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."