computer Card Games (for me). We get less from them than they cost us. We lose time for outdoor or reading activities as well as genuine interaction with other people. On the other hand, manBoy and G&T now have common music knowledge as Guitar Hero has some great oldies - make that classics-on it. manBoy plays them on Guitar Hero. G&T plays them on the real thing. Last night he was playing on his newish Les Paul and manBoy named most of the songs within the first few notes.

3. Do you own a music-playing device older than a CD player? More than one? If so, do you use it (them)?
We have a working turntable, and more than one cassette player along with multiple CD players and more mp3 players than we have people in our house. We seem to collect ways to listen to music. We also still have about 40 LP's to play on the turntable, but we rarely do it. Usually it's when we are telling manBoy about some group or song from our youth. We don't have an 8 track tape player. I burned mine up playing Best of Bread over and over again in High School. I tried to get G&T to ditch some of the cassette tapes recently, but he fears he will need to listen to a song for a band gig at some point.

4. Do you find the rapid change in our world exciting, scary, a mix...or somethingelse?
I'm assuming that I'm in the same generation as Singing Owl. Rapid change is all I know. It's neither scary nor exciting. It just is.

5. What did our forebears have that we have lost and you'd like to regain?
Homemade Jelly - specifically the plum jelly my grandmother used to make.

Bonuspoints if you have a suggestion of how to begin that process.
Well, I am not gifted in the cooking area, so perhaps what I will do is go to the local farmers market where they sell homemade jellies and support their efforts.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


That was my word for the cruise retreat - obey. Hmmmph.

My first reaction is I don't want to obey. I want others to obey me. Okay, that probably has something to do with 20 years as a teacher.

My next reaction was to question whether I have obeyed, whether I am obeying by taking the position in the conference office. Did I take the easy way out? Or am I right where God wants me to be? Ponder. Worry. Go before Board of Ordained Ministry and try to convince them and myself this is where God and the Bishop have sent me.

Then I got busy doing my job and didn't think about it so much.

Then the whole go to Vietnam thing came up. In my small group last Saturday, one of my friends asked, "Do you want to go? You keep saying you have to go." I couldn't explain to her this sense of being compelled and whether I want to or not is irrelevant. It is indeed very exciting ....and scary.... to think about.

I realized this morning that whole concept of whether I want to being irrelevant is what "Obey" is all about. In the Prayer of Confession in the UMC Communion Liturgy, we find the words "free us for joyful obedience." Joyful obedience. That's what this letting go of all the reasons not to do something and just waiting to see how God will work it out feels like.

Because strict obedience was demanded in my childhood, I have never associated obedience with joy or freedom. Now I'm finding both. It is rather freeing to just be willing to go with what comes instead of orchestrating everything with very tight control. Isn't growing fun?

God of love, thank you for all you have and are revealing in my life. Give me courage to discover the joy and freedom of obedience. Amen.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I Think I Have to Go to Vietnam...

but we'll talk more on Saturday. That's what I told my friend Amy just before I hung up from a very brief phone call on Friday morning.

I spent two days at the United Methodist Church Mission Initiative Summit last week. I went because our Volunteers In Mission (VIM)coordinator thought it would be helpful to have extra eyes and ears to attend more of the sessions. On the first day, I ate lunch with a couple who are missionaries to Vietnam. We discovered that I went to seminary with their son. We both graduated last May. It was a nice social conversation.

Then I asked the VIM coordinator which breakout session she wanted me to attend. She said Asia as she didn't know much about UM work there. So off I went. There were presentations on the misison work in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and others. I took notes so I would be able to share the information back at the office. Then the couple from Vietnam got up to speak. They too presented a power point on the church starts and the pastor training that is happening there. It was interesting. Then they started a second powerpoint presentation on Agent Orange. They showed pictures of children and young adults who have a variety of physical disabilities. Over and over again, they said he or she cannot walk and cannot talk. These children were pictured in their mother's arms or on the floor. There were no wheel chairs. There was no special seating that would support a body unable to support itself.

My heart cried. Here I am trying to help churches reach out to and welcome families of persons with disabilities. Families who have wheelchairs for their children but don't feel welcome in church. In Vietnam there are mothers who carry their children to church because they have no wheelchairs.

The church where we were meeting has a special needs Sunday School room. I took the woman missionary down there and showed her some of the special seating equipment that is available. I explained my background in teaching children with disabilities. I began discussing the best way to get equipment to them (buy and ship or send money for them to order...). I talked to them about ways children can communicate without speaking. Then her husband asked, "Can you come to Vietnam?" I told him it might be possible although I didn't have any idea how to make it come about.

Day 2: I had lunch with our VIM coordinator and told her "I think I have to go to Vietnam." I told her the rest of the story. She feels, like I do, that it was a God thing that I wound up in that particular presentation. About that time, a VIM coordinator from another conference walks up. The two of them begin to talk and he mentions that he attended the Asia session as his conference is planning to expand their mission work into Vietnam. They are in fact planning a trip in the next twelve months. My friend told him my story, so now it is a real possibility that I will go to Vietnam sometime soon to scope out the needs so I can come back and raise funds for equipment and medical care. Look out, I see a soapbox with my name on it.

I know one group I will ask. Our conference has several churches who offer respite care for children with disabilities. I'm thinking that the families who use these services might like an opportunity to help someone else. Part of healthy living with chronic illness or disability is feeling like you are contributing and not always needing.

This is soooooo far from preaching in a little church somewhere. God are you laughing at me?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wound Up Tight

You've heard the terms "uptight" and "loosen up." I had a conversation with a friend that prompted an interesting visual image. It seems to me that we have this imaginary spring inside us that keeps us together - keeps us from flying into a thousand pieces. The end of the spring is attached to an imaginary screw with it's head on our back (like baby dolls with battery compartments). When we face difficult times and it seems like we are in danger of "losing it" or "falling apart" even just a little, we turn the screw and tighten the spring hoping to hold it all together a little better. Sometimes, we loosen the spring later, but mostly we don't. We just live with this new state of tightness until it feels normal. When the next adversity comes along we repeat the process. Winding ourselves a little tighter. It works. We manage to hold it all together. The only problem is that everytime we tighten the spring, we lose a little fluidity in our movements - both physical and emotional. Our shoulders draw up. Our brows furrow. The last thing to go is our smile - lips become pursed. This also explains the meaning of tight--- that refers to one's backside. Emotionally, we become so absorbed in keeping ourselves in tact and not disolving into crying jags or angry outbursts that we are no longer able to experience joy.

I believe that the RevGal BE did some serious loosening of my spring. I see now that I can't play and enjoy life if I can't move either internally or externally. The joy I found there was directly related to letting go of my tight hold. That had begun before we left, but reached a whole new level of freedom on the deck of the boat.

Since I've been back, the spring has been tightened some with daily responsibilities, and friends facing difficulties. I was a little discouraged that the joy level seemed to dip. I understand now that it isn't all about staying loose all the time, but about remembering to loosen up every now and then.

I realize that our family has a collective spring too. It's been wound just about to the breaking point over the last 18 months. Now it is time for us to loosen up. We are moving toward that goal, but it is slow.

God of Joy and Pain, thank you for the light and loose times. Thank you for walking with us during the uptight times too. Remind us that you are truly what can hold us together when we need it. Amen.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Another Big Event

I learned yesterday that my High School Reunion is 109 days away. The organizers have set up a website and made plans for several activities - one of them is referred to as "The Big Event." I have mixed feelings about this reunion. I have changed a great deal (both internally and externally) in the last 30 years as would be expected. But I've changed and grown tons just in the last 6 years. I wonder how hard it will be to explain all the changes I/we have gone through since I left teaching. Will I even want to? Who there will care? There are a few people that I was close to in high school that I would want to reconnect with. I have a friend who read my blog soon after I first started it. She said, "It's like reading about someone I don't know."

On a lighter note, for the most part High School was fun and I do look forward to seeing many people I haven't seen in a long time. So, regardless of how deep the sharing goes, I can go and have fun if I don't let myself get too bogged down in seriousness.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Lists in Progress

Okay, I'm too tired to finish the link lists on the side bar. If your blog isn't there and you think it should be, leave me a comment. I know I'm missing at least one BE and I haven't started my other blog friends yet.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Joy Revisited

Just had a teary call from a long time friend/church member who has watched me go through lots over the last 13 years. She had just read my blog. She (through her tears) told me she's been praying for me to find joy for some time now. She felt it was missing from my ministry, but also knew it would have to be a Spirit thing. God is good. Friends who pray for you are good.

Friday Five

I'm really tired, but I want to do the Friday Five. The questions have been saved all day waiting for me to get to them. So here goes:

With this Sunday's gospel reading in mind, that wonderful revelation of Christ to the companions on the Emmaus road. I wonder where you might have been surprised by God's revelation recently.

So with no further waffle I offer you this weeks Friday 5:

How has God revealed him/herself to you in a:

1. Book - Scripture! There are lots of others, but when I want to find God, I go to scripture. Most often the Psalms. This isn't just a cheesy answer - you can ask DogBlogger. I love the way my Bible feels in my hands. I love the images it paints... the beauty of the written word.....

2. Film - I'm just going to have to pass on this one. Don't watch many. Brain to tired to think.

3. Song - Something Beautiful - UMH # 394
Lyrics are: Something beautiful, something good;
All my confusion he understood.
All I had to offer him was brokeness and strife,
But he made something beautiful of my life.

4. Another Person - Definitely 20 other women on the aft deck at the BE. But also today a long-time friend.

5. Creation - Blues, turquoise, green - thousands of shades in the Gulf of Mexico. I didn't take a camera - I've just been "borrowing" pics from other blogs.

Bonus answer: your choice- share something encouraging/ amazing/ humbling that has happened to you recently!
I've already blogged these :-) See below.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

It is over!

I made it through the interview that would deterimine if I continue into year 2 of my residency. For you non-United Methodists and average people, residency is probationary clergy status. Clergy but not yet ordained. At this time it lasts 3 years. Some people including DogBlogger are working to shorten it via General Conference.

At any rate, I have been approved to go on to the next year. This is really good news, as they could easily have said that my temporary appointments.... did not give me the growth I needed in year one. Or worse, that I simply hadn't grown this year.

I have recommendations for growth. Anyone know of a couple of men from my home church who could come to my Lay Committee Meetings during weekdays and would push me to grow? I have to learn in a year how to articulate how I am called to be an Elder in my current position which is not in a church.

I also have to get better at articulating answers to theological questions on the fly. I'm okay when I can think and write. Not so good "on my feet." Vicar of Hogsmeade gave me some good ideas for using my teaching background to get better at this. She suggested that as I go through my day, I consider how I would use various objects I encounter in children's sermons. Now, I did children's sermons for 5 years. This I can do. Thanks for the tip.

I need to go to bed, so Good Night Gracie.

Oh, but one more thing - I made 2 miles on the Elyptical Trainer tonight. I've been adding 1/2 mile to my total movement each week. I've been mixing walking with using the cardio machines. Tonight, I only had to walk 1/2 mile because I made 2 whole miles on the machine! See what a little line dancing will do for ya!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Because We're Twelve

Dog Blogger and I decided to get ...

matching tatoos aboard ship.

They aren't permanent, but they are a reminder of our great time at the BE.

Because twelve year olds run in packs, a few others....

followed suit.

I actually wound up a couple of people behind Dog Blogger because I had to run over and do the Electric Slide while it was playing. Just a small joy detour on the way to another joy.

One of these is permanant. It is the only tatoo I would ever consider getting for real. It says "hesed" in Hebrew. God's steadfast, never ending, compassionate love. That's something I might consider permanantly inscribing on my body. It is something I try to inscribe on my heart.

By the way this worked great as an April Fools with my boss, not so much with manBoy.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

I'm back from the Rev Gal Big Event and it was a wonderful time of physical, emotional, and spiritual renewal. I have several revelations to share and most of them will make it to the blog in due time. But the one that is most prominent in my mind and heart is "joy."

I had a great deal of fun on this trip and experienced several moments of pure joy: Riding on the bow of the catamaran across water that was countless shades of blue and turquoise. Snorkling and seeing at least 20 different kinds of vibrantly colored tropical fish in spite of the fact there were 40 of us in the water. Line dancing on the deck of same catamaran (much easier said than done, trust me.) Listening to my sisters in Christ as they shared their heart stories. Watching someone I admire see beauty in herself. Did I mention the blue green ocean in a thousand shades? Did you know that sea foam green is a real color in the wake of a ship? God's creation is truly awesome.

All this joy filled me up and made me smile even when I wasn't thinking about it. It made me realize joy has been missing from my life for a good while. I haven't smiled spontaneously in a long long time. Nov. 2006 to the end of 2007 was a hard period in our lives. In the last few weeks, as I began to feel rested and not tired all the time, I have been more joyful. I noticed the change when people ask me how I'm doing and I really am "good" or "well" as I usually respond.

The evening at the end of the day with the catamaran ride and snorkling, I was doing some of the "homework" we were given the option of doing as a part of our retreat. The scripture reading was the above passage. I have read this passage many times, but it never really dawned on me that not only is joy listed as Fruit of the Spirit, it comes second only after love. I had not really thought that being Spirit filled would/should bring joy.

I am coming to realize that joy is part of the lesson I am to learn while in my position at the conference office. This position is important, but doesn't require as much of my energy as pastoring a church. I have the time to learn about joy, and re-creation, and fun right now in this place.

You may ask why joy is a lesson to be learned. Here's the message I'm getting. "Who wants a pastor for whom every task is a duty and burden? How can a pastor who never finds joy be effective ?" I've been so tired for so long and fighting such difficult times, I had forgotten how to find joy in the journey. This is not to say that one has to be up and happy inspite of all circumstances. Joy is not happiness. Joy is a deep down thing that goes beyond circumstances. It involves finding the good in life inspite of the hard stuff.

Today, as I pondered what to put in this post, I Corinthians 13 came to mind. If love is listed first as Fruit of the Spirit and joy is listed next, I wondered what would happen if I replaced the word love with the word joy. How would that read? How would it speak to me? So with apologies to Paul, here it is:

1If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have joy, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have joy, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have joy, I gain nothing. I Corinthians 13:1-3

Hmmm. Powerful stuff. I wonder what would happen if I work my way down the list of Fruit of the Spirit. Perhaps in the coming weeks.

God of wonder, God of love, thank you for the blessing of joy. Help me share it with those around me. Amen.