Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Feel of the Mountain Top

Have you been to the mountaintop? Have you felt the presence of God? Have you had moments when the joy of God was very close at hand, and you felt it?

Did it stay that way?

While I may live on a mountain which requires salting and scraping before the bravest soul should venture down it in the snow, I do not live on the mountaintop emotionally. No one does. We live in the ordinary. We live in our routine. We spend most of our time not in either the valleys or on the mountaintops, but instead on the plateaus.

I was reading an article in the LOVE Community (Limestone-Ohio Valley Emmaus Community) newsletter written by Bill Henry, their Assistant Spiritual Director for one of their walks. I would link to it for you, but I don’t seem to be able to do that. If you want to read the whole article, called Keeping the Feeling, click here, and then go to the October 2005 newsletter. A pilgrim asked him, “How do I keep this feeling?” He wasn’t able to give her an immediately satisfying answer, but wrote this article to try to answer the question later. The truth upon which he wrote the article is “You will not keep this feeling….While we will not always feel the reassuring presence of God, that changes nothing. Jesus told the disciples, “I will be with you always.” Will you always feel his love and presence? No. Will it ever change? No.”

Steven Curtis Chapman has written a song called Moments Made for Worshipping. Here is the chorus:

This is a moment made for worshipping
Cause this is a moment I’m alive.
And this is a moment I was made to sing
A song of living sacrifice
For every moment that I live and breathe
This is a moment made for worshipping.

From the second verse:

When I’m feeling loved and happy.
When I’m feeling all alone.
When I’m failing to remember
all the love that I’ve been shown.
Every beat of my heart
Is another new place to start

From the rising of the sun
To the setting of the sun
The name of the Lord is worthy to be praised.

Don’t wait to FEEL God. Faith, is says in Hebrews 11, is to be certain of the things we cannot see. Perhaps we could also say that faith is to trust in what we cannot feel. We can’t always FEEL that God is there. But we can KNOW that God is there. The knowledge of God’s presence is much more reliable (since it is based in God’s promises to us) than the feeling of God’s presence (since feelings originate from us).

So, Kim’s advice for the day? Relax. God’s there, whether you can feel him or not. And every once and a while, when we’re blessed with a mountaintop experience, our feelings catch up with our faith.

Monday, January 30, 2006

An Ordinary Day

Luke 2:22-40

It was a day
Just like any other day.
The world spun on its axis,
The sun was shining,
Who could predict that the extraordinary
Would interrupt the ordinary?

Simeon sat at home
Comfortable in his routine.
He had been waiting.
He had been waiting so long
That waiting was now normal.
Anticipation was dulled,
Unable to cut through the tarnish
Of the ordinary.

On this day
This ordinary day
God’s sun would shine through
The overcast routine

Simeon heard God.
Got up.
Left home.
And went to the temple.

Mary and Joseph,
Mother and father of a baby.
Did what was required.
They traveled to the temple.
To be purified.
To honor God with sacrifice.
To present their child.

It was a special day for them.
But it was not extraordinary.
All they had planned to do
Was traditional.
Was the law.
Was expected of them.

But on this day,
This ordinary day
God’s sun would break through
The clouds of tradition.

Anna, daughter of Phanuel,
Had lived a long life
Devoted to God.
Her world was now small.
It consisted of a temple
A tiny place in a huge world.
Her routine was set
Worshipping. Fasting. Praying.
No changes or surprises.

But on this day
This ordinary day
God’s sun would illuminate
Even the corners of her very small world.

Simeon, Mary, Joseph and Anna
Gathered around a tiny child.
What they saw was not ordinary.
They saw a promise kept.
The vision of salvation.
Light to the Gentiles
Glory to Israel.
A sign from God.

Each returned to his own routine.
Simeon went home.
Anna returned to her tiny life.
The small family traveled back to Nazareth.
But now nothing was the same.

The ordinary had been touched by light.
Transformed by God’s son.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Traveler Unknown

A week ago we sang a hymn in church that I had never heard before. I love it when this happens. I cannot sing, but I do sing. I consider it a challenge to be able to sing (sort of) the tune of a new hymn by the time we reach the end of the last verse.

This particular hymn, however, I wish I had not been new to me. I really like it, and hope that we sing it again and again. It was Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown, written by the prolific Charles Wesley, based on Gen. 32:24-32. It was written in 1742. The tune is a traditional Scottish melody (which is probably one of the aspects of the hymn that grabbed my attention.) Note: click on the Scottish melody link above to hear the tune.

Come, O thou Traveler unknown,
whom still I hold, but cannot see!
My company before is gone,
and I am left alone with thee.
With thee all night I mean to stay,
and wrestle till the break of day;
with thee all night I mean to stay,
and wrestle till the break of day.

Apparently, two weeks after his brother's death, John was teaching this hymn at Bolton, but broke down when he came to the lines "My company before is gone, and I am left alone with thee." Dr. Issac Watts said that "that single poem, Wrestling Jacob, as worth all the verse he himself had written." (Source: UM Hymnal, page 387; 1989).

I have always liked the image in Genesis 32, of Jacob wrestling with God. It means to me that God cares enough about us to take the time to "wrestle" with us. Haven't you ever felt that way? I have. Wrestling with God. I want my way; he has other ideas, and he will continue to wrestle with me until he has his way.

I need not tell thee who I am,
my misery and sin declare;
thyself hast called me by my name,
look on thy hands and read it there.
But who, I ask thee, who art thou?
Tell me thy name, and tell me now.
But who, I ask thee, who art thou?
Tell me thy name, and tell me now.

God knows us. He knows our name, our misery and our sin. We are the ones who are searching, trying to learn about God. Trying to discover his name.

To me, to all, thy mercies move;
thy nature and thy name is Love.

Photo: Me, taken in backyard this afternoon. Great sky.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Just One to Remind Me

I am a procrastinator. I probably should have mentioned it before. I could give you several examples; I may do that later.

This evening I will illustrate. You may think I am terrible, but we just took down our Christmas tree today. One of them. Hopefully, tomorrow, the other one will come down. Stop shaking your head is disapproval. I am busy. Lots of other things have a higher priority. The Christmas tree doesn't need fed, walked, washed, folded, vacuumed, hugged, helped with homework, driven to school, picked up from band practice (although, yes, I don't do that for my children, either -- luckily they have a grandmother who is willing to help), or taught algebra. The Christmas tree just sits there, and quietly waits its turn. (I actually don't feel quiet as guilty about it as I usually do because I found out tonight how long my cousin left hers up. I won't share, but my procrastination is nothing compared to hers.)

So today we packed it away. We also packed our nativity scenes into boxes to await next year's festivities. I say nativity scenes (plural) because we have several. A list:
  • One I had as a child (the one in the picture). The pieces are kind of funny looking because Mom repainted them. It's a good thing she had a day job.
  • One we (S and I) bought many years ago. It's the largest and most elaborate of the many we have.
  • One that looks like it should star in a claymation movie.
  • A really tiny one -- each piece only an inch tall
  • A handmade one from Guatemala (or some other Central American country) -- very bright -- made of bread dough.
  • One that was a gift from a friend.

And some others, but I may tell you about those later (or not).

I don't mind packing away the tree. It's time has come and gone. Good riddance. (Is that horrible to say?) I'll be happy to see it next Christmas, but for now I just want the living room back. I can't say the same about the nativity scenes, though. I think it might be kind of cool to leave them out all year. And not because I am a procrastinator. Sometimes I forget the wonder of it all -- the few moments in December when I actually remember, with bone-deep certainty and grateful heart, that God sent his son to the world as a baby. Nativity scenes can be a great reminder of that graceful moment of rememberance.

So, for the past few years, I've kept one out. One single nativity scene. It' s always a small one, but not always the same one each year. Its not in an obvious place, so I don't see it everyday, but I do encounter it every once and a while. And it makes me smile. And remember.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A Foreign Land

As I have mentioned before, I’m working my way through the Bible. My plan for the last couple of weeks has been to pick up something from each week’s 30 pages and write about it. It’s one way to keep focused; to pay attention to what I’m reading – kind of like an essay test at the end.
I thought this week I would have to pass. So far, before this morning, the only thought I had about 1 Chronicles is this: If your minister ever calls you and asks you to read an Old Testament selection during the worship service, make sure it is not from 1 Chronicles. One glance at the text should demonstrate my point: 1 Chronicles 8:1-12. It is just one name after the next – a veritable “Choose Your Baby’s Name” guide for those living in B.C. Israel. I couldn’t even pronounce what I was reading in my head, much less in front of anyone.

Reading the Old Testament, I feel like I’ve walked into another world. It’s a world where I don’t know the rules; where God seems different. If you were a king in Israel or Judah after Solomon, you should probably have had your local prophet on speed dial. So many times I’ve read about how the king would want to know the will of God, so he would call in his local prophet (or prophets – some of the kings seemed to have a pool of them) to ask. David, Elijah and Elisha seemed to have had close relationships with God, but it was the exception to the rule (maybe I’m generalizing here – this is only my impression this week). So much death and destruction – war and bloodshed. Check out this story: 2 Kings 6:24-31. I travel through the Old Testament not understanding the language, the customs, or sometimes even God’s work. I can’t even pronounce the names.

And then this morning I read from 1 Chronicles 13:5-14. David is having the Ark moved to Jerusalem from Kiriath Jearim. They place it on a new cart, and Uzzah and Ahio guide the cart. At one point, an ox stumbled, and Uzzah reaches out and takes hold of the ark, to keep it from falling. The Lord becomes angry with him for touching the ark, and kills him. Uzzah's intentions were not evil; he wanted to keep the ark from falling to the ground. He dies.

Now compare that story to one Joe talked about last night at Common Grounds. This one is in Luke 8:41-48. Jesus is on his way to heal the daughter of a Jewish official, when a woman, who has been bleeding for 12 years, reaches out and touches the fringe of his garmet. Joe expained last night that this fringe would have been part of his prayer shawl, and that no one was allowed to touch a man’s prayer shawl except a member of his family. Yet, this woman does. She reaches out and touches God. Jesus heals her, and praises her faith.

I’m glad I live on this side of the cross.

By the way, don’t you love it when things like this fall into your lap? I never would have connected the 1 Chronicles Uzzah story with the Matthew story except that Joe talked about one of them last night and I read the other one this morning. Sometimes, timing is essential.

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Blogging...

Excuse me while I take just a moment to ponder the strangeness of a conversation that I just had.

Someone just called me and said, when I answered the phone, “Oh, I was hoping to get your voice mail, but since I got you instead…” and then went on to tell me why he called.

I know this man, and he didn’t say this to insult me or anything, but I’m still struck by how strange it sounds.

And this is the second time he’s said it. Maybe I need to stop answering the phone.

No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as much as the dog does. Christopher Morley

A man's conversation is the mirror of his thoughts.
Chinese Proverb

Conversation is a game of circles.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saepe satius fuit dissimulare quam ulcisci. (Latin. Translates as, "It is often better not to see an insult than to avenge it." Seneca (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Here's Your Sign

I passed this church on the way back to work today after lunch and had to stop and take a picture. I've "painted" out the name of the church because it's not really important.

Can you read the fence? (If you click on it, the picture might get a little bit bigger) It says, "Private Parking...Tow Zone." It's spray painted on with white paint in really big letters. I'm sure the fence actually is owed by whoever owns the little white building; I doubt the church owns it. Even so, every time I pass this church, I think how unwelcoming it looks...how rude and unChristian it appears. That's why I painted out the name of the church -- I don't think it's their fault (at least I hope not).

Do we sometimes appear that way to outsiders? NO PARKING. DON'T COME HERE. We don't spray paint on our fences, but in what other ways to we deliver the same message?
  • Do we welcome someone new in the worship service, or do we just look at them? I do this -- I just stare, sometimes -- I did it this past Sunday. It's bad, and it isn't welcoming.
  • We are more comfortable with the people we know. Do we step out of our group to include new people?
  • Is our church welcoming to a newcomer? Is it clean? Does it have signs that lead the way? Does it have people who lead the way?

If a visitor were to critique us, and then say, "Here's your sign," what would that sign say?

On a different note -- I go back and read posts sometimes, and I've been thinking about yesterday's post. The 1 Timothy 2 scripture still bothers me, but I should have said how blessed I am to belong to a church that doesn't expect me to be silent. Not only does my church allow me to teach, but the people in that church -- those there now, and those who are gone -- have nurtured me in that endeavor. I am well and truly blessed.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Paul on a Shelf

My grandmother died when I was 17. She gave me one piece of advice regarding marriage -- marry someone tall. I did. He is very tall, and his height has its advantages. One of those is that he can reach items on the top shelves of our kitchen. When I try to put an item away on a top shelf, it usually falls off and hits me in the head.

I took a class several years ago in order to be able to teach the Bethel Bible Series. It was taught in our church by our associate pastor (at that time), Chuck Echols. Chuck told us that if a bible passage was difficult to interpret or was proving to be a stumbling block, to "put it on the shelf." Later, it could be taken down and studied again. If need be, it could be "put back on the shelf" for later reflection. The point wasn't to avoid troublesome Bible passages, but instead to avoid the possiblity of a Bible passage becoming a road block to our faith.

I do that. I put certain passages on the shelf for later study. Sometimes, they fall off the shelf and hit me in the head. It's annoying but inevitable. I'm going to pull one more passage out of 1 Timothy this week -- one that falls off the shelf from time to time, threatening me with a concussion.

1 Timothy 2:11-15: Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty. (NRSV)

We don't talk about these verses very often in our church. When I was reading the material concerning 1 Timothy 5 in preparation for the lesson I'm teaching this Sunday (ironically, to both men and women), I skipped back a few weeks to see what the material said about these verses (Source: Adut Bible Studies Teacher book):

  1. The author states that Paul was forbidding women to teach because they were falling victim to false teaching, which makes me wonder -- only the women were falling victim to false teaching? Not the men?
  2. The author then states that women were attempting to gain superiority over men, which is why Paul stated that he did not allow them to have authority over men. Paul wasn't opposing women having equality with men, but to women being superior to men. Hmm. It doesn't sound that way to me. The author completely ignores the two sentences -- "Let a woman learn in silence with full submission." and "she is to keep silent." That doesn't sound like equality to me.
  3. The author then goes on to say that the rest of the passage lifts up the "high calling of raising godly children." No argument there, except that isn't what Paul says. The author also says that this is not to be viewed as "women's work." I agree, but Paul doesn't say that either. He says that women will be saved through childbearing. I thought I was saved through the grace of God. What if I hadn't had children?

I want to take a look at it from a different perspective. Warning: I am going to tamper with the Bible in this paragraph. I haven't asked God if it is OK, but since I admit that what I'm typing here isn't Biblical, I hope it is OK. Don't just skim over this passage; I've changed it:

Let a man learn in silence with full submission. I permit no man to teach or to have authority over a woman; he is to keep silent. (verses removed) Yet he will be saved through the siring of children, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

It sounds ridiculous when it is written this way. I'm kind of wondering, though, if looking at the passage with the pronouns changed could lead a man to understand how resentful a woman could feel when she reads the original.

Wesley taught that we should use a quadrilateral to come to theological conclusions. Using this, in my experience, I know women who are talented with the gift of preaching or teaching. My reason tells me that God wouldn't give a woman a gift and then tell her it is wrong to use it. Tradition is sketchy on this one, although as Methodists we are celebrating 50 years of female ministers this year. It's scripture that's giving me fits here, but mainly because Jesus didn't seem to value women less than men.

One explanation I've found that kind of helps is that some Biblical scripture is meant to be timely --written for one particular time and context, and that other scripture is timeless -- applicable now as much as when it was written.

So I'm working my way through this. But I have a friend whose husband is a Southern Baptist minister. She is bright, professional, and a wonderful Christian. She doesn't speak in church, and only shares her teaching ability with children. This is the way she believes it should be, mainly because of passages like this one.

I need God to be tall, and take this one off the shelf for me, so it will quit bonking me in the head. Maybe he already has, and I'm the one who keeps gnawing on it for no reason. I wouldn't mind if someone would tackle this one head-on instead of with the platitudes that the author of the teacher book uses. But for tonight, I'm stretching up, and balancing it back up on the top shelf.

Moment of bragging: G found out today that he was chosen to be a part of the Middle school All-county Band. He said about 24-27 trumpets tried out, and he was chosen as 9th chair of the 15 available chairs. As he says, "Cool-e-o."

And while I was typing this entry, Marshall beat WVU in basketball. Apparently this is the first time we've beaten a top ten team since men wore leisure suits, students owed typewriters and children knew what "counter clock-wise" means. I'm cheering and shouting things in my head like "Go Herd!" And the BEST part is -- IT WAS WVU. YEA! "Cool-e-double O."

A Prayer for the Traveler

May God make safe to him each step.
May God make open to him each pass.
May God make clear to him each road.
And may He take him in the clasp of His own two hands.

Scottish prayer, Western Isles, 19th Century.
(Note from Kim: handy to use to pray for yourself, someone else, or a group of people. Just change the pronoun).

Double Honor

What survival lessons can be learned when one comes home from a meeting at church to find that high winds have knocked out the power in your neighborhood and your husband is out of town?

  • Every bug that got into the house while you were on the back patio in the dark, removing wind-broken porch furniture will be attracted to the battery powered lantern that you are using to light the living room.
  • You should make sure that your kids keep their portable DVD players charged so that after they go to bed you will be able to watch a movie. I know that now, and tomorrow I wil suggest they charge the batteries.
  • The wind can actually blow hard enough through the attic to create negative pressure "up there" which will lift the "square thing" that covers the opening to the attic so that it lifts into the attic at least three inches and turns sideways. It is disconcerting to come home to a dark house and find the attic open. This is what happens in horror movies -- "He's calling you from inside the house. Get out!" What is even more fun is trying to close it with two broom handles and a 12-year old. We are all too short to reach it, and I was not going to the trouble of carting the ladder upstairs.
  • It's a good thing that every phone in the house is not portable. Portable phones don't work when the power is out. Neither does the heat. Luckily we didn't have any freezing fog.

Obviously, the power is back on, and everything is back to normal in our house (except for the poor patio table, whose life is over).

I'm still thinking about that Sunday school lesson in Timothy. The second part, 1 Timothy 5:17-20 --

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.

How do we treat the "elders" of our churches? For this discussion, I'm going to define "elder" as minister. This passage from Timothy says that they are worthy of "double honor." In the Methodist church, we have certain responsiblities regarding our pastors. We provide them with a salary and various benefits including a parsonage. Because of the world in which we live, we consider this "compensation" for the "job" they do in our churches. And it is. But Paul says that we should give them "double honor." I've been thinking about that today.

A pastor is appointed to our church, and we consider that he will provide the spiritual and administrative leadership for our congregation. We have high expectations. We don't, I think, have very high expectations for our own role in the arrangement. The bishop and his cabinet are trusting the pastor with the shepherding of our church, and they are trusting our congregation with the care of the pastor.

I found this post today on another blog, and really liked it. Go read it; I'll wait.

To quote just a piece of Andy's post:

A preacher pours out the innermost depth of her soul into every phrase of her sermon. A preacher studies, looks, prays, listens, studies some more, then lays bare her representation of reality for the congregation who has come to worship.

We need to have a willing attitude -- willing to listen, and willing to look for God's message in the sermon that is presented to us. Sometimes that means setting aside our preoccupations. Sometimes that means setting aside our preconceptions. And sometimes that means looking beyond the human minister to the Godly message. If we honor the elder enough -- give that "double honor" Paul tells Timothy about, then the space between us and the pastor becomes Holy ground (stealing a concept from Mr. Rogers), and God will be there.

And we need God to be there.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Justice and Mercy

Freezing Fog. Who even knew that such a thing existed? We went outside last night at about 9pm to walk the dog, and the whole neighborhood was in a fog bank. I’m used to fog in the morning, but this was eerie and strange. And then, I wake up this morning, and find out that this strange fog is freezing on the roads and cars. I’ve never heard of such a thing.

Anyway, moving beyond my fascination with meteorological events, I am teaching Sunday school this Sunday. The lesson scheduled is based on 1 Timothy 5:1-8, 17-24. I thought I would break with tradition this week (maybe the freezing fog has startled me out of normalcy) and actually read the lesson prior to Saturday night.

According to the literature, the purpose of the lesson is “to encourage us to honor our brothers and sisters in Christ.” (See also, Current Event Supplement). I wanted to take a portion of the lesson today, and consider, in its light, something I read last week. 1 Timothy 5:1-2 says, “Do not speak harshly to an older man, but speak to him as to a father, to younger men as brothers, to older women a mothers, to younger women as sisters – with absolute purity.”

I read the following on a blog called Cerulean Sanctum (by Dan Edelen) in a series of posts about 21 Steps to a 21st Century Church.

It bothers me that at most churches the second a family hits the lobby they scatter. Mom goes to her MOPS class, Dad goes to his men's class, while each child is sent to a separate classroom. Poof! They're vapor. We talk about unity of the Body, but the designs of our churches and their programs tell a different story.

The singles are herded into a corral with other equally sexually frustrated people and we expect them to behave. Nor do we really want to know what they're up to so long as they don't whine about it.

Same goes for the elderly, because God knows that once you're old you no longer have any viable purpose. (No wait, perhaps I'm confusing the Church in America for the movie Logan's Run.)

Do we do that? Our church is definitely organized for Sunday school based on age (roughly in the older classes, but it’s still there). When I first read the post, I took exception to it. Yes, our family is just like the one described, with kids running to two different classes, and my husband and I going to an “adult” class (Notice the quotation marks. If you were in our class, you would understand why.). My first reaction included these thoughts:
  1. Our children need to be in age appropriate classes. I am so grateful that adults in our church have agreed to spend their Sunday school time teaching our children about God. It’s not an abdication of my responsibility as a parent; it’s a wonderful, God-given supplementation of our efforts as parents.
  2. I don’t think we have a “singles” class in our church. We are more “age driven” than that. I do worry sometimes about those in our church who are single (whether in all of life, or only while in the church). Do they feel alone? Is being part of a “pair” so ingrained into our church routine that someone not part of a “pair” would feel excluded?
  3. Do we shuttle our elderly off into a corner because we no longer consider them to be useful? Our “oldest” class is an interesting group of people. They have been together to years. As I understand it, their class began its life in controversy – men and women meeting in the SAME class for Sunday school? Outrageous! Anyway, they have grown old together. They aren’t hiding in a corner; they are an active and integral part of our church. They (I hope) are together because they have built something wonderful over the years – a fellowship – a supportive and dynamic Christian group. They are together because they choose to be together, learning about God’s word, reading the Bible, sharing their strengths and dividing their weaknesses. They aren’t hidden in the corner. They are a model for the rest of us.
So, let’s look beyond what Dan talks about in his post. In our church at large, do we honor each other? Do we remember the widow and widower? The divorced person? What about those who cannot join us because of illness or age (those we have labeled as “shut in”)? Or do we forget about them? Are we truly a church with Open hearts and Open doors?

I think Dan missed the mark. I think age-defined Sunday schools are fine. Our church needs these “small groups” for ministry to each other. But what do we do when we leave Sunday school? Are we the Family of God the other 167 hours of the week?

On another note, keep your fingers crossed for G, who is trying out for all-county band this afternoon. S and he practiced last night – dueling trumpets. I hope the neighbors didn’t mind. Maybe it just added to the foggy “atmosphere.”

    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    Of Butterflies and Parenting

    Parenting. It's a maze. It's a trip for which you know the destination, but no one bothers to give you a map. It's a roller coaster. Before I list any more cheesy but true metaphors, I'll give you two comments from my boys that happened this weekend:

    • We were in Lexington on Saturday. We decided to stop at one of the larger malls in the city. This mall has, as one of its anchors, a Dick's Sporting Goods, which, to the amazement of all three of my guys, is two stories. So, while we were parking, G asked, "Is this the mall with the two-story dick?" (I kid you not; he was totally serious, and had no idea what he had said.)
    • Today at dinner, J (the younger one) was telling us about school. He told us that in math, they were learning to simplify "Dolly Parton" fractions. Apparently his teachers have told him that fractions which are bigger in the numerator (the top number) than the denominator (the bottom number) are "Dolly Parton" fractions. Math is an every day part of my life, and I've never heard that particular phrase, but J will never forget what a "Dolly Parton" fraction is, although he may not remember that they are actually called "improper fractions."

    Anyway, I was thinking about parenting today, worried about whether I am doing a good job of it or not. I know that there are major decisions we make with and for our children that can change the paths of their lives. I know those kind of decisions are scary and huge, but that's not what's worrying me today. Today I'm seeing parenting as a compilation of tiny decisions. One small decision after the next. Today I'm worrying about the sum effects of each seemingly inconsequential decision. Nothing major has happened. No earth-shattering decisions like where I will raise my children or what schools they will attend or what church to take them to have come up today. Today seems to have been a string of smaller choices. How much homework help do I give the younger one? How much freedom do I give the older one?

    I participated in a class a few years ago (in church) about Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of these habits is to "begin with the end in mind." That's great advice, and I try to follow it. But how do I predict the effect of something that seems inconsequential, but probably isn't? How do I predict the "butterfly" effect of a decision? Ever heard of the butterfly effect? Two definitions:

    1. The "Butterfly Effect", or more technically the "sensitive dependence on initial conditions", is the essence of chaos.
    2. A pretty bad movie with Ashton Kutcher -- "change one thing; change everything."

    I was told today in Sunday school that I think too much. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't think at all. Right now, I'm going to choose option #2 (and go watch some mindlessly entertaining TV), and not worry about whether I've used affect and effect correctly in this post.

    But I'll never stop worrying about this parenting thing.

    Ode to a Lady

    Today is the last day that the Keith-Albee will be open to show movies. It is the end of an era.

    Last April, when S was on his Emmaus walk, the boys and I went to see Sahara at the Keith. I took the photos in this post then from the balcony.

    Ode to a Lady

    She burst onto the scene as a flapper.
    Covered in bangles and beads,
    Jitterbugging her way into her city.
    Opulent. Gorgeous. Outrageous.
    The future looked bright and sparkling.

    Just as she was starting to spread her wings,
    The bottom dropped out.
    The world crashed around her.
    Her city struggled through the “Great Depression.”
    And so did she.
    Clark Gable
    Mae West
    W.C. Fields
    Lit up her screen
    Floods frightened everyone and
    motivated the building of a wall.
    She left her childhood behind,
    And became a lady
    A welcome distraction for her city.

    Just as the sun was shining again
    Bombs fell.
    Her city marched off to war,
    To fight fascism and hatred.
    John Wayne
    Humphrey Bogart
    Judy Garland
    Entertained those left behind.

    Time marched on.
    She was a grand dame
    On Fourth Avenue.
    Magic danced on her screen
    Elizabeth Taylor
    Grace Kelly
    Marilyn Monroe
    Matched her elegance.

    A president was killed.
    Man walked on the moon.
    A time came when injustice
    Would begin to fall.
    A woman kept her seat on the bus.
    A minister was killed.
    Her city watched the world change
    With wide-open eyes.
    John Wayne
    Sidney Poitier
    Rock Hudson
    Who is this Mrs. Robinson?
    Who is coming to dinner?

    She admired Robert Redford’s eyes,
    And cheered for Clint Eastwood.
    She laughed at her city.
    Who was telling them to wear such awful clothes?
    She jumped high into the sky
    Frightened by the sound of X-wings.
    What does THX mean, anyway?
    But she sighed, and put in earplugs.
    She saw the future and would adapt.
    By the way, who are
    Harrison Ford
    Carrie Fisher
    Mark Hamill?

    Her city started to change even more
    Stores closed.
    Malls opened.
    People stopped walking the streets.
    Multiplexes? What’s a multiplex?
    But she changed, too.
    Walls went up.
    Maybe no one would notice that
    The sounds of one movie
    Could be heard during the silent times of another.
    Or that one theater had a pole down the middle.
    But the men were sure handsome
    Tom Cruise (so young!)
    Arnold Schwarzesomething (so big!)
    Eddie Murphy (so funny!)

    She was still grand.
    Sitting in her balcony
    Was like being transported to another world.
    How could all of this
    Be behind that little façade on Fourth Avenue?
    She had the best popcorn in the world.
    And could take you to other worlds.
    Tom Hanks
    Julia Roberts
    Demi Moore
    She tapped her hearing aid
    And wondered
    Was that Star Wars? Again?

    A fire frightened her almost to death.
    But when the smoke cleared.
    She straightened her shoulders,
    Shook out her dress
    Refreshed her makeup
    And went back to work.
    The show must go on.

    Times were still changing.
    Towers fell
    And she cried with her city.
    Movies glistened on the screen
    Live action marched on her stage.
    Men decided to show the full monty,
    And she shook her head.
    Her hands covering her eyes,
    But she watched through a slit in her fingers.
    She wasn’t dead, after all.

    A word was whispered,
    Stadium seating.
    A dream was realized.
    Super Block was no longer empty.
    Ironic that the fulfillment of one dream
    Would bring hers to a close.
    She could change her sound system,
    Show more movies,
    But she could not change her bones.

    The screen will be blank.
    The stage will be silent.
    No more popcorn.
    No more sticky floors.
    The doors are closed,
    But her heart still beats.
    Her city holds its breath.
    Is this an opportunity?
    Or is this the end?

    Saturday, January 21, 2006

    Happy Birthday

    Today is my husband's birthday. He's 44 (or he will be sometime after 11:00 this evening).

    If you know him, here are a few things you may not know:

    • See that bike in the avatar? He likes to ride his mountain bike, especially with his boys.
    • If you made a list of 100 things about S, and only one of them was negative, that's the one he would remember.
    • He played in the finals of the State High School basketball tournament two years in a row. (He's taller than he looks in the avatar).
    • I know how to turn on a light bulb. He knows how they work, and after passing a very difficult test, is "lighting certified," which means he's S, LC.
    • If he likes a movie, he can watch it MULTIPLE times. That's good, because I feel the same way. I can't imagine what a couple does if they don't agree on this little quirk.
    • He would never wear that sweater (the one in the avatar) in real life.
    • He puts the milk in the fridge at a right angle.
    • If he's ever seen you with your car, he'll remember what you drive. I might be able to remember what color you car is. If I'm ever in a hit-and-run accident, I want him to have seen it, because he'll be able to tell the police what the car looked like. I'll only be able to come up with "dark, maybe."
    • He has a phone book in his head.
    • He never looses a sock. How can that be?
    • He can install telephones, pick locks, appraise a house, develop film, and explain how electrickery makes a light bulb work. He also knows all the halogen gases.
    • All of the hangers in his half of the closet are lined up the same way, and all of his shirts face the same direction in the closet. He's not anal; he's right-angled (and there is a difference). It's a good thing that one of us is.
    • If he won a lot of money, he would probably buy ... somekind of car...probably a dark one (I can't remember, but he would fly out west to some famous car auction to find it).
    • He's loyal, honorable, faithful, caring, senstive, loving. He's a wonderful father and husband. He's my best friend and my hero.

    Happy Birthday!

    We went to Empire Books in Huntington yesterday evening before going to see a movie. While we were there, a musical group was performing the coffee shop area. I wasn't paying much attention, although G and S were watching (mainly, I think, because G wanted to see them play their guitars). After they played their first song, they started chatting about not practicing much, etc (I really wasn't listening. I was a couple of aisles over, flipping through a book). All of a sudden, they started an accappela version of The Star Spangled Banner. In four part harmony. With no music (which is why it was accappela, I know). I headed over to watch. They were wonderful. S asked one of the clerks -- they are four Marshall students, and the name of their group is Play. Marshall needs to have them sing at a game.

    The movie we saw Friday evening was Glory Road. It gets my vote. Really good movie. I've never heard of Texas Western, and this real life story of their miracle season. (So I didn't know how the story turns out). Go see it; take your kids, and talk to them about racism. It could be a real conversation starter. In addition, it is a sit on the edge of your seat, cheer for our team, kind of movie. When it's over, don't leave when the credits roll. There's more to come.

    Friday, January 20, 2006

    A Respite

    Unlike some people, I do not like snow. To me snow only brings worry. How will I get to work? Will the kids be in or out of school? How safe will my husband be on the road as he travels with his job? The only time I vaguely like snow is in the evening, when everyone is home. The snow has to be perfect – pristine and white. I can look out the window or stand on the porch and say, “Wow, that’s just beautiful.” That lasts for about 15 minutes.

    So, yesterday, driving home, with the windows down and the sun roof open, my book on tape playing, was a nice respite from the worries of snowy weather.

    I think, sometimes, we all need a break. One scripture this week in my reading has bounced around my brain. It’s from 1 Kings 19:1-9. Elijah, a prophet in Israel, had just had a showdown with the Prophets of Baal. Chapter 18 is full of large images – 450 Baal prophets trying to outdo Elijah and God; God acting to demonstrate his power. Finally, the Baal prophets defeated, Elijah kills them. The drought finally ends, and Ahab (a horrible king) goes back to Jezebel (his horrible wife) and tells her what happened.

    Elijah is empty. He’s just killed 450 men (and righteous or not, this had to effect him). He is fleeing for his life. He’s wishing he would die, and he tells God, “It’s too much, Lord.” I can almost hear the desperation in his voice. What does God do? He had a lot of options. He could have:

    • Told Elijah to stop being such a wimp and get back to work. The job wasn’t done.
    • Told Elijah that despair was a sin and against God’s will.
    • Reminded Elijah that He (God) was with him. He (Elijah) could do anything with the power of God.
    • Abandoned Elijah and found Himself another prophet.

    God didn’t do any of those things. Instead, he cares for Elijah. Israel is going “to hell in a handbasket,” but God takes the time to care for a single man. God sends angels to feed Elijah, more than once. He prepares him for the trip that he must make next. In fact, God’s loving care was enough to enable Elijah to walk forty days to Mt. Sinai. There, God takes the time to listen to Elijah, and through furious winds, earthquakes, fires, and a soft whisper, God revitalizes Elijah’s spirit, just as He had revitalized Elijah’s body under the tree.

    To me, that’s who our God is. He’s there with us on the mountain when we’re fighting against the prophets of Baal, doing His work, and He’s there with us when we collapse under a tree in the desert, empty and frightened, needing His help.

    Sometimes we need a respite. It’s not sinful; it’s rejuvenating. It’s a chance for God to restate his mission for us, or to just hold our hand and hand us bread. If we do it often enough, then maybe our respite will be an afternoon on a park bench instead of a desperate, life-doubting, crushing time under a tree.

    Thursday, January 19, 2006

    A Conundrum

    What would you do for a Klondike bar?

    No, that's not right.

    What would you do in this situation?

    (Disclaimer: if you are reading this, and thinking, "Is she talking about me?" I am not. The hypothetical person (who is actually not hypothetical) has never read this blog, as far as I know. We'll call this person P (for "person"), and I will use the pronoun "he" because my mother taught me good grammar.)

    P sent me an email in which he describes a project which he considers would be something good to set underway in our church. P is correct; it is a wonderful idea, and I have considered similar projects, but haven't set any in motion. It's not the PROJECT which presents the conundrum.

    P has (and I can tell this from the email) "requested" this project before, although I don't know of whom it was requested. P tells me that it would be a "perfect project" for the committee of which I am the chairman. Since other churches have done it, we could copy them and institute it easily within our own congregation (easily being my impression of what P thinks, not what he says). The theory is that we can copy it, and thus not have to start from scratch.

    I am biting my tounge (or putting my hands in my pockets, since this was an email) because what I want to say is, "It is a wonderful idea. Would you like to set it in motion? We will give you whatever support you need." I really don't think P wants to DO it; I think P wants to have it set in motion.

    So, my conundrum:
    1. If I say what I want to say (or type what I want to type), I do not think P will respond positively. I think P would think I am being rude. Maybe I am misjudging P. I don't know him very well. I think P would think it is rude because I feel rude when I say it. Maybe I am imagining the superior tone of the note, and that is making me feel rude.
    2. My committee is facing some tough challenges right now. The next few months are going to be difficult -- full of hard work and volunteer recruiting efforts. We (and I) will be doing things that we have never done before, and have no experience in doing. I am not sure this that is a time for a totally new project. As I mentioned, I have thougth of doing what P suggests before, but haven't introduced it to the committee because of our other obligations. I worry that introducing this project into the committee's list of THINGS TO DO would either mean it would not get done well, or that it would distract from other items which must be done.
    3. As I said, it is a good idea. Maybe this is God saying -- do this!
    4. Part of the job of our committee as I see it, is opening doors for the people in our church to share their talents. Maybe God is telling P to do this, and by my not suggesting it, I am getting in the way.

    Argh. "All right, fine, I'll go pray," she says in a huff and stomps off.

    Political "Debate"

    I mentioned yesterday -- I know, I know – not the contextualizers and ideologues again – didn’t we beat that dead horse yesterday? If I promise to add some kind of movie quote, can I write about it one more day?

    Anyway, before you interrupted, I was saying that some arguments are doomed for failure – meaning that they are lose-lose. Sometimes people argue, and they aren’t really even listening to each other.

    Do you like to argue politics? I hate to argue politics with someone. It has become my habit, when politics is mentioned, to just nod my head, make no comment, and hope the conversation stops soon. Isn’t that cynical? It isn’t because I don’t care about the issues – I do. I try to stay informed as much as I can. I have found (and here I am stereotyping) that some people who want to “debate” politics really just want to tell you what they think. Some people do it so that I will agree with them. Other people just like to argue. A third group, dare I call them pseudo-Pharisees, just hope to show how right they are and how wrong I am (don’t I sound judgmental?).

    Here are my pet-peeves when it comes to political arguments (I can tell you are just hyperventilating in anticipation):

    1. There are some who would try to win a debate by telling me that the other side is “just stupid.” (or some variation of the theme). If you can’t win your argument on its own merits, then keep it to yourself.
    2. Another camp would throw insults at it opposing side. We are called to treat each other as children of God, not as a “Babbling, bumbling band of baboons” (That’s your movie quote – I don’t know if it applies or not, but I liked it the first time I heard it – Professor McGonagall says it in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.)
    3. Stretching the truth can be – although not admirable – a tool in a debate. But let’s at least have all the facts straight.
    4. We (me included) think we are expects on world affairs because we watch CNN or FOX news. We are not, and yet sometimes we act as if we are. I’m not even convinced that CNN and FOX News are experts on world affairs. In addition, we are not an expert on God because we have read the Bible. As Tumnus says in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe concerning Aslan, “He is not a tame lion.” (Could this be a second movie quote?). Please don’t tell me that a hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast is the Wrath of God. How would you know?
    5. And could we please avoid stereotyping groups of people in an argument? Statements like, “Everyone thinks…” (have you spoken to everyone?), “No one supports…” (same argument here), “I expected behavior like this from …,” “Women always say…” (Very rarely, if ever, do women always say the same thing), and one of my least favorite, “That group of people (fill in for yourself – Republicans, democrats, poor people, rich people, women, men, politicians, lawyers, doctors, Indian chiefs) always…” I just don’t even hear the rest of the sentence because I am (in my head, as I nod and smile) arguing with you about the stereotype.

    Or, maybe I don’t like political arguments because I never win. It's hard to win when you just smile and nod.

    One last movie quote, from Two Weeks Notice:
    Lucy Kelson: I think you’re the most selfish human being on the planet.
    George Wade: Well that's just silly. Have you met everybody on the planet?

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    The Danger of Poor Communication

    My husband is traveling to Circleville, Ohio today for a meeting. That's halfway between Chilicothe and Portsmouth. One of the participants in the meeting, who is coming from way out of state, called S this morning to confirm the time of the meeting and to get directions. As S and his co-worker tried to work out directions, S finally asked him, "Just where are you?" Apparently, co-worker had spent the night in Centerville, which is a suburb of Dayton.

    Communication is important. Circleville and Centerville sound the same, and might "draw" the same image in one's mind, but they are definately NOT the same. Just ask the guy that had to pack up his company car in a flash and drive 75 miles this morning.

    Idealogue or Contextualizer?

    First, allow me to direct you to a series of three essays written by Andy Bryan and posted on his blog "Enter the Rainbow." It is this series of essays that got me thinking about the topic I'm writing about today. He discusses in his essays the idea of idealogues and contextualizers. I am not sure if this is a well known concept or his own idea, but if you want to read more about it, go to the three links listed below. In these links, Andy illustrates his thoughts using the debate within the church regarding homosexualtiy.

    Can We Talk? – Part 1: Ideology and Context
    Can We Talk: Part 2 - Connie and Id
    Can We Talk? - Part 3: A Via Media

    Now, please prepare yourself for me to commit literary murder. In the words of Inigo Montoya in the movie The Princess Bride, “Let me 'splain. [pause] No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” To summarize some of Andy’s hard work, he discusses how he believes that a debate can reach a stalemate when idealogues and contextualizer are trying to debate a topic. An ideologue has a belief in the TRUTH – in capital letters because his truth is immutable, unchangeable, and cannot be argued. A contextualizer sees everything in context – he will focus on the particular circumstances of a situation. When these two people debate, the idealogue’s goal is to explain the TRUTH to the other person. The contextualizer’s goal is to try to understand the perspective of the situation. These two people will never reach an agreement, because they are having two different conversations. The cotextualizer isn’t trying to debate the idealogue’s TRUTH, and the ideologue doesn’t care if the contextualizer understands his perspective or not. To paraphrase, it’s a lose-lose situation.

    Andy believes that the only way these two people will reach agreement is that if the ideologue realizes that his TRUTH is somewhat based on his perspective and if the contextualizer admits that he does have some TRUTHS of his own.

    So, are you an ideologue or a contextualizer? Or do you admit that you are a mixture of both? How important is context in your decisions? Do you have any TRUTHS?

    What am I? Context does play an important role in my decisions, but I do have some truths? What are they? I’m not sure that I could list them all, but maybe five? Let’s see:

    1. God exists. He is active in the world, and part of that “activity” was to send his son for the forgiveness of sins.
    2. The world does not revolve around me. It does not revolve around you, either, and we should act like we know that.
    3. Telling the truth is often admirable, but in some cases completely unnecessary (does that truth count as a statement of context???).
    4. Personal responsibility is important.
    5. Courtesy is necessary and is consistent with the way God wants us to treat each other. Bobby Knight deserved what he got (OK, that’s judgemental, and I don’t really know the circumstances, but…see, I am a contextualizer).

    OK, bigger question. Which was Jesus? Was he an idealogue or a contextualizer? I think he was both. He pointed out that the Jews were relying too much on the letter of the law (being idealogues without any regard to context). He did not rely only on the Letter of the Law or on TRUTHS. But he did have TRUTHS. And the most important one was this, from Matthew 22: Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

    Real church sign seen in London, Ontario. I found it on Church Sign Generator.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    Theological Worldview

    I've been giving some thought to how we, in the general sense, "debate" with each other, and how labels effect the way in which we interact with each other. More on this maybe tomorrow. But here is my first label:

    I took a test, and apparently I am a Methodist. Good to know I'm in the right place. (although, apparently, other religions run a close second, third, etc). It's good to know that I am not easily understood. (What?) So many of the questions on the quiz were black or white / pick and choose / one side is right and the other is wrong. As my husband says, I live in a gray area. I am also not completely sure what "neo orthodox" means, and could it actually be the opposite of classical liberal? To be perfectly honest, I had to go look up a few of the questions to understand them before I could answer them.

    Quiz Results:

    You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

    Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


    Neo orthodox


    Classical Liberal




    Roman Catholic


    Modern Liberal




    Reformed Evangelical




    Bet you didn't know that I am "totally depraved."

    What's your theological worldview?
    created with QuizFarm.com

    On another note, I've been reading a blog called Cerulean Sanctum. I've only read two of his posts, but so far I've found them interesting. He is doing a series "21 Steps to a 21st Century Church." I read part two today. As part of a committee I serve with at our church, I've been giving some thought to church growth, and found Dan's list of 21 steps to be thought-provoking. I'm not sure if I agree with all of them, but I do with some of them. The name of his blog in the first sentence of this paragraph is a link to his blog.

    Tomorrow -- are you an idealogue or a contextualizer? Luckily, no quiz will be given.

    Monday, January 16, 2006

    A Lost Son

    Luke 2:41-52

    A mother’s imagination
    Can be vivid.
    Rich in detail.
    Horrendous with possibilities.
    Mary had imagined them all.
    Her son could have been lost,
    Injured, afraid.
    She had been filled with the guilt
    Of leaving him behind,
    And overcome with the worry
    Of not finding him.

    For three days they had searched Jerusalem.
    For three days he was lost.
    She had been devastated.
    Finally, on the third day, he had been found
    Teaching in the temple.
    Their boy, who was on the cusp of manhood,
    Had been amazing those who were listening to him.

    Her astonishment at his teaching
    Had been shoved aside by the
    Hot fear in her anger.
    “How could you do this?
    You knew we would be terribly worried!”

    With the growing superiority of a 12-year old,
    He had answered,
    “Why did you have to look?
    You knew where I would be.
    In my Father’s house.”
    She hadn’t even listened to him,
    Much less understood him.

    Now, as the dawn turned into daylight,
    And they prepared to return again to Nazareth,
    She watched her son.

    He was, amazingly, taller than her.
    How had that happened?
    He was strong, healthy, and becoming a man.
    She stood in shock as she realized
    That the Son of God
    Had her eyes.

    She had been entrusted by God
    To watch His son.
    To raise him,
    To keep him safe.
    Yet, she had lost him.
    Ridden out of Jerusalem
    And left him behind.
    If a mother’s imagination is vivid,
    Then her sense of guilt is

    Jesus, her son, God’s son,
    Walked over to her,
    And with the gesture of a man,
    Kissed her cheek,
    And said,
    “I love you.”

    Sunday, January 15, 2006

    Justice and Peace

    Becky's Sunday school lesson today used the verse on the sign to the left. I like the image, and thought that I would compare some translations. (in these I will be including all of verse 10):

    NIV: Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.

    NRSV: Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.

    New Living: Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed.

    KJV: Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

    The Message: Love and Truth meet in the street, Right Living and Whole Living embrace and kiss!

    I think it is a good message to ponder for Martin Luther King, Jr day. To quote Dr. King, "True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice." Or, to quote Harrison Ford (and who wouldn't like to quote Harrison Ford?) in the movie Air Force One, "Peace isn't merely the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice.." (Thanks to S for the quote.)

    One more quote that I found this evening as I searched the web, "If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies." Moshe Dayan (1915-1981)

    Lot's of web sites I feel the need to complement or mention after writing this post:
    Like the church sign? Make your own at Church Sign Generator.
    No, I didn't look up all the bible verses. I used Bible Gateway and Devotions.net (for the NRSV)
    Here are a whole list (18) of "peace" quotes if you want more: The Quotation Page

    Oh, and G did liturgize this morning (meaning, he was the liturgist), and I think he did a wonderful job. He even tucked in his shirt (which is a big deal). I am certainly thankful to be a member of a church that gives our (in the general sense) children and youth opportunities such as this.

    Saturday, January 14, 2006


    A prayer for 32 young women who are experiencing Chrysalis in Portsmouth this weekend:

    (Adapted from the Agents of Peace prayer in the "purple book.")

    Father in Heaven,

    As these girls awake this morning and look out over the snow-covered yard with the sun rising in a glistening ball of fire, may they find your peace.

    Lord, touch them with your Spirit in this moment, so that during this day they can be your agents of pace. Let then take your peace to the breakfast table, to all of their waking moments today, to their time spent with new friends, to the sanctuary for worship, and to every encounter they have this day.

    Allow them to experience no boundaries in sharing your peace with the happy, sad, joyful, needful, confident, and yearning people that are sharing their weekend.

    Let all of their days find the reward of peace, Amen

    We are having tortilla soup tonight (S and I; boys are having an :alternative menu). The recipe is from Pam.

    Friday, January 13, 2006

    From a Coal-miner's Grandaughter

    Two items today:

    We were driving home last night from our church’s Common Grounds service, when our older son, who is 12, said, “I’m feeling more involved in church. I’m going to more services (not sure where that came from – still only going to two), I’m more involved in youth group, I’m liturgizing (which, in his world of made up words, means reading the liturgy this Sunday); I’m more “into it.” It feels good.”

    Arise – Arise – Arise – Arise – Arise, Arise, my soul…

    And then he started picking on his little brother. Life remains the same here at our house.

    On another note, have you read about this in the Buckhannon newspaper? Apparently, a group from Kansas (about 20 people) is planning on protesting outside the community memorial service for the miners killed in the Sago mine. I’ll let you read the newspaper article if you want to understand the “reasoning” behind this "protest," and why this group thinks why the death of these miners is “just.” It brings up the question, for me – How do Christians deal with those who claim to be Christian but only spread hate?

    Set that aside for just a moment (we’ll get back to it, I’m afraid), and read the comments on the “remainder” post that Jeff left yesterday. Lot’s of meat here to consider, but let’s focus on just one aspect. I mentioned in the remainder post that I often try to squeeze my prayer time into the “remainder” -- the time left over – in my day. Among the verses that Jeff left is this one:

    Honor the LORD with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. (Proverbs 3: 9-10)

    In other words, stop trying to squeeze prayer into the remainder, but give time to God first, and everything else will fall into place. That’s difficult. In practicality it means that all of my commitments – work, family, church, free time (yes, I am committed to providing myself with free time) would need to be compressed, and “first fruits” given to prayer.

    And who am I supposed to pray for? I told you we would get back to it: Matthew 5:44: But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

    I am certainly not being persecuted. But protesting outside a memorial service and spreading such hatred could be considered persecution, couldn’t it? I don’t want to pray for these people. First fruits are too hard to come by. Anger against such hatred is too hard to release.

    And then another friend, Linda, sent me an email. She mentioned in it that she was struck, as she read the story of David, by David’s reaction to the death of Saul and his son Jonathon. Remember, Saul had been trying to kill David for a long time. David says, when he finds out that Saul and Jonathon are dead, “How are the mighty fallen.” He doesn’t say, “Yippee, Saul is dead, “ or “Ding Dong, the King is dead.” He mourns. (2 Samuel 1)

    Not what I wanted to hear.

    Thursday, January 12, 2006


    I was reading a blog (Dylan's Lectionary Blog) and found this:

    The delay before I got my own trusty PowerBook back was such that I got a chance to do something unusual for me. Before I wrote my own lectionary reflection, I edited another -- Jeff Krantz's wonderful "The God Who Is For Us" in The Witness. Jeff drew my attention once more to something that commentators often note about Mark 1 -- namely the tie between Jesus' Baptism and his Passion, made by Mark's use of schizomai in just two places -- Mark 1:10's "the heavens torn apart" and Mark 15:38's "the curtain of the temple was torn in two."

    This is why I love to know the origin of words, and am fascinated by translation. I have never heard this before, but it brings to mind, for the first time (for me) the parallel between the heavens parting above Jesus after his baptism, and the curtain being torn in two between the "most high" in the temple, and us. In both cases, God is reaching toward us from where He is to where we are.

    The word, apparently, translates as "torn." It doesn't mean "gently parted," or "quietly separated." To me the word "torn" implies violence, impatience, almost desperation.

    Imagine for a moment that your child is separated from you and is in danger. Visualize a barrier between you and your son or daughter. Would you gently pull it away? Would you quietly push it aside? No, you would rip it down to reach your child. That's what this brings to mind for me. The word schizomai means torn.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    It's All About the Remainder

    My son J said yesterday, "Mom, Dad, I figured out long division! It's all about the remainder."

    First, I sent a quick "Thanks!" heavenward -- I HATE long division, and did not want to try to explain it to our 9-year old. I'm glad he's "figured it out."

    Then I thought that there must be something theological about the statement, "It's all about the remainder."

    The remainder in long division (and don't ask any questions, because I'm not explaining long division to you, either) is what is left over after the division is complete. Once everything else is divided evenly, the remainder is that pesky little number at the end.

    I wonder sometimes if I don't try to fit God into the "remainder," -- that time I have left over in the day after everything else has been given its share of my time. I pretty sure that my prayer time is squeezed into the "remainder." If I have any prayer time at all.

    If I look at it another way, then I ask the question, "What do I have left?" Standing right here (actually, sitting right here), what is my remainder? My remainder starts now, today, this moment. Everything that has yet to happen...everything that I can do yet, is going to be in my "remainder" -- the time that is left to me. So, "it's all about the remainder." Whatever changes I want to make...whatever goals I have or that God has for me...begin today, because that's all I've got.

    • We can either continue to hold a grudge, or give it up for the remainder.
    • We can be generous, or be selfish for the remainder.
    • We can accept forgiveness, or feel guilty for the remainder.
    • We can forgive ourselves for what we've done or haven't done and know that God loves us, or be miserable for the remainder.

    We can either love each other more; trust God more, starting now, or loose part of what we have in our remainder.

    It's all about the remainder.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    The Consequences of David's Sin

    I mentioned in an earlier post that I am working my way through reading the Bible. This isn't a time of study for me, but a time to read and absorb. However, I thought it might be interesting (for me, maybe not for you) to post my thoughts about whatever particular scripture during the week grabs me -- makes me think -- won't leave my mind. Now I realize that I could do some research on whatever scripture that I pick -- study it -- get some answers to my questions, but that isn't the purpose of this particular exercise. I'm a Sunday school teacher (it took me a few years to be able to say that out loud, just like that), and one of the greatest joys in teaching Sunday school is what I learn when I do it -- the study and the work that goes into it. But that's not the purpose of these posts. This is to ask questions -- not to search in resources for answers. So bear with me.

    I'm currently working my way through 2 Samuel. The scripture that keeps running around in my head this week is from 2 Samuel 11-12. This is the story of David and Bathsheba. David is already king. His "general" is off fighting a battle, but David is at home. He see Bathsheba, a woman who is married to Uriah, a man in David's army. David wants her; he takes her -- without regard to Uriah at all. She gets pregnant. David tries to send Uriah home to sleep with his wife (I assume so that he will think the child is his own). When that fails, David, for all intents and purposes, has Uriah killed in battle. He then marries Bathsheba, who has their child. God is very displeased with David's actions, and sends Nathan to tell him. You've probably heard the story. Here is the scripture that has stayed with me this week:

    Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die." After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them. On the seventh day the child died. (2 Samuel 12:13-17a: NIV)

    One footnote: 2 Samuel 12:14 Masoretic Text; an ancient Hebrew scribal tradition this you have shown utter contempt for the LORD

    Apparently, God removed David's sin, but because either the utter contempt that David showed for God or because David's actions have made the enemies of the Lord show contempt (depending of the text), God struck down the new baby and killed David and Bathsheba's first son.

    I think that there is danger in examining a piece of scripture by itself, without allowing it to be part of a whole -- part of the entire biblical text. When I look at this particular scripture in the light of the whole picture of God, I am perplexed. How can a God who values even the lilies in the field, who loved even me enough to send his son to die for my sins, "strike the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and make it sick" enough to die. How can I reconcile these two images?

    Is it that David was so important in God's plan for the world, and He knew that this was the only way to "make his point" that the value of the life of the child became less important? That doesn't seem right to me.

    Maybe the writer of the text got it wrong. Maybe the people of the time believed the result of David's sin was God taking away his child, and it was written that way, without being correct. This seems to ring truest to me, but kind of flies in the face of "inspired scripture with no mistakes." Do I believe that the Bible is writing inspired by God? Yes, I do. Do I believe that every word is correct? I don't think that I do.

    God is bigger than mere words. God can't be "captured" by humans completely and without mistake in a book. Yes, I think God reveals himself to us in the Bible, and each Sunday when the minister says, "This is the Word of God," and we respond, "Thanks be to God," I really mean it. We are human, and I don't think anything in which we are involved can be perfect, even if it is inspired by God.

    We are much more likely to visit the sins of the father on the child than God is. Perhaps in our sin (in the author of 2 Samuel's sin) we believe that God killed David and Bathsheba's son as punishment for David's actions. That's the way we think, but I don't think it is the way God thinks.

    Where does that leave this scripture? What can I learn from it?
    • David's (and Bathsheba's) actions were sinful. Sometimes the consequences of sin are unforeseen and unpredictable.
    • After the child dies, David, who had been fasting and praying for his recovery, gets up, cleans himself off, and goes to worship God. God will be there for us even when horrible things happen.
    • Horrible things happen for no reason. Not everything can be explained, even though we are more comfortable with explanations.
    • God is there for David after the death of his son, and David shows love to Bathsheba, even after their child dies. Love doesn't fail.

    These, as the title of the blog states, are my thoughts. To quote Robin Lee Hatcher, "We see through a glass darkly. God doesn't. " Amen.

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    God will be there

    We strive to be relevant.
    To be what the people want
    To offer God in a way that is palatable.
    Where is God in that?

    How does one spread the Word
    Without diluting the Word?
    Without changing the Word to just words?
    Where is God in that?

    Why do people come to church?
    Why do people not come to church?
    How can we “market” the church?
    Where is God in that?

    Where is the lost sheep?
    Where is the lost coin?
    How do we bring God where he is needed?
    God will be there.

    What is worship?
    How can we make God the center of worship?
    How can we bring Church to our building?
    God will be there.

    How can we make the church grow?
    Maybe by getting out of its way.
    Maybe by getting out of God’s way.
    God will be there.

    The seed will land on fertile ground.
    Our mission is to water and feed it,
    To keep away the weeds.
    God will make it grow.
    God will be there.

    We pray, we worship,
    We place God at the center.
    We branch out from there.
    God will be there.
    God is there.
    God is here.

    Monday, January 02, 2006

    Reuben's Story

    Matthew 3:13-17 ; Mark 1:9-11

    Reuben -- Hebrew -- means "behold, a son"

    Reuben had stood at the edge of the river
    Witness to what had begun as something ordinary
    One man, approaching another
    Greeting each other as friends.
    He hadn’t been able to hear what was being said,
    But finally, the one named John,
    The one who had at first seemed resistant,
    Smiled ruefully,
    And had baptized the one named Jesus.

    Suddenly, the ordinary had become miraculous.
    After the baptism
    Jesus lifted his head
    And looked toward the sky.
    The heavens parted,
    The voice of God reverberated
    Across the water.
    It echoed with a fullness
    That shook Reuben
    Down to his soul.

    God had said,
    “You are my son.
    I love you;
    With you I am well pleased.”

    A glow of happiness lit Jesus’ face
    A light that was so extraordinary,
    So full of pleasure,
    That it could light the world.
    Water and tears slid off his face together
    And his smile was astonishing.
    Laughter sprung from his lips
    And filled the air with his joy.

    Reuben carried all of this home with him.
    He felt transformed.
    Life would never be the same again.
    He had always – all his life – believed in God,
    But now he had heard His voice
    And seen His son.
    And nothing would ever be the same.

    He walked onto his farm
    And stood at the edge of a field.
    He saw his son working.
    Since his son had become a man
    They had not been close.
    Some days they barely spoke.
    Reuben was bursting with this news.
    How could he explain it to his child?
    How could he describe the voice of God?
    The look on the face of the son?
    Reuben realized that he had never seen
    His own son with such joy on his face.

    He walked across the field,
    Laid a hand on his son’s shoulder,
    And said,

    “You are my son.
    I love you;
    With you I am well pleased.”

    Surprise, and the disbelief,
    Crossed his son’s face.
    Finally, all was replaced with wonder.

    A glow of happiness lit his face
    A light that was so extraordinary,
    So full of pleasure,
    That it could light the world.
    Tears slid off their faces,
    And their smiles were astonishing.
    Laughter sprung from their lips
    And filled the air with their joy.

    Sunday, January 01, 2006

    Goal for 2006

    I've been working on reading the Bible from cover to cover. When I was on my Emmaus walk, I said that I would make more time for devotional reading, and I thought this was a good place to start. I've been using the book The Bible in 90 Days, which is an NIV version of the Bible. If one were to read 12 pages of this particular version of the Bible per day, one would have read the entire thing in 88 days (two days of grace, which I thought was kind of funny). I get up early in the morning, have some quiet time, light a candle (and turn on the lights, lest you think I'm reading in the dark with a single candle), and read. I tried 12 pages a day. When I would get through 12, I would feel overwhelmed by what I had read. And it took 40 minutes (which is getting up REALLY early). I decided that 90 days might be too fast for me, so I switched to 6 pages a day (rather than give up). This takes about 20 minutes, and is far more managable. And I can actually remember what I read, rather than feeling like I've been physically beaten by the book. Better plan.

    So, my goal for the year is to read 30 pages a week. That 6 pages a day at least 5 days a week. I'm recording my progress in the sidebar -- how much I've read, and what my goal is for that amount of time. We'll see how it goes. So far, I'm in 2 Samuel, which is about David. He just became king. This is much more interesting that the laws and rules in Leviticus.

    Do you like those progress bars? If so, go to Unlikely Words, where the wife of a knitter explains the whole things and gives you "cut and paste" script so that you can make your own. Need color help? Apparently, colors have numbers. With Unlikely Words' Matthews' script, you can use color names, but those are pretty specific, too. Go to this site for color names and numbers.

    If I follow my schedule, I'll be done by July 10 of this year. Not 90 days, but it is at least a goal.