Thursday, November 29, 2007

Working in His Orchard

3-5Our prayers for you are always spilling over into thanksgivings. We can't quit thanking God our Father and Jesus our Messiah for you! We keep getting reports on your steady faith in Christ, our Jesus, and the love you continuously extend to all Christians. The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope.

5-8The Message is as true among you today as when you first heard it. It doesn't diminish or weaken over time. It's the same all over the world. The Message bears fruit and gets larger and stronger, just as it has in you. From the very first day you heard and recognized the truth of what God is doing, you've been hungry for more. It's as vigorous in you now as when you learned it from our friend and close associate Epaphras. He is one reliable worker for Christ! I could always depend on him. He's the one who told us how thoroughly love had been worked into your lives by the Spirit.

9-12Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven't stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you'll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.

13-14God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He's set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.

Col 1: 3-14, The Message.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday Morning

This is the first Sunday Morning in a long time I will not be in church. Our plans for Thanksgiving were seriously altered as Chaos had a C. Diff. infection this week. We stayed home this week; I don't know that we've been outside since we got Chaos home from the hospital. So I have been exploring alternate ways of doing church -- on Second Life.

I began exploring SL quite a bit about 18 months ago, but never did much with it. It certain has come a long way since then. There is still an overwhelming amount of true dreck there; stuff I avoid vigorously. However, there is much more interesting content as well, including a Myst-like Adventure game (very complex), a community based on Dragons and a community called "Chronicles of Narnia." There are also very interesting exhibits about the history of Spaceflight; exhibits by the Weather Channel complete with videos; an incredible NOAA building and so on.

John the Methodist posited an interesting question about a month ago about virtual communion. I had never thought about it -- so this last month or so, I began to explore the faith communities of SL.

I spend a good deal of time at the Anglican Cathedral, the UCC Church and the SL Mission (UMC). I started with a worship service at the Koinonia UCC church. (Another picture above.)

Here is tonight's service at Koinonia. The two worship experiences I've been to were lead by an ABC pastor and an UMC pastor. It's a good place to go, with gatherings 6 times a week.

I also have attended worship experiences at an Unitarian Church and a meeting at the Society of Friends. Both were very worshipful. I've always enjoyed the meditative experience of a Friends Meeting -- but I'm too much of a talker. I have a hard time with the just being quiet. It's a area of growth for me. Here's a picture of the Friends Meeting.

The service at the Abundant Life Church was much more like today's contemporary worship services; lots of music and energy. There are worship poses to download, as well: a prayer pose, an Orans pose and a "lift up your hands" pose. I liked it and it is better attended than the other churches -- much nondenominationals are in real life.

The Abundant Life sanctuary is set up more like a traditional sanctuary, with rows of pews. The other worship service set up that way was the Anglican worship at the Cathedral.

This service is a completely liturgical service using the Book of Common Prayer. Very quiet and contemplative. After the service is a coffee hour and Bible study on the RCL reading for the next week in the Edwardian structure next to the Cathedral.

I've also attended a Bible Study at one of the Catholic centers in SL. It too was based on a lectionary reading, but it was not the RCL. It was a more international study, with attendees from around the world.

All this bring to the forefront questions of what is virtual and what is real. They are questions that are not new. They are the questions that were asked when radio ministries began: Can the word of God be distributed over the airwaves? Was it as efficacious as the Word preach in a congregation? It definitely lacked the interactive flavor of a live service. Was a true service? And the question was asked when the radio evangelist moved to the television -- is this real worship? Again, television "church" lacked the interactive element.

Today worship services are telecast from one location to another -- two separate congregations, one preacher. Is this "real" worship? One congregation is getting the flesh and blood preacher -- the other a virtual preacher.

How about a preacher on SL? She or he will use their own voice via a headset. The congregation hears her; they can interact with worship poses and text messages. Is this real worship? In a way, it is as incarnational as the telecast preaching. Can this be worship in spirit and truth? For some, it may be the only experience of worship they may ever have. How many furries have ever showed up in your congregation?

Questions to think about.

Peace, y'all.

Edited to add:
Yes, it meets a need. Especially for those who cannot, for one reason or another, leave their home or join in worship in community.

And Jen, it's more of an online MySpace -- social networking -- than an online RGP. The kids were into Runescape and Neopets for a long time: it was at first a game for them, then it was where they hung out to be with their friends. This skips the games completely and goes directly to the social networking.

I'm doing a 2nd Life fast today -- it's also a temptation to run off into SL to avoid RL. I saw that yesterday with a few people; when RL is so bad that they cannot cope or when it's so boring or whatever, the compulsion to escape into SL becomes the same energy that causes addictions. (And then there are those who genuinely go into SL to seek out those people and do ministry.)

SoF could be subsumed into SL, and have room to spare. Koinonia is nominally UCC, but could be seen as nondenominational (or multidenominational) as could the SL Mission -- there is a community of professional counselors forming that will be a resource for those who need the service.

Still thinking about all this... When I was working, I was "forced" to host Starfleet Academy (the Star Trek club in Atlanta) because I was the one working on Saturday. After a few meetings, I was with William Shatner -- I felt like yelling "Get a Life!" I have some of that same feeling this morning about SL....

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Baptist View on Blogging, Georgia Style.

It seems that at the annual meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention earlier in November, a resolution was passed denouncing blogging. From the rhetoric surrounding the resolution, there has been some strife in the Convention that has fueled personal attacks and it appears that the intent of the resolution is unity. However, this is a unity that seems, at the surface, a false unity because it silences voices.

We Methodists have had problems and strife in our own denomination, however vigorous conversation about all things theological and related to church are not discouraged; indeed, they are encouraged. We have this beautiful passage in the Book of Discipline called "Our Theological Task" that I have quoted before.
Our theological task includes the testing, renewal, elaboration, and application of our doctrinal perspective in carrying out our calling "to spread scriptural holiness over these lands."

While the Church considers its doctrinal affirmations a central feature of its identity and restricts official changes to a constitutional process, the Church encourages serious reflection across the theological spectrum.

Uniformity is NOT unity. Unity is when all the differing parts of the Body of Christ (the church) act in concert, in harmony. Vigorous discussion on doctrine does not reduce that harmony. It can only strengthen it, as each part can sing clear and true. This is unity.

Buy Nothing Day

We are, indeed, buying nothing today. I actually don't want for anything -- except for salt, I need some salt. And I'm running low on flour. But other than a handful of groceries, I want for NOTHING. And those groceries are not necessary for my continuing existence on this planet, at this point, it's just something that would be nice to have.

The young'ns have been window shopping at Amazon today, but interestingly enough, it was not very easy for them to come up with a "Wish List" for Christmas. Chaos wants a Wacom Tablet so that she can do more animation and drawing. Entropy couldn't think of a single thing except for maybe a Wii game. We want for nothing.

I wish the same could be said for the others on this planet. There are those who want for basics: food, shelter, clothing and clean water. I'm sending my list to people who ask: I want a Llama for a Peruvian family or a hive of bees for a family in Mexico (Heifer International.) Or a sink for a Habitat family, or clean water for someone in Bolivia.

Other than that, I want prayer and your presence at a Christmas service somewhere. I want people to live into that pledge to give God of their prayers, presence, gifts and service.

So I'm bagging up some clothes to give away and I'm going to put some labels on books to give away at the hospital.

Peace out, y'all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Be Mindful, O Lord

Be mindful, O Lord, of those who travel by land, by sea, and by air; of the old and young, the sick, the suffering, the sorrowing, the afflicted, the captives, the needy and the poor; and upon them all send forth Thy mercies, for Thou art the Giver of all good things. Amen

Looks as if we will not be going to WV today. Chaos has a bad stomach ache/ GI infection called C.Diff. Bad news.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Morning Prayer -- Dante Rossetti, Jude 1

Autumn Song

Know'st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the heart feels a languid grief
Laid on it for a covering,
And how sleep seems a goodly thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?

And how the swift beat of the brain
Falters because it is in vain,
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf
Knowest thou not? and how the chief
Of joys seems--not to suffer pain?

Know'st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the soul feels like a dried sheaf
Bound up at length for harvesting,
And how death seems a comely thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?

-- Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Woe to them!
For they walk in the way of Cain,
and abandon themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error,
and perish in Korah's rebellion.

These are blemishes on your love feasts,
as they boldly carouse together, looking after themselves;
waterless clouds, carried along by winds;
fruitless trees in late autumn,
twice dead,

wild waves of the sea,
casting up the foam of their own shame;
wandering stars for whom
the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved for ever.

It was of these also that Enoch
in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying,
"Behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads,
to execute judgment on all,
and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness
which they have committed in such an ungodly way,
and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners
have spoken against him."

--Jude 1:11-15

Friday, November 16, 2007

Morning Prayer -- Gratitude by George Washington

Almighty God, and most merciful father, who didst command the children of Israel to offer a daily sacrifice to thee, that thereby they might glorify and praise thee for thy protection both night and day, receive, O Lord, my morning sacrifice which I now offer up to thee; I yield thee humble and hearty thanks that thou has preserved me from the danger of the night past, and brought me to the light of the day, and the comforts thereof, a day which is consecrated to thine own service and for thine own honor.

George Washington

I found this prayer a while ago on Beliefnet. I love the fact that GW prayed this prayer -- that our founding fathers (blech on the non-gender inclusiveness of that phrase) -- that our founders were people who could and would pray. I know GW had some real problems, but he knew the land. I think we are slipping away from people who know the land -- we loose something by it. I don't think we can understand the Israelites fully because we are people who have lost that connection to the land.

I was raised on a working farm for the first few years of my life. I have a deep abiding connection to the land. It grieves me when I can't have a patch to live on -- to grow things and to connect. As I contemplate becoming an itinerate minister, I realized that I will not be owning any piece of land -- of all the things to rub, this has been the one to blister. To not have connection to the land, except in a parsonage that is owned by the church. Wow.

And maybe it will be freeing. Sacrifice can be the willing offering of that we hold most precious to God. Maybe this indeed will be the big sacrifice.

More prayer, more thinking.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Morning Prayer

Psalm 139
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Romans 8:12-17

12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba!* Father!’ 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness* with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God,
Wellspring of all that is.

You are the sea on which we float,
You are the wind that fills our sails,
You are the storm that buffets us,
You are the calm that brings us peace.

Open our ears to hear Your word,
Open our eyes to see Your beauty,
Open our hearts to be warmed by Your love.

Free us from our lonely prisons of fear and selfishness,
And make us over, day by day, into bearers of Your peace.
-- richard rosenberg (from the World Prayers Prayer Archive)


I'm still sorting boxes from my parent's estate and I've moved on from bank statements and old bills to more personal bits of paper that were left behind. Correspondence of all sorts, letters and cards and old photographs.

Photographs and memories. This is a picture of me and "my baby" (as I called my little sister.) I still remember the feel of the necklace that she's wearing. Funny how memory can be. I am in the throes of nostalgia -- homesickness, but not for a place, more for a time. It used to be considered a disease.

Nostalgia describes a longing for the past, often in idealized form. Nostalgia may or may not also be known as homesickness... The term was newly coined in 1688 by Johannes Hofer (1669-1752), a Swiss medical student. The word is made up of two Greek roots (nostos = returning home, and algos = pain/longing), to refer to "the pain a sick person feels because he wishes to return to his native land, and fears never to see it again". From Wikipedia

My dad loved to take pictures. Here I am wearing a cross that I used to wear every single day. It was given to me on my 6th birthday by my grandfather I called "D." I still have the cross, but I wear a different one now daily. And I still have the baby doll that is being tortured in the background. I tried to give it to the girls to play with - they call it "scary." Hrumph.

All this sorting causes an odd sort of tenderness. Yesterday on the way back from a meeting, I found myself driving through the old neighborhood -- I haven't seen it -- really looked at it -- for years. I haven't driven down the street recently. I don't know if I want to. I think I want to remember the old house the way it is in my memories, rather than see what it might look like now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The News

I cannot believe this news story.

The long and the short of it (and yes there is humor in there).
A man converts to Judaism. He decides (as the custodial parent) to circumcise his 12-year-old son. (Actually, I would imagine he would have a rabbi or other person do it and not do it himself.) This is against the wishes of his Russian Orthodox ex-wife.

My take? Shouldn't the kid have a say in all this? Ouch!

The Canticle of the Creation

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, honor and blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong;
no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

We praise You, Lord, for all Your creatures,
especially for Brother Sun,
who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
of You Most High, he bears your likeness.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars,
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

We praise You, Lord, for Brothers Wind and Air,
fair and stormy, all weather's moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Water,
so useful, humble, precious and pure.

We praise You, Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night.
He is beautiful, playful, robust, and strong.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Earth,
who sustains us
with her fruits, colored flowers, and herbs.

We praise You, Lord, for those who pardon,
for love of You bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
by You Most High, they will be crowned.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in their sins!
Blessed are those that She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.

We praise and bless You, Lord, and give You thanks,
and serve You in all humility.

-St. Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Silence of the Bees

The kids and I watched the most frightening documentary I think I've ever seen on PBS last night -- "The Silence of the Bees."
In the winter of 2006, a strange phenomenon fell upon honeybee hives across the country. Without a trace, millions of bees vanished from their hives. A precious pollinator of fruits and vegetables, the disappearing bees left billions of dollars of crops at risk and threatened our food supply. The epidemic set researchers scrambling to discover why honeybees were dying in record numbers -- and to stop the epidemic in its tracks before it spread further.

The world is not going to go out with a bang -- or a whimper. It will just stop as the hum of the honeybees stop.

Prayer for Autumn Days

God of the seasons, there is a time for everything; there is a time for dying and a time for rising. We need courage to enter into the transformation process.

God of autumn, the trees are saying goodbye to their green, letting go of what has been. We, too, have our moments of surrender, with all their insecurity and risk. Help us to let go when we need to do so.

God of fallen leaves lying in colored patterns on the ground, our lives have their own patterns. As we see the patterns of our own growth, may we learn from them.

God of misty days and harvest moon nights, there is always the dimension of mystery and wonder in our lives. We always need to recognize your power-filled presence. May we gain strength from this.

God of harvest wagons and fields of ripened grain, many gifts of growth lie within the season of our surrender. We must wait for harvest in faith and hope. Grant us patience when we do not see the blessings.

God of geese going south for another season, your wisdom enables us to know what needs to be left behind and what needs to be carried into the future. We yearn for insight and vision.

God of flowers touched with frost and windows wearing white designs, may your love keep our hearts from growing cold in the empty seasons.

God of life, you believe in us, you enrich us, you entrust us with the freedom to choose life. For all this, we are grateful.


as found at

Monday, November 05, 2007

Monday Bullets

  • I'm listing books on Amazon as fast as I can. I think I came home with about 50 boxes over the weekend. Some are very nice; some are trash. I'm sorting them into three piles; list, trash and give-away. This 50 boxes are in addition to the 20 or so unlisted boxes in the garage -- and the books still on the shelf that I've not removed from the living room. The ones I'm trashing are the ones that have had their covers removed, meaning that they SHOULD have been trashed a long time ago as remainders. I'm also getting rid of all those that are moldy (yuck!) or so water damaged that they are not readable any longer. I'm in the process of giving away all the "current fiction" that really is not worth listing (most of which are "penny books"). The debate is: when I drop them off at the hospital waiting rooms, do I label them "Compliments of XYZ UM Church" -- should I list the church I received them from or the church I currently serve? Or maybe every other one my church and every other one the other church?
  • My NaNoWriMo thing is going slowly -- I'm already behind in verbage (big surprise!) I've tried to get on the website, but the internet is crawling right now...
  • Today is pick-up clean-up day. I am trying to get everything going right now. I wish I knew how to get a clean house with little or no effort. And then put it in a bottle and market it!
  • I'm contemplating the redistribution of "stuff." Along with that is my tendency to hoard certain types of stuff -- books and glass. Techie types of toys. Buttons. I've scads and scads of buttons. Here's a thought: hoarding stuff that others need (not want, but need) is frankly sin. Pure and simple. Just as the kids lust after candy, I've lusted after that perfect first edition, first printing. To what avail? I'm back to the parable of the warehouses again, today... "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:21) Your life will be required of you....

I have found the Demons in Halloween.

I have found the Demons in Halloween.

They are the demons of lust, greed and gluttony. The girls both came home with bunches of candy in their pillowcases -- and then split it up according to what kind of candy each prefers. Chaos like lollipops; Entropy likes Peanut Butter cups.

Then they start to fight -- their lust for the candy takes over. Voices are raised; fist-fights cannot be far behind.

THESE are the true demons of Halloween.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Just the News

There was a fire at the United Methodist Children's Home last night and Leigh Cottage, one of the boy's cottages, was destroyed. There were no injuries among the 9 residents (aged 13 to 21) or the staff and the residents have been relocated into another cottage on campus. The cause of the fire is under investigation. The UM Children's Home is one of the oldest orphanages in the country, having been built in 1871 to house orphans from the Civil War. There is room for 72 kids on campus, but only about 60 are there currently. However, more than 1500 kids are served by the staffing at the Children's Home. Leigh Cottage was just recently renovated, having been built in 1920. On the news tonight, there was some debate if the cottage would be rebuilt.

I spent quite a bit of time there in the 1970's and 1980's as a volunteer. It is directly across from the campus of Columbia Theological Seminary and many students of that school have spent hours there, as well. In the late 1980's, I had several of those kids in my classroom. My heart goes out to them -- they are kids who have much less than most and now they have lost all of their material possessions. God help them.

And I have been talking to a couple of friends who are seriously suffering because of the drought. One is a car-wash worker who has been laid off because of the water restrictions. They are in our school district; they have kids in classes with mine. They were scraping by as it is -- now they don't know where they will be in a month or what they will do. Another friend has owned a landscaping business for 30 years and may have to default on loans. They too may lose their house and all they own. The drought is the worst known in Georgia. The number of jobs lost is closing in on 81,000 and in the last 6 weeks, we have had agricultural losses nearing $2 billion. The livestock in rural Georgia are suffering. Trees are dying; crops are dried up. The East Lake reservoir is completely dried up. Bear Creek will be next. Lake Lanier is projected to last approximately 90 days according to the Corp of Engineers -- 9 months according to others (but I don't believe it).

Other towns are suffering as well. In Orme, Tennessee all water is being trucked in. In North Carolina there are restaurants who are using paper plates to conserve water. The one bright thing -- this crisis could have occurred during our record heat wave and we could still be fighting out-of control wildfires.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

For All Saint's Day

Let us now sing the praises of famous ones,
our ancestors in their generations.
The Lord apportioned to them great glory,
his majesty from the beginning.
There were those who ruled in their kingdoms,
and made a name for themselves by their valor;
those who gave counsel because they were intelligent;
those who spoke in prophetic oracles;
those who led the people by their counsels
and by their knowledge of the people's lore;
they were wise in their words of instruction;
those who composed musical tunes,
or put verses in writing;
rich persons endowed with resources,
living peacefully in their homes--
all these were honored in their generations,
and were the pride of their times.
Some of them have left behind a name,
so that others declare their praise.
But of others there is no memory;
they have perished as though they had never existed;
they have become as though they had never been born,
they and their children after them.
But these also were godly people,
whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
Their offspring will continue forever,
and their glory will never be blotted out.
Their bodies are buried in peace,
but their name lives on generation after generation.
Ecclesiasticus 44:1-10, 13-14
(tweaked slightly for gender inclusivity)


  • Yesterday I really pushed to get all the "normal" housework done so that I could sort a few more boxes, but with the result that I'm too sore to move ... Maybe I will do easy sorting of photos and what-not on the kitchen table.
  • Today is November 1. I want to do the NaNoWriMo. I need to put aside time every day for an hour or so of writing. I'm debating at this very moment if I should write on the novel or put down a sermon that is floating around in my head. I'm afraid I don't have time for both.
  • I did take time to download a few items from iStockPhoto, seeing that my credits were going to expire in the next couple of days. I want to also work on a couple of videos to be uploaded to Sermon Spice. There's just not enough time to do it all!
  • And it's that time of year where I try to get all the doctor visits done (at least for a while) -- checkups for everyone! I realized that Entropy hasn't been to the Eye Doctor in quite a while; there is also the orthodontist, dentist, the GP for checkups and more. One checkup a week is about my limit, so I'm going tomorrow. Just more for the family schedule.
  • Speaking of schedules, I've worked hard to get everything on the family schedule in iCal. I've printed out one for the back door and one for the "Family Notebook." If everyone knows what's coming, it seems to reduce stress and anxiety. I'm all about reducing stress and anxiety.
  • I also need to download all my pictures from the camera. The problems with 1 and 2 gig cards is that they take forever to download. I'm lagging way behind in my Project 365.
  • I also am lagging behind in 1) getting my love packages out and 2) listing books on Amazon and 3) eBaying stuff. I've been real good in getting the Amazon packages in the mail, but not real good at listing new books (not that there is a lack of books to list!)
  • Chaos and Entropy both made honor roll this last 9 weeks. Chaos made high honor roll -- straight A's (high A's, too). All I did to reward them was to purchase a dozen donuts. During the 8th grade orchestra concert, the teacher had the high honor roll students stand. It wasn't even one percent of the kids -- about half of the orchestra are honor roll, but only about 4 were high honor roll. And I understand there were only about 10 in the entire grade level (about 800 kids). Maybe she needs a better reward than a dozen donuts....
  • But first is my quiet time -- prayer time -- whatever you want to call it time. Thinking time, maybe. Followed by some non-thinking and just BEing time. First things first.
Postscript. I had a good time handing out Easter eggs last night. I selected only the orange, yellow and green eggs so that they did color coordinate with the theme of the night. I received some really funny looks, but I did tell the few who asked that I liked Easter better -- and I had one kid say "He has Risen" and I automatically answered "He has Risen, indeed." Ha!