Friday, October 29, 2010

Homegrown tomatoes

Tomatoes seem to always get me into trouble.

I got my start growing tomatoes when I lived in Georgia.  Gardening in red clay was an adventure, and by August I usually gave up on the was just too hot to weed anymore.  When I give my reasons for moving from Colorado to Iowa I say that we weren't able to grow tomatoes living at 8,000 feet on the front range of the Rocky Mountains.

When we first moved to Iowa I was woo'd by the Burpee catalog that came to my mailbox in January, so 6 weeks before the last frost date I started seeds for the first time. I had a ridiculous number of tomato plants that germinated - no one should ever plant 25 cherry tomato plants!   I finally gave the kids permission to chunk the tomatoes at each other - the Wellsburg tomato wars of 2002 are legendary.

When we moved to the parsonage in Apple River, IL Lyle Temperly, my neighbor across the street, and I had a running joke about his midnight excursions to 'steal' some of my tomatoes...I would then serenade him with the the song "homegrown tomatoes"
Lyle and Justin (2004)

Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes
there ain't nothing like homegrown tomatoes!
There's only two things in life worth givin'
thats: true love and homegrown tomatoes!

When I wrote my commissioning papers (part of the process to become an ordained United Methodist pastor) under Hobbies I wrote 'growing tomatoes' - this one comment generated some interesting conversation with my Board of Ordained Ministry committee.

We've moved twice since then and I'm always able to find a place to grow tomatoes (and basil and fresh sage - the other two musts for my kitchen garden).  This year when we moved to Waverly there wasn't a plot for a vegetable garden, so I tucked a couple of tomato plants in among the perennial bed that surrounds the parsonage.

Overnight last night we had a hard frost, which means that tomato season is now done.  It also signals that winter really IS around the corner and that we had best prepare for what ever may be next.  For Iowans that means digging out winter coats, boots and such, perhaps tuning up the snowblower too (tho I have 2 able bodied sons - so no snowblower for me).

This week my denomination released a Call to Action report.  It's getting a lot of buzz - especially among those who fear it does not go far enough.  I don't know if any denomination/institution is really nimble or prepared to go far enough to make huge institutional changes...we are by and large all about preserving what we know and love, warts and all some times.

So what does that mean for those who are calling for MORE change?  Well it means that we must love deeper and realize that our hope does not rest in the institution...but should not forget that there is value in what has gathered us together as God's people.

"He took bread, blessed and broke it.
and gave it to them.  Then their eyes
were opened."  Luke 24:30-31
We also need to realize that some people are not able to dig deeper and become radical disciples of Jesus Christ - they are however going to do their best to live good and faithful lives and they are going to want to be part of a community of faith - we have to make room for them to hear the gospel and enter into community and then trust that the Holy Spirit will move them into a deeper relationship with Christ.

And those who do want to dive in and drink deeply as people of faith, what about them you ask?   We have to have ways to offer them more - more challenging mission/service opportunities, more thoughtful and thought provoking Bible studies, more encounters with the living three-in-one God!

And those who do not yet know the love of God?  We need to step out of our brick and mortar buildings and meet them where they are - and walk alongside them...modeling the same kind of love and acceptance that we have come to know through reading about Jesus' own life and ministry and through our own experiences as precious children of God.

There are lots of different ways to 'do' and 'be' in ministry, but shouldn't we really think of ministry as being 'with' someone  - along 'with' them on their journey?  Surely there are more faithful, engaging and incarnational ways that our denomination can equip leaders (lay and clergy alike) to explore their spiritual gifts and live into our baptismal vows.  To do this will take intentional focus, vision and hard work...I think that is the crux of the matter - are we willing to invest more of ourselves to be intentional Kingdom builders?  I have to ask myself - as a church leader am I using my own time wisely?  Am I doing all I can to share the good news of Jesus Christ?  Am I equipping others to go and do the same?

During this season ahead my garden will lie fallow as the winds blow and the winter snows come.  But I know that in the spring the soil will be ready to receive new seeds and from it will spring new life...even a couple of homegrown tomatoes will find their way amidst the black-eyed Susan's, roses and cosmos.

I am really excited to find myself in the midst of times such as these - as long as our focus remains on Christ and our dialog is based on truth, hope, mercy and justice we can learn a lot from one another.  We may even learn something new.  I know I need to use this season of my life to dig deeper and focus on my current appointment in Waverly.  God is doing great things here - and I have much to do.  I need to be prepared for however God is calling me to walk with others in our community.

the last ones...
This weekend I will savor the last homegrown tomatoes from my garden...and perhaps I will find someone to share one or two with - cause thats what you do with homegrown tomatoes - and thats what we all should be doing with God's love too.    

peace, love in Christ

Friday, October 22, 2010

change of seasons...

I realized this morning as I drove to the central part of the state that harvest time is almost over.  On top of that there is a chance for snow not too far away (toward the end of next week in the northern part of the state!).  It's that time of year...time to unpack the hats, gloves, coats, long johns and electric blankets.  yikes!

When I was younger snow was very exciting.  It meant all kinds of adventures outside - especially sledding down the hill in front of the barn on the family farm in Pennsylvania, or crunching out to help do chores on our farm in Illinois.  When we moved to Tennessee from Illinois around Christmas time 1975, unseasonably cold temperatures and a dusting of snow delayed the re-start of school for three weeks!  My family found this response kinda silly, but after living in the south for over 20 years, I get it now.

Hannah and her snowman
(Senoia, Ga 1996)
When the girls were little, and we lived in Atlanta, I would bundle them up and take them outside to play in the snow - in fact the only pictures that I have of them in snow were taken at night, because it would melt by morning.

On the front range in the mountains of Colorado we would have snow - but it wasn't anything like snow in Iowa.  Very seldom did we have a gloomy, dreary or even windy winter day - the sun would shine and everything looked like a winter wonderland!

Ahhh, but the Midwest - something about being on flat ground and within reach of the polar express...let's just say the wind can be relentless (I can see why pioneer women went crazy from the blowing winds).

It's not that I dread the change of seasons...I love them all in their own special way.  But the approach of winter, at least in the Midwest, is messy.  And as I get older I realize I don't do messy so well.

I think thats the crux of the problem.  Change is messy.  Change can easily signal a time of instability as well as realignment, whether that is layering sweaters or grabbing a coat on the way out the door, or learning to live in new ways as one's family or life is reconfigured.  

I am at the Next Step Conference in Ankeny.  First UMC Ankeny is doing great things - Kingdom Building things.  Folks gather from across the state to share ideas and to learn from one another, we do this because we want to be agents of change in our parishes.  

As I think about what it means to be an agent of change I realize that so many times we (pastors) ask our congregations to embrace change - not thinking about how hard change is...we can talk all we want about the reason for change and how it is going to move us from one place thats good to another that is even better.  We can be cheerleaders - sharing a vision of hope that in the new place we will be healthier, and able to do things more faithfully (I pray that I do this as a church leader).  But as a person trying to navigate through some pretty major life changes right now I am reminded how hard change really is.    

Ethan power-kiting on snow covered
Big Spirit Lake, IA (2010)
Just as I have to put some effort into swapping our summer clothes for winters hats and gloves, I also need to set aside some time and reflect on where I have been and where God is calling me to go in the next season of my life.  I fear that I am not so good about this part of change...who wants to really slow down and think about (or even re-hash) this stuff?  But it is essential to really make any healthy, lasting change.  And ultimately that is what we pray for, isn't it?

Likewise to be faithful agents of change in the Church we must first pray - asking God for a direction or vision of where God wants us to go, and then listen...listen...listen...and THEN talk about it - sharing the vision, sharing the hopes and dreams and even, at times, grieving with one another as we move through the change of seasons.  

I am grateful for a safe and bountiful harvest across our nation, I am also grateful that I do not go through any changes of season alone.  God is always more than ready to embrace us, messy as we may be, and lead us through seasons of change.  We just have to be willing to step boldly into new places and do the hard work before, during and after we move through these times of change.  

Let's get out there and embrace change - even the messy parts!

to God be the glory!

(one of my favorite books of the Bible during this time of change is Ecclesiastes - you may want to check it out too) 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Companions on the way...
Not long after I started seminary a friend told me about the 12-3-1 formula for discipleship.  

Discipleship is a big buzz word these days in Christian circles - it means forming a people to be disciples of Christ.  When we read the gospels we read that Jesus preached to the multitudes, but He called 12 men to be his disciples.  They came from all sorts of walks of life, none of them were good enough to be rabbinic scholars so they often took the vocations of their fathers - they were business people, tax collectors and fishermen and the like.  They were both eager to follow Him and prone to saying stupid things at just the wrong time.  (I think my favorite has to be Peter - he didn't get it much of the time but he sure loved Jesus and after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost he got it!).

Out of the 12 Jesus chose three to go to some pretty big events:  the healing of Jairus' daughter, the transfiguration and the garden of Gethsemane to name a few.  Peter, James and John had front row seats to witness Emmanuel, God with us, do amazing and miraculous things.  (tho they still didn't get it...someone had to be there to witness and later tell the stories).

And one was the beloved.

What if we each followed the 12-3-1 formula in our faith journey?

We worship with our chosen community of faith - praising God for all of the blessings and sharing in the mission and vision of our respective congregations.

But vital to our growth as people of faith is participation in small groups of 12 or so for study, prayer and Christian fellowship.  12 is a good number for a small group - too many more and everyone won't be able to share their thoughts, hopes, dreams and prayers.  It is in small groups that we are able to grow and be formed - it was the backbone of the Methodist movement - they were called classes back then - and in churches with an active small group ministry it is what grows disciples and forms a people to be more like Christ.

The next part of the equation is 3.  What if we were willing to be open, authentic and vulnerable with three Christian friends?  These three friends are the ones we turn to to hold us accountable in Christian love.  Warts and all it is because of their love of us and their desire for us to grow in faith that we can share our joys as well as our struggles and sorrows.  When we have three close faith friends we are able to walk in places that may have seemed impossible and yet because of the depth and authenticity of our relationship with one another we are able to grow even closer to God.  (As a church leader - these are 3 lay folk to mentor into leadership roles.)

And then there is the one we call beloved.  For many this will be a spouse or a very close friend.  The beloved is the most elusive part of the equation and the greatest blessing.  What an amazing gift to have someone who is our beloved, who prays with and for us, who encourages us as one of God's precious children, who is a confident faith friend and when needed he/she is also about to tell us to straighten up, get over ourselves, or even to be more bold in our faith!

Today I was blessed to meet 2 of my closest seminary friends for coffee - we each had to drive over 2 hours to get to a centralized location - but it was worth every mile.  We each serve churches in different states.  As we shared the joys and challenges of ministry we came to the conclusion that we have been richly blessed by the call and vocation of being United Methodist Pastors.

Regardless of how God calls you to live into your baptismal covenant, my prayer this evening is that you become part of a small group, that you seek out 3 close friends to share your faith journey - and that you have one who is indeed your beloved.

It's the pattern established by Christ - so it has to be what our Father had in mind for us...right?

Peace, love in Christ

Friday, October 15, 2010

kick a** shoes

About a month ago I had a wake up call - and it hasn't been pretty since.  I was attending the birthday party of a parishioner - and after greeting Jim and his wife I got a piece of cake, a cup of punch and sat down with a couple of other parishioners for a visit.  After a few minutes the husband (I will call him Z) said, "I have been meaning to ask you, whats up with your shoes?"  I was shocked, stunned, speechless even...

You see, I am my mother's daughter - clothes are to cover one up - not to make a statement...and shoes - well shoes are for protecting one's feet and comfort.  This is especially true since my late 20s when I started dating a man who was close to my height - and then, I had 4 children - and my shoes size jumped from size 10 to 11.  Ugh.

I phoned a clergy friend and he laughed when I told him my story - his advice; "you need some kick a** shoes!"  I protested, "I wear a robe so no one gets distracted by my clothes.  Do I really need to worry about my shoes?"  "Absolutely," he said.  "You must get some kick a** shoes.  You can have another pair to wear when you aren't preaching, but you have to just do it."  UGH!

Since then I have been on the hunt for a pair of kick a** shoes.  You would think it would be easy, right?  WRONG!  Remember, I wear size 11's.  Also, I am not a stiletto heel kinda gal, plus, what really constitutes kick a** shoes in the first place?

I looked in my closet, because of my shoe size dilemma I don't have many options - a pair of sensible dressy shoes in black, a pair of leather 'ballerina' style shoes, some slip on clog type shoes, 2 pairs of sneakers and my Sunday morning favorite of late, a pair of Clarks dress shoes that Z obviously thinks are more for older ladies.  Sigh...

I started shopping on line - but truth is, you don't know much about shoes from pictures - especially when you have feet like mine.  So, when the opportunity presented itself I went to a store to see if I could find something in my favorite brand - Clarks.  I got my first pair of Clarks a year and a half ago and I love, love, love them.  Of course, they are slip on flats - very practical if one is walking around town, but definitely not worthy of any special attention.

I was very disappointed - the Clarks dress shoes all looked so - ordinary...I left the store discouraged...and yet determined not to give up...that is the point of a challenge isn't it?  Never, ever, give up!

My next outing I went to a department store.  The clerk shook her head when I said that I needed a size 11 heel - nothing boring please.  "We don't have many size 11's" she said.  Wow, was she right.  I tried on a couple of pairs, when she tried to give me pointy toed shoes I laughed out loud.  "Umm, not when you are already starting with big feet," I muttered.  At her urging I tried to squeeze into some 10's (I knew better, but was compliant).  I narrowed my selection down to two pairs that I thought might be worthy of the quest.  It was while I was trying on what seemed like dozens and dozens of pairs of shoes that a repressed memory came back to me...

It was 1970 something - and I was shopping with my mom.  I was probably only in 8th or 9th grade - definitely not very grown up (atleast according to standards back then) and we were doing the annual 'back to school' shoe shopping trip.  Since I am from a family of 6 children shoe shopping was excruciating and expensive.  She could make our skirts, dresses and even shirts - but we had to pay money for shoes.  Each fall we were allowed one pair of sneakers for PE and one other pair of shoes that would double for school and church.  I don't know if you remember shoe styles back then, but women's shoes were not very kid friendly.  By the end of our time trying on dozens and dozens of shoes (from cork wedges to who knows what) I ended up with a pair of sensible men's Earth Shoes - yes, I was scarred for life...
mine were brown, but you get the idea

I did make my mom laugh a couple of times tho - she said I reminded her of Lucille Ball as I tried to walk in the women's dress shoes...which is what led us to the Earth Shoes in the first place - did I mention that I was scarred for life?

Back at the department store, I finally settled on a pair of shoes, they were kinda cute in the front, although they were sling backs.  I wasn't sure how the style would work on Sunday mornings - I have to walk up steps a couple of times and I move around a good bit when I preach.   But I thought I would get them anyway and give them a try.  They sent me home with a return policy stapled to my receipt...whew, I would have an out if need be.  Oh and I did get another pair of Clarks slip ons (brown this time, cause every gal needs a comfy pair of brown shoes AND they were on sale).   When I got home I tried on the Clarks - perfect!  But, the other pair - they didn't feel right.

This past Sunday was our Fall Festival, I didn't have an opportunity to wear my new shoes, but I whispered to Z as I shook hands after worship that I was on a quest for a pair of kick a** shoes - he and his wife both burst out laughing.

Monday afternoon I made a hospital call, and a parishioner, let's call him B, rode along.  B and I had a long way to ride - so we talked about our families, we talked about the church, we talked about God, and then we started telling one another humorous stories.  I had my shoe adventure on my mind so I told him about Z and his comment about my shoes.  "Oh," B said, "you mean the pilgrim shoes?"  "Pilgrim shoes?!?!" I exclaimed...and then huffed.  "Really?"  "Yeah," B said, "I would never say anything, but, what's up with those shoes, they look a little old for you."  grrrrrr....

Tuesday morning I tried on my shoes again, they just didn't feel that good, so I stopped on my way home from a meeting through Cedar Falls to see if there were any other options.  Nope, not a thing.  This morning I had an appointment in Cedar Falls again - and afterwards I drove to Waterloo, with my shoes in hand ready to exchange them for something truly kick a** worthy.  I hit all of the department stores in the mall, Famous Footwear too.  What a disappointment...I could order a pair of 11's but nothing was going to work.  UGH!
 these didn't make the cut...

Did you know that Fergie has a line of shoes out?  They are called Fergelicious.  Of all the shoes I tried on at the mall, hers were the most comfortable - but the heel height was ridiculous!

I did stop one more place, a shop outside the mall called Shoe Carnival.  They were having a sale - buy one pair, get another 1/2 off.  I ended up with two pairs of shoes - one might be considered fairly tame, the other might just be kick a** worthy.  I am not quite sure...I still have not figured out what constitutes kick a** shoes.

I will wear one of my new pairs of shoes Sunday morning (pray I don't fall).  It seems like a lot of energy for a pair of shoes.  Energy I could have spent doing other things...but in retrospect, this has been an interesting adventure in learning more about myself.  I am not very tall and a bit overweight.  I would rather invest in books or stuff for the kids than clothes for myself.  I am ok with that, but I think that as I have said to myself my clothes didn't matter I was also in a sense being too practical and not acknowledging my feminine side.  I still don't think that clothes make the woman, or man, but sometimes its nice to have fun, dress up, and wear kick a** shoes!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

the BIG meeting

Tonight was Trinity's charge conference - in United Methodist circles this is our big annual meeting.  Back in the day, way back, John Wesley would meet with the pastors for conferences each year and they would report on all manners of things - such as attendance at classes and bands, offering collections and missions to the poor and marginalized.  In the Iowa Annual conference we still follow this pattern...and I think this is a very good thing.

What made this evening special was that we had a good turnout of folks from the 5 churches in our county, I was especially pleased with the turnout from Trinity UMC!  Not only did we have most of the church council present, we also had our lay speaker and our School for Lay ministry student.  In time I pray that we will have more folks taking advantage of these opportunities to grow in faith and service to their local churches through the Lay Speaker Academy and School for Lay Ministry.

All in all our time together was fruitful, we spent some time in bible study, we shared some ideas for ministry and I got to know folks a bit better - those sitting at my table didn't want to stop talking to work on our creative/art project, but we sure could sing!

It was also a special evening because it is likely the last charge conference for our District Superintendent, Rev. Anne Lippincott.  Anne and I go way-way back - she was my pastor when we first moved to Iowa in 2001.  It was out of the church she was serving that I was called to ministry and Anne guided me through the discernment and candidacy process.  It is an honor to call her a colleague and a friend.

A year ago I never would have dreamed that I would be serving a church as a solo pastor in the Northeast District.  I am humbled to be called to serve as an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church...I could not imagine doing anything else in this season of my life.  I am indeed very, very blessed!

Trinity UMC is a wonderful church with so many gifts and graces - God is so good to place me here at this time...I pray that we all work together to discern how God is calling us to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World - and then let's get out there and make things happen!

To God be the Glory!

(btw, special congratulations to the Waverly-Shellrock Freshmen football team -I wasn't able to make the game tonight due to my responsibilities at Charge Conference - but they continue their undefeated season winning both of their games tonight!  I can't wait for Ethan to get home and tell me about it!)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

what we've got here is failure to communicate...

Strother Martin "Captain"
Cool Hand Luke 
Warning:  this is a rant - and the views I am expressing are my own...(I may not be the most articulate person to go blah about this stuff - but I believe its time for some of the folks in the trenches speak out...)

I am part of a denomination that has been going through turmoil for decades - I would even say its been going on since before we merged the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches in 1968.  While I was never really aware of the messiness until the past 10 years or so (mainly out of my own lack of interest and ignorance) it seems to be getting messier every year.  Ask an old EUB (like my dad) and you'll get an earful about how we have lost our focus on missions and evangelism...and yet, the EUB was in sharp decline and unable to sustain their structures 40 some years ago, thus the reason for the merger...sigh.

Not only do our battles between factions seem more like whats going on in politics today (shame on us for mirroring our political structure in the first place) all of this infighting makes us look more like avowed enemies  than brothers and sisters in Christ working out our salvation in fear and trembling.  We get so bogged down in our power struggles (exhibited in our fights about sex and money among other things) that we miss out on opportunities to be salt and light to the world.

I have disagreed with a number of clergy friends as of late who say that the denomination is dying (if not already dead) until, until the 10-Fold campaign was launched this week.  If you want to check it out go to

I may not have a whole lot of experience serving a church, and I am definitely not a person with any authority at all at the conference or even district level...I am a fairly 'young' pastor and I have lots to learn.  BUT, I know marketing - I did it almost all of my adult life...and boy, talk about a bomb.  And this makes me sad, sad, sad...

It is a great idea - for 10 days in October (starting 10-10-10) promote 10 different mission areas of  focus...get 10 churches or UM Agencies who are passionate about these ministries to pledge $10,000 each - and invite folks via social media (I assume this is the main distribution method because I don't recall any emails about the initiative) - to click a couple of links and sign in to show support for this area of ministry.  Each click means $1 toward the project, and I (the person sitting at home) don't have to pay a dime.  I am invited to watch a video and learn more about the ministry and if I am interested, and able, I have an opportunity to donate more money to the campaign/project.  Sounds simple - right?

WRONG - somewhere along the line the message has failed to gain a foothold, let alone capture the imaginations and inspire the passion of the members of the United Methodist Church, let alone the general public.  What is happening?  Well, the marketing person in me begins to wonder, how are people even supposed to know about the campaign?   I first heard about it on Facebook - my younger clergy friends were 'talking' about it a few weeks ago.  I did see it on my Annual Conference website - a week or so ago...being inquisitive I decided to check out the websites of the other annual conferences in the surrounding states.

Of the annual conferences in the North Central jurisdiction, only 4 (out of 11) feature the 10-Fold project prominently on their home page (main article above the fold).  It is no where to be found on the home pages of two of our annual conferences (mine is one of those).  AND, our own denomination website ( doesn't have anything about 10-Fold on the homepage - whatsup with this???  While I saw an initial push on Facebook on Sunday, this has died down (and we are only on day 4 of the 10 day campaign!)

Speaking of Facebook, when you look at the numbers - the United Methodist Church has over 11,000 friends, UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) has over 36,000 friends, and the General Board of Global Ministries, the sponsor of this initiative, has close to 5,000 friends.  I have tons of friends who are church members, lay leaders and pastors and between us we have thousands of friends - and yet...The daily average for 'pledges' for 10-Fold is hovering around 3,400.  ugh...this is so sad!

It makes me wonder about the conversations at the GBGM this week.  Are they surprised?  Frustrated?  Angry?  Cynical?  Saddened?

Like I said, it's a great idea - it should have worked...but something is missing.  The former broadcast marketing/promotions gal in me would say that perhaps it's a problem with the distribution of the message...are we getting enough coverage via web, email, radio, tv, etc...?  Are there perhaps too many messages out there for folks to sort through?  Open Doors, ReThink Church, Christmas displays are already up at the stores, the election cycle is in full swing, there's lots of drama on Dancing with the Stars...who knows?

But, the United Methodist pastor in me says that this reflects a deeper a denomination we are in trouble.  We seem to be unable to deliver a clear message.  We use a scatter gun approach to try to equip our churches with the tools to bring in more folk, but what do we do with them once we get them into the pews?  And what about the ones who aren't interested in sitting in a pew, but who are 'spiritual' and hungry to learn more about God?

As a member of the United Methodist church I am - well - frankly I am embarrassed.

As a Christian I am sad.

I am sad that we have wasted so much precious time... time that could be used to glorify God as opposed to tearing down others.  Time that could be used making friends, building relationships, engaging in authentic Christian community.  Time that could be used to 
"preach Good News to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners,
 recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed 
and proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
This was part of Jesus' discourse at his home synagogue in Nazareth.  (see Luke 4:14-30)  Of course, his own people ran him out of town and tried to kill him after that message.  hmmm...

I am not writing this to try to brow beat anyone into signing up for 10-Fold.  The process is a bit clunky, it takes more than 30 seconds to sign in - and if it doesn't resonate with you then don't feel like you have to 'just do it'.  I think this is just another sign that we are not only in trouble - we have some important work to do and my friends my be right, we may be too late to fix this...and quite honestly I think we will still be ok.

Christ is still my Lord and Savior, the Church is still his bride.  It doesn't have to be a certain flavor of denomination to do the work that we have been called to preach Good News to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to provide recover of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord's favor!  To do these things does not require a Masters degree in anything - all that is required is faithfulness and trust that God's grace is indeed sufficient to heal the hurts and set things right.  We, as the Body of Christ are to be His hands and feet in the world - empowered and equipped by the Holy Spirit   it doesn't take superhuman effort to visit a shut-in, pick up trash along the roadways, or pray, pray, pray.

Maybe its time we tried the spiritual discipline of fasting - won't you join me in fasting from politics as usual and shameless manipulation of others, no more condemnation or negativity about any of God's precious children, let's take a break from all of this mess that is distracting us from being who God created us to be...and let us instead turn our energy toward building up the Kingdom of God.

peace, love in Christ

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

new phones and such

I had the same HTC smart phone for 2 1/2 years...I finally broke down on Friday and got a new one. It runs on the Android platform and I picked this specific model because 1) it has a full keyboard and 2) it is made to run Google apps.

Some folks are Mac-heads (I would be if I could afford 'em - we have a desktop that the boys use), I am and have been a fan of Google for years. I run all of my various and sundry email addresses thru Google, love the Google calendar (haven't used Outlook in a long, long time), love Google Chrome and really like how I can access my stuff anywhere in the world.
The thing about getting a new phone is the learning curve. I consider myself pretty technologically savvy (for someone my age even). In fact, I was privileged to be on the cutting edge of technology throughout my life and career:

On campus (at the University of Tennessee at Martin) I was on the first video production crew that broadcast football games and I was video production crew chief my senior year - I worked the basketball games running the floor camera the first half and directing the 2nd half...what a blast!

 My first job out of college I worked for a company in Memphis that provided computer software and hardware for TV and Radio stations nationwide - and from there I went to a Fox Affiliate in Atlanta and was part of the launch of the Fox Network.

I then went to work for Uncle Ted (Turner) as a writer/producer in the promotion department at TBS and was on board for the advent of computer editing - talk about technology changing everything!

I worked at the finest post production houses in Atlanta with some extremely talented editors, sound engineers, graphics folks, etc.  (The TBS promotions crew is pictured above - what a talented group of folks - they are now doing amazing work all across the country!)

When we started our own video production business we even bought a 'portable' computer for our clients - a Mac 'Cuisinart' so they could check email, etc - that was in 1995...

I sometimes feel like Forrest, Forrest Gump...been there, done that, have the t-shirts...

So, its not that I don't get the phone, its just that I don't like some of the accommodations that I am being forced to make to have technology that is faster, smaller and probably smarter than this operator... the touch screen is a bit flaky - I am having trouble launching Facebook to be quite honest - can't quite hit the right spot to send my user name/password.  I am not a huge fan of touchscreen technology anyway - but I am getting there.

The battery doesn't last long enough - I have to charge the phone once or twice a day (perhaps this is because the operator is doing too much on her phone? idk)...the GPS did not do what I needed it to do earlier this morning (thank goodness for the Google Maps app) and some of the other apps quite honestly have the potential to cause huge distractions.

Of course the timing stinks - this is a really busy week and I don't really have time to futz with a new phone - however, it sure is nice to be able to access my emails quicker, text easier and cruise the net when I have a few moments of downtime.  And I am sure, in time, I will have this new phone figured out and wonder what I did without it for so long!

Technology and the rapid changes it brings is part of our reality - but we have to remember that our gadgets are just tools and not something to take us away from what is important - building relationships with people, being kingdom builders and disciples of Jesus Christ.  Thanks to technology we can do this in ways that weren't even imagined 10-20-even 30 years ago but the main thing is still the main thing - love God and love one another!

in Christ, together

Monday, October 11, 2010

life is fragile and very sweet

There is one thing that I know to be very true - life is fragile.

I was reminded of this today as I drove to Rochester/Mayo Clinic to visit with a parishioner in ICU. For the past four years she has struggled with a variety of ailments, from breast cancer to pancreatitis with a couple of falls for good measure.

When I arrived she seemed surprised to have her pastor visit her way up there. Not once during our time together did I hear a complaint about how she felt or about the difficult journey that she is on...instead I was struck by her humilty and her sweet spirit. We talked, I witnessed the nurses draw blood and care for her immediate needs, I read scripture, we prayed and even sang a hymn together. It was worth every mile of the drive there and back again.

Another parishioner volunteered to ride along. During the 200 mile round-trip we talked about the Church, our families and the challenges that we have both faced through the years. He is a retired school teacher who's first wife died of cancer and left him with four young children, by the grace of God, he shared, God gave him a 'special flower' - his 2nd wife and her 2 children (she too was a widow). They have been together for 30 years now - and together they have spoken to numerous college students at Wartburg College about Death and Dying and witnessed to their faith and how God was present in the midst of it all.

When I was 25 my mom died...that was almost half my life ago - wow, I guess I never thought of it that way...sigh. A few months later my fiancées daughter was killed in a car accident - she was only 6. Somehow we made it through the summer of '87, but I am not sure that either of us ever 'got over' the pain of the loss - not completely - I don't think one ever does.

I try not to dwell on death and dying - but its hard when one of my best friends is grieving the death of her daughter earlier this summer. There are no words adequate to speak to the pain she is feeling right now - 'I'm sorry' rings hollow. And yet, I have to say something - I have to acknowledge her pain, just as I remember Mom and Angie - to say nothing is too cruel and it is not faithful to our friendship or my belief that God is in the midst of the bad as well as the good in our life.

It shouldn't take a serious illness or a death in the family to wake up to the reality that life is fragile. Anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear can see that there is pain and suffering all around us. Likewise, those same eyes and ears should be able to see the sweet things in life... to me these are almost as painful to see because they are so precious and sometimes in short supply.

A phone call from a friend this morning who was checking in - and willing to listen to all of my!

The drive through Eastern Iowa and SE Minnesota - and the breathtaking views of fields and forests in full autumn color...

The smile on the face of the church member as we reassured her that we would check in on her husband - precious...

My boys inhaling their Subway sandwiches this evening, chatting about their day - even tho mom was really late getting home tonight - all very, very sweet... and all in the span of one day!

What a blessing - what a reminder of how God truly is in the midst of everything - if we are willing to seek His face - He is here, there and everywhere - but we have to have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

here goes nothing a meeting last week I was advised to start journaling. Funny thing is, I have not had much luck in the past journaling. Call it stubbornness or lack of discipline if you wish, but the truth is for nearly 20 years I wrote for a living - and when you write for a living you expect someone to at least read what you write - even if it is someone who edits with a vengeance - it is at least there for someone other than ones self. So, while this may seem like a vanity project, in my own way it is just the opposite.

I anticipate posting musings and observations about life - and how I see God in the midst of the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. I find this to be especially relevant today because we are just so busy - and sometimes we need a reminder to try to see the world as God sees the world - His good creation. When we do this we are more likely to see that we are part of something bigger and better than we can even imagine...please feel free to edit or correct me if I am falling short of this goal.

Now, more about me...

the name - 49 and holding is in defiance to the reality that in just 8 months or so I will hit the half century mark. While this does not scare me, it does freak me out just a tad. For a number of reasons -

1) 50 seems REALLY old,
2) my mom never made it to 50 - she died at the age of 47 - and I am still trying to figure out what it means to outlive one's parent,
3) well, I am likely more than halfway through my life - and I have so much more to see and do...

And now for the nuts and bolts: I am indeed still (just) 49 and I am an ordained elder in the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. I was appointed to Trinity UMC in Waverly, Iowa in June of this year. I have the privilege and the challenge of serving a wonderful community of faith in this town of 8,000 or so in Eastern Iowa. I am so blessed!

I am the proud mother of 4 children (two girls in college ages 21, 18, and two boys at home ages 15 and 11) plus a step-son and his family who live in coastal South Carolina. I love my children and grandchildren very much. In January my husband and I separated. I am sure this will come up from time to time, but let me just say it is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I am the eldest of 6, and between us we have lots of children and lots of fun. My dad and step-mom (Jay and Bonnie) are just 90 miles away in central Iowa.

Enough for now...we'll see how things go...I can always hit delete!

in Christ, together