Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Evacuation to Houston Increases

This morning when I opened my email at church there were numerous pleas from members of the congregation for prayers for missing family members along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

We also heard news reports that 23,000 people stranded in the Superdome in New Orleans are being evacuated to Houston's Astrodome. That's TWENTY THREE THOUSAND people. How are they going to handle the logistics of this, we wonder? What will those people do once they get to Houston? Calls to the Red Cross about how we can help went unanswered--you just can't get your call to go through. I imagine their phone lines are overwhelmed by people looking for lost relatives and friends.

Shelters run by the Red Cross are filling up. So far the ones that have been opened are on the far east side of our area and none around us. However we are getting reports of more evacuees arriving to stay with family and friends here.

At our staff meeting this morning we discussed some of the problems involved in trying to organize help. We can and will refer the congregation to the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Fund and the Red Cross as far as donations are concerned. But everyone wants to get involved personally in helping--not just in sending money. The aid agencies are so overwhelmed right now that it's impossible to discern what would be effective and useful.

Just after the staff meeting we met the aunt of one of our church members who was volunteering for our school that morning. She just arrived from Biloxi, where she expects that her home sustained major damage. She has no idea when she will be able to return.

The public schools in our area have announced they will enroll the children of those who fled the storm area. Our preschool director pointed out that they will have to waive the usual requirements of having shot records, birth certificates and other documents usually required to attend school because these people have lost these documents and won't be able to replace them for a long time.

Another member called in to say that if anyone is going to pick up relatives in the affected area, to be sure to take cash with you. Since there is no electricity the ATM machines don't work and credit cards can't be charged and verified. He said that merchants weren't accepting checks either because they can't deposit them and get them credited in some areas.

The local program that provides temporary housing for homeless families in churches just accepted five families from New Orleans who found their way here and have nowhere to go. At least this network of churches will be able to help.

El Jefe noted that many of the people who have had to relocate will probably never return to New Orleans if it is going to take several months before they can return. They will have to find work where they are in order to live and then may not have the resources to return later even if they want to. New Orleans may be a much smaller city for quite some time to come once it is restored.

We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Stories of the Storm

The aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans continues to worsen. We hear that two levees are broken and the water is now flooding the French Quarter and downtown. The entire electrical grid for the city is wiped out and authorities say it will be 6 to 8 weeks before it can be restored. The flooding has contaminated the water supply so there is no safe water.

It's hard to conceive of the effects of all this. There are tens of thousands of refugees in the Houston area. All of our hotels/motels are totally booked.Last night the local television news ran extended videos of the area so they could see what was going on back home. So we are all hearing some of the personal stories from friends with ties to New Orleans, if we don't have any ourselves. Here are a few I heard today.

--One friend has a son in graduate school at Tulane University. He got out of New Orleans before the storm and is now living at home. She believes that school will not resume this semester so is planning to encourage him to look for a part-time job to keep him busy until then.

--One of the teachers in our church's school has twenty-one relatives who are refugees from Katrina living in her home.

--Another story heard at lunch is about a friend whose aunt is stranded in a New Orleans hotel without electricity and water. She has 6 small children she cares for with her. They only had 5 sandwiches last night and all the vending machines at the hotel have been looted. There is no more food and the roads are now impassable because the levees broke. The aunt didn't have transportation and her neice is prepared to drive to New Orleans to pick her and the children up--but you can't get into the city because the roads are flooded. Is there a way to get people out of the city to a "staging area" where relatives and friends could drive and pick them up?

Now take those stories and multiply them by about a million people who lived in the areas devastated by Katrina. Words fail me. It is a miracle more weren't killed. Thank God for the technology that gave enough advance warning to evacuate most of them.

UPDATE: One of the young women in a study group I lead just emailed asking for prayers for her cousin and his son who are missing in Pascagoula MS. They lived on the beach and the family can't find out whether they evacuated. Also her aunt in that city lost her home and it is not in the flood zone so there will be no insurance. She has a number of other family members she can't find both in New Orleans and in Mississippi. I am afraid I will hear this type of story repeated often over the next few days.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Following Hurricane Katrina

Everyone is focusing on the progress of Hurricane Katrina around here. Although we are blessedly far enough west of the storm to be well out of danger, radios and tv's all over town are tuned to news about it.

If you've lived down here long enough, you have your own story about living through a significant hurricane or tropical storm. When Portia and Babs were a toddler and an infant the eye of a relatively weak hurricane traveled directly over our home and downtown Houston. The eerie wail of wind that preceeded any of the rain can't be forgotten by anyone who ever heard it. It sounds like a never-ending low-pitched banshee.

For us the worst part was the aftermath. All of downtown was closed off for several days while work crews cleaned up heaps of shredded glass blown out of all the modern-style office towers. I remember El Jefe being disgusted with a provincial NYC lawyer who called him at home exacerbated because no one was answering the phone at El Jefe's law firm. He had to explain to him that when hurricanes are in town, all business comes to a halt for a while.

Once the storm passed, the sun came out again and the temperature rose to the high 90's as all power remained out. After 3 days I was packing up to take the girls to my sister-in-law's house (her power was restored) when, praise God, the lights came on!

My neighbors across the street suffered without electricity in the stifling heat for two full weeks, though. I kept her children's formula and milk in my refrigerator all that time. Apparently the other side of the street was connected to a different power grid that was for some reason lower on the priority list of the utility company.

We were very lucky that time and we knew it. Watching and listening to the reports about this dreadful hurricane, I can't help reliving that experience and praying that the loss of life and property will be far less than is being predicted. Blessings on all who fled the storm and who remained in its path.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A Personal Cloud of Witnesses

This is the First Presbyterian Church in Orange, Texas where our presbytery met today. The dome of the church is covered in copper. Below is my photo of the inside of the dome, the gorgeous Tiffany glass images of angels hovering over the sanctuary.

During the drive to and from Orange yesterday and today to attend our presbytery meeting, I found myself traveling in time as well as space.

At first the trip brought back recent memories of driving with Babs to Sewanee for college, since the first part of our journey was down the same highway. Then came the remembrance of the two back-to-back trips to the area El Jefe and I made a couple of years ago when two of my uncles who live in the "Golden Triangle" (Orange-PortArthur-Beaumont) area died within two days of each other. The last surviving uncle's memorial service was at the First Presbyterian Church in Orange where the presbytery meeting was today.

A pang of nostalgia and grief descended as I got closer to Orange. I no longer have any relatives living in the area--my cousins who grew up there have all moved away and my older relatives are now all deceased. The closer I got to Orange, the more memories of long-ago visits to them surfaced.

I grew up in San Antonio, but my father was very close to his family in Orange and Port Arthur. I went with him on many trips back to see his family over the years. About 5 years ago, El Jefe, Babs and I attended the 100th anniversary celebration of the founding of the First Presbyterian Church of Port Arthur. Portia was in college out of state at the time.

My great-grandmother was a founding member and early pillar of the church in Port Arthur. She must have taught Sunday School for many years. My great-grandfather, on the other hand, attended the church only until an Episcopal church (referred to as the "First Crisco Episcopal Church" in the family because of the Deep Southern accent of its pastor who called upon the name of the "Lard") was established.

My grandmother was the Music Director of the church in Port Arthur. My grandfather was an elder and clerk of session as was my late uncle. My other uncle was an elder at the church in Orange, where he was baptised, married and buried. My late father was also an elder and clerk of session at the church where I grew up in San Antonio. He was the only one of his family who left the area after growing up.

Orange is in an industrial area surrounded by the detrius of the by-products of processing oil and gas. It's not a pretty town. But the church itself is a jewel. Built by the contributions of a very wealthy family at the turn of the twentieth century, it features a copper dome and Tiffany stained glass windows with typically Victorian images. Church docents offer regular tours of the sanctuary building which is on the second floor of the church--the better to avoid the frequent flooding caused by hurricanes and tropical storms. It is the first building west of the Mississippi River to have been air-conditioned, an amenity considered a necessity now.

Today's presbytery meeting emphasized the many new church developments that have begun in the last couple of years. We had an outstanding keynote speaker who talked about setting aside our own agendas in order to go out in mission to bring the gospel to our neighbors. It is exciting to realize that our presbytery is intentionaly making growth a priority.

I sat next to one of my late father's best friends, our retired General Presbyter, who also married El Jefe and me. He is also a native of the "Golden Triange" area. He makes frequent reference to my Dad, so I feel that Dad is there with both of us whenever I see him.

Throughout the meeting I felt surrounded by my own personal cloud of witnesses--my dad and all of those family members who I knew or knew through family history. Uplifted by them and by the meeting, I fairly flew back west on Interstate 10.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also set aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely and let us run with perserverence the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12: 1-2

Friday, August 26, 2005

Say It Isn't So, St. Peter

I'm tootling down Interstate 10 to Orange happily singing along with my new "Favorite Hymns" CD . Okay, so that's dorkish. But I bought them recently when I was in a funk about the quality of the praise songs in the contemporary services I've had to attend recently, afraid that the classic hymns were about to become never-used antiques. Anyway, as I was saying, I was rolling along when suddenly the cellphone rang.

"Mom, Dad called me PLUMP!" quoth Babs.
"He said I was 'a bit plump', do YOU think I'm plump?"

I know the right answer to this, even if El Jefe doesn't--"No."
"DAD--Mom says I'm not plump!"
(inaudible hollering back and forth).

Finally since I'm trying to drive, I say "Did you ASK him if he thought you were fat?"
I wasn't born yesterday, you see.
"Well, then, what do you expect? You gave him a chance to get your goat."

Babs knows her dad is a big tease.
"HUMPH!" quoth Babs.

"Can I help you with anything else?"
"Okay, bye, I'll call when I get to Orange."

Sigh. Sometimes I think that most women's idea of Heaven would be to appear at the pearly gates and be greeted by St. Peter saying "Welcome! And you're NOT FAT!"

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Road Trip To Presbytery

El Jefe was going to come with me tomorrow on a road trip to our presbytery meeting in deepest East Texas, but now he is staying home because he has to work. Dern. He was one of our church's elder commissioners, but I think we have an alternate lined up. There won't be any significant voting going on at this meeting, though. But I have to go because I am on the General Council (governing board for you non-presbies).

So tomorrow afternoon I'll be driving about 2 1/2 hours to Orange and spending the night in a Best Western because I don't want to get up at oh-dark-thirty to make the same drive Saturday morning. You see I have be there by 7:30 am to set up a backdrop for a booth for our General Council's "visioning person on the street" interviews. I've got PVC pipe, a roll of bright yellow "Caution" tape, and a roll of poster covering paper as well as various construction tools and a wood plank. When they got this brilliant idea, the whole group immediately looked at me because they know that DCE's can be counted on to come up with props for just about anything.

The idea is to communicate that the vision for the future of the presbytery is "Under Construction" and get people to tell the man with the videocamera how they feel about presbytery. Aren't we brave?

We'll no doubt hear a lot from those who are unhappy, and much of that unhappiness really stems from their alienation from the national denomination. Then there will be a large group of "newbies" who don't know and don't have an opinion. And then there are the "presbytery groupies" who are knowledgeable and generally satisfied. This is all part of the "visioning" process we have been engaged in since January (too long). Still, it's high time we heard from someone besides our own little group.

Since El Jefe has bailed on me, I'll be taking my Bible in 90 Days materials so I can get prepared to lead the three groups I am covering starting Sunday. I'm also taking my camera to get pictures of the unique church where the meeting is being held. My aunt and uncle were members of it for many years. They are now deceased and I attended both their services there. The last one died just a couple of years ago so the church has some memories for me. It has some amazing Tiffany glass windows and was the first air-conditioned building in Texas.

And my new laptop arrived this week, so I'm taking it along and may blog along the way.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Creating a Virtual Class

Have any of you participated in or moderated a "virtual class"? There are several young mothers in my congregation who want to participate in the Bible in 90 Days program but cannot attend any of the groups that are presently organized for different child-related reasons. One of them suggested that they could be treated as a "virtual class."

Although I am happy to sell them the Bible and notebook for the course, I know that much of the course's value is in the group support and experience and I want to help them succeed with it. So I'm considering how best to create a "virtual group" for them (they're all computer savvy).

One way might be to just email them every week and ask them to let me know how they are doing and encourage them to email each other as well. Or I could create a group blog for this purpose that they could each contribute their thoughts to on a regular basis. There is also the option of creating a yahoo-type bulletin board for the same purpose. Anyone have any advice on what might be most useful ?

Right now I think I am really crazy--we have 115 people signed up, including our "independent study" group.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

How Did You Like My Book?

" Let's suppose that you died today and went to Heaven. God greets you warmly and after some pleasantries asks, 'So, how did you like My Book?'

Most of us would have to respond, 'Well, I never had time to read all of it.'

And that's curious, isn't it--because God gave us time. But of course we fill the time He gave us with lots of other things. Think about this: God gave us time and God gave us His Book. He wants us to take some of the time He gave us to read the Book He gave us."

This was the brief message given in worship today by Ted Cooper, author of the Bible in 90 Days course. Today was Rally Day--the traditional beginning of the new Sunday School year. We are continuing to register people for the classes that we are offering in conjunction with our 20th anniversary celebration. There are now more than 100 people committed to reading the entire Bible in 90 days. I'm so glad I ordered more Bibles last week--I now have 120 Bibles, which (please, God!) should be more than enough.

I'm a bit overwhelmed by the response to the program. With so many different groups and people to keep up with I am going to need to spend more time figuring out how to effectively support our group leaders. I even have several people that want to try to do the course on their own because they can't meet with any of the groups that have formed. I'm thinking I should form an "Independent Study Group" for these folks and email them once a week encouraging their efforts and answering any questions they may have along the way. I think that this is a hard goal to achieve by yourself so some mutual support would help them.

Next week all the groups will get their Bibles and notebooks and begin meeting. And the pressure is on me, too, because I am leading the staff group and committing to the program as well. Thanks to those of you in the blogosphere who have expressed interest in this project--it is a great source of support. My aim is to post one update a week (if there is something to report) as we go along on how the groups are going.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

You Are SO In My Bed

As it is written in the Book of Dogma: " The cat shall lie down in the lair of the dog."

Thanks to Darlyne F. for sharing this great picture of her pets!

Friday, August 19, 2005

A Shameless Poll

John at Locusts and Honey created a shameless poll here in which he takes my bloggie name in vain.
Vote for Jeff, Shane or Beth. It's not me: hollandaise is too fattening, violence could get you hurt, Calvinists are born with clothes and Beyonce' is my homie so I could never support Britney for president!

Old Paint at Starbucks

I promise I am not making this up: Yesterday when I stopped at the Starbucks near my church for a little jolt of caffeine, there was a horse tied up by the tree in front of the entrance. Yes, friends, someone had saddled up Old Paint for a little ride across the concrete range of suburban Texas and stopped for a pick-me-up at the old coffee bar.

The odd thing was when I went into Starbucks I looked around trying to spot Old Paint's rider. But there was no one in boots, cowboy hat or even blue jeans!

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a camera--which I had left at home. Now my camera is in my tote bag so the next time Old Paint moseys over to Starbucks for an eye-opener I can show you his picture.

And you thought the Wild West was tamed!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Some Days Are Diamonds

Maybe you've heard the expression: "Some days are diamonds, some days are rust". Yesterday turned into a Diamond Day unexpectedly at our weekly church staff meeting.

Those of you in bloggie-land who have ever had the responsibility of recruiting Sunday School teachers know that it can be a slippery business. You get two and you lose one. Someone moves, someone's schedule changes--you know the drill. Just when you think you have all your teachers in place you're looking for someone else. We thought we had all the classes covered for the new Sunday School year that starts this Sunday when we lost one of the preschool teachers a week ago. Praying and scratching our heads on the CE committee had not yielded any inspiration, so I mentioned the need in staff meeting.

Two hours later I got a call from one of the pastors to say that his wife had been wanting to get more involved with the children and when he mentioned this need to her she stepped up to fill it. Now we are all set--for the moment. Halleluijah!

But that's not all. The Bible in 90 Days classes need TV/DVD players. (There is a short presentation shown each week in the class that puts the previous week's readings in perspective). As I went through the list of when and where each class meets in order to get the moving of the a/v equipment on the custodian's schedule, we all realized that we were coming up short in the TV department.

Not to worry, one of the staff called her husband who runs a warehouse for his company and often has scratched equipment on hand. Not only did he have two 27 inch TV's but he also had the heavy-duty wheeled carts (which, friends, cost more than the TV's). He is donating them to the church. Problem solved.

Yesterday one 10 day old prayer was answered and one prayer that I hadn't had time to pray was answered. It's so easy to overlook the blessings that come to us. I needed to acknowledge that yesterday was a Diamond Day--praise God!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

That Explains A Lot!

This is too good: apparently if you translate "Jedi Council" into Chinese and then back into English, it comes out as "Presbyterian Church. Check it out here.

Thanks go out to John and Jeff the Baptist for the link.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

90 for 90 and Counting

Here are the towers of ninety Bibles that are sitting in my office waiting for the start of our Bible in 90 Days groups in two weeks. I'm still getting commitments, so another order is on the way. Where will I put them?

What a great way to kick off the 20th anniversary celebration of our church!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Apologies for the Previous Link--UPDATE HERE'S THE LINK

UPDATE: AUG.18-- One of my readers sent me a link to the article referred to below and in the previous post that does NOT require registration or subscription.

Here it is. Many thanks, J2!

A commenter pointed out that the link in my previous post about the Lakewood Church requires a subscription to view. I didn't copy and save the article linked because when I viewed it and linked it in the post there was no problem reading the entire article without registration or subscription. They must change that free viewing after a certain period of time.

I don't link articles that require registration without a warning. I never came across a site that required a subscription, but I'm sure it's not unique. I'm sorry about that and will try to avoid it in the future.

British view of Lakewood Church

Thanks to Will Spotts who sent me an interesting viewpoint from the United Kingdom on all things Lakewood. The British author of the piece attended the Oasis of Love this weekend, described his experience and interviewed Joel Osteen.

Something I didn't know: they use dry ice to enhance the worship atmosphere. Something I'd heard before: the songs described as "Jesus is my boyfriend" music. Something I will hear again: there are SO many people attending.

We're going to continue to hear a lot about the phenomenon of Lakewood Church.

Moderating the Webring

I've agreed to be the regular Wednesday moderator of the RevGalBlogPals webring. The RevGals have their own blog and several of us have agreed to take turns doing a "highlights" or "best of the ring". We now have 45 members of the webring, so it takes some time to check all the blogs and pick a few to highlight.

Since one of the moderators is out of town today, I agreed to cover for her. If you're interested in checking out the post and the webring blog (which has our merchandise on it!) here is the link.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Life Lessons from What Not to Wear

Babs is an avid fan of The Learning Channel's What Not To Wear. She watches as many episodes as she can and while she has been living at home this summer she has had me join her. I confess that I love it, too. It may be a guilty pleasure because it focuses on improving the outward appearance of its subjects. But invariably those chosen reflect that the outward change boosted their self-confidence, self-esteem and sometimes helped them embrace changes in their lives.

Unlike shows like Extreme Makeover, or the many plastic surgery shows on the cable channel, WNTW focuses on enhancing the person, not remaking them into someone else. There are no nose jobs, tooth capping, liposuction, chin and cheek implants, etc. Just new clothes, hair styling and maybe color, and direction on choosing styles and colors that work for the life and preferences of the subject.

One of the things I really like about the show is that the two "stylists", Stacey and Clinton, take the time to study the lifestyle of their chosen subject and then discuss it with them before making recommendations. There have been many shows featuring young mothers who spend more time on their children than themselves. Stacey and Clinton tell them that they are important, too, and help them change their style in realistic ways. They always consider the work requirements and the style preferences of their subjects and point out ways they can look better within that context.

They try to understand the individual first and then help them second. Stacey and Clinton don't try to make the mom into a high fashion model. They don't try to turn the casual clothes lover or a young punk rocker into a tailored preppy. Often they are psychologists, helping people accept the inevitable changes in life. That thirty year old woman still dressing like a pre-teen for example. The young man still wearing that collection of ragged college fraternity t-shirts several years later in an executive type business enviornment. Those who are overweight are urged to self-acceptance. One of their standard pep talks is that whether or not you lose weight in the future you deserve to look and feel your best right now, in the present moment.

We want to think that we can change our lives for the better--and isn't that the promise of the Christian faith? We often try to change others: our family members, our friends, and our co-workers. We want to make them over into something more pleasing to us without respecting their individuality and needs. Our "make over" impulse would be better directed in loving others more than loving our need to change them.

Who knew? The Golden Rule of Jesus observed in What Not To Wear.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Finding Jesus On My Plate Department

Jesus just keeps popping up the oddest places! This time his image was found on a pierogi (Polish dumpling).

The woman who cooked the pierogi is now selling it on ebay.

I hear the person who bought the Jesus grilled cheese sandwich on ebay is bidding for this. Building a Jesus-themed food collection?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

PUP Won't Make Ordination Recommendations

The Presbyterian Outlook is reporting today that the Theological Task Force for Peace, Unity and Purity will not take a position on ordination of non-celibate homosexuals. The link is here for those who want to read the Outlook's story.

The Task Force draft states that it "was not asked to take a position on human sexuality or ordination and we have not attempted to do so". However, your average member in the pew who may have been following the work of the group was certainly not under that impression. Most expected a recommendation on this controversial subject from the group.

The Outlook says that the PUP will issue draft recommendations but they won't be forthcoming until after their last meeting August 24-25. We will have to wait until then to see what they have in mind.

St. Cassarole had a post and a number of comments on the work of the PUP yesterday which are worth reading if you are interested.

Windows: Style vs. Function

I'm home this morning listening to the din of workmen replacing the windows that rotted in our kitchen and utility room. The windows rotted because they are wood windows and wood rots quickly in our hot, humid, wet climate. When my great-grandparents built their first home in deepest east Texas, it was made of cypress which does not rot. You cannot buy cypress today--I guess the swamps it grew in have disappeared and it can't be successfully cultivated.

Our house is about 20 years old. When it was built all the houses in the neighborhood sported wood windows because they were considered to be the most desirable in appearance. There are still neighborhoods that require wood windows in the homes, through zoning or neighborhood deed restrictions. In those neighborhoods you are forced to replace the rotten windows with windows that you know will soon rot also. Fortunately that is not the case for us. We can put in metal windows, and we are: window by window by window around the house. If I planned to try to sell the house I'd have to make them all match. But since we plan to stay indefinitely, we're taking our time and stretching out the cost.

Wooden windows seem like a metaphor for things that we insist on having because we think they are stylish or chic--but that aren't practical or functional. Things like three inch heels (I just made a trip to Nordstrom's shoe department yesterday with Babs), teeny-tiny purses that you can't get your wallet into, tile floors that look pretty but give you shin splints, white carpet in the children's playroom and on the stairs, and tv/dvd/satellite remotes that look like the deck of an aircraft carrier and require an engineering degree to decipher.

So out with the stylish rotten windows and in with the waterproof "quotidian" ones! If El Jefe had his way no house in our part of the world would have any exterior wood--it would all be brick, metal, plastic or hardee plank. Not too stylish but way functional.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Importance of Being a "Martha"

I've come to believe in the Field of Dreams adage, with a twist--instead of "if you build it, they will come", "if you feed them they will come." There is so much in the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, that emphasizes the importance of sharing food in community.

In the Old Testament the laws that restrict the sharing of food to those who are part of the Covenant People sets the Jewish people apart and makes them distinctive for their observance of the kosher dietary laws. The community becomes defined by the foods consumed and the way in which they are prepared. Food becomes symbolic of the religious and historical experience of the people in the Passover meal.

In the New Testament, Christ multiplies the loaves and fishes and turns the water into wine at a wedding. He is depicted in the Gospels eating and drinking with his friends and followers and is criticized for it. He directed the disciples at the Last Supper to remember Him by continuing to gather together for meals--breaking the bread and sharing the wine.

As summer is ebbing away, we are planning for the resumption of our regular programs and activities at the church. A glance at the calendar for the coming months shows a number of events that involve sharing food together. One of the great strengths of the Alpha program is the inclusion of a shared meal as an integral part of the group meeting time. I have wanted to see us offer a regular opportunity for shared meals together with group study and discussion even when Alpha was not in session.

Now one of our young "Marthas" has stepped forward to offer to take responsibility for making that happen. It's a very big job, but a rewarding one. I am convinced that one of the most important spiritual gifts is the gift of hospitality and that it is often underrated--maybe because it is still seen as "women's work." Without that gift we would be poor indeed. Thanks, "Martha."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Traveling Mercies Granted

Discovery landed safely this morning in California. I posted "Traveling Mercies" when it lifted off and talked about my friend C., the rocket scientist/chair of the Christian Education Committee, whose engineering team was in charge of the safety measures for this mission.

Thanks be to God for answering my prayer for the safe return of the crew. Congratulations to C. and her team for a job well-done!

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Apologetics of Bono

I wrote this post about the U2 leader Bono for Locusts and Honey today.

Ah, School Days

It sure seems too early for school to start. Tonight our church school has its first open house for parents and children to "meet the teacher" and find their new classroom for the year. Our school follows the local public school calendar, so despite the fact that the Texas legislature passed a law this spring saying that public schools could not begin until AFTER Labor Day, they also allowed school districts to apply for "exemption" from this. You guessed it--most districts were granted the exemption. You've really got to watch those pesky loopholes!

One of the changes we will see is shorter Thanksgiving and spring breaks--that's so school will be over by the first of June and still meet the required number of days. A couple of years ago the local school district had a week long Thanksgiving break, a "winter" break of nearly a month, and about 10 days spring break.

When I was growing up in south Texas, no one would have dreamed of having school begin in August, because none of the schools were air conditioned. Much of September had some of the hottest days of the year. Each classroom had one or more very large floor fans that droned in the background, making for very sleepy afternoons.

Pushing school terms earlier and earlier into August and later and later into June seems to be part of the "hurried child" syndrome of our society. Yes, yes, I know the rejoinder: we no longer are an agricultural society that needs a summer break so the children can work the fields, blah blah blah. And I do remember when I was happy to see school start because I welcomed the return of the school routine for me and the girls.

But we pressure children constantly so that every spare moment is filled with study, practices, classes, arranged playdates etc. Something is wrong, people, when mothers keep day-planners for their three year olds. Somehow that seems tied in to the compressing of summer vacation to me.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A Calvinist Among the Arminians

I've agreed to a gig as "guest blogger" on Locusts and Honey this next week for John, who is moving to Orlando to begin his seminary studies. John was one of the first bloggers I became acquainted with when I became interested in the blogosphere, and he has offered me advice, help and encouragement along the way. Joel Thomas, a Methodist Minister in Wales will be the other guest blogger if technical issues get resolved.

John is well-known in the faith-based blogosphere for his Methodist Metablogging Weekly Round-ups and his profiles of Methodist bloggers such as our own fellow member of the RevGalBlogPals webring Reverend Mommy (a/k/a Theresa Coleman). So what is he thinking, inviting a Calvinist to address all those Arminians? Seriously, I was flattered to be invited to post to his readers.

But here is the challenge: since John posts every day (and sometimes more than once), I want to keep his blog current with something fresh everyday. It will help if Joel is able to post as well! At the same time, I want to keep up my own blog with different material.

Dear RevGalBlogPals and other gentle readers, if you have suggestions I'd love to hear them. I do plan to do a post about our webring, because I am sure that some of John's readers would be interested in checking it out. It should be an interesting week, at the end of which I may be all blogged out!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Response to March of the Penguins

Blessed are you, O Lord Our God, King of the Universe, that Thou has Not Made Me a Penguin.

For Lo, the penguin parents march 70 miles several times to mate, incubate the egg and nurture the chick in temperatures averaging minus 58 degrees F. And further, lo, at the end of this 9 month cycle, their chick is grown and the parents part from him and each other and then, instead of happily retiring and awaiting the blessing of grand-chicks, MUST START THE WHOLE THING ALL OVER AGAIN UNTIL THEY DIE.

Verily, if thou thinkest that man's life is full of sound and fury signifying nothing, then consider the penguin and count your blessings.

Gratuitous advice: If you go see this movie (which has amazing photography), wear long pants and take a sweater. Trust me -- you'll be glad you did after viewing blizzards, ice and snow for an hour and a half in an overcooled theatre.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Movement Against Moving Time

If you want to join the Movement Against Moving Time ( see previous post), here's the plan:

For Republicans--write your congressperson/senator with the message that no real conservative would support this type of meddling in the time of the people and you expect to see their name on a bill to reverse this indefensible statute.

For Democrats--write with the message that only those in thrall to special interests and without any concern for working families and the children would fail to join in sponsoring a bill to restore our time.

For Independents and Libertarians--write and tell your elected representatives that they can't tell you what time it is.

For Right-Wing Evangelicals--write and tell them that they are courting Divine Wrath by trying to meddle with God's creation of night and day.

For Progressive Christians-- object to the legislation on the grounds that it is not inclusive and
caters to the materialistic ambitions of the First World by prolonging the working day.

For Anyone Else Not Included--write your own objection here : ___________________.

Thanks to the Movement Against Moving Time, we really CAN all get along!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Which Biblical Plague are you?

This is SO NOT ME--I'm going to take it again and cheat. Thanks to John at Locusts and Honey for the tip.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ladies who lunch but in a good way

For decades the Presbyterian Women organization reigned supreme in the old UPUCSA, PCUS and then the reunion church of today, the PCUSA. PW was based on a model using small groups called circles that met monthly for Bible study and fellowship in homes or at churches at different times. All women members of a church were deemed members of PW whether or not they joined a circle and could attend periodic meetings of the entire group. My grandmother was a faithful member of PW in the church in which I grew up. My mother wasn't, but she wasn't a joiner of groups of any kind.

In the last 30 years the PW organization has declined even more than the PCUSA. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that its model no longer fit the needs of the younger women of the church. In my own congregation, PW dissolved a number of years ago because no new leadership could be found. The two circle groups we had at the time still meet but operate as small groups and there is no overarching PW organization.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the chartering of our church in October, one of the young women in the church approached me with the idea that it was time to plan a luncheon for the women of the church to celebrate the anniversary together. As the number of small groups grew in the church, she felt that many women felt disconnected and isolated--especially those who work during the week. It is time to see if another type of women's group can be formed that can offer fellowship and mutual support, inspiration and strengthening of faith, and outreach to the community. The Lunch would be a chance to try it out, and to invite friends and family to join us.

It must be another inspired idea. Everyone we asked to help was eager to sign on. Everyone we have talked to is enthusiastic about attending. Now we have a group meeting who have chosen an inspirational speaker, a date, a place and a time for the luncheon. We are including a mission component in the price of admission (your $ plus one nice used outfit for the area Thrift Shop supported by our church).

There are a lot of jokes in the Bayou City about the Ladies Who Lunch. We want to plan an event so we can be the Ladies Who Lunch But In a Good Way. Does your church have a women's organization other than PW (or equivalent denominational group), and if so how is it organized and what does it do?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Daylight Savings Perfidy

While we weren't looking, Congress passed legislation extending Daylight Savings Time. Now it will begin in March and go through Halloween "so kids can trick-or-treat one hour longer in daylight."

Red state, blue state, Democrat, Republican, Independent, conservative evangelical or liberal "progressive" Christian, Jew, Muslim or Hindu--can we please all agree that Congress should quit meddling with our time?

It will probably require an amendment to the Constitution:
"Congress shall make no laws changing the time of the states."

Who's with me?