Wednesday, October 31, 2007


We went to Kacey's for Halloween as we have done every year since we have been here.
We had sloppy joes and chips and brownies and watched the kids leave to go trick or treating.
This year the 4 of them all went together - "Alyse, Reagan, Addie and Jackson with parents who were dressed for Halloween and Dawn. What fun.
The 5 year old girls ran ahead with Brett and the little ones stayed with girls. They came home with bags full of candy - reminding me of my own time trick or treating and when the girls went out as children.

I got to hand out candy with Chuck and Karen, Brett's mom. We talked to all the kids and asked them what they were wearing. And with the older kids asked them to do "tricks" - one girl actually did a back flip on the driveway. Really we just wanted a joke or two! I love kidding around with kids!

The costumes of the kids were creative. Lots of pirates and wizards and little girls with wings - like angels, tinerbell, fairies. Some of it was funny - a teenage boy who was a "homosexual ghost" a "goth skateboarder" (without the skatboard) a boy dressed in jeans and T shirt who said he was dressed as his dad! One girl said she was dressed like a drama queen.

I asked a little girl who was in pink stiped dress, leggings and a pink sweater what her costume was and she didn't say anything. Her mother said - from the street - "tell her that you are dressed as jailbait." This girl was about 10 years old.
Afterwards - even though we laughed about it - you think - how does a mother explain that to her daughter? I want my grandgirls to be little girls. I love the fact that they dress as princesses - and play make believe. I hate the thought of how soon everything gets sexualized when it should be innocent.

I am grateful that we could have such a beautiful night as a family......I wonder how long it can be simple and fun.

ezekiel part 2

I am up early this morning - at 6 AM and ruminating some more about Ezekiel. This description of his vision in chapter one goes on and one. A four faced creature with wheels and wings. I know that we can take it apart and talk about each face and what it means, and what the wheels and wings mean. Is that what I will do on Sunday? I don't think so.

Instead I keep thinking a God who gives us visions and how easy it is to ignore them and try to just live our lives on the surface.

And if we really pay attention to the visions and to the reality of God's communication with us what do we do with it? In Ezekiel's case he goes into worship. And I think about how easy it is for our "Sunday worship" to be rote and thin. Something we do - not something that takes us over.

And then he witnesses the light to those in the darkness. And God is telling him right from the beginning about how stubborn and rebellious the people are. And I think about how often I think about people who "you can't tell them anything" and so I don't even try. I just let it go and wait. For the moment. Which often never comes.

So, what is God wanting me to preach on Sunday? I keep coming back to the vision that is more than I can understand and even wrap my mind around. That is God. Will people understand this? Relate to this?

I don't know. I do....and I realize that when I glimpse this God, I run away. Is that just me, or is that our story?
Still ruminating......

Monday, October 29, 2007


I just read Audrey's blog and she is writing something about Ezekiel. We are reading through the Bible this year and now we are spending time with Ezekiel. I read the first 3 chapters this morning and thought about preaching this Sunday on Ezekiel.

Wow! It starts with his call from God in the form of a fantastic vision of a creature that has 4 faces - face of a man, an eagle, an ox, a lion. And it has wings and wheels! And he is then being called to preach to God's stubborn and rebellious people.

And I am also reading a book called "360 Degree Leadership: preaching to transform congregations" which goes on and on about thin blooded preaching. And on this Monday afternoon I sit and feel inadequate to try to open up God's message in Ezekiel in a way that would really be transformative.

but......I know there is something big here. Something about our God who is bigger than and more than we can even begin to imagine. Something about the vision of the life that God calls us to that is bigger than we can imagine - both as church and as individuals.

I am wondering if the temptation in preaching that makes it thin blooded is to make it palateable so that people don't see the chasm between what we are and what God wants us to be. And maybe full bodied preaching has an aspect about it of being hard to swallow at first.

I was convicted reading Audrey's blog today with the quote that said that we are not - as church supposed to be meeting people's needs" but to become CHURCH - this holy body that may be as hard to define as a fantastic creatiure with four faces and wheels and wings!

Beginning thoughts on Ezekial -saying I hope that God will clarify this stuff this week.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Gone Baby Gone

This is called - no easy answers part two.

Yesterday Chuck and I saw Gone, Baby, Gone - new film out that is directed by Ben Affleck. It was well done movie that is about the abduction of a 4 year old. It is about much more than that, however and it had a number of plot twists in it. The hero of the movie "does the right thing" that ruined people's lives and probably made the basic situation worse.
He lost his girlfirend because of it - but he did the right thing.

Once again - no easy answers.

This movie was set in Boston and gave a view of its underbelly and the reality of people who are living careless and destructive lives and the reality of child molesters who do unspeakable things to innocent children. In the face of that evil - what is our responsibility or do we continue to trust the legal system and to live by the rule of law?

I have more questions than answers to any of this. It is a slippery slope when we take the law into our own hands, but are there times when the ends justifies the means?
I don't know.
It is a film that raises a lot of uncomfortable questions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Elders are the spiritual leaders in a church. And I have learned over the years that this is true.

What is always interesting and awesome is watching people become elders. We have a nominating process as every church does. Names will be suggested by the elders to our nominating committee - (no TEAM!!) and they will decide who they will call first. We will have 3 or 4 positions to fill. Each will serve for three years.

And some years it is a struggle finding people willing to be elders. Either they have been elders over and over again and they are tired of it - or they don't feel adequate to do the job.

At some point I will see the list of who said yes. And those will be the elders for some time ahead. And then we watch them grow - and they do. Yesterday one of our elders told me about the first time she came to the table and she was so nervous and her hands were shaking. But when she got behind the table, a peace came over her. She was becoming an elder.

The elders at the church serve at the table every week and they will do words of institution and the prayer at the table. And sometimes they use prayers from a book, sometimes they write their own and sometimes they spontaneously pray at the table. I always tell them that they get extra points if they mention something from the sermon in their prayer :)

Many, many weeks I am touched by the prayers of the elders. And their seriousness and sense of reverence. A couple of years ago Marilyn was an elder. She was in her 70's and always wore a lot of jewelry - (rings on her fingers - I loved em) and she didn't wear shoes. I wonder when I first noticed that! I finally learned that she was standing on holy ground.

The elders also have to deal with sometimes thorny issues at the church. Our elders here have had to work with a candidate for ordination. Their questions were just powerful and their obvious concern and depth of spirit was wonderful. They have had to make decisions about our first worship service and about other problems.

Our elders this year range in age from 31 to 72. And when we discuss issues eventually every aspect of the problem gets aired respectfully and our collective wisdom is so obvious.

I have a mantra these days. And it is helping me to find peace within my soul. It is this:
This church is God's church. (that is, not MINE)
And - This church has holy leaders who make good decisions.

I am blessed to serve here.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Collar

I am reading a really interesting book on the training of priests called The Collar. Here are some quotes from it.

He writes about Father McNally who teaches Christian History. This is from his handout.

"iMAGINATION IS the most essential and necessary ability/skill of a person who hopes to lead a holy/whole life. By imagination is meanth the freely graced ability to use all of our God given abilities to assist us in forming healthy conscioences and well balanced IMAGES of the concrete world to be come critical thinkers. CRITICAL thinking is very often confused with NEGATIVE thinking, though the two are ABSOLUTE OPPOSITES.

A negative thinker is someone who does not think or refuses to think and thus never asks the question "Why?" Negative thinking is opposed to constructive treatment and sees reality as fixed and final. A negative thinker denies the shadows, and thus even so-called positive thinkers with their Pollyannish insistence on seeing only the good, are really only negative thinkers in disguies. A critical thinker always asks why and accepts reality and (therefore history) as being messy."


"Theology should be done on you knees."

and this story about Reinhold Nebuhr
He entered a lecture hall and said, "God" - then turned around and left

When he returned 5 minutes later he announced, "Whatever you thought of when I said "God" was not God."

Spiritual formation - whether Catholic priest or Protestant clergy or lay person is paradoxical and a struggle.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

crop walk

I just returned from the crop walk. This year there were 8 of us that walked - 2 five year olds, 2 young moms, 3 teens and me. It was a beautiful day and we walked in downtown Columbus for 2 miles. I bet that we will have probably raised about $300 for this by the time we are done.
It was a beautiful day and there were lots of other people walking. The whole thing felt good.

Twenty years ago I was in charge of the Crop Walk in Zanesville. We walked 10 miles! And it was very up and down hills and all around the town. We had various churches on board that would provide snacks for us. Our youth group usually had about 15 kids who walked. And when it was all over we had a picnic at somebody's farm. An annual event.

We also did the crop walk in Bowling Green Ohio - all kinds of different ways of trying it. Walking in a park, walking through the town, walking in a circle at a school.

It is, of course, not about the walk - but a fund raiser. But I have to say that the great blessing for me has always been - no matter where I was - the conversations on the walk. And maybe moreso now. Listening to kids talk about the movies they watch and the books they read. And just having time and nothing else but walking and talking.

As I have gotten older, I am more and more resistent to participating myself in this stuff. but i am always grateful when I do.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Is this a call?

I just got off the phone with Seth who is applying to Methesco for next fall. I went there 25 years ago and last week took Seth on a tour of the campus. When we went into the library I had so many emotions come over me. Mostly, remembering studying there and how much I loved it!
It made me want to go back to school.

This week I had lunch with Kay, one of my spiritual friends who is a minister who also serves as a spiritual director. She was talking about WellStreams where she helps supervise those who are learning spiritual direction. And as she talked I thought (and said!) I would like to become a spiritual director. And she was so enthusiastic about it and said that they are going to start a new class next fall.

So, I got on the website and wrote to the director who directed me to the place where I could get information on the web about the program. It is 5 sememsters, beginning next fall. Two and a half years! And I look at the courses and I think - Wow -this is what I want to study.
Dynamics of Transformation
Treands in Christian Spirituality
Practices in Prayer
Humani Development personality Type and Spirituality
And that is just the first two semesters!!!!!

So, I sit at my desk and am supposed to be working on a sermon about Jeremiah and the call to leadership and just want to fill out the application and get the ball rolling.

Is this a call? I think so!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

In the valley of elah

We went to the movies today and saw In the Valley of Elah.
I picked it because it had three and a half stars and it was just a compelling movie.
Tommy Lee Jones plays a father of a soldier who has gone AWOL a week after he has returned from Iraq. And he goes to find him.

The acting was great. It seemed like there was not much dialogue - but so much was expressed in face - both Tommy Lee Jones very weathered and sad face and Charlize Theron's beautiful and troubled face. She played a detective who worked with him to find the son.

I don't want to talk about the plot - all I can say is that this movie depicted some of the toll of war - the dehumanization that happens to the soldiers who were put into horrific situations in Iraq and came home changed.

I can't begin to express the sadness that I felt at the end of the movie. The soldiers who were depicted all seemed so young - as so many are. Oh, I don't even know what to say except the obvious - that I wish wilth all my heart that we had never gone into that country and I wish that we could get out tomorrow. The fact that even the democratic candidates running for president were unwilling to make commitments to getting us out in less than 4 years is just heartbreaking and frustrating.

This movies was about the war and showed very little of the war in it. The truth for me - as for I imagine most people - is that my knowledge of war comes more from movies than anything else. I remember watching The Deer Hunter, Coming Home and Platoon which were all about the Viet Nam war. I think Platoon probably convicted me of the hell of war more than any movies I ever saw. I can still remember watching the soldiers set fire to the village with Samuel Barber's musiic (elegy or something?) in the background. Ever since, whenever I hear that music I think of VietNam.

Anyway, I am glad I saw this film. I hate that we are in Iraq.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Lessons from Alyse

We got to spend time with Alyse, my 5 year old granddaughter. She just had a birthday and I had this idea that I would not buy her a gift but take her to Toys R Us. What a mistake that was.
We got there and it was too much. There were too many choices and just toooooo much everything for her. I had this idea that I would tell her about an amount of money ($30) and we would find a couple of somethings that she would like. Ahead of time we had talked about a Leapster game and a baby doll. So we are looking and I recognize over and over again how impatient I am. I want to explain stuff and she is supposed to listen and then choose carefully.
What the heck was I thinking?

Anyway, we looked at baby dolls and suddenly she picks up this purple purse with a doll in it and walks around with that. It only cost about $7 so I am ready to keep looking.
She wants to go to the bathroom, she wants to leave. I want to buy more.
Then we get to some games and some crafts. And books. Look at that suff. She sees a jewelry making kit and then says that is what she wants. Which one? She picks the biggest. Now she doesn't want the doll.

So, it is only $20 - how about a games? She said clearly, "I want to leave. I want to go!" She runs ahead. I am, of course, stupidly wanting her to come back and look at games.
"I want to leave. I want to go." I cannot write and depict her high kind of screechy voice at this point.
Finally we leave. And at the check out counter, the clerk says, "You are going to make some pretty jewelry. Will you make something for me?" And Alyse says "No!" And then she says,
"If I give you a sucker, will you make something for me?" And Alyse says "No!" And then we are stymied. Thank God she gave her a sucker and I said something about grace (I am a pastor, after all) and thank God Alyse said "Thank you."

So, the fun outing was not so fun. But the lesson for me is the one that I like to give others. Get to know the person and give them what they want - and not what you want!! And she wanted a wrapped present that I had picked out for her!!

When we went to make Jewelry it got frustrating, so Alyse ran away into a corner of the family room behind a chair and said she missed Jackson. So, I put on the TV and gradually she moved over there. And then I asked her if she wanted to pick out beads for my bracelet. And she did.

Maybe in a couple of weeks (or years) we will try it again. And make a bracelet for her.

Thank God for Grace.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Morning Prayer

Frequently I start the day in prayer in a room in my home that is the prayer room.
This year we are working our way as a congregation through the whole Bible. So I begin with reading whatever is the reading of that day.
Sometimes I get through it and sometimes I get stopped in the middle with a word, or a phrase or a thought.
This week we are reading Jeremiah and it continually is disturbing me. Jeremiah has been called by God to speak God's word to God's people. And it is a harsh word. It is a word that says that you have been faithless to me - you have "gone after worthless things and you become worthless." You have ignored the living water and dug cisterns that are cracked. Lots of ways of saying that you have turned away from God and worshipped other Gods.And God is going to allow the enemies (Assyrians and Babylonians) to defeat the people of Israel.

I marvel at the poetry of this. And I see myself everywhere - the one who is called to speak the hard truths and the one who is also going after worthless things and becoming worthless.

Reading this invariably leads me to my journal which tends to be prayers that focus on the two basic prayers that Anne Lamott mentions in Traveling Mercies. "Thank you" and "Help me"
I feel grateful for the amazing blessings of the fulness of my life and at the same time - in these moments completely inadequate to the task of pastoring the church. Knowing when to speak, what speak, when to keep silent. It is a continual challenge that I often fail. Thank God for the grace of God.

These mornings are so important to centering my soul as I continue to live this life and this calling. I wish I did this every morning, but I do not. I spoke to my spiritual director about the fact that I am (and have always been) sporadic in morning devotions, (keep to it for a couple of weeks and then stop and then come back again!!)and she asked this question: "Do you think that God misses you?"

Why does that questions startle me so much? I think I have been so self centered that I think that the morning devotions are all about me.

I pray for the grace and mercy of God and that God will continue to grow me in my own personal faith.

Lord, Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, Have Mercy on Me a Sinner