Thursday, June 30, 2005

Tribute to Lynn J.

That "thinking of you" card looks up reproachfully at me from my desk. I got it out last night intending to mail it to my friend in the hospital with cancer. Before I got around to addressing and mailing it this morning I got the word that he passed away early this morning. He is already missed.

Lynn Johnson was a Presbyterian minister for more than 38 years. He pastored churches, was a counselor and served as Stated Clerk of our presbytery for the last 4 years. It was in that capacity that I got to know him as he assisted the Administrative Commission that I served on recently. The situation at that church was not only divisive but potentially violent. Lynn found himself spending more time than he ever dreamed of consulting with lawyers and the General Counsel's office of the General Assembly as we worked our way through lawsuits and threatened lawsuits. He never backed down in the face of threats and public assaults on his character and reputation. He fearlessly attended that church and preached to the congregation, showing by his example Christian strength, love and the offer of repentance and reconciliation.

A true gentleman, he was not ashamed to admit his own mistakes and ask for forgiveness. He had a ready wit and a steady presence. Just a few short months ago we learned he had cancer of unknown origin. Now he has joined the Church Triumphant and we will miss him.

Well done, good and faithful servant.

An offer the PCUSA can't refuse

Solomon makes an offer the PCUSA can't refuse.

Decalogue Wars Are On

As I predicted in my comments in this recent post, the Wars of the 10 commandments are on, following the Supreme Court's recent decisions.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Stripping History

El Jefe's cousin sent this picture. On a recent visit to their Panhandle hometown (yes, the very same location of last weekend's reunion), he was stripping wallpaper from the walls of his boyhood bedroom for his aging mother. Under the fourth layer was the one he remembered growing up.

Struck by the memory it evoked, he took several pictures of the partially removed papers and emailed them to several relatives.

"I was bound and determined to be a cowboy when I grew up," he wrote in his email. Not a surprising ambition for a boy growing up on the High Plains whose grandfather had been a real cowboy.

Peeling those layers of wallpaper off must have brought back many memories as well. The blue floral pattern that is on top of the cowboy scene suggests the room was redecorated with a more feminine theme after he left.

Removing wallpaper can be like an archeological dig, revealing layers of family history. I asked El Jefe if his aunt wanted the room painted or a new wallpaper hung on the walls of this room, but he didn't know. There may be a metaphor there, but I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to construct it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Ten Commandments and The Culture of Disbelief

Christianity Today's weblog has a good summary of yesterday's Supreme Court decisions in two cases involving display of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state capitols of Texas and Kentucky. It includes links to the original opinions, including the dissents.

About 10 years ago I taught a Sunday School class using The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Relidious Devotion, by Stephen Carter, published in 1994. Carter's thesis was that American law and politics tolerate public displays of religious faith only when it is case as a "secular faith" devoid of any true religious meaning. In other words, it's okay to say "God, God" in the public square as long as everyone understand that we don't really mean it.

Carter, a devout Episcopalian and a professor of law at Yale University, was quite a prophet wasn't he? Yesterday the Supreme Court seemed to say that the Texas display of the 10 commandments is permissible because it is only a small part of a much larger secular display and has been in place 40 years without objection, so hey--no one could seriously believe it had any religious meaning. On the other hand, Kentucky must remove the display because they got caught adding additional secular displays to distract from what must have been intended as a REALLY religious display.

What precedent can be derived from these two rulings? It must be that you can display the 10 commandments in the public square only if you do so in a way that makes it clear that they are not to be regarded as anything more than an historic artifact.

Is anyone else wondering whether the medieval theologians who argued about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin are being channeled through the Supreme Court?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Responsible Criticism of Divestment

For those of you interested in a constructive criticism of the PCUSA's controversial divestment Israel divestment policy, I am providing a link to the letter written to the Moderator, Clerk, GA and its commissioners by a group from my presbytery, New Covenant, which was also linked today on Presbyweb (which is by available by subscription).

I know most of these folks. They are representative of the whole church: liberal and conservative, small and tall-steeple church types. They did their homework and have made some thoughtful recommendations which I hope will gain serious attention and support.

Things We Don't See At Home

Things we saw in the Texas Panhandle this weekend that we don't see at home:

A Psalm 8 sunset

Skies that are not cloudy all day

A state highway with no one else on it but us for 30 minutes;

Big Texas hair;

Vietnam Era Veterans recognized and honored with the singing of " God Bless America" (Kate Smith-style);

Low to no humidity;

Old friends who don't seem that old;

A showing of Cat Ballou at the only local movie theatre;

Sitting outside visiting over our morning cups of coffee;

" My daughter turned out very well, but I'm thinking of having my son put to sleep"-- inscription in the class memory book by one classmate (????)

"God bless y'all, Jean"-- written on our bill at a restaurant by our waitress.

God bless you, too, every one.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

North Towards Home

This weekend El Jefe and I are attending his high school class reunion in Baja Oklahoma. That's the area of the Texas Panhandle north of Amarillo. It's big sky country, a part of the world described so well by Kathleen Norris in Dakota: A Spiritual Geography: " the High Plains, the beginning of the desert west, often acts as a crucible for those who inhabit them..." Although Norris' High Plains are several states north of El Jefe's, in South Dakota instead of Texas, it is the same kind of area. They say there's nothing between you and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence.

I don't attend my high school reunions. I don't even remember the last time one was held. My high school was a large suburban high school in a big city. El Jefe's high school was the only one in the town. Everyone who attended had known each other and their families from birth--they lived, played, attended school and church together all their lives. The town existed to serve an oil refinery and carbon black plant. Today it is much diminished from the days of my husband's youth. Almost none of his classmates remained in the area after graduation but moved to areas of more opportunity in Texas and Oklahoma. So for them a class reunion is more like a family reunion--a real homecoming.

The first visit I ever made to this area was to meet my prospective in-laws. I remember driving from the airport in Amarillo as my mother-in-law apologized for the flat uninteresting landscape and assured me that soon we would be seeing "pretty hills". To my surprise, her idea of pretty hills were little mounds of only a few feet in height sporadically covered with tumbleweeds and some kind of vegetation. That was a hill to someone who lived in an area so flat that the land was overwhelmed by the sky.

I'll never forget the time we first brought Portia to see her Panhandle relatives. I was about 6 months pregnant with Babs. The plane encountered one of the fierce Panhandle electrical storms and was diverted to Kansas where we circled for a while, lurching up and down in the air while my nausea rose. El Jefe was calm and Portia, only about a year old, was oblivious. When we finally landed I wanted to kiss the solid ground. However as my in-laws drove us away from the airport, the storm continued hurling big bolts of lightning on either side of our car which turned into lightning balls (yes -- great balls of fire!) that rolled across the highway and the fields like neon tumbleweeds. I have never seen anything like that before or since. On the High Plains you quickly learn to respect the power of the weather and are awed by its majesty and force.

The big sky of the Texas Panhandle simultaneously makes you feel insignificant : "what are human beings that you are mindful of them?", and full of possibilities: "for you have made them a little lower than God and ...given them dominion over the works of your hands". I'm looking forward to it: "O majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8).

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

What book are you?

Thanks to reverendmommy for this quiz. I'm thrilled with my answer because I love this book.
The quiz is really short, so give it a try.

You're To Kill a Mockingbird!

by Harper Lee

Perceived as a revolutionary and groundbreaking person, you have changed the minds of many people. While questioning the authority around you, you've also taken a significant amount of flack. But you've had the admirable guts to persevere. There's a weird guy in the neighborhood using dubious means to protect you, but you're pretty sure it's worth it in the end. In the end, it remains unclear to you whether finches and mockingbirds get along in real life.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Advice Wanted

A week from Sunday I am teaching a Sunday School class on the topic: Surfing the God Blogs--Blogging as Ministry. This is in the way of a trial run for a workshop on the same topic that I've been asked to give in a workshop this fall at our presbytery's annual leadership and educational training event. I'm working on a powerpoint presentation because I am sure that many in the class are not familiar with blogs and will need the visual aid.

Since I've only been blogging for about three months, I'd love some comments from those of you with more experience writing a faith-based blog.

What would you include in a class like this?

How does your blog integrate with your total ministry?

What were your expectations when you began the blog and have they been met or changed by your experience?

Has anyone set up a blog to use in conjunction with a study group? For example, using a group blog as a way for people in a Bible study to reflect on the current readings before or after their face-to-face meeting.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Monday Book Reviews: The Practicing Congregation and Exodus

The Practicing Congregation by Diana Butler Bass and Exodus: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity by Dave Shiflett present contrasting views of mainline Protestant congregations, which is why I thought it would be interesting to read and review them together.

Diana Butler Bass holds a Phd in American religious history from Duke and a masters in theology from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. A former evangelical of fundamentalist bent, she is now an Episcopalian with liberal/progressive views. Her book is part of a three year study of the role of Christian practices in fostering congregational vitality in historic mainline churches called The Project on Congregations of Intentional Practice, located at Virginia Theological Seminary.

Dave Shiflett, on the other hand, characterizes himself as an "itinerant Presbyterian with the emphasis on itinerant" and journalist. He is the author of Christianity on Trial and has writeen about religious issues for many publications ranging from The Washington Post to The Wall Street Journal. His publisher suggested the topic of this current book.

The Practicing Congregation presents an optimistic alternative view of the condition of the Protestant mainline. Bass' thesis is that liberal or progressive Protestant congregations can become growing vital congregations when they foster and emphasize historic Christian spiritual practices such as healing prayer, hospitality, silence, discernment, stewardship and peacemaking. She focuses on the Church of the Ephiphay (ECUSA) in Washington, DC, as the primary example of this type of congregation.

In contrast, Shiflett predicts a continuing "exodus" of membership from the Protestant mainline to conservative denominations or non-denominational churches, fueled by the perceived rejection of traditional tenets of Christianity and liberal political positions of clergy and denominational spokesmen that alienate many in the pews.

Bass' book is academic in tone and more than a little tedious, despite its upbeat message. I have read many articles and books on related subjects and find that this one takes some discipline to finish. Interestingly, she and Shiflett agree that congregations that expect more commitment from their members tend to grow in numbers and vitality. Most other authors have tied this to conservative congregations, but she makes the case that this can occur in churches of liberal or progressive theology as well. The Practicing Congregation includes a brief study guide with suggestions for group discussion.

Exodus is a more readable book, written in a journalistic rather than an academic style. The title gives away the author's bias. Still, Shiflett intersperses his own research and observations with a number of interviews with clergy and laypeople from mainline and conservative churches. I found the questions he put to each thought-provoking. To the liberals: "Is everything negotiable these days? Is it even slightly possible that there could be significant eternal risks in tampering with what Christians through the ages have considered 'God's blueprint for salvation'?" And to the conservatives: If you can remain in a church whose bishops repeatedly reject the divinity and resurrection of Christ why can't you live with the ordination of gays?

I do pick a nit with Schiflett on one point. He seems to characterize the Presbyterian Lay Committee as a splinter denomination. Although there are those in the PCUSA who view that group as schismatic, to date it has not formed a breakaway church. It's a nit because he spends almost no time on the PCUSA and a lot of time on the ECUSA.

As a DCE, I would recommend The Practicing Congregation as a study for a small group of church officers, staff or clergy, providing they have had some previous experience with this type of academic analysis and an interest in it. Exodus would have broader appeal and could spark some lively discussions in an adult group or Sunday School class over such topics as "celebrity heretics", the "wee Deity" and the "train wreck that is the Episcopal Church USA" regardless of the theological preferences of the group.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Alternative Presbyterian Polity Proposal

The New Wineskins conference currently going on in Florida has drawn evangelical representatives from across the PCUSA. Coming out of this conference will be several documents that in effect offer an alternative Presbyterian polity. This is clearly a response to the forthcoming Peace Unity and Purity report that is to be released in September.

The Presbyterian News Service report has links to the documents being discussed that you can check out if you are interested. Today is the last day of the conference.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Loose Screws

Sometimes you just have to acknowledge that the Calvinist view of the innate sinfulness of man is that only way you can explain some things.

Our church has a large new playground on one side of its parking lot. The playground is for our church members and school children, but neighborhood kids come to play on it as well. This morning we found that the tunnel, which is part of the equipment, had been dis-assembled.

Now this was not something that is easily done. The screws that held the tunnel parts together are a special type of screw that require a special type of bit. You can't just use your garden-variety phillips or plain screwdriver on them. And the screws have vanished but the parts of the tunnel were left on the ground.

Do we have a screw thief on the loose? Can you even report that to the police? Should our custodian be told to be on the lookout for suspicious looking folks carrying toolboxes lurking around the playground?

Curiouser and curiouser, said Little Alice...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Birthday Tradition

birthday cake
Originally uploaded by Quotidian Grace.

Here is our favorite birthday tradition: a cake from Moeller's Bakery. It has to have one layer of vanilla cake, one layer of chocolate cake and be frosted with vanilla icing on top and in between the layers and chocolate icing around the sides. The flowers can be any color you want. Since it's summer, I chose red and yellow.

When the girls were first born we lived near this bakery and got into the habit of buying cakes and other goodies from them. Then the bakery moved away from our area, and then we moved further away from where the bakery is now. Nonetheless we faithfully make a pilgrimage for each
birthday celebration to pick up our birthday tradition.

These cakes have seen birthdays of infants, toddlers, children, teenagers and now young adults.I have pictures of many of those cakes. El Jefe and I have celebrated our young married years and now our middle aged empty nester birthdays with these cakes. It just wouldn't be a real birthday without them.

Portia is celebrating a birthday and so Babs and I just returned with the precious cake in tow for our family celebration tonight. I think the cake is more important to Portia than any other part of her birthday. Aren't family traditions wonderful?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Jackson verdict makes me sick

In my previous life as a lawyer, I spent three years as an assistant district attorney in charge of prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases on behalf of the county child welfare agency. My experience was that pedophiles were intractable, incurable and would continue their behavior despite counseling, drugs and prison. We don't know how to cure them.

Interviews with the jurors in the Michael Jackson case revealed that they believed he was a pedophile--they just didn't believe the mother of the accused and seemed to have been convinced by the defense attorney that because she deliberately placed her son in Michael Jackson's way there was reasonable doubt that he molested him. But then the jurors say that they also believe Jackson is a pedophile. Huh?

The trial itself had aspects of Dante's Inferno with its seven layers of Hell covered by swarms of demonesque press representatives and featuring ghoulish fans on the side. And Michael Jackson has a spooky resemblance to one of the grotesques of Heironymus Bosch. If I were a premillenial dispensationalist I would start quoting some dire prophecies from Revelation. But I'm not, so I won't.

Monday, June 13, 2005

All Sugared Up

At last night's Christian Education committee meeting the group got off onto a rant about sugar-filled Sunday School kids.

It seems that Sunday School teachers are finding their kids stop by the coffee and lemonade bar that is set up between worship services before going to their class. Now a little lemonade is fine--but the kids think it is SO much better if they add several packets of sugar to the drink, stirring it up into a gooey sludge that they try to eat with their fingers or drink when they are scolded about that.

Lemonade isn't the only problem. Other reports are that some of the older elementary and middle schoolers are getting coffee and doctoring it up with so much sugar and artificial creamer that it is also semi-solid.

What to do? Will the sugar consumed just before Sunday School cause behavior problems during class or wait until the parents retrieve the kids an hour later. Or is sugar really the culprit?

Should the teachers permit youngsters to bring the doctored coffee into the classroom without knowing whether or not their parents approve of the kids drinking coffee? How much in loco parentis in Sunday School is too much? Or is it just loco parents that are the problem? (Don't even go there.)

Is it appropriate to ask the volunteers who run the coffee bar to police this, or should the DCE (me!) become THE SUGAR POLICE ?

Surely Jesus said something about sugar....I'll go check my concordance. Nope, nothing. Guess we're on our own here. Sigh.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Book Meme Tag

I've been tagged by John at Locusts and Honey on a book meme that's going around. I love books and it's short, so I'll play.

1. Number of books I own.

Well over a thousand. Nearly every room in the house has several bookcases.

2. The last book I bought.

Just a few minutes ago on amazon after reading a review in yesterday's Wall Street Journal that identified the author as a Presbyterian-- Exodus: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity by Dave Shiflett.

3. The last book that I read.

Being Dead is No Excuse by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays. A hysterical look at southern funeral traditions, it includes a lot of good down home recipes. Loved the Methodist Ladies vs. Episcopal Ladies chapter. It reminded me of all my East Texas relatives, now departed.

4. Books that mean a lot to me.

The Bible. I'm exploring Eugene Peterson's The Message for a fresh look at scripture.

The Four Witnesses by Robin-Griffith Jones. Anglican priest discusses the distinctive portraits of Jesus in each of the four Gospels.

Biographies of Queen Elizabeth the first. I have an abiding interest in the Tudor English period and have read lots of them. Two are in my current book collection:
The First Elizabeth by Carrolly Erickson and Gloriana The Years of Elizabeth by Mary M. Luke.

I wouldn't be here answering this meme if it weren't for Blog by Hugh Hewitt and Leonard Sweet's The Aqua Church.

5. Tag 5 other bloggers.

Spooky Rach , Will Spotts, Songbird, St. Cassarole, and rev-ed. Hope you haven't already been tagged, and remember you don't have to play!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Small Group Dilemma

For the past two years I have been involved with a small group study and fellowship that developed out of one of our Alpha programs. All of the participants in the group (except me and El Jefe) are young couples ranging in age from their late twenties to early forties. We never planned for this to happen, but the Spirit moved and we responded.

From time to time we debate whether or not to ask another couple or couples to join the group. On the one hand, we want others to have the same experience we are having. On the other hand, how can you add new people to the group without damaging the dynamic that makes the experience work? There is also the concern that asking one couple without asking another risks hurting feelings and setting up an undesirable atmosphere of exclusivity.

We are in the midst of that discussion again as we are making plans for resuming regular weekly meetings in the fall. It occured to me that maybe the answer is to foster a new group instead of adding to our group. We know of several couples in the church who would probably be interested and would probably also be very compatible.

Fostering a new group could be a great thing for us. It would make us think about what has made our group meaningful to us and then make us share that with others while continuing with our own group. It seems like the next logical step to take as disciples.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

It's Summertime and VBS is Not Easy

It is June and my thoughts are turning to the plans being made for our annual VBS program next month.

Just yesterday I had to tell someone that our VBS is full and they cannot enroll their children--that's something I really hate to do. On the other hand, the reason our VBS is full is because we cannot accept more children than our adult volunteers can safely supervise. And getting volunteers for VBS is always like pulling teeth.

INMHO, VBS is a relic of the 1950's church. I remember attending as a child--the heat, the flannel storyboard, the crafts, the Bible School Songs and the red Kool-aid and Ritz crackers served as a snack. We looked forward to going and getting out of the house. Back then there was very little summer programming for children. Maybe you had some swimming lessons. Perhaps a week at Scout camp or church camp was scheduled. Few women worked outside the home in middle-class neighborhoods that were the stronghold of the mainline Protestant denominations, so there was a larger pool of VBS volunteers.

Today life is very different in the summer. There is a plethora of lessons, sports teams, day and overnight camps competing for the time and attention of the average family. And of course, many mothers today work part or full time, reducing the pool of available VBS volunteers and increasing the demand for enrollment in what many regard as cheap daycare. Even the summer day camp that our church school offers has found decreased interest in the past couple of years as more summer programming is being offered by other churches, schools and individuals.

Our church secretary begins fielding calls in February of each year asking when we will open our VBS enrollment. Those calls come from people in the community, not church members, who are trying to keep their children busy all summer and want to assure themselves a place. Each year we have children who arrive and announce that they just "did" the same VBS program we are offering last week at another church. One child had already attended 4 other programs by the time he showed up in ours. Because they almost always are members of another church, we get no new members from these folks.

Some churches in our area have been successful in holding evening VBS sessions. This allows broader participation by working parents and also usually is a program for the entire family. We tried that one year and increased our volunteers, but sharply decreased the children enrolled because families were looking for daycare not evening activities.

I don't know how much longer VBS will continue to be an annual event at our church or other churches. For now, we have a dedicated volunteer director and core group who bravely soldier on because they want to have the program for their own children. Will another group take their place when their kids grow out of VBS? Is the fact that we've "always done VBS" good enough reason to continue it in its traditional mode? I think it is time for re-evaluation of the whole concept.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Hoisted by Own Petard Department

El Jefe is chortling mightily over yesterday's report that Pres. Bush's grades at Yale were actually HIGHER than his erstwhile rival for office and fellow Eli John Kerry. (Disclaimer: link may require free registration.)

El Jefe was at Yale at the same time as both men (although he was not in either man's class), he knew both of them. Kerry was speaker of the Yale Political Union when he was a freshman, and as he tells it, Kerry's personality and demeanor were the same then as when he ran for president last year. It was widely known among the student body that Kerry had presidential ambitions and that he was carefully planning his future career toward that goal. El Jefe reports that the Yale alum newsgroup for his class is going wild over this one.

Of course W beat Kerry by only 1 point in overall grade point average--it wouldn't be much of a news story if Kerry hadn't successfully portrayed himself as a solid intellectual in contrast to the more pedestrian Bush. Apparently this is why he never released his transcripts during the campaign when someone managed to get Bush's transcript and publicize it. His grades were revealed when he recently released all his naval records because his college transcripts were part of those records.

Portia, a recent graduate of the place herself, opined that back in the day the grades Kerry and Bush had were respectable: a "gentleman's C." Since the late '60's grade inflation at Yale and virtually every other college and university in the country, the average grade is more like a B or B+.

See how the Fates their gifts allot! Two "C" students fought the recent election for the highest office in the land, while El Jefe, an "A" student from the same school, happily eschewed politics for the law, the church, his Civil War research, his porch and The Noble Dog--and his family. And like Mary in the story of Martha and Mary, El Jefe thinks he chose the better portion.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Faithful Priorities

I was still musing about our budget dilemmas (see previous post) today when I was prompted by a post on Locusts and Honey to remember the approach of one of our local churches to setting its budget priorities.

This church is now celebrating its 50th anniversary and is one of the 15 largest churches in our denomination. From inception, it followed a policy of "tithing" their revenue, including all pledges received for building campaigns, to mission. The tithe has gone to mission programs developed and run by the church, the presbytery, local charitable organizations, etc.

In observance of their 50th anniversary they began a project dedicated to planting one new church in the Houston are every year for at least the next five years. Although they are working with the presbytery to do this, this church is funding the project and providing extensive training for its members who are willing to assist in organizing these new churches.

This church has had a lot of building campaigns over the last 50 years. This year they retired the $24 million debt on their only 5 year old campaign. If you examine their budget, you will find that this church has made its priority out mission and outreach. I'm sure that over the years some of the members tried to change this policy, arguing that "this time we can't afford it." But the church remained faithful to its understanding of what Christ's priorities would be.

Here is an effective witness and example that we should take to heart--and budget.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Seeking a Soul-filled Budget

Budgets reveal the soul of a congregation. Allocation of the church's expenses shows the priorities that it sets. If most of the revenue covers maintenance of the church's physical plant then programs such as mission, education, pastoral care, music and youth fellowship are not emphasized or well supported.

We're in the process of making the budget for the new fiscal year. Anticipated shortfalls in pledged revenue may force the committees, the staff and the session to make some hard choices. As in any organization competing interest groups will advocate to prevent cuts in their budgets and the session will try to reconcile them.

Yet we are not just another non-profit organization in budget-crunching mode. We are the church of Jesus Christ and our budget needs to reveal a passion for bringing people to Him. Not the lukewarm attitude of the church in Laodicea.

I confess that as a former lawyer, I'm much more comfortable operating in non-profit organization mode than I am trying to evaluate my budget with the eyes of faith. But I believe that is what is needed if we are to adopt a budget that reveals our congregation has a faithful soul.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Day Tripping with Babs

Babs and I have been on the road a lot lately: traveling back from Tennessee after her college graduation, going to San Antonio for my brother-in-law's memorial service, and today a trip to a town just outside Austin to retrieve her Grandpa's car which broke down there last week when Portia (whose car was in the shop) was driving it back to Austin for the weekend.

Babs played disk jockey with her vast collection of CD's--some of which she put together with the help of ITunes. I found out that I like Nickle Creek and someone named Jason Mraz. Two new artists to add to my own collection! She also played a lot of the Birds singing Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. I can relate to them, being of a certain age!

Once you are out on Hwy 290 away from the big city it is a pleasant trip. There are lots of pretty farms and ranches set on rolling hills with white or Hill Country stone fences and plump cattle, scampering herds of goats, and horse barns. This area is "gentrified" now. Antique stores line the highway along with truck farmers hawking their fresh vegatables, watermelons and peaches. You can feel your stress level go down and your mind relaxes and can drift around aimlessly like the puffy clouds in the big Texas sky.

Reality sets in too abruptly as the big city nears and you are suddenly surrounded by 18 wheelers, concrete barriers, construction cones and pressing traffic. Time to snap up and pay attention again--no more daydreaming behind the wheel.

Grandpa's car is delivered safely and we are back home. I had been whining about having to make this day trip, but now I'm almost sorry it's over.

Remember Blake

I can't stop thinking about the story of Blake posted by Glory Be and update. It would be an injustice to attempt to summarize, but it is about a young man with terminal illness and the contrast between the compassion of his friends and the neglect of his family.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

My nightstand runneth over

The stack of books on my nightstand is reaching epic proportions. Here's what's on it right now:

Christina Queen of Sweden: The Restless Life of a European Eccentric by Veronica Buckley. This is one of Babs' college books. Christina lived during the seventeenth century is one of the most annoying people I ever read about. Really! This woman converted to Catholicism in order to abdicate her throne and avoid getting married. Then she moves from Sweden to Italy and proceeds to drive the Vatican, the French monarchy and the Italians crazy. Thank heaven I've almost finished this one.

The Letters of Paul by Calvin J. Roetzel and Apostle of the Crucified Lord by Michael J. Gorman. Two books I began reading to prepare for leading a class on St. Paul. But plans changed, so I set them aside and intend to finish them "in the fullness of time".

P.S. I Love You by Ceclia Ahern. A novel given to me by Portia. Its about a woman who lost her husband, and I'm not in the mood for it right now since the recent death of my brother-in-law.

The rest of the books I haven't opened yet, and I'd better stay off of for a while or I'll be entering the 12 step program for addictive book-buyers.

The Practicing Congregation by Diana Butler Bass. I liked her previous books and this one looks promising.

Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell. A novel given to me by Babs.

The Road to Nab End by William Woodruff. A memoir of Depression-era Britian, recommended and read by both Babs and El Jefe.

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson. The author of The Message. Enough said. Can't wait to get to this one.

The Queen's Fool by Philipa Gregory. Historical novel set in Tudor England, loaned by Babs.

Stet, Dammit by Florence King. Given to me by El Jefe, who knows that sometimes I'm in the mood for a certain type of humor. Florence King is the author of With Charity Toward None and WASP Where Is Thy Sting?

Bread of Angels and Home By Another Way by Barbara Brown Taylor. Collections of sermons by this renowned preacher. I was inspired to buy them after hearing her sermon at Babs' baccalaureate service. I prescribed myself a chapter or two before bed.

Too much is not enough department: I want to borrow a book my sister-in-law got for her birthday--Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hayes. It answers the burning question "who brings the best covered dishes? The Episcopalians or the Methodists?"

What are you reading this summer?