Monday, December 31, 2007

Still working on ordination papers

but being completely distracted because of my (late) Christmas present. He's black and fuzzy and about 5 months old -- the kids have named him "Johnny Cat, cat in Black." (like Johnny Cash, get it?)

He really is totally black -- black fur, black whiskers, black claws with startlingly green eyes. He's gorgeous. And very timid -- a real scared-y cat. I'm in love! He's too timid for me to get a good picture. I'll post it as soon as I do.

Little kitty, by the way, is not impressed. She wants us to take him back from whence he came. ASAP. Pronto. Bye-bye now! (Not going to happen, Little Kitty).

We are having to keep them separated. Johnny Cat upstairs, Little Kitty down.

So today is going to be like this -- write a page or two, love on a cat. Write another page, love on the other cat. Totally fun.

(BTW: I am really either stuck or just really dry. All I can think to write about evil and sin:

Sin is bad. Evil is bad. God is good. Yeah, God!

I think I probably need to get a little more in depth than that.... Off to write some more...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Writing and writing and writing and writing

I'm still writing. The papers are due on January 8th -- and I sure hope I make the deadline. Either way, I'm finished with them on the 8th and then maybe things will be back to normal.

I'm giving my sermon to be evaluated by the BOOM (Board on Ordained Ministry) on Sunday -- I'm going to preach the Matthew 2 Epiphany text. I've got the sermon mostly finished. It's the transitions that usually give me trouble and so I'm working on them right now.

Then I have a 6 week Jonah Bible Study to finish and the 18 or so Theology and Practice of Ministry questions to finish. It's all started and in process, but I'm encountering some unease -- I never read any of my peers answers until very recently and mine are quite ... different. I wrote them like I write -- in a narrative fashion rather than a seminary paper. I hope my style will be OK; I'm a smidge bit anxious about it, but it will be as it will be. These papers are to reflect MY theology and my style of ministry -- and they certain will do that.

Edited: I just looked at what I've finished and what I've NOT finished. EEEKKKK!!! Off to write.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

It was a good day -- too much food and stuff (as usual). Not as many presents this year (because we don't need that much!) but nice and thoughtful things. Best of the day -- the Loving Husband gave me 2 gig of memory and a 250 gig hard drive for the computer. He's going to pimp my computer. Yeah!

The kids got Nerf popguns and have been shooting Nerf balls at things... And Chaos got a viola. We now have a full quartet of instruments -- and the nephew received a violin, so he can join in the fun as well.

Best part of the day -- seeing friends, spending quality time with close and extended family, watching "Amazing Grace" with them all. Good conversations. Lots of hugs and snuggles from the kids -- and for the very first time EVER (in 19 years of life) the cat slept in the bed with us last night.

I wonder what the kitty is going to do when the "last" Christmas present gets here (on Friday). He's about 12 weeks old, black and fuzzy and goes by the name of "Johnny Snugglecat." Hmmm....

Dearest and most Gracious God
Bless this Christmas season with Hope, Love, Peace and Joy,
Ridding each and every heart of grief and distress, loneliness and pain,
The sorrows of yesterday and the fears for tomorrow.
Fill us with Hope, as you filled the world with Hope so very long ago,
Fill us with Love, the Spirit of Love that has filled hearths and homes of times gone by
Grant us Your Peace, The Peace given to us with the birth of the Christ Child,
And may we rest in Joy in Your everlasting love.
In the precious name of Your Son, we pray, Amen.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I've been thinking about 1) stewardship and 2) ratios recently.

The Loving Husband and I are working on getting our spending, savings and giving in line with what they should be. If I get appointed to East PoDunk next year, the Loving Husband may or may not be able to maintain his current employments and so we need to get all things in balance. Easier said than done. He's reading Dave Ramsey's book; I'm contemplating ratios.

For instance, we spend about a third of our income on housing. Not too bad; some people spend up to two thirds on their housing. Then comes the uh-oh. We've been spending a third on food. That's a lot of money -- too much going out to eat. So we've been cutting down on that -- and budgeted $125 or so a week for food. It's really not been too hard, but I hope that number will go up shortly. We been giving pretty generously -- as we ought, but I realized that I've been giving "encumbered" funds -- funds for my pet ministries. I wonder if that's an OK thing to do. The money should be the church's to do with as it needs to do. I'm going to have to think about that for a while.

I was reading somewhere that there is more money spent on Lipstick in the U.S. of A than there is spent at NASA yearly. Interesting. I wonder what giving really is like in the larger communities? What is the ratio of giving to what we spend on our schools or maintenance of our roads and bridges? How much money is given for the Church to be as the Body of Christ as compared to our military budget? More things to research and think about.

This I know -- I spent too much money this week on Baklava. A full fifth of the weekly food budget went on Baklava. Yes, Baklava is one of the world's most perfect foods, but it makes me go hmmm.....

Friday, December 21, 2007

T-minus Three Days

Christmas presents purchased.
Decision to send NO CARDS made.
All packages taken to Post Office.
Tree -- done.

Pick up house.
Make cookies.
Drink coffee/chai (depending on the hour.)

I've a start on all the questions, the sermon (that I will preach the Sunday after Christmas) and the Bible Study (Jonah, with an emphasis on 1) how to use study tools and 2) music.) But for some reason this is the hardest writing I've ever done....

Must. Write. Papers.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas update

Between the very flakey internet connection and the ordination papers, the blog is falling way behind.

In fact, I'm about writ out. I can't write anymore ... or rather, not what I need to write. I've been writing every single day since November 1 and now I've writer's block. I've written:
  • 10,000 words on a novel
  • Ordination Papers
  • 6 week Bible Study
  • Sermons
  • a Cantata
The novel is now on the back burner -- and can stay there for a while. The next sermon is researched and percolating, the Bible Study is being polished. The Cantata is over and done with. (Rant on: And about Cantatas -- I have a pet peeve. Why do churches do cantatas that don't match their polity, theology and doctrine? I don't ever want to do one of those again, so I tend to put together my own Cantata. I want it to be tight with nice musical segues and I want more than one voice for the narration. For this one, I took anthems and linked them together with passages from both the KJV and The Message -- the Nativity narratives. John 1 was the Call to Worship. A little interpretive verbage, lots of Bible. We used 6 narrators, to vary the pacing and put congregational singing in the middle of most of the anthems, using very common and familiar Advent and Christmas hymns. We had the kids dress up and act it out as we all sang. It was wonderful -- not professional and smooth, but as it ought to be. Rant off.)

I'm now going to try to clean up enough for guests, do the purchase presents thing and write ordination papers.

Oh yeah, and breathe. Y'all have a Merry Christmas, OK?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mr. Murray is Dead

Wil Shipley's beloved kitty slipped away today. He wrote this beautiful tribute.
You have my condolences, My. Shipley, and know this -- John Wesley would tell us that you will meet Mr. Murray again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Prayer Based on the Antiphons of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"

O WISDOM, God breathed You, He spoke You, You reach from end to end. You bring me forth from my chaos, You order all things mightily and sweetly: thank You for teaching me the way of prudence.

O LORD AND RULER of the all the Houses, the Houses of Israel and Judea, the Houses of all the world, but especially the House for those who cannot find harborage, the House for those who yearn for Home, the House for the homeless -- O Lord and Ruler who appears to me in the flame of the burning stars, in the gentle breath of a baby, in the breaking of the bread: thank you for redeeming me with arms flung open wide.

O ROOT OF JESSE, You spring forth again and again from this brusied reed, You spring forth from the stump of my felled trees, You spring forth in the broken rose cane again and again. Before You I can only keep the silence and before You I shall be waiting in anticipation and supplication: thank you for delivering me.

O KEY OF DAVID, and Sceptre of the House of Israel, You open and no one can shut, You shut and no one can open: thank You for bringing forth this captive from her prison, for bringing light forth from darkness and the shadow of death that always haunts me.

O EMMANUEL, God with us, My King, My Lawgiver, My Saviour, My Lover, My World -- the Word made flesh -- thank You for Your gift of life, thank You for Your gifts of bread and wine, help me to hold the baby close to my heart this Christmas, help me treasure Your Word in my heart and be a witness to Your light. I pray in the name of my Holy Infant, my Holy Child – Amen.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


  • Life if busy, and so blogging suffers.
  • BrownBlog has an interesting conversation started here about Second Life and the response of the Anglicans Online community article. Interesting stuff
  • Preparing for Christmas (is that a surprise?)
  • Cleaning house, sorting and giving stuff away. I gave away my Cappuccino machine, a blender, a food processor and a Crockpot this last week. Still selling books and eBaying.
  • Here's a what if: What if a female Muslim teacher moved into your neighborhood, started teaching at a local Muslim sponsored school, in which some are Muslim but most are Christian. Then the teacher allows the class (kindergarten or so) to name a teddy bear "Jesus" - what would happen? I don't think there were be thousands called for her execution and marching on the Capital, or would there be?

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!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Prayer to be used on All Hallows' Eve

O God, the King of saints,
we praise and glorify your holy Name
for all your servants who have finished their course
in your faith and fear:
for the blessed Virgin Mary;
for the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs;
and for all your other righteous servants,
known to us and unknown;
and we pray that,
encouraged by their examples,
aided by their prayers,
and strengthened by their fellowship,
we also may be partakers
of the inheritance of the saints in light;
through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

--The Book of Common Prayer, p. 504.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Methodists and Halloween

Rough notes in a sort of Bible Study format. No time to make pretty and I didn't write down many references and I know a few of the questions were not mine, but most of this is off the top of my head....

Methodists and Halloween -- Yes or No?
Short answer: Methodists are not big on theory -- Wesley was not a theologian (per se). We proclaim a loving and grace-filled God to a hurting world. There is no hard and fast doctrine on all this; just ways to live. Looking at the history of Halloween and the three general rules (Discipline 2004) would be a good place to start.

Halloween is a combination of Samhain (Pagen/Druid -- harvest festival and "festival of the dead") and All Saint's Eve. (see There are echoes of both traditions in the celebration of Halloween.

Beginning Discussion Questions:
For each of the following statements, explain why for you it is true or why it is false:
1. The origin of Halloween doesn't matter.
2. Halloween is a celebration of evil and the dark forces of Satan.
3. A Christian seeks to honor and please God in all that he or she does.
4. It is okay to observe Halloween just for the fun of it.

To talk about Methodists celebrating Halloween -- here are the General Rules.
First do no harm. Some times stated as by "do no harm or any kind of evil." What practices and images come to mind when we discuss Halloween? What is it about Halloween that could be seen as harmful? By participating in Halloween, are we doing harm? Are we doing evil? (Make up your own questions!)

Second, by doing good, all kinds of mercy and doing all the good you can -- Is there a way that Halloween can be "sanitized"? What can we do to offer alternatives? Should we withdraw from participating? How can we use Halloween as an opportunity to show mercy? (Make up your own questions!)

Thirdly, by attending upon the ordinances of God, (worship, Communion, prayer, Bible study, Christian Conferencing etc) How can we teach our children about Halloween? Should we tie together the two celebrations (Halloween and All Saints)? What would that look like?

Answers to Direct Questions:
Do UM believe in Satan/Devil etc? The answer is yes, some do and no some don't. Most Methodists stress first Holy Living -- Holiness of Heart and Life and the abundant grace of God. Evil exists in this world, there is no doubt. Sin does as well -- and sin separates us from perfect communion with God. If there is a personification of Evil in this world called the Devil or Satan --that is up to debate in Methodist circles, but the ravages of evil in this world are very real. There is some debate about the book of Job -- if it is literal or allegorical. Those who believe in a literal interpretation of scripture would insist that, yes, there is a devil. For those who take a more allegorical -- no there isn't. But the upshot is that EVIL EXISTS and it's the Christian's duty to fight that evil. Where it comes from is sort of beside the point -- it's what we do about it that matters.

Another aside: people can be the hands of Christ in this world. There is a famous prayer that goes, "God has no hands but mine, no feet but mine, no mouth but mine. Put my hand to your use..." etc. If we can be the hands of God, if we do evil, can we not be seen as the hand of Satan, as well? The Flip Wilson "But the Devil made me do it!" is a passing of the blame.... We need to acknowledge that our own sinful nature, left alone, can be and can do evil.

Demonic Possession: Again yes and no. Depending on which Methodist you ask, you will get a different answer. Look here. This is one view, and there are others. But he has a great quote:
Jesus is like, "Yeah, it's cool and all, but it's not the main point. The point is that we want to deliver people from the things that possess them so that they can be free from sin -- so that their names might be written in the Book of life. Today's Demons might be things like: alcohol, addictions to drugs, internet porn, image, the love of money and power. Any thing that replaces God from being center in your life might be a demon to you and possess you. But personally, yes, I believe there might be demonic possession (just my opinion). Or as the Bard said "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." (Hamlet, Act I Scene V)

Aside: Some people wonder if the "demonic possessions" in the Biblical witness are mental illnesses that could not be described in the 1st century.

Methodist Exorcism:
From the British Methodist Church
Since we don't stress a personification of evil or demonic possession, as such, in the US you would be hard pressed to find a Methodist minister to perform a "exorcism" with a crucifix etc on a person laying in a bed streaming nonsense syllables in a deep voice and with their head twisting round and round. BUT you will find Methodist ministers anointing with oil for healing, using water in symbolic ways, asking people to "repent and remember your baptism", asking them to renounce the forces of wickedness (look in the membership vows in the front of the hymnal) and blessing people and places.

We take seriously the casting out of demons in the Bible -- esp. the ones that Jesus did. But if you look closely, you won't see Linda Blair -- you will see people in desperate circumstances being delivered from their own personal hell. At the time of Jesus, there was a general belief about spirits and demons -- everything had a spirit. Nowadays, we are a lot more "rational" about it all. We understand disease to be caused by 1)poor choices 2)viruses, bacteria etc. We don't think of disease being caused by "spirits."

So, the long and the short of it -- we would rather stress the healing portion of this all and the ministry of deliverance. Have I ever observed someone being sprinkled or sprinkled someone/ something/ someplace with Holy water? Have I ever felt a sour or bad spirit in a place? Yes -- and those "demons" respond better to prayer (that's a Biblical Jesus quote -- homework: look it up!)

Final Note:
Now, we aren't trying to sell evil short. It exists and it's bad news. But do we need to dwell on evil or dwell on and in the grace of a Loving God?

Final Final Note:
We celebrate All Saint's every year -- and my kids go trick-or-treating. But they know the origin of it all and know why I don't like some of the trappings of the entire event. No Witches or Devils at my house! But I also see it as an opportunity for my kids to talk to other kids about why they do or do not participate. We did a "Trunk-or-Treat" at the last church I served -- and everyone dressed up as a Biblical Hero (Saint) and gave away candy that tied in (John the Baptist gave away gummy locusts...) We also have had sticks of Gum that had stickers inviting people to church. This year, I'm giving away Easter Eggs and when I get funny looks, I'll say that I find Easter a more compelling holiday. (And I don't have to store those silly Easter eggs any longer!)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Calm Monday after a Stressful Week

I'm taking a Monday morning to center and calm - to search out a peaceful place. (Again with the idea of place and space.)

Yesterday after church, we took sabbath -- nothing but napping, watching TV, listening to music and a little shopping. Nice.

We watched yet another mildly incomprehensible Asian film. We watched "Grave of the Fireflies" the other night, which was one of the most disturbing and thought provoking films I have ever seen. Chaos called it "totally emo." And that it was. What was most disturbing to my Western sensibilities was the lack of resolution and the lack of hope. There was no redemptive act; there was no compassion; there was little hope. I understand that it is both an autobiographical statement and a statement about choices that Japan made during WWII, but there are certain bits that are still rather incomprehensible to me.

Another that is really pretty incomprehensible is "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" -- we watched that last night. I think I've seen it a couple of time, but the girls decided they wanted it for our DVD collection. It's easier to take than "Grave of the Fireflies" -- but still has it's incomprehensible parts. In this film there is no idea of good or evil; just honor and shame.

I missed the themes of redemption in these movies; and the clear demarcation of good and evil. I know that these are Western thought. However it makes me wonder -- if I miss these themes in Asian film, are there themes that Easterners might miss in Western film? What would those themes be? Where are the voids in our thought?

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Is the day of the funeral. Lots to do, lots to remember. I've assigned jobs and I am not going to micromanage. I'm going to let people do their jobs...

Thursday afternoon, after picking up the kids, we were driving down the main road and were passed by 5 screeching and speeding fire trucks. We watched them turn down our road ... and then we saw the smoke. It was in the neighborhood just past ours, where a lot of our friends live and by the location of the smoke, I was convinced it was their house. Instead it was their neighbors. The girls and I followed the fire trucks in and watched the house burn. It was heartwrenching. The mom is a nurse who works the nightshift and she was sleeping in the house. She had arrived home and turned on the furnace and put a load of laundry in the dryer and went to bed with her 10 month old daughter. They were fast asleep. The fire alarms in our county are wired directly to the electrical system and have a backup battery. Their battery must have been dead because the fire alarm did not go off. She slept through the beginning of the fire.

An elementary school kid saw the flames, banged on the door to wake them up to no avail. Another neighbor broke down the door and got both of them out (Praise God!) They will have problems the next few day because of smoke inhalation, but the will be OK.

The neighbors have collected food and clothing and they have shelter, but they have lost all that they owned.

The girls and I talked about this -- there really is very little in our house that is not replaceable. The kitty -- she's not replaceable. The photo albums, the girls. But most everything else? It's replaceable. I'm going to see if we have anything that they need.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Odd little thing

It's been a busy week; my sister has had surgery and is now at home, Chaos has a cold and is at home and my Aunt died on Sunday and I will have the honor to officiating at the memorial service. I'm still not well from my cold a couple of weeks ago and just getting a little tired.

But I'm doing things everyday to further the cause of lightening the load, of purposeful simplicity in lifestyle, of stuff reduction. So I did some work in the kitchen this morning, sorting the glasses and coffee mugs out and setting some aside to give away. And I started a new box of stuff to sort and shred.

As I emptied the shredder bin, there was one shred that floated alone on the top of the heap. Because I didn't put all the papers in where the lines were perpendicular to the shredder blades, it wasn't just random letters and numbers, it was a part of a sentance:

The chaplain will be available.

Yes, the Chaplain is available. Time for a little prayer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Like I didn't know this

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Monday, October 22, 2007

I'm Shredding

I have a new toy from Amazon -- a new shredder. My parents never threw anything away. I have tax returns that are decades old; EOBs (insurance papers) for medical procedures that were performed on people 10s of years ago on people long dead. Bank statements that are approaching 25 and 35 years old.

I don't want to just toss these things in the garbage -- for more than one reason. It is indeed a security risk. Just because these people are dead doesn't mean that their identity can't be stolen. Anything with numbers on it should be shredded.

But there is also a finality to shredding. It can't be undone. In these bank statements, I am finding things that are vaguely disturbing -- repeated donations to charities I find not always on the up and up; evidence of purchases that were not particularly wise; checks to people that I wonder about -- who was this person and why this amount? But, perversely enough, I'm more disturbed at my LACK of emotion about these expenditures. What is past, is past. What is done, is done. All is forgotten; all is forgiven; there is nothing left but the shredding.

And yet, I am finding it disturbing enough that I'm dreaming. I've dreamed about my parents signatures; their names. I find myself staring at that oh so familiar handwriting for long minutes. I dreamt of their signatures being erased and by my hand. I dreamt that I am erasing my parents. I wonder if that is so -- and I wonder if I am erasing them or their power over me (still, at my age!) The second dream is different; I'm not erasing them, I'm taking my embroidery thread snips and snipping away the threads that are holding their signatures down, so that their names can float away free. In this shredding, I am finding a sort of forgiveness -- and absolution.

Grief can do funny things to us. There is the deep irrationality of fresh grief -- the grief that caused me to cry out, "Oh! He's going to be so cold! I didn't give him a blanket!" as they lowered my father's body into the ground. I can still feel that emotion 12 years later. It's irrational. It's the same grief that caused my sister to rescue my mother's toothbrush from the trashcan seconds after I had thrown it there. Maybe it was too soon to go through her possessions -- it was a scant day or two after the funeral. I threw it in the trash and she cried out a long sighing, "No!" and scooped it up before either of us had time for rational thought. This type of grief is a reflex, it's a flash, it's a moment of deep overwhelming emotion.

The grief I experience now is deeper, softer; the edges are rounded. It's more rational. As rational as seeing how a shredder can deal forgiveness to handsful of old sin. It's gentle and dressed in gray and will be a companion for a long time.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Retrograde, take 2

Cleaning out drawers in the kitchen, I wanted to go ahead and count and use my Betty Crocker Reward Points. Much to my dismay, they are no more. After 44 years, they closed down the catalog! NOOOOOOO!!!!!

I have thousands and thousands of points! I've been collecting them for 10 years! Argh! I wanted a new mixer!!

Retrograde to the rest of the universe, I am,
The Retrograde Reverend Mommy.

Update: New Game -- Name that Parable!

And he told them this parable: "The boxtops of a certain rich woman produced a good crop of Betty Crocker points. She thought to herself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my boxtops.' Then she said, 'This is what I'll do. I clean out this small drawer and put the points in a bigger one, and there I will store all my Betty Crocker points and Boxtops for Education. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty laid up for many years. You will even be able to get a mixer! Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '

"But God said to her, 'You fool! This last year we canceled the catalog program! What are you going to do with all these useless boxtops?'"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kids think they invented Emo

Emo was here long before they were...

I found this video of Johnny Cash on YouTube. It's NIN's cover song "Hurt." There is a piquancy found in Johnny's singing that is carried by the heaviness of his years and his grief for June. This was his last video before he died. These words fit so well with some of the thought processes of the elderly. I don't know how many people I've been with who have watched all their generation pass on into the night.

This has been thought provoking. How does one minister to this generation without empty platitudes? How can I offer comfort and hope -- without tripping into the trite and shopworn phrases that can become our stock?

All Through the Night

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping,
I my loving vigil keeping
All through the night.

While the moon her watch is keeping
All through the night
While the weary world is sleeping
All through the night
O'er they spirit gently stealing
Visions of delight revealing
Breathes a pure and holy feeling
All through the night.

Love, to thee my thoughts are turning
All through the night
All for thee my heart is yearning,
All through the night.
Though sad fate our lives may sever
Parting will not last forever,
There's a hope that leaves me never,
All through the night.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pray for Rain

As often and as sincerely as possible. We are beyond Extreme Drought. We have entered Exceptional Drought. We will soon not have water for anything -- showers, washing clothing, dishes. We will be able to truck in water for drinking and cooking, but I've never experienced anything like this.

Bear Creek Resouvoir is almost gone. Just a big mud puddle. That's the main water supply for Winder to Athens. Lanier is 25 feet low. People are using metal detectors on the dry lake bed looking for lost objects that were dropped into the lake. Altoona is extremely low. We soon will be in the middle of Water Wars. The Corp of Engineers are continuing to release water downstream, to keep alive certain endangered species. But Atlanta needs the water, too. So everyone is suing everyone else. Yeah, we are going to solve this problem in the court system....

Pray for rain.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Morning Prayer -- Psalm 142

In Psalm 142, the psalmist is lamenting his plight (maybe it's David?) He is imploring God for help, crying out to God and telling how his enemies have set a trap. He prays for rescue because he feels utterly alone, exhausted, and may even be imprisoned. Maybe for him, prison is a metaphor for his distress or maybe he is actually imprisoned. In the last two verses, he makes vows to praise God, because he knows that God is indeed faithful and will always come through.

New King James:

1 I cry out to the LORD with my voice;
With my voice to the LORD I make my supplication.
2 I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare before Him my trouble.

3 When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,
Then You knew my path.
In the way in which I walk
They have secretly set a snare for me.
4 Look on my right hand and see,
For there is no one who acknowledges me;
Refuge has failed me;
No one cares for my soul.

5 I cried out to You, O LORD:
I said, “You are my refuge,
My portion in the land of the living.
6 Attend to my cry,
For I am brought very low;
Deliver me from my persecutors,
For they are stronger than I.
7 Bring my soul out of prison,
That I may praise Your name;
The righteous shall surround me,
For You shall deal bountifully with me.”

The Message:

1-2 I cry out loudly to God, loudly I plead with God for mercy.
I spill out all my complaints before him,
and spell out my troubles in detail:

3-7 "As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away,
you know how I'm feeling,
Know the danger I'm in,
the traps hidden in my path.
Look right, look left—
there's not a soul who cares what happens!
I'm up against it, with no exit—
bereft, left alone.
I cry out, God, call out:
'You're my last chance, my only hope for life!'
Oh listen, please listen;
I've never been this low.
Rescue me from those who are hunting me down;
I'm no match for them.
Get me out of this dungeon
so I can thank you in public.
Your people will form a circle around me
and you'll bring me showers of blessing!"

I highlight the important (to me) bits.

First, God knows. God knows that we become overwhelmed. Life does that. But God also knows our path and God will provide. Through God's people, we will find refuge and help. God's people will form a circle around us and through them will shower us with blessing.

There's a verse in 1 Cor 10 that is often quoted:
13No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it.

A couple of notes here: Paul is writing to the church, not to individuals. This is a promise to us through the church -- the you here is community.


Earthmom tells me that Mercury is retrograde. I haven't the foggiest what that means -- and to be frank, I don't put much stock in astrology (if any.) (another parenthetical: actually, there are times that I wonder if the Wise Men, the Magi, were astrologers. I know enough to realize that they read the stars in some mysterious ways -- and I've helped out with enough Planetarium programs to realize there were indeed portents in the sky oh so long ago. God is all-powerful; God created the stars and the sky. God has written things in nature that if we have eyes, we can see. All creation shouts praise to God -- why not the stars?)

But if there is anything to astrology -- if there is anything to the flow of gravity or energy or chi or whatever (the force!), I can believe that Mercury is retrograde. I certainly am retrograde recently. Retrograde, simply put, means that even though the planet is indeed speeding along its proscribed path through the universe, to us the planet seems to be going backwards.

I am retrograde with my universe right now. It appears that I am going backwards. I'm not involved in anything "important" (and we can debate exactly what THAT means!) -- no school, no big church project, no embroidery project, no writing project (except that may change a little). My big thing is just getting all this STUFF out of my house.

Jung would tell us that the house is the person -- that parts of the house are parts of ourselves. The main living room/kitchen is our public life, the bedroom is our intimate life. The basement is our sub-conscious, the attic is our awareness of the "other" (i.e. God) or the higher life above us. I am cleaning house. And it's not going so fast. I have a self-imposed deadline of next May. I would like the majority of it done in March. If I am to become (God willing and crick don't rise) a Probationary Elder and move in June, I need both houses -- my interior life and my exterior life -- in order.

So, I have recycled an entire box of paper this morning, sorted a rough sort of pictures/mementos from the grandfather's house (which made me blue -- we need to cherish the people in our lives while we can) and began to sort two drawers in the kitchen, throwing away what I could. I may even take pictures of the results in a few minutes.

Retrograde is a matter of perspective. I am indeed going forward, speeding along my prescribed path right now. Soon enough I will appear loop forward, but I know that I've always been going forward -- I need to learn to rest in that assurance.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Stay with us, Lord Jesus, for dusk is falling.
Accompany us on our road, revive our hearts, take pity on us and fill us with hope,
so that with our brethren we may recognise you in the Scriptures and in the breaking of bread.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.

** Tired today -- all things are slightly off. Entroy's face is swollen and bruised, her arm hurts. We all slept too late and that makes us slightly "off" today. Then I had a flat tire -- tried to change it and part of the jack was missing. The car is still parked in front of Chaos' Girl Scout leader's house until the LH can deal with it.

It's the Theology of Being Overwhelmed. More later....

Too much excitement

Last night, while Entropy was supposed to be getting ready for bed, she was up to her usual stalling tactics (can I have a glass of milk? can I warm up my sock (the child is emotionally attached to a sock filled with rice that you can heat in the microwave...)? can I have one more hug?)

Well, Chaos was squealing because the cat was licking her fingers -- Entropy runs to the living room to see (in her bedroom slippers) and trips over her own shoes (that she left in the middle of the floor). She bonks her head very hard on the wooden arm of a chair. There's blood everywhere. The LH presses his hand directly on the wound, I get a towel and ice pack, I hold her while the LH calls 911.

I somehow get re-dressed in my clothing while holding her and the ice pack (I must be a contortionist.) She's screaming that her arm hurts and there's blood everwhere and then she gets shocky. By the time the paramedics leave, she's better -- she's got a cut between the eyebrow and the eye, on the outer edge, parallel to the eyebrow. And it's just bleeding up a storm. It took a while to clot.

We got her to the ER -- no damage other than a really bad bruise to the arm and 5 stitches on her eyelid.

Phew. Thank you God.

Her first request to me? Mommy, hold me and pray.

Already there, kiddo.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Esoteric New Grass and Mongolian Blend

Went to Nickel Creek

Went to Nickel Creek concert last night at the Fabulous Fox.

The kids had never been to a concert at the Fox before -- and they had never been around that kind of crowd -- there were Adult Beverages and the distinct odor of illegal substances. It was a good lesson -- "Mommy, why are they acting so stupid?" Heh.

The crowd was not your usual symphony crowd -- much closer to a rock concert crowd. It is amazing how rude people can be at times....

All in all it was a great concert. We didn't sit close enough to see everything we wanted to see, but they did have it turned up to Rock Concert Levels and so we heard everything great (even with the rude talkers/shouters/screamers whatever.)

Chris Thule is very active on stage; he stood next to Bela Fleck a couple of times, making Bela's deep stillness even more evident. Bela was great -- I love his "esoteric" banjo music. There were times it was like -- playing the banjo isn't hard enough, so I think I'll use my elbow like this and then tune and detune the strings while playing. Amazing. This is Bela Fleck and the Flecktones doing "Sinister Minister"

Bela Fleck joined in some of the songs.
They ended with this:

and I must say, they do it much better than Brittney.

The last song of the evening.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Alternate Universe

And Jesus began again to teach by the seaside. And there was gathered unto Him a great multitude, so that He entered into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. And He taught them many things, and said unto them in His doctrine: "If thou let y equal the square of x added to x multipled by 3 and this being added to the number 4, yea, verily, you have there the kingdom of heaven."

And his disciples Peter and John were confused by this teaching, not understanding. And Andrew said, "Yes, there he goes again -- Jesus always teaches in parabolas."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Book of the Day -- Slack

I just ordered this for the loving husband:
Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency (Paperback)
by Tom DeMarco (Author)

From the Amazon Website:
Another entry in the small but growing management library that suggests purposely slowing down and smelling the roses could actually boost productivity in today's 24/7 world, Tom DeMarco's Slack stands out because it is aimed at "the infernal busyness of the modern workplace." DeMarco writes, "Organizations sometimes become obsessed with efficiency and make themselves so busy that responsiveness and net effectiveness suffer." By intentionally creating downtime, or "slack," management will find a much-needed opportunity to build a "capacity to change" into an otherwise strained enterprise that will help companies respond more successfully to constantly evolving conditions. Focusing specifically on knowledge workers and the environment in which they toil, DeMarco addresses the corporate stress that results from going full-tilt, and offers remedies he thinks will foster growth instead of stagnation. Slack, he contends, is just the thing to nurture the out-of-box thinking required in the 21st century, and within these pages, he makes a strong case for it. --Howard Rothman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Sounds interesting. VERY interesting. Sabbath for the corporate world.

Morning Prayer -- Prayer of Ignatius

Dearest Jesus teach me to be generous

Teach me to love and serve you as you deserve,

To give and not to count the cost,

To fight and not to heed the wounds,

To toil and not to seek for rest

To labour and to look for no reward,

Except that of knowing that I do your Holy Will. Amen

-- Ignatius

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Today will not be a real decluttering day. I have a meeting at the District Office. I've a few packages to send out and the girls have Grill Sprouts (Girl Scouts) today. I need some time to sit and think, as well. I do resolve to take care of at least one box from the garage today....

Monday, October 08, 2007

Scanning Google about "lightening the load"

I've been scanning Google about "lightening the load" -- because that is indeed what I am doing. And I found this:
Having knowledge of your subject is important in any type of photography, but with birds it is essential. If you always observe birds closely and learn as much as possible about their behavior, you’ll develop an almost intuitive sense of when a bird is going to fly. Before a bird takes flight, it often stands very alert, turning its head in many different directions, checking out its surroundings. It also turns into the wind. But most important, right before they fly, birds often defecate, perhaps to lighten their load....
(from Cornell's website on bird photography.)

I got a chuckle out of this, but then it struck me as salient -- perhaps I'm just getting ready to fly....

This Weekend

  • We moved the empty filing cabinet from the basement to the garage so that I can go through the 50 or so boxes of paper from my mom's estate.
  • We moved a shelving unit from the basement to the garage and set it where the freezer was, so that we could move the books out of the living room.
  • We moved the Amazon books out of the living room onto aforesaid shelving unit.
  • Moved bunches of boxes of papers off a different shelving unit next to the first shelving unit and put MORE boxes of books on this unit.
  • Moved assorted airplane bits and pieces to basement.
  • Moved assorted ham radio anntenna bits and pieces to basement.
  • Chaos was tremendous help with all this in the garage; Entropy tried real hard, but she just can't lift boxes like this.
  • Threw away about 2 bags of stuff from under the sink on my side of the master bath. (Entropy was great at this.)
  • LH fixed about 5 plumbing problems and cleaned the Jacuzzi tub.
  • Filled the Jacuzzi tub and sat in it for quite a while. (Hmm... next time, candles and a glass of something or another would be nice.)

I found the laundry sink. Rather I knew where it was, I emptied it out and washed some milk crates. I am going to put all the bits of china and stoneware from the garage (after it's washed) into the clean milk crates and get it ready to list on eBay or Freecycle. I'm also going to sort through one box a day from the garage at a minimum -- today it's a box that contains Bibles -- my father's Bible is on top. I anticipate some heartache with this, but it's not a bad ache -- just a melancholy one.

It took the house a long time to get to this state -- and a lot of people's stuff is here. Two of my grandmother's, my grandfather, my mother and father, the LH's mother and his grandfather. A lot of stuff. As important as it is to take care of this (and I have set a deadline of about March or June for myself), it's also important to remember sabbath time. That's why I'm not really blogging on Fridays to Sundays. Friday we are calling a halt to all things that take us away from the house -- and a halt to housework. We are going to just stay at home and enjoy each other's company. I guess from Friday noon or so to Saturday noon is my sabbath.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Theology of Stuff -- Austin Lounge Lizards

On the other shore, on the other shore
We'll have piles and piles of jeans we can't fit into anymore
We'll wear all those crazy cowboy shirts we got from Fred Labour
We'll meet all our possessions on the other shore

We'll find books we bought in college and sold for half-price unread
And sacks and sacks of earring backs lost under someone's bed
And baseball cards and army men and model planes galore
And every tiny plastic high-heel Barbie ever wore

On the other shore, on the other shore
We'll have giant storage units free of charge for evermore
Where our tax receipts will all be saved in bags upon the floor
We'll meet all our possessions

On the other shore, on the other shore
We'll find National Geographics from 1974
Our children's art will cover God's refrigerator door
We'll meet all our possessions on the other shore

(Note: sounds more like Hell to me.)

Thursday Bullets -- Mostly Theology of Space, Stuff

  • The freezer is gone! Yeah!
  • I gave about about 75 children's hangers to a lady doing a church commission sale. I like it when the things get used for a good cause.
  • The sofa got looked at -- and rejected once again. I guess it's time to go to Goodwill with it.
  • I went to Goodwill and purchased Chaos khaki pants and black pants for two different orchestras. She'll never wear them again -- why pay full retail?
  • Coming home I drove past The Avenue. If you deemphasize certain letters -- tHEAVENue, you can see why it's the premier retail area on Mall 124 (Highway 124 -- more retail space in a stretch of two or three miles than in any Mall in the world.)
  • tHEAVENue is nicer appointed than any church I've been in (well, maybe not Peachtree Road UMC.) More people too. And again I wonder if American's real religion is Materialism. We worship stuff and the acquisition of stuff. (In the Theology of Star Trek, it's easy to see the Japanese as the Klingons (Samari and Bushido and all that) -- Americans are probably the Ferangi.)
  • I've been thinking about possessions -- I've a real wealth of books right now, especially books I haven't read. I have enough unread books, that if I read a chapter or two of a book and I'm not getting into it, I just toss it into the "sell" bin. Because of inheritances and whatnot, we have more than I could ever want, much less need. Telephone insulators, costume jewelry, Hummels, china, kitchen stuff. Do I possess these things or are they possessing me? The ease of replacing the book du jour makes me realize how ultimately replaceable most stuff really is.
  • And stuff is really pretty easy to get -- I used to find interesting embroidered polo shirts for the Loving Husband to wear. Then I had an embroidery business and realized how easy it is to do embroidered shirts. (I actually have about 400 shirts upstairs that I am going to have to get to someday...) Stuff is so replaceable. I have great wholesale sources from these days where I can get just about anything. Hence the 100 ball pit balls. Seemed like a good idea at the time ...
  • Trivia of the day: we see about 3000 pieces of advertising a day. Wow. That's a lot. What's the message there? Buy stuff and you will be happy. Corollary: if you don't buy our stuff, you won't be happy. Buy stuff because you are worth it. If you don't get our stuff, you aren't worth diddly. If you want to feel loved, get more stuff! Love is stuff -- stuff is love. If you don't have stuff, you aren't loved. My question? Where is God in all this? Do we think of God as just another kind of "stuff"? Is God just another thing in our lives that's replaceable?
  • What does this mean for the forms and contexts I call "Church Smorgasbord", "Drive-By Church" and "Consumer Church"? What's the church to do in this consumer society? Are we too embedded in this culture to ever really do anything?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

So far this week

I've disposed of:
  • all the food in the freezer
  • 2 dozen clean canning jars
  • 14 assorted glasses
  • 6 chipped mugs
  • a bag of Underpads for a bed
  • a wheelchair
  • a wheelchair transfer board
  • a pair of crutches
  • some books
  • a pink comforter
  • a "bed in a bag" -- queen sized Ivy patterned
  • 100 balls for a ball pit
  • an umbrella

Left in the garage unclaimed
  • blue loveseat
  • brown Lazy-Boy recliner
  • a freezer (actually, this is in the driveway)

Still in the garage (and determining if I keep, trash, sell or give away)
  • two large boxes of craft stuff
  • a Sunbeam Mixer
  • 12 more glasses
  • 50 prewrapped Christmas gifts from about 7 years ago (party favors) -- who knows what they are?
  • paper box full of candle ends
  • two packages of Barbie clothes, unopened
  • my mom's genealogy files (keep)
  • bank statements from 1950's to the 1980's (they never threw anything away)
  • 2 milk crates of chipped mugs, unchipped mugs, bowls, plates, etc.
  • 1000 pounds of books (maybe 12 boxes or more?) -- about 1200 books
  • two really nice dining room chairs from the 1940's (keep)
  • my nice floor lamp with foo-foo lampshade (black marabou feathers.)
  • hundreds of clay pots, plastic pots, African violet pots
  • four folding card tables or suit case tables
  • a fireplace grate
  • three shelving units
  • and the list goes on...

Pictures 247 and 248 of 365 -- Birthday!

The Loving Husband made the cake

Is it a croon or a warble?