Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Loaves and Fishes

Since last week, John the Baptist has been beheaded by Herod. Jesus hears the news and slips away to be on his own.

Matthew 14:13-21

13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself.

Retreat to get away from Herod. Retreat from the multitudes pressing in around him. Retreat to talk to his friends. Retreat to mourn the loss of John who was the voice who cried out in the wilderness.
Retreat -- by himself; prayer in a deserted place; peace and quiet. Perhaps the need for prayer and meditation was as a deep hunger in him; I know that I get that way at times.

From Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency by Tom DeMarco
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.
But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

What is the "it" that the crowds heard? Would have any of them retreated to the wilderness without Jesus? They must have craved his presence -- Nonetheless, he had compassion for them -- tender compassion, his heart is stirred, down to the core (guts) of his being; however instead of teaching (like in Mark), here Jesus cures their sick. He takes care of a first and immediate need -- healing.

15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

The hour was late -- past dinner time. He didn't want to send them away to fetch food -- YOU will give them something to eat. He had just had heartbreaking news about his cousin. Maybe he didn't want to be alone; maybe they were in good fellowship; maybe he was still stirred by his compassion. Nonetheless, he was not deterred by the scope the of need -- he told the disciples to give them something to eat. Now he takes care of a second pressing need -- nourishment. He asks THEM to do it but in the next few phrases, it's apparent that he is willing to talk them through it, bolstering their actions and faith.

17They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.

Blessed ... broke ... gave. Foreshadowing the Last Supper, Jesus' actions are those of a patriarch at the family dinner. Here ALL are part of this great table -- all are part of the family. "Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God, King of the universe, who bringest forth bread from the earth." He thanks God for what he DID have; even though it might be seen as woefully inadequate. It's an attitude of gratitude --

20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

All ate and all were filled (glutted a better translation) and yet all the people were fed and there were 12 baskets leftover (one for each of the disciples.) The children of Israel were filled and yet there is plenty of leftovers for otheres.

5000 men = maybe 20,000 people total. Bunches.

Food Crisis

In the States:

THE SKYROCKETING commodity prices that have made the Farm Belt one of the most prosperous regions of the United States have had a rather different impact on large areas of the developing world. Foodstuffs have gone up 41 percent in price since October 2007, pushing many people over the line from poverty into privation or even hunger.
From Washington Post

In North Korea:
Flooding and poor harvests have caused North Korea’s worst food crisis since the late 1990s and have put millions at risk, the UN’s food body said yesterday ...
From Taipai Times

In Australia:

Glen Phillips kneels down, scoops up a handful of dirt and squashes it in his fist to test whether the soil in this dry patch of the Australian Outback is ready to take a crop of wheat.

"It should clump together when you squeeze," says Phillips, whose family has lived off the land on the edge of the Great Australian Bight since 1949. "That's how you know it's good to plant, it's moist enough to hold the roots."

He opens his hand and the earth sifts dustily between his fingers. Phillips looks up, lifts his hat slightly and squints into an empty blue sky with no sign of rain.

"We'll plant anyway," he says. "We don't have a choice."

One of Australia's worst droughts on record is hurting wheat farming just as the world needs it most. Australia is usually the world's third or fourth-largest exporter of wheat. But exports dropped 46 percent from 2005 to 2006, then fell 24 percent last year.

Most of its exports go to the Middle East and Southeast Asia to make bread and cereals, but the fall in supply has led to a spike in prices. A ton of Australian wheat now costs $367, compared with $258 in early 2007, an increase poor countries can ill afford.

"When they pay high prices, they pass on an increase to their poorest people, who can no longer afford it," says Kunhamboo Kannan, director of agriculture, environment and natural resources at the Asian Development Bank. "Just look at Egypt." Riots over rising bread prices and shortages have led to at least 10 deaths in Egypt this year. July 13, 2008

In Uganda, Egypt, In East Africa, In West Africa. Too many to list.

What now? Where are our loaves and fishes? Are we to ask for Christ to help? Are we to be as the disciples and share the leftovers?

Other Notes:
Meals on Wheels are taking a big hit. Gas prices and rising food prices mean that some of the neediest of the needy are not going to be taken care of; volunteers not being able to afford the gasoline.

5 loaves = the 5 books of the Torah for Matthew (he IS the Gospel writer for the Jewish people...) King Saul fed his followers at one time with 5 loaves of bread demanded from the priests of the Temple (I Samuel 21:3 -- parallels for Jesus being a Kingly Messiah).

This feeding is in stark contrast to Herod's banquet earlier in the chapter -- simple and nourishing.

Also, some think that the loaves and fishes were just one great "sharing" of resources that already were existent in the crowd.

It was late, and the people were hungry. Men, women and children all clamouring for a meal from five loaves and two fish. There have been many theories over the years that attempt to explain away this miracle. Some have claimed that the crowds were whipped into a frenzy of religious fervour on hearing Jesus speak, and that fervour suppressed their appetites.

Others have speculated that the mood of harmony and selflessness spread by Jesus' teaching might have inspired the crowd to offer up their own private supplies of food and share them with each other. But as with Jesus' healing of the widow's son at Nain, the key element here is the belief of the crowd that a miracle had taken place. They were convinced that from such meager rations Jesus had fed everyone, and left them all satisfied. As with the miracle at Nain, what the crowd witnessed would have made a huge impact on them, but that impact would come as much from the explosive message - the symbolism contained within the miracle - as from the supernatural feat with the bread and fish. From BBC Religion and Ethics

Monday, July 28, 2008

Blogging Break

I've had a slight blogging break and may take more of one. We were at Pastor's school last week and I had bronchitis at the same time -- it was draining. So I'm taking a break.

Catch you on the upside.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Kingdom of God is Like....

In this passage, Jesus uses five different but common things from his listeners' lives to invoke a powerful image of the Kingdom of God. I've been trying to think of other common things, from my life --

The Kingdom of God is like a fresh picked cucumber; fresh and cooling against the tongue, rich with flavor and redolent with a tang that cannot be matched with store-bought cucumbers. Fresh and unmatched.

The Kingdom of God is like a flight in a small plane on a clear beautiful day. Transcendent.

The Kingdom of God is like the community around the airport or karate studio times 100 or better yet, the community around a church's family night dinner. Intimacy.

The Kingdom of God is like the bonds found among those who have faced adversity together. Relationship.

The Kingdom of God is like finding your grandparent's love letters in the attic. Love that existed before you were born.

The Kingdom of God is like discovering garnets amid the gravel in your garden. Treasure.

The Kingdom of God is like Extreme Makeover for the soul.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lectionary Musings

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."

He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

"Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."

So, is this random, or what? Is this the equivalent of a Kingdom Scavenger Hunt? Here's a sack and go get: 1) a mustard seed, 2) yeast, 3) hidden treasure, 4) fine pearls and 5) a net to throw into the sea.

Have you understood all this? (I ask as I'm shaking my head "no.")

This is going to take a while....

Sunday, July 20, 2008

New Blog Shout Out (new to me at least!)

I met a delightful woman at a district event (yes, it CAN happen!) and I've been enjoying her book this week -- Her Unlikely Family.

I enjoyed meeting you Missy and hope to see you again!

Only in Gwinnett -- Waffle House Wedding

Actually, I can see this happening in Walton, too. And Rockdale. Oglethorpe? No, I don't think we have a Waffle House.

Actually, I find the comments appalling. At least they got married ... and a Christian marriage, too. God Bless them.

I habe a bad code

I habe a berry bad code.

Here's a prayer that I can preach two services later this morning and not lose my voice. Or spread germs.

I think I'll carry a big bottle of hand sanitizer.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Clean Closet

The closet is clean(ish) because...

all the junk is now in the bedroom. Time to sort stuff.

Saturday Bullets

  • Bishop B. Michael Watson has been appointed the new episcopal leader of the North Georgia Conference. He comes on board in September -- as ex-Bishop of South Georgia, he's not really a new face to some of us, as I have met him numerous times at Georgia's Pastor's School.
  • Thursday and Friday were busy as I tried to visit some parishioners -- being so far away, to took planning and I didn't get as far as I would have liked, but it was good.
  • Last night at karate, Ms. D collapsed and was taken away in an ambulance. She's a grandmother raising her grandchildren -- a brave and strong woman. Prayers her way this morning.
  • I have another sore throat. There seem to be an unusual amount of summer colds this year -- and this is my second this month. Time for more Vit C.
  • It's also time to pull my sermon together -- I skipped the Local Pastor's b'fast this morning and we have a picnic this afternoon, but I am going to spend time working on the sermon.
  • My friend Teresa's new church start was featured on CNN. There are things I like about it -- and I must admit, things that I see would make some people uncomfortable. She's also a good, brave and strong woman and I am glad that the church is doing well.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Blogging Toward Sunday

Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43

24He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.

36Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

Intro to Parable
  • second of 7 in this series
  • again about seed and soil;
  • good seed and bad.
What is the parable telling us? That the good will prosper with the bad; that we exist in this world side by side -- and that God wants it this way. That the rain falls on both the good and the evil. This is indeed evil in this world -- The kids and I watched "Hotel Rwanda" this week -- there are indeed evil people in this world.

Harder thought: Are there weeds or evil people in the church? Again is a hard answer: Yes.

Are there weeds in each of our own lives? Yes.

The American search for the perfect lawn -- When I was working at Fernbank, one of the meteorologists with whom I shared an office had a problem -- he had put sod in part of his lawn, but had seeded the other half. After a year or so, Bill had half a yard of grass and half a yard of weeds. He tried to go around and pull them up one at a time; he tried paying the kids ten cents a weed to pull them up, but everything he did actually made the problem worse. He scraped up the weeds, retilled the soil, reseeded -- same result. He nuked it with chemicals and then had big brown spots in the lawn to go along with sickly grass. He finally asked one of our horticulturists what to do -- and Walter told him to stop trying to kill the weeds, but to strengthen the grass and eventually the weeds would be shoved aside -- choked out.

Question: What are we going to concentrate on? Are we going to kill weeds or grow strong grass?

Discussion of different methods of weed control:
Looking for a quick fix with chemicals
Manually pulling them up -- futile -- they grow faster than you can pull them up and you damage the roots of the good plants.
ending with the news story in previous post about a man torching his neighbor's garden.

Are we going to kill weeds or grow strong grass?

How do we grow strong grass? To quote Bishop Job:
1. Do No Harm,
2. Do Good, and
3. Stay in Love with God.

What do these mean? Traditional wording is this:
“First, By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind…”
“Second, By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all me…”
“Thirdly, By attending upon all the ordinances of God…”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Now I've seen it all

The Periodic Table of Videos.

Why didn't we have this when I was teaching??

From UMNS News Story:

The skyrocketing cost of rice is affecting how Stop Hunger Now and other relief organizations do their work.

Rice is the main component of the nutritious meal packages dispensed worldwide by the group, which is based in Raleigh, N.C., and led by the Rev. Ray Buchanan, a United Methodist pastor. "It (the cost) is having an absolutely direct impact on what we're going to do," Buchanan said.

As a result, Stop Hunger Now may have to reduce its goal to package 5.5 million meals during 2008 or rely on more donations from volunteers who put together the meals, he added.

Jeffrey D. Sachs, the well-known economist and special adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, has described the worldwide food situation as "the worst crisis of its kind in more than 30 years," according to The New York Times.

And those affected most by the crisis are the poorest of the poor, according to June Kim, who monitors hunger-related projects for the United Methodist Committee on Relief. "A lot of people living on $2 a day are now having to pay more for food and getting less food," she said.
Trouble is everywhere, according to news reports:
  • In the Horn of Africa, a lack of rain, poor harvests, soaring food prices and inflation, and violence have hampered food aid.
  • In Haiti, where the cost of beans, corn and rice has skyrocketed, the very poor are literally eating mud patties made out of mud, oil and sugar.
  • In Australia, a six-year drought has nearly destroyed the country's huge rice industry, reducing the rice crop by 98 percent.
  • In the Philippines, the government has distributed monthly cash subsidies and "rice passes" in an effort to deal with food shortages.
Rice is getting to be quite scarce around here, as well. There have been limits on the amount of rice you can buy at the store (of course, I have been buying it in 20 to 50 pound bags.)

In a world where one third of the population lives in what Americans would consider extreme poverty and two thirds live on less than $5 a day, the increase in price of rice will be the difference between life and death. More than a third of the world's population does not have:
  • sufficient food
  • clean water
  • sufficient shelter
  • access to an education
  • any medical services
I have been at three covered dish dinners this week where the amount of food offered was so generous that we had to pull up extra tables. I know that we can't put the leftovers in zippy bags and mail them to Africa, but we need to do something. I went this week to the Global Rich List and found out that I'm the 27,966,505 richest person on earth -- that I'm in the top 0.46 percent (of course, this is my income plus my husband's). We are indeed blessed -- and we need to donate more.

Here is a list of resources:
Stop Hunger Now
Church World Service
Bread For the World
UN News Service
Rice Game

I'm the 27,966,505 richest person on earth!

Discover how rich you are! >>

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Kill Weeds or Grow Grass

Oops -- Scientist Blowtorch Weedkiller Burns Neighbor's Yard
Robert Gailey, 79, watched in horror as sparks from a gas-powered garden tool caused the lawn and shrubs of his neighbours, Stuart and Phyliss McLean, to catch light.

Mr Gailey had been using a Weed Wand, a £20 hand-held flaming device which burns weeds, to treat the driveway of his semi-detached home in Paisley, Renfrewshire.

Within seconds, the McLeans's manicured lawn and evergreen trees were aflame and Mr Gailey's wife, Mary, called the Fire Brigade. From The Telegraph

WEED CONTROL IN LAWNS: This is the time of the summer when many folks want to know how to kill weeds in their lawn. Some people just don't understand that there are many very prolific weeds out there that can be extremely hard to kill.

Many weeds have to be sprayed more than one time before they die. This is especially true with perennial weeds.

Also keep in mind that the more mature a weed gets the harder it is to kill. A young weed is much easier to kill than one that has been growing for several months.

There is no "silver bullet" out there that kills all the different types of weeds. Most of the time you will need two and sometimes three different weed killers to tackle all the weeds in your lawn. There are herbicides that can be safely used on some turf grasses but not others.

It is best to spray for weeds shortly after a good rain. Drought-stressed weeds are harder to kill than succulent weeds that have good moisture in them.

When you are applying herbicides, there is no reason to use a higher rate than is recommended on the label. From the Augusta Chronicle

Don't Kill Weeds; Eat Them!

For years, I tried various ways to rid my garden of weeds. Then I decided t look into their edibility. To my surprise many weeds are not only edible but very nutritious. They can be used in salads, soups, herbal teas and wine. Some have medicinal properties but we will leave that area to the doctors...

Who decides what plants are weeds! You do. Identifying weeds could become a challenging hobby. I am sure there are many plants in your yard that you are unable to name. Once you become aware of them, you will be amazed at the variety of these volunteer plants. There is a whole new world under your feet. Did you know that many weeds are out of control garden plants? Weeds are vegetables but most of us are not in the habit of using them.

From BCLocal News

Don't Kill Weeds -- Grow Stronger Grass
The most effective method of controlling lawn weeds is to maintain a dense and vigorously growing turf cover. Weeds are often an indication of problems in the grass plant environment, and killing the weeds without correcting the underlying problem will lead to unsatisfactory results. For example, a problem with knotweed is usually an indication of severe soil compaction. Control of knotweed without correction of the soil compaction will only lead to sparse soil cover until the area is again invaded by weeds that grow in compacted soil.

Often turf weeds can be controlled simply by altering the cultural practices to favor the grass plants rather than the weeds. The cultural controls may include raising (or lowering) the mowing height, changing the frequency of mowing, lengthening (or shortening) the period between irrigations, increasing (or decreasing) the application of fertilizer, or aerifying the soil. From The Extension Service of University of Minnesota

I have no idea how this could fit in -- but I am intrigued with this:

Some pictures

Old Kitty and Entropy. I've posted bunches of pictures of Johnny Cat and woefully neglected posting pictures of Old Kitty. Actually, she's doing well. She and Johnny do NOT get along -- I think she's found the will to live so that Johnny doesn't "win."

My "In" Basket. I have a basket at the end of the kitchen counter where I dump all my mail and other things when I get in the house -- I call it my "In" basket. And if you notice, I have male. (Punny!)

Piggy! This is Pretzel the Piggy. We have friends whose child is allergic to almost all domestic pets -- except for Pigs, Lizards and that like.

Pretzel the Piggy is indeed cute. I'm going to have to work the pig into a sermon...

Note: It's postings like this (you know, the ones that are like looking at another family's photo album) that make me wonder why on earth anyone except relatives would read my blog. I feel odd about having these picked up by Christian Century, but I am as I am ... my blog is as it will be.

Doing Something Different

I think I'm going to change my process up a little this week -- I think I'll write a pastoral prayer first then the sermon. I like the prayer to reflect all the lections; and I like structure. This may take a while...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sundays are long days

We got up yesterday at 5:30ish, took showers, packed the car with changes of clothing and all sorts of other goodies, ate b'fast and were on the road by about 7:20. We got to church #1 at 8:45 and started worship at 9:00; said the benediction at 10:00; handshake ritual and hop into car, drive down the road (17 miles) to church #2. Service starts at 10:30; benediction at 11:30. Handshake ritual, hop in car and drive back to Athens for 1:00 movie -- "Speed Racer." Trip to Sam's for a few things. A small snack at Cracker Barrel, play checkers with the kids in rocking chairs for a bit; back in the car at 5:00 to go to church #2 for covered dish dinner at 6:00. Ate LOADS of food (they sure set a fabulous table at this church!), charge conference at 7:00. Voted to build an annex and incorporate. Jaw-jacked after the meeting until about 9:00 (all the kids were playing with a GIANT frisbee and having a great time). Home by about 10:15. I was really really tired and disappointed that "Deadliest Catch" wasn't on. Bummer.

These are beautiful, spirit-filled, healthy and happy churches. They are different from one another; one is a little "High Church", the other not so much. One is full of family (mostly the same family) -- the other has many different families (but is smaller). One is mostly blue-collar; the other university types. But both seem so much like "home" to me. They have been a balm -- it's a beautiful thing when church IS church. Beautiful.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Structure of the Sermon

Opening with question -- how do we begin to look like (smell like) God?

Parables -- Not Aesop's Fables

Parable for the Day -- the Foolish Sower

Three "things" or "people" in this Parable
  • Seed
  • Sower
  • Soil
Seed -- What IS the seed? (Word of God; Word = Gospel/Jesus; what does it look like? Words/actions)

First part of lection tells us something about the Sower

Sower -- Foolish Sower! Sows like there is 1) no end to seed 2) no end to time 3) no end to patience. (Story about my Dad/centipede grass seed)

Second part -- Jesus tells us about the Soil and how the soil receives the seed -- question: what kind of Soil are we?

Soil -- 4 kinds; hard packed; shallow; thorn choked; good (talk about the difference between Soil and Dirt)

Hard Packed by the path -- the pathways in our hearts are too hard packed; the seed just sits on the surface and the birds swoop in and steal it before it has a chance to germinate.

Shallow -- the soil receives the seed gladly; but it's too rocky and too shallow; the Word only survives for a short time, it's roots are too close to the surface; they get dried out by the hot sun and it wilts under the pressure.

Thorn-choked -- the soil receives the seed gladly; the roots begin to grow and sink into the earth, the fragile little leaves reach out toward the sky ... and then the cares of the world choke the little plant out before it can bear any fruit -- worries about money -- or even the love of money and material possessions and power and prestige. These big nasty thorns choke the little plant.

Good Soil -- But some of the seed falls onto good soil that receives the seed gladly -- it creates a HUGE harvest; not just 10 fold but 30, 60 even 100 fold!

What kind of soil are you going to present to God? (Story about Larry McMurtry) Larry's dad knew one place deeply. What place are you going to know deeply? Are you going to stick to the road? Stay in a ditch? Dwell among the briars? Or are you going to dig deep, enrich your life with the fertilizer of prayer and study? With the gentle waters of a baptized community? With the glorious light of God's presence? Dare we become good soil? (Challenge question)

Word of Hope -- God does not waste anything (personal theology) Story about old seeds in Monastery and sweetgum trees in gutters.

(Note: I tend to have a rather free form sermon style. Tom Long taught me that a sermon should be prepared, not written. So I tend to take into the pulpit an outline (which I usually never look at) and three or four pages containing stories, quotes and illustrations. I know where I want the stories to go -- I just use the sheet as a sort of prop to read from to demonstrate that this is NOT my story. And each time I do a sermon, it's different. This is just the way I do it -- mileage may vary.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Still working toward Sunday

Stories, Quotes, Illustrations

A few years ago, when archaeologists began excavating in the courtyard of a medieval monastery, they found seeds that had been dormant for more than 400 years that had begun to grow. King Henry VIII had closed the monastery in 1539, and herbs tended by the monks died. But they sprouted to life again after the archaeologists disturbed the earth.

Today in the Word, November 15, 1997 from

Larry McMurtry, known for his [book] Lonesome Dove, wrote another book about roads—the many roads he had driven on and the hundreds of miles he had explored across America. At last, returning in memory to the place where he grew up in east Texas, he recalls that his father had seldom gone much farther than the dusty roads near his dirt farm. Comparing his own travels to his father's localized life, McMurtry admits, "I have looked at many places quickly. My father looked at one place deeply."
Leighton Ford, The Attentive Life (IVP, 2008), p. 112 from

What is the difference between soil and dirt?
Dirt is what you find under your fingernails. Soil is what you find under your feet. Think of soil as a thin living skin that covers the land. It goes down into the ground just a short way. Even the most fertile topsoil is only a foot or so deep. Soil is more than rock particles. It includes all the living things and the materials they make or change.

We know more about the dark side of the moon than we do about the earth beneath our feet. This is the teeming domain of amoebas, bacteria, mites, mold, worms, and countless other organisms, so numerous that scientists haven’t even named them all. In fact, there are more creatures in a shovel full of rich soil than human beings on the planet. Journey into the dark, earthy center of it all with Dig It! The Secrets of Soil, a new exhibition from SITES, developed by the National Museum of Natural History with support from the Soil Science Society of America and The Fertilizer Institute.
  • Soil Fun Facts
  • There is soil in your dishes, in the paints on your walls, and in some of your favorite jewelry!
  • There are more organisms in a shovelful of dirt than there are people on the planet!
  • Many of the antibiotics we use to fight illnesses were derived from soil organisms!
  • Did you know it may take up to 500 years to produce one inch of topsoil!
  • There are more than 70,000 different kinds of soil in the United States!

Soil is great entertainment for anyone under the age of 5 (and some of us who are considerably older).
From "Dig it! The Secrets of Soil"

Any fool can count the seeds in an apple. Only God can count all the apples in one seed. ~Robert H. Schuller (lost reference)

Error is a hardy plant; it flourishes in every soil. ~Martin F. Tupper

The Who, What, Where, When and Why
Who sows? God and by extension us
Sows What? Seed/ the Word of God and sows it generously, extravagantly
Sows Where? Everywhere, without discrimination of the type of soil
Sows When? Continually
Sows Why? -- OK, this is always the hard one -- because. Hope for a bountiful harvest.

Historical Background Stuff

Villages at that time -- All people lived in villages. Each had a plot outside the village to which they would travel to plant. Also outside the village: pastures for sheep/goats, threshing floor, perhaps a stoning pit. The path would be hard packed. The area next to the path would have caught the run-off and perhaps was shallow. Each patch was set aside by a margin or hedge that would have weeds/thorns. The middle of the patch would be good soil, enriched over the years with compost. Thus the physical location of each of the soils. So the hearers of this parable would know all these soils -- they would know seed -- and harvest.

Edited: Wouldn't you know it? I broke a tooth on a blackberry seed this afternoon. Shattered it, really. Broke it at 3:00; at the Dentist at 4:00; home by 6:00. I HATE the Dentist. I hate the Dentist even more than I hate IVs. I usually go after taking an Advil (once even a Xanex for a root-canal). I had to go in and I was TENSE.

Now -- how to work that in?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

more cat pictures

My Sermon Starter

I broke a bottle of Bayberry this week in the garage. Not just any bottle -- essential oil. This stuff is smelly. A pound of soap takes only about 6 to 8 drops. A batch of candles takes about 1 drop per candle. I broke a bottle that was 4 oz -- enough for pounds and pounds of soap. Now everything in the house -- and the yard -- smells of Bayberry. I must have stepped in it and tracked it all over the place because even the car smells like Bayberry. It's seeped in through the cat door and we've brought it in through the garage door so that every square foot of this house carries that scent. I must have smelled like it at the grocery store because the lady behind me commented that I smelled so good!

Bayberry has permeated my life. I am wondering about that -- what else has permeated my life? What other essential oils have anointed me so that every move that I make and every step I take smells of something beautiful? Has the Word of God penetrated my life to that extent? Do the moves that I make and the actions I take smell like God? Where can we find these essential things -- these essential teachings so that we can start to take on some of God's own characteristics?

Today's reading is a parable. Now a parable is not like Aesop's fables which have only one possible meaning or moral. The parable of the sower is not like the Grasshopper and the Ant which teaches us to work now if we want to eat later. In fact, some of Jesus' parables turn upside down conventional teaching, placing them on their ear....

So what is a parable ?(more here later)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Blogging Toward Sunday

Romans 8:1-11
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law--indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!"

"Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."

I cannot decide which text to preach on Sunday. This is the beginning of my very favorite chapter in the Bible, but.... this is also only my third sermon for these congregations. I don't know them well yet -- I don't know what they need to hear. And the sower parable - well, these are rural country folk who know much more about this than I. Actually, a lot of the people in my churches are professionals with either the Forestry Service or the Ag Sciences Department at UGA. Who am I to preach this parable to them? And yet, who is better prepared to understand this parable than farmers and researchers into Ag Science?

But there is this:

Things to think about:

  • This parable carries with it a sucker punch. I can imagine the original listeners nodding their heads when Jesus talks about the hard soil along the path -- most of them would have lived in a little village and would have had to traverse a path of hard packed soil to get to their own little patch outside the village. They would have known about plants that wither and die because of being scorched by lack of water, shallow roots and the hot sun. They could imagine seed being gobbled up by hungry birds. They probably got drawn into the story as Jesus teaches so that they are ready to believe that good soil produces fruit -- but the amount! A good yield is ten fold -- here's the sucker punch -- but 30, 60 and 100 fold?? No way!
  • What kind of person wouldn't carefully prepare the soil exactly right? What kind of person would throw valuable seed around like this?
  • Why explain THIS parable?
  • Why this parable at this time?
I always imagine myself as each of the characters in a parable -- here I can see myself as the soil (which kind am I?), the seed (being sent directly from the hand of God) and at times the sower casting out the seed. Perhaps I can also see that within my own self, there are different types of soil -- that there are places that are receptive to God's seed and places that are not.

I think I will start with a story about how my Dad would prepare a patch of ground before he planted -- how he would break up the dirt with a roto-tiller, the get some of the bigger clumps with a spade and even use his hands. How he would enrich the soil with fertilizer, compost and lime, mixing it carefully and then raking it near smooth. How he would place the seed so that none went to waste. How different this is than the parable of the sower -- how foolish the sower seems!

I suppose we really can't tell whose heart is really ready for God's seed -- you really cannot look and tell that the soil of one's life is packed hard. This parable calls for a casting of the seed indiscriminately, blindly, never knowing where it will take root.

And seed will take root in unexpected places -- I'm thinking of the little Sweetgum trees that took root in my Father-in-law's gutters. He didn't clean them for a few years and the leaves and water made a perfect medium for little Sweetgum trees. And I think of the weeds (or what Chaos and Entropy call "wildflowers") that take root between the curb in front of the house and the asphalt. There were dandelions there last year that grew into big beautiful puffballs. Their seed scattered across the asphalt -- it that seed wasted? Are our words and actions wasted? Does God ever really waste anything? Do we have to see the end result or is it good enough to know that we have cast our seed and trust God?

Seeds come from the center of the fruit, for the most part. It's part of a cycle. There must have been fruit in the past for there to be seed NOW. And today's seed could possibly be fruit, given a good place to grow and time.

Things to think about.

Monday, July 07, 2008

I have teh dumbs

This is it! This is how I feel today!
I have teh dumbs.
more cat pictures

Monday Bullets

  • Second Sunday in new appointment; yesterday was longer than the previous Sunday. It was a 10 hour day and by the time the family got home, we all were tuckered out.
  • I've developing opinions about multi-church charges; the stress between the churches really can resemble a form of sibling rivalry. I think my job is to be the non-anxious presence. No sudden movements....
  • I seem to be developing a summer cold. It's not bad but each day it is getting a little worse; I'm going to drink a lot of water; vitamin C and that kind of thing.
  • Johnny Cat is developing some kind of cold as well. Sneezy cat. Gooey eyes. We've looked up therapies on the internet. I've had cats for years -- I can't remember the last time I had a Sneezy Cat. I found people who give their cats Vitamin C (I don't think I'll do that -- I don't know the toxicity of Vitamin C on cats). I love the suggestion to "flush" the cat's sinus cavities with saline water (I can't even pill a cat -- I can see me doing THAT to Johnny.) I guess it's time for a vet visit.
  • Entropy didn't like yesterday. The first part of the day was OK -- It was the visiting after the covered dish dinner that got to her. She had her DS but ran the battery all the way down. There is no playground at the church. It's a real culture shock for her. The churches don't have telephones (or even a mailbox). Our cell phones don't work (Dead Zone!) I understand they don't even have water at times in the year -- the well runs dry. They are miles and miles away from "civilization." When we can get the trailer out there, we can put the teeny weeny cheapo TV out in the trailer, a cheapo DVD player and the unused Gamecube -- but they tell me they can't LIVE without wireless or the internet.... I actually think that this might be a good thing.
  • I am wondering how all this is going to work during the school year. I know I'm tired today. We spend Saturday getting ready for the Estate sale; then had a very long day yesterday. We are going to have to work on this.
  • I need to (ooo ... feel that pressure?) I need to get a bunch of things in the mail, packages, forms, stuffy stuff. I need to get the dishes put up and fill the dishwasher again. I need to do laundry and put it up. I need to do some limited vacuuming (but can't we left the vacuum cleaner in Buckhead at the LH's g'parent's house.) I need to do general pickup-cleanup stuff.
  • But more importantly, I need to figure out Sabbath. For both myself and my family. Yesterday was NOT Sabbath. Without Sabbath, I don't think this appointment is going to work.
  • Oh yeah -- my group of Jurors was not called up today. Thank you, God. I may have to report for Jury Duty tomorrow. We shall see.....
Edited: I found out that not only can people be allergic to cats, mice can be allergic to cats and (get this) cats can be allergic to mice. Talk about food allergies! (I am finding this to be HIGHLY amusing. Shall I get Johnny Cat allergy shots? Oooo... I shouldn't laugh to hard... makes my head hurt worse.)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I'm NOT having fun

I'm NOT having fun shopping for cars.

I can't find what I need much less what I want -- that is for the amount of money the insurance company is giving me. I suppose that is par for the course, but shoot! I had the perfect automobile for my purposes and now I don't.

I'm now asking: what is the lesson to be learned here?

I've been to several car dealerships; the nice ones didn't have the automobiles and the awful one (whose high pressure tactics would earn them a place in Dante's Hell) who just want me to buy a car any car just a car. NOW. I haven't seen such high pressure tactics, well, EVER. "What do we have to do to get you to buy this car today?" (Uh, cut the price in half.) "Why WON'T you consider a loan? Aren't you an American?" (Because I don't want to be in debt. Like the nation. And probably you to the tanning salon.) "Doesn't your husband trust you enough to get a car by yourself." (Uh, it's not trust there, it's the concept of "I don't spend this kind of money without consulting my life-partner first.") "If you marriage is so weak that this will strain it that bad, maybe you are close to divorce anyway." (WHAT?) Then the getting in my way and not letting me exit the building. (PLEASE -- Do it again. I WANT to call the police.)

I'm so drained from the car shopping -- I may just do without. Or buy one on eBay. I Do Not want to go again tomorrow.....

You know, this has me thinking about how we all can be a force for Good or Evil. The Unctuous Pig (Unctuous, Oinktuous, ha ha) with his well oiled tan -- what he was doing can only be called one thing: evil. Today I've had dealings with (shock!) honest used car salespeople. Yes, they do exist and get this -- the honesty can and will pay off. It may not be turn you a quick buck, but a car sold honestly and business that is well earned will eventually get you more business. Hmm... rather like the saying "you reap what you sow'? Get that you Sow? (Sow, pig, ha ha.)

Cutest Cat Ever

Well, maybe I'm biased. But he is dern cute.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

How to Preach the Fourth of July

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus

All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:27-30

This poem of Emma Lazarus' with its stirring words always seem to me to be an odd echo of Jesus' words in Matthew 11. The promise of rest for the weary -- of the easing of burdens. They are both words of hope.

I've been pondering about how to preach the Fourth of July in my new appointment. I think that I will stress the idea of freedom causing responsibility. We, as Americans, have many freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms, freedom to worship as we wish, freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, the freedom to petition, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment and compelled self-incrimination.

Yet these freedoms come with responsibility. A parent can be held responsible for their careless storing of a firearm if their child comes to serious harm. Yes, the parent is free to have and bear that firearm, but they also have the responsibility to take care with it.

Yes, we are free to say or to publish just about anything we want to say; yet you can and will be held responsible for your words; especially in the case of libel and slander. Words are power; words are powerful. Words can make or break a relationship.

More stuff here.

Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist who had been arrested by the Nazi's during World War II. Frankl was a pioneer of modern day Psychotherapy. He had spent years researching his theories and writing a book. When the Nazis came for him, he knew that he probably would never go home again. He had hidden the pages of his book in the lining of his coat. He was processed with other prisoner and was very upset when his coat was taken away by his captors. They replaced his coat with the ragged clothing of another inmate who had been sent to the gas chamber. Frankl said, "Instead of the many pages of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of the newly acquired coat a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, which contained the Shema, the daily Jewish prayer. That is the prayer that goes, "Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might."

All his work exchanged for those words. "Hear, O Isreal!"That page became the turning point for Victor Frankl. It gave him strength to go on. He endured 4 years in the concentration camps. Since he was Medical Doctor, he was put to work treating other prisoners. And he survived that awful imprisonment. "Love the Lord your God."

He decided to use his experiences in the camp to do new research. He became determined to survive the experience and so he could record his findings.

He was thus able to use his theory about the importance of meaning in life in order to survive. That is, he gave meaning to his life even though he was living under the most miserable circumstances imaginable. Despite the near-certainty of death, the beatings, the hunger, and the cold, Frankl found a reason to go on.

This is the core of the human spirit, according to the theory. If we can find something to live for – if we can find some meaning to put at the center of our lives – even the worst kind of suffering becomes bearable.

The last of human freedoms - the ability to chose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances.

In fact, meaning can even be found in our reaction to difficult circumstances. By being determined to preserve some measure of their humanity, in spite of the Nazi’s efforts to steal it away, many were able to survive the concentration camps.

While serving in that capacity, he had an opportunity to observe people under the most trying of circumstances. He saw people as they lived. And he saw them as they died. He had expected that people who were weak would die and those who were strong would survive.

However, that wasn't always true and it caused Frankl to wander if there wasn't something else involved. What he observed became the source of his "Logo Therapy." He noticed that those who live had one thing in common: they had chosen to live rather than die.

He found that when everything else had been taken, friends, food, dignity, health ... the one thing their captors could not take away was choice; the choice to live.

According to Frankl, the last of man's inalienable rights was the right of individual to choose how they would respond in any give situation. Victor Frankl said:" You cannot control your circumstances, but you have the power to control your response to your circumstances."

In other words, you can have peace because you choose peace... you pursue it. But the bible also teaches us that while lust and sin and hate are in the world there will never be universal peace until the prince of Peace comes.

In the meantime however Gods purpose for the human race is that men and women may know a personal peace an inward peace made possible through the redemptive work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In fact, political freedoms really are shallow when compared to true freedom -- real freedom and this freedom, given to us by God, lays upon us the ultimate of responsibility.

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. -- John Diefenbaker.

The last of human freedoms - the ability to chose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances.

Lord Jesus, thou who art the way, the truth, and the life; hear us as we pray for the truth that shall make all free. Teach us that liberty is not only to be loved but also to be lived. Liberty is too precious a thing to be buried in books. It costs too much to be hoarded. Help us see that our liberty is not the right to do as we please, but the opportunity to please to do what is right.
Peter Marshall, Before the U.S. Senate.

What it looks like uncooked

Steel cut oats -- not ground or sliced after steaming, but cut before any cooking. This is basically a de-husked oat kernel cut in either two or three pieces. I've tried a variety of methods of cooking; the rice cooker is working the best so far, if I can figure out how to stop it from boiling over. Next experiment is soak the oats overnight before cooking; from what I'm reading, that will do it.

I looked up Fiber One; 16 grams of fiber in a single bowl. This is a keeper. Oatmeal every other day. Steel Cut Oats -- about 6 grams per cup. Brown rice (after I finish this 50 pound bag of Jasmine Rice.) Apples are excellent. Benefiber and Metamucil. Lentils, Black Beans, Split Peas, Lima Beans and Butter peas -- all have 12 to 15 grams of fiber per cup. Whole Wheat Pasta has about 6 grams per cup. Green peas have about 8. I'm going to build a spreadsheet that has the fiber and the calorie information and build an index of fiber per calories (or something like that.)

Yes, the Math Nerd is emerging.