Sunday, February 27, 2011


xray of broken clavicle
xray of repaired shoulder
Over the past few days I learned some important lessons as my son underwent surgery for a fractured clavicle. Ethan is a normal, 15 year old kid who broke his collarbone skiing on February 13th.  On Monday, the 21st, it was determined that he would likely need surgery.  I spent much of the week working with our local Orthopedist to get him seen by Doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.   Pediatric Sports Orthopedist, Dr Amy McIntosh, agreed that surgery was needed and he was in Friday morning to get it repaired.  

 Friday afternoon following surgery, when the pain meds weren't doing their job, I set aside my burning desire to get home (so that I could sleep in my own bed), against his need to be stabilized as far as the pain and nausea were concerned - we ended up spending the night in the hospital, and I am glad we did!  We likely wouldn't have if I, as his parent and advocate, hadn't pressed the Dr and nurses - it seems amazing to me that they can just send someone home just a few hours after major surgery!  Likewise yesterday, after he admitted to some strange feelings from his pain meds (oxycodone) I advocated for a change back to Tylenol 3.  As a parent we are expected to advocate for our children because they are either too young or too inexperienced to have a voice.  

Madison, WI Capitol Bldg Rotunda
Peter Gorman
About 200 miles south and east of Rochester, Mn, in Madison, Wisconsin, there is a growing movement that is calling people from all walks of life together to advocate for public employees and their right to have union representation.  I have never been part of a union, and truth be told, even grew up a bit suspicious of unions.  However, the more I read about what is going on in Wisconsin, as well as other places across the country, it occurs to me that this is no longer 'their' problem - it is to the best interest of all of us to be better informed about our local and state public policies - as well as the jobs and benefits of those who are hired by our state and federal governments to provide much needed services.

As people of faith it is incumbent on us to actively seek justice for all of God's children.  As United Methodists we have a long standing tradition of standing alongside working folk: (from our Book of Discipline,

¶ 163 B) Collective Bargaining—We support the right of all public and private employees and employers to organize for collective bargaining into unions and other groups of their own choosing. Further, we support the right of both parties to protection in so doing and their responsibility to bargain in good faith within the framework of the public interest. 

In order that the rights of all members of the society may be maintained and promoted, we support innovative bargaining procedures that include representatives of the public interest in negotiation and settlement of labor-management contracts, including some that may lead to forms of judicial resolution of issues.

We reject the use of violence by either party during collective bargaining or any labor/management disagreement. We likewise reject the permanent replacement of a worker who engages in a lawful strike. 

While I will not likely march on Madison, I have stood up and advocated for change and accountability not long after I was appointed to serve my first full time appointment in Spirit Lake, Iowa.  While that was one of the most difficult processes that I have ever been a part of, it was also an education in how a handful of people can indeed make a difference in a community!

Tex Sample, UM pastor and scholar formerly with St Paul's School of Theology, said at the 2008 Iowa School for Ministry that we do not have much of a chance of making changes at the federal level - BUT, we can choose to make a difference at the grass roots level. His words resonate with me, and remind me that I need to more aware of ways that I may be an advocate and even an instrument of change here, closer to home.  Wouldn't the world be a better place if instead of looking out for our own self serving interests we chose to advocate for those who are less fortunate than us, who don't have a voice, or who have lost their voice?

Please join in me in praying for all of those who are being called to take a stand and advocate for the poor, the oppressed, the widows and the orphans and even for their own loved ones, young and old alike.  It is a sacred responsibility and one that we will all have the opportunity to do some time in our life.  The question isn't when, the question is; will you or won't you?

in Christ, together,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The connection - when it works...

As United Methodists we are reminded, and often, that we are people in connection.  The denomination's website ( explains connection in this way:

United Methodists often joke about the many organizational layers of church life, but, as members of other denominations have been heard to say: “If you want something done, get the Methodists to do it.” Followers of the Wesleys are indeed “methodical” about the ways they approach mission and ministry.

One reason United Methodists are able to accomplish great things is the church’s emphasis on “connectionalism.” It is common to hear United Methodist leaders speak of the denomination as “the connection.” This concept has been central to Methodism from its beginning.

The United Methodist Church, which began as a movement and a loose network of local societies with a mission, has grown into one of the most carefully organized and largest denominations in the world. The United Methodist structure and organization began as a means of accomplishing the mission of spreading Scriptural Holiness over the land. John Wesley recognized the need for an organized system of communication and accountability and developed what he called the “connexion,” which was an interlocking system of classes, societies, and annual conferences.

Sadly, its not too big of a leap to be cynical about the connection.  Do we really interact with other churches in the above idealized way?  Is all of this talk about connection just a way of supporting a top heavy structure?  Some would say so...on the other hand, I know that the connection has blessed me in ways great and small. 

It is because of the connection that I am a 2nd career pastor, it is thanks to the connection that I had scholarship money to attend seminary and an appointment to serve a church as a student pastor in the  neighboring Northern Illinois Conference.  When our mission team traveled to Mexico in 2008, with a bus that kept breaking down, it was the connection that provided places to stay and information about repair shops in local communities.

But, as a clergy person, I fear it is often all too easy to focus on my local parish and local needs, and give just occasional interest to what is going on in the connection.  That is until Jenny (name changed) walked into our lives this morning.

Jenny is a young woman who wandered in to the church this morning - she had just been let out of the Bremer County Jail and was literally dumped out onto the streets.  She had no way to get home to Cedar Rapids.  She was improperly dressed, wearing shorts and a sweat shirt, she was cold and very scared.  She wanted to get home - but she lives over an hour away and there was no one to come and get her.

We talked for a few minutes, Jenny warmed up a bit, and we came up with a plan...our janitor and his wife volunteered to give Jenny a ride home in an hour or so - and in the meanwhile, we were going to do something about finding some long pants for her.

Never one to miss an opportunity to browse our local thrift store, Trinkets and Togs, Jenny and I set out on a shopping adventure.  She found jeans, I found a book and we had some time to talk about her life and what was next for her. 

Mission of Hope
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
As our time together was drawing to a close, I asked if she had ever heard of Mission of Hope - a homeless shelter in her home town of Cedar Rapids.   Jenny instantly brightened up - "I go there almost every day for lunch and to hang out," she said with a smile.  "They really have helped me out.  I love it there."  "Oh good," I replied, knowing that if she is connected with Mission of Hope she will be surrounded by loving folks who will walk alongside her as she figures things out.

Mission of Hope is not a money maker, it doesn't bring 'the right kind' of people into the church.  But it is an amazing place of acceptance, peace and hope.  It is also an outreach of the United Methodist church - it is part of the connection!  I am especially challenged by their mission statement:  "To meet basic needs, change hearts, disciple people and teach the church."

Today, I am grateful for the work that is being done on my behalf at Mission of Hope.  I pray that they will continue to be agents of hope for the people in Eastern Iowa.  I am also so very proud Barb Furman, their founder and her vision to go beyond the normal and to challenge the connection to reach out to the least and the lost.  This really is what we should be all about, as the website reminds us:

No local church is the total body of Christ. Therefore, local United Methodist churches are bound together by a common mission and common governance that accomplish reaching out into the world. United Methodist churches and organizations join in mission with each other and with other denominations.

I am grateful for the connection - and I am reminded how important it is to be aware of the needs around me and to be well informed of the many and varied ministries not only in my hometown of Waverly, but across the region.  You never know when you will have an opportunity to be blessed by a surprise visit from Jenny and a reminder by the Holy Spirit of how closely tied we really are to one another.

Peace, love, hope and joy,

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Like everyone else in America next to my side of the bed is an alarm clock.  I've had it for a couple of years now.  Its a Sony Dream Machine - one would expect that anything made by Sony = quality.  The main reason I picked this clock is because it has "auto time set."   What a great feature, if the power goes out, or if the clock is unplugged for any reason - when the power is back on it displays the current time all by itself. 

There's only one problem, the clock is 11 minutes fast and I don't know how to re-reset the time.

There is a button to change the time zone, there is a button for DST (daylight savings time) but I can't find a way to reset the, I have to do some mental math to figure out what time it really is...which is kinda messed up, especially early in the morning.  

Its still a good clock - its very easy to set the alarm, plays music just fine, snooze button is easy to find...if only it would keep the right time.  I have lived with it for a couple of years now...perhaps I am just too cheap to buy a  new clock, perhaps I could go on line and dig around for an owners manual and see if there is a secret button I could push to reset the time...I dunno.  Sounds like a lot of work for a $15 alarm clock.

Its not a big deal, I suppose...but it is one of those things that I have had to learn to live with.  It makes me  wonder how many other broken things in my own life I have just learned to live with - come to accept as the way things are...when, in reality, its broken.  I have found that to keep up with my brokenness I am much more likely to find/make ways to get around it rather than fix it or change it.  I think this is human nature.

Change is hard.  We have lived in Waverly for 8 months now.  We are blessed to have a lovely parsonage provided by the church.  Its nice and roomy and we have filled it up and it is home...except for one room on the second floor, I just can't wrap my mind around it - so the door stays closed and it goes un-used.  Its an office, and I don't really need an office here at the house.  The desk is in place, there's even an old computer sitting on it - and pencils and pens and all of the normal office-y stuff.  There are also a bunch of boxes in there - stuff I should just get rid of or file away.  But, it just sits there, incomplete, with the door closed I am not reminded of how it is broken too.

To get to the bottom of our brokenness is hard work.  It would be really easy (it has been really easy) to say that God loves me in spite of the brokenness - and God does, of course, love me as I am.  But the reality is, I don't think God wants me to stay in my brokenness.  When part of me is broken then I am not whole; body, mind or soul.  I think that God wants us to be healthy and whole, and this is where God's love and mercy and grace come into play.  By the very grace of God I am able to recognize what is broken and by the very grace of God I am given, over time, many different opportunities and ways to work my way out of the brokenness and into healthier ways of living.  But it takes work...hard work.

I am grateful that God is patient with me.  I am grateful that God has given me family and friends and colleagues to journey with...they may not know all of the ways I am broken, but they reflect God's love and acceptance nevertheless.  My prayer, this day, is that whoever takes the time to read this will also realize how beloved you are - how much God loves you - even in the midst of the brokenness...AND how God will provide ways to help you move to healthier places when you are ready to do so.  We are fragile, finite, creatures, you and I.  It is going to take time - and thats ok.

As far as the brokenness I carry around with me, I am not too proud to admit that I am a work in progress.  Thanks be to God for loving me through it!  It still amazes me how God is able to use me in spite of my brokenness - though I shouldn't be surprised at all.  God has a pattern of doing this, doesn't He?  The Bible is full of love lessons from God about how He can use even the most broken of us to build His kingdom.  And so, I persevere...and pray for God's healing touch to reach into my brokenness.

Peace, hope, love and joy,

Saturday, February 12, 2011

feeling like Forrest, Forrest Gump

Once you get to my age, I am still 49, you find that there are plenty of things that you have done that you have simply filed away and kinda forgotten about...its not that these adventures weren't interesting or even significant at one point in one's life - but other things come along and there's no reason to dwell or live in the past...or maybe, thats just me.

I have lived a life that has been anything but boring.  But what I am discovering is that since I have lived such a varied life my own kids don't know my story (or stories).  I have gone from being a farmers daughter to a DJ to college to working for a cutting edge computer company to working for TV stations to writing and producing for a cable TV station back to local TV to seminary to country pastor with lots of encounters with the interesting and the absurd in between.

What brought any of this to mind is a post by a facebook friend who wrote about being at Graceland and Sun Records....that reminded me of the night TNT was live from Graceland for the release of the Elvis stamp.  I was part of the crew (and one of the producers) that evening - it was great fun hanging out with Elvis' friends and hearing their was even more fun being part of the team that made it all happen.

I have another friend, a former colleague from the Turner days, who is now traveling around the world with Johnny Colt - filming stories for CNN's Ireport.  Harold is seeing the world and experiencing things I can't even imagine.  He also has a unique opportunity to share with us, those back at home, a worldview that is so different from our own.

I wonder if these adventures are just mine, and are part of my sum total, or if there is a way that God wants me to use/share these experiences with others.  Not to tell tall tales or anything, but to point to God in the midst of things.  Of course, this means that I need to take some time to really think about and reflect on them myself, rather than sweep from one thing to the next...which calls for me to chill out a bit...hmmmm....

Maybe thats what getting older is all about - slowing down and mulling things over?  NAH - not ready for the rocker yet!

Tom Hanks -
as Forrest Gump
I do think, however, that I would like to find a way to dump my reel (my demo reel of promos that I produced) from beta to DVD so that my kids can see some of my creative work.  I might not seem like such a stick in the mud...boring mom and pastor and all.

I will continue to keep my eyes peeled for opportunities to experience this wonderful world - with all that is interesting and absurd - it is a good world.  It is our Father's world...and I am grateful to be a part of it.

But I also want to be someone who makes a difference in the world - I believe that  hope and peace and love are where its at, and I am not sure that we are good at any of these three.  I also want to be bold enough to speak truth into dark places...this is my prayer as I begin a new decade and new chapters in my life's story.

Because, we all know what momma said - "life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you are gonna get".  And I am ok with that.

peace, hope and joy,

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tippy, the garage cat

We have a garage cat.  It's all Ethan's fault.  Ethan is a cat person, and as much as I don't like having so many critters, Tippy is a good cat.  He does his thing, keeps mice away, and he never comes into the house.

Tippy went missing this week.  For three days there was no sign of him, and I was truly afraid that he was lost.  It wouldn't have been so bad, except we had a blizzard roar through Monday through Wednesday, and it was a doozy.  About 8 inches of snow,  lots of wind and temps well below 0.  Poor Tippy.  To top it all off, Ethan is gone this week, and I wasn't sure how I was going to tell him when he gets home that his pet of 7 years was gone, and most likely dead in a snow drift.

When I pulled into the garage this evening I was greeted by Tippy!  He is really hungry, but seems to be happy to be home.
Welcome home, Tippy!

As we talked about his wandering ways I remembered the only other time Tippy has gone missing - in December, during the last blizzard.  Hmmmmm....  I have NO idea where he goes, but could there be a correlation between his disappearances?

Later, in the house, I started to think about the times I take cover, make myself scarce, or even - run away.  Storms ARE scary, howling winds, cold temps, etc are very unpleasant.  So are many things in life.  But no matter how far we run, or where we may hide, God is always with us...always...always...always.  And when we are ready to come home, God is with us too.

It is up to us, the Body of Christ, to welcome the Tippy's of the world home.  To offer words of peace, hope and love.  Fussing at Tippy would do no good. What he needs is a warm place to sleep, plenty of food, clean water and maybe a scratch behind the ears.  The same basics that all of God's children need and deserve - substitute a warm handshake or a hug and a prayer for the scratch behind the ears.

Praying that this may be so, and that I may be used to welcome someone home...