Thursday, November 17, 2016

CRUNCH TIME

Indeed, it is Crunch Time. Thanksgiving is just a week away! Advent starts a week from Sunday!
I am caught up in a whirlwind of activity.
   I have council Monday night and thankfully, folks were ok with cancelling Tuesday evening Bible Study. Tues is my pick up the turkey and veggies and make stock and rice night. I simply can't be up til 1 am and be in the office the next morning. I am getting too old for that kind of thing.
   I will have to clean house this Friday, declutter the dining room table, pick up a couple of items so that I will be ready for two days of prep and cooking and the day of Thanksgiving. It will all get done and happen.
   Then there is the yearly Christmas letter and cards to write and send. The German one takes at least a couple hours to write.
   Gifts need to be wrapped, packaged and sent.
   Worship services to plan and prepare for. This year being a wee crazy with Christmas eve and Christmas Day service since Christmas falls on a Sunday. We are inviting kids to wear their pj's and adults their Christmas sweaters! It will be a bit less formal and probably shorter than an hour. I don't anticipate there will be many in church.
   Christmas Eve will be a variation of Lessons and Carols and I will do my special communion - with bread in the manger - praying and hoping the visual will touch people as to the gift of God's love come to us, given to us, the life, love, hope, joy and peace and the giving of Christ to us and for us.
   On the third Sunday of Advent, the Bishop will be preaching and presiding and I will be more nervous than normal! It's not every Sunday that one is graced with the Bishop's presence. I have helped with the cooperative confirmation service at which the Bishop presided, but I was just one of many pastors taking part in the service. This is more shoulder to shoulder. I pray I won't goof up on anything that evening. The service will be Saturday and they are cancelling Sunday morning so that everyone will attend Sat. evening and stay for the potluck dinner.
   Then, of course, it'll be New Year's day - and I have to make sure I have all the star words to give out. That will need to happen before long.
    Sigh. I know it will get done, but it is a daunting list and a daunting time.
    I need to remember to pace myself and make space for God to be a part of it all. I will make it through by the grace and help of God.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

RAINY AUTUMN DAY

It's a rainy autumn day and I am back stateside after our trip across the pond and a well-earned, well deserved vacation!
  I did most of the driving in our rented Peugot, which actually I kinda liked. It handled real well. I drove more than I had expected. I did make it up to 140 kph on the Autobahn. We were fortunate to have visited a few Luther sites - although we didn't make it to Eisleben - thanks to all the detours of road construction that weren't necessarily really well marked and losing time by driving through Luther country!!! We did enjoy Wittenberg very much - lovely old town. Unfortunately, the Luther house was closed - which we knew before we left - but it was awesome just to see the outside and know the Luthers lived there. We strolled around Wittenberg which is very stroll friendly and besides
the church, we poked in some shops. Wartburg Castle was also an amazing place. Take the tour, it's worth it otherwise you just see the Luther Room and don't get to see the other parts of the castle. As with all museums, historic sites around the world - you get dumped into the gift shop at the very end!
   Leipzig is a big city and our hotel was on a tram line. Thanks be to God! Parking is horrendous in Europe. We took the tram in and had a marvelous day at St. Thomas and St. Maria churches. St. Thomas is where JS Bach was the organist and my favorite composer. It was a wonderful church with 2 organs. We stayed for quite a while soaking up the history, atmosphere and of music, that transcends time and still touches lives today. Mendelsohn was also composer in Leipzig and there is a statue of him as well. LH bought me two Christmas presents from St. Thomas Kirche!
   We ate well - guess Europeans haven't learned portion control! We never really had a bad meal. Lots of venison as it was game season, and some wild boar. Across from our hotel in Leipzig was a Lebanese restaurant that had the most scrumptious gyro so wonderfully seasoned and different from the ones here.
   In Eisenach, I had a meltdown when I mistakenly drove into the humungous parking lot of a Bosch factory, ran into construction traffic on the way to Wartburg Castle, and then when I should have
turned left into our hotel (there was a sign that had an arrow and 50 meters) but LH said to keep going. You couldn't see the hotel from the road at all. We had seen it when we entered town from the Autobahn. The road looped back to the autobahn and we took the other road and there was the hotel on our left. They had no restaurant, this being the budget hotel with rooms like a dorm room, so that
meant I had to drive back into Eisenach, whose old town is full of one way streets and no parking.
I said that we would stop at the first place we saw. Well, the first place was Burger King - not happening, the second place was a pizza joint - not really. Then I followed a parking garage sign that lead to a small parking garage. The side street was under construction and gravelly. We walked along it and onto the bigger street and lo and behold, a restaurant. There was a huge fountain in front of it.
It was a bit Italian with homemade noodles. LH had liver and onions and I had pork with a gorgonzola b├ęchamel sauce that was to die for. I would've licked the plate if it wouldn't have been gauche!!!! Bellies full we headed back and found the hotel, no problem.
  We spent a day in Luzern shopping and walking, we went up on the Rigi the next and got the panoramic view of the Alps, we spent a day in Alsace - Riquewhir - a lovely old, historic town full of shops, pottery, wine tasting, and restaurants. We enjoyed a cousin gathering of 34 related cousins and many were not able to attend. We ate well with lots of talk and family history until the restaurant kicked us out!!!!!!!!
   I spent a an afternoon with my closest cousin and her husband and enjoyed out dinner and time together.
   We savored fresh croissants, Buenderfleisch (air dried beef) Langjaeger (a jerky sausage), baked perch, and all good things. Shopped for chocolate and cheese.
   Spent time with my godmother and marveled at how much older we are all getting.
   So much has changed in 4 years and 6 years since I was last there. A lot more traffic and lots of
buildings. It was a bit sad - as it Switzerland is losing some of its charm. I did get to hear cow bells and that was just what my soul needed. Everything is so expensive. Germany and France were
 a bit cheaper.
   Now, it's starting a new L church as their interim - just 7 minutes door to door! But they want 3/4 time at 1/2 time. It will keep me busy and on my toes.
   All is well. All is good. I have been refreshed and renewed and back to driving where I know where I'm going!!!!
  

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

SO LOVED

Never have I felt so loved by a congregation than L church. My last Sunday was a week ago Sunday, Sept. 25.
  To my surprise, there was a thanksgiving for conclusion for interim time that the council president fashioned from sources because she wanted more than just the denominational one. All council members took part at various places in the sanctuary.
   Following worship, I was expecting cake and coffee, but there was a hot lunch with chicken, green and wax beans, roasted potatoes, salad and rolls. The council president who bakes made the most beautiful cake and it tasted as delicious as it was beautiful.
   The council president presented me with a copper faith bracelet, a CD of  thanks and well wishes by members of the church and even some nursing home and homebound folks. I couldn't watch it for a few days and had the Kleenex box handy. There was a candle - in the four years with them I burned through a candle at council meetings! There was a card full of cash. There was a table of gifts. And lots of cards. I was sent home with a meal for LH and I, lots of stuff and, more love than I have ever experienced being just an interim.
   I might have expected this at the end of a called pastorate, but for an interim? I was blown away and deeply touched and truly moved. I do feel that I left them better than when I came to them. I pray it continues to just get better. I will miss them all and do miss them.
  It's moments like this that makes up and over for the really crappy ones and makes me feel as though I was about the right things and have touched lives with the heart of Christ.
   Since, then, I had to write a newsletter article for the other L church, I will begin serving the end of Oct. They wanted an Oct newsletter article before I even started. I also officiated their Sat. evening
worship as they were in a bind with no one. In a way, it was good I did, so I see how it is done.
   This past Sunday, I was finally able to worship at M church on World Communion Sunday. I just
felt I needed to be in a faith community celebrating communion. Well, the senior pastor was thrilled and had be preside over communion. Fine. First time in worship with no clue as to how they do things and I'm presiding at the Table!! It all went well after a quick tutorial before worship. There were 2 services with Sunday School inbetween. I got 10 minutes earlier than I had been and got home 20 minutes later than at L church!!! It was a very service with a baptism, receiving new members and communion. I was  tired.
   Did I mention that I started getting sick on Tues and couldn't make it in to M church on Thurs. Spent the day on the couch and slept a lot. I'm still coughing and still a bit stuffed up.\
   So, since I left my position, it's been just as busy as ever.
   Next week - vacation! 2 weeks! Out of the country! No cell phone!
   Now if only LH doesn't get too sick - he's stuffed up now too - we'll be good!
  Loved. Loved beyond measure. Loved beyond being just a mere interim. I feel so blessed!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

DID I EVER MENTION

that God has the most marvelous sense of humor?
Perhaps, in the midst of seasons changing, my leave-taking of one position, and everything going on in the world, a little levity might be in order.
   It was a very hot and dry summer here just south of the North Coast. Many days in the 90's, a real summer. But dry, dry, dry. I had to water the garden and flower beds. A lot. All the lawns in the subdivision were brown - California lawns - well, except for the one fellow who has an in-ground sprinkling system and uses it. It looked something out of the movie, "Erin Brokovich" - where Hinckley is yellow. Hot. Arid.
   One evening while we (LH and I) were eating dinner, there were clouds in the sky but the sun was shining. There were some darker clouds to the North and some to the South, but the sun shone on us.
I remember thinking and probably saying to LH, (more than a few times during the summer), "If only
we could some rain." While I was putting dishes into the dishwasher, and looked out the kitchen windows, lo and behold, it was sprinkling while the sun was shining. I looked over at our next door neighbor's and not a drop fell there. Their deck and gas grill cover was dry as ever. The rain was over my little herb garden.
  Amazing. I ran to the front door and went out on the porch to see the few drops. There was absolutely none at all.
   I smiled and threw my head back and laughed. I could imagine God saying, "Well, you asked for a little rain!"
  And it landed right in the herb garden!
Ha Ha Ha.
   We enjoyed the joke - God and I.
  And it reminded me that God and I are on good terms. When there is humor between us, I know that all is well between us.
   And it was a good joke and full of mirthful delight!
  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

NEAR DONE

My interim time here in L church 1 hour commute each way will be over the beginning of October!
They have called a part-time pastor! Yay! They are so ready to move on and into something new.
I am ready to move on. In some ways, I have rested some on my laurels. Yes, there were the challenges of the Lenten Round Robins, but I guess I'm ready for some new challenges. But that is also what causes anxiety in me. New challenges. What will I be stepping into in the next interim? One never really knows for sure. I have been in the lion's den before. Not easy. But it worked out. I couldn't do as much as I would've like in that situation, but I got them through the worst of it and felt I was a non-anxious presence - which may have belied, what I really felt inside at times! Just had to stay centered and grounded in Christ.
   I know this next interim will not last 4 years! I pray it pays a bit more, maybe a little towards pension or medical would be nice. I have been working for 6 years without any pension or medical. A little would go a long way! That's the breaks when working part-time.
   I also am thinking that should this next interim work out (meeting in Sept), it would be in the town I am living in! I have never served a church in the town in which I resided!!! I was always the one commuting, while LH didn't have that far to commute.
   Which leads into the fact that after 13 years of living in our present community, I don't know all the side streets or even where all the nursing homes are. I just take the main drags to go to the bank, grocery store, library, dry cleaners, gas station, stores, etc. We really don't know anybody in town, except for our next door neighbors. Well, LH may know a parishioner or two from his last called
pastorate, but that is it!
    Guess I'll have to learn my way around town! Finally, after 13 years!
   Also, this is a more high church L church. I am a low life - opps - low church Presbyterian! I will
be challenged. I don't chant and they will have to put up with being called, 'beloved of God'. Hope it
doesn't hurt their L sensibilities!
    I will be stretched no doubt.
   I also realized while driving through town the other day, that every church in town (and there are a myriad of churches) I will be the only female, aside from the Salvation Army couple. WOW! It
never crossed my mind before - all the pastors in town are male. (CMA, DISCIPLES OF CHRIST,
AG, NAZARENE, UCC, CATHOLIC, NON-DENOMINATIONAL- 4 at least , METHODIST, EPSICOPAL, and at least two BAPTIST churches). It will be interesting to see how this works out if there is a ministerial or when working with one or another churches for community events or church observances. Hmmmm....been there before!
   Just have trust God and walk in faith as I have done all these years. In the meanwhile, I pray that  God will make me able to serve in ways that bring health and goodness to the congregation, that God's Spirit inspire me and grant me wisdom, that God and I will keep our good humor, come what
may!
   Now all I have to do is exit graciously while honoring this church's grief and mine after 4 years!
Praying about that as well.

  
  

Monday, August 22, 2016

Olympic Disappointment & Inspiration

Beyond the disappointment of the NBC broadcasting which has never equaled ABC, the whole Ryan Lochte thing is an embarrassment and disappointment.
   Really, Ryan, you embarrassed your teammates, the whole US Olympic delegation and most majorly - your country. Making up some cockamamie story is sophomoric. How old are you? Well into adulthood! You got drunk, did something totally stupid and dumb, and then made up an awful
story that looked badly upon the Brazil and its people. (Granted they deal with enough crime, and bad press as it is).
   Why couldn't you just be honest and take full responsibility for your drunken behavior and actions?
   Then you flee back to the States, leaving your teammates in Brazil to face the music. You hire an
attorney to write an apology, dye your hair back to its natural color to look like the innocent boy next door, and then you don't have the courage, moral fiber, or decency to admit you LIED. No, you had to call it an "over-exaggeration." How stupid do you think we are? You LIED. No over exaggeration with that! Just say you lied. Man up and admit it. Then get on with the rest of your life, having learned some valuable lessons.
   I hope you don't represent the US again in any international competitions. You are a major embarrassment. I don't feel sorry that you are losing your sponsors. That's what happens when you LIE and do dumb things. Take responsibility for yourself, your actions and your behavior.
  Sorry, had to get that off my chest. There is altogether too much "spin" from media, attorneys and politicians. Just.be.honest. Don't deny. Don't lie. It's pretty simple.
   On the other hand, I was most impressed with Abbey D'Agost (?) can't remember the spelling, so sorry. She was the runner who tripped over a fallen competitor and then helped her competitor up so they could finish the race together. Now there's a true Olympian. She should be on a box of Wheaties! Sponsors should be knocking on her door. No, she didn't win the race or medal. But she finished the race showing compassion and sportsmanship that so many don't show. She is epitome
of true sportsmanship and the epitome of Olympic Spirit. I hope to see more of her and hope that
sponsors will come knocking at her door. She inspires. She encourages. She is an example to all young, aspiring athletes. She is an inspiration and example to all current athletes. Abbey will
probably be overlooked by sponsors since she didn't win (and oh, it's all about winning isn't it - well look at the embarrassing Lochte!). But they should snap her up! Because she is one we all can
look up, and say that is the best in human spirit. This is what sports and the Olympics is all about -
yes, one wants to win, but sometimes its about much more - personal bests, and being an upstanding
human being.
   The Summer Olympics are over for another 4 years. I pray that the next group of athletes already
preparing and practicing will take these examples to heart and lift up the world by their actions
instead of embarrassing nations by them.

  

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

AUGUST

Ahh, August. Hard to believe it is already here. August means that summer is dwindling down and families are preparing for the start of a new school year.
   My time at L Church is dwindling down. The pastoral candidate will preach on the 21st with a congregational vote to follow. I will be leaving sometime in September.
   There might be a new L church to serve closer to home, which would in a way, be nice and I won't have to contend with the hour commute one way, and put fewer miles on my van which has enough miles for a van twice its age! Fortunately they are mostly highway miles.
   There will be some grief as after nearly four years I have come to love and know these folks. But it is time - time for them to move forward into something new, time for me to move on also into something new.
   I will miss the L cluster and the neat things they try to do together - Lenten Round Robin with all our churches, some joint services - Epiphany, Ascension, etc. and joint confirmation classes which
I have been a part of and enjoyed even though it meant long Sundays. It was good to get to know these wonderful L pastors and all they do and how they serve.
   I will miss the cookies of the baker here at this church. They are the best iced sugar cookies I have ever had.
   I will miss the choir here - small but talented.
  I will miss seeing the Reservoir I cross on my way here and Lake Milton.
  I won't miss some of the traffic through Akron - especially now until I leave. Carmeggedon has
just begun in Akron - with bridges being rebuilt and lanes and ramps closed. It will be a veritable
nightmare.
   I will miss the homebound folks that I visit regularly and bring communion.
  Sigh. It is part of my journey to move on and along. Even our Lord had no place to rest his head, and was ever on the move. This has just been a more prolonged rest along the way.
   I am grateful to the Lord that I have been able to serve here and for these 4 years of employment - even if it was without medical offset or pension. LH and I have managed. Grateful that LH has
insurance and he gets pension, even if the medical costs us as much as our monthly mortgage!
    Being a "tweener" or interim is always wondering what comes next and trusting mightily in
God that there will be another congregation to serve and to prepare for new pastoral leadership. It
also means trusting God that my gifts and what the congregation needs will work together well.
Moving on the next church is always stepping into the unknown. I try not to be too anxious and
spend much time in prayer in preparation.
    August will most likely go rather quickly and slowly I will begin to move things out and
celebrate with L church that their interim journey is ending and a new beginning is before them -
full of hope and possibility.
   I pray for a good ending here and new life that awaits them and even me!