Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Optimism and the Board of Ordained Ministry

I am at heart an optimistic person.  Although I am enough of a realist to know to expect the worst possible outcome, I almost always anticipate the best.  I am reminded of Ronald Reagan's favorite joke.  To quote:
"The joke concerns twin boys of five or six. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities - one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist - their parents took them to a psychiatrist." 
"First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. 'What's the matter?' the psychiatrist asked, baffled. 'Don't you want to play with any of the toys?' 'Yes,' the little boy bawled, 'but if I did I'd only break them.'
"Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his out look, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. 'What do you think you're doing?' the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. 'With all this manure,' the little boy replied, beaming, 'there must be a pony in here somewhere!'"  - excerpted from How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life by Peter Robinson
I am that optimist - there's got to be a pony in here somewhere!  I think that we are promised that in Romans 8 - that all things, no matter how good or how bad - in fact how incredibly awful, stinking and horrible - all things will work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. We may not see it immediately - we may NEVER see it, but this is His promise.  And I rest in that promise.

Or as Thich Nhat Hanh would state it:
"'Neither defiled nor immaculate.' Defiled or immaculate. Dirty or pure. These are concepts we form in our mind. A beautiful rose we have just cut and placed in our vase is immaculate. It smells so good, so pure, so fresh. It supports the idea of immaculateness. The opposite is a garbage can. It smells horrible, and it is filled with rotten things.
"But that is only when you look on the surface. If you look more deeply you will see that in just five or six days, the rose will become
part of the garbage. You do not need to wait five days to see it. If you just look at the rose, and you look deeply, you can see it now. And
if you look into the garbage can, you see that in a few months its contents can be transformed into lovely vegetables, and even a rose." excerpted from The Heart of Understanding.
Things just ARE.  Most really are not that different in substance - the good that we perceive cannot really exist without that which we see as bad, just as the rose cannot exist without compost, the rose is on the way to being the compost and the compost the rose.  It's all a part of the cycle.

I was deferred by the Board of Ordained Ministry for a year.  Some see this as bad, awful, rotten and so forth.  I see the pony, I see the rose. I am on the way to becoming the person God intended.  How can this be bad?  All things work together for the good, for those who are called according to His purpose.  If God is for me, who can be against me?  Praise God!  I am becoming.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

One month, two days post surgery.

Tonight the loving husband and I went out to dinner at a new restaurant that features Mediterranean food.  All went well with the hummus and pita bread.  I tried a Dolmos - started to feel queasy.  I ate half of a Falafel - not so good. I ended up in the Ladies' room, sick to my stomach.  It's the first time I actually have lost food.  I guess I'll stick to the blander diet the Doctor suggested.

I end up eating ... meat.  Lots of meat.  I *have* to get in 80 to 90 grams of protein.  If I could eat a steak, I'd have no problem.  But I have a stomach the size of a banana and can only eat every three hours -- just a couple of ounces at a time.

Good news is that I'm down 29 pounds today.  I'll take it.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Day 23

It's day 23 since surgery and I'm down 26 pounds total.  I had hoped for more, but there it is.  I weigh now less than I have in 5 years, so that's good.  I hope to weigh less that I did 10 years ago before I have to go before the board in March.  And I hope to weigh less than I did between children before conference in June.  It's not been easy.  I still am not on a solid diet - all pureed foods and liquids.  Most of the protein shakes I've been drinking have tasted bad - and I just can't stomach them.  My taste buds have indeed shifted since surgery.  I want something different just for the flavor.  I have to force myself to drink 3 protein shakes and eat the two meals (even if they are only 4 ounces!) The worst of it is taking my pills.  I can only take one or two per hour, so it takes HOURS to take my pills.


To continue on with the last posting:
When did I become ready to have the surgery?  Physically, I'm sure it was quite a while ago, but mentally it was when a piece of cake won.  It had power over me.  I gave into a desire for that cake, even when I knew that the consequences were not going to be good because it wasn't my cake.

When I realized that I really don't have power over food, I gave over my desires to a higher power.  Prayer really does work - prayer and meditation.  When I finally realized I couldn't lose the weight on my own, that I needed to do something drastic, it was probably last June.  I researched what I needed to do.

First I needed to see if I would qualify for the surgery.  The surgical center around here needed to see:
  • A body mass index of greater than or equal to 40
  • Body mass index between 35 and 39 and at least one major medical co-morbidity, such as:
    • Respiratory problems (sleep apnea or hypoventilation syndrome)
    • Diabetes
    • Hypertension
I didn't have the co-morbidities, but I did have the BMI.  Not having the co-morbidities is the reason I wouldn't have qualified 15 years ago, but I have gained a considerable amount of weight since my mother died in 2001.

Then I looked at the requirements of our health insurances (I'm covered by two - mine and my husband's).  They were many.
My insurance company require six consecutive months of documented weight loss attempts. We needed documentation for each visit:
  • Vital signs (must include weight)
  • Discussion of and suggestions of diet
  • Discussion of physical activity or exercise program 
  • Discussion of behavioral modification
  • Discussion of or use of weight loss drugs.
In addition, there was an extensive psychological interview.  My husband's insurance had the additional stipulation that I needed to document several years of obesity (which I obtained from my PCP.)

After I gathered all the information, I had to attend a nutrition seminar which was followed up by a one-to-one discussion with the nutritionist.  Then I had to be cleared for surgery by my PCP, a presurgical appointment with the doctor, a presurgical appointment with the hospital, EKG and a two week liquid diet.

This takes a lot of work and perseverance.  And it's only the beginning.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Day 17 - Update and What I Did Before Surgery

First, I haven't lost anything in the past few days.  I've lost approximately 24 pound since Jan 1 and then I have hit a "stall."  Not unexpected - perfectly normal, but slightly discouraging.  I'm continuing on with the program and I know something will have to give eventually.  I understand that the process MUST have stalls and plateaus.  From what I understand, the lipids (fats) leave the fat cells, but there is still cellular structure left behind. That cellular structure is filled with lymph and "water" - but not all the way.  Water weighs more than fat, therefore I weigh the same amount, although I am smaller.  Eventually the cellular structure gets redistributed and I will lose weight again.  But as with all waiting, the anticipation gets to me.  The tape in my head says things like, "See, this isn't going to work either."

I also need to change it up a bit.  Maybe bump up the protein.  Maybe more exercise.  I need to get on the exercise bike today because it's just too cold outside to walk.  But I think the main thing is to NOT FREAK OUT because I'm not losing weight like I think I should.


This surgery had been a consideration for me for a long long time.  I think the first time I considered WLS (Weight Loss Surgery) was 1994 after my first child.  At that time, I was maybe 40 to 50 pounds overweight.  It took a few months to lose that "baby fat" but I eventually did it and was able to wear a size 12 in between kids.  After my second child, I encountered some medical issues unrelated to weight and gained.  I wasn't too concerned at the time with the weight and put that worry on the back burner.

After the second child, I became an At Home Mommy.  It just made sense at the time.  However, I really went through a grieving process at the lost of my identity as a career-woman. There was also additional stress in my extended family that caused me more anxiety.  Stress + Anxiety = Weight Gain.  Simple equation.  I still didn't consider surgery an option, but did some research.

In fact, I didn't really consider surgery as an option until we moved to Rome and I began to gain more weight.  By this time, I think I had tried every diet known to man (OK, an exaggeration).  I figured out that I have spent more than half my life on a diet, losing weight and then the other half gaining weight.  I have spent literally thousands of dollars on the pursuit of losing weight.  I know this because my loving husband, Bill, keeps meticulous records of our spending and one day I added it all up.  Thousands of dollars, and for what?  In 2012, I weighed more than I have ever weighed before.

So in November 2012, I attended a WLS seminar given by Harbins Clinic and the office of Dr. Ryland Scott.  I filled out preliminary paperwork to see what kind of coverage I had with my insurance companies.  Then I waited.  I was interested, but I wasn't ready.  When did I become ready?  Next installment....

Interesting Articles about Church Closings, Decline in Giving

7 reasons (among many) why my church died

Report: Church giving reaches Depression-era record lows

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Day 8 - Theresa Vs the Volcano

Well, not the volcano, but her her health insurance company.

When I decided to get this surgery, I of course contacted my insurance company to make sure I knew what was necessary to be covered.  I contacted Bill's as well.  I ended up with a page long list of things that I had to do before hand to be qualified.  The list ranged from things like a doctor's letter with my weight for the last 10 years, 6 months of a doctor supervised weight loss program, psychological testing and so forth. I was assured that as long as I followed the plan, I would have no problems.

This was probably in late June 2013 or early July.  I immediately made appointments with my primary care physician, went on a diet and started working the list. If you have ever known someone who had done WLS (Weight Loss Surgery), you know that there are many hoops to jump through.  I finished the final hoop on Dec 13, 2013 and the final paperwork was submitted to the insurance companies.  Surgery was scheduled Jan 13, 2014 at 6:30 am.  All I had to do is wait a month and do the pre-diet. Little did I know that the fun was just starting.

On New Year's Eve, around 2:00 pm, I received a rather disturbing phone call from the surgeon's office.  They needed to "convert" my surgery to gastric by-pass so that insurance would pay for it.  I deliberately did not choose by-pass.  I didn't like some of the side effects, including the malabsorption issues.  I already have malabsorption issues with the pernicious anemia.  I don't need more.  I didn't choose the Lap-band because I really really don't like the idea of permanent man-made materials being left in my body.  If I didn't have VSG, I was going to just not have surgery.  Immediately, I called my health care coordinator at the conference office - but only was able to leave a voicemail.  I called my insurance company to no avail.  The people in the call center were polite but just not capable of helping me.  I called the GBOPHB (General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits) and talked to several people.  I called the Georgia Insurance Commission, but I could not really resolve this on New Year's Eve.

On Jan 2, I began calling again.  I was most displeased with the insurance company. Their call center employees are not at fault - the fault lies with those who wish the customer to NEVER talk to anyone who can make a decision.  EVER.  I finally talked to a customer service rep who asked if I had filed an appeal - I didn't know I could do that.  So she gave me a fax number and told me to get the doctor's office to write a letter and mark it "URGENT."

The doctor complied but didn't mark it URGENT.  They tried to recall the letter and do it again marked urgent, but was told by the insurance company that the letter had already been received, a file had been opened therefore it was too late. They guaranteed that we would hear back in 30 days!  Surgery was 11 days away - no way was I just going to sit and wait.

I called the Georgia Insurance Commissioner's office.  I was offered an opportunity to begin a case against the insurance company and would hear back - in 30 days.

That Thursday I also talked extensively to the General Board.  They were most helpful.  We discovered on the insurance company's website their own qualifications for 2014 - and that VSG was indeed a covered surgery.  We both searched online for the previous document - the 2013 - under which I was originally told that the surgery was covered.  I couldn't find it, but the General Board did.  It seems that VSG was NOT an excluded surgery in that document.  However, when we submitted the final paperwork, it was also NOT included under approved surgeries.  VSG did not appear in the document at all.  This was the basic problem.

On Monday or Tuesday, the doctor's office marked the appeal "urgent" and submitted it again anyway - by Wednesday they were told that it did not qualify to be urgent and we would hear back from them - guess what - in 30 days.

So the Doctor's office decided to go with my husband's insurance instead.  By Thursday, they had approved the surgery, but with a LARGE deductible and co-pay.  You see, we had decided to go with an HSA this year instead of a PPO for his insurance because my insurance was so much better.

AND - just as an aside - all this time I am working on my full-connection paperwork.  150 plus pages of papers, 10 DVD's - you know, nothing much at all.  So on Thursday I went and visited conference office and talked extensively to Karen in our benefits office.  What a lovely woman!  She reassured me that we would work it out.

And it was worked out.  Sometime after 4 on Friday (remember that surgery is Monday at 6:30 am!) I received a phone call that insurance would indeed cover my surgery.

Horrible story.  Torturous story.  Worse than the full connection papers. More stress than Christmas. But now done with.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Day 7 - One Week

And two cats down.  Since my cats weight differing amounts (Set of Coleman Cat Weights) = {7,8,10,10,12,12,15,16} and the average Coleman cats (Coleman Cat Standard) = 11.25, I can express my weight loss with the Set of Cat Weights or Coleman Cat Standard.  Today, I have lost approximately 2 Standard Cats, or about 22 pounds since the beginning of the year.  At this rate, I'll be invisible before Autumn, so I don't think the rate will be constant.

Today's big accomplishment will be BOTH getting dressed and bathed on the same day. Yes, high and lofty goals.  By this afternoon, I want to get outside and walk around a little.  I've been walking the length of the house, touching the utility room door, going through the Den, down the hall, touch the back hall closet door, up the hall, through the Living/Dining Room, Kitchen and to the utility room.  3 and 4 times at a whack.  I feel like Pastor Gerbil running the Parsonage Habitrail.

I think I was a little optimistic about my recovery rate.  I anticipated bounding out of bed around Day 4, twirling batons and ribbons.  I was mistaken.  I haven't had any serious complications except I encountered some breathing problems end of Day 2 into Day 5 that meant that I had to take hits off an inhaler.  Blech.  My pulse/ox was not very good without O2 in the hospital and the O2 was so very dry.  I ended up with bloody noses and a cough.  You know, it hurts to cough when you've been stabbed in the stomach six times.  I would hold a pillow on the incisions and cough, but still see stars.

Other lofty goals today: email people about EOY reports, weed out the inbox, be compliant with the Dr's instructions about water, vitamins, protein and meals.
Big Stuff.  =o)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Day 6 after Sugery

I choose not to preach this morning - and probably a wise decision.  I'm hitting most of my goals:  drinking water, getting about 2/3 of my protein, getting my pills down, getting my vitamins and moving around.  However, I'm still not 100 percent when it comes to energy level.  By about 3:00 pm, I've hit a wall and have to go take a nap.

Tomorrow's big goal - to get completely dressed and get in ALL my protein.  Doesn't sound like much, but there it is.  it has occurred to me that I am a "recovering fat person" or "recovering obese person."  Food has always been my drug of choice - easier to eat your emotions than deal with them.  For that reason, I am always going to have dis-ease with food.  This is going to be a great tool to help with the disease, but I will ALWAYS be a fat person in recovery.

This was apparent several months ago to me - screamingly obvious when I had a deep struggle with a piece of cake.  Although it was small in volume, it won.  I lost.  And I will never ever really have power over food.  I can only depend on God to help me. I will tell you this - a fat person with an unhealthy fixation on food will indeed take candy from a baby.  And then search the stroller and diaper bag for more.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Day 5

I have made a big life-style change.  A decision that literally will stick with me the rest of my life.  On Jan 13, I had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy.  It's taken me 15 years to get to this point, but I finally decided that my obesity was more life threatening than the surgery.

I started the journey in Nov 2011 when I attended an information seminar from Floyd Baratrics.  I pursued the idea of the surgery with fits and starts until I got serious in July 2013.  I just had enough with the weight.  By the time I started the two week pre-op diet Jan 1 (propitious day, eh?), I weighed the heaviest I have ever weighed in my life.  I lost 8 pounds.  I have lost an additional 11 as of this morning, making it a 19 pound weight loss.  I'm OK with that - I'm not feeling like it's "real" yet, until I see it stay off and I get down another 27 pounds.  I don't know why, but that weight will make it seem "real."

The surgery was more intense than I anticipated.  I guess I'm a "pie in the sky" kind of person.  The recovery is taking longer than I wanted - which makes me mad which makes me push which makes me overextend -- and I end up worse than if I hadn't pushed.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


I had one of *those dreams* again yesterday.  It was so vivid at the time, but like all it's brethren  it starts to fade in my memory after a while.  I dreamt I was in the parsonage, on the carport, cleaning and gardening (my two most common activities right now.)   The local kids were hanging around, as they are wont to do.  The weather started to turn - this area is the worst in Georgia for tornados. The kids ran down to the ditch at the bottom of the driveway and laid down.  I yelled and screamed for them to come inside either the parsonage or church for shelter, but to no avail.  I barely got inside to lay on the kitchen floor before it hit.  The wind was so strong, it moved me around on the floor of the kitchen.  I was able to get the door shut but to keep it shut for my safety and the safety of the kids and cats, I had to lock it.  The kids in the neighborhood had no way to get in - and I was incredibly sad at this.  I was able to take refuge under my desk.

Yesterday, the dream seemed so real that I wondered at the state of the house and yard.  I kept expecting it to be covered with storm debris.  I had dreamt that the roof was partially ripped off and that much of the house was soaked with water - and was surprised to get to the kitchen yesterday and find it OK.

I know what my dream probably means.  And it makes me sad.  The power of God moves through - the justice and righteousness of God is like the power of the tornado.  Shelter and safety are offered, but not all take advantage of it.  I know that's one meaning.  Sitting with it today.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Why I Have Not Been Blogging

Answer number one: it started to seem like effort.  I set up arbitrary deadlines for myself (like blogging every day) and when I failed to meet them - well, it felt like failure.

Answer number two: Facebook, Twitter and the like.

Answer number three: Candy Crush Saga (and its like.)

Answer number four: fear.

Answer number five: lack of "space" to do so (on many levels.)

I don't think it's because I have lack of things to say - but I edit myself quite a bit now-a-days.  I edit out the 'Dark Thoughts' and the critique of people, places and things.  For instance, my thought process this morning was just frankly depressing.  It goes like this:

We are all "special" or at least we have been told so all our lives.  We are all as unique as snowflakes.  But y'all - there are billions of snowflakes.  There have been billions in the past and there will be billions in the future.  How special can one snowflake really be amid those billions?

See?  Dark and depressing.  And so I edited it out of my thought process most of morning until I sat down and did some prayer and meditation.  And it faded and slipped away into that dark morass of fear and anxiety from whence comes the majority of my Dark Thoughts.

Does it edify anyone whatsoever to know those Dark Thoughts?  Does it add to the goodness of the world for them to hit the light? I don't know, so I don't blog them.

There might be goodness found to know that others struggle with Dark Thoughts.  There might be some goodness found to know how others cope and deal with them.

Thinks to ponder. (Yes, and I said "Thinks.")

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What does it mean to be the church? Newsletter article.

What does it mean to be the church?  Some people might think immediately of a building, the property on which the building sits or just the sanctuary.  Not a bad answer and one you would get from the dictionary, but based on the Bible, the church isn’t our property or building.  We can get a clue of what church is and is meant to be by looking at Acts 2:42-47: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

Let’s break this down a bit.  First in verse 42 we see that the people (the church) were devoted to 1) teaching and 2) fellowship 3)breaking of bread and 4) prayers.

First comes the teaching. We gather together on a weekly basis first to learn about the faith, to hear the word proclaimed and expounded upon. And this teaching is just not about information: this teaching should be for transformation. We should be people who are being transformed (look at Romans 12:2 - Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.)  We come together to learn so that we are not conformed to this world, but transformed into something much better.  We come together to learn so that our minds might be renewed. Is this why you come to church?

Second, the church was devoted to fellowship. John Wesley would call it “Christian Conferencing.”  This can take on many different faces.  Potluck dinners are fellowship.  Movie night is fellowship.  Even workdays can be fellowship.  Any time we gather together and it is not specifically for worship can be considered fellowship time.  So often we just come to church on Sunday mornings thinking that’s all we need to do and we miss out the richness of relationship we can have with God and one another in deep meaningful fellowship.  What have you done this week to deepen your relationships with God and one another?  For every hour you spend in worship and learning, another hour should be spent in fellowship and service.

Third on the list is the breaking of bread.  This can take a couple of forms as well.  It most definitely means communion in church.  But it also means potluck dinners and dining with one another.  I’m making it a goal this year to break bread with everyone in the church (well, at least those who want to have dinner with me!)  I’m doing this by inviting people to dinner at the parsonage, having a couple of parties at the parsonage and going out to eat in groups.  I want to break bread with YOU.  By doing so, we will get to know each other better and build relationship with one another.  When is the last time you had some other member of the church that isn’t your blood relation over for dinner?

Fourth is prayer.  Prayer is the one thing that can be done anytime and anywhere.  It’s done during worship every Sunday.  It’s done before Sunday School Classes.  It’s done in your car on the way to work.  It’s done by saints and sinners.  Where do you pray? With whom did you last pray?

As we go forward together in ministry, I want us to be intentional in our being church.  I pray God will strengthen us individually and together as we go about being HIS church.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Change and my favorite restaurant

Yesterday I was crushed to find out that my favorite restaurant for more than a decade has changed hands: new owner, new wait staff, new sushi chef.  We had dinner anyway and it was OK, but …. It just wasn’t the same.

I had a long day yesterday – lots of new stuff to integrate into existing systems, new tasks to do, new ways and processes.  Things can change rapidly.  I left our meeting and drove multiple miles through territory that I know well, but it’s been a while since I’ve been here. So many changes in the landscape.  Trees cut down, roads widened, new buildings put up in place of older ones.  I was looking forward to something that didn’t change –  my favorite restaurant and my old familiar standbys: salad with ginger dressing, miso soup, spicy fried rice and a sushi roll.  But it was not to be.  The ginger dressing was spicy not sweet, the spicy fried rice was just not spicy enough.  My yellow-tail tuna roll wasn’t constructed properly and fell apart in my soy sauce.

I really was upset. Kind of the “final straw” feeling. As we drove home through the pollen tinged rain last night, I asked myself if there was anything in life that felt like it didn’t change – that felt like security, that felt absolute.  And truthfully, in this world, the byword is “the only thing that doesn’t change is that things change.”

And so this morning I woke up with tremendous empathy for those who are fans of traditional, conservative worship.  I understand why at a funeral you insisted on the 23rd Psalm in King James Version.  I really understand why you wanted the traditional Lord’s prayer instead of our contemporary one in the hymnal.  You wanted not just the message to change, you wanted the medium to remain the same as well.  I feel the same at times.  I like some of the older liturgy as well – I occasionally want to say that, “We be not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table.”  And then I finish the statement,  “But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy.”

You are indeed the same Lord and your byword is grace and mercy.  Praise be!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Communion Bread Recipe

Candler Communion Bread Recipe (for those of us who have gone to two stores looking for pita bread and can't find any)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a bowl mix:

4 cups of whole wheat flour
4 tsp. of DOUBLE ACTING baking powder (or 8 tsp. of single acting baking powder)
2 tsp. of salt

Make sure ingredients are thoroughly mixed because it will affect the taste of the bread.

In a separate container mix thoroughly (I put them in a container with a lid and shake)

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Gradually add the wet mix to the mixed dry ingredients mixing them together with your hands (this will be very, very sticky). You're shooting for a ball of dough that's cohesive, but not too sticky; this may mean that you don't add all the wet ingredients or if your dough is just a sticky mess add a bit of flour. Knead the dough once you have a ball. Once you've kneaded, roll or pat the dough out and cut it into 6 inch rounds (I use a six inch bowl to cut them out). The recipe suggests the dough be about a 1/2 inch thick; you can make it thinner if you can do it without tearing; they will rise in the oven.

Place them on an ungreased cookie or pizza sheet (I use Teflon pie tins)
Then use a knife to cut a cross into each of them (don't go all the way through the dough!)
They will bake in 10-15 minutes, however they may need just a bit longer or shorter depending on your oven. 
They are finished when they no longer seem doughy. You don't want them super dark (burned) on the bottom.
This recipe makes 6-8 rounds 8 is usually plenty for the service.

Recipe from the Monastery of the Holy Spirit
Modified, Steve Reneau

Monday, March 25, 2013

Maundy Thursday with readings from John

Full script with Director's notes here.

John 1:1-18
“Once upon a Tree” by Pepper Chopin -- Choir

John 12:1-4
“My Jesus I Love Thee” UMH 172 – Ist verse woman’s solo joined by choir rest of verses and congregation

John 12:4-8
Luke 22:7-14
“What Wonderous Love is This” UMH 292

John 13:2-17
Invitation to Footwashing
“Jesu, Jesu” UMH 432
“O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee” UMH 430

John 13:21-35
“Gift of love” UMH 408
Luke 22:15-20

Words of Invitation to Table and Consecration
Solo- “Remember Me” by Mark Schultz
“Be Thou My Vision” UMH 451

Matthew 26:30-44
Solo – “Into the Woods” lyrics by Sidney Lanier
Words of Dismissal
“A Wind Blew Over Calvary” by Greg Sewell – Choir

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Reflections about Snakes and Evangelism

Yesterday my husband Bill and I entertained a local traveling evangelist from another (unnamed) denomination who came knocking on our door. Rather, Bill entertained and I sat and listened in the other room. I usually invite all who knock on my door into the house for a cup of coffee and conversation but I was in the midst of paperwork and that kind of stuff.  I usually invite them in because serves two purposes – it allows me to witness to my faith and it allows me listen to listen to as they witness to their faith.  I’m pretty non-discriminatory – I invite them all in: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormon Missionaries, Baptists, non-denominational. Whatever they are, all are welcome.  It boosts me up to be able to talk to people about Jesus regardless of the circumstances.
Of course I know that not everybody feels this way.  Most of us consider these people to be annoying, even unwelcome.  After Bill had closed the door on our latest visitor he said, “I think next time I’ll get a snake.”
It’s an inside joke - he’s referring to an incident that occurred early in our marriage when I still worked at Fernbank Science Center.  I babysat two different snakes over two different summers.  The snakes had a definite purpose in life – we used them as teaching tools to show kids the difference between venomous snakes and non-venomous snakes.  Buzz was a Florida King Snake, mostly yellow with black stripes.  I kept him quite a while but my favorite was Scarlet who was a Georgia Corn Snake.  These snakes were not very docile and had to be handled everyday so that they wouldn’t forget to be “nice.” 
One summer afternoon, I had Scarlet up my sleeve and she had gone to sleep curled up around my elbow.  When the local traveling evangelist knocked on my door and I answered, Scarlet woke up and traveled down my sleeve to my hand.  I held out my hand to shake my visitor’s hand and …. the snake poked her head out of my sleeve and started to go toward my visitor.  She gave a shriek and left rapidly.  To be fair to her, most of the time corn snakes get killed because they are mistaken to be copperheads.  I’m sure she thought I was handling copper heads.  Nonetheless, that was the last time they came visiting while we lived in that house.
So when Bill said, “I think next time I’ll get a snake,” he was really meaning, “I don’t want them to come back.”  Yet I do.  I enjoy it and encourage it.  I find it a boost to my faith to hear their stories.  And I pray for them and with them, that their journeys from house to house might be fruitful and that God use them to increase the Kingdom.
I think evangelism is the number one place Methodists fail. We are really good with the fellowship components of Christian community. We excel at Christian Education and Formation.  We are superlative at Acts of Social Justice, be they right or just well intentioned.  But we are not adding to the Kingdom.
Old methods and models of evangelism are just that – old. Some of them have worked and some are just well intentioned.  I was trained in the late 1970’s (as a very very young child, I will have you know) in a method called Evangelism Explosion.  I either was not very good at it, or perhaps the methods had seen their day because I don’t think I ever really entered into a good, rich and deep conversation about faith with anyone I approached.
I think the oldest of the methods – Jesus’ method— might work the best.  If we look at how Jesus gathered people together we can start to see how we might gather them together.  He first approached them as people – individuals – and not “prospects.”  He made relationships with them.  He ate with them, He healed them.  He loved them.  He took care of their deepest need and then said, “Follow me.”
We need to approach individuals and see them as unique in God’s eyes, a beloved member of God’s great creation and realize that  each of them will come to Christ in their own way.  Let us seek out the un-churched, the least, the last and the lost and enter into relationship with them.  Invite them to dinner.  Eat with them.  Go to ballgames with them, shop with them, watch movies with them, get to know them and find out their deepest need.  Pray with them – and pray for them.  Love them as God would love them.  Ask them to church, share your faith with them and things will be transformed. 
And what’s amazing to me is that even if they never come to church – even if we never see the fruit from the seeds that we have planted, things will be transformed.  YOU will be transformed.  I will be transformed.  By echoing Jesus’ methods of evangelism, we will become more like Christ.  Our faith will become deeper, richer and more mature.  Our lives will be enriched, we will be transformed.
So it doesn’t require special training, y’all.  It doesn’t require extraordinary skill or special formulaic words.  And you don’t have to keep snakes.  Just a lot of love. 
 “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
            - 1 John 4:7-12 (NRSV)

Monday, March 04, 2013

There is a part of me that knows that life is a journey upon which we retrace roads over and over again. The road that I'm on right now is one I've been on before and I know that one day I'll retrace this bit of the journey again.  No thing of the road will be changed, but I will be changed.

That said, I think I've entered into a new bit of the territory that I've not been in in quite a while.  There are days that all I can say is, "I love Jesus."

I want to be quick to qualify that but, I won't so that the statement won't lose impact.  To qualify it would be to dismiss the visceral nature of that statement that "I love Jesus."

I love every single part of Jesus. I love the sheer beauty of this thing we call the "God's Plan of Salvation." I love the ebb and the flow of the story.  I love the person of Jesus who lived and breathed like me, who loved his mother, who loved his friends.  I love the teachings of Jesus.

I just love Jesus.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Yesterday I watched a webinar concerning "Healthy Church Leaders."  The leader presented 13 key factors for Clergy Health.  I reproduce it here from a screen shot I took during the presentation.  (You too can find this presentation here.  One of the categories is "The Existential Burdens of Ministry."  This is defined as the minister"—carrying the weight of others’ emotional and spiritual burdens; overwhelmed by others’ needs and the importance of ministerial issues; expected to solve unsolvable mysteries." (You can find more here.)

Yep.  There you go.  That's it for me today.  Two funerals I want to attend, friends who carry large physical burdens of horrible diseases (several now), depressed people (several again), anxious people (ditto) and so forth.  I feel it today.  I need to release that energy and replenish the creative within me.

I find it interesting they determine all this but offer no solutions.  I suppose the solution is up to me. SO - today I am off to find my own unique solution of how to deal with all my Existential Burden of Ministy.

And then tonight I'll watch another webinar - Working Together for Healthy Clergy.  Let's see if this helps.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Grouse

I don't know if I'm getting old or what.  It's not like I prefer traditional over everything else, but I'm getting tired of being castigated for liking traditional.  I'm tired of having the name "fuddy duddy" and "staid" and "stuffy" being thrown at me like clumps of sticky mud.

So I'm going to say it - I LIKE traditional.  I like traditional stuff, I like traditional worship, I like traditional dinner parties, I like traditional PTA meetings.  I like contemporary/current trends in all sorts of things, but I'm not willing to throw the traditional out the window just because something new comes along.

I like antiques and I like Ikea.  I think a person can like both - even in the same space.

So there.

EDITED: I used a politically charged phrase in the original post. I changed it.  I will blog more about exactly what I mean by "traditional stuff" tomorrow.  I did not mean what some of you thought I meant!  Peace!

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Silence is not a bad thing.  I find myself yearning for more of it. Not just turning off the TV/radio/internet but deeper silence than that.  The other day the power went off and I realized that we are surrounded by noise of our own creation all the time and we don't even hear it.

I want a reprieve of all those things that are below our conscious level of hearing but are still there.  I want a reprieve from the voices that tell me to do more, do less, do differently, be here, be there, butt out, pay up.  I want to revel in that silence. I want to sit in that for a while, steep in it like a weird reverse teabag until I and the Other are as one. Perhaps it's more like I need to steep in the dye until He and I are one.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Long time between blog postings.  I don't know where my blog-energy has gone to ... between Facebook, Twitter and games, there just isn't much time for blogging.

Anyway, I have been on a new kick - I have decided that the best way to change habits is to do one small habit a month.  Month before last, I decided that the one habit I needed to practice was to remember to wear my pedometer every single day.  I've done OK with it - only missing one or two days in three months.  I am now trying to add 100 steps a day every week.  Eventually I'll be at the 7000 steps that will earn me more Virgin Health Miles.

 Last month, I decided to really take care of my rosacea - to do the 20 minutes of care every night to try to get it healed up.  It's looking better; not healed, but better.  It's a boost to my self-esteem.  I finally feel I can go out into the world without wearing a half inch of makeup.

This month I have tried to get on a better sleep schedule.  This will also help the rosacea and my energy level - so that I *can* get a few more steps in everyday.

One small step at a time.

Project Order from Chaos helped change habits.  By making it a habit to examine all the things in my life (coffee cups to doo-dads to worn-out clothing), I realized I've changed my attitude toward material possessions. I no longer put worthless things aside "for later" especially since later never seems to come.

Well, that's it!