Thursday, November 29, 2007

introvert > extrovert

I haven't had a personality test fix in a while so when I stumbled across this one I decided to give it a go (and waste 10 minutes that could have been spent working on my seminary entrance essay).
Surprise, surprise! It says I am an INFJ.
It's that damn "Which do you prefer: going out or staying home?" question...it gets me every time.


Click to view my Personality Profile page

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Here we go again...

Ahhhhhh, a day off from work.
I’ve spent the morning doing laundry, cleaning out my closet, pulling out my winter clothes, and cleaning up the kitchen.
I did all of this not just because it needed to get done, but because the alternative activity I had planned for today was getting to work on my seminary entrance essay.
Our house is always at it’s most cleanest when I’m in procrastination mode.

My reluctance to get started partially stems from a ‘been there, done that’ feeling that’s hanging over my head. I did this all already. The essay, the recommendations, the financial aid applications, the endless waiting and worrying.

Now the process starts all over again.
And I’m staring at a blank page that will be my admissions essay.
When I made the decision to defer admission to the Boston school and apply to the NYC school for next year I had delusions of recycling the same essay.
After reviewing the application for the NYC school I’ve realized that I’m not getting off the hook that easy.

The Boston school asked for a “Reflection Essay” centered on questions about my faith journey, my career aspirations and the personal/social/political issue that most concerns me. Right up my right-brained alley.

The NYC school requires an “Admissions Statement” that is less interested in my spiritual journey and calling, and more interested in my academic interests and theological struggles. Which requires an unexpected detour to my lesser used (since I graduated) left-brain alley.

Where the Boston school asks the applicant to “describe the ministry to which you feel called and the gifts you see yourself bringing to that ministry,” the NYC school requires the applicant to ‘state a major theological dilemma that you wish to analyze during your studies at Seminary, and explain in detail the importance of this intellectual problem for you.”

Ouch.

While the Boston application seems directed towards those with aspirations towards ordained ministry, the NYC application seems stilted towards those with more academic ambitions.

And therein lies my problem.

I can go on for pages when asked to write about my faith journey and the call I feel to the ministry. Responses to those kind of questions just seem to flow out of me.
But this ‘theological dilemma’ question has me at a standstill.
While I’ve wrestled with theological issues on and off throughout my spiritual journey and as a Religious Studies major in college, I’ve never really sat down and pondered one particular theological issue at length. That’s just not where my primary interest lies. I want to help people; minister to their needs, lift them up and help them move closer to God. While addressing all of the theological questions that get stirred up simply by mentioning the word “God” is fascinating to me, it’s not THE reason why I want to go to seminary.

Sigh.
I’m just whining and procrastinating because writing from the heart is so much easier for me than writing from the head.

So.
Here I sit in front of a blank page pondering whether theodicy, the divinity of Jesus, the effectiveness of petitionary prayer, or the ‘grace through faith or works’ debate is THE theological dilemma that I can’t wait to wrestle with while at seminary.
Then I’ll have to do some reading/research to come up with some wordy, intellectual sounding details to flesh out my position, such as “According to Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, God allows evil to exist so that good may come of it…”

I know once I get started the creative pull will take over and I’ll find a way to tie in both the head and the heart. But it’s the getting started that has me dragging my feet.

You know, the bathroom could use a good scrubbing… and that dishwasher isn’t going to unload itself.

Off to work I go!
La de da de da!




Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sickie wickie

Well it has finally happened.
After 3 years of being the picture of health I have managed to come down with a cold. A nasty sore-throat,runny-nose,plugged-ears, chills, feels-like-my-head-is-going-to-explode cold.

This cold conveniently descended upon me last night, on the eve of my scheduled day off which I had foolishly agreed to give up so my boss could take the day off instead (*cough...brown nose....cough*).
I also had a dentist appointment this morning to replace a cracked filling, and I have my period, both of which added to the misery of having to yank myself out of bed this morning.

While the dentist put in a temporary filling and gave me the bad news that the tooth needs a crown and possibly a root canal (ka-ching$), in my sick-induced-fog I managed to make another appointment for next week and head off to work, completely forgetting that I was supposed to stay at the dentist for an 11 a.m. cleaning.
While I was so looking forward to having my gums scraped with sharp pointy instruments, I can't say that I'm sorry I didn't add to my ears-nose-and-throat misery by throwing my sensitive teeth and bleeding gums into the pain pile.

I re-scheduled the cleaning for next week right after the crown fitting/root canal.
By then I hope to be over my cold, over my period, and lucid enough to say "no" to all attempts to relieve me of my day off.

Let's put it this way, I felt so crappy today I didn't even feel like opening boxes and shelving books.
I must be running a fever.



Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sox it to me


My SO and I are kicking back and watching the Red Sox tonight in game three of the World Series.
The Sox are my adopted team since the NY Mets went into a nose dive and decided they'd rather be playing golf in October than baseball.

The ability to adopt teams is one of the good things about being a transplanted New Yorker in western CT. When my home team loses (Mets/Jets) I have the Sox and the Pats to fall back on...and they actually win.
I like having options.
It's kind of like the TV selection in western CT... we get two versions of each network - we get the CT CBS/NBC/ABC and the NY CBS/NBC/ABC. It's great. If we don't like the football game on the NY CBS we switch to the CT CBS and get a different game. If the NY NBC preempts the Ellen Show for a Bush press conference (ack!) I can watch Ellen later in the day on the CT NBC. If the CT CBS decides that a cat stuck in a tree in downtown Hartford is worthy of having a "film-at-11" news ticker running continuously across the bottom of the screen during C.S.I, then we can switch over to the NY CBS and enjoy the show in peace.
Having options is a beautiful thing.

Of course the best thing about rooting for the Boston Red Sox as a NY Mets fan?
Reveling in our common hatred of the NY Yankees.

Go Sox!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Kitten therapy



This is Sophie.
She has won 82% of her battles on KittenWar.com

This morning I have to go grocery shopping, clean up some cat poop in the dining room, fill two vacancies on the Sunday School schedule, and make a dentist appointment.

I'd rather sit here and look at Sophie.

Readers: feel free to forget about whatever is weighing down your mind and stare at Sophie for awhile...works like a charm!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Falling Forward



Today is one of those windy, grey fall days that just screams "October."
The temperatures have yet to fall to fall levels (still low 70's) but the leaves are starting to disappear leaving behind those mournfully bare branches that will be with us until next April. Sigh......
Why isn't there any Halloween candy in this house yet?
I need a Twix fix.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sunday School Shenanigans

I’ve managed to make it through my third Sunday of teaching Sunday School this fall and I think I’m finally starting to realize that trying to rectify what I expect to happen in class and what actually happens is futile. It’s like forcing Felix Unger and Oscar Madison to set up house together. While the former approaches the situation with an orderly, and well-thought out plan, the latter is determined to obliterate all sense of order under a pile of dirty laundry and empty pizza boxes.
My lesson plan may say “The children will now join hands in prayer” but what it should say is “The children will now drag all of the chairs into the center of the room and try and make a fort.”

My grand plan for this year was to separate our single all-age class into two age groups.
The idea was to keep the rambunctious youngsters from distracting the older kids, and allow the rambunctious youngsters to experience a curriculum that wasn’t over their heads and thus cut down on the boredom inspired rambunctiousness.
Sounds good on paper.
While the older group has become easier to teach, the younger group’s behavioral problems have intensified. With the older kids no longer acting as a buffer, the little ones are bouncing off of each other like a bunch of hyper active pin balls; egging each other on and working the whole group into a whirling dervish frenzy.
I’m this close to adding a roll of duct tape to our box of worship items that we bring to class each week…….”yes you may light the worship candle Timmy, but then I will have to re-bind your arms to the chair.”

Kids are predictably unpredictable, but thankfully it can often be in a good way.
The first week of class I kept both age groups together to work on our Sunday School bulletin board. For the lesson portion of the class we all sat together on the floor rather than sitting around the library table or scattered around in the various assortment of chairs we have in the room. Sitting on the floor in close contact with each other brought an intimacy level to the group that surprised me. I had intended on talking about the early church and how the first disciples followed in Jesus’ footsteps, but the lesson plan went out the window as the kids began asking questions that they’ve obviously been harboring for quite some time but were never given the opportunity to ask.
The source of the biggest questions also surprised me. The six-year-old who rarely pays attention in class and usually prefers to spend the 40 minutes wrestling the other boys for the ‘comfy’ chair; the 8-year-old girl who is determined to do the opposite of whatever I’ve asked her to do, and the pre-teens who sit off to the side rolling their eyes and perfecting their best too-cool-for-school postures. All of them sat there on the floor, looked straight at me and peppered me with questions that had me grasping for answers.

Questions like:

How do we know there’s a God?
How can God be everywhere at the same time?
How come we can’t perform miracles like Jesus did? Aren’t we God’s children too?
Why can’t we see God…is he a person or a spirit?
Why did Jesus die?
How did God make Mary pregnant?
How does God see what we’re doing if he doesn’t have eyes?
Was Jesus God or was he a human being like us?


We have a hard enough time tackling questions like these in our adult Sunday School class so how does one go about explaining Christian theology to a child? Sunday School theology is easy to dispense when all we’re talking about is the lessons we can learn from bible stories….be nice to others, take care of those who have less than you do, love your enemies, give and forgive. It’s another thing entirely to try and explain complex theological concepts like the Trinity, the purpose of the Crucifixion, and the Virgin Birth. In the United Church of Christ we have no set beliefs on any of these theologies, but trying to explain the diversity of beliefs that exist in our church is difficult when you’re dealing with children who are used to receiving black and white answers. Children prefer certainty, not ambiguity……hell, I know plenty of adults who don’t deal well with ambiguity.

While it was disconcerting to stumble through these questions and try to give answers that didn’t entirely confuse the kids, I was ecstatic that the kids were even asking these questions, and for whatever reason they felt comfortably doing so with me on that day.

For yesterday’s session I had the older kids and I tried to recreate the intimacy we shared on that first day by having them sit on the floor. But alas, after a chorus of complaints about sore backs and not wanting to muss up the dress they wore to church I relented and let them sit in the chairs. With each child sitting in their own self contained world with 2 feet of upholstered chair arms and empty space separating them, they slipped back into their pattern of half-paying attention and giving the pat answers they thought I was looking for with my questions.
Their wonderings about God and how they fit into this world once again filed away under things too silly to talk about in front of their friends.

Oh well, I enjoyed the magic while it lasted.
Now, where did I put that duct tape….the Christmas Pageant rehearsals are just around the corner.




Tuesday, October 16, 2007

So many books, so little time...

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Literate Good Citizen
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Fad Reader
Non-Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz






Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Calgon, take me away!


Brazenly stolen from Eileen the Episcopalifem, this Wednesday Words of Wisdom clip goes out to my sisters who are moms, and to all the moms I see in the bookstore everyday...pushing overladen strollers, dragging screaming 4-year-olds away from the pile of Elmo books they've pulled off the shelves, and generally looking like they could use a good night's sleep, some quiet time to themselves, and a giant societal 'thank you' for doing the thank-less job that is motherhood.
Enjoy!




Tuesday, October 2, 2007

You load 16 Tons and whatta ya get?...




….another day older and deeper in debt.


I’m baaaaaaaaaaack!
Actually, I never went away. I’ve been swamped with work/church distractions and my blogging unintentionally got thrown onto the back burner…..the back-back-back burner, the one crusted over with egg bits that no one ever cleans…
Thanks to all my readers who have inquired about my whereabouts….and who have kept my site hits up despite the fact that nothing has changed here since August 23rd.

This working for a living stuff has done made me bone tired!
To quote Bill the Cat: ack!
Being a student-slash-housewife for the past two years was a piece of cake compared to this bringing home the bacon gig. I’m not used to being on my feet for 8.5 hours a day, I’m constantly on the move in the store and shelving books gives me a better workout than any Thigh-Master out there. I’ve mastered the art of crouching in an extended deep-knee bend as I alphabetize lower shelves, and contorting myself into Cirque du Soleil positions to clean the window displays. You can bounce a quarter off my hamstrings they’re so tight.

Of course between working-for-the-man and getting the new Sunday School year off the ground, my blogging life has seriously suffered.
All my physical and mental energy has gone into learning the new job and all of my creative energy has gone into organizing Rally Day, recruiting teachers, and setting up the teaching/curriculum schedule.

Now I finally have a morning off and so far I’ve used the time in a very productive manner….laying on the couch in my Sponge Bob pajamas, eating Cheerios and watching House Hunters, Dirty Jobs and DVR’d episodes of the Ellen show.
Life doesn’t get much better than this.

The new job has cut into my blogging time but it feels good to be back in the working world. I like the job….I’m actually getting paid to organize book shelves, something I’d do for fun, for free, in a heartbeat…..yes, I am a freak, as my SO keeps reminding me.

Of course the first two days on the job included the usual panic moments where one feels like an incompetent know-nothing boob who was obviously deluding herself when she agreed to take such a high-pressure complicated job…….in a bookstore.
There was so much to learn; the corporate policies, the store layout, the ever changing list of items we’re required to push during every transaction: (“would you like any candy, bookmarks or gift cards?”), and the 35 different buttons on the cash register, each of which must be pressed in a particular order depending on the type of sale, the discounts being applied, the phase of the moon, etc.

Then there’s the company’s Rewards club card that we have to get every customer to sign up for (and God forbid we dip below a 70% compliance level), an antiquated computer inventory system that never seems to bring up the book that a customer is looking for and/or give the correct section where it can be found in the store, and a complicated ordering process that we have to foist on the customer if the book they want is not in stock.

Add on top of this a manager who is…ahem….very “particular” about the way things should be done in regards to procedure and paperwork, and who has the patience and tact of a cranky 5-year-old trapped in a supermarket check-out line.

At least we’ve finally opened up the new store in the local mall. After a month of training at a store 40 minutes away it feels good to have a commute that is all of 3 minutes. We spent a week setting up the store and it was a book-lovers dream.
Boxes and boxes and boxes of books all of which had to be sorted and shelved in the correct location. It was like Christmas morning in every box! (yes…..I am a freak).

Now that we’re in the new store I’ve been promoted to “Senior Bookseller/Keyholder” which means in one day I went from bottom-rung-of-the-ladder-newbie to being in charge. I also get the added responsibility of opening and closing the store and settling up the registers at the end of the day…….all for .50 cents an hour more! Whoo-hoo!

Of course my first official act as ‘Keyholder’ was to watch my precious key get shorn in half when I left it in the back door lock while the FedEx guy was shoving a pallet of books through the door. Having to tell my manager that I not only broke my key but the other half of it was stuck in the lock and we’d have to call a locksmith to get it out was not my most shining moment as a newly minted Senior Bookseller. The FedEx guy summed up my situation beautifully when he said: “Geesh, I so do not want to be you right now.”

Always the optimist, I know there’s nowhere for me to go but up!
That and my manager goes on vacation at the end of the week, which means I’ll have time to rectify the inevitable mistakes made by me and all our newbie employees before she returns.

I’ll do my best to keep up with my blogging as the fun ensues!







Thursday, August 23, 2007

Time flies when you're having fun....sort of.

For those of you who have enquired….Yes I’m still here!
My lack of blogging is the result of being away on vacation, a death in the family, and my finally securing a job, in that order.

SoCal


I spent the first 10 days of August in California visiting with my SO’s family. Her mom has an aging desktop computer with a slow as molasses Internet connection, so I took a break from blogging and fed my reading addiction instead. 5 books in 10 days, a new record for me. My SO, being valedictorian of the Evelyn Wood Speed Reading School, read something like 50.
It’s amazing how many books they have out there about lesbian vampires who solve crimes in their spare time.

When we weren’t reading we lounged by my mother-in-law’s pool, I went for walks, we saw the Red Sox lose to the Angels (#%*&!), we bought a Nintendo Wii for my SO’s nieces (solidifying my SO as the coolest Aunt in the world) and while we limited the little ones to one hour of Pokemon/Tomagotchi a day we adults took it over at night and golfed/bowled/played-tennis to our hearts content. Props to my mother-in-law who got overly enthusiastic trying to bowl a strike and lobbed the Wii remote across the room. Weeeeeeeee!

Doug

Two days before we were scheduled to fly home, my mother called with the sad news that my brother-in-law had passed away. After suffering through months of chemotherapy to shrink the brain tumor the he had been diagnosed with back in March, the doctors told him that his chances for recovery were slim. Another round of chemo was unlikely to change the outcome; my sister M. was told he would live another 3 months at the most. A week later he was gone.
He was buried on August 13th, nine years to the day that my sister M. lost her son Daniel to leukemia. The question “WHY?” just hangs in the air…..waiting for God to answer it in God’s own way, in God’s own time.
Please keep M. and her children in your prayers.

Job

Yes, that word up there is Job with a short o…as in bringing-home-the-bacon, working-for-the-man Job.
Although it could just as easily be JOB with a long O…as in being smited by Satan, being stripped of all one’s joys and pleasures, being a pawn in God’s battle to make a point.
But no, it is Job with a short o. The two are understandably easy to confuse.

I am now officially a “bookseller” at W*****Books (who shall be so named to skirt around their employee non-blogging policy). The store I’m working in is only 5 minutes up the road but it has yet to open, and won’t be for another month, so I have to trudge over to a city 40 minutes away and work/train in the store there. This was my first week and so far so good. The people are friendly, the pay is not as atrocious as I thought it would be, and I get to fondle and organize books all day (I’ve died and gone to heaven!). Remembering all the steps involved in working the cash register, the computer software (and the bookkeeping if I become a “keyholder”) is typically overwhelming at first, but I like helping the customers and getting books into people’s hands.
The biggest adjustment will be in getting used to the ever-changing work schedule. I won’t know what days/hours I’m working until Sunday of each week making it hard to schedule any church meetings ahead of time. This is my first week and I already missed a Ministry Council meeting and I won’t be able to help at the soup kitchen this Saturday because I have to work (that’s where the JOB “stripping of all one’s joys and pleasures” comes in).


I will do my best to keep up my blogging as I juggle church/job/life…..all I have to say is “self…welcome to the real world!”





Monday, July 30, 2007

UPDATE....Lesbian with Short Hair! Film at 11!

I’ve been lax in my posting of late because my morning blog time has been otherwise occupied by my daily watching of the live broadcasts of the Tour de France.
It’s amazing how many hours I can waste watching skinny Euro dudes resplendent in techno-color lycra propelling themselves up the side of a mountain on $5,000 bicycles……Vive le Tour!




To make up for my lack of posts I’m going to cheat and do a bullet post to bring you up to date:

  • My first paid preaching gig went very well. I resisted the urge to recycle a previous sermon and instead wrote one that offered a message that I sensed this particular congregation needed to hear. Based on the comments I received afterwards I was relieved to hear that the message was needed and welcomed.
    On a personal note, it was nice to get such positive feedback from people I don’t know. This was my first time preaching to folks who knew absolutely nothing about me before I stepped into the pulpit other than the short bio that was printed in the bulletin. I’m used to looking out on the congregation and gauging their level of connection by the expressions on their faces…smiles and nods of recognition are always good of course….but in a congregation where the minister has left suddenly and they’ve had to endure a revolving door pulpit for two months, it was natural to look out and see people sitting with their arms folded and shades of skepticism etched on their faces. Thankfully, the message did reach them and less importantly I had my ego duly pumped by all of their encouraging comments. One woman even went as far as to request when I would be preaching next at my home congregation as she wanted to attend. When I told her I’m just an occasional fill-in and I don’t know when I’ll be doing it next, she said “That’s ok, I’ll just call your church every week and ask if you’re scheduled for that Sunday”….my apologies to our church secretary! (but I have to admit it’s nice to have a groupie).
    I have another paid gig coming up on August 19th…it’s in a UCC church that has moved to its “summer sanctuary”, which I’m told is a circa 1700’s building with no running water set out in the middle of sprawling farm country. It should be fun! ;-)


  • On the it’s-time-to-stop-goofing-off-and-earn-some-money front, I have a job interview on Wednesday. A new bookstore is opening in the mall and I’ve applied to be a “bookseller,” which is corporate speak for ‘peon who organizes the shelves, is fodder for customer abuse, and makes $6.50 an hour”…..yeah, it’s retail and it may end up being only part-time, but I get to fondle books all day. If I’m going to spend a year of my life being a peon I may as well be surrounded by something I love.


  • As the summer grinds into August I have to start thinking about and planning church school for the fall. Recruiting teachers, looking over and scheduling the new curriculum, planning our opening ‘Rally Day,’ and meeting with the pastor to plan Adult-Ed for the fall. Anybody got a rock I can crawl under?


  • My SO and I are leaving on Thursday for southern California to visit her mom for a week. I plan to occupy most of my time with pool lounging and book reading with one excursion to Sea World and another to see the Boston Red Sex play the LA Angels (or the “Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim” as they’re also known…I’m surprised they haven’t worked “USA” or “Planet Earth” into the title as well). Luckily the NY Mets will be on national TV on both Saturday and Sunday so I won’t be going through complete Metsies withdrawal while I’m in SoCal.


  • Cousin It and I are no longer separated at birth…
    I finally did what I’ve been threatening to do for the past 2 years….I cut my hair. My brief excursion into the world of the femmes has ended. I started growing my hair out in an attempt to try something new after having it ultra short for many, many years, but after spending most of the summer with my hair in a pony tail or tucked underneath a baseball cap I realized that it was time to let it go. I’m now back to looking like every other short-haired lesbian with glasses (the official uniform) and I’m once again running the risk of being addressed as ‘sir’ by unobservant store clerks, but at least now I can come home from a run, jump in the shower and be ready to go in 5 minutes without spending hours washing/combing/drying my hair like I did before (I don’t know how you femmes do it!).




Hair today, gone tomorrow.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Book Quiz

This is an interesting quiz...eerily true....but interesting...





You're The Giver!
by Lois Lowry
While you grew up with a sheltered childhood, you're pretty sure everyone around you is even more sheltered. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, you were tapped on the shoulder and transported to the real world. This made you horrified by your prior upbringing and now you're tormented by how to reconcile these two lives. Ultimately, the struggle comes down to that old free will issue. Choose
wisely.


Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.




Friday, July 20, 2007

New from Apple - the iKitty...





Say hello to my friend E’s new addition to the family, a sweet little kitten named Bailey.
It’s obvious from this photo that Bailey is perturbed that her mom has not yet seen the light and is still using an antiquated PC.
Bailey will continue her protest by staging a sit-in (with her kitty butt and paws perpetually pressing down on CTRL-ALT-DELETE) until E. makes her way to the Apple store and comes home with a Mac. Should E. refuse to submit to assimilation….err, I mean “making a well-informed consumer choice made of her own free will” I shall facilitate the process by planting an iPod in her backyard. While E. is asleep the pod will sprout and replace E. with a complete and controllable replica. The replica will then make its way to the Apple store and fulfill its destiny.
Bailey will then have a stunningly beautiful silver Mac keyboard to lounge on that is not only impervious to viruses and spyware, but repels cat hair and dispenses kitty treats with a state of the art wireless remote. Is she going to get THAT from a DELL?? I think not….




"It's amazing, I can fit my entire CD library on this thing, and it's portable!"


Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's official, I'm now a pod person...

I am now the proud owner of one of these:



It’s a MacBook Pro 15” 2.4GHz 160GB HD 2GB RAM.
Ain’t it purrrty?

It was bound to happen eventually.
I’ve tagged along with my SO to the Apple store on a regular basis in the past six months as she satiated her need for techno toys… an iMac, an iPod Video, an iPhone and assorted iAccessories. It was only a matter of time before exposure to all the shiny plastic toys sitting on those blonde wood display tables got to me. It’s like shopping at IKEA…all Euro-minimalistic-like….It’s not shopping, it’s an experience. And then there’s the pod people….they saunter up to you in their I’m-so-cool-and-you’re-not Mac logoed black T-shirts, wearing white iPod looking nametags around their necks and sporting wireless microphones that magically summon your desired object from the back storeroom. You tell them that you’re just looking and they step away and assume the “too-cool-to-be-a-salesperson-no-pressure” stance but stay just within earshot just in case they need to slip in comments like “I was a PC user for 20 years and then I bought a Mac and I’ll never go back” or “You know what Vista stands for right? Viruses, Intrusions, Spyware, Trojans, and Adware.”

My trusty HP laptop just had its 4th birthday. It’s on its second hard drive and power cord, the finish is worn off of the mouse pad and it arbitrarily refuses to turn on when I want it to. I can sit there for up to 5 minutes clicking the little power button before it decides to bend to my will….how many (c)licks does it take to get to the center of an HP laptop? 126 on a good day.

I haaaaaaaaate disposing of things before I get my full use out of them, so it killed me to even consider plunking down big bucks on a new laptop when the old one isn’t officially dead yet. But I know the day is coming….the day when it won’t turn on at all, or the hard drive gives up it’s 2nd ghost, and it will probably be the night before I’m scheduled to preach and my unprinted sermon is trapped inside a dead laptop never to be seen again.

My SO was in the market for a new laptop as well (when is she not?) so we got matching MacBooks. I know, it's pathetic.
The deal Apple has going right now is what pushed me to make the move.
$200 off the price of the computer for teachers and students, $120 off the extended warranty, a free HP printer/copier, a free iPod Nano (or get $200 off an iPod video like I did), and the satisfaction of knowing that you are a Mac owner and thus superior to all the PC slogging masses out there.

Now I just need to earn some iMoney to pay off my iCredit Card which is now iMaxed out. Anyone wanna buy a used and slightly temperamental HP laptop?



Resistance is futile....




Monday, July 9, 2007

Seven Easy Steps to Discipleship


Well, my parade of worship services is almost over. I've gotten past Children's Sunday, High School Youth Sunday, and my preaching stint yesterday. All I have left is my pulpit fill in at a neighboring congregation next week.

For those who've asked, I've posted the sermon that I preached yesterday below.
I had planned to recycle this sermon and use it for the pulpit fill-in next Sunday. The preacher they had filling in yesterday didn't follow the lectionary so there was no danger in repeating a message they've already heard, but now I'm thinking that I need to go in another direction.

This is a congregation that had its pastor resign suddenly at the end of May and now they're scrambling to fill the pulpit until they find an interim.
I don't know the details of the resignation, but I do know that this is not a congregation that needs to hear the message that I preached yesterday, which was a strident call for discipleship. This is a congregation that is still recovering from the shock of losing their minister. They need to hear a message of hope, of healing, of finding one's way out of the dark and into the light.

The bulletin details are due tomorrow so I have one day to come up with a sermon title and appropriate scripture passage, Call to Worship, etc.
As usual, I trust God to lead the way.




*********************************************************

Seven Easy Steps to Discipleship!
July 15, 2007


At General Synod a few weeks ago I was inside the Hartford Civic Center along with thousands of others listening to Bill Moyers speak. Those of us sitting in the upper section of the arena had our eyes fixed on one of the four giant video screens suspended from the rafters, our attention hanging on Moyers' every word, but at one point I was distracted by movement in the floor section below. Next to the audio soundboard there was a small boy, no more than two years old, playing catch with his father.

The little boy was wearing knee-length shorts, a blue and white checkered shirt, and converse sneakers; an outfit that invoked memories of a 1950's Leave it to Beaver. As he tossed a white whiffle ball back and forth to his father, I remember thinking how idyllic this scene was. Bill Moyers was speaking about the passionate call to action we harbor in the United Church of Christ. The crowd was pulsating with positive energy. And in the midst of all this a father was playing with his young son, exemplifying the universal ideals of family, community, and relationship.
As I took all of this in I could just hear this sermon writing itself…..

And then, I watched as the father gently tossed the ball to his son, the little boy caught the ball, spun around to his left and lobbed it with all his might at an unsuspecting passerby, hitting the poor man square in the head.

At that moment Bill Moyers was speaking about the wrenching suffering that arises from poverty and injustice, and I was laughing.

I was laughing at the absurdity of my effort to capture a poetic snapshot of the moment, to find patterns of predictability in what is ultimately an entirely unpredictable world.
Events rarely happen the way we expect them to.

Our scripture reading today is for some a lesson in predictability.
It contains Jesus' instructions on discipleship. A road map for those who heed his call and set out to evangelize; bringing God's message to an often hostile world.
In contrast to other scriptural passages, where Jesus chooses to teach using ambiguous questions or parables, this passage flat out says "if you want to be a disciple this is how you do it."

Just follow these seven easy steps and you too will be called a messenger of God.

Step One: Travel light.
2. Don't talk to anyone on the way.
3. Bless every house that you enter.
4. Stay in one place, don't move around a lot.
5. Eat whatever is put in front of you.
6. Cure the sick while declaring that the Kingdom of God is near.
And 7. If any town should reject your message, shake the dust off your feet and be on your way.

It sounds easy on the surface.
Until we unpack each step and examine what Jesus is asking us to do.

Step One: Travel light. Take nothing with you, not even a bag or a pair of sandals.
We could wring a whole sermon out of this one. We could go on about the evils of consumerism and how we all tend to have too much stuff that only serves to weigh us down on our journey. But in reality, if God commanded us to hit the road without our iPod and our bottled water we could do it.
Just ask anyone who has traveled on an airplane recently.
The Gospels are full of stories of those who cast all they had aside to follow Jesus - their possessions, their livelihoods, their families and friends. Is this what Jesus is asking us to do? To give up all the things that bring us happiness, the work that gives our lives purpose, the relationships that God himself has called us to build? I don't think so.

I believe this command to travel light addresses our tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be, particularly when it comes to expressing our Christian faith.
Jesus taught a simple message. Love God. Love each other.

That's a difficult enough message for a disciple to teach without bogging it down with a bunch of extraneous creeds, doctrines, and theological litmus tests. The longer the list of do's and don'ts that we attach to Jesus' simple message, the less likely it is that it will be heard or adopted.
"Travel light," he told the disciples.
"Take only what I have taught you, and leave the rest behind."

Step Two: Do not greet anyone along the way.
This one is hard to decipher. It seems to go against the Christian understanding of mission and hospitality; but when we look at the text in its original form we learn it does not refer to a simple "hi, how are you" exchanged on the road, but to a more formal greeting that Jews were required to participate in when traveling between territories. These salutations were often complicated rituals that could take up to 3 hours to complete. In Jesus' eyes these rituals were time consuming and pointless.

Broken down from its literal meaning this step simply tells us not to get distracted from our mission. To not let extraneous side events keep us from focusing on delivering, or living, God's message. To not let the time we spend with our work, our hobbies, our obsessions, our addictions, keep us from building a healthy relationship with God, with our family and friends, with our community.

Step Three: Bless each home that you enter by saying "Peace to this House."
This is an easy one, if the only houses we enter are our own, or those of our friends and family. It's when we step into unfamiliar territory, houses that belong to those of another culture, another class, or even those whom we may consider to be our enemy; that's when we have trouble looking past what we perceive to be flaws.

The d├ęcor that is not to our taste, the cleanliness that is not up to our standards, the strange smells emanating from the kitchen, the noise of a language that we can't understand, and a bombardment of religious, social, or political beliefs that we neither understand nor accept. If we can't walk into our neighbor's house and call for peace, what hope is there for us to walk into our enemy's house and do the same?

Jesus did say: Call for Peace in EACH house that we enter. If we swap the word "peace" with "love" we'll see that we're being asked to put aside our urge to judge, to condemn, to dismiss, and to instead practice the same unconditional love with others that God offers to us. To love is to bless. And no one is exempt from receiving either.

Step Four: Choose a place to lodge and stay there; do not move from house to house.
This is a hard one for our mobile society. Either by choice or by force of situation, we tend not to stay in one place for too long. How many of us here were born and raised in this state, in this town, in this church? How many of us grew up elsewhere but now call this place home? How many of us are travelers who have chosen to settle here at this moment in time but there's no telling where we'll be five or ten years from now?

Jesus told his disciples to stay in one place whenever they entered a town so they would avoid offending their hosts. It was an act of hospitality to accept whatever one's host had to offer as far as accommodations. But once again, if we go beyond the text's literal meaning we discover that this step is espousing the advantage of putting down roots, of making connections that last, staying long enough to make an impression, taking the time to get to know those whom God has brought into our lives. People are more likely to accept the message if they know and trust the messenger.

Step Five: Eat whatever is put in front of you.
I'm convinced that my mother wrote this one.
I was once forced to sit at the dinner table until 10:00 at night with a plate of cold beef stew in front of me. I did not eat it.
This step is a hard one to follow. And I'm sure the people at Weight Watchers would prefer to cross it right off the list.

Taken literally, it is yet another call for hospitality on the part of the disciples. Don't insult the host by rejecting what he has to offer. What this step really is, is a call for inclusiveness.

The disciples were heading out into the world of the Gentiles and Jesus was in essence giving them permission to ignore the Jewish dietary laws that prohibited them from eating certain foods. To not only avoid insulting the hosts, but to let the gentiles know that they were legitimate recipients of God's inclusive message, regardless of whether they adhered to Jewish law or not. The same message applies to us today. As Jesus taught, it is not what we put in our mouths that defiles us, but what comes out of our mouths.
We live by our words, by our actions, and performing religious rituals does not absolve us from discipleship. So a modern reading of this text might be:
It matters not what we do in church, but what we do outside of it.

Step Six: Cure the sick while declaring that the Kingdom of God is near.
This is the one that baffles us. In Jesus' day curing the sick meant casting out demons, and that is not something we learn to do in Sunday School. Although I'm sure there are a few Sunday School teachers who wish they had that ability.

Today, in most cases, we can cure the sick, with medicine, technology, and old-fashioned TLC. But just as in Jesus' day, the illnesses we encounter aren't always physical; they can be emotional or spiritual.
And it is our presence, our compassion, our hope, that Jesus tells us to rely on. These are the tools that God has given us to cast out demons, and as disciples we're meant to use them.

The second part of this step, tells us to declare that the Kingdom of God is near.
Theologically we can talk about the Kingdom of God as either being something that will happen in the future during the end times, or something that we can build in the here in now….we need God's help to do it, but we have the power to make it happen.
Regardless of which Kingdom of Heaven theology we subscribe to, step seven is the one that we mainline Protestants struggle with the most. It is a call to evangelize. To go out into the world and proclaim God's message.

Too often we equate the call to evangelize with television preachers or street corner prophets. We dismiss it as the work of those who go door to door leaving scriptural tracts in mailboxes or who corner us in public places asking us if we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. This is not the New-England UCC way of proclaiming God's message.
We prefer to let our actions speak for us. We work tirelessly for the poor and the marginalized. We enact policies and support laws that protect the powerless and promote inclusiveness in our churches and in our communities.
We live our Christian faith in our every day actions.

But when the news media seeks out a spokesperson to get the "Christian perspective" on an issue, it's not our voice that is being heard. God's message of love, forgiveness, and grace for all is not what we hear emanating from the pulpits of those doing the evangelizing in the world today. Yet theirs is the voice of Christianity that the non-Christian world often hears, and thus all Christians are assumed to be the same.

The world does not know that we exist.

I spoke at a Unitarian Universalist congregation last summer, a denomination that champions social justice and equality but has moved away from its Christian roots. The topic of my sermon was Progressive Christianity and how it differs from what has become known as the Christian Right. After the service several people came up to me and were curious to learn more about our denomination, the United Church of Christ.
One woman said, and I quote:
"I thought all Christians were the same, they were all narrow minded fundamentalists or biblical literalists who only cared about abortion and gay marriage, while ignoring the plight of the poor and the oppressed.
I didn't know that there were Christians like you."

Our voice is not being heard.
Yet we continue to remain silent, out of fear of conflict, or fear of causing offense, or fear of being pegged as a religious zealot.
There's nothing wrong with letting our faith speak through our actions, in fact this is what Jesus commands us to do. But Jesus also tells us to not be afraid to use our voices. To speak out in the face of religious hypocrisy and injustice. To refute the Pharisees when they accuse us of being weak or immoral because we dare to associate with the outcasts of society.
To show the world an image of Christianity that we believe Jesus intended us to promote.
An image of love, and forgiveness, and grace for all.

This is not an easy thing to do.
In fact, Jesus got himself killed for doing just this.
But the cost of discipleship is often high.
Jesus sent his disciples out like lambs into the midst of wolves.
And he asks us to do the same.
We may not be asked to literally die for our beliefs, but we're being asked to step outside of our comfort zone. To wear our faith on our tongue as well as on our sleeve.
And we don't have to ring doorbells or grab a bull-horn and stand on a street corner to do it.
We need only speak up and identify ourselves as Christians when we hear others using language that promotes bigotry or exclusion in any form.
And the next time we feel called to express our opinion on the issues of today, we can simply say "Well I am a Christian, and this is what Jesus taught us to do…."

This leads us to the seventh and final step:
If you come to a town that refuses to hear the message you have brought, shake the dust off your feet in protest, and be on your way.

This one is a lot harder than it sounds. It's not easy to walk away from those who reject us. To just leave them be without doing everything in our power to convince them of how wrong they are and how right we are. It's even harder to walk away when we know that we are wrong but pride is keeping us from admitting it. This step requires us to let go. To admit that we're not always in control. That we can't always predict the way things are going to turn out.
That sometimes we just have to trust God to take care of what we can't.


I found this out a few weeks ago when organizing the service for Children's Sunday.
Organizing a Children's Sunday is like trying to coach a pee wee soccer team.
You kind of herd the kids in the right direction and hope the ball goes in the goal.

The night before our first and only rehearsal I sat down and wrote a detailed list of everything that we needed to cover to be ready for Sunday.
I even envisioned how the rehearsal would go. I would explain to the kids what they needed to do, they would listen intently and then they would proceed to do what I told them to do.

Needless to say, the rehearsal did not go quite as I had planned: I spent 15 minutes trying to get them all to stay in the same room while I discussed their assignments. I distributed neat, color coded folders with all the needed bulletins, scripts, and hymns inside, which they proceeded to dump all over the library floor because no one received the color folder that they actually wanted.

Once we got everything sorted we moved to the sanctuary to practice.
We weren't 5 feet inside the door before one child had her shoes off, two were sliding up and down the pews on their backs, one turned on the sound system and was in the pulpit yelling into the microphone, two were in the back of the church looking for trouble in the narthex, one had the collection plate and was threatening to use it as a Frisbee, and one was in the choir loft dangling a stuffed tiger over the balcony.

For the next 30 minutes I had them run through everything that they needed to do while they wandered off, asked questions unrelated to what we were doing, insisted on going to the bathroom every 5 minutes, and generally carried on as if I was just a voice buzzing in the background.
Can you tell this is my first year teaching Sunday School? Can you tell that I have very little experience trying to control a group of hyper-active children?
Would it then surprise you if I told you I came home that night with a giant grin on my face?

I'm learning as I'm going, and as trying as nights like that night can be, I love working with the kids. I like seeing them learn new things, ask questions, and figure out what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
Come Sunday the kids pulled it all together and did a fabulous job.
I wouldn't have predicted it, but the service came out even better than I expected.

Like the little boy in the Hartford Civic Center who shattered my idyllic imagery when he threw his ball at an unsuspecting stranger's head, there is no such thing as predictability.
You can't make a list of things to do and expect to follow it without fail.

There's no such thing as seven easy steps to discipleship.
There's no such thing as seven easy steps to anything.
Life is unpredictable. Life is messy.
Life refuses to fit into our little categorical boxes no matter how hard we try to stuff it in.

What it comes down to is that we're not always going to be perfect disciples.

We're going to set out on journeys and find that we're carrying way too much stuff.
We're going to stop and talk to people along the way and get distracted from what we set out to do.
We're going to be guests in people's houses and say and do things that can be considered less than hospitable.
We're going to get bored with where we are and insist on moving on to somewhere new.

We're not going to eat everything that is put in front of us.

We're going to forget that the Kingdom of God is not some far off never-never land that we'll never see, but it is instead a description of a world that we have the power to create in the here and now.
We're going to continue to feel uncomfortable expressing our faith verbally and avoid challenging those who claim to speak for God….because it so much easier not to.

And we're not going to shake the dust off our feet and walk away from those who reject us or our message. We're going to hang around too long hoping that they'll come to their senses or we're going to walk away carrying resentment and anger.
We may be disciples but we're also human.

Ultimately the purpose of discipleship is to enact change, to transform ourselves and our communities into the Kingdom of God that Jesus envisioned for us two thousand years ago.
If life was predictable and never challenged us to think on the fly, we'd never learn how far we are capable of going. We'd never discover the abilities we didn't know we had.

As author Diane Butler Bass so eloquently expressed in her book Christianity for the Rest of Us:

"Transformation is the promise at the heart of Christian life."

Discipleship is not about personal salvation or getting everyone else saved, it's not about practicing the politics of exclusion or moral purity. It's about the promise of transformation.
That by God's mercy, we can change, our congregations can change, our world can change.

So as we walk out of this church today let us remember that we are called to be disciples of Jesus, not just in our church lives, but in our whole lives.
And all we have to do, is remember these seven easy steps:

Travel Light
Stay focused
Love all
Build relationships
Be inclusive
Use your voice as well as your hands
Learn to let go, and let God take care of the rest.


Blessed Be





Friday, July 6, 2007

All kitties go to heaven




Some of you may remember my post a few months back asking for prayers for my friend E's kitty cat, Murphy. Murphy was suffering from kidney problems and unfortunately earlier this week her little body could no longer handle the strain and E. had to make the painful decision to have her put down.
Murphy was 17-years-old and she had a long and happy life with E, but as anyone who has ever had a beloved pet knows, the choice to end their suffering by ending their life is one that none of us ever wants to make.

Murphy, who hadn't eaten in six days and was disoriented to the point that she found it hard to stand, spent her last hours in a warm patch of sunshine in the back yard. She then surprised us all by finding the strength to climb out of her carrier in the vet's office to explore the open waiting area, seemingly looking for the source of the Jimmy Buffet music that was playing overhead.
E. shared with me later that Murphy loved Jimmy Buffet and the two of them used to dance together while listening to his music.
Serendipity.

E. shared a poem with me that she says helped her make the decision to let Murphy go.
I made it to about the fourth line before I started bawling, and I doubt anyone who has been faced with this decision wouldn't do the same.

Rest in peace, our dear Murphy.
And as you frolic in kitty heaven, remember those who loved you, as we remember you.


THE LAST ACT OF COMPASSION
(S Hartwell)

She lies there gently breathing,
And she'd like for you to know,
That she's reached the final crisis
And it's time for her to go.
She needs a little help now,
To ease her from this life,
There's nothing left but suffering,
You can see it in her eyes.
The vet has got the answer,
To end her pain and fear,
That last act of compassion,
For a friend you love so dear.
So save her from those last days,
She deserves a final peace,
It's a mercy, not betrayal,
To ease her into sleep.
I know your heart is broken,
Though the pain, in time, will ease,
And at Heaven's gates she's waiting,
On the threshold of a dream.



Friday, June 29, 2007

ET iPhone Home


My techno-geek SO just couldn't resist the hype.
She came home tonight with one of these...




Yeah it's cool...but can it toast English muffins?
I'm holding out for one that does.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wednesday Words of Wisdom

"Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt


Stop the presses! I just got my first paid preaching gig!
A local congregation needs a pulpit fill-in for July 15th and they asked little ol' me to do the filling in....and they're going to pay me $150.00 to do it. As I'm already preaching in my home congregation on July 8th this will be the first time that I've done back to back services.
Two services, two sermons.....two different congregations....hmmmmm...this could also be my first chance to recycle! ;-)

But alas, I will most likely choose the high road and write two different sermons. It's a good opportunity for me to get a taste of the real world where I will soon be expected to come up with the goods week after week, without having the luxury of having months between sermons to prepare.
And the fact that I will be getting paid for the pulpit fill-in raises the "you better give them their money's worth" anxiety stakes.

Preaching Fee: $150.00
Cost of gas to get there: $3.29
Experience gained in my first non-home church preaching gig: Priceless


Friday, June 22, 2007

Just put one foot in front of the other...



...and you'll be amazed at how far your little legs will take you.


My more astute readers may have noticed that I posted my last entry at the un-godly hour of 3:46 am. My brain has switched into 'manic' mode these past few weeks….I've been falling asleep late and waking up early (and sometimes not going to sleep at all, as my previous post demonstrates). This is not a bad thing. I usually get this way when I'm really excited about something and my brain won't stop tossing around the details of whatever it is I'm excited about. It could be a change that I'm making in my life, a new project that I've taken on, or an inexplicable flood of creative brainstorming that has me looking at some everyday thing in my life in a new and exciting way.
It's the same drive that makes me climb out of bed at three in the morning because I have an idea for a sermon and if I don't start writing it right there and then I'll never remember it the next day.

This month's mania centers around my role as the Religious Education team leader at church. It's a role I reluctantly took on last year, agreeing to it primarily because I knew it would be good for me to get some experience working with kids before I got thrown to the wolves during Seminary Field Education.
(you Freudians out there, note the comparison: Wolves=Kids….nuff said)

Although I was excited by the challenge at first, the realization of what I was taking on soon set in. Not only was I was the RE team leader but I was also the Sunday School Superintendent (roles usually filled by two people). I was in charge of picking the curriculum, recruiting teachers and helpers, stocking the supply closet, organizing and overseeing our opening Rally Day, Thanksgiving Harvest Sharing, the Christmas Pageant, the Easter Egg hunt, Children's Sunday, Summer Enrichment, and Vacation Bible School. I was also responsible for recruiting leaders for the Youth Groups and overseeing their activities, planning and implementing Adult Education classes with the Pastor, and hiring and monitoring our Child Care worker. If that wasn't enough, I volunteered to teach Sunday School (because we were one teacher short), I cover the nursery when needed, and on any given Sunday I have to be ready to jump up and take the Sunday School class in the event the teacher doesn't show up.

Yes, I was excited at first, and with a team of dedicated RE people to delegate and divvy up the work, it was doable. Did I say "team"? I had three people. One of whom had been RE team leader for many years and was burnt out, one who was so busy at work she had no time to give, and one who turned down my request to teach Sunday School because she didn't like working with kids "that age"…meaning kids over the age of 3 and under the age of 18. It took me over a month just to get the team member's schedules coordinated for a meeting and then only one person showed up.
Throughout the year every request (and plea) for help with projects/events was either ignored ("I'm sorry, I rarely check my email/phone messages") or dismissed ("I'm going to be out of town and/or busy at work").

Way back in August of last year, after I had time to look over all the responsibilities that I was taking on, and I had already begun to suspect that my team was going to be less than cooperative, I sat down with my SO in our kitchen and literally cried "I can't do this."
I was scared out of my mind. Scared of the kids. Scared of the responsibility. Scared of screwing up, making mistakes, and being labeled as 'incompetent' and unfit for the job. I seriously considered calling up my Pastor the next day and telling her to find someone else to fill the position.
But then I saw the dominos begin to fall.
I was coming to the terrifying realization that maybe I wasn't meant to be a minister. If I was afraid of working with kids, afraid to accept the responsibility of leadership, afraid of making mistakes, afraid of being less than perfect…..how could I be a pastor?

The fear that I was feeling was real, and it was overwhelming, but there was one thing that scared me more…..the fear of letting everyone down…my pastor, my church, myself.

I decided that I would never forgive myself if I quit without even trying.
I decided to stop looking at the long list of responsibilities and to just take it one day at a time.
I decided that God wouldn't have given me this opportunity if God didn't trust that I could do it….and who am I to question God.
I held my breath, and dived in head first.

As the year went on my confidence grew with each successive event/project that I planned and each Sunday School class that I taught, but with the distraction of finishing up school and applying to seminary, RE was very much a back-burner issue for me….in an "oh crap, it's two days before Christmas and I forgot to get a Santa Claus to hand out gifts for the kids after the Christmas Pageant" kind of way.
Working with the unpredictable and often chaotic nature of large groups of children also had a tendency to dampen my enthusiasm for the role. In plain English: Them kids really did scare the #@*$ out of me.

When I came to the realization that I would have to put seminary on hold for a year, one of the first things that popped into my mind was "damn, now there's no getting out of the second year of my term as RE chair…I have to do it all over again….waahhhhhh!"

Then something strange happened. I started planning Children's Sunday and with all the distractions of school and settling my seminary plans out of the way, I started to have fun.
I didn't even bother to ask my team for help. I asked the parents to do little things here and there and they stepped up. The dreaded 'rehearsal' was a blast. The day itself went wonderfully and even though mistakes were made no one noticed and/or cared. Two long-time members told me that it was the best Children's Sunday our church has ever had.
Wow.

Now I'm caught up in organizing our Summer Enrichment program, events for the kids over the summer, including a Harry Potter party and a Scavenger Hunt Picnic, recruiting teachers for next year, and more immediately, working on a service with the high school youth for July 1st.
Oh, and did I mention that I'm preaching on July 8th?

My creative pipelines are flowing at capacity right now. Which is why I'm having trouble sleeping. My eyes pop open in the wee hours of the morning and I start thinking: "Oh we have to get a cauldron for the punch at the Harry Potter party" or "it would be nice if the high school youth did the children's sermon next week" or "I need to go to Wal-Mart to get supplies for the Summer Enrichment games."

I spent four hours at the church yesterday cleaning and organizing the RE closet…and I enjoyed it. I couldn't wait to do it. I spent the entire previous night thinking about sorting magic markers and colored pencils and which plastic organizing bin would work best…perhaps a multi-draw unit with a handle so the teachers can carry all their supplies easily…..oh and labels! I need to bring the label maker!"

It's a sickness, I know.

Some people are manic-depressive.
I'm a manic-creative/organizer.

Now, I'm off to Wal-Mart….they're having a sale on plastic storage bins!!





Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Them kids done me proud...

Well as predicted, my little monsters turned into little angels on cue on Sunday morning and pulled off quite a spectacular Children's Sunday if I do say so myself!
The kids all marched in together singing and clapping, we had them filling the roles of liturgist and ushers, four of the kids sang solos, they delivered the sermon, and they read a special communion liturgy with the Pastor and then served communion to the congregation.
There were a few missteps, which is normal when you're trying to get 10 kids to remember to do 20 different things that they've never done before, with only one rehearsal under their belt.

We had four children who delivered the sermon and they had me in tears I was so proud of them.
I gave them the following scripture passage to interpret:

"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." (Matthew 18:1-5)

I asked them to interpret the passage in light of how they think adults should be more like children; how children can contribute to the church/community, and what they as children need adults to do for them.
One of our 12-year-olds delivered a sermon that was so well written, with such a beautiful and spot-on interpretation of the scripture that it put to shame some of the efforts of some seminary educated clergy that I've seen. The other kids did an equally fabulous job and in the end I was just grinning from ear to ear with joy that it all came together, and that the adults in our congregation got to see a side of the kids that they've never seen before.

Their performance was so inspiring, that the one teacher who I swore would not volunteer to teach again next year because the kids made her a nervous wreck, came up to me afterward and said "Sign me up for next year!"

I think even she realized that little monsters are not so scary once you get to know them...





Friday, June 15, 2007

Out of the mouths of babes...


I know it shouldn't, but this video cracks me up:



I'm thinking of hiring this little girl to help me out with my rowdy Sunday School class. I know some little monsters that could use a good 'ass kickin' ;-)

This Sunday is "Children's Sunday" at our church, and as Sunday School superintendent it was my bright idea to have the kids run the whole show, from sermon to communion. I finally got them all together to rehearse last night and this morning I swear I found a new patch of grey hairs sprouting from my skull.

You know, I always envision how these rehearsals will go the night before: I will explain to the kids what they need to do, they will listen and then they will proceed to do what I tell them to do (stop laughing) we run through the program several times, and we're out of there in an hour oozing with confidence that all will go well come Sunday.

The reality is: I spend 15 minutes trying to get them all to stay in the same room while I discuss their assignments. I distribute neat, color coded folders for each child with all the needed bulletins, scripts, hymns inside, which they proceed to dump the contents of which all over the floor because "Shannon wants the green folder" and "Ick, I hate purple" and "Why do I always have to have yellow!"
I then try to explain what each paper is and how important it is for them to keep track of their parts while they completely ignore me as they are engrossed in an impromptu game of "let's get markers and decorate the folders with our names." (yeah, but in Sunday School they "haaaaaaaate doing crafts").

Once we get everything sorted out we proceed to the sanctuary to practice.
We're not 5 feet inside the door before one child has her shoes off, two are sliding up and down the pews on their backs, two have turned on the sound system and are in the pulpit yelling in the microphone, one is pawing at the new $20,000 piano that we just received as a donation and is repeatedly asking "can I play this? can I play the organ?", two are in the back of the church looking for trouble in the narthex, one has the communion plate and is threatening to use it as a Frisbee, and one is in the choir loft dangling a stuffed tiger over the balcony ("it's not Tigger…it's Hobbes!")

For the next 30 minutes I have them run through everything that they need to do while they wander off, ask questions unrelated to what we're doing, insist on going to the bathroom every 5 minutes, and generally carry on as if I'm just a voice buzzing in the background.
Apparently when I say: "Guys, you need to be quiet and pay attention because this is really important," they hear: "This is not important, please continue talking, sorry I interrupted you." Using my 'outdoor voice' bought me a few minutes of compliance but some just looked at me, waited one-one-thousandth of a second, and then went right back to doing whatever it was I asked them not to do.

Can you tell this is my first year teaching Sunday School? Can you tell that I have very little experience trying to control a group of hyper-active children?
Would it surprise you if I told you I came home last night with a big grin on my face?
I'm learning as I'm going, and as trying as nights like last night are, I enjoy doing it.
I like the kids and I like seeing them learn new things as they explore and experience the world around them.
Come Sunday the kids will do fine. I'll have to prompt them I'm sure, but they'll pull it together.

In an empty church with just little 'ol push-over me to control them last night they went wild, probably because they could…unlike on Sunday mornings when they're forced to sit in one place and pay attention until they file out to Sunday School, last night they saw that empty church and couldn't resist the urge to explore and do all the things they want to do in that space but can't because the adults wouldn't approve.

A church sanctuary is for Worship; it's a sacred space because it's God's House.
But if I went over to God's House and all he had to sit on was plastic covered furniture, and he had all these neat things that I could look at 'but not touch', and I was told to 'sit down and be quiet' while He talked about a bunch of boring stuff with a bunch of boring adults, I don't think I'd want to visit God's house very often.
Church is where we adults go to explore the ways in which God touches our lives, and we do it in community because it's more fun that way.
Church is where children go to explore the ways in which God touches their lives as well….it's where you can explore what the pews feel like when you slide along them on your back, how different the view is when you stand in the pulpit or hang over the balcony, what your voice sounds like on the microphone that only the adults are allowed to use….and you do all these things with your friends, because it's more fun that way.

These kids will do fine on Sunday.
And if not, I know a little girl who would be willing to 'kick some butt' for me if needed.





Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I can breathe again....


Whhhooooooooosssssssssshhhhhhhhhh!
That's the sound of the air rushing out my lungs after holding my breath for the last two months as I agonized over my seminary situation.
The Boston school has confirmed that they WILL hold the scholarship for me should I choose to defer my entry until next year. This takes the element of risk out of making the decision to wait. I can apply to the NY school in January and see what they have to offer as far as financial assistance, and I can take the time to visit both schools again this fall to get a better sense of which school is the right fit for me.

As it stands now, there is no downside to waiting.
The only thing I have to lose is time, and as I plan to use that time to further discern where it is God is leading me, in my book this is not a loss but a gain.

Through my pastor and local church connections I've been given the names of grads of both schools who've said that they'd be more than happy to let me pick their brains about their experiences at their alma maters.

Ultimately, I know it's going to come down to which school feels right to me.
But I'm just grateful for having been given the time to let the comparison shopper inside me loose. Ask anyone who knows me…I am not an impulse buyer. It took me over a year to buy my first computer because I had to research every possible choice ad nauseam. I'm an information junkie. My SO will attest to the fact that she hates shopping with me because I will stand in front of a product display looking at every package, comparing every detail, and weighing every option before I make a decision…..that is until she screams, "It's just a damn surge protector…pick one and let's get out of here!"
Ok, I'm exaggerating, my SO is extremely patient with my idiosyncrasies and never screams (except for the "buying party supplies for our wedding" incident, which I won't go into now…I love you honey!)

All I have to say is, thank God for the internet…now I can research my purchases to my hearts desire and then head out to the store armed with a little sticky note that says "Buy the Panasonic DX6780376WHT, sale price $69.99." But God forbid the store doesn't have the Panasonic DX6780376WHT in stock but has the SONY CF8790845BLK which is "just as good" according to the 16-year-old salesperson who just wants you to leave so he can go on a smoke break......Now I have to make an on-the-spot decision, which is very unlikely to happen. Even finding the same product in a different color can send my decision making processes into a tizzy. As I stand there pondering what a black microwave would look like in our kitchen, and how easy will it be to keep clean, and what's up with that funky knob-button thing, I can feel my SO tapping her feet behind me. Thirty minutes later we'll walk out of the store the proud owners of "Unknown Brand" microwave and I just can't wait to get home so I can go online and read the product reviews (and hope that none says "has a tendency to explode without warning while in use").

So….you can see why choosing the school where I'm going to spend the next 3-4 years of my life is not a decision I can make on short notice.

Too bad Shopping.com doesn't rate seminaries....I'd be in info junkie heaven.





Friday, June 8, 2007

Friday Fun with the Book of Life


It's Friday, so we have yet another irreverently blasphemous video that relies on adolescent humor for a cheap laugh.
Enjoy!




Damn, I wish I had that book right now...

Thursday, June 7, 2007

God moves in mysterious ways....

You know what I've been saying over the past 2 months about not holding my breath that the Boston seminary would come through and offer me more money to go to school this fall? Well, maybe I should have held that breath, because the seminary admissions office called me yesterday and OFFERED ME A FULL TUITION SCHOLARSHIP!!!!!!!!!

I came home yesterday afternoon to a message from the school telling me that they "had good news." My first response…"I don't know if I WANT good news."
I was actually afraid to call them back. Because I feared having to make the very choice that they have given me.

Boston or NY?
Do I take the sure thing and accept the scholarship for Boston this fall?
Or do I stick with my plan to wait a year and see what the NYC school has to offer when I apply in January?

I really, really, really like the school in NY, and so many factors are leading me to choose it over Boston. Despite all my whining over having to wait, I think my initial response to what should have been wonderful news was telling. They're offering me full tuition and my first thought is "I don't want it. I want to go to NY"??
Am I a complete putz or what??
If they had offered me the scholarship in April I would have been bouncing off the walls with joy. Boston was where I wanted to go. NY wasn't even on my radar. Oh, how things change in such a short amount of time.

I feel like a contestant on Let's Make a Deal.
Monty Hall has just handed me $40,000 and I'm thinking of trading it in for what's behind Door #2. The problem is, I could end up with a lifetime's supply of Turtle Wax.
The NY seminary may not offer me a full tuition scholarship, and even a half-tuition scholarship would have me paying out of pocket twice the amount of money it would cost to go to Boston.

If I defer admission to Boston until next year there's a chance that they may hold the scholarship for me, or at least put me at the top of the list for consideration when it comes time to hand money out for Fall '08. (the admissions dept is checking on this for me)

There's also the issue of housing. If I go to Boston in the fall my choice of on-campus housing will be slim to none as most of it has already been assigned.

Once again, am I a complete putz for agonizing over this decision?
If someone gave you the keys to brand new Porche would you say, "No thanks, there's a Ferrari that I've had my eye on and I'm pretty sure that I'm going to get a good deal on it….but just in case I don't, could you offer me your car again in 6 months? Thanks, you're a doll…."

Yeah…I'm a putz.
Even God knows it.
He/She is up there right now laughing saying "yeah, let's dangle a couple of carrots in front of her and see which one she chooses, this should be fun……Hey Jesus, you got that case of Turtle Wax that I asked you to bring up from the basement?... we may be needing it."

I could use some prayers/suggestions/guidance on this one, so if anyone has any to offer, HELP!




Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Wednesday Wisdom and Politics....an oxymoron?


"It is inexcusable for scientists to torture animals; let them make their experiments on journalists and politicians."
- Henrik Ibsen


There was yet another presidential candidate debate last night.
10 white guys all standing in a row (it was a Republican debate afterall) trying to out sound-bite each other. "Gentlemen, what is your plan to overhaul health care?....You have 10 seconds to answer and if you use the word "socialist" in your answer you're guaranteed to make the morning news cycle."

I haven't actually watched any of the debates. I rely on The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert for a fair and balanced report on these things. My favorite debate question so far:
"Raise your hands if you believe in evolution."
Glad to see that in 2007 we're back to caring about the issues that matter.
"What's my candidate's position on poverty, education, health care, and the Iraq war? Darned if I care, as long as he believes that the world was created in six days and them monkey fossils was planted by liberal activist judges carrying out an elitist, commie, pinko homosexual agenda (them gays got their limp-wristed hands in everything) then he's got my vote!"

Yes, there are some seriously ill-informed people out there who actually think this way, but why does the media feel the need to cater to them? Asking a question like that is more about stirring up controversy and getting air time on the 24/7 news shows (as the competing media outlets perpetually examine each other's navels) than it is about actually gathering information that the American public can use to make an intelligent, reasoned choice when deciding who is qualified to be the next leader of this country.

Do I care if the candidate I vote for believes in God?
No.
Because we as individuals have such diverse theological beliefs and ways in which we define "God," chances are slim that the person I'm voting for believes in the same God that I do.
George W. calls himself a God-fearing Christian but his understanding of God and what it means to be a practicing Christian are miles apart from what I believe.

Bill Moyers said it best when asked what role he thought religion should have in politics:

"Whose religion? Christian? Muslim? Jew? Sikh? Buddhist? Catholic? Protestant? Shi'ite? Sunni? Orthodox? Conservative? Mormon? Amish? Wicca? For that matter, which Baptist? Bill Clinton or Pat Robertson? Newt Gingrich or Al Gore? And who is going to decide? The religion of one seems madness to another.
If religion is the voice of the deepest human experience—and I believe it is—humanity contains multitudes, each speaking in a different tongue. Naturally, believers will bring their faith into the public square, translating their unique personal experience into political convictions and moral arguments. But politics is about settling differences while religion is about maintaining them. Let's realize what a treasure we have in a secular democracy that guarantees your freedom to believe as you choose and mine to vote as I wish."
- Christian Century Magazine, April 17, 2007



And on that note, I'll leave you with a Blog Quiz:

You Are 4% Republican

If you have anything in common with the Republican party, it's by sheer chance.
You're a staunch liberal, and nothing is going to change that!


In case you were wondering, I answered "yes" to the "Do you go to church every Sunday" question. That's what got me the 4%. I'll never be able to show my face at a Democratic primary again.