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Monday, June 30, 2008

Short and Sweet Meet 'N Greet

Good Monday Morning!

We have two member to introduce today, so our posting will be short and sweet.

First there is Knitting Preacher who blogs at Knit One, Purl One, Preach One. She say, "I am a solo pastor educated South of the Mason Dixon, living and working north of it now. I have 2 cats, no spouse, no kids, but a ton of yarn!"

Next there is Searching Soul (a.k.a Darleen Pryds) who blogs at Searching a Little More Everyday. She says, "I'm a professor of Church History looking for answers to questions posed by living with faith. I accept answers wherever I can find them. Since 1992 I have been a lay preacher, first in the Episcopal Church and now in the Roman Catholic Church. I am quickly coming to see blogging as a form of preaching. Since all good preaching invites comments and conversation, I welcome your comments to my posts."

Welcome Knitting Preacher and Searching Soul!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Music Video -- Psalm 13

Hello blogging friends. I'm filling in today. Peace be with you!

Here are the opening words of Psalm 13.

"How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,

and have sorrow in my heart all day long?"

Perhaps you read these sad words in worship this morning. I did, and I found them to be rather too close to how I am feeling. I found so many moving videos for today that I just couldn't choose just one. This first one is six minutes long, but the visuals are striking.

This next one is from Shane and Shane, a duo I only began listening to recently but who are rapidly becoming favorites. The video is not the best, but if you like simple music and vocal harmonies, you will likely enjoy these two.

If you'd like, tell us what you sang in church today. Or perhaps share with us what music is touching your heart lately.

I Will, With God's Help

Holy and Gracious God, you call to me and I answer, "Here I am!" Help me to listen with ears sensitive to the softest word and the angriest. Help me to follow when the path seems easy and when the path seems impossible. Help me to see the hungry and give them food, the thirsy and give them a cold cup of water. Help me to give thanks to you for the gift of life, my life, the life of others, and especially the gift of life given to us through your Son. Help me to be still when I need to be still and to move when action is called. In all things and in all ways help me as I seek to be your hands and heart in this world. Amen.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: "Lalalala, I can't hear you" Edition

Hey, everybody! How goes it this Saturday? Whatcha preachin' on?

Which one?

I don't think I caught that.

No, don't repeat it.

Lalalala, I can't hear you!!!!

::takes fingers out of ears::

Still here?


Well, I guess we have to preach it, whether it's the mopiest of psalms or the wages of sin or the cool cup of water or that charming family story of a dad and his much-wanted son out for a hike on a lovely afternoon. And if you're sneaking around with that alt-prophet, you can tell us, we won't mind.

We are here to help each other! The coffee is strong, sisters and brothers. The tea is not far behind. The Diet Cokes are chilling for later. The strawberries? Fresh-picked. And the company will be, I promise you, beyond compare.

So let's do this one. Tell us where you're headed, how many weddings you have this weekend, what you're doing for the children's time and, heck, how you're going to weave George Carlin's thoughts on religion into your sermon.

(Wait, that's me. Details in the comments.)

I'm letting Blogger auto-post this one for our overseas preachers, and I'll be back in the morning to catch up with you. Meanwhile, have a strawberry.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Five: Summer Reading

Back in the day, before I went to seminary, I worked in the Children's Room at the Public Library, and every year we geared up for Summer Reading. Children would come in and record the books read over the summer, and the season included numerous special and celebratory events. As a lifelong book lover and enthusiastic summer reader, I find I still accumulate a pile of books for the summer.

This week, then, a Summer Reading Friday Five.

1) Do you think of summer as a particularly good season for reading? Why or why not?

2) Have you ever fallen asleep reading on the beach?

3) Can you recall a favorite childhood book read in the summertime?

4) Do you have a favorite genre for light or relaxing reading?

5) What is the next book on your reading list?

In the sidebar I've updated our RevGalBookPals schedule through October, so if you are looking for summer reading, look there!

As always, let us know in comments if you play. 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, June 26, 2008

Ask the Matriarch — Imperfect Harmony

I'm a weird one. I like contemporary worship with traditional music. But it's impossible to please everyone all of the time, so I tend to go with traditional worship just because I like the music so much. That said, I love the U2charist, but that's a whole 'nother story.

One of our number has a congregation that likes the worship well and good enough, but, she continues...

There are 2 groups that hate each other's favorite music. If we put anything from the 60s up to today into the service, one group loves it and the other says, I am not coming to church if you keep choosing those happy clappy "camp" songs.

But If we select more classical music (Bach et al) and 18-19th century hymns, it is reversed and the other group feels we are not meeting their worship needs: "too boring/too dirge-y."

What's a pastor, music director and worship committee to do?

Our matriarchs seem to agree that it's important to reinforce the notion that no one owns a worship service. It's there for God, and while an individual's need to be fed is of course a consideration they make in choosing a church, one person's aesthetic sensibilities should not dictate what music is chosen. That's not much help to the people making these decisions, who have to try to accommodate everyone's musical tastes much as they do other fractious issues, such as politics, sexuality, and the origin of and correct recipe for Brunswick Stew.

Here are some of the things they had to say, though, and hopefully that will be a starting point for some discussion.

Jacque says:
This is always a challenge. I believe, however, that it is more about the relationships than the music. Music has more emotional impact than most any part of worship. Therefore, my experience is that there needs to be some emotional investment in participating in either "old" or "new" music. We often assume that the connection must be a personal connection with that genre of music. I would suggest that if one truly has a connection with -- a love of and investment in -- another person, then we are able to value the music that is important to their spiritual nurture.

We are usually able to blend music successfully in our congregation. Certainly people have favorites, but I believe that because they know, love, and value each other, they want the other to be able to sing music that is important to them. The secret is to talk about what is important to us and why. If I know that "Amazing Grace" is significant and important for you, I am more patient about singing it, even if I can't stand it. I might even look at it through your eyes, your experience, and learn to appreciate something about it.

I teach the occasional class on Hymnody and find that it always has a positive effect on people's experience and engagement with the music we sing.

Jan says:
Clearly The Worship Wars are alive and well.

The thing is, though, that worship is not about meeting our own personal needs or taste requirements. Worship is for God, and here's the question to ask the two camps:

Would you be willing to give up your favorite music to bring new people into God's family? (Remember The Great Commission?)

Worship is not about us, our style preferences, our comfort. Yes, we want to be fed spiritually, but the congregation that believes that worship is "for them" is a dying congregation.

Karen says:
If these two groups of folks genuinely love and care for each other, they should be able to sing songs that are not their favorite if they know it helps others in the congregation connect to God and feel spiritually nurtured and uplifted. If they are unwilling to do that, I'd say the problem is much deeper than music.

That being said, sometimes the way "new" music is introduced and incorporated into worship can make a huge difference. Sometimes when people say they hate "that new stuff" it is because it is unfamiliar, not taught to them well, sung once and then not again for six months at which point it seems brand new again. On the other side, folks who think they hate "all those old hymns" sometimes come to have a greater appreciation for them if they know their history, something about the person who wrote the words or the tune, times in the history of the church when that particular hymn or anthem played a key role, etc.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wednesday: Festival, Survey, and...Animals!

Three items for your interest today!

Wednesday Festival
As many of you know, Sue at Inner Dorothy has suffered from debilitating headaches for the last few years. She shares a wonderful post about her journey and hope.
John at Shuck and Jive dropped in with an article from a paper in his neck of the woods about two female Presybterian pastors in East Tennessee.
O, Brave New World! Presybterians United for Calvin Bobbleheads (PUCB) were tickled pink to see Calvin Bobbleheads at the recent General Assembly, and called for their wide release to the masses. Several alert Presby folks wrote about it, and one alerted the panting throng to the fact that the item is available through the Calvin College Campus Store online. Phew! Disaster averted.
Deb says, "The results are now in for the Flying Cow Awards (and possibly my longest post EVER!) It’s the list of movies recommended by my high schooler’s AP Language teacher for being “culturally literate” before going to college." Don't you dare miss them!
Several 'round the blogring have written about the perils faced by the people of Zimbabwe. Mavis here and here; me here, and Sally here. If you've thoughts to share, please add them (or a bloglink to them) in the comments.
If you forgot to nominate your favorite post or that of another ring member, you may do so in the comments. To add a link, use this formulation: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>

RGBP Blog Contributors ... Survey!!
The RGBP, Inc. Board Says: Are you a webring member who would like to get more involved by contributing to one of our regular blog feature? If so, we are looking for YOU! Also, if you are currently serving as a regular contributor to same and need some time off, or a change in schedule or duties, please let us know. Our lives, bloggy and otherwise, shift and change; and we all know how important it is to stay fresh and not burn out...please consider both sides of this prayerfully.
We are considering a new feature, a Book Talk sort of item that might run on alternate Wednesdays. This would give an opportunity to share and review what you're reading or have recently read, including links to other reviews and the Amazon listing.

If you are interested in any of these opportunities, please email

Action Item from RevgalBlogPals, Inc. Board Meeting
The Board of RGBP, Inc. met on Monday evening via internet chatroom, and while a formal report will be forthcoming, we wanted to share an exciting action item with you now.
You may know that all of our proceeds from our CafePress store (look to the top of the right sidebar!) where you can buy fabulous items concerned with the relative appearance of your butt and your mousepad (and others), et cetera, go to Heifer International. (Haven't shopped there lately? Go on, click on over and see what you can't live without!) Having amassed the sum of $92.80 over the past two years, we voted to round that amount to an even $100 and have given, on behalf of the RevGalBlogPals, Inc., the gifts of:
Three Rabbits

A Flock of Chicks

A Flock of Ducks

Woo Hoo! We are excited and hope you are too!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- 6/24 Was Abraham Crazy? edition

Genesis 22:1-14

Psalm 13:1-6

Romans 6:12-23

Matthew 10:40-42

Okay. For today’s texts there are a couple of clear options.

1) Ignore the text from Genesis. Shove it under the rug. Forget it exists. Talk about Matthew and hospitality. Love that Gospel and forget everything else.

2) Deal with Genesis head on. Talk about this Horrible. Horrible. Horrible text in which Abraham almost kills Isaac. When I preach on this passage I can literally see parents who have had to deal with the death of a child shrinking and shivering in their seats.

I don’t have any textual basis for it, but when I preach on this passage from Genesis, I tell people that the only way I can live with it is to think that Abraham didn’t really hear the voice of God. He was hearing other voices, and it wasn’t God until the very end when Isaac is saved.

Or maybe it was a test- God kept hoping Abraham would stand up and refuse to kill, and when Abraham blindly followed, God had no choice but to step in and save him from himself.

No textual basis. I know I'm on less-than-thin ice, it’s just the only way I can wrap my mind around what happens.

So. Those are the two options I see.

What about you?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Book Discusion: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

"Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely of china." So begins Kate DiCamillo's fourth book for children, a book about a proud china rabbit who learns to love.

But, to my mind, that it too simple a summary for this book, rich with character and story and images and metaphors. And theology too: In a sermon this Lent about baptism, I talked about Edward's being thrown overboard into the sea as a kind of baptism, a death and resurrection and a beginning of a journey.

Without further ado, here are some possible ideas for conversation/discussion:

1. Did you enjoy this book? Why or why not? What did you like/dislike about it?

2. Talk about Edward's journey, the people he meets and what he learns from them. What about Abilene, Nellie and Lawrence, Lucy and Bull, Bryce and Sarah Ruth.

3. What about Pellegrina, her repeated phrase, "you disappoint me," and her scary fairy tale?

4. Edward stares up at the stars frequently throughout the book. He sees different things there. throughout the book. What do you think is the significance of the stars?

5. I saw baptismal imagery in this book. Did others see other theological/biblical images or ideas? Talk about those.

Here are some passages from the book that struck me:

About Nellie: "Before, when Abilene talked to him, everything had seemed so boring, so pointless. But now, the stories Nellie told struck him as the most important thing in the world, and he listened as if his life depended on it."

Bull to Edward, about his travels as a hobo, "we are going nowhere. That, my friend is the irony of our constant movement."

Bryce, to Edward: "I come to save you."

About Sarah Ruth: "It was a singular sensation to be held so gently and yet so fiercely, to be stared down at with so much love."

Lucius Clarke, the Doll Repairer, about Bryce: "He gave you up so that you could be healed. Extraordinary."

The Old Doll, to Edward, "If you have no intention of loving or being loved, the whole journey is pointless." and finally, "Open your heart. Someone will come for you."

What are some significant passages for you?

I'm looking forward to the discussion. I have a deep love for children's literature, and often find theological themes of depth in these stories.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Music Video - How Firm a Foundation

I found this simply played tune of the hymn How Firm a Foundation using the tune Foundation. Its simplicity seems to fit for me today. How many of you got to hear a hymn on a musical instrument other than keyboard today?

And what did you sing during worship today?

Sunday Prayer

O God of love and mercy: by whom we are guided through the distractions of this life; toward whom our lives are ultimately directed; through whom we come to know the fullness of life and love; fill us with your grace, sustain us with your presence, further us with your continual help. In all that we do and all that we are, may we come to know oursleves as beginning, continuinig, and ending in you. Grant us in all our doubts and uncertainties the abiity to know your love. Fill us with your Spirit that she may sustain in times of trial and with her wisdom save us from all false choices. In your light, holy and gracious God, may we see light and follow the way to you. May our lives be the hands and heart of Christ and may we glorify your holy Name. Amen.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: Strangers and Sparrows Edition

Good morning, gals and pals! I've been gone most of the week, and now here it is Saturday morning, and time to pull a sermon together for tomorrow. I HAVE actually been thinking about this ahead of time, but after a few days off sitting by a calm and beautiful lake on sunny days, it's hard to get back into the swing of things.

So, I'm providing bagels, muffins, jams and jellies (all calorie free, of course) and a virtual place at the table for conversation and comfort. We all need that, don't we?

This morning, I'm struck with Jesus' words in the gospel lesson: "Do not be afraid" -- and his descriptions of future situations that might make the disciples -- well -- afraid. And I keep humming "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me." And somehow, that reminds me of.... Hagar. If she isn't a sparrow, who is?

What are you struck by this morning? Where is your sermon headed? And what are you humming along the way?

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Word Association Friday Five

Sorry for being a bit late. The power was out here for a few hours.

I am feeling like playing hooky, and I'm putting off sermon prep till tomorrow. It is a beautiful, sunny day at my place. So come on outside and let's play a summer Friday Five!

This post is loosely based on previous "wordy" Friday Fives from Reverend Mother and Songbird. I liked the results, and so we are doing another word association . Theirs were based on words from a lectionary text. Mine comes from the Lovin' Spoonful song, "Summer in the City."

Think summer......are you there? Below you will find five words or phrases. 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, a memory, a recipe, or a story. You get the idea:

1. rooftop
2. gritty
3. hot town (yeah, I know, it's two words)
4. night
5. dance
And for you listening pleasure, here is the song.

If you'd like to hear the Joe Cocker version, I'll be posting it at my place.
Let us know in comments if you play. 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,

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ask the Matriarch — A Modest Proposal

Happy Thursday everyone! I'm posting from Virginia Beach, but not because I'm enjoying the beautiful seaside weather. Here for a conference on behalf of the day job and dashing off momentarily to do my little dance, er, demonstrate the new work blog on the exhibit floor. So I must dash after posting this quickly:

I have a question for the Matriarchs. I am new to pastoral ministry, and have started making hospital calls. I keep finding myself in situations where I am seeing more of my congregation than I wish. And I mean seeing more of them, literally. Something about being in the hospital and being undressed by everyone who walks in the door makes them less cautious, and no matter where I stand or how long I look away, I often see flesh I ought not see. This doesn't even address the problem of nurses and doctors having conversations about body fluids with them and ignoring the fact that I am in the room. I am really and truly trying to plant myself in a place that allows the patients to maintain their dignity, but maybe because that seems impossible in the hospital, their modesty disappears as well. Am I the only person who finds themselves in this position? Or do we just not talk about it? Thanks for the help.

Actually, you're not alone. The way I've always seen it handled (I used to be a nursing assistant) is with a simple knock on the door and a greeting: "Mrs. X? Are you decent?" This would usually prompt a light-hearted reply, but for those that needed "just a second" they had it. And when the doctor or nurse would come in, pastoral folks would usually stay "I'll just step out for a moment, but I'm not going far and will be right back," even if it was just to take their medicine.

Our matriarchs have similar advice. First, from Ann:
It is great that you are concerned about respecting the dignity of those in the hospital. People have so little power to establish boundaries when in this setting. No wonder they just become objects and not people. Medical personnel are often rushed and overloaded, and so used to this odd "normal." Your role as pastor is even more essential to helping them regain their sense of person-ness. When visiting the hospitalized, I draw an imaginary boundary around their bed space and do not enter that without their permission. Giving them some control over the setting and our interaction begins the process of regaining personal power.

Here is from one of my panel of experts:

That’s an interesting one. I never really thought about it, maybe because I was a hospital chaplain for a year and became accustomed to the hospital environment. I do remember thinking my role as chaplain in the healing had to do with reconnecting people with their dignity and respecting their privacy (although that usually translated to respecting their wishes to get the hell out of their room!).

As to the doctors part. I usually try to be pretty forceful when medical staff enters the room – introduce myself, ask how long they need with my parishioner, ask if I might step out of the room during the conference (sometimes the patient wants me to remain). Medical staff get tunnel vision I think and don’t notice that there are things happening outside their focus. I find if I don’t make myself known before the doctor plunges in to whatever he/she is doing, I have lost my opportunity!

And another way of asking the question, from another veteran of this kind of pastoral care:
Try to be clear about what makes you uncomfortable and don't project that onto the patient. If you are not sure you should be in the room during a particular conversation ask. ("Do you need me for this or should I step out?" works
well as a question).

Jacque writes from the bedside of a hospice patient:
Hmmm. Ironically, I've read your question and am writing this while sitting with a church member who is hospice care and is in the final stages of life. (She has fallen off to sleep, and so I write.) Today is my day off and so I am taking the 6:45 AM to noon shift of her care. In this time, there is care of her body including changing her and turning her. In the last 26 years, I have spent a great deal of time in hospitals with church members. Have also worked as a hospital chaplain.

I do understand the desire to afford dignity and privacy to those for whom we care. I think it is true that people in the hospital do often become accustomed to a certain degree of loss of privacy. I always attempt to use discretion and return to them as much of a sense of privacy as possible.

A couple things come to mind: One is that many times when we are very sick, the issues with our bodies take over and we want to talk about what is going on with us. Some people are more selective in what they share than others. I suppose that I have learned to listen to people who are everywhere on the spectrum. Occasionally I have experienced someone who really seems to be sharing a whole lot more than is needed with me, and I just guide the conversation as needed.

The second thought is that, indeed, there are people who either are not aware of how exposed they are (OR there is the occasional bit of "exhibitionist" behavior going on). In those cases, depending on the situation, I have said, "Oh, let's get you covered" and have perhaps just helped get the sheet or blanket over them. Or if they are quite able themselves, but are not really presentable for company, I've said something like, "Oh, I'll just step out in the hall until you're ready." That gives them the opportunity to get back from the bathroom (with gown flapping open), get in bed, etc.

Regarding conversations with Doctors -- if a doctor comes in to talk with a patient, I will often offer to step out into the hall while the doctor is there so that they can have a private conversation. Very often now with HIPAA laws, the doctor will ask who I am before starting a conversation with the patient.

All in all, if you are uncomfortable with the degree of exposure, you can often make graceful changes to the situation. 'Looking away' is certainly appropriate and polite at times, but if you think that your "looking away" is going to communicate to the patient that they should do something about their appearance, I'm afraid you will be disappointed. They are most often not aware of what you are seeing, or that you are uncomfortable with it. Or they are not concerned about your discomfort. You will need to take the action.

That said ... There is just a level of vulnerability and exposure that comes with being ill and being cared for by others. It is not most people's desire or ideal to be ill and exposed, but caring for and loving someone often means that we will be with them -- caring gently and respectfully in their most difficult times. And it is simply not easy for any of us.

From Jan:
I think this is simply part of our professional life. I remember seeing one Bully Member stark naked - literally sitting in a chair without even a little towel - after she called me and an elder to come into her hospital room from behind a closed door. She was apparently on something that made her quite comfortable. All I could think of was how fast I'd be sharing this I-saw-the-bully-naked story with all my friends, until the elder said, on the way home, "She must have really been lonely to have received us in that condition." The elder, a perfectly saintly and wonderful human being, ruined my hopes for juicy gossip.

In all seriousness, it speaks to the intimacy that we share with those in our congregations. Sometimes, we know more and see more than we would like.

God surely feels the same way. And yet God loves us and we get to love the ones whose not-so-beautiful body parts we've glimpsed.

From Karen:
Some of this just goes with the territory of doing hospital calls. Some things you can do to help--knock on closed doors--(seems obvious, I know, but still). Ask at the nurses station if this is a good time to visit. Call ahead--most rooms have phones in them now. I'll sometimes call from my car in the hospital parking lot. This gives folks some time "get decent" if they feel the need. Offer to leave when a doctor or nurse comes in--often the person you are visiting will invite you to stay, but this gives them the option of having a private conversation if they'd prefer that. If the patient seems unaware that they are exposed, try saying, "You seem cold. Could I get you another blanket?" (Or help you arrange your blankets, or get you a sweater, etc.)

Sometimes extreme "exposure" is a signal that something is really wrong and needs to be brought to a nurse's attention immediately. I visited a woman from my church who has dementia. When I came into her room she was completely naked having managed to take her diaper off and fling off her blankets. She had no roommate or other visitor and it was between rounds, so she could have gone on that way for a long time if I had not come by. It took some concerted effort to get someone's attention, but finally someone came to check things out. Then a whole group swung into action. They ended up moving her to a different unit where she would be more closely monitored. So if the level of "immodesty" seems really inappropriate, it could be a sign of a real problem that needs to be flagged rather than simply a bit of embarrassment for the pastor.

And don't forget, we get our questions from you, our readers! Please send your questions about ministry to; we look forward to hearing from you. And happy summer, since it's right around the corner!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Whoops! Late Wednesday Festival!

Sorry about the tardiness, here we go:

This week, leah sophia has posted about Brent Bill's new book on discernment, Sacred Compass.

We get the chance to take Deb's survey: What films would you consider “essential” to be “culturally educated” in college?? What would you have your high school senior see BEFORE he or she went off to college?? I have a list from my high school almost-senior… which I will publish. But please weigh in first!"
Sounds like fun to me.

And don't forget to send your submissions for next week!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- 6/17 Is This My Family? Edition

Genesis 21:8-21
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
Romans 6:1b-11
Matthew 10:24-39

You know, I always wonder what people are thinking when they tell me that they read the Bible and find comfort and solace. I wonder about the TV commercials for church and Christianity that present the Bible as having clear cut answers and hope. I bet you wonder too. What Bible are they reading?

The Bible we read does have hope and comfort and solace, but boy, isn’t that just one facet of what we find? The Bible we read shows us comfort and hope and stirs things up, unsettles our lives, forces us to go places we often don’t feel ready to go. That’s the Bible we read. And it is definitely the Bible we read today.

Vida Scudder, a professor and social activist wrote, “Who can really read the Gospels [the Bible] and fail to find them a disturbing force?”

It is a religious paradox, God is love, and God’s word is at the same time the most profoundly disturbing, unsettling force we will ever know. Our faith comes contrast, not through uniformity. Thanks be to God.

Our faith comes through contrast. The story of Hagar cannot be summed up with the platitude “God will provide,” This text is a painful reminder of the errors made by faithful people, of the wrongs committed because we feel the need to protect our turf, save what is ours. The story of Hagar and what is done to her is unsettling. It should be.

And the lectionary text giving voice to Jesus doesn’t bring us any relief. Today’s reading from Matthew makes me wonder about those nice ads on TV that proclaim, “Family, isn’t it about time?” Maybe they missed this section of Matthew.

The life of faith, despite what the commercials may lead you to believe, is not neat and tidy. Like a work camp trip, the life of faith can be messy and tiring and even dirty. But it is when we open ourselves to the paradoxes, when we open ourselves to the cries of Hagar and the possibility that family can be an idol, it is when we open ourselves to the complexities that we see the true God. Not the one we want to see but the one who Is. And who has been. And who will be. And that God is greater than anything we can imagine.

What are you thinking about this week?

Monday, June 16, 2008

June "Is it Summer yet?" Meet 'N Greet

A Warm (OK, Hot in my part of the world) Summer Welcome to:

Priests and Parents
, two clergy blogging about life and hobbies. "The P&P blog is mostly the blog of Leah but Mark also. This is a place where we post about being parents and priests and also about general hobbies and interests.Obviously being a clergy couple also adds it’s own challenges to both our ministry and parenting!We are parents to 3 small boys who are mostly wonderful." Welcome to Leah and Mark.

Pastor Martha at Martha's Kitchen. "There are lots of folks who have traditional -- maybe even conventional -- ministries, but I am not one of them. From the very beginning, I seem to have done things outside the accepted norm. A friend once observed that, from ordination on, I had come to ministry through the back door." Intrigued? Meet Martha!

Sharon Famonure who is generally called Sha at reservoir. "I am a 26 year old daughter, granddaughter, sister, cousin, niece, fiancée and friend. But all those are just appellations and do not really describe who I am except that they go to show that I have a reasonable family life. First of all and more importantly, I am a Christian. I gave my life over to Christ when I was four years old. Many people have tried to prove to me over the years that I could not have known what I was doing therefore, my conversion could not have been genuine. (I wonder if that was said of Beethoven). Anyway, that is neither here nor there. The fact is I am a Christian; I have had cause to rededicate my life again, but the Lord has been gracious." Welcome, Sha!

The Pink Hammer. "i am a passionate dreamer...a doer and one who lives...i am a reader and a adventurer on the high seas of ideas...i am a musician...a singer of songs that fail to embody the full depth of my praise. i am a seminary student...a pastor wanna be attempting to answer the call of God. i am me and i am trying to be okay with that. I am the pink hammer." Welcome, Pink Hammer!

Finally, A "Welcome Back" to Bythesea who blogs at Getting Out Of The Boat. "Thoughts, observations, reflections, ramblings, challenges, growth, experiences, sermon ideas, and life in general. I began my first blog while exploring a call to the priesthood and continued into seminary (see link). I began this blog near the end of seminary. I'm a priest in the Episcopal Church." Welcome, Bythesea!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday Afternoon music video- Music for Paradise

I have not been to church today; that is not a confession it is a statement of fact! Yesterday I drove a round trip of 500 miles to watch my son Jon in a play! The trip took me through some beautiful countryside and across the highest motorway in England.

I arrived home at 5:00am this morning having taken a detour due to road maintenance and closures. As I drove home I watched the sunrise, it was stunning! This afternoon I have been to the beach and walked along accompanied by a curious seal who was watching me from the water.

And so I offer you music from paradise:

Sung by the Cistercian Monks from Stift Heligenkreuz.

How about you, what did you sing today, has the music lifted your spirit or touched your heart? Let us know in the comments!

Sunday Prayer

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life....

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know her and make her known; and through her, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you for your grace, hospitality, and generosity. Amen. (Adapted from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, page 836)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: Friendship Bread Edition

Good morning, preachers!

Last Sunday at coffee hour, a dear lady at church served a loaf of what she called Friendship Bread. I must have been the last person in the world to know about the notion of a sweet sourdough starter you pass on to friends along with the instructions to keep it going. I was delighted as she explained it to me, looking a little worn out as she explained that she had several pouches at home.

So perhaps it should have been no surprise when she turned up at church on Tuesday morning, bearing a ziploc bag full of weird goo!

We've been enjoying Friendship Bread all week. I'm finding it's a great metaphor as I consider both the hospitality of Abram and Sarai and the evangelism of the disciples.

I hope you'll pull up a chair and enjoy a piece while you prepare for preaching. Let us know what you have going on today, and have a cup of coffee or tea, too. Whether your sermon is a fully-baked loaf or still a hopeful bag of goo, you have a place at the table (just don't gloat if you finished on Tuesday, okay?).

(If this is a foreign concept, visit One Hot Stove, where there is a great post from last summer explaining the whole concept and containing a picture. I fear ours was all gone before we took any. After all, kids are home.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Five: Beach Trip

(YouTube Video: Beach Boys, Surfin' USA)

The Grimes-Honkanen bunch is settling in after a challenging move, and bubbling with gratitude for our new "cozy cottage by the beach": a tiny rented condo on Pacific Coast Highway.

We're five minutes on foot from Sunset Beach for my daily choppy-but-gorgeous swim or prayer walk, often with dolphin sightings. Ten minutes south by car is downtown Huntington with its pier and window shopping, and the same distance north is Seal Beach, much calmer for family swimming.

Nicholas is equipped with shorty wetsuit and boogie board, and game to learn mastering the local waves from Mom--though I need to get a big softy and learn to surf before he does to maintain my cool cred. But Katie is still learning to swim confidently in the pool, and Midwestern-raised Matt prefers something more like his beloved Great Lakes. "No waves, no salt?" "Yes, darling, and no worrisome wildlife." "Except for the water moccasins, dude." You get the's all a matter of taste.

So in honor of summer, please share your own beachy memories, plans, and dreams with a "Beach Trip" Friday Five.

1. Ocean rocks, lake limps? Vice versa? Or "it's all beautiful in its own way"?

2. Year round beach living: Heaven...or the Other Place?

3. Any beach plans for this summer?

4. Best beach memory ever?

5. Fantasy beach trip?

Bonus: Share a piece of music/poetry/film/book that expresses something about what the beach means to you.

As always, let us know in comments if you play. 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, June 12, 2008

Ask the Matriarch — Fresh Out of Seminary

While summertime means vacation and relaxation for many folks, it's a completely different story for recent seminary graduates who find themselves pounding the proverbial pavement, so to speak, as their discernment process leads them to their first call.

As a recent seminary graduate and presumptive (presumptious?) candidate for ministry in my denomination, I have been walking through the process of "conversation" with a potential calling church. While I have enjoyed the process thus far, the congregation is going to vote in a few weeks and then the discernment ball will be in my court, so to speak. And I'm wondering how y'all do discernment at this level. In denominations without bishops making these matches for you, what does it really mean to feel "called by God" to a particular ministry location?

This leads into a second question, although this may be more appropriate a few months from now, and that is: any advice for a young minister starting off in her first call, her first congregation? What should I avoid doing? What absolutely needs doing? How do I care for myself during this time? etc. etc. etc

Here are the tips from our matriarchs:
Do a gut check.
Some questions to ask yourself about how you feel: Does it scare you to consider accepting this call? (Not necessarily a bad thing to be scared.) Does it feel right? Can you imagine yourself serving this community? (Jan)
Listen to your heart and intuition; pay attention to what they are saying to you. Pray, and invite others to join in praying for you. (RevHoney)
I think about it like intuition. Does this feel right. Could I love these people, get excited about living in this community, are my particular gifts and skills well suited for this setting, will they love me, can I shine. (Ann's personal matriarch network)

Spell out expectations from both sides.
Check on salary, housing, pension, car allowance or mileage, vacation, days off, education leave, etc. Be sure you are being paid fairly as compared with others in your range of experience and responsibility. Be clear about days off per week (most jobs have 2 days) and take them from the beginning. Do not be shy about stating your needs. A good letter of agreement about what they will do and what you will do is invaluable, as the church will take every moment you allow it to do so; so your ability to make it a long-term commitment will be how you establish the relationship and keep to it. (Ann)
Start well by setting a Sabbath day for yourself and honoring it. At a minimum, take one day/ week and two days in a row once each month. (RevHoney)
The best advice I received was to tell the interviewing committee and anyone else that will listen that, as a person with friends and family out of town, you will be 1) leaving town on your day off to visit them and 2) having them stay in your home. And they will include relatives and friends, married and single people, old and young, men and women. This comes in handy when people wonder what's going on in the new pastor's house. And it reminds them that you have a life apart from them. Depending on the context of your ministry, this might be something they don't realize. (Jan)

Personalize your experiences with congregation members.
Visit personally as many parishioners as possible just to chat. Keep a card file on each family unit - as soon as you finish a visit make notes on the card and each time you have new info. You think you will remember, but info overload occurs within weeks of arrival. (Ann)
I always think that it is important early on to schedule home visits wtih parishioners. It's a way to get to know people outside of a conflict situation and have a good leg up on establishing relationships equally across the boards - not just with those who are seeking you out! (Ann's personal matriarch network)

Learn about your community as well as the congregation.
As you are getting to know your congregation, get to know community leaders too. Make an appointment with the principal of the school closest to yours, to a local government person, long time local business owners, etc. Ask them what people in the community say about the congregation, and what the community’s greatest strengths and growing edges are from their unique perspective. (RevHoney)

Buddy up.
Find a spiritual director. And use him/her! (RevHoney)
Once you agree find a good small group of peers in your area (they don' t have to be clergy - other professions are good too, just not church members) and some strong cyberbuddies to discuss issues. (Ann)

Here are a few other Ask the Matriarch columns on navigating new calls that may help you out:

What to watch for, and what to watch out for:
It's Interview Season
Who's Interviewing Whom?
What's Fair?
A First Call (also one of our first AtM columns!)

What experiences from new calls can you other experienced revgals share for our newest about-to-be-clergy? Please share them in the comments!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wednesday Festival

Dear Readers,

Some things that are new:

Mindy is buying a house, at long last! Hooray! Presbyterian Gal is making her a housewarming gift, and you and you and YOU can help!  Go here to learn more!!!

Silent at A Home for My Words had her baby; although she was early, they are doing well.

Some things for prayer:

Reverend Mommy has been awfully sick with diverticulitis. Yuck! Her wonderful family is helping to keep things going (daughter Chaos initially notified her blogfriends). Read about it here. Thanks be to God for medications and medical professionals. And prayers for the family whose long-anticipated vacation has been disrupted!

See-through faith asks for your prayers - for traveling mercies for her and her whole family to and from Tallinn over the next few days. She is graduating -cum laude- from the Baltic Methodist seminary there on Thursday. Congratulations! And praise be to God. After that she's flying to the UK with her daughter from there - so asks for travel mercies on that leg of the journey too - and home again afterwards of course. Thanks!

And finally some things to think about:

This week's Poetry Party can be found here.

And Sally posts a reflection on Matthew 9:18-26 concerning the woman with a haemorrhage. As well as a picture, consider the lilies .

As always, if you'd like to let folks know what you're writing, but forgot to send it in, leave a comment! 
Have a great week! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Show me the Love Edition

Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7)
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23)

Where’s the love?

One of the things that I hear from time to time (and used to think myself) was that the God of the Hebrew Bible was one of fire and judgment, while the New Testament God was the one shared the love.

Not this Sunday. This Sunday the passage from Genesis is all about Abraham’s hospitality and God’s blessing upon and old, childless couple (well, Abraham wasn’t childless, but that’s a story for another time).

Then in Matthew, Jesus is giving the Apostles their marching orders- orders that include shaking the dust off of their sandals if people don’t listen to them and the reality that faith sometimes leads to death or separation within families. (Hmmm. Is family ever an idol?)

For Sunday, one approach might be talking about this false dichotomy of Hebrew Bible, New Testament.

On the other hand, sometimes I grow weary of talking about texts instead of talking from within them, and for this Sunday I think I’d have to choose one text rather than trying to weave the lectionary together (that’s something that applies just about every Sunday…).

What do Jesus’ marching orders mean? Most of the time I’ve heard the “dust off of your sandals” line as a way to justify a preacher leaving a congregation. But is that what Jesus is talking about?

How do we measure up to this passage, and how can we turn it into opportunity instead of scolding/shoulding?

What happens when we realize that we don’t measure up?

One of my favorite blog posts of all time is on this topic:

You Ain’t Jesus, Preacher
Part Two: Losing The Language of Love

This is the story of how ministers find out they're not Jesus. This is the story of hitting bottom.
You start figuring out you’re not Jesus when you begin to unravel and lose the details. And if you’ve fallen into the trap of thinking you’re Jesus, there are a lot of details to keep straight.

One day your act starts to fray around the edges.

There's the family whose son is in jail. Did you send that letter to the chaplain? Clay seems depressed again. When was the last time you had lunch with him? Remember that little girl who told you she wished you were her daddy? Weren't you going to do some serious thinking about how to respond to her?

Did you pick up that book for Susan's husband, like you said you would? He doesn't feel at home at church. A little gesture like that could mean a lot. Hey, remember Bob and Linda? Jim's children? They haven't been to church in quite a while. They were moving to Hondo, right? Or did Jim say they weren't moving after all? Holy Sh**, you forgot to call Kay. Her grandmother is sick, and her mother just died. How could you not call her?

Is that wedding THIS week? What's the groom's last name again? Did you visit Joan in the hospital? She was there for three days. Wasn't there a little girl who wanted to talk to you? Weren’t you going to have lunch with…um…that one guy?

The voices in your head come together as one pounding headache of an entity and boldly name themselves Legion. The details are knotted into a dirty crowd, like starving kids on TV. There are so many of them, each precious, and you aren’t keeping up.

You CAN'T keep up, but you MUST keep up, because how can you NOT keep up?

You swear to God that you'll try harder, but God doesn't want that oath. God wants you to find a quiet place, sit down, and remember who you are.

But you want to try harder, because down inside you think you’re supposed to be like Jesus. So God stands aside and lets you have your way. The details rush into the void like giggling demons, and everything starts to fall apart.

Calendars blur before your eyes and become your greatest enemy. You know you wrote something down in a Monday square, but later it’s in a Friday square. You would swear on a stack of bibles that there is another week this month, but there isn’t. All the weeks are gone, preacher. Time’s up, and you’re on. Weddings and speaking engagements skate furiously out of the distant future, pulling up short on the tomorrow square, spraying ice in your eyes.

Even your beloved words begin to fail you.

The blessing you have quoted every Sunday for eight years disappears from your mind without a trace, leaving you speechless before the congregation.

The people at church think your absent mindedness is kind of cute. Maybe they think that’s what comes with a creative personality. You hope they think that. You wonder if something might be wrong with your brain.

You develop a little tick. You start needing to squeeze your eyes shut tightly and jerk your head to the side. It occurs to you that it must look like you're saying, "NO!". You consider seeing a doctor, but that's another detail you leave hanging.

Then one Sunday a woman raises her hand in church to share a prayer request. You know this woman. You were there the night her baby was born dying. You held his premature body and watched his final heartbeats through the waxy skin of his tiny chest. YOU KNOW THIS WOMAN. You know her husband and their boy, but her name is gone from your mind. Her name is nowhere. The pause gets too long so you just point at her, and she knows you forgot her name. You can see it in her eyes; you can see it hurt her. She’s the saddest person in the world, and you hurt her.

Grief seizes your chest, and all your energy drains into your shoes. You want to stop in the middle of the service, take a seat in the pew and say, "Someone take over. I can't preach or pray or talk. Someone put your arms around me because I can't do anything."

But you don’t do that. You don’t want to let everyone down, so you dig deep and find energy in a secret place. The price of this energy is putting the woman out of your mind. It’s a terrible price to pay. It's a quick fix, but in the long run you lose your soul.

This is what you’ve come to. Putting people out of your mind so you can finish the sermon. Is this what you call love, preacher?

You see, when you start forgetting blessings and names, you’ve lost the language of love. You can forget a lot of things, but you cannot forget a woman’s name and claim to love her. You cannot.

You tried to build a tower to the heavens, so God took away your words. It had to be this way. This was the only way you would learn.

Now you understand. You're not Jesus after all. You're a man who is good with words and who feels things very deeply. You’re a dreamer and a silly person, like all the other silly people at church. You cannot love everyone, and you cannot be all things to all people.

Welcome to the human race, preacher. Now you're ready to begin.

You will love some people deeply. Others will receive lesser kinds of love. Some will get a handshake and a kind word. Their journeys are their own, and they may have to get what they need from someone else.

Love the ones you can. Touch the ones you can reach. Let the others go. If you run out of gas, sit down in the pew and point to God. That might be the greatest sermon you ever preach.

You can't love anyone until you understand that you can't love everyone.

You can't be a real live preacher until you understand that you're only a real live person.

So. What's going on in the sermon part of your world?

Monday, June 09, 2008

A Little Wedding Music

Many of you have been in the capacity of choosing music for a wedding, either from the perspective as being part of the wedding party, or from the perspective of being clergy who guides those choosing the music to create the perfect wedding.

Well, it's something that has been on the minds of my daughter and me as we plan for her upcoming wedding. She either knew one of two things - she really trusted me in choosing music or she thought I might be a force to be reckoned with if I didn't get to have some say. I hope it is the former, and I think it is, since she told someone I knew what I was doing. Perhaps I have us all fooled.

Before I begin, it's not that the groom had no say. He left it up to us. I think he got his say on the choice of the china.

Anyway, I thought I would share some of the choices which we found.

Benedetto Marcello's Psalm 19 can be found on the CD Michael Murray At The Cathedral Of St. John The Divine: Works By Franck, Widor, Dupré, Bach and Others - this album is a power house of organ works and of course at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine shows off each piece to its fullest. Want to hear Marcello's Psalm 19? You can hear an excerpt on the link above or on Youtube here.

In exploring the recommendations, I found that there was music and composers I sort of knew in a vague sort of way, but didn't know. John Stanley, a friend and contemporary of Handel, composed a number of organ voluntaries with one of the movements you can listen to here. However, if you are a big fan of his music, go here and listen to John Stanley: Organ Voluntaries.

This is one of my favorite hymns along with one of my daughter's favorites also. Praise my Soul the King of heaven will be one of our congregational hymns with the descant on the fourth verse. You can hear an excerpt from this album Songs Of Praise.

The King of Love My Shepherd is will be sung as a solo by a musician friend of mine. I always told her I wanted her to sing at one of my children's weddings, and it is lovely it is going to happen! You can hear one arrangement of it here on Youtube. A choral arrangement can be found on this CD Sing Ye Heavens - Hymns for All Time with the Cambridge Singers and John Rutter. One just can't go wrong with this choral group and conductor.

Our organ is a small Baroque organ, built for our small Carpenter Gothic church. Though Widor's Toccata for Organ from Symphony #5 w(MP3 download)was composed for a much bigger organ in mind, we will have an arrangement of this piece for the postlude. Here is a performance of it, played on two organs by Diane Bish and Simon Preston.

The music doesn't stop here. We move on to the reception and let's say I got a surprise. The daughter who once listened to some music that let's just say was disconcerting and made me wonder if she was raised by her mother, announced to me, "Mom, I have a list of music I want for the reception." The list was music to her mother's ears. Finally, we have come around full circle and now... she wants... music from Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, and Louis Armstrong. We can do this. I'm now excited.

I'll share with you this Youtube playlist. Once you get to this link, click on play all videos.

So... I ask you, what memories of music do you have from your wedding? Or... what can you share from weddings you have attended or presided? I am sure there are stories to tell. Share with us your story in the comments.

The wedding here??? June 28.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Thou my best Thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

The reading today in my community was from the Gospel of Matthew - the call of Matthew. Each time I hear this, I am struck by Matthew's immediate and complete response to Christ's call. My responsible self momentarily quivers, he left his post at customs?

As Jesus passed on from there,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.

Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Matthew is not moved by Christ's preaching, the mere sight of Christ so persuades him that he walks away from all the things of this world.

I listen to this song and wonder if my vision is sufficiently on Christ that I would follow him on sight?

What called you forth today? in song or in word....

Oh God, You Call Us....

Holy and Gracious God, we thank you for the gift of life and all the blessings of this life. Help us remember that as you called Abraham and Sarah, as Jesus called Matthew, so you call us to be your hands and heart in the world. Help us to work toward reconciliation: where this corruption help us bring forth purity; where there is error to redirect it; where we veer from your desires, help us to restore us and the world to you. Help us to be the face of Christ in the broken places of this world. Help us to reach out to those who are far off and those who are near. Bring us into your embrace that all may know your peace. Guide us with your wisdom. Strengthen us with your grace. Sustain us with your love. All this we ask through your Son who, along with the Holy Spirit, leads us in this life. Amen.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: Hoping against Hope Edition

Good mornning, gals and pals! I am here early this morning with the coffee and the muffins, also with one ear and eye on the radio and the television for severe weather warnings! We lost power last weekend, which resulted in very interesting sermon preparation indeed. (sermon prep by candlelight -- very romantic.)

There has been a very interesting commentary going on here on the various readings for this weekend, which much food for thought, and a couple of helpful links.

So, where are you and your sermon headed today? Are you hoping against hope, with Abraham, believing and trusting that something new can be born? Are you getting up immediately and following Jesus, just because you have heard his voice? Are you faithful or doubting, full of creativity or stuck? And... are you hungry?

Come, join the banquet! Share with us your ideas, ask us any questions (someone should know the answer), and bring whatever goodies you have to share. At this table, there is a place for everyone.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Taking in the view Friday Five

This week I took some time out to stop and walk and take in the view; my son Chris is studying in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, too often we simply drive up there, turn around and come home! This time Tim and I took time out to take in the view. It occurs to me that we need to do that more in life....

With that in mind I offer you this weeks Friday Five:

1. How important is the "big picture" to you, do you need a glimpse of the possibilities or are you a details person?

2. If the big picture is important to you how do you hold onto it in the nitty gritty details of life?

3. Name a book, poem, psalm, piece of music that transports to to another dimension ( one....what am I thinking....)

4.Thinking of physical views, is there somewhere that inspires you, somewhere that you breathe more easily?

5. A picture opportunity... post one if you can ( or a link to one!)

Let us know in comments if you play. And for even more visits to your blog, post a direct link 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, June 05, 2008

Ask the Matriarch — Thanks for the compliment, but...

One of our number is in the vexing position of a "compliment" that she doesn't know what to make of, from a church she's new at, and asks us to imagine the folllowing:

You've recently lost a lot of weight, and even more recently interviewed and begun work at a new church. At a luncheon, the president of the ladies' circle says, "Have you ever watched The Vicar of Dibley?"

"Why, yes," you say, for you are indeed a fan.

The dear lady holds up the DVD set next to the picture of you printed in the church newsletter and says, "We think you look just like her!!"

Do you:
* (a) Remind yourself that aside from being female and short, you do not resemble Dawn French?
* (b) Burst into tears?
* (c) Ask her to pass the chocolate?
* (d) All of the above?

In fact, I said, "Ah, well she is very funny, but she does have a staff of writers," hoping to deflect continued references to my appearance.
I wonder how the Matriarchs would recommend responding to these sorts of potentially offensive personal remarks?

Oh, to have the flashy and trenchant wit of Dawn French, who is one of my heroines. French is one of the brainchildren behind Absolutely Fabulous, half of the British comedy duo French and Saunders, author of the Great Big Knits series of books and the actress who portrayed the Vicar of Dibley, who upon her arrival at a small village church is greeted with some consternation by its conservative lay leader, and responds, cheerily, with, "You were expecting a bloke, beard, bible, bad breath, and instead you got a babe with a bob cut and a magnificent bosom." Thus sets the stage for several seasons' worth of laugh-out-loud moments, especially for those of you who've faced the kind of moments when there was nothing better to put in the church newsletter than the remarkable size of an egg laid by a parishioner's chicken.

And on that note, the matriarchs seem to agree that people "see" Dawn French not as an overweight woman, but as someone funny we all can relate to. And in that light, it was likely not intended as a slight, but we (myself included) are all wired to make that leap to hearing it as criticism for being... oh, how I hate the word ... fat. This is clearly a case where the giving beats the receiving, hands down. Our matriarchs at once are reassuring that it's probably not meant that way, and offer suggestions on how to handle the hurt.

So here's what they had to say:

From Earthchick:
I think your response was perfect. People can say the most thoughtless, idiotic things without meaning to or being aware of it. In addition to using humor to deflect and move on, I usually try to figure out what the motivation behind the remark might've been. In this case, maybe the woman was just trying to connect with you? Show some pride in having a female minister just like one on TV? Share a laugh over an enjoyable show? I don't know. But probably she was well-intentioned. With offensive remarks, I usually try to assume there was a good intention behind them.

Over time, though, if it appears there is not good intention, or if the remarks themselves become consistently and/or increasingly hurtful, the approach may need to be more direct. If people keep comparing you to the Vicar of Dibley, perhaps you could ask them directly, "Other than being female and short, exactly how do you think I resemble her?" Or even, "It kind of bothers me that you keep saying it (and here's why)."

Says Jan:

Since the female pastor, in some congregations, is still an object of curiosity and mystery, this could simply be a situation in which people want to make semi-intimate conversation with you even if it's awkward and slightly offensive. Through the years, some have said that I:

1) look pregnant (when my stomach was merely more poochy than usual)
2) was too skinny
3) could use a hair cut
4) need a long nap.

These comments all came from people who are not particularly close to me. Again, they want an intimacy with the pastor, or assume they have that intimacy already. Such are the adventures of our own local vicars/pastors/preachers/priests. Just laugh and let it go.

Ann put the question to her own panel of experts and got:

I think your response was note perfect. Witty and also creating the option of opening a new topic of conversation.

Also, I would try to extract any ounce of honey and try to dismiss the sting. Dawn French is funny, outgoing, and pretty.

I can see how this would trigger a internal crazed response: "Do they think I'm fat, are they hinting at something?" but especially if they were not present with your on your journey to lose weight they may have no idea where the minefields are.

Wait and see if there is a pattern to their remarks to her or about other parishioners. If not, I would let it go. If so, then it needs to be brought to light.

In non-church workplaces, expecting people to be sensitive to a particular persons issues doesn't usually work out in my experience. Most folks are expected to leave their personal issues at home, and crying is a real no no. However, it does also get into the whole can of worms as to what is a personal issue and what is a systemAnnic problem (issues of race, class, gender, etc...) which the Ideal Church should be willing to tackle.

Ann also adds:
Don't project your meaning onto their words. Weight in our culture is a huge issue. It is one of the things that can evoke all sorts of prejudicial acts and words. To be compared to Dawn French who is larger than what is usually lauded is great. I think it means they see you as warm, wise, pastoral and witty.

RevHoney echoes a lot of these sentiments:
It can be really hard to come up with a good “on your toes” response to something like this. If I were a naturally comedic person, I might come back with something like “Wow, I thought I surpassed her in beauty a year or two ago…” with my tongue planted firmly in cheek.

But since I am not a naturally funny person in that kind of setting, the first response that came to mind as I read the story was “Yes, those collars do make us all look so much alike.”

You don’t know them well yet, and they don’t know you. They may have no idea of your recent weight loss (Congratulations, by the way!) I think it is best to keep it light. They likely mean no offense, but may be having a difficult time knowing how to relate to you especially if you are the first clergywoman in that setting. They are trying to get to know you, to read you…and noticing and commenting on appearance is one of the first ways new acquaintances do that. Laugh it off and chalk it up to awkward firsts….there will likely be a few more along the way.

But if you're really feeling punchy, there's always Karen's comeback:
Well, the obvious come back in this particular instance is: " Well isn't that a coincidence because you've always reminded me of Alice!" (Alice is the VOD's sidekick--thin and blonde but also a total DIMWIT!)

But seriously, in general a dubious compliment can be met with a slightly quizzical smile and the comment, "Well, bless your heart ..."

And in my own weight loss journey, I always try to remember: it's about health more than it is about inches and pounds. Good luck with your efforts as I'm right there with you, as are many of us, I suspect.

Any sympathizers among us? Or do you have an example of something that was probably meant as a compliment but came off as completely the opposite, and how you dealt with it? Please share it in the comments!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Skipping into June

So what's blogging around RevGals and Pals?

I went skipping around the ring earlier this week -using the neat read the next five blogs feature and he's a sample of what I found ...

* if an invitation says gay chic attire- what does it mean? what would you wear? suggestions here

* have ýou seen the banner over at sorting the pieces? I love it! I hadn't visited Cynthia's blog before - and was compelled by her writing to dive in deeper. She's a new widow and the post on her daughter's graduation had me in tears. Pick up a tissue (kleenex) before you head on over.

*interestingly (for me - given where I am) the big dunk writes about the way closing.

*Beth blooms - but she also asks "What do you call the game where you knock on people's doors or ring their doorbells, and then you run away before they open it?" I have no idea. Do you know? Skip over and help her out.

Cathy writes about reality tv hitting a kindergarten class - where fellow 5 and 6 year-olds were encouraged by the teacher to say what they didn't like about Alex and vote him out of the class/school. What was that teacher thinking indeed?

*gracegirl is joyful, joyful - find out why here

*My DD just turned 16 at the beginning of this month (which is just a normal birthday here in Finland) so I found Marcus at life in the way pondering having a purity ball for his daughter rather than sweet 16 very interesting. What do you think?

What are the Matriarchs up to btw? Thought I'd check them out.

They are talking about shoes, shoes and more shoes motorcycles (Spot the odd one out!)

RevAbi is sorry while Songbird is taking a risk - or two - as well as writing to senators

Singing owl shares some beautiful pictures from the small chapel (lol!) at the festival of homilectics

and St Cass and QG are playing tag, as are Marybeth and songbird.

There were a few not-so-active blogs around ... one was Go and Do likewise -(though I noticed she has now blogged again) but I so loved her thoughts on Pentecost I thought I'd end with them, because they are - in many ways -timeless.

The Spirit isn’t just about boisterous altar calls and speaking in tongues. It represents the power of God in our lives. It comes to EM-power us, giving us the gift of witness and discipleship. It can be as gentle as a breeze or as mighty as a hurricane. It can always move you to marvelous things—if you let it. So I challenge you to let it.

That's it for this week folks.

If you want to be included in next week's round up do drop a
an Email to

(and my apologies if you did so this week -I couldn't remember the password and have to post this early as I'm off to Tallinn, (Estonia) again today.

Tomorrow I have to defend my thesis - and horror of horrors -re-take an exam on comparative religions - which will decide whether I graduate cum laude or not. Spare a prayer for me won't you? I am having nightmeres about falling at the final hurdle and will be so glad when this week is over!)

Oh and if you want to leave a comment try using this formula so we can easily skip over to the post in question:
what you want the link to say goes here For a complete how-to, click here.

blessings and love, see-through faith.

PS a review of the most thought provoking novel I have read in a long time The Red Tent here.

PS II: (Mary Beth here...) There were a few nominations this week, and I am going to go ahead and post them here...Mitch says, "Every Mother's Day our church gives out flowers to people around town. Last year we gave out over 350. It's almost June, and we're still getting feedback from our last flower giveaway!" How cool is that?

Two offerings from Deb: "First a more reflective post – did some studying for my class on Feminist Theology and implications of what one of the leading theologians in the field, Mary Hines, wrote.

"And then, a small celebration! The date for my ordination is set! There will be a par-TAY!!!! (Hawaiian shirt and NO ties nor academic regalia will be required. This will be an unusual ordination – we don’t have a church building but meet in a movie theatre… and the search is on for an affordable, affirming place to host it…)"

Hot Cup Lutheran could use some help. See here for details. Maybe even more than help...

Leah Sophia shares another piece of liturgical art from her design blog.

And Sally shares reflections and photos from a walk on Sunday, and a poem reflecting on the choice that God calls us to make.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- Context Please edition

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Lectionary:
Genesis 12:1-9

Psalm 33:1-12

Romans 4:13-25

Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

In today’s texts, we have some Abraham action, a Psalm of jubilation, and Jesus is getting busy- calling a tax collector, raising a girl from the dead, and healing a woman without even intending to heal a woman.

In my mind, it’s a wonderful Sunday to talk about context.

We see Abraham from two very different viewpoints- Genesis and Paul.
The Psalm is one of many Psalms- and the Psalms are wildly diverse.
And in Matthew we see Jesus performing/sharing some miracles.

Taken on their own, we see things one way, but placed in context we gain a different view. Did Jesus like miracles or were they simply a means to the end, to get people to pay attention to what God had to say?

How do we tell the story of Abraham, as Christians, in a way that is honest about who we are without denigrating the fact that the Abraham story also stands on its own?

Are we comfortable with diversity in scripture?
This is my favorite Psalms quote of all time:
The generations of Jews that assembled the Psalter were comfortable with opposing voices in scripture. They understood how it is possible one day to affirm that the wicked will die, but on another day to admit ruefully that the wicked prosper. One moment a psalm may reawaken an experience of God as angry, and we are reminded of the need to have proper reverence for God; but in another moment, another experience, we know God as tender and full of mercy. We moderns sometimes resist these opposing voices. We call it inconsistency. We think we want consistency, resolution, certainty. But what the Bible gives us is another voice, another chance to see God as God is -- not a static entity, but a vast, dynamic reality whom we can only comprehend indirectly, in mystery, poetry, and paradox.”

Melissa Tidwell in introduction to the July/August 2003 edition of Alive Now.

So, I am a context kind of person, but maybe you are off in another direction?

Monday, June 02, 2008

A simple meet and greet...revised...

Last week we had a lot of new folks to Meet and Greet...this week we have one, oh wait I mean three!!! to greet, and one to meet....they are:


Avanta7 at avantaland: If the free-floating anxieties and everyday occurrences of a middle-aged government employee are of interest, please feel free to add me. Just comment and answer two questions: 1. How did you find me? and 2. Do you walk to work or take your lunch?

Clergyfreak at her blog. She says this about her blog: I am a Gen-X pastor, a graduate of Claremont School of Theology with a Doctor of Ministry researching celibacy in the United Methodist Church. I dig Eddie Izzard, Joss Whedon and all things Buffy. I am passionate about mission work and am currently a commissioned Missionary for the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, located in Hamburg, Germany.

Revnanwny at Sacramentality. She is a returning member with a beautiful blog filled with song, scripture, and spirituality.

And Meet:

Grace by the sea

Where do you blog? here.

What are your favorite non-revgal blog pal blogs? There are no others…

What gives you joy? Walking the beach at low tide, pink petals falling from cherry trees, preaching a well prepared sermon

What is your favorite sound? Ocean breezes through the screens

What do you hope to hear once you enter the pearly gates? I held it off as long as I could…

You have up to 15 words, what would you put on your tombstone? She served God’s church faithfully with laughter and love.

Write the first sentence of your own great American novel.
She was gently awakened by the ocean breeze, the gold-pink sunrise and the sound of caterers arriving for her 100th birthday…

What color do you prefer your pen? Blue

What magazines do you subscribe too? New Jersey Living, Body and Soul, Lectionary Homiletics

What is something you want to achieve in this decade? Lose 40 lbs, buy a beach house

Why are you cool? I’m not cool… or hot for the matter, more like luke-warm, but then Luke is my favorite gospel…

What is one of your favorite memories? My ordination

Anything else you’ve always wanted to be asked? Nah, I’d rather listen than talk.

Thanks, Grace!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Video: Joyful!

Today was Youth Sunday at my church, and it was filled with joy and applause and pride and congratulations for the young people who are graduating from high school and college. There were about eight high school graduates and most have been members of the church since babyhood or toddlerhood. How fortunate they are, as I was, to have the support throughout their growing up years of a faith community.

Prelude and offertory were by some of these great kids, as well as the sermon; they also served at the altar. Their younger counterparts served as acolytes and ushers. It was a great day.

Our recessional was "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" and it truly was one of the most joyous occasions I've been part of. I'm grateful.

Here's a nice rendition of the tune for your listening pleasure.

A (Re-newed) Foundation

Holy and gracious God, we thank you for the gift of life, especially for the gift of your Son who leads us in this life. Help us to always remember that it is not enough just hear the Word, but we need also to act on it. In the words of our baptismal covenant (Book of Common Prayer page 304-305) let us remember how we have promised to do what we hear: Let us continue in the apostles teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers. Let us persevere in resisting evil and whenever we fall into sin to repent and return to the Lord. Let us proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. May we seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. May we strive for justic and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being. May we do all this with God's help. Amen.