Thursday, November 26, 2009


I am grateful for my son who is visiting and our great time in Chicago.

I am thankful it is not last year when I was painfully recovering from hernia surgery to repair five hernias from my abdominal surgery.

I am grateful that I don't appear to have cancer right now.

I am grateful for sunshine and warmth.

I am grateful for a job.

I am grateful for friends and family.

I am grateful for all of this world.

My prayer is that God's dream for the world will come into being.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


My blog just got spammed and my inbox is filled with Chinese. I have changed my setting to require verification before commenting. I'm sorry for this extra layer of rigamarole.

In other news. I have disappeared to Chicago. How wonderful. My son and I drove to Chicago on Monday and spend yesterday at the Shedd. On the way we stopped in Cairo, IL. More about that later, perhaps. Today the Institute of Art and then a drive home for turkey.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I was installed yesterday as called pastor. And a friend was dismissed from her congregation.

Our churches are in trouble and we don't know what to do. Amid the joy yesterday, a session member remarked that it was wonderful that "my friend Xavier" came for my installation. "My friend Xavier" is an African American young man with two twins with severe speech problems (they are four and do not yet speak). He is jobless and comes to the church and asks for work. I think he asks for handouts. This man has needs and has come to church to find help for those needs. He is MY friend. He is not a recurring visitor. He is not a potential new member.

The congregation will be overjoyed to learn that a couple has decided to join the church. One son has some difficulties and is extremely hard to manage. The Sunday school teachers have an extra person who works just with him. This couple has needs: a need for a safe place for their son to be loved and cared for. They have found their needs met in this congregation. They are not MY friends. They are potential new members. (Oh, they are white, middle class, dress nicely.)

I have no idea how I can open the congregation up to the possibility that Xavier is as much a part of us as the couple. That God has sent Xavier to us as clearly as God has sent two couples with young children. I say that, but it seems to slide off them.

Friday, November 13, 2009

An article in the NYTimes says that women are likely to be divorced after they are diagnosed with cancer. Husbands disappear. Wives tend to stick with their sick husbands.

Are female clergy more likely to stay with sick churches than male clergy?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I got into another one of those arguments with a parishioner--why the Memphis schools are so bad. I place the blame directly on those so-called Christian schools that grew up in the wake of integration. Then I made the statement that those schools mean that we spend less on the public schools than we ought to. The parishioner said that she had seen something that said that Memphis had one of the highest per pupil expenditures in the country. I declared that the statement could not be true. (Tact is not my strong suit.)

And so I looked. Memphis spends a lot per pupil, compared to the rest of Tenneessee (though a quick survey showed Nashville spends more). But, here is the surprise. Memphis spends about 2/3s the national average of all school districts. I took a look at a couple of northern states and their large districts spend much more than the national average. The school district attended (where he was the only white child in the class for three years) spends 2.5 times what Memphis does.

I looked at North Carolina and their expenditures were a smidge more than Tennessee. Durham schools seem to be the most spendy.

So, what is the connection between spending on education and the education of the population.

When I told my parishioner what I had found, she was amazed. She then asked, "well, I can't imagine how we could spend more money. Where would it come from?" My response, where we spend our money reflects what we value. (A reprise from my sermon on Sunday.)

Now, I grew up in North Carolina, in a family that valued education. When Terry Sanford was governor back in the 60s he wanted to move North Carolina to the forefront of education. California was the model for the state university system (the conservatives hit California with Prop whatever which drastically reduced spending for education in California, much to their detriment.)

Now, in my rambling: why do we not see the benefit of paying taxes so our children can be educated? Why are we so short sighted that we would rather spend our money on our toys than on our future and the future of our children?

Friday, September 11, 2009


I continue to meditate over why we worship and how the forms of worship fit with why we worship.

About a month ago, we had a meeting after church to talk about worship. Several people said they didn't like being read to.

I have been wondering about that. I try to read with expression. It is mainly sermons that I read occassionally, usually I preach without notes and the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving.

One of the things children love is being read to. In the 19th century, families gathered in the evening as someone read the latest installment of Dickens or someone else to them. I want to talk to one of the women about her dislike, but I don't understand. Reading is performance. Either when I read, I'm not performing, or something else is going on.

(OK, I don't like it when someone reads their power point presentation to me. I don't like reading something in front of me, except scripture. I love to slow down enough as someone reads the scripture and I soak it in with my eyes and ears, but that may be an acquired taste from lectio).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why our country needs more Calvinists

I was listening to an NPR report on big-ag. A farmer explained his opposition to big-ag that once only a few companies own all the farms, then they can set prices as high as they want.

Capitalism, the most popular religion in the US, is based on greed, at least as practiced in the US. (Proponents seem to have forgotten the Scot Adam Smith's corrective statements about the community.) Unfortunately, greed, left unchecked can lead to disaster as we have just witnessed.

Calvinists have a dark view of humanity. We are all depraved creatures. Calvinists understand greed. They understand that humans, left to our own devices will run amok. We need more Calvinists reminding us that we are not perfect and that we are not God and that we do have a propensity to choose evil, and to convince ourselves that choosing evil is actually a good thing.

Calvinists also use their brains.

For a while, I had laid aside my Calvinism. I am putting back on my mantle of Calvinism. And yes, Calvinists do have a bent toward self-righteousness.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wearing a Cross

I don't wear a cross. I find it a bit cheesy. I grew up in the south and wearing crosses was what girls from the mill hill did. It's a classist thing. Though I renounce much of my southern upbringing, there are some things that are so much of part of the marrow of my bones that it is hard to see the utter stupidity of them.

A group of clergywomen met yesterday to begin a group. We went off in a direction totally different from what I had expected, planned and hoped. But it was really good. We decided that only one of us likes our current city. And so we decided that we would witness (see, not proclaim) the holy in our city.

And I woke up with the idea that I am a bearer of the holy. I feel this when I serve the bread and tell someone as I look her in the eye: this is the bread of life. But, I can/should be a bearer of the holy in all that I do.

Then this afternoon, I began to think that maybe, just maybe, I should wear a cross. Or perhaps I'll just start with my triquetra and ease in slowly.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Five

For this Friday Five, share with us a wild animal story from your life. Or if you've never had such an encounter share with us your five favorite animals, and why. Bonus for videos and photos!

Which one to choose? My favorite shark story? My Ngorogoro crater story? Blind Boy? Pinky? The crazy cat? That's five. Maybe you'll get each one.

So, I went on a shark dive on a dive trip to Australia. On my first shark dive with these folks, they took us down, sat us on a sand bar and then chumbed the water. On the second trip, about five years later, they had a shark cage. They led us down, put us in the cage, shut the door and then chumbed the water. I stood at the edge, watching the sharks. Then a small shark pushes its way into the cage right in front of me. At first, I tried pushing the shark out of the cage. Then I decided that was really stupid, so I stood there with my hands under my armpits so the shark didn't think my fingers were finger food. One of the dive guides swam over and got the baby out of the cage. As I swam to the surface, I wondered about my fear. The shark surely would have given me professional courtsey. (I was practicing corporate law at the time.)

Ngorogoro Crater. We were among the last people to be able to camp in the crater. It's an immense volcanic crater. The walls of the crater loom upward and most of the animals stay in this (compared to the Serengetti) small area. There is a lake and grasslands. Zebras and gnus, lions and giraffes roam this eden. I awoke to the sound of something outside our tent. I wondered what I should do? Ignore the animal or get up? I finally decided if I were going to be eaten alive, I wanted to see what it was. A hippo munching the grass. The only time I've seen a hippo out of the water.

Blind boy. My dad bought a farm when I was 13. He bred black angus cattle. On a visit home, I met a young steer which hung close to the fence. Dad explained the steer was blind. Because he couldn't see, he was easily approached and became a pet to everyone.

Pinky. When one of the sows had a litter, there was usually a runt, a little piglet destined to be squashed or just left to starve in the fight to get to the mother's teats. Dad would bring the runt up to the house and hand it to one of us, usually me. I'd feed the piglet and then watch as it eventually died. One piglet was different, she lived the first day and night and then the next and then after that. Pinky slept in my bed at night. I'd get up and feed her (human baby formula) at night. During the day, she was with me all the time as I tried to keep her warm. She grew up in the house. Pigs don't have sweat glands, so I'd bathe her several times a day to keep her cool. Mom finally said I couldn't use the bathtub; I'd have to use the laundry sink in the basement. One day a patient came to the house to see my dad. As he walked up to the house, he watched my mother as she shooed the animals out of the house: one dog, then another, three cats and then finally, oinking at the indignity of being pushed out of her home, Pinky. The patient remarked to Dad that he'd never seen a pig in the house. (This was a real pig, not one of those tiny pot bellys that became popular later.) Dad's reply: the pig has had five baths today, she's cleaner than you are.

The cat. I don't remember the cat's name. A friend at work was moving and wasn't taking his two cats. He was looking for someone to take one of them. I said I would take the cat if he couldn't find someone else. And then I asked about the second cat. He said that they were going to put the cat down because he couldn't imagine asking anyone to take the crazy cat. I knew the cat; I knew how crazy it was and I said that I would take it too. The first cat fit in pretty well. The second wasn't seen for two weeks, hiding out in the basement. After we had had the animals about a year, I found the crazy cat dead. It was in the morning; I was on my way to work. My cleaning lady was coming and I didn't have time to bury the animal before work. So, I tried to stuff the dead, stiff body in a grocery bag. I got the body in the bag, but the long tail, now curved like a hook poked out of the bag. I stuck the bag in a closet where I thought the cleaning lady wouldn't look. But, she did (she must have cleaned better than I gave her credit for). I can't imagine what she must have thought as she found a cat's body in a grocery bag in the bottom of the closet in the dining room.


Yesterday morning I sat in the inside waiting room of a local cancer center. A parishioner has a recurrence and he was in for a painful test. He had told me not to come, but his wife had called me the night before hardly holding back tears, so, of course, I went.

Showing up in a cancer center is not the best thing to do when one's favored defense is denial. My parishioner, his wife. A young African American woman, baseball cap pulled snugly against her scalp. I couldn't tell whether her expression was one of defiance or defeat. An Asian woman joining in our conversation about chemo, particularly those who crow about how their chemo didn't affect their athletic endeavors. (Chemos are very different chemicals, each with different side effects. Some are relatively easy on the body; others are devastating. I wish people knew that. On the other hand "look at how strong I am is also a defense mechanism;" I just wish they would also think about other people.) Watching weak people waiting for something. Actually, they are strong people; it is their bodies that are weak.

I sat there, my heart aching for those people. As my parishioner said, "you've been through this; you understand; I can talk to you."

I went to the favorite pizza place for pizza buffet (eating is also a favorite defense mechanism), then the Penzey's spices for some replacement spices and then to the department store for make up. (I found a great eyebrow pencil that looks natural and now I have eyebrows. I lost the half of the brow from the arch to the ear not to cancer, but to Hashimoto's thyroiditis, the beginning of this saga.) I ran into a close friend, fellow clergywoman and dumped on her. When I got to the car, the words from Gerard Manley Hopkins sprang to mind "Margaret why are you grieving, over goldengrove unleaving. . . it is not leaves of grass and I forget the rest but it is that it is you, you are grieving for. Denial leaves no room for grief and show when it comes, it sneaks up like the fluffy snow storm that becomes a raging blizzard.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We Presbys have pastors' studies, not offices. We used to be teaching elders. So, what does my congregation want most from me? To visit the little old lady shut ins. Now, granted pastoral care is important, but we now have twelve shut ins, in a dying congregation (we have about 50 in worship). And, of course, with an aging congregation we have more than our share of hospitalizations and rehabs. And as an introvert, I'm looking for any excuse.

I want to spend more of my time in study and reflection. If I were to prioritize my time, I would be spending much more in making sure we had an inviting web site, some print stuff for all the folks who come into the building (we have gymnastics renting space and a preschool). I'd be figuring out how to reach out more to the community. But, for most of the congregation and for a lot of the session what matters is visiting shut ins.

I was reading over my oatmeal Context (a newsletter put out by Martin Marty which is a really short reader's digest of interesting stuff). An article pointed out how we avoid hope. Hope means that we are not in control. Hope means we wait for God. I want to think more deeply about this.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Something positive from cancer

So, someone came to see me today. Cancer has recurred. Said that it was good (then amended the statement) that I had cancer, because I understood. So often, the person said, people say "don't worry, everything will be OK. But we know it may not be."

Now, I have never been a person who has said "don't worry" or "you shouldn't feel that way", but having had cancer assured this person that I wouldn't say the wrong things.

We always worry. It might come back.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Five

From Sally at RevGalBlogPals

1. Is there a sport/ hobby that is more of a passion than a past-time for you?
2. Outdoors or indoors?
3. Where do you find peace and quiet?
4. A competitive spirit; good or bad, discuss...
5. Is there a song a picture or a poem that sums up your passion ?

1. My first reaction was no and then I thought: wait a minute--scuba diving. I love diving. I don't get to do it very much. I don't much like cold water diving, I don't like quarries. I love warm water and beautiful fish. At some point, I always wonder at God creating all this beauty for God's pleasure. Until the last century, only God could see the beauty under the waves.

2. Outdoors. I love the outdoors. And yet, I sometimes have to push myself to be outside. I have a beautiful back yard patio and I forget about it. I try to go have coffee and journal there in the mornings.

3. Peace and quiet. Walking in the woods, in the mountains. Anytime I can pull myself away from my addiction: the computer.

4. Competition. I am normally competitive. Very competitive. I want to win. I once practiced law. My favorite thing was when I got to play the bad guy. Some in house clients called me the Dragon Lady. Loved it. I don't like the person I am when my competitive side emerges. I don't care about others. I don't want to listen. I am right and that's it. Don't get in my way.

5. I'm not much a song or dance person. Or poems for that matter.
My doc left a message yesterday. My CA-125 results. A 7. (below 35 is "normal". Two days before my cancer surgery mine was 34. Many women reach 1000 or more with ovarian cancer. It's not ovarian cancer specific: anything going on in the abdominal region will trigger a rise. Mine was 26 weeks after my hernia repair.)

This is the lowest it's ever been, so it's good news. (It's been 9 and 8 before.)

So, I wake up this morning wondering whether all the pipetting I did of toluene and benzene as a chemistry major caused my cancer. It's my unconscious mind trying to exert control over a random act. There is no reason for me to have had ovarian cancer. It was a random act. But, I search for a reason, something to give me control, something so that it makes sense.

I met with COM so they would approve my change in status from designated pastor to called. (It's a presbyterian thing). It went well. They were supportive, friendly, perhaps even nice. The EP asked me, given all my talents for ministry whether this church would be a sufficient challenge for me. (The congregation is mostly dying, but there are real signs of hope.) Since the EP has a reputation for not valuing women, I was somewhat taken aback, first by his compliments and then by the question. A large, healthy, growing congregation where I was head of staff and mostly managed, planned and preached would be less of a challenge.

Thinking about blowing off running again and going back to bed. I'm beginning to get an awful headache.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Medical Care in the richest country in the world

I am sick. The details are unbloggable. An entirely preventable catastrophe for a 90 year old parishioner. Entirely for the ease of care of the center where he was. The details are unimaginable. I had no idea such a thing was possible. According to the information I have, the problem is unfixable (though I think with the right surgeon it might be). I want to strangle the administrators there who made the decision.

Another parishioner is in another rehab center where there is a camera on him 24 hours a day. He is there because of a test which I am beginning to read probably shouldn't be done on people in his condition.

I am thankful for the health insurance the PCUSA provides, despite my frustrations with the drug coverage. We need not just good health care insurance for every American, we need more caring care, particularly for our most vulnerable populations.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

An elder stuck her head in the door about ten minutes after I got to the study for the congregational meeting (EP was moderating for lots of good reasons). Already? I said.
I walked with her back to the sanctuary. One of the little girls was standing in the doorway. But when I went in, most everyone had left. There were a couple of people standing around talking. One woman came up to me to tell me how glad she was I was staying. Another (our seminarian to be) came up to tell me that she would be leaving for seminary before I got back.

I used the refrain from the Carly Simon song, "you're so vain, you think this song is about you" in the sermon. What a strange reaction. I'm thinking what have I done to engender such a response. I've been here three years and everyone leaves. And so, I think, they have the strangest manners/customs.
Today the congregation votes whether to call me as installed pastor. There have been struggles around terms of call (do I get to carry over study leave money for three years--standard in my previous presbytery). Not much, but enough, to leave a hurtful feeling in my heart. One member of the PNC that called me as designated doesn't want me to stay. Leaves a hurtful feeling in my heart.

We open ourselves to the pain in our congregations. I know how to take care of my self: friends, prayer, journaling, exercising, eating right, spiritual direction. Leaves a hurtful feeling in my heart, though.

I am called to offer love, support, affection, care. I am called to refrain from gossip, useless criticism. It's not a two way street, though. Leaves a hurtful feeling in my heart.

On the other hand, tomorrow, I'm leaving on a jet plane. Do know when I'll be back again--July 31. Will be away from internet, email, tv, radios for much of the time. We're going to Tibet, far, far western China, on a cruise to see the longest eclipse of the century (over 6 minutes of totality), then to Japan--not sure where yet. Have three at sea days on the boat: plenty of time to exercise, read, relax, do nothing.

I have lots to do yet, mostly packing and a few odds and ends like telling the neighbors I'm going. I am so looking forward to this. This will be my last time away (except for study leave at the end of September: a week in the holy city in God's most perfect place: I'm talking the Bay area, not Jerusalem). I hope I can make it through the fall. Of course, if they don't call me, I don't have to worry about that!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It takes very little to make be happy (or how shallow can one person be)

I am walking back from my run, sweat pouring down my face, my body sausaged into my Richard Simmons style tank top and short running pants (in a more discrete aqua than his red, white and blue), when an woman perhaps my age (somewhere between 50 and 65 I'd guess) stopped me and asked if I'd been running all my life. I replied that no, I started running when I was 61. Well, how old are you now, she asks, saying I don't look 61. I told her 63. She kept saying over and over that I didn't look that old. She asked a bit about running and we chatted for a while. She wanted to know how far I run. I told her on Fridays I run 5K. She was impressed. So, I know that 5K is a short run for lots of runners. But, any way, not bad for an old broad.

It was 78 when I went out. Now, 78 should be a reasonable temperature. Thought I would die. I can't believe how humid it is here. I'm swimming. High today 98, with a heat index in the 107 range.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Five

From RevGalBlogPals. I don't know who posted this, but. . .
Jennifer recommended this book, which I got because I always value Jennifer's reading suggestions. The author of Life is a Verb, Patti Digh worked her book around these topics concerning life as a verb:

* Say yes.
* Be generous.
* Speak up.
* Love more.
* Trust yourself.
* Slow down.

As I read and pondered about living more intentionally, I also have wondered what this Friday Five should be. This book has been the jumping off point for this Friday.

1. What awakens you to the present moment?
I have to be really intentional about being present. It usually doesn't just happen for me. So, I try to take time to be present.

2. What are 5 things you see out your window right now?

Green! Green! Green! I see green ferns, the limbs and leaves of a crepe myrtle, I saw a bird when I frist looked out but it was going so fast I didn't see what it was, a holly bush, my back fence

3. Which verbs describe your experience of God?
Verbs, hmmmm. Calm, comfort, aweinspire, heal, gives wisdom
4. From the book on p. 197:
Who were you when you were 13? Where did that kid go?
I'm assuming the book asks us to recapture the person we were at 13. This is not my experience. At 13 I was hesitant, shy, scared, bookish, curious, unsure of myself, wishing I were popular, wishing I were skinny, wishing I didn't live on a farm. So, the hesitant, shy, scared person has mostly gone. The bookish, curious person has remained. I have discovered that I am beautiful, loving, wise, healthy, adventurous, skilled, worthy. I am much happier than when I was 13. I really like who I am at 62. I didn't like who I was at 13 (though she had a whole lot more going for her than she ever imagined)

5. From the book on p. 88:
If your work were the answer to a question, what would the question be?

Not sure. I have a lot of ambivalence about work right now.

Bonus idea for you here or on your own--from the book on p. 149:
"Go outside. Walk slowly forward. Open your hand and let something fall into it from the sky. It might be an idea, it might be an object. Name it. Set it aside. Walk forward. Open your hand and let something fall into it from the sky. Name it. Set it aside. Repeat. . . ."

Have to pick a friend up from the airport. Maybe later.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How did I wind up here?

OK, so the legislature overrode the governor's veto of legislation that would allow guns in bars. And the legislature is considering a law to permit guns in public parks. Of course, you can't buy wine in the grocery store; no, you have to go to the liquor store (which can sell only wine, high alcohol content beer and liquor and absolutely nothing else, not even a bottle opener).

Now, evidently a legislative staffer sent an email from an official email address which contained a keepsake photo collage of all the presidents. Unfortunately, the picture following George W. Bush is simply a pair of eyes staring out from a void of darkness (otherwise known as a spook, which is Southern-speak for you know what).

I don't know about the rest of the state, but Memphis has churches on every corner (together with the attached "Christian" school aka don't send your children to school with "those folks"). I have a feeling most of the rest of the state is the same.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

OK. Sometimes I am a bit odd

So, last night a session member asked me to tell session where I was going on vacation. There was some confusion about where I was last week. The session member thought I was in North Carolina and others told her I had been to England. I don't consider it any of their business where I go or what I do on vacation. Am I off base here?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday five

From Revgalblogpals

Oh no! I can't find the font color changer! Oh well, here goes.
Here is your chance to get it out into the open and OWN your Big To-Do! Who knows? Maybe making the list will help you move the Big To-Do to the Big Ta-Da!

1) What home fix-it project is on your Big To-Do?
The one thing I'd like to get done is (like everyone else who has one) organize my garage. Then clean out my closet.
2) What event (fun or work) is on your Big To-Do?
I'm having some folks over for dinner on June 19. They are my favorite folks in Memphis, so I'm looking forward to it (though one of my favorite couples is spending the summer in Santa Fe).
3) What trip is on your Big To-Do?
Assuming I get my visa, which hasn't be approved yet, though my son's has, I'm off to China for about three weeks, then a week long cruise to see the eclipse (6 minutes 39 seconds of totality--a very long time) and then for a few days in Japan. If the visa is denied, then I'll have to rearrange my plane tickets and we'll spend more time in Japan and then catch the ship in Korea.
4) What do you wish was on someone ELSE's (partner, family member, celebrity, etc...) Big To-Do? I'd love for my son to come see me, but his calendar is as booked as mine.
5) Getting inspired? What may end this summer having moved from the Big To-Do to the Big Ta-da? Well, I am still hoping to compete in a triathlon, but that is looking dimmer as I struggled to jog 22 minutes today. I have this month and August and a week or so in September to get ready. Getting old is a real bitch. It is just so hard for me to build up my strength and endurance.

Now, this has been a great time waster to avoid today's to-do: weeding the yard, fertilizing the plants, cleaning up the mess I have created in the kitchen and unpacking.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Longer posts and pictures to follow.

Some thoughts and highlights from England and Wales.

I read Losing Julia on the way back. A depressing, but from my perspective realistic, view of old age. Sitting around in a nursing home. All the smells and sounds. The longing for the touch of someone. The desire to be with someone. The younger person trapped in an aging, failing body. Life is finally tragic. That's why we search for meaning, for something larger than ourselves.

I am mindful that a year ago I was mostly in bed, sick and tired from chemo. The times I felt good were windows of hope. Now I feel good most of the time. I'm stronger, but not as strong as I'd like to be. But, I have no great words of wisdom from cancer; I'm not sure it has changed my life in the meaningful way that I see that it changes others' lives.

Our adventure. On Sunday we decided to see if we could canoe on the Wye river. The Wye is sometimes the border between England and Wales and further down from where we were, flows by Tintern Abbey. So, we arrive at the canoe livery. Lots of folks are waiting around. We ask if we can rent a canoe. A young man intervenes and arranges to have another canoe put on top of the van for us. The woman owner is not terribly happy, but goes along with the young man (her son?). We take off on the bus. We avoid the safety talk and jump on the river. We float and paddle way ahead of the rest of the group. There is a rowing regatta in town and the normal take out is unavailable. So we are going to take out further upstream. We manage to survive the level 2 rapids (yeah, I know). I got splattered. My son got a little wetter. As we neared the town, we were rudely pushed over to the far right. And so we watched for the take out. We arrived at the town and the Wye bridge. We decided we had missed the take out. Fortunately, there was a stairway leading down to the water from the roadway above. I grabbed hold of the stairs. My son fished out my cell phone. We got a signal and called the canoe livery. No answer. Tried again. No answer. I looked and saw a second number which looked as if it were the fax number. Called that. Someone answered. We said we thought we had missed the take out. The woman suggested we try to row up stream or across the river. We decided to row upstream where we could see the take out. And so up under the bridge. Bernouli's principle in full effect. The water, its channel narrowed by the bridge's pier, sped up in its flow. We made it! We pulled the canoe onto the steps of the take out. My son found a young man to help, who turned out to work for the livery. And I got really, really sunburned. I hadn't taken sunscreen to England, because who gets sunburned in England? I looked like an American Indian preparing for war. I had bright red streaks on my cheekbones. Really red. And my forehead was red. It is beginning to fade. I hope to have normal skin for Pentecost. Otherwise, I suppose I'll let the congregation think I've made myself up for Pentecost.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


the place where I am staying is in a strategic location on the road between the Old City of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The Pope is going from Jerusalem to Bethlehem this morning. So, we are surrounded and surmounted by IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). They arrived around 4 am with much chattering. Everything is so quiet. The Bethlehem checkpoint has been closed since 4 am, so there are no Palestinians coming through to go to work in Jerusalem. There is no traffic along the road.

I am off to Temple Mount this morning to see the Dome of the Rock. I hope. It is now closed to non-Muslims, so I won't be able to do anything but walk around it and (I hope) take pictures.

Home tomorrow. I'll post pictures sometime.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Thursday May 7 2009. This morning I decided to walk into Bethlehem. I asked around and found a Catholic brother who wanted to go this morning. So, we started off. Of course, he has a map, but it's a map to the Old City. We start asking people. And someone says to take this road. I see this huge wall ahead of me, gray concrete. With lovely pictures on it. We walk up a road and then the guard tells us there is another entrance which we finally find. We make our way to the check point. There are wood and plexiglass booths for the soldiers. Each soldier persons a booth that monitors both an exit from Israel and an entrance to Israel. Of course there are tons of people queuing up to come into Jerusalem to work. We finally get the attention of one of the soldiers and he says we should go through the blue door. Now, I had been told that all we had to do to get to Manger Square was to walk on the main road about 45 minutes. I have to tell you that about every five minutes we had to stop and ask someone how to get there. We decided to walk through the Old City, which really wasn't very old. I was expecting something like the Medinas in Arab cities I have visited: windy narrow alleys, with fast motorbikes whizzing by. The buildings seemed newish, which may be because they are all Jerusalem limestone. We went through one tunnel. But is was really short. There wasn't the inpenertrable maze I was expecting. We kept asking and asking and finally made it to Manger Square. On the Square, they were building a huge platform. The Pope is coming and so they are readying the place for him. We went into the Visitors' Center and had a long conversation with the women there. They talked about how awful the wall is, how they are not able to go to Jerusalem at all except at Christmas (for the Christians). Sometimes a wife will get a pass to visit family there and her husband
After that, we walked to the Church of the Nativity. We finally found the entrance which is a door about four feet high. We walked in and found ourselves in the sanctuary. There were places in the floor with wooden doors that were open. Below were the mosaics that were the original floor. The floor we were standing on was stone. Since the original floor was about three feet lower, I then understood why the door was so short. The sanctuary is a bit disappointing. It is huge, but not very elaborate. We saw an entrance to the area below the chancel and went down. There was the spot where Jesus was born. I realized down there that we had come down the exit side. In a lower area were some priests and nuns singing. I recognized Adeste Fideles. We came back and then wandered a bit. One of the women at the visitor's center had given us the name of a schwarma place. And so we went in search of it. Although we asked directions, we were on the wrong road. We wandered around for almost an hour in search of the place and never found it. No schwarma for me! We got a taxi back to the check point (I would have walked back, but the poor Catholic brother was exhausted).

I'm not terribly happy with my photos. I hope to get better ones for the rest of the trip. Still no luggage.


I'm at the Tantur Institute in Jerusalem. Sans luggage of course. Continental doesn't have a clue where it is. I am convinced it never left home. But that's a whole 'nuther long post, a big whine.

Tantur is a lovely place. The buildings are all Jerusalem limestone (as are all buildings in Jerusalem) Roses are blooming everywhere. It sits on a hill overlooking both the Old City and Jerusalem.

We are a 7 minute walk from the check point. And then it's another 45 minutes or so into Manger Square. I'm hoping to walk. I've found someone who will go with me this morning.

I am excited.

I learned this morning that although the Institute is ecumenical, the property is actually owned by the Vatican. So, our schedule is being revised so that there is no formal program here while the Pope is in Jerusalem (bad form or something). So we have an overnight trip to Northern Israel leaving Sunday and returning Monday. I think on Friday, we have a visit to the Old City and then Tuesday a trip into Bethlehem. I'm coming home on Thursday.

There are folks from all over the world for this conference. I've met several people from Ireland and one from Australia. The conference actually begins tonight. So I have today free to wander around.

We are going through the checkpoint that most West Bankers use to come into Jerusalem to work. I am told that when there was a big ecumenical conference here with the Archbishop of Canterbury and a lot of other big muckety-mucks they walked to the check point to show solidarity with the Palestinians and the Israeli soldiers wouldn't let them enter there. They had to go through the car check point (which obviously almost no Palestinians use).

I hope to post more and pictures.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I Shall Not Want

I Shall Not Want
Margaret H. Jorgensen
May 3, 2009

Psalm 23
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;*
3 he restores my soul.*
He leads me in right paths*
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,*
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely* goodness and mercy* shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
my whole life long.*

I was in Schnuck’s the other day, pushing my cart down the grocery aisle. As I was trundling down the cereal aisle, I saw a young girl, about five or six shopping with her father. "I want this" she said pointing to the box of Captain Crunch. Then, "I want this" pointing to the Fruit Loops. A few minutes later, I spotted them on the soft drink aisle. "I want this" she said tugging at her father's jacket and pointing to the coke bottles. A few minutes later in front of the bakery, she was again tugging at his jacket and pointing to the chocolate doughnuts. "I want this."
What do you want? Close your eyes for a minute and think, "what do I want." A new video game? A new car? A skinnier body? I know one person in the congregation wants a new computer. Do you want your son or daughter to visit more often? Or your parents to nag less often? What do you want?
Chaucer's character in Canterbury Tales, the Pardoner tells a story about three men who wanted, well listen to the story and you'll see. Once upon a time there were three young men. These were the sort of young men I think we hear about a lot today. They were interested only in eating and drinking and having fun. So, there were in the bar one day, in the morning for heaven's sake, drinking and playing pool. They heard a bell ring, signaling that someone had died. They said to the bar tender, "Send someone outside to find out who died." The bartender replied "Sirs, there is no reason to do that. I heard only a few minutes ago that Sam, your friend, was sitting on a bar stool in the bar across the street, and death came and took him away." "No! the young men said." Now they were beyond a little drunk, and remember this tale is from 700 years ago, so bear with me a little here. So the men say to each other "Let us go and kill this Death that kills so many of our friends and relatives." And so they leave the bar, stumbling a little and weaving a little. They walk out of town in search of death. They come upon an old man. He's dressed in dirty robes and he is covered from his head to his foot, except that his old wizened face peeks out from under his hood. They begin to rough him up and he protests that they should treat an old man better. He asks "what are you doing here anyway?" and one replies, "We are looking for Death. We are going to kill that old so and so who has killed so many of our friends." "Ah." the old man says, "I have seen Death. Do you see that big oak tree off in the distance? You will find him under that tree." And so the three men start off towards the tree, still a little wobbly on their feet. Under the tree, instead of Death, they find a huge pile of gold coins. More than 8 bushel baskets they decide. They sit under the tree and celebrate their good fortune. Then the oldest one says, "You know, if we try to carry this fortune into town now, during the day, everyone will think that we have stolen it. Let's one of us go into town and get some more to eat and drink and the other two will guard the treasure." "Well, says the second, how shall we decide who will go and who will stay?" "Let's draw lots says the third." And so they draw lots. The youngest gets the short straw and walks back into town. And so the two that are left sit down and play with all the gold coins. And then the older one says "you know there would be more for us if we'd didn't have to split this three ways." The other agrees. The older says, "here's what we'll do. When Bill comes back you begin to tease and wrestle with him. Then I'll come from behind and stab him in the side. You then do the same." And so they agree.
Bill walking back into town decides that there will certainly be more for him if he can get rid of the other two. And so he visits the drug store. He says to the pharmacist, "I've got rats that I need to get rid of. I've got a skunk too that's eating all my chickens. What do you have? " The Pharmacist says, "I've got just the thing. A little bit of this, just the size of a grain of wheat will kill anything living almost instantly." Bill said "Ok, I'll take it" And then he goes to the liquor store and buys three bottles of wine. He puts poison in two of them, leaving one for him to drink. And so he returns. The two put their plan into action and kill young Bill. And then they settle back with the wine to wait for nightfall so they can carry the gold into town. And they begin to drink the bottle of poisoned wine.
Greed was their shepherd. They wanted more and more gold.
But greed isn't the only shepherd out there. Do you remember the story of Cinderella? What happened to Cinderella [she went off to live with her wicked stepmother and wicked step sisters]. And what did they make her do? [Clean up the house.] Why did they make her do all the house work? [They were jealous of her.] And what happened one day? What came for the sisters? [An invitation to the ball that the prince was having]. And so what did the sisters do then? [Made Cinderella make them ball gowns and work her so hard that she didn't have time to make one for herself]. And then what happened when it was time to go to the ball? [The sisters went off without her.] And then what happened? [Cinderella's fairy godmother made her a beautiful ball gown and Cinderella went off to the ball in a carriage] And what did her fairy godmother tell her she must do? [Get home by midnight or everything would turn back to what it had been before, the carriage would turn back into a pumpkin and the horsemen would turn back into mice, and so on.] And what happened at the ball? [The prince fell in love with her] And then what happened? [The clock began to strike 12] And then? [Cinderella ran out of the castle but leave one glass slipper behind.] So what happened next? [The prince wants to see all the young women in the kingdom to find the mysterious woman who had captured his heart.] When the wicked stepsisters try on the slipper what happens? [It doesn't fit] And what do they do? [They begin to cut off their toes to make their feet fit in the slippers.]
Jealousy and envy were their shepherd. They wanted to make Cinderella miserable.
And there are other shepherds. Did you see the Lion King? Remember Simba? Mufasa is his father, the king of the pride lands. He is responsible for making sure that life in the lands stay in balance. He has a brother Scar, who is a manipulator and schemer. Scar wants to be king. When Mufasa has a son, Simba, Scar realizes that his chances for becoming king are getting smaller and smaller. And so he manipulates Simba into the wildebeest migration: tens of thousands of wildebeest, thundering hooves across the savannah. And Scar stampedes the wildebeest. Mufasa rushes in to save Simba. Mufasa is trapped in a gorge and Scar takes the opportunity to kill him. Simba finds his father's body and pushes it, but Mufasa is dead. Scar appears. Simba believes that he is responsible for his father's death. Scar tells the young lion that he must run away and then send the hyenas off to kill him. Simba makes it safely away, though. He finds some friends and is content wasting his life. A young lioness who was his best friend stumbles upon him. She has come for help. Scar has let the hyenas run wild and the balance in the pride lands has been upset. There is no more food. She begs Simba to return and help restore the balance, but Simba is afraid and refuses to return.
Fear and guilt are Simba's shepherds. He wants to avoid responsibility.
When the Psalmist says "I shall not want" it is a two edged statement. On the one hand, it is a promise that God will supply our needs, but it is also a promise by the Psalmist that he or she will be content with what God has provided. Our wants are a window onto who our Shepherd really is. Our acceptance of what has been provided for us can transform our lives into lives of richness and depth beyond what can be provided by our wants. I ran across this prayer by a confederate soldier:
I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I had asked for,
But everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered;
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.


Wondering about congregations

A friend was lamenting her congregation's treatment of her during several crises in her life that have just occured. She was criticized by the clerk for taking time off during Holy Week (her associate handled everything). The congregation I serve was wonderful to me during my cancer and chemo, but were unforgiving of the previous pastor during her crises.

I wondered this morning if congregations expect pastors to be impervious to crises. If God will not protect the pastor during a crisis, then certainly God will not protect me from the horrors that life inevitably brings to all but the most lucky (and death comes to all of us). Does this make some in congregations less willing to be compassionate? I'm not exactly clear in the connections, they seem to be there to me, intuitively.

I think my cancer was not subject to this because many in the congregation had survived cancer and everyone, though concerned, was convinced that I would be OK once I got through everything.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cancer Redux

Well not really redux, but thoughts are. Almost a year ago (May 3 actually) I had my first visit with the oncologist. I had finally gotten the path report so I knew it was cancer (despite my vain attempts at denial). I started chemo on May 5.

So, it's been a year and it mostly seems a dream. Did it really happen? Yes, I have the scars to prove it, but it seems so unreal. Me, cancer? No risk factors. Almost all the things that mitigate against ovarian cancer on my side. Cancer happens to someone else. Heart attack, perhaps, stroke, yes, but cancer? And still it seems so unreal.

Most of the time it doesn't enter my mind. I know there is a possiblity of recurrence and when I think of it, I'm frightened. Not necessarily by dying, but by not getting to do all the things I want to do. By the possibility of endless chemo. By watching my body disintegrate over time. By not getting to run and swim and travel.

But most of the time, it is truly as if it hadn't happened. I know that those of us who have had cancer are supposed to have experienced some great insight into life, some life changing epiphany. My cancer seems to have affected others in that way more than me. An article in Call to Worship (forthcoming, not sure when) will tell of another's experience in shaving my head. Another person Tuesday evening spoke of her denial long after I had come to terms with it.

But, except for visits every few months to the oncologist, and for blood tests every few months, and the scars on my belly, there is little to remind me of last summer.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wondering about Worship

I'm sure I have the quote wrong, but here's what I remember. Last week Marva Dawn was discussing worship when she commented that someone had come up to her and said that she didn't like the music. Dawn said her first response was "so?" and her second was "why do you think worship is about your tastes?" She acknowledges that she is a free lancer and so is freer to say things like this than many in her audience are.

I'm also thinking about Kierkegaard's comment that most folks think in worship they are the audience, God is the prompter and the folks in the front are the actors while in reality, God is the audience, the congregation are the actors and the folks in the front are the prompters.

So, what is worship about? Why do we worship? Yes, I know the answers: worship is about God, not us. But is that true? I mean I really agree that marketing shouldn't enter into worship decisions, and yet, what is worship really about?

I'm thinking about this because I'll be preaching on Psalm 98 in mid May (I'm thinking this far ahead because one week from today I'll be on a plane flying to Israel and will return to Memphis on May 16, and will preach on the next day, so I want to have something to say when I get back.)

I'm thinking of beginning with the first question from the Westminster shorter catechism. What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Enjoy God forever. Pretty amazing stuff from a bunch of dour Calvinists sitting in Westminster Cathedral (is it a cathedral?) at some point during the religious wars in England. Maybe enjoy didn't mean then what it means now, but that's a pretty intriguing statement. Enjoy God forever.

So, I'm rethinking all my opinions on worship. Why do we worship? What should worship be about? How do we make worship meaningful for the "audience" -- the congregation, not K's vision.

Why should we glorify God or sing God's praises (Sing to the Lord a new song from Psalm 98). Surely God doesn't need our praises because God's ego needs puffing up. I am leaning to the fact that it is about us, after all. We'll see how the sermon comes out. I'm interested in other's thoughts on this.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Nathan Bedford Forrest

St. Casserole has noted that today in Mississippi is Confederate Memorial Day. I have just discovered that Tennessee commemorates Confederate Memorial Day on June 3. But, we go Mississippi one better. The entire state commemorates Nathan Bedford Forrest on July 13.

For those of you not born in the South, Lt. Gen. Forrest founded the Ku Klux Klan.

Between midtown Memphis and downtown, there is a park dedicated to Lt. Gen. Forrest. Complete with a statue of the man riding his horse. Granted he was a great cavalryman, but goodness!

In 2005, at least according to Wikipedia, a councilmember wanted to remove the statue and rename the park Forrest Park, but he was blocked by our African American mayor. I have no idea why.

The South shall rise again! (And may God help us all when it does.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

This and That

So I walked into church today and the matriarch was womaning the welcome center. She is wearing her hair very curly. Much like mine. I'm not sure what to make of that, but I think I'm flattered. Of course it could just be our humidity.

I'm training for a triathlon. I despair that I will make it. I ran/jogged 5K today and nearly died. It was a real struggle. Of course my route is full of hills. So, I did it in 41 minutes, 30 seconds. On Friday, I was 40 minutes, 10 seconds. My goal is 37 minutes. But I can't imagine how I'm going to manage a swim (only 400 meters), a bike ride (about 15 miles) and a 5K. All at once. I'm going to be out of the country most of May and all of July. The tri is on my birthday, September 12. That gives me about 6 weeks to really train when I get back. I'll run or at least try in May. There will be times in July when I just won't be able to run for at least a week.

I preached on Psalm 4 yesterday. It went fairly well, I think.

The couple with the two little girls came to church again yesterday. That makes 9 new people (including women and children) who have come in the last year. The church hasn't had a new member in 10 years. God may have ideas for the congregation yet. Both families have special children. Not in any dramatic way, but just children that need extra attention and love. And we certainly have that in abundance here. The women who teach Sunday school are so excited and love the children so much, even the ones that are troublesome. Hope, amazing hope. Life even though they may have embraced death. Amazing.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Five--bucket list

My bucket list: Only one item

visit every country in the world. that's it.

no new countries this year. Just picking up western China and Tibet (I hope). England. Israel. Maybe if I can figure out how to get another week, Guatemala. I just need more vacation time!

Next year: God willing--Chile, Easter Island, Galapagos (diving and exploring) and a few days in mainland Ecuador. Maybe Columbia (the up and coming vacation destination--for real) or if I am really lucky Cuba.

2011: Nepal and Bhutan. Maybe I'll finally make it to Ethiopia.

2012: Maybe the start of my long-dreamed of round the world trip. Starting with the Continental Island Hopper from Honolulu to Guam. From Guam to Yap, Palau and Truk for diving. Then to Cairns, Austrailia where I already have rooms reserved on Green Island for the total eclipse. To Manila for more diving, then to southeast Asia and then to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand for more diving. On to India again for about a month. If I can afford it, the Maldives and Seychelles for more diving. Then I'll ship my dive gear home. On to South Africa: Madagascar, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, up the east coast, home again. A dream. A hope. A vision. And lots of pictures to come.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

This and that

I have been in Austin for the CLP conference. One of the leaders asked for blog addresses, noting that she had heard that some were posting really great stuff. It reminded me that when I started this blog, I had intended for it to be full of deep, theological reflections and comments on the PCUSA. It has turned into a whining forum, as I whine about my congregation and the state of the church and my personal life (or lack thereof). I suppose it just shows that I am at heart a whiner. 

In other whines, the conference was so boring. It was about Sabbath and we had sessions, which were entirely lecture, for two solid days. Today, which I am missing is a morning wrap up session. There were two evening sessions which were fun things in Austin. But, what a subliminal message the structure of the conference sends. There is no Sabbath here. It is full of work and learning. So that we can learn about Sabbath, so that we can go home and practice what we learned. And what was the underlying message: There is no Sabbath for you. Work, work, learn, learn. Have fun? Relax? Only after you've already put in a full day of work, work. 

I have never seen Marva Dawn in person before and boy was she a disappointment. I've already whined about her yesterday. She began by complaining about people making noise in the hallways and could we please remember that some folks need rest. (She may not have been aware that there were other folks staying there, too.). She then complained about people not physically participating in a movement to "And also with you." Before we even did it. She was rude to a group of women. She was antagonistic. I realize she has health problems (I could now describe them to you in very intimate detail), but perhaps if one is in so much pain or discomfort, one should not fill one's life with gigs. I assume she makes enough from her books to live on. 

On the other hand, it was great to see my friends again. We get together twice a year and have a lot of fun together. I also ran into a seminary classmate that I hadn't really known before and it was good to get to know her. After I made a strident call for a living wage for hotel employees (after Marva encouraged us to leave tips so that the employees would make enough money), several people came up to talk to me. Listening to other folks was fun too. I wish we had had more time to interact with each other and get to know each other better. 

And, now, back to the grind. I am writing a sermon on Psalm 4 today. I think I know where I'm going, but sometimes the sermon veers off in a different direction.

On one of my escapes from the conference, I went to Book People, an independent bookstore in Austin. I found the newest No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency book. Yes! So, I have it to read on the plane. 

I suppose I should get to work on my sermon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I'm in Austin at a conference sponsored by the seminary for the College of Pastoral Leaders (one of the Lilly foundation groups). Marva Dawn is the speaker. She is simply awful. She was rude and antagonistic yesterday. This morning, she was simply boring, boring, boring. I had been excited about listening to her, but this was just awful. And way, way too much personal information. She let us know about her constipation. Sorry, I just don't want to know about her constipation. 

So, San Francisco voted against 8-B. Three members of the presbytery are here (that I know of). One member of our group stayed in San Fran to vote. 

I'm off to goof off.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

We had visitors this morning. And not folks who grew up in the church and now come only on the holidays they are spending with their parents. A young couple with two daughters. They are friends with our other new couple with two sons. and of course folks were really pleased. We have two people ready to teach Sunday School every Sunday. Until last year, we would go lots of Sundays with no children. And one couple that has two young girls has been coming most Sundays. They used to come about every other month and the husband hardly came at all.

God may intend for this congregation to live after all.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Travel Dreams

I'm sorry to say that the Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals hasn't interested me lately. But GannetGirl asks about travel.
If you could get on a plane right now and fly anywhere for a five-day stay, where would you go?

Oh my, only five days? Only one place? Probably Sulawesi in Indonesia. It's a dive destination with I understand wonderful diving. I'd love to dive and kayak around the island. I think that's what calling me right now. I was diving in January. I hadn't been diving in a while and it was wonderful.

When I am underwater, I am in another world. I float among beautiful flowers that are really animals: anemones, sea fans. The rocks are alive. The corals flower and spit out eggs and sperm to reproduce. (OK, they don't really flower). At night the polyps emerge and sway in the current. Fish like flowers or birds swim or float by me. A huge eel approaches with curiosity. A turtle floats by, feet/flippers paddling up and down slowly. A ray floats by lazily flipping the edges of its body up and down. I float. I weigh nothing. All I can hear is my breathing: the bubbles emerging from my regulator. The pressure of the water hugs my body.

I love to travel. I am dreaming about my round the world trip. Sixteen coupons for flights. 29,000 miles. Where to go? Here to LA to Guam? Palau, Yap and Truk. On to the Philippines for more diving. Then to Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. More diving. Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia. Biking through Vietnam? Floating down the Mekong? To India, Nepal, Bhutan to visit mountain kingdoms and temples? To Africa to revel in the wonderful animals God put there: lions and cheetahs, leopards and rhinos, elephants and giraffes. Then to Ethiopia for the rock carved churches. To Sharm El Shiek, Duhab and Taba on the Sinai to dive some more. A diversion to the Seychelles or Maldives for more diving? I'm already over my mileage and coupons. When I retire. I'm selling all that I own (well a lot of it), putting the rest in storage and going to see the world. 2011 or 2012. In September.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I'm filled with stuff I'm not sure I should blog about. Life is hard.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


In four weeks I leave for Israel. I'm going to a conference on Paul at the Tantur Institute. They ran an ad in Christian Century. A Palestinian Christian is on their board. He was awarded Alumnus of the Year from my seminary in 2002. I got to have lunch with him. Anyway, I figured they must be OK (mostly politically) because of his presence on their board.

There is something about place. Being there. Experiencing the sun, the dust, the beauty, the despair is important to me. It's not about the HOLY SITES that I will probably see, but just being there. (In the Holy Places, there are just too many people and besides most of them are not the "real" place, just where Constantine's mother decided the event must have happened.)

Anyway, I am counting the days. I have a lot of travel ahead. A very quick trip to Cleveburg to see my doc next week, a conference in Austin for the College of Pastoral Leaders (a Lilly group), then Israel (ending with my niece's graduation from law school), then a week in England. Home for a month then off for a month in China, Tibet, on a cruise to see the total eclipse of the sun, over 6 minutes, the longest in years, then a few days in Japan, my favorite country. Then I'll have withdrawal from travel. I hope I survive. I live to travel.

Now, off to do some housework before I get ready to go to church.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring in the South

There is nothing so lovely as spring in the south. The dogwoods are all in full bloom right now. The azaleas are just beginning to bloom. Some varieties are in full flower, others are beginning to burst forth. When I was looking on the web for a house here, I was always struck by the pictures of the houses with dogwoods and azaleas.

One street has a median which is lined with dogwoods. Almost every house on the block has a dogwood. As you look up the street, you see a sea of white (with the occasional pink dogwood thrown in).

Today is overcast and chilly. It will get below freezing tonight, with 70 degree weather forecast for Wednesday. I'd love it if it would stay in the 60s or 70s, but it seems to bounce around. By the time the temperature stabilizes, it will be in the 80s and 90s (if not 100s). But for now, when the weather is nice, it is very, very nice.

In other news, I jogged 5.25 K (sounds farther in kilometers) on Friday. I didn't make it quite that far today.

And I found a wonderful Easter sermon that says exactly what I want to say from three years ago. I like the sermons I preached in Michigan so much more than the ones I'm preaching here. I have no idea what that's about.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

From my son's post on his journal

It's National Poetry Month! In honor thereof, a quote from Lu Ji's Wenfu (On Literature): "We poets struggle with Non-being to force it to yield Being; we knock upon silence for an answering music."

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An anniversary of sorts

One year ago today, I was back in the hospital after having been released for the weekend. Four days earlier, I had surgery for a partial thyroidectomy and biopsy for possible thyroid cancer. The hospital visit one year ago was to remove a tumor which was found only because I was a bitch and kept insisting that there was something more wrong with me. It turned out to be ovarian cancer (and uterine cancer, unrelated, too).

Today my sister is in the hospital for a biopsy for possible uterine cancer.

I am a bit over whelmed. Everyone thinks I'm OK, won't have a recurrence, but it is something that always hangs over your head.

I have had no great insights, no great epiphanies. Life is short; life is a bitch; life is a mystery; life is a gift. The world is a beautiful place. Things I've always known.

In the midst of the run up to Holy Week, take time to just be and enjoy the fact that you are alive.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I feel like I should post something, but I don't have much to say.

I am trying so hard not to be consumed with self interest in this closing of the church. I selfishly want it to stay open until I can retire. In 2.5 years, or perhaps 3.5 years. One elder thinks we should keep on keeping on until we financially can't. He says if we make changes like turning over much of our huge and unused space to another organization, people will get upset. He doesn't know if they will get used to it or leave. He also doesn't think we will get enough funds from the "deal" for it to make sense for us. Assuming his number are correct, he is right. But, as I was writing this, I realize I have been asking the wrong questions. I have viewed this as a business deal, but the question is, does it further our mission? And I think it does.

Hmmm, so posting is important, if only to help me hear a different voice in my heart.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Celebrating Spring

I didn't do the Friday Five on Spring, but I celebrated spring anyway: a three mile hike in a state park. My goal had been to take some pictures of redbuds in the woods. Unfortunately the redbuds don't seem to be in the woods. I could only find them at the edge of the road, either under wires or situated so that I would be shooting into the sun. Nonethieless. . .

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Clergy Gender Gap

Interesting article from the Washington Post on differences between male and female mainline clergy

I have been sick. Battling my annual fight with my sinuses. I think it is now over. I was so sick on Saturday, that I slept for about 15 hours (with a one hour interval of wakefulness to eat breakfast). I started taking antibiotics. I am always reluctant because I'm never convinced they help. I'm still not convinced, but I do feel better. I had thought about starting on Thursday when I began feeling really sick. But I didn't. Maybe next year, I will start them earlier. I wonder if I started them when my sinuses first begin to bother me (mid February) I could cut through the yucky feeling completely. One of my parishioners said that Memphis is the cause of sinus infections. Everywhere I have lived people have blamed the environment for their sinus ills: Ohio, Michigan, California, Memphis. I have a feeling it's age, not the environment.

I am finally beginning to lose a little weight. I am at the lowest I have been in several year. But I weigh 20 pounds more than I did when I graduated from seminary almost 6 years ago. That gives you some idea of what pastoring dying churches does to one (not to mention the cancer). I'm eating about 1200 calories a day and (except when I'm sick) either swimming or running everyday but Sunday. I think I should be losing more weight given the calorie intake (or rather the lack thereof) and the exercise. I'm having my thyroid tested next week. I'm going to press for an increase in my synthroid. Otherwise, I feel pretty good.

I'm fairly depressed with the Bible study I'm leading for Lent. It's on discipleship. And I'm not getting much reaction. I don't think folks like it very much. The church is definitely dying. We "celebrate" our 100th anniversary next year. That is definitely depressing me. I have now reached the point where I am assured of health coverage until I qualify for medicare (2.5 years hence). So, my major concern is taken care of. I'm not sure I want another call, but I have sent my PIF off for two EP positions. In my mind at least, I would commit to working another 5 years and I'm not sure I want to work that long. I would like to work 3.5 more years, but only if I were doing something I really liked. On the other hand, I'm a bit afraid of retirement: who would I be?

My contract ends on September 18. I have told session that after that date, I won't be around. The clerk moved that the PNC that called me be reconvened to consider calling me to an installed position. I can't imagine that they wouldn't call me, but still, I'd sure like to know whether I'll have a job. In the meantime, I am perusing the opportunity list. I'd like to do a couple of interims, except that they would cut into my travel schedule and they are hard to come by.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Am I still in de nile?

I read several blogs by people with cancer. Some are terminal; some are "cured". They almost all talk about cancer as changing their lives. I'm not sure my cancer has changed my life. Am I just hard headed? Too Aspbergery? Out of Touch? In denial?

I'd much rather talk about how visiting Nicaragua has transformed my life. About how much more I need transformation. And I still don't want to be defined by being a "cancer survivor."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fireproof: Run, don't walk AWAY

Awful, truly awful. This is an evangelical movie with all the swarmy moments intact including how we are so bad that God could never be satisfied and thus Jesus had to be crucified so that we could live (aka substitutionary atonement). It is slow, slow. The characters don't generate any warmth. And at 2 hours, 2 minutes it is about 2 hours too long.

We showed it at movie night tonight. I had heard that it was one of the highest grossing movies of last year and so I was hopeful. (Not my choice.)

There are some redeeming moments. The daily challenges are good: show your spouse respect, listen today, do something unexpected, etc. I'm afraid that gets lost in the slow swarminess.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Good can come from cancer

I have been very resistant to admitting that anything good can come from cancer. But, I can report that my hair is much, much thicker than it was before. I am even loving the curls. (Think Richard Simmons). But, it is now long enough to frame my face. And I am beginning to look somewhat "pretty" again, after almost 10 months. At least I don't go "who is that?" when I look in the mirror. The curls are not supposed to last, but mine seem to be. At least it has been more than six months since my last chemo. My hair was curly, but not like this, before, so it may remain curly. I'll keep it short if it stays curly. I'm going to my beautician on Thursday to get some shape into it (I haven't done anything to it since it was shaved in May). And to get color. I used to have my hair highlighted. It was the mousy brown that blondes often become. So, the highlights worked nicely. I liked them because they could grow out without it looking like I was dying my roots dark. It's now a steely gray, so I don't know what color or process will work on it. Just as long as there is no red in it. I hate it when women dye their hair and it gets red. It looks so well, dyed. One woman in my congregation has soft blonde hair (I know it's naturally gray). Her complexion is much fairer than mine, so I don't know if that shade will work with my skin. Actually, it's about the same tone, it's just that my skin is more, as my mother would say, sallow.

I'm beginning a series on modern saints for Lent. A parishioner who thought she might have had ovarian cancer (but thankfully didn't) said to me, "well, I saw you come through it and I knew if you could, then I could." That's a common thought. But, why is it when we look at "saints": Teresa, Dorothy Day, Romero, Bonhoeffer, we think of them as exceptional people and not as models for what we can do?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

trying to fix pictures

Hmmm, uploading from my computer rather than photobucket seems to work. And medium seems to work.

Picture Help

For reasons I don't understand, when I post pictures on my blog, the right half is always cut off. While this could be an attempt to accomodate my political preferences, I doubt it. Does anyone know what I am doing wrong and what I should do. I click on the image icon and then copy the url. I click center as the position for the pictures.


Snow Day!

Snow Day! Snow Day!

Pictures to follow. Downloading right now.

Something to think about

This morning, I was listening to the BBC. They had a piece on the economic melt down in the new EU countries. It is astounding to me that greedy voracious lending on Wall Street has led to the break down of economies around the world. Even more amazing is that the dollar in general has strengthen against both the euro and the pound which means that investors think the dollar is a safer haven than euro or pound.

One of the rectors at Calvary said that they would post the Borg/Crossan lectures on iTunes. Borg's sermons there on Thursday and Friday are now posted. I haven't listened to them. I would highly recommend listening to the lectures. Each one is 90 minutes: thirty each by Borg and Crossan and then half an hour for questions. At the beginning of three of Crossan's lectures, he had a slide show which was fascinating. It protrayed the archelogical evidence for Crossan's point with only a few words written on the screen, some projected several times. At first I thought it was going to be awful, but I grew to really like it. I've never seen a "powerpoint" presentation quite like that one. By the way, Crossan went out of his way to say that it wasn't powerpoint, it was Apple's Keynote. He said that when he decided to buy a computer he went to the scriptures. He couldn't find PC there, but he found Apple several times. (If you go to iTunes, search for Calvary Episcopal. There is one podcast you can subscribe to without a date and one with 2008. The current one is the undated one. Calvary does a special preaching series everyweek day during Lent with some great speaker coming. Sara Miles (Take This Bread) for one. I can't remember the others off the top of my head. Some are local; some national.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Future

I have seen my future and I don't like it. One of my parishioners was moved to a rehab (physical not addiction) facility. It's a rehab, not a nursing home, so I was surprised by the smell in the hall way as I tried to find the room. The smell was sort of like slightly used cat liter. A bit of urine, a bit of moldy, a bit of musty. Not very pleasant.

So, here the hospitals are all single patient rooms, but the rehab facility rooms are two person. Folks are in rehab longer than they are in the hospital. Here the room was tiny. Tiny. Tiny. It barely had room for two beds. They were not separated by space, but by a curtain.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Will It Never End?

Left church early to visit parishioner in hospital. Got home. Took dog for a walk (am dogsitting). Got a phone call from church. Message to call elderly, elderly parishioner between two hours tomorrow. Have no idea when message was left. Called. Parishioner's niece answered. Parishioner had surgery yesterday. I think I am going to have to start retrieving messages from voice mail rather than relying on office volunteers. Now the question is, how do I manage to squeeze in a hospital call either tonight or tomorrow. I have a funeral on Friday. I am going to hear Borg and Crossan on Saturday.

I did manage a jog this afternoon. I think maybe I feel better.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I'm tired. And I don't feel good. My sinuses have taken over. I slept about two hours this afternoon. Gave up swimming. Visited bereaved family today to plan funeral. So, I have a funeral on Friday, I'm going to see Borg and Crossan all day Sat. Oh, tonight the clergywomen are coming over here. I still have to do some picking up. I want to get my PIF off. I've got the PIF (mostly the same one from three years ago--the beauty of frequent moves), but I want to write a good cover letter. The CIF (not a church) has been up for a month, so I want to get my PIF in before they decide they've had enough.

And very sick parishioner in hospital that I visited today and will visit tomorrow.

I've given up swimming today for a nap. Hope to get a swim in on Thursday but probably won't. I will jog though.

You ever notice how most guys don't blog this sort of stuff? The utter minutia of daily life? Do you think they even think about it?


Rev Anne posted a great sermon on change and I have a quick thought. Yesterday I was with a parishioner just after she died. My friends know that the church I pastor is dying and that they are so afraid of change that they have chosen to die. When we stop changing we die. That's it. Every breath we take brings change: new molecules entering our bodies. Every time our hearts beat we change: blood bringing that new oxygen to cells which are dying and are reproducing. The world changes from second to second. So, why are we humans so terrified of change? I know that as we age change brings lessened abilities. I hear that the elderly in our congregation are facing so many changes that they MUST have the same thing they have always had in worship, including the same people. (This from folks near my age: an excuse I am sure for things I do not yet understand) Isn't the answer to accept change, accept that we cannot do what we could when we were 30, that this diminishment is a preparation for the death that is in the future for each of us?

Why chose death for the institution that they profess that they love so much?

Monday, February 23, 2009


I have always known that our denomination would eventually permit ordination of gays and lesbians. The question has always been when? Now that I live in Memphis, I better understand what folks in conservative presbyteries are up against. Up to now, I have been privileged to be part of really great presbyteries. I was an elder in Western Reserve and a minister in Lake Michigan. Both are loving supportive presbyteries.

Back to hope. The number of flipping presbyteries this year is amazing. And some of the ones that have switched is also amazing. I read on one blog that there seems to be no coorelation (at least that's they way I read the blog) between churches leaving presbyteries and the switch in votes.

Maybe not this year, but next time I think it will happen. Praise God!

Friday, February 20, 2009


I did a funeral today and visited an elderly parishioner in the hospital. It's my day off. And I have a parishioner whose mother in law is now on hospice and is close to death. I have to go out there tomorrow. I'm afraid I'll havec anothecr funecral tomorrow and now my keyboard is doing really funny things with es. I keep getting ecs randomly.

I am going to take time off particularly if I have to do another funeral.

Friday Five

From RevGalBlogPals
n that spirit, I offer this Taking a Break Friday Five. Tell us how you would spend:

1. a 15 minute break
2. an afternoon off
3. an unexpected free day
4. a week's vacation
5. a sabbatical

1. In all honesty, I'd waste the 15 minute break.

2. An afternoon off. In all honesty, I'd probably waste that too, surfing the web. Now, I'll tell you what I'd like to say that I'd do. If the weather was nice, I'd take my camera out to Shelby Farms and look for the heron and try to take some pictures.

3. An unexpected free day. Again, probably just waste the time. But, I'd like to get up early and drive down to the Delta and take some pictures. I've gone to Clarksdale and there are cotton farms and tumbledown buildings I'd like to get in nice light.

4. A week's vacation (on top of my 6 weeks I take now?) I think if I could persuade my dive buddy, I'd take off for Bonaire. I more and more look back on my week there in January as a spiritual retreat. I didn't do as much as I'd wanted (see answers to #1,2 and 3), but I did dive everyday and ran or walked in the mornings. It was just wonderful. We'd planned to rent bikes and bike everyday but just never got around to it. I wanted to kayak the last day (can't dive 24 hours before flying), but we never got around to it. I did read a lot.

5. A sabbatical. If I were pastoring an healthy, living congregation, I'd love to take some time to go to Europe. I'd like to visit Taize and see the worship there and go back to Iona. I'd also like to track down some churches that are doing the St. Thomas mass (I think that's the right name). I'd like to visit Greece and the places Paul went. And go back to see the Berninis in Rome at the Villa Borghesa and the mosaics in Ravenna. Or, I might go to Ghana and see the work that Living Waters is doing there and work a while on one of their projects.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Packed church, with seats on the front row gone first.

I arrived at the Episcopal church about 22 minutes before the start. The front third of the church was already packed. The web site had said that doors would open 30 minutes before the event. You can guess already it wasn't a church service. No one ever gets to church that early and the back pews are always the ones taken first.

It was Bart Erhmans speaking on hidden contradictions in the Gospels. Nothing new here. But he is quite entertaining to listen to. He said he wasn't saying anything that isn't taught in any mainline seminary. True. He is concerned that the folks in the pews don't know this when their pastors surely do.

Now, last Sunday, I preached on evolution. The PCUSA has a general assembly position that we neither affirm nor deny evolution unless it is essential to affirm a significant theological position. I talked about the contradictions in the first two Genesis creation stories and how they point to deeper truths about who humans are. And ended with a poem written by an African American that pointed to their humanity in the face of segregation and discrimination. (I had posted it and then I remembered that I had taken much of it, with permission, from a colleague's sermon, so I didn't post it. I was recycling so I don't remember how much or what was adapted and what was original with me.) It is hard, though, to preach teaching sermons. This material is better presented in Bible studies. And I can't get folks to come to a Bible study I lead.

I think that probably many people in the pews have heard this information. It just hasn't made it to their consciousness. Unless you really study and read a lot, it is so easy to fall back on our 8 year old simplistic faith. I remember in seminary, that in our first OT classes students were horrified to find out when they actualy read the Bible what it said. On the other hand, there were student who were praying that Jesus would bring the prof to the light. I can remember just being amazed at the nievety of the students. I had read a lot before I went to seminary and I was in a congregation full of very intelligent people who took scripture seriously but not literally.

I still get caught sometimes, particularly in Bible studies. I remember when I was teaching John and we talked about the woman at the well. I said something about divorce and one of the members asked where it said the woman had been divorced. Now, I've read that passage a lot; it's one of my favs, but I have always understood that the woman had been divorced. Not in the text. We assume things that are there because that's what we have heard all our lives. It is hard, I htink to read fresh.

In other news, I swam 3/4s of a mile today. I'm still slow, but breathing on the right side is getting easier. In fact, it feels "normal" until I think about it feeling normal!

Dog sitting beginning tomorrow for about a week, I think.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fixin Things

Cheesehead talks about the problem of people fixing problems. As I was commenting, I realize that I have a habit of fixing a friend. I try to help her swimming. I backseat drive. I told her yesterday that she didn't need to take a brochure that I had given her to the locker room (we were on our way to swimming). She just shrugs it off. I have no idea why I do this. I think it's a habit I need to break. I'm usually (I think) a good listener.

Someone at church told me how much he liked a change I had made. It's the only change I've been able to effect at the church. I responded, "well, you guys should make the other changes I've been suggesting. You might like them, too." Every time I suggest a change, I get the usual "they" won't like it. My friend whom I tell what to do, said, well go on and make the changes. Good advice, but ripping out the pews will require some co consipirators and I haven't been able to find them. The bottom line is they do not want to change because they are afraid of being "successful". Not my assessment; theirs. Scary, isn't it?

The basketball coach with the most wins was featured on NPR this morning. He was in an automobile accident and (I think) is in a wheelchair as a result. The doctors found terminal cancer. He just keeps going. He said he wakes up each morning grateful that he is alive this day. He said he is never sure whether it will be his last. And then he said something more eloquent but like that's all anyone has.

The thing about cancer is that I am no different from anyone else. I may have cancer cells still lurking in my body, but so can anyone. I may only have today, but so does everyone. Given the traffic in this city, I could be dead tomorrow, not from cancer but from a careless driver. Cancer is just one of the myriad of things that reminds us that we are frail human beings and our lives are like grass.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


My blog was linked on another blog talking about Amendment B. I am concerned that someone might put two and two together and figure out who I am. I'm not concerned about any of the RevGalBlogPals, but I'd sure hate for this blog to be read by some in my congregation or in the Presbytery. I edited the post to remove some snarky-ish comments and other irrelevant comments.

I'm not sure what to do. I have a blog at livejournal which I can lock and just let folks on my friends list read. I like the friends I've made at RevGalBlogPals and I hate to give up writing about my whiny relationship with the congregation. But I don't know a way to make this private.

I know others of you have been through this.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Or wasting time instead of heading out in the chill to run.

I visited my parishioner in ICU today. On the way out the son told me to wash my hands. Now, this is the third or fourth time I've visited. I knew I was supposed to put on gloves to touch him. I thought the concern was our carrying a bug to him. Evidently he has a contagious bug. There is a small orange sign outside the door detailing the precautions. Including things like wearing gowns and taking gowns off outside and then washing hands again. I've had a runny nose since yesterday. So, of course, I know that I have some virulent infection. My temperture is a grand 96.8. Yep, 96.8. So, I'm not running a raging fever. Some might wonder if I'm still alive.

I decided to come home, wash all the clothes I had worn to the hospital to to make sure and take a shower and scrub with Dial soap. (I might add that no one seemed to be putting on a gown to see him. I've been in rooms with patients with communicable diseases and I've done the gown bit. There weren't even gowns around to put on.)

It reminds me of the time I baptized a woman who had died of meningitis. I was relating the story to a woman who worked at the hospital. She was convinced that I would come down with meningitis because I had breathed the air that the woman had exhaled. Evidently the kind of meningitis the woman had was airborne. I was worried for days that I would die of meningitis.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hard Days

I visited a parishioner who is in rehab after knee surgery. Her roommate is a young woman who is having seizures. The docs don't know why. She wants to go home to be with her three sons (youngest is 19, I think).

Then I went to visit another parishioner in ICU. Who knows? I'll be visiting him at least every other day.

Tomorrow, I get up at 4 to be with our music director who is having surgery for what may be ovarian cancer. I'm hoping it isn't.

Life is hard.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I drove an hour to presbytery. I presented a pro argument to amendment 08-b (eliminating fidelity and chastity from ordination requirements). It didn't matter. No one listened. No one changes their minds. On either side. Well, I'm not sure that's completely true, but at least in this presbytery.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Five

From Sophia at RevGalBlogPals

So in memory of Molly, and in honor of all the beloved animal companions who bless our lives: tell us about the five most memorable pets you have known.

Losing a pet is really difficult. It is amazing how they insinuate themselves into our lives and become parts of our families. And so my most memorable pets:

1 Duke. A collie like Lassie, but not pure bred. Duke's nose was shorter and wider than the classic collie look (a look I don't particularly admire anyway). Duke was the offspring of my uncle's dog. As I recall Bubba Jim (and you doubted I was a Southern girl) had the father of the litter and so was entitled to the pick of the litter. Duke was it. Duke came to us on New Years Eve and was frightened by the booming fire crackers and perhaps by being away from his mom for the first time. We put Duke in a box by my bed with an old fashioned alarm clock to remind him of his mother. I think probably Duke was in bed with me before the night was done.

2. Pinky. When I was 13 my parents bought the farm. I pretty much hated living on the farm. I was a teen ager and wanted to be close to my friends and there I was, three long miles from town, dependent on my parents for rides to parties and school things. My Dad bought black angus cattle and pigs. When a sow would have a litter, almost always there would be one pig who was destined not to survive. This poor pig would be pushed out of the way when it was time to eat. And so, my Dad would bring this runt to the house for me to try to save. Mostly, the poor animals would die within a day or two. But one, Pinky, survived. Pinky was fed on infant formula which I dutifully got up in the middle of the night to prepare for her. (This may be the reason I chose to breast feed my son: no getting up in the middle of the night to warm a bottle.) Pinky slept in my bed for warmth until she got too big. She remained in the house until she was six months old or so. Pigs don't have sweat glands, so they have to be bathed often in hot weather. Mom made me use the laundry tubs downstairs because she didn't want the pig in the tub upstairs. One day a patient came to the house (my dad was a country doctor and had a tiny office at the house to see patients) and watched my Mom as she swept the animals out of the house: the cats first, then a dog or two and finally, squeeling because she obviously was not part of the animal kingdom, Pinky. The patient commented to Dad that he had never seen a pig in the house (this was long before the day of the stylish Vietnamese pot belly pigs). My dad responded that with three baths so far that day, Pinky was cleaner than the patient.

3. Burglar. Burglar wasn't with us for very long. A sheltie-mix, we found Burglar in our garage on morning. I heard someone in the garage and was a bit scared. When my then husband and I investigated, we found this cute dog with no tags. We kept her. I ran an ad in the paper but no one claimed her. Unfortunately she had a habit of tearing through the screen door when she wanted to run outside. She was found dead one morning, run over by a car. I hadn't even known she had gotten out of the house.

4. Beowulf. A friend had a huge what I thought was a Belgian shepherd. I wanted one and found a breeder. We bought this four month old puppy from the breeder. Beowulf lived up to his name. He loved to nip people. I tried to be good about keeping him in the garage when people came to the house. One day our house was broken into (Beowulf had been banished to the garage because it was cleaning people day.) When the police came to investigate, I had Beowulf on a leash. Generally, if Beowulf knew you or if you were in the house for a while, he would be good and not nip. So, I let Beo off the leash. Unfortunately the policeman's partner who had been walking the perimeter of the house came in. Off went Beo. It wasn't just that he bit the cop, it was where he bit the cop. Yes, there, in that most tender of male parts. The policeman said a bad word and then apologized for his language. I was thankful that he hadn't shot Beo immediately and then shot the rest of us. Beo had flea allergies that plagued him. We shaved him during the summer. He wore Tshirts to cover his embarrassment. He also had arthritis. When it was time, he just lay down and went to sleep. I was grateful because I didn't have to make the decision that was coming in just a few days anyway. After we had had Beo for a while, we found out that the breeder did too much inbreeding and the dogs were notorious for being a bit crazy and having flea allergies. One day on the otherside of the country when I was in seminary, I was biking along Corte Madera trail and saw a guy walking a dog like Beo. I stopped to chat with him. He had gotten his dog from the same breeder in Ohio as Beo. I didn't tell him about the problems to come.