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Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Five: Seasons Change...


It's Labor Day weekend here in the United States, also known as Summer's Last Hurrah. So let's say goodbye to summer and hello to the autumn. (People in other climes, feel free to adapt as needed.)

1. Share a highlight from this summer. (If you please, don't just say "our vacation to the Canadian Rockies." Give us a little detail or image. Help us live vicariously through you!)

2. Are you glad to see this summer end? Why or why not?

3. Name one or two things you're looking forward to this fall.

4. Do you have any special preparations or activities to mark the transition from one season to another? (Cleaning of house, putting away summer clothes, one last trip to the beach)

5. I'll know that fall is really here when __________________________________.


Let us know in comments if you play, and post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation:
<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>
For a complete how-to, click here.

Image is The Four Seasons I by Pham An Hai (More info here)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Is it really about the legs? Ask the Matriarch.

Good morning RevGals!
Do you have that Thursday morning inertia? Does Sunday seems like a long time away and you just can’t seem to get to all of the things you should be doing?

Here’s a question that is guaranteed to get your motor running- I have a feeling we’ll have lots of personal experiences and opinions to share.

So… On to the question
(And as always, e-mail your questions to askthematriarch@gmail.com)

Peace to you,
Listing Straight


What is the appropriate response when someone makes an inappropriate remark about your appearance? We recently had a church picnic, and I wore bermuda shorts...long shorts. One man (who I believe to have an alcohol issue, and in fact, he may well have imbibed on this evening), said, "It is good to see you in something other than a robe. You have nice legs." What do you say to that? There were others standing around, so I ignored him and changed the subject. But, it was creepy. Should I have responded differently?


From Jan:
I once had a funeral director whisper in my ear - at the graveside -- something about my legs. Very sneaky in that I couldn't respond appropriately in that setting. But I've never ridden in a funeral limo ever since.

These kinds of comments stun me to the point that a snappy retort doesn't come to me until about a day later. My first thought is to respond with a question:
- You know I'm your pastor, right?
- (Looking both ways behind you) You talking to me?
- (Calling another person over and then saying:) Could you repeat what you just said?

Any of these would at least keep him from doing this again. The alcohol issues might keep him from even remembering he did/does this.

Or -- like you did -- you could just ignore him. Unfortunately the sexism in our culture is so pervasive, many men -- at least of a certain generation -- don't get that these comments are inappropriate/creepy/sexist.

From PPB:
When I read this question, my face automatically contorted itself into the completely confused look that I usually give in response to inappropriate comments. People generally get it without me saying a word. Now if I honestly thought someone didn't "get" that these comments were inappropriate, or if the comment was particularly egregious, I'd say something more direct. Obviously, all the ordinary "take them aside, allow them an out, don't shame," rules of confronting apply.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wednesday Festival: Back to School Edition


Many of us are writing about Back To School ... for ourselves, our kids, kids we know. Here in my neck of the US woods, Monday was our first day of public school, and the first day of class at the University that employs me. (Can you see me in the picture? I'm the happy rabbit!)

In this spirit, Deb did some musing on the official list of characteristics of the Beloit College Class of 2011. Go see!

Earthchick waxes rhapsodic about the joys of the public library here, with a follow-up post about the library, Anne of Green Gables, and made-up preschooler words here.

Deb says, "I'm striving to be honest in who I am and how I live my live before God and before the church... I participated in a synchroblog on prayer (part of one on Emerging Women)." She has also found a great shampoo for those of you with teenagers! (or maybe all of us!)

Lorna is back at seminary in Estonia and paying attention to the signs. She also shares about two amazing artists she's found, and thinks about another amazing artist and humanitarian, Bono.

Abbey of the Arts is leaving us an invitation to poetry! (Why, thank you, I'd love to!)

Shawna shares two wonderful pieces of writing: her sermon on the past week's Gospel text and the introduction to her future book, Career Women of the Bible. Your input welcomed!

Sally shares a book review on Butterfly in Brazil. She also gives us her thoughts from a summer school course on The Gospel and Western culture. And, finally, a Dave Walker cartoon for you Facebook fans.

Edited to add: Whoops! One I missed, and I am TRULY sorry and do humbly repent. Mitch is a Pastor's Husband (look for more on him in Monday's Meet & Greet) and this week he is wondering what to call his wife when she is at work? Welcome, Mitch!

Hope you all have a wonderful day, no matter what it brings you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Quick as a bunny edition

Friends,

I apologize in advance for the briefness of this edition of TLL. Yesterday turned out to be one of those 14-hour days that we all have from time to time, and today I am literally squeezing this in between obligations in another ~10 hour day. I know you all understand, because you have these too.

So, here are the lectionary passages.

Here is a one-word prompt:hospitality.

Here is a possible sermon title that might show up in the St Stoic bulletin: Jesus' Not-So-Common-Sense Guide to Entertaining

Discuss.

Monday, August 27, 2007

RevGalBlogPals: Grace (Eventually)




Grace (Eventually):Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is a prolific writer of fiction and non fiction works. Her works of Fiction includes but are not limited to the following books: Hard Laughter (1980), Rosie (1983), Joe Jones (1985), All New People (1989), Crooked Little Heart (1997) and Blue Shoe(2002).

Some of her non fiction writings include: Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year (1993), Home and Other Stories (1993), Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1994), Traveling Mercies (1999) and Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith(2005).

Grace Eventually continues where Traveling Mercies and Plan B left off, with Lamott raising her son, Sam, railing at the Bush administration, ministering to friends, loving Jesus, staying sober, getting older. I have to be honest this is the first of her books I have read, and I enjoyed it so much I bought the other two to find out what I had missed.

I love her gritty honesty about her life, her struggles as a single mom of a now teenager. I love her sharing her continued sobriety, and how difficult it can be at times to stay in recovery. I loved her stories of her friends, her relationships, her family. I even liked the story about the carpet man. I was a little amazed at her sharing her strong dislike of Bush and his administration, and yet I appreciate her willingness to write that down.

I want Anne to be my friend or me be her friend, except she lives in San Francisco. I appreciated her openness about her life, her ups and downs and her parenting mistakes. But that’s what God’s grace does for you.

There's grace in all of the essays, but it doesn't always make them light reading: "At Death's Window" is about helping a friend with cancer die; in "Dear Old Friend" she helps her aging Aunt Gertrud, who's outlived close friends and family, change her mind and keep her house and her independence; in "Samwheel" (that's the way her son pronounced his name when he was small), she narrates an awful fight with Sam that culminated in her slapping him. Some of the hilarious moments in GRACE (EVENTUALLY) deal with aging, including the phrase "the fanny pack of menopause."

Here are some questions to get us started in our book discussion. You are invited to write responses to them or to write your own thoughts ask other questions as well:

1. Did Grace Eventually live up to your expectations? Why or why not?

2. How much did you know about Lamott and her spirituality before you started reading the book? Were you familiar with the her platform, and did this influence your decision to choose the work? Did the book live up to your expectations of the author? Did it exceed your expectations? Why or why not?

3. What did you like or dislike about the book that hasn't been discussed already? Were you glad you read this book? Would you recommend it to a friend? Do you want to read more works by this author?

4. What do you think motivated Anne Lamott to share these particular personal stories? How did you respond to her "voice"?

6. Do you think Anne Lamott is trying to elicit a certain response from the reader, such as sympathy? How has Grace Eventually changed or enhanced your view of her?

7. In one of her chapters, "Wailing Wall," she writes that "anger is good, a bad attitude is excellent, and the medicinal powers of shouting and complaining cannot be overestimated." Do you agree or disagree and tell why?

8. One of the most controversial chapters of the book, tells about Anne helping a terminally-ill friend die. How did you react to this chapter? How does “Grace" fit into this or not?

9. She writes at one point "I prayed impatiently for patience, and to stop feeling disgusted by myself, and to believe for a few moments that God, just a bit busy with other suffering in the world, actually cared about one menopausal white woman on a binge." What are your thoughts about that?

10. "I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kinds of things," she writes in one of her essays, "that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace's arrival. But no, it's clog and slog and scootch, on the floor, in silence, in the dark."Do feel the same way about Grace and healing or do you feel differently? If so why?

On September 24, Songbird will lead our discussion of the book Good Fences: The Boundaries of Hospitality by Caroline Westerhoff. (If you want to read an excerpt, Amazon has a feature on the page of the book to read some of the book to get an idea if you like it.)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday Sacred Music Video

This video combines the music of Hildegard (from her Vision album) and the art work of Caspar David Friedrich




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Do not forget tomorrow Revgalbookpals book discussion of Anne Lamott's Grace Eventually. Tomorrow's discussion will be led by our own RevAbi. I look forward to the discussion, especially since I have finished the book on time!! However, do not feel as though you cannot participate because you have not read all of the book - chime in even if it is only to say hello. See you Monday!

Sunday Prayer

This week I thought we might look at the words of Teilhard de Chardin to help us rest into the prayerfulness of the sabbath.

In this quote from his writing, I hear him inviting us to simply be in this moment as we know it and understand it. I hear an invitation to trust in God's presence, and in the holiness of all creation.

Teilhard de Chardin says, "By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us and moulds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers. In eo vivimus. As Jacob said, awakening from his dream, the world, this palpable world, which we were wont to treat with the boredom and disrespect with which we habitually regard places with no sacred association for us, is in truth a holy place, and we did not know it. "

I love the way he balances the ordinary with the extraordinary, placing no barriers in the way of either. For me at least, the days when I can sense the holiness surrounding me is truly a sabbath day, for I can rest into God's presence just as a cat nestles into my lap while the sun shines through my window.

And yet, we all know that trusting in God's mysterious presence can be deeply challenging. We have all experienced the hollow echoing within ourselves when God seems to be missing in action. It is at those times especially that we need to dig deep and find the patient trust that first alighted our souls with the belief that we are not alone. God is with us. Thanks be to God. For all who search for the glowing ember of faith deep within themselves this day, we pray for God's peace.

I like this translation from a letter of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ. It reads as a prayer of patient trust:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We would like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet, it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability -
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually - let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time,
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming in you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his[her] hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

This is from the prayer book titled "Hearts on Fire: Praying with the Jesuits."

Amen.

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Don't forget the Wednesday Festival: it's easy! Anyone can play!

All you have to do is click on the hyperlinked words: RevGal Wednesday Festival to create a mail message to the Festival team.

Nominations should be from your own blog or another RGBP ring member's. Please include a brief description of the post (a sentence is fine!) and the URL for the post, too!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

11th Hour Preacher Party

Good morning, preachers and friends! (Or good night, depending on your location and circadian rhythms.) Another Saturday, another sermon. My inspiration is coming through a long attachment to that Jeremiah passage in the lectionary, and the hope of connecting it to the Gospel. Where is the Spirit leading you...or perhaps leaving you momentarily stranded?

As usual, we have plenty of coffee brewing. Allergies have been doing strange things to my throat lately, so I also have hot water and a variety of tea. When I get up (yes, I'm one of those for whom this is good night), I'll be making whole wheat pancakes with peanut butter and real maple syrup - splurging with the excuse that it's brain food. I'm sure I can count on all of you to add to the feast!

Pull up a chair or take a spot on the couch; we're here for the long haul. Party on, preaching pals!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Cultural Friday 5


I have spent the week at Summer School studying the Gospel and Western culture, we have looked at art, literature, music, film and popular culture in their myriad expressions. With that in mind I bring you the cultural Friday 5.

Name a

1. Book

2. Piece of music

3. Work of art

4. Film

5. Unusual engagement with popul;ar culture

That have helped/ challenged you on your spiritual journey.

Bonus: Is engagement essential to your Christian faith, how and why?

Let us know in comments if you play and we'll trek on over.

Even better, post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation:
&lt;a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here&lt;/a>
For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thankful for matriarchs, thankful for questions

I am thankful for many things this week. Among them are those of you who are willing to ask your most honest questions and those who are so generous with your experiences and wisdom.

Questions can be e-mailed to askthematriarch@gmail.com

On to the question!

I have been ordained since 1989. Aside from 3 1/2 years spent as a full time mom, very part time pastor, I have been solo pastor of small membership churches (ranging from 45-65 average worship attendance). Not surprisingly, there are many senior adults in these congregations also with homebound and folks in nursing homes.


I don't have any office help except a volunteer who comes in on Fridays to run off the worship bulletin and fold them. Time management has never been my strong suit. Visitation has always been problematic for me. I enjoy visiting folk when I get there, but I find myself "trapped" in the office. Things have gotten worse over the past few years as my husband was experiencing a deteriorating emotional state and our home life descended into chaos. Now he is getting treatment for schizophrenia and active in AA and I feel the need to find a better way to organize and manage visitations.

My question is, how often do you think I should visit folk who are not completely homebound (they go out for dr. visits, hair appointments, maybe even out to eat) but no longer come to church? How about those in nursing homes or assisted living? What about those who attend worship but seem to be getting increasingly frail?

Currently I have about 15 folks either in skilled nursing, assisted living or mostly homebound.



From Jan:
Dear Visitation Pastor,
My heart goes out to you. You sound exhausted and this can't be helping your ministry or your life.

As hard as this might sound, you need to initiate a paradigm shift. Gone are the days when only the clergy visits the homebound or the hospital patients. Gone are the days when the only "minister" is the professional clergy person. It sounds like you are engaged in loving ministry, but you are a pastor in the 21st church and you have much more to do than a man (and it was always a man) who served a congregation as pastor in the 1950s.

Your congregation will balk because it involves change and people hate change. But tell them this:
(not necessarily in this order)
1- You are exhausted and cannot serve them at this pace much longer. You are not God.
2- It's Biblical: the priesthood of all believers, the call of all disciples (followers of Jesus), abundant life -- it's all in there.
3- Their church will die without this shift. Maybe it will take 50 years, but more likely, it will take about 10 years.
4- They are called to serve the living God as surely as you are. And those wonderful, moving moments by the bedside and holding hands in living rooms? They should be blessed with those too.
5- You only job according to Ephesians 4 (the role of pastors) is to equip THEM for ministry. (Yes, there are other tasks you do -- like preach -- because of your special training.)

Have a Come To Jesus Moment with your officers and say, "This will be happening. If you do not want to serve in this capacity, for any reason, that's fine." (I am happy to send you the letter I sent my own officers.)

Train the officers who are ready to follow God's calling. Teach them how to pray with people, how to visit someone in a nursing home. Remind them they they'll be doing this as ambassadors of Christ (not as mere friends) and so, they will be closing visits with prayer (just like the pastor).

They will say:
"What are we paying YOU for?" (you are being paid -- and probably not generously -- for being their pastor.) Again, see Ephesians 4 for the Biblical job description of a pastor.

You will say:
"We are the body of Christ together and I can't be all (or even most of) the body parts."

They will say:
"We don't have time to do this."

You will say:
"We make time for the priorities in our lives. If we are on fire to serve God, nothing will be able to keep us from doing this."

What we (the Matriarchs) say: "Bless you sister."


From Karen:
The answer to this question will vary from congregation to congregation. I'd say you need to get your lay leaders in on this discussion. What are the congregation's ministry priorities? If caring for elderly and homebound members is a high priority, they need to support that with lay volunteers or agree that you will spend your work time doing more of that than something else you could be doing. And if it is a high priority, help them define what "caring for" means. Does everyone get a once a month personal visit? How about once a quarter? Is a phone call okay? On the other hand, if the congregation really wants to reach out to the neighborhood, start new ministries, explore alternative worship styles, etc. it isn't reasonable to also expect that the pastor will be spending half her time visiting shut-ins and doing clerical stuff in the office. Small churches especially need to be clear about their vision and priorities since both staff and lay volunteer time is more limited.


From Abi:
I commend you for what all you have been through and that you have handled everything you have been through and continued to Pastor. Perhaps you have been doing time management your own way and not aware that is what it is.

There are several factors here to be dealt with; Do the church leaders have a clear understanding of the number of people that are homebound or slightly homebound who need visitation? Are they aware of how much more you are having to do in the "office" than before? Have you done a time usage study to be able to show them the facts? Have you asked for more volunteers to "help" either in the office or in the visitation. Our church developed a team to do some of the homebound visitation, which has taken some of the load off the Pastor. We just recently began to add volunteers to help with our office work as well. Many churches are unaware of how much time many things take along with visitation. Home bound visitation often takes more than a brief visit as many of our volunteers have learned and have testified to. I think it is helpful for church members to be aware and to be involved in these ministries of the church, and for the leaders to take ownership in these ministries.

Now having said that, you still have got to do your part as the Pastor. I'll be honest I struggle with the visitation of the homebound and slightly homebound too. But having said that I think this calls for the principle of "working smarter, and not harder." I think your time usage study will help you some with this. Perhaps make a list that prioritizes the homebound persons by need. The church I serve presently would like for me to go at least once a month to see the homebound. But with 15 or more homebound that is a lot of time spent driving, visiting, and recharging. I try to combine places and people with visits. Those who are across town. Those who are in the same facility or apartments. Those who need it more. The other thing about the members visiting is that they are also able to tell me who needs a visit or would like one or who is doing okay right now. And sometimes I will go with one of the members to visit as well. It takes the "heaviness" of the visit off of one person.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wednesday Festival: County Fair Edition


Piggies

Flowers





Tilt-a-Whirl

Moo cows

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but up here in the Great Sinkholes Region, it's County Fair Time! Hurray!

You will always be able to find me in the Livestock Barn or the Exhibition Areas!

Let's see who else is exhibiting this week:

Rev v'd Anjel just returned from England and muses about vacations, pilgrimages and thin places. You'll find her at home here.

Congratulations to Red Tent. Her blog turns a year old today. Come and celebrate at her virtual potluck!!
Prize-winning Pumpkin

Sue at Inner Dorothy has something to say.

Deb's at the beach (lucky, lucky, LUCKY!!!). She's done
some musing
for Wednesday's Festival with school and everything starting...


A Lin is entering this post for discussion with anyone who works with youth.

Jonah heard NPR describe the Yazidi, in NE Iraq, as people who "practice mythology"; read his response at Love During Wartime.

Reverendmother's ministry is powered by faith, verve, chocolate, and really great shoes ---how about you?


And speaking of end-of-summer rituals, drop by Cheese's blog as she expresses her frustration at the Boys of Summer!

Abbey of the Arts has been working long and hard on putting together her first art and spirituality zine and you can find the information here:Praying With the Elements.

Amy over at Faith Musing says, "I have been slowing down on my blogging- but here is my reflection on the end of a child raising era and the beginning of a new one...": here.

Blue Ribbons, Grand Reserve Champion awards, and Best-in-Show Certificates to all! Now, where's my shovel? Hubby, have you seen my shovel?

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Sabbath edition

This week's lectionary offers us a couple of ways of looking at sabbath. I find myself not preaching about sabbath very often, because I have difficulty with practicing it myself, and shouldn't we be careful about practicing what we preach? (Or is it preaching what we practice?)

I'm looking at the Isaiah 58 alternative passage and the gospel lesson and finding all of the juxtapositions of the idea of sabbath. After all, Jesus was famous for doing some of his best work on that day. On the other hand, the practice of not observing the sabbath really ticked off the God of Israel! I'm also wondering what possible relevance the idea of a day set apart for worship and renewal is in this culture of "do more, be more, have more".

What are you wondering about this week?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Monday Meet n' Greet - August 20, 2007

WELCOME...

Soul and Culture: pondering my role in a bigger story - learning how creativity and spirituality go together as i journey along. what i'm reading, pondering, or listening to on the iPod. Amy describes herself as, "Left-brained by day, right-brained by night. An insurance professional by day, I am energized by all things creative. I also work with a group in Denver called Urban Skye, a network of small communities joined in a common quest for friendship, personal meaning, and spiritual exploration... My true passions lie in reading, writing, photography, and knitting."

Prairie Light: The reflections of a late-blooming bivocational psychologist and priest, unexpectedly relocated by the Spirit, finding endless enchantment in the life that had been waiting all along for me to find it. Meet RevDrKate, "Late-blooming bivocational psychologist and priest unexpectedly transplanted by the Spirit, finding endless enchantment in the joys of the life that had been waiting all along for me to find it."

Wonderings and Wanderings: The wonderings and wanderings of a very busy pastor in the Midwest. It's Melissa Hatfield back and more bloggerful than ever!



Join us next week for August's book discussion -
Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. Good news for me since finally we are hitting a book that I have actually read.

Phew!

Sunday Afternoon Music Video



Chris Tomlin is considered by some to be (specifically Parade Magazine) the most popular artist in contemporary Christian music because “he wrote or co-wrote three of the 10 most popular songs sung in churches each week, including ‘How Great Is Our God’ – which puts his reach beyond that of most rock stars.”

Contemporary Christian music is often called repetitious, simplistic, theologically shallow and even evil. I will agree that there are songs that are not grounded in solid doctrine, but most of this body of music flows from people's hearts -- and the emotion and passion that they feel cannot be discounted.

This song is one of those that I can sing every Sunday. It is simple and repetitious -- but the feeling of this song is so contemplative, reflective and worship-full. I wish I could have found a "live" recording of this, but please enjoy this slide-show that I found on You-Tube and may you be blessed by this simple song as I have been.

Blessings to all this Sunday afternoon.

Sunday Prayer

St. Hildegard of Bingen lived during the Middle Ages and is considered by many to be one of the finest visionaries of that period.

I love the imagery in her words:

"Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around Him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honor. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground, and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I, a feather on the breath of God."

Interestingly, Hildegard is suspected of having suffered terrible migraines during her life. The famed neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks proposed that at least some of her visions may have been a result of her pain.

Here is a prayer (in contemporary language) to guide our Sunday path...

O God, by whose grace your servant Hildegard, kindled with the Fire of your love, became a burning and shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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

Don't forget the Wednesday Festival: it's easy! Anyone can play!

All you have to do is click on the hyperlinked words: RevGal Wednesday Festival to create a mail message to the Festival team.

Nominations should be from your own blog or another RGBP ring member's. Please include a brief description of the post (a sentence is fine!) and the URL for the post, too!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

11th Hour Preacher Party: Rise and Shine!!! Edition

Good morning, Cabin One!!!!

Rise and Shine and give God the glory, glory!
Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory!
Rise and shine and (stomp) give God the glory, glory!
Children of the Lord.

That's how my Saturday began last week, on the not-so-far-away but magically distant shores of Pilgrim Lodge Summer Camp. Fortunately, I was delivering the wake-up call, not receiving it.

The gospel lesson this week is a wake-up call, too, and I have to admit it goes against my inclinations to preach one in the summer. I like to be gentle in the summer months, when the people in attendance are "the faithful remnant," making it to church week after week while others sit in boats at their family camps.

On the other hand, maybe they are the ones who can hear it.

Where are you finding the Good News this week? What sort of wake-up calls lie ahead in your day? And most importantly, what would you like in your coffee?

Join in the comments as we encourage one another along the way today, and if your sermon is already finished, try not to rub it in!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Five: Word Association, Redux


This one is patterned off an old Friday Five written by Songbird, our Friday Five Creator Emerita:

Below you will find five words. Tell us the first thing you think of on reading each one. Your response might be simply another word, or it might be a sentence, a poem or a story.

1. vineyard

2. root

3. rescue

4. perseverance

5. divided

(Each of these appears in one of the readings from this Sunday's lectionary.)

Let us know in comments if you play. If you're feeling up to it, post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation:
<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>
For a complete how-to, click here.

Image from this intriguing blog.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It’s Thursday, It’s Thursday, It’s Thursday!

It’s Thursday, It’s Thursday, It’s Thursday!
Why am I so excited? Is it because tomorrow is my day off? Why Yes. It is!
But mostly I’m excited because it is

Matriarch Day!

Have a question or issue you’d like addressed by several amazing women with 10+ years experience in the parish?
E-mail it to askthematriarch@gmail.com.

On to the question.

Dear Matriarchs,
I'm considering beginning the process of looking for a new call, and have some questions.

1) When filling out my paperwork, I have to give references. Should I ask a member of my current congregation to be one of them?

2) Should I let anyone at my church know that I am thinking about leaving?

3) And, maybe most importantly, how do I stay emotionally connected while I am in the process of disconnecting? I'm finding that, even in these early stages, I'm not as engaged as I once was, particularly in handling criticism and anxious moments. How have you handled this?

Thank you for your wisdom-


From Jan:
Dear Pondering-a-Move,
This can be tricky. It's certainly possible, if you have a trustworthy leader in the church who can keep a secret, to ask him/her to serve as a reference. A former member who moved due to re-location, etc. would be better. Regardless, be sure that the person is indeed able to keep confidences, because I've know situations in which the pastor asked a trusted member to be a reference, but that reference told someone else in the congregation who told someone else, etc., etc., until the whole church knew and he had to leave the position before having another call. He'd lost his authority and no one would listen to him "because he was leaving anyway."

It seems best to couch this in the truest terms: you feel that the congregation needs a new leader, or you are called to a different kind of ministry, or the congregation would be better served by fresh leadership -- something that makes it not be accusatory or derogatory.

It feels like committing adultery (or what I imagine adultery would feel like). You are clearly sneaking around and being courted by someone new. You tell white lies ("I'm visiting friends out of town this weekend.") Your heart is not really in the current position.

And yet, people schedule weddings (which you may or may not officiate depending on how far ahead they are scheduled) and seasonal programs (which you are fairly certain you will miss.)

Know that your 'dating' may or may not pan out. Stay as engaged as possible. And enjoy the process.


From Karen:
It's important not to disengage prematurely. The search process can take a long time and it is all the more painful if you have "resigned in place"--for you and for the congregation. Twice when I've been in the search process, I asked a retired pastor who was active in my congregation to serve as one of my references. They were part of the congregation so they'd seen me in action, so to speak, but since they were also clergy they understood the search process, the need for confidentiality, etc. etc. I also asked a staff person who was not a member of the congregation to be a reference. He could also speak to my work, but since he was not a church member he didn't go into panic that he was going to lose his pastor.


From Earthchick:
1 - Personally, I would not ask someone in my current congregation to serve as a reference because I would not want parishioners to know I was considering leaving. I would look instead to colleagues - other ministers in the community, or former staff members - or to members of congregations you may have previously served.

2 - If I were seeking a new call, I would not let anyone in my current congregation know that. I would be concerned about introducing unnecessary anxiety into the system. If you end up not leaving, then you've gotten people all stirred up for no reason, and they may begin to find reasons to want you to leave. I have actually seen it happen that a personnel committee got tipped off that a staff member was considering leaving, and they ended up asking him to leave before he'd actually found another call. If you do end up leaving, then there will be plenty of time between your announcement of that and your actual departure for them to feel and process the anxiety and grief surrounding your leaving.

3 - This is so hard. To even consider leaving a church can feel unfaithful - like you are "cheating" on them simply by having thoughts of another church. But it can also be an opportunity for discernment. You might spend a week living as if you've already made the decision to definitely leave, and see how that feels. Do you feel a sense of freedom and relief? Do you feel grief, and, if so, what is it around? What feels like unfinished business in your current congregation? Then spend a week living as if you've decided to stay, and see how that feels, asking yourself similar questions. After sounding out your two options, you might have a better sense of whether or not it's the right time to begin looking elsewhere, as well as having a better sense of where your focus needs to be in your current congregation (whether you stay or go). If you do decide it is time to leave, finding ways to stay connected while at the same time preparing yourself for closure is a tricky balancing act. I think it's important to tend to anything that feels like important unfinished business, as well as to focus on what you love about your congregation. It is tempting to just sort of "check out" and spend your energy planning and preparing for your next call. But it is important both for you and your congregation to have a healthy ending. Once your church knows you are going to leave, they are likely to have some anxiety, but you are likely to feel some relief (the "secret" of your impending departure is out in the open now) - in my experience, this is actually a freeing thing. In that freedom, I try to stay engaged while also enjoying a new sense of detachment from some of the things we ministers tend to get too caught up in (like approval, criticism, and visible outcomes of our efforts). If you can focus on freely loving your congregation, as well as offering care to them in their grief and anxiety, I think it's possible to stay connected while still preparing to leave. Don't forget, too, to tend to your own grief and anxiety.
Best wishes in your discernment.


From Abi:
About #3, What you are experiencing is normal and called the anticipatory grief work. It is important you have your feelings, recognize them and feel them. But you need to have someone you can share those feelings with that are not involved in the present church not yet. You want to leave well, and to help them let you go well. Even if the church knew I was going or we were in the early stages of discerning this as a Methodist, anxiety went up for everybody. The anxiety is what needs to be modulated on your part. Be as non-anxious in their presence as you can. As one author says you can't maintain that all the time, but do it to the best of your ability and with as much help as you can.



What say you?
What do you think?
Have any of you successfully used an active congregation member as a reference?
How have you stayed engaged?

And, most importantly, why do we use dating and marriage analogies for this?


Peace to you-
Listing Straight

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fednesday Westival - metathesis edition

Look metathesis up in your Wunk and Fagnall!!! (ok, who is old enough to get that -- not the spoonerism). On to the Festival....


Being a part of the Wednesday Festival team really gives me the opportunity to read blogs I might not typically get to and to realize the diversity of writing styles in this group! Thank you!
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Need to read some good yarns?

Tell you what - PresbyGal writes another installment of indispensably invisible -it's a darn good read! How does she spin those stories? And talk about spinners here --Spooky Rach posts her latest cheese chronicle.


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Are there strings attached here to this post??
Check out RevMommy's extraordinary trio here (when's the next gig?).


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Across the pond.....

Lorna (See through faith) continues to write about being missional and has found a great course which could be perfect as a place to start being intentional out there in the big, wide world. She also took a long hard and serious look at how she has been an awful person as a Christian and said sorry (and then she tagged others).

Sally shares with us Sarah’s story; - some thoughts on Sarah’s faith! And... Sarah asks a very important question at the end ! A poem was also posted as part of this months synchroblog on inclusivity and exclusivity.

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On the more serious side to writing....


Shawna has begun the start of a book proposal called Career Women of the Bible on my site, and she would love to get views and opinions on it.
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Shhhh.......


This is the second RGBP blogger who I know of who has taken an 8 day silent retreat. Gannett Girl posts about her eight-day Ignatian retreat, with lots of pics, here and here and here and here.
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Some meetings leave you with a meh- go give Cheesehead a hug won't you?

A little rumination, and great discussion, on success and competition in the ministry is over at Reverend Mother's blog.


ReverendaRosa's Bible Study went astray - go find out how.


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From the this and that division....


Ca CHING!!!Mindy hit the jackpot - Check it out!

Deb has had some fun posts recently about her recent trip overseas, but this one is a serious one...


PrairieGirl is back, even though she thinks she fell off the blogging face of the Earth, she's back. Check out the fact she has started a new call and the blessings she has received. She really feels the Holy Spirit working!



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Ok, now that you have gone to read these posts, how many of them did you leave a comment after reading? Go say hello to your fellow RGBP (fellow?) and let them know you were there. Know how good it feels to get a comment from someone?
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Now... an RGBP Public Service Announcement:

Remember our book study for August - Revabi is our leader for this book:

Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott will be discussed on Monday, August 27. When you purchase through Amazon, RGBP benefits.

A few Q and A's on this Amazon Association.

How much do we earn?


We earn a percentage from the sales. For example we earn about a buck on the book above if you buy it through the link or from the Amazon search box in the side bar. The percentage amount varies depending on the number of items purchased.

What has been purchased?

Amazon offers more than books - one can purchase groceries, DVDs, pet items, electronics, and CDs. I might add that there has been a good bit of perfume purchased, so I KNOW the RevGals sure do smell good. And I happen to know I purchased my daughter's college textbooks so RGBP benefitted (ouch!).


Once I go through the search box or click on a link from here, do additional items also count?

Yup, as long as it is during the same shopping period (meaning through the same browser continuing from the link you originally sought).

You mean, that Ipod I type into the search box on the sidebar will give RGBP credit if I buy it? Yes it will.

How about if I buy a used book? That will too!

Does it tell who buys what in the report?

Nope, we have no idea who bought that thong. :)

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Now.... go snooping on those RGBP blogs and share with us a find on someone's blog! Just email WednesdayFestival@gmail.com and give the link (make sure you give the specific post link!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: A good week to go off lectionary?

Is anybody else but me discouraged by this week's lectionary?

My personal favorite is the people being sawn in half in Hebrews. Not. Failed vineyards, mocking, flogging, stoning, fire, rain, persecution, and a reminder that we're all going to die make for a tricky preaching week.

Luckily I find hope in the "God near by, not a God far off" in Jeremiah, (which is actually an alternate reading you can find at the Vanderbilt site) and I think I will try to wrap my head around that one this week. The others wear me out. And it's only Tuesday morning.

What about you?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Musical Musings: The Sacred Feminine

My original goal was to post on one of my favorite composers of Christian music focusing on the divine feminine, Colleen Fulmer. Readers of my blog may remember that I have posted a couple of sermons which make use of her wonderful music celebrating images found in scripture and tradition. You can find them here and here. Letha Dawson Scanzoni has a great article in the EEWC newsletter describing Colleen's journey from Roman Catholic nun and lay minister to Methodist pastor, as well as the trajectory of her three musical collections. It turns out there are some availability issues...but she is still worth knowing about, and keeping your eye out for used copies. And Sophia Spirit, the website which offers her one available tape has a plethora of wonderful women's spirituality resources, so do your own explorations and please let us know if you have--or buy-- any of their other offerings in the comments.

Colleen Fulmer's first tape, "Cry of Ramah," was originally a Master of Theological Studies project not meant for public distribution. However, it was so spiritually nourishing for women that it became widely known in feminist Catholic circles. The tape contains a variety of songs focusing on female divine images in Scripture and Tradition, great women of the Bible, and social justice--a concern always present in Colleen's work. It made a huge influence on me and my friends in college; unfortunately, my copy bit the dust in our car accident and it is no longer available, nor is the accompanying songbook.

The second, "Her Wings Unfurled," is still available in tape format; a songbook is also available. It has a special focus on the Holy Spirit, and songs making creative use of the stories of Miriam and Sarah, all with Fulmer's patented combination of clear and powerful vocals, lyrical piano, and energetic guitar. Some are healing and consoling, others energizing and uplifting, even humorous. Additional features include several bilingual songs (Spanish and English) and a couple of duets with the well known male singer Jesse Manibusan.
Some of my favorites include "Living Water" (bilingual), "Stricken Deer," and the lively "No Song"--inspiring when you need to set a boundary or take care of yourself. "There is a piece of wisdom, all the world should know: the same Spirit who calls us to say yes, also bids us to say no....So I'll say no, no, no, a thousand times I'll say no! Read my lips! It's so clear; just open up your ears, I'm saying no, no, no, no, no, no, no no." The tape is definitely worth getting if, like me, you haven't completely switched to CD and/or IPod.

Argh! Tragedy! The third collection, "Dancing Sophia's Circle," is marvelous and, as the title suggests, focuses mainly on the biblical divine figure of Sophia/Lady Wisdom. I purchased the cd a year ago and found it very powerful, but when I went to link for this post found that both it and the songbook are out of print. I have written to the distributors to see if more copies are due to be issued at any point, and will post an update when I receive one.

Anyway, the distributors, SophiaSpirit, are well worth knowing about in their own right. Their site features a wide and high quality variety of contemporary women's music from both Christian and non-Christian perspectives, as well as art and books. Some are as well known as Holly Near or Miriam Therese Winter; others are lesser known gems like Bernadette Farrell or Shaina Noll. So if you don't feel like trying out "Her Wings Unfurled," a visit will provide you with access to other wonderful resources for your own enjoyment as well as use in adult education or retreat settings.

In particular, I haven't heard Kathryn Christian's "Come, Holy Mother: Sacred Lullabies", but her use of texts from Scripture and medieval women mystics, including Mechthild of Magdeburg and Catherine of Siena, makes me want to order her CD. The write-up has an evocative quote, I am guessing from the cover, from Julian of Norwich. It sums up for me the importance of finding accessible ways to connect with the love of God the Mother, a hidden presence in our Christian tradition, for both ourselves and those to whom we minister:

This fair and lovely word mother is so sweet and so kind in itself that it cannot truly be said of anyone or to anyone except of the One and to the One who is the true Mother of all life and of all things.

To the property of motherhood belong nature, love, wisdom and knowledge . . . and this is God.

Sunday Afternoon Music Videos: How Can I Keep From Singing

My life goes on, in endless song, above earth's lamentations...
No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I'm clinging...

A 19th century Baptist hymn - made famous again in the 60's by Pete Seeger (though minus much of the Christian text). Enya has a cover of it - but the Seeger version, not Rev. Robert Wadsworth Lowry's original.

May your week be free of storms and full of song!

Sunday Prayer

In my continued efforts to bring more balance and peace into my life, I've been reflecting on The Prayer of St. Francis.

May these words bring you peace today...

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

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Don't forget the Wednesday Festival: it's easy! Anyone can play!

All you have to do is click on the hyperlinked words: RevGal Wednesday Festival to create a mail message to the Festival team.

Nominations should be from your own blog or another RGBP ring member's. Please include a brief description of the post (a sentence is fine!) and the URL for the post, too!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

11th Hour Preacher Party: The Mad Tea Party

Painting found at Art.com

"There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it: a Dormouse was sitting between them, fast asleep, and the other two were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and talking over its head. `Very uncomfortable for the Dormouse,' thought Alice; `only, as it's asleep, I suppose it doesn't mind.' The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: `No room! No room!' they cried out when they saw Alice coming. `There's plenty of room!' said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large arm-chair at one end of the table. " From Alice in Wonderland

And yes there is plenty of room, food and drink for everyone. So pull up a chair with pen and paper in hand/or laptop and the bible in the other as you write your sermon. Its early morning, and I am already working on two sermons, one for the morning worship and one for the evening.
I'm not doing the lectionary, I am still preaching on the 8 Quality Characteristics of Natural Church Development. This one is on Passionate Spirituality. Saturday we have a one day VBS so I'll be busy with that most of the day. But I will be checking in and out to welcome you to the party, refill your drinks and plates. I'll even pray with you if you want or need it, like if you get stuck or something. Bob is doing child care so drop the kids off at the nursery.

So what's your plan? Any body need a fresh brewed cup of coffee, just take a seat and I'll pour you one. Blessings on you as your write your sermons.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday 5 Stress busting edition

NWN week 3- 07 086

I am off to spend a few days at the beach chilling out after a hectic few weeks and before I head off for Summer School...

So with that in mind this weeks questions are looking at how you deal with the stress monster!!!???

1. First, and before we start busting stress, what causes you the most stress, is it big things or the small stuff ?

2. Exercise or chocolate for stress busting ( or maybe something else) ?

3.What is your favourite music to chill out to?

4. Where do you go to chill?

5. Extrovert or introvert, do you relax at a party, or do you prefer a solitary walk?

Bonus- share your favourite stress busting tip!

Let us know in comments if you play and we'll trek on over.

Even better, post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation:
<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>
For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Wise! The Wonderful! The Matriarchs!

Thursday! You know what that means, Matriarch day!
WhooHoo!

Dear Matriarchs,
I am a newly appointed Pastor of a small-town UMC. My administrative assistant and I have been discussing this week ways to ensure our safety when we are in the church alone. We are concerned about a number of things:

1. She shared with me that sometimes people will come into the office looking for help (money food etc.) and sometimes men come in when she's by herself which makes her uncomfortable. The offices are at the back of the church, on the ground floor. The only way out of the church from our office is through the sanctuary, or down two flights of stairs to the basement. Most of the time we will be the only ones in the building. How can we both reach out and ensure our own safety?

2. Our other concern is use of the Sanctuary. We had thought about maybe locking the doors but having a call button so that we could let people in. But that seems to me to say, "we don't' want you here!" Some people feel unwilling to use the call button----they may have just enough courage to open the door! Plus, if we lock the doors, anyone who feels like they want to come pray in the sanctuary will not be allowed unless they talk to one of us to open the door. (This happened on Friday. She came out and found someone just sitting in the sanctuary.)

Suggestions? Ideas? Please Help us!



My words of wisdom go back to the advice I was given as a sweet young southern belle (insert laughter here) moving to New York City: “Pay attention to your icky feelings.” Don’t ignore them. Weigh them. Consider them. Sometimes you need to take risks, other times you may want to step back. I’ve always been comfortable in the building, but I have been reluctant to drive someone without another grown-up in the car. Although sometimes I’ve even done that.

On to advice.

From Abi:
I think you all need to raise this issue with the PPR committee and the trustees. I would even check with your insurance company to see if they have some recommendations. It is an issue. Plus you want to be sure you get everyone on board so they understand what and why you are doing what you are doing. We don't need to live or work in fear, but we do need to be mindfully careful.

Our doors are locked, yet with a call button. But we do unlock before a group comes who might be using it. We now have a day set aside for prayer and we leave the front door unlocked on that day.

You might get the members in the habit of using the call button. Or you could have a designated male there at all times. But a designated male does not mean safety. Men have been robbed, mugged, and killed too.

It is sad that even in a small town you have to lock doors and think about your safety, but it is the case. Good question.

How do you be the church of open doors, yet do it safely?


From Jan:
Dear Safety Pastor:

This conversation has often occurred in our building:

Person who's come in and is wandering the halls: I'm looking for the pastor.

Me (the Pastor) running into him in the halls: The pastor isn't available right now. Someone can help you (tomorrow, this afternoon, etc.)

Many people see me and assume I'm the church secretary. And that's okay if he believes that the church secretary can't help him. A disturbed person is going to be disturbing with the secretary too, so sometimes it doesn't matter who deals with such folks who wander through our doors.

Actually, I've always thought that getting killed in the church building would not be the worst thing that could ever happen, in eternal terms.

Having said this, we have a security system in our building after an assortment of transients started living in the church basement, scaring away the evening circle members. The security system now serves as a deterrent in that we clearly have one and someone might (erroneously) believe that we are super safe and have emergency alarms that ring into the police station in case of trouble. The truth is that everybody in town either 1) has a key to our building or 2) knows the security codes to turn the alarms off. This is what happens when you choose for your building to be a tool for community ministry which is what we should be doing. We have many 12 Step Groups, Mission Projects, etc. and so we can't leave the building locked. (We do lock the building when only one or two people are in the building and/or expected.)

Our sexton has a sixth sense in terms of noticing when possibly dangerous individuals are in the building, and then he vacuums outside my study until the person is gone. Perhaps expanding a staff member's job description to include this "watchful eye" task would be helpful.

And on this note, I open it to you. What do you think? Is Safe Pastor an oxymoron? What’s the difference in being a fool for Christ and just plain stupid?

I hope that you are well-
Peace to you-

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wednesday Festival: Beautiful Summer Edition

So titled in honor of Sally's glorious sunset photos. What's beautiful in your neck of the woods? Why not take and post a picture, and let us know where to find it in the comments...? (In case you were looking for something to do today...) :)

In the News (doo doo doo, doo doo doo)
RevGals are In The News again...have you seen the article about our ring at BlogHer? It's titled "Christian Blogs That May Surprise."

Life and All That
Mindy has Gone All Progressive on us!

And RevAbi has been sweaty with love. Abi also cleans up really well, and her gorgeous daughters do, too, for wedding/flower girl duty.

All God's Creatures...PinkShoes has a new inhabitant at her church.

1-4 Grace has been having a bit of a rough go, but makes a stellar presentation to St. Casserole. That's the spirit, Grace! Laughter is a sound the Lord loves!

Speaking of making a joyful noise, Gord has a djembe at his house, and a new drummer; and Rachel at The Big Dunk has been playing djembe in her church's drum circle.

Quotidian Grace shares about why Bruce Matthews is her favorite Hall of Famer!

LutheranHusker shares poignantly about how a fender bender turned into both a life lesson and a trip down memory lane.

Molly was asked to apply for a job, and is thinking hard about it.

Scripture and Stuff

Sally is thinking about being vulnerable to God.

Jeff (Philosophy over Coffee) has composed a series called "Children's Sermons that TextWeek Rejected." Aw, comeon, TextWeek!!

Kievas Fargo has pointed out a small but important miracle of Jesus that goes largely unnoticed.

Shawna has posted two great articles: one on the Gospel from Iraq, and one on Depression and Spiritual Direction.

Amy shares about a realization she had, watching a musical: we are Telling the Story!

Scott's got a sermon to share on The Rich Fool, and is thinking about his denomination's membership decline.

Back to school...
Lorna's heading back to seminary in Estonia next week, and looking at her scripture choices for a sermon to be handed in before school starts. But, in case you think she is working too hard, here are some photos from family R&R time in the country.

Who else is headed back to seminary? I know I've seen some posts around the ring...? And special ed teacher Cathy is already back in school! Her kids started on August 3!

CPClergymama wants to go back to school, and would appreciate some input on PhD programs.

Challenges
Sally shares a video from YouTube that caused her to feel both sad and challenged. She indicates it points out our need for a holistic theology, and for building bridges.

Please Cherish Yourselves

As has been noted on the RevGals blog in the past, the planning team continues to work on our RevGals Big Event planned for next year. "Relationship building and spiritual development will be the focus of the Big Event," said Quotidian Grace in reporting the group's discussions. Another theme that emerged in our discussions was self care.

Working in ministry, with many of us women, we tend to be the healers, caretakers, fixers, etc., but perhaps not take the time for that care for ourselves.

The brief Myers-Briggs Type Inventory that many of us have done online (here's mine, and you can take it yourself by clicking on the chart)) recently shows that while there are a variety of types in the ring, but Zorra notes that many of us, especially those with the NFP profile, suffer from depression. In this vein, I commend to you again Shawna's article on spiritual direction, which has certainly got me to thinking. And I ask you, in all love, to take some time each day to practice love and care for yourselves.

Beautiful summer. Beautiful you. Open your heart and let God speak to you today.

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If we missed your nomination, if you just forgot...please get it added in the comments! Happy Wednesday!

edited to add: Yikes, I went to clean out the Spam box and there are half a dozen real nominations in there...some of them old! Sorry y'all, I'm working on getting them added!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Is this IT? edition

****Friends,forgive the early post. I have VBS tomorrow bright and early, and I wanted to get this up before tomorrow afternoon!****

In the tradition in which I was raised, there was a lot of talk about heaven. There was lots of speculation about what heaven would be like, too. Streets of gold, a mansion, a jewel crusted crown--these were all things I was taught were waiting for me when I reached my Reward. Earthly life was just the appetizer; eternity in heaven was the banquet.

This belief got me through some hard times growing up.

Trouble is, I stopped seeing the Christian life that way. I stopped seeing earthly existence as a way-station for the journey to the Real Thing. It's not that I don't believe in an afterlife, but I don't buy the argument that this life, here on earth is not "real" (as in important), too.

During a Bible study series I taught this spring, I was surprised when most of my students stated that they do not believe in any afterlife of any kind. The prevailing belief is that once we're dead, we're done.

I've been looking at the Hebrews text for the week, specifically the part about how the pillars of the faith died with their promises unfulfilled, not looking back but looking forward, desiring a better country--a heavenly one.

I'm pondering this week the Christian life: way station for something better, or an opportunity to create heaven on earth? What does this have to say about how we are Church together?

What are you pondering this week?

Meet n' Greet: Classic Edition

No one to officially meet or greet today so I thought I would take a moment to:
a) Applaud YouTube. It is because of clips like these now found on the internet that classics like these are not lost.

and

b) Give thanks once again for the diversity we find here at revgalsblogpals. I'm definitely Carol, but have an inner Julie that sometimes just has to come out (albeit nowhere near as gracefully). How 'bout you?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sunday Afternoon Music

I am off at knitting camp with my mom and niece, but I wish you all a blessed and peaceful Sunday afternoon! Perhaps you will enjoy this lovely music as part of your day.

The sound of Libera has become familiar to millions worldwide following the group's successful recordings and appearances on TV and radio, stage and film.

Libera is a real 'boy band' whose young members have become known for their unique musical style in concert and on their atmospheric albums, which have topped classical and mainstream charts across the world.







Blessings!

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Applaud Applaud!! Beautiful Music....


(Pssssssssssst..... Mary Beth is on a knitting retreat, so I have added a brief announcement to her posting).


Grabbing conductor's baton to give a tap tap tap --- attention please!

In three weeks we will be discussing this book:




Have you read it yet? If not, you have time. It's a collection of short stories on Lamott's life experiences and faith. Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. It will be led by RevAbi on Monday, August 27. If you click on the link we provide, you can read reviews and synopses from Amazon. Purchasing helps out RevGals by giving a percentage of the sale. Or, you can check it out from your local library!

Let's supposin' that you want to get September's book too. Might as well since you are getting August's and these two will get you free shipping. Good Fences: The Boundaries of Hospitality, by Caroline Westerhoff will be led by Songbird on September 24. (If you want to read an excerpt, Amazon has a feature on the page of the book to read some of the book to get an idea if you like it.)

I, for one, have read Lamott's book. It was my first one, however, I was familiar with her from the fact that several of you have mentioned her on your blogs. I'm glad I read her book, and as many of you have mentioned her short prayers "Please" and Thank you", Amen.

How many of you are reading Lamott's book now? I know I look forward to the discussion coming up. Won't you join us?


Thank you Mary Beth, for providing beauitful music for Sunday afternoon.

Sunday Prayer - Pop Culture Edition

Yahweh
...hypothetical reconstruction of the tetragrammaton YHWH (see Jehovah), based on the assumption that the tetragrammaton is the imperfective of Heb. verb hawah, earlier form of hayah "was," in the sense of "the one who is, the existing."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2001 Douglas Harper.

Yah·weh
noun a name of God, transliterated by scholars from the Tetragrammaton and commonly rendered Jehovah.

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.


Friends, let us join our hearts, minds and spirits together in prayer this day as we contemplate the words of U2's "Yahweh"...

Take these shoes
Click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes
And make them fit
Take this shirt
Polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt
And make it clean, clean
Take this soul
Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul
And make it sing

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I'm waiting for the dawn

Take these hands
Teach them what to carry
Take these hands
Don't make a fist no
Take this mouth
So quick to criticise
Take this mouth
Give it a kiss

(Refrain)

Still waiting for the dawn, the sun is coming up
The sun is coming up on the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, tell me now
Why the dark before the dawn?

Take this city
A city should be shining on a hill
Take this city
If it be your will
What no man can own, no man can take
Take this heart
Take this heart
Take this heart
And make it break...

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

Don't forget the Wednesday Festival: it's easy! Anyone can play!

All you have to do is click on the hyperlinked words: RevGal Wednesday Festival to create a mail message to the Festival team.

Nominations should be from your own blog or another RGBP ring member's. Please include a brief description of the post (a sentence is fine!) and the URL for the post, too!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Preacher Party Time!


It's 8:15 on the east coast -- I'm getting a slow start this morning. The coffee's on, I'm dressed for a wedding (panty hose this early in the morning should be illegal) and a fixin' to go. Mother-in-law-zilla awaits.

Later today: sermon time!
I'm going with the Luke 12:13-21 text, especially this bit: "And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

That little bit where the dude is talking to himself "And I will say to my soul, 'Soul...'" -- How many times have we done this? Can YOU say rationalization? Do you talk yourself into things maybe you shouldn't do?

Off to the wedding! I'll be back to pass out slices of leftover cake....

Friday, August 03, 2007

Friday Five: Post-Pilgrimage Edition


Hello friends, I am just back from a lovely time of pilgrimage in the isle of Iona, "cradle of Scottish Christianity." It has provided much food for thought, to say the least, and so, to keep the pilgrim mojo going:

1. Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? (however you choose to define the term) Share a bit about it. If not, what's your reaction to the idea of pilgrimage?

2. Share a place you've always wanted to visit on pilgrimage.

3. What would you make sure to pack in your suitcase or backpack to make the pilgrimage more meaningful? Or does "stuff" just distract from the experience?

4. If you could make a pilgrimage with someone (living, dead or fictional) as your guide, who would it be? (I'm about thisclose to saying "Besides Jesus." Yes, we all know he was indispensable to those chaps heading to Emmaus, but it's too easy an answer)

5. Eventually the pilgrim must return home, but can you suggest any strategies for keeping that deep "mountaintop" perspective in the midst of everyday life? (don't mind me, I'll be over here taking notes)


Let us know in comments if you play and we'll trek on over.

Even better, post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation:
<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>
For a complete how-to, click here.

Photograph of pilgrims on the way to St. Columba's Bay, courtesy of this page.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Thursday, Thursday. Ask the Matriarch!

WooHoo! It’s Thursday!

And we have a fabulous question:

I am a first call pastor. When I was hired, I was given reasonable acknowledgement for my previous life experience and was provided with a pay package that met our institutional church's compensation guidelines. My housing allowance was low but at least it met guidelines (barely).


For the first few months of my call, nobody said a word about the pay package. In the last few months (as summer arrived and giving decreased), the church treasurer has been dropping hints about what a stretch it was to bring me aboard. For example, "You know, Pastor Before You didn't require health insurance, that's a large expense for us now," and "Before we called you, we really thought that the moving expenses would be about half of what they were for you and your family," and "In the past, we've always given just a modest raise annually - we only followed synod guidelines when calling a new pastor because the synod insisted."

After digging into the annual reports of the last 20+ years, I recently discovered that my longtime predecessor was paid 26% below suggested minimum church compensation guidelines. The pastor in-between the longtime pastor and me never spent his continuing education funds, was also below guidelines at the end of his time at the church, and seldom took any vacation (big surprise...he burned out and is no longer a pastor).


As budget time sneaks up on us this fall, how would the experienced among us handle the situation? I was taught in seminary that insisting upon minimum guidelines consistently is the way to go. Am I an idealist nut to still believe this is the proper course of action?


The quick synopsis from one Matriarch: Dear first call pastor: no. You are not an idealist nut.


From Jan:
My first response is to say "run" - these people may be wonderful, salt-of-the-earth children of God, but they sound as if they are living in survival mode with no idea they could be living in thriving mode. In coming up with their budget, I wonder if they first budget the non-negotiable (utilities, insurance for the building) and consider staff a second priority. From what I read, this is backwards. They need to discern prayerfully what it their highest priority, what they can't live without. My hope is that they will say they can't live without the hope of the gospel and therefore someone to proclaim it (that would be you.) The way they treasure their pastor (or not) reflects the way their passion for spiritual growth and discipleship. Again, it sounds like they are focused on getting by, offering the least they can offer, etc. It's a matter of hospitality among other things. Be careful and take care of yourself (because it, sadly, doesn't sound like they take good care of their pastors.)


First Call, I left my first church when they started suggesting I take a cut in salary to help them balance their budget. It’s not that I was unsympathetic to them; it’s that they were asking me to make sacrifices they were not willing to make. As a colleague at the time advised, if they had, for many years prior, taken stewardship more seriously, this would likely not be a problem. What if they had come to me and told me that ever member had pledged to give 10% more, and would I be willing to give 10% more as well?


I’m sure that there are one or two (or fifty) of you out there who have some thoughts about this. What say you?


Have a question you want answered? Just send it on, askthematriarch@gmail.com