Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Five

1. How did you celebrate this time of year when you were a child?
I dont remember too much goings-on as a child in terms of parties, and we always lived in places where trick or treating wasnt practical, until I was too old to do it. But I know I dressed up for some reason (although I cant remember why) because I've been thinking fondly of my favorite costume ever - the ladybug that mom made when I was about 7 or 8. (Do you remember that mom?) I keep wanting to put E into a ladybug costume, but he is just definately not that kind of guy. Do you think I'm too old for it myself?

2. Do you and/or your family “celebrate” Halloween? Why or why not? And if you do, has it changed from what you used to do?
Halloween is definately one of our little family's High Holy Days.
We love to go to the pumpkin patch and this year we found a really great one not far from our house.
The year E was 3, we took weeks to make a truly awesome robot costume out of an old box and some silver spray paint, including blinking LED lights. Of course, he could not sit down in it, or walk really, but he looked great and he loved it - wore it for weeks til he wore it right out.
Other years, the costumes have store been bought, and not as excellent, but we always love trick or treating, each of us for different reasons (Dad - nostalgia about his own trick or treating exploits; Mom- opportunity to meet some neighbors and peek into their houses, however briefly , to see if there are some decorating tips I want to borrow; Child - um, candy, obviously.)

Speaking of candy, last year, my brother who has 5 kids asked me on the phone what I was doing.
"oh, just throwing away the Halloween candy."
"Yeah, I told E that's how it works - you go around and get all the candy you can and then you get to keep your 4 favorite pieces."
"Oh my god, if you had more than one, they would never let you get away with that."
I think this year I"m trying to think of a way to get it out of the house while not wasting it, but I honestly cannot think of a single use for candy besides eating or tossing. Suggestions welcome!

2. Candy apples: Do you prefer red cinnamon or caramel covered? Or something else?
I have not opinion on candy apples. I think I just like them plain the best.

3. Pumpkins: Do you make Jack O’ Lanterns? Any ideas of what else to do with them?
Jack o Lanterns and roast the seeds to eat after carving. I dont do anything with the guts, though.

4. Do you decorate your home for fall or Halloween? If so, what do you do? Bonus points for pictures.
Sadly, no. I wish I was more Martha in this way, but I cant seem to get my act together for much seasonal decorating. Sometimes I string up some orange lights, but I think those are packed away in a box somewhere this year.

5. Do you like pretending to be something different? Does a costume bring our an alternate personality?
I dont really care about costumes that much anymore. It's part of how I'm not much of a play-er, maybe. And it totally freaks out E if he sees me in a wig or even a crazy hat, so I dont have much incentive. But since 2 people (including the easily freakable E) have suggested I dress as a witch this year, I'm going out on Tuesday when the costumes are 75% off or whatever to find a witch costume to wear the next day. Who knows? Maybe my inner pagan will finally find her voice.
I got J a big blue shirt with a big red S on it - so he can either be Superman, or Jesus from Godspell. He hasnt decided yet, but I'll know by whether he rolls around all day bursting into: "WHEN wilt thou save the people? Oh, God of mercy when??" or not.
And you already know that E will be a Jedi warrior, right? Because it's all about the light saber, the one weapon that doesnt really seem like a weapon to me so I let him have it. I know, I know, It's a slippery slope...

Bonus: Share your favorite recipe for an autumn food, particularly apple or pumpkin ones.
Oh boy, I'm typing this in a hotel far from home, so I dont have any recipes at hand, and let's be honest, I'm not that great of a baker anyway. But I love that frozen apple tart thing they sell at trader joe's. So if you're a non-baker like me, head for the for freezer section.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

not much time for blogging

Just got back from a conference gathering, which I was nervous about, but which I actually really enjoyed and which E LOVED. Everytime I went to get him from the childcare, he would cry and say he was not ready to go. I love how much that boy loves church, have I mentioned?

GREAT speakers from our national office. It was a big "if that's the national church, sign me up for the cheerleading sqaud" kind of weekend - and I mean that in a really good way.

So, the conference meeting was mostly hopeful and made me glad for the gazillionth time that we've landed here. Good conversations and interesting to start to learn the lay of the land. J thinks that the clergy seem more competetive or something. I think that back in my part time associate days I just didn't have anything that anyone else wanted, so nobody was all that into competing with me.

Did I tell you that my current church's search committee reviewed over 80 profiles before they got to mine? This is because they had kind of three separate processes - 2 other candidates did not work out before me. Anyway, pretty much anyone in the west who was looking for a church must have gone thru some part of their process. I know who some of them are and I'm not sure how I feel about that. This whole colleague/competitor dynamic with other clergy is a minefield I dont think I negotiate very well. How do you deal with it?

Also, ran into a guy who knew my folks back in Hometown 25 years and 1400 miles ago. Sheesh. Small world.

Now getting ready to have the kids help in worship for Children's Sabbath (note to self: do not do this again 53 days into your next call. note to you all: not like I'm planning a next call or anything. just saying.)

Also, getting ready to go to Seattle overnight, so J can show his face at MIRE (Major Internet Retail Establishment) where he is a pioneer telecommuter, and E can play with his old pals and J and I can have a Real Live Date.

So, as I say, not much time to blog. But I'll check in when I can...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Book report - audio and visual

I'm a commuter now (20 minutes each way, so dont weep for me, but still, that's 40 sort of idle minutes a day) so I've been listening to books on tape. So far, I've heard most of two, and I'm part way through a third.

Dont Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight
. I did not actually hear ALL of this, because I read a bunch of stuff about it online and decided to get the book with the pictures in it. Yes, I am 8 years old. However, after hearing about 3/4 of it, I can recommend it, but for the stout of heart. Such a great story about being a child, and being a child in wartime. Unexpectedly funny. And also horrible and heartbreaking a lot of the time. She has a remarkable lack of bitterness about what was really a lot of deprivation and horror in her childhood - - she just tells it like it it.
And the audiobook is really masterfully done - the actress who reads it is, um, a good actress.

Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House
by Stephanie Barron. I think I would've loved this a lot more if the tapes from the library hadn't been all intermittantly wobbly. Worse than having it all the time wobbly, it turns out, because you keep thinking that the wobblies are going to end if you can just grit your teeth for another minute. It was a cute like those books are, but it turns out, I was really wanting something with a little more meat on its bones, if you know what I mean. So I got...

Beloved! Read by Toni Morrison Hergoddessyself. Which keeps making me late for things since I keep sitting in the car to listen to "just a little more...." Oh! So awful and so wonderful and every word so beautifully, perfectly chosen. Well, you know. Since I'm the last person in America to read, or hear, or whatever this book. But just in case I'm not, run don't walk. So good.

I'm also reading sometimes.

For fun reading, I did that "walk swiftly through the fiction section and pick up something that looks interesting" technique at the library, and came up with a funny (both peculiar and ha ha) little book - Radical Prunings: A Novel of Advice from the Contessa of Compost, the conceit of which is that it is advice letters about gardening, which provide a window into the world of an eccentric, cranky woman making her own kind of family with the people who gather around her. There's nothing profound about it, but I can recommend it (maybe for next summer at the beach, or tomorrow ! if you're WS) if you enjoy silliness like: "Orchid flowers imitate some other things, such as the larger, more attractive insects, with bristling wings, sturdy little legs as thin as copper filaments, pudenda, etc. I once read that some orchids are so desperate to be pollinated that they will literally throw themselves at a passing insect. Ladies, haven't we all?"

For work reading:
Read Tell it Like It Is in an insomniac tear a couple of weeks ago (reads more like a dissertation than I was hoping, and nothing you didn't know already, but let me know if you want to borrow it);
Currently carrying around Tribal Church and not finding as many free moments to read it as I'd like (30 pages in, though, I can tell you already that it's genius. But you knew that);
And poking my way slowly (by which I mean, leaving it lying it around, picking it up and opening it at random to read a few a pages once or twice a day - can that method even be CALLED "reading a book?") through How to be an Open-Minded Christian Without Losing Your Faith (recommended by a church member, and I think would be easier to swallow for some of my church folks than some other progressive Christian writings that resonate a little more with me personally. It's got short, helpful sections on dealing with all kinds of questions that seem to come up between Christians Who Differ. ).

I'm thinking of getting I Refuse to Lead A Dying Church. Anyone read that?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Five

1. What is your earliest memory of encountering a biblical text?
It's not a text exactly, but my earliest memory of the Bible is when my grandma, an old missionary and teacher taught us a song about the books of the Old Testament. I wish I still knew it, but I can only get 12 books in (first and second kings....) before I trail off. I remember memorizing verses in Sunday school when we were on Madeline Island, which puts me at about 8 or 9. I liked "Jesus wept" because it was short.

2. What is your favorite biblical translation, and why? (You might have a few for different purposes). I seem to turn most to the Message these days.

3. What is your favorite book of the Bible? Your favorite verse/passage?
I've spent the most time over the years with Acts, which I love for making the Christian life into such an adventure. But I don't have any favorite passages that last, except for see the question on psalms below. They change so often, with circumstances and readings.

4. Which book of the Bible do you consider, in Luther's famous words about James, to be "an epistle of straw?" Which verse(s) make you want to scream?
I don't really have it in for any whole book. Hmm, verses that make me want to scream - well, I think I'm most sorry about how "no one comes to the Father except through me" has been abused and misused. Although, my favorite sermon I ever wrote is about that passage, so I have a funny sort of fondness for it for that reason.

5. Inclusive language in biblical translation and liturgical proclamation: for, against, or neutral?
Depends. Too much gender neutral language for God is distracting to me and seems to be code for whatever the reader/hearer's image of God is anyway. I much prefer some male images of God, and some female. Inclusive language for the congregation, however, is imperative. I learned this from my mother, who improvised new words to hymns right in the pew, way before the New Century Hymnal came along. Sometimes when people complain about the language in there, by the way, I encourage them to go ahead and change the words, "just like women have been doing with the words in the old red hymnal for years."

Bonus: Back to the Psalms--which one best speaks the prayer of your heart? Psalm 46, especially verses 1-5, (although "be still and know that I am God" which comes later is one of my most frequently repeated prayers).
Here it is, in the King James version:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,
though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,
the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved:
God shall help her, and that right early.

Say, speaking of the Bible...

Any suggestions on a lectionary based adult Bible study curriculum for adults would be appreciated. I've tried several different approaches with this group, but the liveliest discussion was on the day that we really dug into the history/sociology and looked at maps, etc. Seasons of the Spirit, which I rely on for other things seems a little too, well, sort of touchy-feely for this group.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Yesterday, life was such an easy game to play.....

Remember how yesterday was so about the beautiful mystery that is life and art?
Today was so. not.

Although, a walk after dark with your wee son and his mighty light saber, so he can lay out his trick or treating route in a new neighborhood is a pretty sweet way to end a hard day.

I got some new boots, too, with the last of the goodbye money from my old church.

And I'm not all Rev. Domintr*x either, like I worried I might be, what with the laces and everything.

Although, after today, I'm thinking maybe that wouldnt be such a bad thing.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Getting my mind blown

Hardly anything went as planned today.

Go to colleague's lectionary Bible study and then, since Monday is secretary's day off and such a quiet day in the office, finally synch palm to google calendar (really it's getting too ridiculous not to have a calendar unless I'm sitting at my desk because I'm too lazy/busy to download a simple piece of software), make some worship plans and then go on a few visits.

1. Unexpected pastoral care visit.
Some things are very heartbreaking.
And many things are not easily fixable.

2. Unexpected visit to reschedule building usage.
Takes a while.

3. Unexpected call to schedule building usage.
Takes another little while.

4. Unexpected visit from a guy who wants his baby baptized.
He went to the church he grew up in and they wouldn't do it because he's not a member there. He stopped by our place since we are just down the street from where he lives. Turns out I kind of know people who are his family in Seattle - funny small world thing. Anyway, I used to be adamant about NOT baptizing unless a person was a member of the community, etc. A couple things have changed my mind. At my last call the senior pastor was much freer about baptizing than anyone I'd met before, so that was one example.

Then, my uncle told me this crazy story one time about being a young pastor with no shower, swimming in a creek, when he was accosted by a guy with a gun who wanted to be baptized (stop me if I've told you this one). My uncle, following the rules of the church, disagreed. Luckily, he avoided getting shot in the process. More than 30 years later, he tells this story with regret - he really wishes he would have baptized the guy, there in the creek.

So I re-thought. These days, I figure if baptism is really a sacrament, then it's really God's way of working in the world and I probably shouldn't get too uptight about the why's and wherefores of it, I should just let it do its work. I asked the guy to visit the the church once, told him I'd like to meet with him (we'll do it tomorrow) and then I will baptize a sweet, tiny boy. I'm guessing that lots of you will not agree with this approach, and I know that many churches will not allow it, but it feels right for this this place and time, and I'm happy that, even it's only for this this one day, we can be a home for a little family.

5. Scheduled meeting, did not go as planned.
We talk a lot in the UCC about being a home for people who have been damaged by more conservative traditions. I've certainly met people who have been bored to death by the church, and drifted away to the status of SBNR* but I dont think I've met a person before who , after an upbringing in a congregational church, grew up and got saved in an evangelical way. Until today.

After he called me about 4 times to set something up, I finally met with this guy from a neighboring evangelical church (after the secretary wrote on the final message - "HE IS NOT asking for money.") By their website, I can see that they rely on, no surprise, the Bible as their primary guide for living. They don't actually SAY "inerrant" but am I wrong to assume that? Anyway, he wants to talk about how we can partner with them around this Luis Palau revival thing that's happening here next summer. When I set up the meeting, I figured I'd take his stuff, tell him I'm not going to something where my gay and lesbian parishioners are going to be bashed, and send him on his way.

Instead, I find myself really liking the guy. And really listening to him. He's saying stuff like "we have things to learn from each other" and "we are open" and "we really want this (meaning the revival thing) to be a time to glorify Christ. For too long these things have been all about individual churches getting their names out there instead of worshiping God." and "Christians are so divided about politics, but we really want to come together about what we agree on, and work with organizations to help poor and hungry people."

After an hour, I have to go. I am rattled. I'm wondering if he's snowing me - pretending to be all open-minded so he can reel me into something that's going to expose me or my congregation to embarrassment or outrage. But I'm more afraid that he's in earnest than that he's faking me out. I'm realize that I'm afraid, actually afraid, that somehow contact with a dedicated, loving and successful Christian will infect the people at my church with dis-ease and dissatisfaction. Afraid that if we really find that we can work together across/along such radical theological lines, our denominations will disappear and leave us all drifting. Afraid of what it really means if I really mean what I say sometimes that "we have a lot to learn from evangelicals about what it means to surrender to God."

I've always prided myself on being quite open-minded and accepting, but I'm not, really. No more accepting of the Bible church guy than I would imagine he might be of me. I told him I will talk to the church leaders about the revival thing - that is the commitment I made. He invited me and J to a dinner and speech, with him and his wife (ok, my stereotype is all that I'm not going to have enough hairspray for this event - see how rotten my thinking is?). Anyway, J wants to go (he's been reading about evolution and intelligent design and he's all fired up to get INTO it with someone), so I guess we will if it works out. In the meantime, I'm praying, praying hard. My prayer is: "Show me the way, show me the way."

If you know anything about Luis Palau, and particularly what he might mean for progressive Christians, I'd be glad to hear it.

6. Scheduled meeting downtown.
Planned to get lost. Did not in fact, get lost. Arrived on time.

See? A day chock full of surprises.

*Spiritual But Not Religious

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Putting the self in self care

A couple of conversations in the blogosphere lately remind me that the only way to know what self care is, is for the self in question to define it. No one else can tell you what you need in order to be really rested. For example, occasionally someone will suggest that I get a massage and probably the reason I hate 'em is because I've never gone to ____ ___ who knows exactly etc etc etc. Massage is not good self care for me, and the drama that is making and keeping an appointment reminds me of this.

I know I'm practicing good self care by exactly how kind I am to my son, and how unweepy I am with my husband. When I start snarling at the one and bursting into tears whenever the other looks at me, I know it's time to take a look at how things have been going in Self Care Land.

Here are the three best self care habits for this self:
1. 8-9 hours of sleep out of every 24.
2. 1 (20-40) minute walk alone per day.
3. Taking a large quantity of vitamin B every day.

RE #1 - who has time for that? I'm still working on it. I mostly fall in the 6-7 hours range, but I do so much better with more. I sort of realized this when the morning people at my last church all thought I was one of them, and ditto the night people. I'm equally dopey if it's too late AND if it's too early. (Although not as dopey as the music director at my new church, who is so adorably grumpy first thing on Sunday morning that it's hard not to push his buttons on purpose. Bad pastor. Bad.)

RE #2 - much funner* when the weather is sunny and warm and the days are short. Much harder to fit it in when the days are short and it's raining out and it's October and I'm probably getting a cold.

RE #3 - I manage this almost every day, although the knock-off brand I got a couple weeks ago to replace my usual ones because I could not find my usuals was really not doing the trick. I went and got a bottle of something that cost as much as a Jedi Halloween Costume, promises it is organic and says it relieves "nervousness and exhaustion." I feel all 1830 when I take it, but it seems to be working. That annoying headache that was back for a while seems to be mostly gone now.

Other self-care measures are, off the top of my head: checking in with Jesus as often as possible; eating 2 servings of fruit or veggies with every meal; going to the spa every month; getting pedicures regularly; regular dates with my husband; blogging; going to the chiropractor; practicing yoga; talking to my parents at least once a week; singing in a chorus that doesnt mind that I'm not all that musical; keeping in touch with my brothers and friends; going away by myself for 2-4 nights per year; having someone else clean my house; not driving for a whole day; eating in nice restaurants; browsing in bookstores; laying on grass.

After a big list like this, I try to remember that the very best self care is not to get all hung up about if I'm practicing good self care or not. Because being angry with myself for bad self care is just a very windy road that I don't want to go down.

*Do those of you who remember Tricia Barton remember how she used to scold us for saying "funner" when we were all 13? She was so much cooler than the rest of us. I pretty much wanted to be an adult when I was 13, but she really really really was not meant to be a teenager. I wonder whatever happened to her. Hopefully she's still cool wherever she is. A brief Google of her name reveals a dog breeder, a writer, a scientologist. Really, she could be any of these, I guess. Or all three.