Monday, October 31, 2005

The L'il Trick or Treater


It's the littleist goblin this Halloween--my newest niece, Annie. She's six weeks old and the best baby ever!

Inquiring minds want to know how the RevGals opinions of best and worst Halloween candy compare to those of real-life kids. (See Songbird's Phantasmagorical Phriday Phive )

So thanks to today's Houston Chronicle, here are the 10 top faves and boos of a local fourth grade class:

Two Skeleton Thumbs Up for:

1. M&M's
2. Hershey minis
3. Kit-Kat minis
4. Snickers
5. Nestle Crunch
6. Reese's Cups
7. Skittles
8. Tootsie Rolls
9. Super Bubble Gum
10. Gummy Bears, Worms and Body Parts


1. Dots
2. Raisins
3. Granola Bars
4. Atkinson's Peanut Butter Bars
5. Peanut Kisses
6. Bit-o-Honey
7. Twizzlers
8. Goldfish Crackers
9. Bottle Caps (Bottle Caps????)
10. Fruit

It's not hard to see that the RevGals are still young at heart! Note the strong chocolate theme in the faves and the disgust for "healthy" treats in the Boos. I have to think that anyone who actually gave an Atkinson's bar as a treat at Halloween is evil through and through.

Trust your instincts, friends, when buying your candy for tonight's spooks and goblins!

Whatever the origins of Halloween, it is now a time of fantasy and imagination for kids and grown-ups alike. These are gifts of God, too. If you're lucky enough to have young trick-or-treaters at home, enjoy them with all your might!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Hard-Wired for Belief?

Years ago El Jefe and I attended a Sunday School class led by a popular teacher who often found inspiration for his lessons from The Wall Street Journal. I've done that myself several times on this blog and I'm going to do it again now. So gather round, gentle readers, for today's lesson from WSJ.

Here's the story--Our Brains Strive To See Only the Good, Leading Some to God.

It reports the findings of a psychological study which concluded that "belief in God is compelled by the way our brains work." Our brains always seek to find a way to put a positive spin on negative events our circumstances, the scientists explained. The brain seeks "the most rewarding view of events". This explains the tendency to ascribe disasters to the hand of God or death or other tragedies to God's will, according to the story.

Professor Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University stated that "belief in God is compelled by the way our brains work." The story says that Prof. Gilbert asked a religious colleague how he felt to about the conclusion that people misattribute the products of their own minds to acts of God. The reply was that it was okay because "God doesn't want us to confuse our miracles with his."

Is there a "God-producing brain quirk" hard-wired into each of us? Mankind's eternal search in every age and place for transcendent meaning and answers to the meaning of life suggests the answer. If God created us to desire a relationship with him and know him, it would not be surprising if our brains were created in that way.

Remember the story in Acts about Paul preaching at the altar of the unknown God in Athens? Paul explained to the Athenians that this altar represented their longing for knowledge of the one true God -- "For in him we live and move and have our being, as some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring' "Acts 17: 28. While Paul wasn't using scientific language here, I think he would have agreed that God specifically created mankind with the ability to believe in Him.

I think that this WSJ article doesn't tend to disprove the existence of God (which was the conclusion of the scientists who did the study described), in fact it offers support for it. Prof. Gilbert would no doubt respond that this is just another example of my mind searching for the most rewarding interpretation from my point of view.

I like my conclusion better.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Imitating Mommy

When one of our Bible in 90 Days participants couldn't find her Bible yesterday to do the day's reading she looked everywhere--until she found it here!

Train up a child in the way he should go....

Phantasmagorical Phriday Phive

With a tip of the witch's hat to Songbird!

1. Favorite Halloween Candy-- Hershey's special dark chocolate minis

2. Least Favorite Halloween Candy-- licorice.

3. Best costume ever--any witch's costume

4. Worst costume ever-- ballerina

5. A Saint you treasure-- Saint Fidgeta

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Advent Devotionals Now Available!

The sharp-eyed among you noticed the addition to my sidebar (to the right) that I added yesterday: an advertisement for a book of Advent devotions called A Light Blazes in the Darkness. This book was written by members of the RevGalBlogPals webring, which can also be accessed via my sidebar. Full disclosure here--I am one of the contributors.

We're very excited about the publication of our book. Each devotion is tied to the lectionary reading for that day. Our group includes clergy as well as non-clergy (like me) and even some men (the Pals). There are members from every denomination and several countries outside the United States. Such is the miracle of the internet.

For more information about the book you can go here to read the forward by RealLivePreacher. You can buy the book on that site or by clicking the link on my sidebar. "For a limited time only" the price is $9.99 plus shipping. When you click on these links you will be sent to which requires that your register--but don't be dismayed, just do it.

Proceeds go to the very good cause of Hurricane relief. Advent will be here sooner than you think, so order now and be ready for some good, inspirational reading all season.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Party's Over

In a Hollywood movie, the grizzled veteran Jeff Bagwell hits the home run that brings the Astros victory in the 4th game of the World Series following the stellar performance of hometown favorite youngster Brandon Backe. But it wasn't Hollywood.

Congratulations to the White Sox who played incredible baseball.

Thank you Astros. No one thought you'd ever get so far! It was a great season and you gave all of Houston a great thrill and lots of fun.

We'd never been there before. But now we have. And we'll be back. Next year in Houston.

Razzlefrackzit Redux

14 innings + too many runners left on base= Razzlefrackzit Redux !

On the other hand, it was a spectacularly beautiful evening in Houston. The crowd was excited and happy, dressed in Astros gear and bee costumes, carrying their homemade signs supporting the team. Watching the National League pennant hung was a great moment. What a privilege to be able to attend the first World Series game ever played in Houston. I'm framing my tickets (but not adding the score).

And what's up with this whole series of "We Are The World", "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" songs? Last night's pre-game ceremony featured yet another addition to the genre, a forgettable little anthem in honor of the Katrina victims (sorry, Katrina victims) called "The Heart of America." Bleaahhh. Yicckkkk. Its one saving grace was that Wynona Judd was one of the singers. But then the planners blew their opportunity by having someone OTHER than Wynona sing the Star Spangled Banner. Good Grief! You have someone with those pipes and you don't ask her to cut loose? What were you thinking??

During this morning's staff Bible in 90 Days study we sought to cheer each other up by looking through the Wisdom Books (our readings last week) for inspirational readings for our beloved Astros.

How about...

"The Lord has heard my cry for mercy" Psalms 6:9

"Strike them with terror, O Lord" Psalms 9:20

"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" Proverbs 16:18

"Righteous men...get what the wicked deserve" Ecclesiastes 8:14

Ah, Razzlefrackzit....darnit

Monday, October 24, 2005

Houston's High Holy Days Conflict

The World Series of Baseball and the World Series of Quilting converge this week in downtown Houston.

Our quilting group at church, the "Ministers of the Cloth", have always referred to the annual International Quilt Show as the "High Holy Days of Quilting." It is being held all week at the George R. Brown Convention Center. This is the first convention there since it was used to house the Katrina evacuees. For more info on the Quilt Show click here.

The World Series comes to Houston tomorrow at Minute Maid Park, which is only a few blocks away from the Brown Convention Center. Hapless White Sox fans are having a hard time finding hotel rooms in the downtown area. They were booked long ago by quilters from all over the world. They are frustrated--this is the High Holy Days of baseball as well.

Downtown is now full of quilters and baseball fans seeking to express their devotion. Here's how to tell the difference:


Baseball Fans: team t-shirts, jeans, team baseball caps, beer. Optional headgear for Astros fans--bee antennas.

Quilters: heavily appliqued vests or jackets, often with the logo of their quilt guild, quilt show pins, long crinkled skirts, sensible shoes, matching quilt show totes. For Portia and Babs, the ultimate put-down is : You look like you just came from the Quilt Show.


Baseball Fans: hot dogs, beer, nachos with jalapenos, chili, cheese and sour cream, beer, cracker jack, margaritas, and did I mention beer?

Quilters: sandwiches brought from home, salads, anything chocolate. Maybe some wine--but only AFTER classes are over. Don't want to be tipsy while using a sewing machine.

Hours of Devotion --

Baseball Fans: As soon as Minute Maid opens tomorrow afternoon, they will stream in. Until then sports-talk radio is the source of their inspiration and strength, an ever-present comfort in a time of trouble.

Quilters: All day long for a week, with occasional breaks for lunch, snacks and dinner. The Quilters have to visit more exhibits than a Catholic making the Stations of the Cross. And the shopping is divine--if you like fabric, quilting books and gadgets, sewing machines, etc. etc.

Pilgrimage Options--

Baseball Fans: Trip to the old Astrodome. Dreary, run-down, still being put back together after Katrina, but full of sentimental memories of the many times the Astros broke your heart in the past.

Quilters: Quilt Shop Hop across the greater Houston metro area by bus from Katy to the Woodlands to Galveston. The ultimate pilgrimage for die-hard enthusiasts.

One word of advice for rowdy White Sox fans--don't contest a parking space with a car full of quilters. They pack scissors.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Mrs. B's Pound Cake

It's a bit of a detour to drive from San Antonio to Austin by way of the little resort town of Granite Shoals. Yesterday we took that route in order to visit with the 80+ year old mother of one of El Jefe's childhood friends. His friend died of cancer about 15 years ago, but El Jefe has kept in touch with Mrs. B.

Mr. and Mrs. B retired almost 30 years ago to a home they built on a bluff overlooking the big lake. While the home is small and cozy by today's standards, it has a spectacular view and a little boat house at the bottom of the hill. There is a nice covered porch off the living room that faces the lakeside view. On a day like Saturday--clear blue skies, light breezes, temperature in the 70's--you are tempted to sit there forever enjoying it.

A former English teacher, Mrs. B remains as mentally sharp as ever, although her body is beginning to fail her. Her hearing and eyesight are still acute, but she needs the assistance of a cane or walker. Mr. B died a couple of years ago after a long period of stroke-induced debility. Mrs. B nursed him at home for many years and then stayed with him every day when he was in a nursing home. If she mentioned in the conversation any male friends she would immediately note: "but I don't call him because I don't want him to think I'm chasing him. I had the best husband you could have and I don't want another one."

Mrs. B enjoyed showing us some of her prize antiques and telling us the stories around them. Her favorite was the "Baptist Bar". This was a large wooden cabinet meant to hold a liquor and glasses. "It's been in drydock for years," she joked. The dark wood sports a couple of decidedly non-Baptist barebreasted lady figures and fanciful carved animal feet.

A devout Southern Baptist, Mrs. B's bookstand by her chair was stacked with Bibles, her Sunday School class directory, and a short stack of Rick "Purpose Driven" Warren books. Don't call her out-of-date!

After lunch she insisted that we indulge in her home-baked pound cake and take the rest of it with us. "I've been baking this cake since I was 8 years old when my mama got typhoid fever and my sister and I had to cook for my father and brothers, " she said. Yum. Mrs. B has not lost her touch with pound cake either.

She was so pleased that we came she insisted on taking a couple of pictures of us. Her surviving sons live in Dallas and Utah, so she has no family in the area. "I'm going to stay here just as long as I can", she said. "I really love it here and when I have to move to assisted living I'll go to Dallas to make it easier for my son to help me. But right now I love my friends here and my house and my church and I don't want to go."

As we left, Mrs. B urged us to return soon to see her. As the Teacher said in Ecclesiastes "time and chance happen to all." When you meet someone like Mrs. B who has suffered several tragedies in her long life, and is not only sustained by her faith but inspired by it to joyful living, you want to go back again soon so you can learn how to age gracefully and joyfully.

Get ready to make another pound cake, Mrs. B. We'll be back.

Friday, October 21, 2005

RevGals Friday Music Meme

Thanks, Songbird, for this quick meme. It's just what I needed today as El Jefe and I get ready for a weekend trip to Central Texas to attend a dinner honoring my brother in San Antonio and then go to Austin to check in with Portia and Babs. We'll all watch the Astros in the World Series Saturday night.

Astros in the World Series? It's not a dream? Wow--still can't believe it. Here's the latest fan superstition--courtesy of Houston's Mayor Bill White. Mayor White decreed that everyone must wear shoes without socks all weekend to show support for the 'Stros.

But back to the meme:

1. What was the last CD you purchased?

Mendelssohn's Elijah performed by the Academy and chorus of St. Martin in the Fields
(in English)

2. Did you like it?

I LOVE it. I bought this to replace the one I couldn't find. Reading 1 and 2 Samuel through for Bible in 90 Days prompted me to look for it and discover it was missing. Then I just HAD to get another one.

3. Is it the kind of music you would call your favorite?

Absolutely--one of my favorites, anyway. I love the classic sacred oratorios. I really love singing them.

4. What was the first album you owned?

Boy, that was a long time ago. I'm going to guess it was the first Beatles album.

5. And what was your favorite cut from that recording?

I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wands Behind Bars

Should wine and wands be allowed behind bars? What about robes--hooded or hoodless? If prisoners can have Tarot cards, should we let them tell the fortunes of others or is that going too far? How to "risk assess" pagan rituals and gear?

I really am not creative enough to make this stuff up. And no--it's not California this time--its the UK! And just in time for Halloween!!

Full story here on the 14 pages of regulations covering the practice of paganism in prison. Tip of the wizard's cap to Cranky Calvinist.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Yee-hah! The World Series is coming to Houston! The city will be totally worthless until it's over--but it will be fun.

I'm sure the Astros won because I was wearing my green RevGalBlogPals tee-shirt, aren't you?

Excuse me while I answer all the phone calls and hop around some more.

Thus Saith...

Vexatious Visioning

Visioning Retreat in the Piney Woods with Semi-Famous Church Consultant and Locally Ubiquitous Church Faciliator is over. This wrapped up 10 months of "visioning" meetings.

Although I feel as overstuffed with information and discussion as a Strasbourg goose being prepared for pate', I am happy to report that this was one denominational meeting that focused on 3 areas of growth: in numbers of churches, in numbers of disciples in those churches and in the engagement of churches in their communities.

What a refreshing change from gatherings that roil the issues of sexuality, ordinations and headquarters pronouncements on national political issues that alienate many members in the pew. Semi-Famous is knowledgeable and seems Spirit-led, which is encouraging. I thought his presentation was helpful. But then maybe that's because he articulated a lot of things that I already thought.

My skepticism for the ecclesiastical and corporate fad of "visioning" was not abated when confronted yet again with Locally Ubiquitous Faciliator. (I amended the rest of this paragraph because what I originally wrote was quite snarky and might identify that person which really wouldn't be fair.) ~sigh~ I have a strong aversion to Locally Ubiquitous which I must work on. Isn't Christian.

A radical new course for our presbytery is now being charted and now we must encourage other key people to buy into this new direction. I'll be a good team player and do my best to help because if this is successful, it could be a model for the reversal of decades of denominational decline.

Nonetheless, as God is my witness, I will never participate in another "visioning process" again. Never. Ever. Again.

And now....must catch up on everything so I can be ready to watch the Astros this evening.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


One strike away from the World Series and the Astros snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. ARGGGHHHHHH!

Random observations from inside Minute Maid Park--

A giant sucking sound deflated over 43,000 screaming fans when Puhols hit that ball out of the park.

Foul balls hit into the stands should be caught by little boys with baseball caps, gloves and awed expressions on their faces.

Killer Bee costumes (worn in honor of the Astro star players whose names end or begin with "B") are cute on little girls--not so cute on women over 50. I'm just saying.

If the fans' spirit of community inside the park could be bottled, there would be peace in our time.

Fake orange hair worn turned inside out does NOT resemble a rally cap. Put it away.

The crowd was up and down all night as if they were attending mass in a perpetual motion machine. Oh my aching feet, rear end and thighs!

Creation of fan superstions about how to win the next game increases in proportion to desperation for a win.

It was after midnight when we got home. Being a fan is hard work. And I really can't believe we lost that way.


BUT--as Scarlett O'Hara said--Tomorrow is another day.

Houston still BEE-LIEVES. The Wizard of O (Roy Oswald) will get it done tomorrow in St. Louis. When he does, I promise to wear my RevGalBlogPals t-shirt to the World Series in Houston (yes we have tickets). That Astros t-shirt I wore last night didn't work so well.

Now I'm off to that visioning retreat, but will be back tomorrow in time to do the round-up and watch the 'Stros game. Keep the faith, fellow fans.


Sunday, October 16, 2005

I Have An Excuse

Dear God,

Please excuse Quotidian Grace from attending Monday's retreat for the General Council of the presbytery featuring Semi-Famous Church Consultant in yet another visioning exercise.

I have playoff tickets for the Astros vs. Cardinals game tomorrow night and she couldn't come with me if she goes to the retreat tomorrow as scheduled. I've been an Astros fan all my life. After 44 years of having the team break my heart it looks like they could earn a pennant in my home town tomorrow night and I want her to be with me.

She promises to join the retreat Tuesday and Wednesday if you will please excuse her. Pastor Steve has already given her absolution for skipping the meetings on Monday. So what do you say, Heavenly Father? Please?

Very Truly Yours,
El Jefe

Two headed snake caption winner

Two heads: not necessarily better than one.

Congratulations to Revmom/Cheesehead. Email me your address and your jalapeno wine is on the way.


Double header
Thanks to Jody Too, fellow Astros fan, for this one!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Ruach at the Game?

From temple to cathedral to church, baseball fever is gripping religious leaders all over Houston, according to the Religion Section of the Houston Chronicle.

Rabbi Ranon Teller says he sees a spirit in the team that he identifies as the Hebrew word "ruach".

Another rabbi jokes that God is a baseball fan because Genesis begins "in the big inning."

Hindu fan Vijay Narasiman points out that "one of the goals of religion--and definitely Hinduism--is to bring people together" as they rally behind their team.

Rev. Gene Pemberton (Assembly of God) is the Astros team chaplain. He says that God doesn't care who wins a baseball game.

But maybe He can be persuaded? Rev. Chris Seay agreed with Pemberton but then observed "But if we pray more than the Cardinals fans pray, I personally think the Astros have a chance of winning."

Oh dear--the devil made him do it!

The full story is here.

Friday, October 14, 2005

RevGals Friday Five Meme

Songbird posted the Friday five questions for members of the RevGalBlogPals webring again today. Thanks, Songbird--here are my responses.

1) The weather in your location:

Lovely warmish fall weather--high 86 low 62 partly cloudy. October is one of Houston's best months!

2) Where you are typing this:

On my kitchen table with my beloved Mac iBook.

3) Where you might like to be sitting if you could be anywhere:

Home is really just about perfect!

4) A chore you have to do this weekend:

Take attendance in Sunday School so the SS superintendant can attend the Bible in 90 Days class.

5) Something delightful you will do or would like to do this weekend:

I've got 4 delightful events to look forward to--

Saturday's luncheon celebrating the 20th anniversary of the chartering of our church;

Saturday's playoff game between the Astros and the Cardinals which will feature the great Roger Clemens pitching for the 'Stros;

the wedding Saturday night of a dear friend from church who has been widowed for many years and is now marrying another church member (they met in Stephens Minister training!);

and Sunday's playoff game between the Astros and the Cardinals.

My cup runneth over !

Gentle readers, how would you answer the Friday Five?

P.S. Please check the post below for this week's reptile photo caption contest. Enter early and often!

Go Astros!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Eve's Revenge Department, Continued

Two-headed rattlesnake found in San Angelo, Texas this week.
Hat tip: Houston Chronicle.

I've got one more bottle of jalapeno wine. Captions, anyone?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Oprah's Call

Seldom do you hear a public figure from any walk of life state that they are doing something because "God told me this is what I am supposed to do." Yesterday I heard Oprah Winfrey make this statement as she explained why she is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the FBI's ten most wanted child molesters.

I read about her offer a few days ago, so I made a point of watching the show yesterday where she paid the first reward. Two of the men on the list have been apprehended since she aired a show publicizing their pictures and information about them to the public. She posted their pictures and information on her website as "Oprah's Child Predator Watchlist. Oprah was molested as a child for several years, so understandably, she has very personal reasons for wanting to stop child predators.

The story the two women told about reporting the suspected child predator after seeing the first Oprah show on the subject was hair-raising. The man lived in an apartment above one of them and her family--which included 3 young children. He had insinuated himself into their lives, despite the feelings of unease that both this woman and her husband had. When she saw his picture among the "most wanted" she immediately recognized him and called the FBI within the hour. He is now in jail awaiting trial on charges of sexual abuse of a child. You won't be surprised to know he has been previously convicted on similar charges.

I recently read a review of a book called The Gospel According to Oprah, thinking that it might be a good subject for a women's study group. The book is published by the PCUSA-related Westminster John Knox press. But the review was not inspiring, so I passed on ordering it. Oprah often seems "New Age-y". I've heard her say things like "listen to what the universe is trying to tell you", for example. Maybe that's a way to avoid controversy by being vague about defining the foundation of your faith. That also made me skeptical about the appropriateness of the book for a church study group and surprised to hear her make a forthright admission of faith in God.

In my previous life as an assistant district attorney many years ago, I prosecuted child abuse cases in an era when there was little attention given to the problem. I know how much law enforcement must appreciate Oprah's support of their efforts to apprehend these dangerous criminals before more children are hurt.

Good for you, Oprah--both for responding to God's call and for acknowledging it publicly. It's no wonder that you are one of the most respected and loved public figures in the country. Perhaps someone will write a better book about you and your faith that includes the "Help Save Our Children" campaign.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Reading Where God Was Born

This week I found a wonderful companion book for my Bible in 90 Days reading. We are now through all of the Old Testament's historical narrative, having completed Nehemiah. At the same time I was reading Kings, Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, I read Where God Was Born by Bruce Feiler.

Feiler, the author of Walking the Bible and Abraham, continues his personal quest to visit the important sites of the second half of the Hebrew Bible. I read both of these books and really enjoyed them as well.

In Where God Was Born, Feiler recounts some harrowing experiences as he, an American Jew, visits not only Jerusalem but areas of Iran and Iraq. The book is more than a travelogue. It is part of Feiler's search for the roots of his faith. At each location he takes out his Bible and re-reads the section that is pertinent to the place he is visiting.

In Israel he explores a scary underground tunnel system that may explain how King David conquered Jerusalem and visits the spot where Goliath was slain. In Iraq, he locates the sites traditionally thought to be the Garden of Eden and the birthplace of Abraham. Risking life and limb in this tumultuous area, Feiler also makes a trip to the rivers of Babylon and reflects on the exile of the Jews. He brings his wife along to Iran, another perilous journey, where they find the burial place of Queen Esther.

It really helped my reading of these scriptures to travel vicariously with Feiler as he identifies these ancient sites by their modern, more familiar names. For example, I didn't realize Ninevah was near Mosul--which is an area much in today's news.

Feiler's stated purpose in writing this book is to discover the shared origins of the three Abrahamic faiths. In doing so, he lifts up the importance of the Hebrew Bible for today's world. As a Jew, he does not make much reference to the New Testament.

One criticism I have of the book is that the author began his journey determined to discover how the roots of these 3 religions reveal a path to peaceful coexistence. Although that is a noble goal, I was not persuaded that he succeeded. His conclusion that the "only force strong enough to take on religious extremism is religious moderation" is somewhat forced. Feiler predicates that statement on the idea that Biblical literacy will lead to religious moderation--may it be so, but unfortunately I think some of the most Biblically literate are also some of the most extreme in their views. The Hebrew Bible is full of extremes and very hard teachings that encourage those interpretations. So is the Koran. So, too, can be the New Testament.

Otherwise, I heartily recommend this book as an adjunct to Bible in 90 Days or any study of the second half of the Old Testament. It takes the armchair traveler on a journey that is impossible for most of us today, given the realities of the political and religious situation in the Middle East. Bruce Feiler is an informative and inspirational guide.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Being Part of Baseball History: Go 'Stros!

I'm still limp from the unexpected double-header yesterday. Yes, El Jefe and I were at the Astros-Braves playoff game which lasted 18 innings until a home-run by Astro Chris Burke ended the marathon after nearly 6 hours of play.

Whew! Talk about fanny-fatigue! The fans stood through almost every Astro at-bat from the 7th inning on. We were up and down so often that my knees started to ache. Talk about emotion--when the crowd saw the old warrior Roger Clemens make his way from the dugout to the bullpen, they erupted with cheers. Talk about flexibility--players were moved around the field like chess pieces. By the end of the game two Astros catchers played first base. Talk about gut-wrenching--a terrible disappointment for the Braves, who played a great game.

It was so exciting to be part of the crowd at the game. Almost all of the sold-out crowd hung in through all 18 innings and jumped up and down as one when the home run flew into the stands.

An event like this fosters a real sense of community both in the ballpark and around town. We can sure use this excitement in Houston right now as we still are dealing with the aftermath of Rita and Katrina. On our way to the game we passed a large digital sign on the highway giving the hours and location where applications for FEMA assistance were being received. That sign is updated daily.

The first pitch of the game Saturday was made by Houston Mayor Bill White in recognition of his fine work during both hurricane emergencies. Yesterday's first pitch was made by Harris County Judge Bill Eckels for the same reason. The crowd loudly cheered both men: one a Democrat (the mayor) and one a Republican (the judge). That feeling of unity is one of the best things a sports team brings to its community--regardless of the outcome of the game.

Go 'Stros!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Divine Design

Hey RevGalPals: looking for a way to supplement your income? Or maybe it's time to consider a change in the direction of your ministry? Here's an idea straight from yesterday's Wall Street Journal--become a faith-based interior designer. Help people create "sacred spaces" in their homes. (I didn't link the story because you have to be a subscriber to the WSJ to access it online.)

The story ("Your Bedroom's Divine", by Troy McMullen), reports that some interior designers have begun to market themselves as experts in merging home decor with religion. Their designs can be subtle, such as using colors from favorite scriptural passages, or including Biblically themed plants or wallpapers. Or the designs can be more obvious such as the installation of large crosses, altars or prayer closets in the home.

So, you may ask, what colors are Biblical? There's sky blue (doh!), amber and crimson (from Jeremiah). What is a Biblically themed plant? Most homes can't accomodate bullrushes, so why not try an amaranthus? It has red, yellow and green and thus symbolizes Joseph's coat of many colors. Looking for spiritually based wallpapers? There are two companies cited in the article that manufacture spiritual wallpapers and borders. Example: "Give us this day our daily bread" is printed on the paper along with pictures of the communion elements of grapes, cheese and bread. Perfect for that new kitchen remodeling!

Prayer closets are apparently popular and the WSJ says that the cost averages from $300 to $900. They are installed in under-the-stairs closets, outdoors sheds, or as niches in a den or living room. Usually they include candles, pillows or kneelers, and maybe a rock water sculpture for that babbling brook effect. ( Note to self: no babbling water for us--El Jefe always says that it reminds him he needs to go to the bathroom is very distracting, not soothing.)

How to get started in your new ministry? The WSJ article advises volunteering in local churches to reorganize furniture or arrange flowers for special events in order to get referrals. Hmmm, that reminds me. Our Youth Committee found an interior designer volunteer to help them rearrange the Youth Lounge and make plans for refurbishing it. Clearly we're on the cutting edge of this new trend.

But if you think that interior decoration is not your strength, here is another idea for a little supplemental income--home blessings. Home blessings average $100 for a simple ceremony that involves a clergy member reciting prayers, lighting candles and burning incense to chase away negative energy from the home. Who needs Feng Shui? Lucky Revgals with strong color sense could combine their skills and offer a full-service ministry--design and blessing. One stop shopping!

Spiritual decorators charge $85 to $125 an hour, according to the American Society of Interior Designers. So what are you waiting for? Supplement your income and expand your ministry by becoming one. Operators are standing by to take your call....

And the Winner is...

Eve's Revenge

Congratulations to purechristianithink! Your prize is on the way. As St. Paul said, "take a little wine for your stomach's sake". Since this is jalapeno wine, chase it with some Pepto!

Thanks to everyone who entered the caption contest--it was hard to choose.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Surprise Snoopy Quiz Result

You are Woodstock!

Which Snoopy character are you?
Brought to you by quizilla.

Note to those who entered the caption contest on yesterday's post. I'm leaving the contest open until tomorrow morning and then I will announce the winner. Get those entries in!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What the ? Contest


This is a picture of the python that burst after trying to swallow a six foot long alligator. It needs a caption to go with it. Submit your entry through the comments. The winning entry will receive a bottle of Texas jalapeno wine. You'll need it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Halloween Ain't What It Used To Be

It's now October and everywhere you see the signs of the season...Halloween.

A few years ago the children at our church school were allowed to wear their Halloween costumes on a designated day just before October 31 and "trick or treat" by going by the staff offices where we gave them pre-approved treats. Not too much sugar!

Gradually pressure from parents and a more subtle pressure from the many fundamentalist Christians in our area caused the school to restrict the type of costumes the children could wear. No more witches, wizards, devils, ghosts, or vampires were allowed. Apparently this did not satisfy those who fretted about what children wore on the holiday. Next the children were told they could not wear costumes of a superhero (Superman, Spiderman, Ninja Turtles, Supergirl, Batman etc) either. I assume Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings characters would be persona non grata as well.

Enforcement of these decrees being difficult, the school tried another tack. Instead of Halloween characters, the children may come to school dressed as "Community Helpers." That means you can come as a policeman, fireman, doctor, nurse, or teacher. And no--Superman and Spiderman are not "community helpers."

The old Halloween carnivals of my youth and my children's childhood are now called "Fall Festivals". We're having one thousand pumpkins delivered to the school grounds in a couple of weeks for a Pumpkin Patch--which is a fundraiser. Will we have to promise if we buy them we won't make jack-o-lanterns out of them since jack-o-lanterns are supposed to scare off the ghosts, demons and other scary figures of Halloween?

I loved Halloween. We always decorated extensively for it and kept the decorations up all of October when Portia and Babs were little. We told ghost stories and sang little Halloween songs about witches and made cookies and talked endlessly about what they would be for Halloween. Portia was usually some sort of witch. Babs was usually some sort of princess. I made their costumes and had a ball doing it. We got sick on candy corn and Halloween colored M&M's. Portia and Babs hoarded and traded their treats for at least a month afterwards.

The kids in our neighborhood still dress up like witches, warlocks, Harry Potter, vampires, ghosts and (of course!) princesses when they come around to trick-or-treat. They don't come to ring my doorbell wearing "Community Helpers" outfits. The real appeal of Halloween is that the children get to pretend they are powerful and in charge. They enjoy the fantasy--and they know it is a fantasy.

My ancestors, in the famous quip of Disraeli, were painting themselves blue and howling at the moon in the ancient forests of Scotland and Germany in the time of Christ. Maybe that's why I always loved Halloween. Is it some kind of ancestral urge that I have to dress up in my long black cape and dress to hand out the Halloween treats?

And by the way, at my house the treats are not dried fruit, nuts, or other nutritional alternatives. No, no, no--Portia and Babs would never allow that. Our treats are always chocolate. Another reason I love Halloween.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

What Katrina Can Teach Us

Here is a great sermon on the subject from Max Lucado, popular Methodist preacher and writer in San Antonio. Thanks to my brother, W, for passing it on.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Bible in 90 Days--Almost Halfway through OT

When we finish this week's reading (Chronicles to Nehemiah), we'll be about halfway through the Old Testament. Reading Kings and Chronicles back-to-back is quite interesting. I find Kings to be a "just the facts, m'am" kind of account. You know: the author tells which kings "do evil in the sight of the Lord" and gets punished and which are righteous. It's all very cut and dried.

Chronicles is variously interpreted as the "priestly side of the story" (and there sure are a lot of priestly geneologies) or the "theological interpretation" of the same history. It seems to concentrate more on the retribution the Lord sends down on the apostate kings than on the many bloody battles recounted in Kings.

What are we to make of these books? I overheard a discussion in one of our Sunday School small groups. The group was trying to apply their reading to the recent hurricanes, both Katrina and Rita, and tried to figure out if the hurricanes were some kind of judgment of God like in the Old Testament. After a few minutes of discussion I was relieved when the group leader observed that as Presbyterians in the reformed tradition, we interpret the whole of scripture, not just isolated books or verses, and that this discussion should be revisited when all of the Bible had been read. Everyone seemed quite satisfied with that idea and they went on to the next subject.

It's that type of "proof-texting" (using verses without context to prove your point) that leads to statements like those from a couple of Houston preachers just after Hurricane Rita passed that the Lord was unhappy with Louisiana because of its gambling casinos. That's why I think the Bible in 90 Days program is ultimately such a wonderful idea--by reading ALL of scripture you gain a panoramic view of the Bible rather than a narrow and constricted one.

So far we are doing pretty well keeping people committed to their reading. We started with 122 people registered for the course and I estimate that we have 85 to 90 still attending their group meetings and reading. As you would expect, the attrition rate is lower in the smaller groups and higher in the larger groups.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Mourning the Orange Angels

These are the Tiffany glass angels under the copper-covered dome of the First Presbyterian Church in Orange, Texas as they were BEFORE Hurricane Rita. I took this picture in August when I attended a presbytery meeting at the church. As I wrote at the time, my family has a long-time connection with this church so I have a sentimental attachment to it.

Initial reports after Rita were that the magnificent Tiffany glass windows of the church survived the storm. And that was true. But when the pastor and members of the church were able to get into the church about a week afterwards they found that the angels pictured above were damaged. The copper covering the dome had been ripped half-way off by the winds. Although the damage may be repaired, they will never look the same again.

To me this is symbolic of all the havoc left in the wake of this storm, which hasn't had the national press' attention since it missed the major metropolitan area of Houston and "only" devastated east Texas and southwestern parishes of Louisiana. Yet there are still thousands of people unable to return to their homes in Orange, Port Arthur and Beaumont (the "Golden Triangle") and most businesses, including the important oil and gas refineries of the area, were badly damaged.

First Presbyterian Church of Orange was constructed with hurricanes in mind. The sanctuary where most of the magnificent windows are is on the SECOND floor of the original church building so that a storm surge could pass underneath it. It has survived a number of powerful storms since the early 1900's when it was finished. But the angels in the dome didn't make it through Rita unscathed. And neither did the people of the church, the area it serves or the larger region where it is located.

Hearing the news of this damage yesterday saddened me in a way that following all the news accounts of Katrina and Rita did not because now I felt a sense of personal loss. How much more devastating are the losses of home and business to those in the paths of Rita and Katrina? It's that personal connection to a tragedy that gives you an empathy that is otherwise only second-hand.

I'm sure glad September 2005 is over. A monumentally monstrous month that I hope never to see repeated in my lifetime. Please God.