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.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


It is really clear to me that my church will die soon. Very soon. Maximum amount of time 4 years. I will be able to retire in 3.5 years. I don't think the church will last that long. I can actually retire sooner than 3.5 years. So, I'm trying to discern whether to seek another call.

There is one that I would be really, really interested in. An EP (executive presbyter position). But, if I moved, then I'd want to commit at least 5 years. I'm not sure I want to work that long.

It is really weird. I have thought about retirement, but I'm not sure I want to fully retire. I'm not sure what I want to do. I can't imagine not working, though I have spent long periods of time not working. But I want to have long periods to travel. Life is short.

I'd appreciate your thoughts.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Saints Wanted

I'm thinking of doing a series on modern saints for Lent. Our Bible study will be on discipleship so it would be nice if the sermons somehow linked with the Bible study.

I'm thinking MLK, Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, Clarence Jordan, Millard Fuller. Are there other ideas? I'd like to use less well known folks. There's lots of good stuff to say about Millard who has just gone on to his reward but there are some real negatives in his background. Of course there are negatives to anyone. I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions for other folks. I'd like to tie something in the life to the scripture, but I figure with four texts to choose from, I can finesse anything. Any women come to mind? MLK is such an obvious choice, I'd like someone else. On the other hand, four southerners (counting Archbishop Romero may not be quite kosher) is a real positive. And does someone have a good book on Dorothy Day? Or Clarence Jordan?

Church members: you just have to love them

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Things I Don't Understand: The Past

There are lots of things I just don't get, I've never gotten that lots of people understand. So, if you have clues to the things I don't understand, I'd love to hear from you. This may be the first of a many-part series! Things relating to the past I don't understand:

1. The DAR. My sister is a member of the DAR. She has been since her 30s. Why does anyone think what some ancestor did 200 years ago is important? (Our papers read that our ancestor was a "foot soldier" in the revolution. Family legend on the other hand is that we are descended from a same-last named brother of a signer of the Declaration.)

2. Anniversary Celebrations for churches. (We're facing our 100th and then death.) These celebrations look backwards and are nostalgic rather than look forward to what our legacy will be. At least as I have experienced them. For me, to look back is a sign of death, of rigidity, of frozen ness. Christianity looks forward, not backwards. Christianity is about hope, not nostalgia.

3. This Scottish-thing. Last Sunday, I drove by an Episcopal Church which had a sign announcing the kirking of the tartans. I mentioned this at the SuperBowl party with several members of my church. One wanted to know why I didn't uphold some Scotsman whose statute was on the grounds of the National Cathedral whose name was John S. The only one I could come up with was John Witherspoon, who I do mention from time to time as the only clergy signer of the Declaration. Some members of our church want to have bagpipes on Reformation Sunday to celebrate our "Scottish" connection. OK, my family came from Scotland to Pennsylvania a little less than 300 years ago. I think men in kilts are cute. I like Scotland. But, really, what does Scotland have to do with Christianity other than a dislikeable man named John Knox? (And don't get me started on John Calvin.)