Thursday, March 21, 2019

NEW SLOGAN

I'm thinking up a new slogan for L church which is a downtown church in our small town.
I  read a blurb in our weekly local paper, just one paragraph, about something an upstart, non-denominational church which meets in the high school on Sunday mornings is planning.
  The church has been around about a year or two at most. I don't know who they are affiliated with.
The get an awful lot of press when it comes to our community First Friday events, which L church
participates in most months. Infact, I headed the Pirate Palooza last August and decorated the walk the plank area with seaweed from green trash bags woven into fish net, boxes labeled "RUM" and
small box labeled "POLLY"S CRACKERS", plus gave out pirate certificates for walking the plank, along with candy, gold plastic coin, Pirate's Lemon Rum (lemonade) and Fish & Chips (cups with goldfish and potato chips). Even another non-denominational church did a walk the plank, but ours was off the ground and better looking. Did we get our picture in the paper? No. But this upstart church did and gets on the front page nearly every month - just because they occupy the Gazebo in the middle of downtown. We're just a block north of the Gazebo and have yet to get our picture in the paper.
   It appears that this church is going to hold an egg drop - renting a helicopter to drop gazillions of plastic Easter eggs on the football field on April 6th. There will be some entertainment plus there will be prizes given away - local restaurant gift cards, big screen TV, Xbox, and a Nintendo Switch, amongst the big ticket items.
   Now I ask, what does this have to do with Easter? (Aside from the eggs?)
   This is what a church does to draw members?
   Feeding into the consumeristic and what's-in-it-for-me mentality? That church is about entertainment and what we get out of it, rather than the offering of ourselves to God?
   What a poor example of stewardship and call to faith.
   Perhaps, since I entered a new decade, I'm now of fuddy-duddy age, but really? I simply cannot believe this.
    So I am contemplating putting a new slogan out front of the church - "We Invite and Don't Bribe"
    Maybe we're not flashy, maybe we're mainline, but maybe we are grounded in stewardship, doctrine, grace, and what it means to live our faith in Christ Jesus in community and out in the world.
I think about the money being spent on this venture and know that 3 local agencies could well use that money - a shop that gives out diapers, and items that kids need, a group that helps folks pay their rent, electric, gas or water bills, and the Salvation Army that gives out food, school supplies, & runs an after-school program. Every mainline church in town supports these 3 agencies and they help many people in our community.
   I'm not saying church can't be fun and do fun things - but when it is excessive and feeds into the entertainment, narcissistic, consumerism of society, then I have problems with that.
   Or am I just an old fuddy-duddy?
   In the meanwhile, I still like the "We Invite and Don't Bribe."
Any thoughts?  
 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Appalling

Simply appalling how people, celebrity or not, think they are the exception to the rule and live so unethically, to find ways to circumvent the system and get their darling child into college.
Perhaps, their "darling" child has no interest in college - just going for the parties. Send them to community college or don't send them at all until they decide that is what they truly desire - an education to make a contribution to the world.
   And who is to blame? The parents. Parents who are helicopter parents. Step in and take over for their child. Who don't encourage their child to get a part-time job in high school to learn how to work, to be responsible, to answer to a boss, to get along with co-workers, to earn your way. These are privileged children who haven't had to lift a finger, had things done for them, and lead very shallow lives. Their parents have done their "darling" children a great disservice.
   It is amazing, that as a child of immigrant parents, I went to college and graduate school. I had chores as a child, my parents were not able to help me with "new math" foreign to their learning, nor did I have help in English and writing papers. Indeed, I had to correct and write my father's business letters. Instead of my asking for help with my papers and essays, my Dad came to me to make sure
the grammar and word usage was correct! It was expected that we make the honor roll, to try harder, to practice until we get it, to set goals, to go to college. And I did it on my own. My parents never typed a paper for me, never filed out an application, work or school, for me. I had a newspaper route. I had piano lessons, I played flute in band, I was a thespian, on speech team, in the German Club, and synchronized swim club. In my junior year of High School, I got a part-time job and surrendered some of my activities for work. I worked in college, sometimes for a mere pittance. But that money paid for over three years of college(yes, my parents helped much to pay for tuition & room & board), and some incidentals. I lived on campus, I ate on campus. Once every month or two, I would get a pizza, or a Hardy's Hot Ham & Cheese sandwich. That was a luxury. I never went on Spring Break - if I wanted to go on a trip - I was expected to pay for it, not my parents. Yes, it was living austerely, but I didn't want for anything.
   I took my own SAT and ACT tests, once. I didn't ace them with over the top scores. Mine were average. I applied to a private college, which provided me with a double-major and was a listed best buy school with a very good and solid reputation. I did go to community college for two years and took all the required classes for cheap, lived at home and worked part-time. I was accepted into the college of my choice and all my credits transferred.
   I graduated, got accepted into grad school. I wrote my own papers, read the books (or most of them!), I even passed all my Standard Ordination Exams on the first try. I am not the most stellar student. I am not brilliant. I am average. But I work hard, and am responsible. I was taught to value education and that it is something earned and something one doesn't take for granted. College and post-graduate study is not about social life, but education.
   I grew up in a faith community, in a small Presbyterian Church. We gave a nickel or dime every time we went to Sunday School - we put the coins in the small white plastic church with slot in the roof and it went to missions. Mom would also pick up a can of food, bag of rice, flour or sugar, at least once a month that went into the collection box at church. We weren't rich by any means, but we grew into the call to be giving and generous as Christ was. We learned that God loves us, forgives us, brings us hope and life. I went to Vacation Bible School every summer. We learned to be honest, to be fair and to treat others fairly and justly just as we would want to be treated. To love God and to love others as ourselves. To keep a promise. To forgive and be forgiving. To live into the calls of our lives - to care for others, those in need, for creation, to be kind, to do things and for others without expecting praise or reward - do it because it is the right thing to do, the loving thing to do, the things God desires us to do. I have never handled being lifted up and sometimes being publicly thanked (like a thank you lunch, and being showered with gifts for serving as an interim) very well. I am so painfully self-conscious. I would prefer just riding off into the sunset and next position and giving my best in the next congregation. A simple note of thanks is more than enough for me.
   I learned to keep my word and not give it unless I can keep it. To live with integrity - be ethical and honest - even when no one is watching or notices. I can't fool God anyway, who knows everything, so why bother?
   So I am simply appalled that these privileged parents have done such a disservice to their children. They have ruined their careers, jobs and set an awful example to their children - to lie, to cheat their way ahead in life.
   If I, an average student, can make it (ok, I don't have a high-powered career, but that was not my call in life), into a good college, well-regarded graduate school and be a professional in my field for over 34 years ( with next to no wealth to show for it - at least monetarily), they can certainly make it on their own without their parent's misguided intervention.
   I am saddened that in our present society - that cheating and lying is the way to make it in life., be it getting into a college, graduate school, or on one's resume to get a job. I didn't benefit from my parent's connections to people or job networking - they really didn't have a huge social network. Yet, I am here. I am still serving. I am still living with integrity.
    How truly sad that these children have been so coddled, so unchallenged, given so little responsibility for themselves, and given such a poor example of how to live and have integrity. They have been cheated in their life and their shallowness reflects that. I am saddened that this is a generation which will one day be in charge without their parents to interfere, to smooth everything out for them, to make things happen for them. They will have to do that on their own and I fear for the world, when the selfish, ungrateful, incompetent are in charge. But perhaps, through the ages, that has always been the case to some degree.
     I stand for all those who have made it on their own merit, worked hard, put their energy, time and talent to whatever they have been called to and where their passion lies. I applaud all those parents who make their children do their own work, but merely lend an occasion helping hand, who allow their children to fail, to make mistakes, to be disappointed at not making a team or group and encouraging them to work at it, to practice harder and try it or try out again, or offer an alternative better suited to their abilities. I give thanks to parents who encourage their children to get a job, do a chore, take on some responsibilities, who don't give their children everything or give in to their children's demands or wants every time, who know how to discipline and set boundaries that are to be respected, who live by example what it means to give and be generous with out lives, our money, our talent, our gifts, who give their children a faith foundation - so that kids grow up knowing they are loved by One greater than their parents, live with hope, learn what forgiveness is and how to forgive, to know true peace and goodness in life amidst the hard and challenging, who keep their word and live ethically being a model and example to their children.
    Perhaps, it all sounds old-fashioned, but these are eternal and timeless qualities, lessons, and ways of being and living in the world, that have withstood time, pressure, governments, wars, poverty and wealth. They never go out of style or fashion. Not everyone can be bought.
    This scandal, too shall pass. But for now, may it stand as reminder that there is a better way, to be honest and genuine, to know that we cannot do everything for our children and they must do for themselves - even when it is hard and difficult - and our hearts ache to ease the way for them. Allow them the opportunity to see what they can accomplish on their own. You and they will be amazed, energized, and astounded. Life becomes richer and more wonderful than ever. This is the gift to give our children! And you will never be appalled or disappointed. You won't compromise your integrity and children will be ever grateful to live into the life they have been called into and be successful in more ways than one.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

AN EPIPHANY SABBATICAL

well, perhaps not quite. I will be absent all of Epiphany due to my foot surgery tomorrow and being off my feet.
  I pray that when all heals, I will be able to walk without pain. I have a collapsed metatarsal arch, two toes next to big toe that are bent and can't be straightened meaning the knuckles are rubbing on the top of my shoes (ouch), and a bunion (which I would live with). So, much will be done to fix my foot.
  I am not a thin person and have been contemplating being on one foot. I'm not that coordinated with crutches, but have a borrowed knee scooter which will help tremendously. Getting out of the car and into the house with 4 steps will be a huge challenge. My husband will have to push my butt as I hop up each step. I also realize that pushing 60, I am not as flexible nor can I hop as I could when I was younger.
  I have been stewing over how to use the rest room without resting my heel on the floor - there is no other way. Getting dressed will also be an issue - I suppose wiggling and squirming on the sofa bed will the way to do it. I'm not looking forward to not showering for a month. Sponge baths are just not the same and will need to use the knee scooter in the process.
   It's the logistics of it all that concern me the most. I am not a flamingo!!!
   Just getting out of bed and onto the scooter will be a major feat. Perhaps, it will get easier in time as I adapt and figure out what works best.
   I keep reminding myself that this too shall pass. It is a temporary inconvenience for less pain and the ability to walk well again.
  I'm thinking that we'll use the van and I will scoot onto the middle of the van floor, with 4 pillows to elevate my foot on the drive home. Kinda like a beached whale. Then LH will need to hold my foot while I scoot to edge of the van and with crutch and handle lift myself up and onto the scooter to the stairs in the garage.
   There will be the obligatory icing and elevating of the foot and that will fill my first days.
   I have undergone surgery to fix my torn quads twice (one each knee, 7 years apart). But at least, I could bear weight even if the leg was in a hinged brace. I'm thinking that the pain can't be near as bad as that was which I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
   I will spend time working on Lent and Ash Wednesday after the first couple weeks and as I can use the computer with my foot on an ottoman, at least for an hour or two at a time.
   I am trying very hard not to be too anxious, but really, the logistics is what concerns me most.
  Thankfully, my sister will be here Mon-Fri morning and that will lift my spirits.
   I pray my husband makes good on his promise to do some housecleaning and not leave me with 6 weeks of dog bunnies, dirt and grime to clean when my 6 weeks are up.
    I don't know how this will go. I have one of the best foot surgeons, so I am confident in his skill. It's the aftermath and the doing basic, what should be simple things and will then be complicated, that worries me.
   My God bring me through this time of healing and not do any damage to what has been repaired.
May I not be too anxious and trust that there are ways of doing things that I can handle. And may I heal well and good so that I can walk pain free again, and up and running by Lent!!!
Please pray for me, for patience, for wisdom, for healing. Your prayers will support me and give me hope that I can do this. Heartfelt thanks, St Inuksuk.

Monday, October 01, 2018

WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE?

It was a busy summer and only had a breather the beginning of August.
  Now the hectic fall season in the life of the church has begun - Confirmation Classes, Evening Bible Study & Early Communion Classes for the month of October. Plus, 2 non-member weddings where I
play the role of wedding coordinator only - mikes on, lights on, doors open and locked, etc. putting in more time than for which I am getting paid.
   The church has been struggling with major deficit, giving is down, attendance is not what it has been. I fear that folks have lost hope in their church family. Oh, there are some very committed and involved people, but they can't do it all. The church continues to reach out in the community with their monthly free community dinner, participation in First Friday, Scare on the Square for Halloween, Candlelight Walk in Nov with a chili dinner, our organist planning another Christmas Concert in December.
   Now we enter the season of Stewardship (which really is all year long). And there is not enough money coming in to meet shaved down monthly expenses. It breaks my heart. I have spoken of the joy of giving and all that, but it changes not. I will keep at it and then there will need to be the conversation of continuing until there is no money or closing up.
   LH and I had a week away taking a trip to Iceland. It was amazing, wild and untamed. The mountains and landscape is mostly volcanic. The rain comes and goes as does the sun. The wind seems to be near constant. (course we had 2 days of high wind warnings.) It was ruggedly beautiful. We stayed on the coast, a lighthouse was our neighbor and, bless my soul, we caught the Northern Lights two nights in a row. How utterly amazing, splendorous, captivating! It was worth freezing in the wind!!! We drove the Golden Circle, spent a day in Rejkeyvik (pardon the spelling), drove not quick to Vik (too long a drive) and saw black sand beaches, spent relaxing time in the Blue Lagoon,
drove to a really neat waterfall and thermal springs. Saw fish drying on outdoor racks. Ate plenty of lamb hotdogs and fresh fish and lamb. Did a lot of walking and driving. Am grateful for the opportunity to visit Iceland (although it is very expensive) and thrilled to have seen the northern lights.
   Now comes the business and craziness of church life in the fall. May my memories of Iceland serve to bring me through this time and may the ancient Icelantic symbol of guidance bear me through so that I do not lose my way or my bearings through this busy time and season.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

THE GRACE OF VBS

It was indeed, a full week of VBS - two evenings at L church, 2 mornings at M church, and Friday evening (my day off) at L church. I just couldn't abandon the kids!!!
   At L church the second night of VBS coincided with our monthly free community dinner which
serves not only the indigent in our community but has included, widows, widowers, one man with a wife in a nursing home, and a few senior couples who all like to eat together. So, although we may have begun this ministry and mission with one need in mind - it has flowered open to include those whose needs we didn't originally know to serve.
   Well, there was an older woman there that night and saw the kids eating dinner too, for VBS and
asked if her granddaughters could stay to attend to VBS. She was given a resounding YES! So, those girls were with us the rest of the week. They were visiting from out of state, had something fun and
interesting to do in the evening with other kids. Grandma got free entertainment in the evening for her granddaughters, and a bit of respite. The girls had such fun and enjoyed VBS so much, that grandma told me, they just jibber-jabbered away on the phone with their mom!!!
   Remember those twin boys that were a handful? Well, they have vision problems and also
most likely ADHD. On Wed. evening, the bible lesson person had set up 4 little orange cones and a small soccer  ball that they kids were to lightly tap around the cones. She chose one of the twins to
start - the boys aren't very athletic - probably due to their vision problem. He struggled some but
we encouraged him. His twin was next and had problems also, but encouraged him. When the next
child went up, those two twin boys - shouted his name, and go and yay! They cheered every single child in the group as they took their turns. They were the cheering section and got the others to cheer for each one. The very gift of encouragement displayed, given, lived and offered. They have that gift of encouragement a thousand-fold! I had tears in my eyes! What a gift they gave each child as they
cheered them on. They tried harder and did better because of all the encouragement they received.
I believe those twins taught us the lesson that evening! What if we encouraged others in that same way in our own lives? What if we encouraged our parishioners that way? Hmmmm….Who were the ones who encouraged us? How do we live the gift of encouragement given to us?
   What a grace unfolded in VBS! God is full of surprises even in the most unlikely persons!
   On a side note, I would encourage manufacturers of VBS materials - no matter which company -
that most kids, even in a week, cannot perform the songs and dances that are choregraphed mini
Disney numbers. Are you for real? Come on! Make the songs simpler with less wordy verses, a
catchy refrain and bit less choregraphy. Keep it simple so they can learn it and perform it. Even M church with 107 kids - didn't get the movements down and lyrics down in the week. (They used a different program than L church). The kids just ended up bopping to the music. In an effort to make the music jazzy and modern - you have left most kids behind - who aren't able to replicate the video.
Retool and rethink your music sections!
   I am ever amazed at the grace of VBS whether 20 kids or 100 kids - all the learnings, seeds of faith planted, fun, and the way God ever continues to be a part of it all and working ever in our midst.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

MANIC MONDAY

It's just another manic Monday...as the song goes, so did my Monday. Back from a short vacation, I was in the office catching up and working on Sunday's service. The secretary tells me someone wants to see me - an indigent seeking money. I inform him of the two services in town and give him directions. Back to work. Then the secretary tells me that the parishioner who died while I was on vacation is being buried at the national cemetery at 1;30 pm. I call the widow, did she want me there to do the committal service, yes she would. I check with her son who had made all the arrangements and didn't want to step on the toes of the pastor who did the funeral service.(the son's pastor). Nope, that pastor wasn't going to be there, and yes, they would like that. So, I gather up my things, drive home, gulp down some lunch, change into clergy duds, and off  I go. Despite construction on the way, I had no delay through town and got to the cemetery too early. The group ahead was escorted out. I stayed to the side and noticed a car ahead of me also stilled pulled over, then the woman looked oddly familiar. One of our parishioners who was related to the deceased (which I didn't know). Finally all had gathered at 1:15 pm, then we waited until 1:30 pm when we were escorted to the shelter for the military farewell and the committal service. I was watching the clock a bit as I had a scheduled appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. Although it was all fairly short, I had to follow folks out and all the way through town, get home, change out of black (it was near 90 degrees that day) and put on my linen dress and other sandals, fill my water bottle with ice and off I went. I was to be at the doctor's office (part of a major clinic) at 2:45 pm for a 3 pm appt. I got there with a couple minutes to spare, got checked in and had to fill out a form and then waited...waited...finally got called and put in an exam room. The nurse did her routine, then said I needed to get my left foot xrayed
there for better viewing than the ones I brought in. After another wait, I was taken for the xray, then back to exam room to wait and wait some more. My husband calls, where are you? I'm still at the doc's office, well, his car is ready to be picked up after a side mirror replacement, can you drive me?
They close at 5 pm. Don't know, haven't been seen and it is 4 pm. Finally the doc comes in and shares the disheartening news - not as minor as I thought. Major foot surgery, collapsed metatarsal arch, bunion and fix two toes. Out for 6 weeks - crutches, walker, etc. Need to do a CAT scan yet on the foot. Sends nurse back in to schedule CAT scan and give me 2 metatarsal pads. Off I hobble to the car, a little dazed. Drive home and it is 4:45 pm I honk as I pull up the driveway. No response. I open the door of the house and yell for LH, no answer. He must've gotten a ride from the fix-it place.
I refill water bottle with fresh ice and off I go to church for VBS opening night! I get there at 5:15 pm and thinking I got there with 15 minutes to spare only kids were already eating. They started at 5 not 5:30! (That was a mistake on a sign - and now they start at 5:30 pm) I eat my chicken nuggets and tater tots and we're off. I am the guide leader for the 1st & 2nd graders with two twin boys who are
a handful. I know why Mom signed them up - she needed a couple hour's break!!!! Go through all the stations and at the close 8:10 pm, I'm off to Walmart to replenish snacks for our DD group of 3 who are working at the church all July - weeding & cleaning mostly. I supply a snack for them - nutrigrain bars, granola bars, muffins etc. I also needed to pick up 4 gallons of blue raspberry punch for VBS.
I load up the snacks and find the juice - it's refrigerated! I don't have room in my fridge for 1 gallon jug let alone 4. So, I drive back to the church to drop off the juice in the church fridge. I get home, and a little after 9 pm. I wash the coffee pot and a couple miscellaneous things, put my foot up for an
hour and the make my salad for the next day's lunch. At 11:20 pm I am off to bed, exhausted.
I am thankful, I was able to officiate this parishioner's committal as I felt so bad at his death while I was gone - it was sudden and unexpected. I am thankful for all the children who are taking part in
VBS. I am thankful that I know what is wrong with my foot since December when I injured it running through an airport terminal. It has gotten worse over time. So, inspite and despite all the
mania of Monday, I am thankful and grateful, especially the God was with me throughout the day, and for a blessed night's sleep!
  Tuesday morning was VBS at the other church! Tonight, another round of VBS at L church and tomorrow morning the last day of VBS for me at M church! Always a busy, blessed time with VBS!



Wednesday, May 02, 2018

SPRING HAS FINALLY SPRUNG!

Yay! Here it is May 2nd and finally, there is sunshine and warm weather. The Bradford pears burst into full bloom yesterday and it is a lovely sight to see them line the long street in our subdivision.
That didn't happen last year due to a late frost, but this year they are glorious; a showy white.
  I haven't done much in the flowerbeds or garden because its been so cold. I have pulled some weeds, many more to go, and grass that needs to be dug up - why does it grow where it shouldn't and doesn't grow where it should? - and planted a couple hardier herbs - curled parsley, tarragon, rosemary and got carried away and planted the dill. I'm not sure the dill made it. I have to put in the crumbled egg shells and top it with Sweet Peet - best compost ever.
  I'll need to pick up a couple more herbs and my tomato seedlings, plus plant my flower seeds.
 Sigh, all in the month when there is so much going on.
 I make a list to remember everything I need to do in a triage fashion.
  Friday - raffle drawing for lift ride at church - should be there 8:30 pm at our downtown First
               Friday - need to call winner immediately since the lift ride is 1 pm next day.
              Sat - at church 12:30 pm, to meet the mayor who is doing the first lift ride at 1 pm,
                      roofer will stay a couple hours and offer lift rides for $5.00 to see town from
                     on high. I may just do it - for the once-in-a-lifetime experience but am a bit
                    scared of heights!
         Tues - Lunch Bunch at M church, need to cook chicken taco meat Monday evening
         May 12 - Car Show at church - stop in for lunch, see some cars, & take a swing at
                        smashing a car
       May 13th - Mom's Day, Grad recognition - wrap gift, sign card, bring in Teacher Thanks
                          gifts, bring in paper tea cups (presently cutting them out - then folding, cutting
                          slit, and putting a tea bag between the cups and threading the bag tea onto
                          the front of one cup, then glue dotting the tea tag to the cup and glue dotting
                          the folded cup together) why do I find this stuff and then spend time doing it
                         all? Because I love and care!
       May 20th - Pentecost and Confirmation - would love to hang strips of  red, yellow, orange
                          crepe paper but haven't figured out where and how - since this is a cathedral
                          church. Make up gift bags for confirmands and sign their cards.
 Somewhere along the way, I need to reschedule my massage, and I'm due for a pedicure, maybe after I clean house next Friday!
    May is a busy month in the life of the church, in the lives of people in the church, so much
going on in the schools as everything comes to a hilt before summer break.
   But it is a beautiful time of year and I am savoring green grass, the flowering trees and all that's
finally coming into bloom - COLOR! How it brings the soul to sing to see it all!
    In the busyness of all you are a part of this month - look around you! See the color, notice
what is blooming and growing, let it fill you, speak to you of new life and energy. Be grateful
and appreciative and feel blessed.