Wednesday, August 29, 2007


The Irish Times is reporting that the Christian missionaries from Korea that were kidnapped in Afgahnistan are being released. A settlement has been reached. Read it for yourself here

RevGalBookPals: Grace(Eventually)

Truth be told, I didn't have the guts to post this on RevGalBlogPals. However, all of the terrific questions asked are by RevAbi. Others posted their responses but, in general, I think they were more positive than my response. So, with fair warning, this is not a glowing review. If you love Anne Lamott, stop reading now so I don't hurt your feelings.

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?

Not really. I really wanted to like this book. I bought it just to participate in the discussion and I mostly slogged through it. There were a few turns of the phrase that I particularly liked but all too often I found myself "outside" of the book. I wanted to be captured, but I just wasn't.

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?

I mostly knew about Lamott from others quoting her. I didn't really know about her platform but I could understand, and sometimes echo, her sentiments. The point of view was not a problem for me, even though sometimes the expression was pretty strong.

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?

I probably would be willing to read "Traveling Mercies" if it were loaned to me. But I probably won't be looking for anything else by her and I'm not likely to recommend it to anyone. Madeline L'Engle's Crosswick Journals I would recommend even though there are spots where they are a little dated.

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

Maybe part of why I wasn't captured is that I couldn't always figure out why these particular stories were shared. Some of them were obvious to me but to only include them would have made a booklet instead of a book. I actually liked her "voice" and the way she told the stories for the most part. But, I wondered "why is she telling me this?" too many times.

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?

My view of her was 3rd hand so there wasn't much to change in a direct way. However, I'm not as impressed as I was prepared to be. I do think there is something to be said for her giving voice and thought for some who may feel quite isolated with their similar feelings.

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?

Isn't that why there are more lament Psalms than any other kind?

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?

I hated it.

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?

Regardless of age or situation, I think everyone has times of struggling with self worth. I think our own preoccupation with our own feelings of disgust interfere with our ability to know that God does in fact care for each one of us. I don't think it is God's care or presence that is missing but that we are completely oblivious to it.

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?

I think that abracadabra grace and healing would be too much like a vending machine; put in your prayer, poke the button, get your grace. However, while I have experienced that clog and slog and scotch on the floor in silence in the dark, I believe the part of Psalm 139 that says God hems me in behind and before that wherever I go, even Sheol, God is there.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Heaven's Pecking Order"

Don Hoffman pastor of Creston Christian Church, Creston, WA posted a sermon with that title on a public sermon email list 3 years ago. He gave permission for anyone to use it. I thought it was quite creative so I preached it as copied below. The church I pastored then did not appreciate it at all. I think my current church might appreciate it but I'm kinda gun shy at this point. Tell me what you think. The scripture it goes with is the gospel lesson for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, year C, Luke 14:1, 7-14.

This story was written by Don Hoffman who is a pastor in Washington state.

The henhouse was in a tizzy. Farmer Brown had invited all the barnyard animals to a great banquet next week in the farm house. The menu was to be strictly vegetarian.

One of the advantages of being a chicken is that you don't have to worry what to wear to a social event. Hens are not fashion-conscious. Your everyday suit of feathers will do fine. Still, the henhouse had plenty to cluck about.

I'm sure you're aware that among chickens something exists called a "pecking order." So it was natural to assume that Henrietta Hen would be seated at the head table, and probably right next to Farmer Brown.

Henrietta was the unquestioned leader of the barnyard, and preened herself in the style of queens everywhere. She was surrounded by an admiring circle of flatterers who were making guesses about the table conversation. "I'm sure Farmer Brown will pleased with the way the barnyard has improved since you took over," said one. "Oh, yes," said another, "Farmer Brown will be impressed by the way we emphasize traditional barnyard values."

There were requests, also, from chickens who wanted Henrietta to take advantage of her closeness to Farmer Brown to raise certain issues. Chiquita Chicken asked her to bring up the leaky shingle in the henhouse roof. Of course everyone had known that Chiquita would talk about that leak; it was right above her perch, and she never failed to squawk about it on rainy days. Unfortunately for Chiquita her low ranking on the pecking order was what kept her under the leaky spot anyway. She knew Henrietta would probably never mention it to Farmer Brown. And, of course, Henny Penny wanted compensation for the time she'd lost when the acorn fell on her head.

In the center of all this attention Henrietta stood proud. She had one simple motto: "Do unto others before they do it to you." Henrietta had invested a lot of time and effort in climbing the ladder of success, and if she had achieved prominence by stepping on the heads of other chickens, so be it. Henrietta called this behavior "assertiveness," "good business sense," and "survival of the fittest." She claimed the barnyard offered equal opportunity for all, and that her position was gained strictly on merit. Henrietta oozed self-confidence from every pore, and she never let anyone see her sweat. She referred to this as having a positive self-image.

Over on the far side of the barnyard was another, smaller group of hens, gathered around Lucy Leghorn. Lucy was at the bottom of the pecking order, and never hesitated to point this out. Her official motto was "Poor Pitiful Me." She hardly ever opened her beak except to put herself down. She would talk about her incompetence at finding worms. She would talk about the ugliness of her feathers. She would talk about the low grades her eggs were getting.

It's true that Lucy was at the bottom of the pecking order. She did have friends who would come up to her and argue with her poor self-image. They would try to take her under their wings and improve her social skills. But she would keep on knocking herself until they would get exasperated and peck her into silence. (Chickens have a limited range of behaviors.)

Lucy, also, was talking about Farmer Brown's banquet. "The only reason I get to go was because they printed 'all creatures' on the invitation by mistake. I really don't deserve to be there. I'll take the seat at the farthest end of the dining room. In fact maybe I should eat standing up."

Now, deep down inside herself, Lucy Leghorn thought that if she degraded herself enough, Farmer Brown would notice her humility, and raise her status, maybe even to the point of seating her at the head table. Like so many other chickens Lucy resented Henrietta Hen's pushiness. She resented the fact that the other hens took Henrietta at her own valuation, that they believed her brags, that they allowed her to get away with puffing up her own accomplishments. She knew that Henrietta was really no better than she herself, maybe not even as good. Secretly Lucy Leghorn wanted to run the barnyard herself. She really wanted to trade places with Henrietta Hen. It was unfortunate for Lucy that just as the other hens acted as if they believed what Henrietta said about herself, they also acted as if they believed what Lucy said about herself.

Still, all the hens were good students of scripture. They all had read the parable in today's Gospel lesson. And they all knew the story of Cinderella. There was just a chance that God, I mean Farmer Brown, would seat Lucy Leghorn at the head table. Lucy hoped for this. Henrietta Hen worried about this. And all the chickens wondered about this.

Then came the day of the banquet.

As the chickens filed into the dining room, they noticed that there was no "head table." Instead the room was set with one giant circular table, of the sort that King Arthur and his knights might use. Around the table each place was marked with a name card. There was a certain amount of confusion as they tried to find their places. Strangely enough there was no resemblance between the seating arrangement and the barnyard pecking order. Some chickens who expected to be seated very close to Farmer Brown were seated very far away instead. Some chickens who were expected to be seated far away, were seated much closer. But eventually nearly every hen found her name card.

Finally, only three chickens were left wandering around searching for their place.

Henrietta Hen had found where Farmer Brown was sitting and seated herself next to him without even looking at any name cards. It was especially embarrassing, then, when a waiter came up to her and made her leave her perch. It seemed to take forever, passing around the circle of occupied places, knowing each hen was secretly laughing at her, until she reached a place as far from the Farmer as possible and saw her name on the card. For months Henrietta had kept her feathers ruffed out and seemed to be bigger than any other hen. Now they all noticed, as her feathers drooped, how small and insignificant she really was. And even chickens that had resented Henrietta in the past felt only pity for her now.

Lucy Leghorn had her wish granted, at least partly. No longer was she at the very bottom of the pecking order. She was not seated dead last. Of course it was hard to figure out what was first and what was last. But Lucy was not happy with what she did get. Lucy was seated next to Henrietta.

It was especially bad because Henrietta and Lucy couldn't stand each other. They spent the whole meal eating their cracked corn in silence and trying to ignore each other.

But the real shock of the evening was seeing who was seated on the perch of honor beside Farmer Brown. It was Polly Pullet, one of the youngest and most junior chickens. She was normally ranked at only about a quarter of the way up the pecking order.

The room crackled – or cackled – with speculation. How could Farmer Brown have chosen Polly for such an honor? Then, at the end of the banquet, Farmer Brown stood up to speak.

"Welcome to my banquet," Farmer Brown said. "I know you are wondering why each of you is seated where you are. My ways of organizing are not the same as your pecking order. The person I honor today is Polly Pullet, because she is so completely un-self-conscious. She doesn't think of herself at all, neither to puff herself up nor to put herself down. She is too busy thinking about others. Those of you who are preoccupied with your climb up the ladder of success have already had your reward. Those of you who criticize yourselves in order to force attention or compliments out of others have already had your reward.

"The barnyard rewards ambition, and that's alright for the barnyard, but not for me. I intend to reward those who are zealous for the Farm as a whole and for the welfare of every creature that inhabits it.

"The barnyard rewards chickens who blame themselves openly with great show, and that's alright for the barnyard, but not for me. I intend to reward that true humility that thinks only of others, that doesn't try to show itself off, that doesn't make large flamboyant sacrifices in order to gain attention.

"So join me, creatures all," Farmer Brown proclaimed, "in paying our respects to our guest of honor, Polly Pullet. She is our true hero for the evening for she does nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility considers others better than herself. She looks not only to her own interests, but also to the interests of others."

And with that every creature stood and clucked, crowed, mooed, neighed, bleated, and oinked the name of Polly Pullet.

If there is a moral to this story, it is that it applies to the roosters just as much as to the hens.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals

Friday Five: Word Association, Redux

posted by Reverendmother

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 I am reminded of a fabulous sermon by Bishop Janice Riggle Huie at the United Methodist General Conference of 2000. I watched her sermon via streaming video on a dialup connection that kept going down but the sermon captured my attention so thoroughly that I reconnected repeatedly until the end.

2. root "being rooted and grounded in faith" from Ephesians 3, very often the benediction I use for funerals.

3. rescue For rescue, I'm reminded of the guy who was waiting for God to rescue him. He turned down the car, boat, and helicopter that tried to rescue him. In heaven, he demanded to see God and know why God had not rescued him. God's response was, "I sent you a car, a boat, and a helicopter. What more do you want?" Sometimes my focus on what I expect rescue by God to look like makes me miss the rescue in front of me.

4. perseverance The thing I am not praying for 'cause sometimes I'd just rather quit. But, truth be told, I'm too responsible to let others down and too competitive to quit. So until my body forces me to stop, I keep going. And in those times when life has slammed me hard, there has been a great cloud of witnesses to help me put one foot in front of the other.

5. divided Not multiplied

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

worship planning

In the next two weeks, I'll sit down and plan worship for the coming months. Even though I tend to plan in advance, sometimes flexibility is necessary. We'll be presenting Bibles to 3rd graders and Blessing Backpacks on Aug. 26. We don't usually have presentation of Bibles and Blessing of the Backpacks on the same Sunday. But it'll be okay. I haven't even looked at lectionary to see how that fits into our other, already set, agenda for worship.

Someone mentioned UMW Sunday in the midst of the presentation of Bibles conversation. hmmm, somehow no one had bothered to mention anything to me. Seems "they" set the date but neglected to consult or inform the one in charge of worship. Not that anyone else will be invited to preach. How many times have I heard some variation on "well, since you're a woman, we'll just have you preach?"

One of the worship services I actually like to prepare for that doesn't show on the lectionary is Children's Sabbath. At the first of August, I ordered, from the Children's Defense Fund, the guide for worship services for Children's Sabbath. The guide came today!

I am amazed at the depth of resources offered in this guide. I keep each guide because the resources are so valuable. One year, my mom followed the recipe for cookies included in the guide under a section that was not labeled Christian. I can't remember which section it was. I had cookie cutters that were the traditional gingerbread boy and girl shape. My mom made 5 different batches of cookies representing all the children of the world. During Children's Time, first the kids got cookies and then they helped me pass out cookies to the whole congregation. It turned out not to be as hard as I thought it would and my mom was "game" to make them all during her weekend visit that happened to fall on the weekend of Children's Sabbath.

I would have never thought about something like that for worship if it hadn't been included in the guide. I do think that the suggestion in the guide was for fellowship time or something like that. So the leap to cookies in the sanctuary was mine. In a church that was (and still is) notorious for complaining, the cookies were the ticket for the needs of children who have no voice to be heard just a little bit louder.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

how I wish I could cool down

Sometime in the first half of the 1980s, I had my first TedDrews. It's really hot where I am now and I want TedDrews. But it is way, way, far away from me.

TedDrews is the first frozen custard I had ever had. I didn't know about frozen custard until TedDrews. It may be nostalgia re-writing history but I'm pretty sure it's best frozen custard I've ever had. If you are in St Louis, MO, please have TedDrews in my honor.

Monday, August 13, 2007


I traveled five hours to go to my sister's baby shower. There were probably 25 people there, 3 were pregnant, and one was 7 weeks old. I got to hold the 7 week old one for the whole party! I put him to sleep. I actually have a reputation for having "the touch" and putting babies to sleep.

I think I got that from my dad and from Mrs. Across-the-street. Mrs. Across-the-street had four kids and lived across the street from 2nd grade to 6th grade. My sister (yes, the one with the baby shower for her 2nd baby) was born when I was in 4th grade. Baby Sister had colic. Mrs. Across-the-street would take screaming Baby Sister and put her to sleep. She patted with a rhythm that I can copy but can't describe. I can't describe it because when I stop to think about it, I mess up. When I don't even think about it but just do it, it is perfect.

After the shower, Baby Sister and I went running an errand and she talked about me putting the baby to sleep. Then she reminded me about when my niece (who is 3) was a baby and screaming, I said, "Here, give her to me. You need a break." And screaming niece gradually calmed down and finally went to sleep.

I think somewhere in those experiences, there is for me, a vision of God. When I am too inarticulate to express my needs except by screaming at the top of my lungs, God has the patience to pat and rock and be quiet so that I can find enough calm to finally sleep in arms of love.

and so are the clothes in the dryer

Your Brain is Orange

Of all the brain types, yours is the quickest.
You are usually thinking a mile a minute, and you could be thinking about anything at all.
Your thoughts are often scattered and random - but they're also a lot of fun!

You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about esoteric subjects, the meaning of life, and pop culture.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals

Friday 5 Stress busting edition

NWN week 3- 07 086

posted by Sally
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 ? I tend to reserve stress reactions for big stuff like parishioners who say I'm not Christian or bouncing a check to the church or no hot water for the shower or non-existent toilet paper.

2. Exercise or chocolate for stress busting ( or maybe something else) ? Well, until a few short weeks ago, chocolate was the immediate response but since my body has decided not to handle sugar appropriate to that response I guess I'm learning the exercise one ... or maybe I'll just go to bed and hide under the covers with a book.

3.What is your favourite music to chill out to? Mendelssohn, Schubert (especially the Unfinished Symphony), Beethoven, or Def Leppard (Pyromania), Pink Floyd (The Wall), and for the cool down: Eagles

4. Where do you go to chill? Mostly likely, my bedroom or on the computer which could be in my bedroom but might also be elsewhere

5. Extrovert or introvert, do you relax at a party, or do you prefer a solitary walk? Extrovert all the way! I'm the one that wants to go get something to eat with a group of folks after the party. I'm the one that wants to go somewhere after the movie to talk about it. And most of the time, I hate going home to an empty house.

Bonus- share your favourite stress busting tip! My favorite is really going to the batting cages or pickup basketball but my body ruled that out a long time ago. A massage is a great idea for recovery but when I'm very stressed a massage just emphasizes the tension held in my body instead of releasing it.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals

Friday Five: Post-Pilgrimage Edition

posted by Reverendmother

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? Many would consider my trip to the Holy Land a pilgrimage but I was kinda distracted by the Dir of Christian Ed having an affair with the tour guide while traveling with 25 church members. There were moments that felt "pilgrimagey" in spite of the distractions.

2. Share a place you've always wanted to visit on pilgrimage. I want to pilgrimage to Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France.

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? Well, the most obvious is a camera with lots of memory cards. But aside from the camera, I want room to bring things home rather than carting extra stuff with me on the round trip.

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) I want a Harry Potter tour guided by JKR. I want an Ireland tour and English Wesley et al. tour each guided by Billy Abraham. I want an Austrian/Germany tour by an engaging music historian. I want a tour of Switzerland led by someone who knows how to show me the beauty without killing my joints. I want a French tour with tours for both art and religious significance. I want tour of Italy led by a Benedictine. I think the right guide helps make any "tour" a pilgrimage of significance.

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) The best I have: pictures, lots of pictures. Maybe a travel diary so you'll know what was going on when you took those pictures. And force everyone you know who didn't go with you to listen to your stories over and over and then make the ones who did go with you listen to the events they experienced told from your perspective. :)

Lord, hear our prayer

The following was forwarded to me through a couple of different lists. The message without the forwarding mess is below.

Urgent Prayer Request for the South Korean hostages held in Afghanistan:
We have received an urgent prayer request from Bishop Kyung Ha Shin head of our sister Methodist Denomination, The Korean Methodist Church, in South Korea, as that country waits in fear for the outcome of a hostage crisis unfolding in Afghanistan.

On July 19th, 23 Korean Christians on a medical volunteer mission trip to Afghanistan were kidnapped and are being held hostage by the Taliban in the Qarabagh district between Kabul and Kandahar.

Demands are being made for the release of rebel prisoners. Negotiations have been hampered by the lack of a central government in the region. This past weekend an envoy from South Korea arrived in Kabul to coordinate efforts to secure the group's safe release. Prior to the envoy's arrival the leader of the VIM group, Rev. Bae Hyung-kyu was shot to death by the captors. Rev. Bae leaves behind a wife and nine-year old daughter. Late word this afternoon (Wed, Aug 1) from contacts in South Korea is that a second volunteer has been executed. The nation of South Korea is united in prayer for the safe release of the remaining 21 hostages.

We ask our United Methodist brothers and sisters to pray:

for reconciliation and a just resolution in the situation

for hopeful negotiation and safe release

for all Volunteer in Mission leaders in our churches as many offer
themselves in mission close to home and in other countries

for Christians in Korea and the entire nation, as the Korean Methodist
Church and others feel the pain and anguish of this unfolding situation.

Let us join our hearts in prayer for the pain and fear experienced by so
many in this situation.

Your Servant in Christ,

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung

There's a news release on the main website titled "United Methodists pray for Korean hostages. I tried to link to it but Blogger won't cooperate.


In the early 1920s, my great-grandparents purchased a 3/4 violin and some lessons from an itinerant musician type. My grandfather was the beneficiary of the violin and those lessons for the few months the musician was in the area. Many years later, he received another violin. He loved to play even though he wasn't very accomplished. In spite of knowing that he really wasn't very good, he played in church occasionally and the folks in his little church loved it, mostly because they loved him.

As we traveled to g'ma's house (my mom), we were accompanied by Barbies, Kens, Staceys, et al. and a Barbie plane along with other Barbie branded items to be kept for my neice. As we traveled home from g'ma's house, we were accompanied by the violin purchased in the 1920s. Mimi (my grandmother) is thrilled that The Entertainer is starting violin (in orchestra and the fiddle club) in the fall.
We were definitely on the better end of the deal for this trade.

However, it was obvious, even to those who know almost nothing about violins, that the violin purchased in the 1920s needed some rehabilitation. The Entertainer and I went to a specialty store recommended by several folks to see what the cost of rehabilitation would be. We also needed to determine if the 1920s violin was the right size. The good news is that rehabilitation costs less than a yearly rental. The bad news is that the Entertainer needs a half size.

The surprise for the Entertainer, when she returns from her dad's tomorrow, is the rented half size violin waiting for her with the required book and a shoulder rest that will expand to fit a 3/4 size. The recommended store gave us the expandable shoulder rest because it is used and they had no new ones in stock. We'll be recommending the store to others, too.

The rehabilitated violin purchased in the 1920s will be picked up later in the month. We'll get a new case and bow then, and, hopefully, they'll have the pink music stands in stock so we can get one of those, too.

[An aside: The Entertainer was born on the anniversary of my grandfather's death, 7 years later.]
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