Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cover 2 Cover--It is Finished

Yesterday I finished reading the entire Bible, cover to cover, in 90 Days. Today I feel a bit bereft after forming the habit of reading 12 pages a day. What to do? Start all over again?

Here are some of the plans others in the program have shared for their future reading. One is going to start again, using Eugene Peterson's The Message, and reading 12 pages every day. One couple plans to begin reading again but at a slower pace--maybe 3 pages a day in the same NIV Bible so that it takes a year to finish.

Right now I don't think that I want to start from Genesis again. On the other hand, I feel the need to continue the discipline of reading. So I think that what I will do is go back to the Epistles and read them through using my Access Study Bible. The reading I just finished raised some questions about how to distinguish between "false teachings" that should be resisted and "useless controversies" that should be ignored. Then I think that I will go back to the prophets, starting with Isaiah and do the same thing.

Rather than set a goal of reading a certain number of pages a day, I'm going to set a goal of spending at least 30 minutes each day in this reading. That way I can stop at a logical place and resume the next day. If that doesn't work well, then I'll set myself a page goal again.

They say you can't read the entire Bible and not be changed, and I do feel changed. I'm still experiencing that change and am not ready to try to define it other than to say that the habit of reading scripture every day has become too important to me to break.

As we begin winding up our groups this next week, I am collecting responses to the experience from some of those who participated and I will share those here when we're all done.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ode to Cyber Monday

The Monday after Thanksgiving is known as Cyber Monday because today more online shopping orders are placed than any other day of the year. In celebration of the arrival of the last of my Christmas online orders today, I offer this original tribute.

Avoid the Malls
:: to the tune of "Deck the Halls"::

Thank you, God, for online shopping!
Saving me from dread mall-hopping,
Finding offers of free shipping,
In pajamas, coffee sipping,

Praises be for cyber-looking,
Books and clothes and things for cooking,
Checking prices, finding sales there,
Home accessories and footwear,

As my cursor surfs for presents,
The stress of Christmas giving lessens,
See the Fed-Ex man deliver
Stacks of presents to the giver,

~exits giggling~

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Light Blazes in Cyber-Space, Too!

Today is the first day in Advent. If you don't yet have your copy of A Light Blazes in the Darkness (the book of advent devotions written by the RevGalBlogPals webring, see my sidebar for details), you won't have to miss today's reading.

Click on the "A Light Blazes in the Darkness" link on my sidebar and you can read each day's devotion. The readings continue through Epiphany.

We've now made enough money on the sales of the book to cover our costs. Our profits will be donated to agencies assisting hurricane victims in the US Gulf Coast area. You can order your copy from Lulu or

Friday, November 25, 2005

Remember the Stranger

Songbird's Friday Five today were all about Thanksgiving.

1. Did you cook or bake anything for Thanksgiving?
See apple pie at right--along with pumpkin and pecan pies behind it.

2. How was it received?
All the pies were devoured and then we sent some guests home with extra slices.

3. Anything left over?
Yes, thank heavens. We have leftover turkey (both roast and smoked), dressing, sweet potato casserole, green beans with almonds, rolls, cranberry sauce, spinach salad and the afore-mentioned pies.

4. Best use of Thanksgiving leftovers?
We put sliced smoked turkey on top of the spinach salad for lunch.

5. And the worst?
I never did like turkey enchiladas. Turkey and chili sauce don't mix in my humble opinion.

I need to add a reminder: remember the strangers in your life during the holidays.

My nephew is in the navy, training as a surgeon. He is stationed in San Diego, but for the past two months has been sent to a hospital in Sacramento. He wasn't eligible to take leave for Thanksgiving this year so wasn't able to return to Sacramento or come home to Houston.

We called him during our big family dinner and were quite distressed to learn that he had no invitations to join anyone for Thanksgiving so spent it alone. Apparently no one running the program he is participating in thought to ask him if he had plans for the day. It's easy to overlook someone who is temporarily in the area and forget that they might welcome an invitation. We all resolved to be more aware of this in the future ourselves.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Gospel Birthday Meme

Wednesdays are my day to write a "highlights" post for the RevGalBlogPals blog. Today two of the bloggers were posting a "Gospel birthday meme". It goes like this: take the month and year of your birthday and look up the corresponding chapter and verse in each Gospel.

Here's mine--January 28th is the birthday.

Matthew--no 28th verse in the first chapter.
Mark --" News about him quickly spread all over the whole region of Galilee."
Luke -- "The angel went to her and said, ' Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Now we're talking!
John -- "This all happened at Bethany, on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing."

Try it yourself--what are your results?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Doing the Turkey Trot

According to the local newspaper, today is the busiest shopping day at the grocery stores all year. I was warned that there would be no canned green beans, pumpkin, cream of mushroom soup, or fried onions. And bottled turkey gravy? No way, no how, no where.

This is not a pleasant thought. What did they expect me to do? Shop several days in advance for Thanksgiving? Apparently so. I put the paper away impatiently and resolved that I would not allow myself to be stressed by this alarmist talk.

Later in the morning, though, the alarmist talk surfaced again as I visited with some of the women in our quilting group. One of them reported shopping at a local grocery store yesterday and said "it was slammed--there were people everywhere and lots of empty shelves." That sounds like something that happens just before a hurricane--not just before a holiday.

When I went to the store a couple of hours later, it was crowded but well stocked. I don't doubt that my friend who found empty shelves told the truth, but I guess the store managed to restock itself quickly.

There were an unusual number of elderly men in that store alone, pushing carts and looking lost and confused. I noticed that most of them were trying to work with a grocery list but weren't familiar with how to find the items on the list in the store. Probably a wife, daughter or daughter-in-law had sent them out to pick up things for the big Thanksgiving dinner.

The alarmist talk was just that. I found everything on my list--including the ingredients for our traditional after-Thanksgiving Day chili. Take THAT alarmist newspaper reporters!

Portia, Portia's boyfriend, and Babs arrive tomorrow from Austin. They'll be put to work helping me get ready. They're even planning to bake pies for me: pecan, pumpkin and dutch apple. I must have done something right! I don't have an exact count for dinner yet--somewhere between 15 and 20 was the last guess. But not to worry. You can't have too many pies on Thanksgiving, can you?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Let my Sudafed Go!

Over on the RevGalPals blog, there is a comment thread on the relatively new laws restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine -- a common ingredient in over-the-counter sinus and cold medications. Last week I had to get some Sudafed for clogged sinuses and found myself at the pharmacy counter turning over my driver's license and then having to sign for one package of pills. The pharmacy staff was very apologetic and unhappy about having to do this. They told me that many people didn't purchase when faced with these requirements, because they are wary of identity theft and not comfortable with being treated like a criminal when trying to buy something that just a few months ago they could pick up off an open shelf and pay for without further ado.

It got me thinking about the old adage learned in law school: hard facts made bad law. The hard fact here is that drug dealers have been manufacturing crystal meth using over-the-counter cold medications containing pseudoephedrine. The use of crystal meth is very dangerous and was becoming a problem in many states. In our American tradition of trying to legislate away all problems in society, many states passed laws that restrict the sale of these products.

Sounds like a good idea? Well, it certainly has made the purchase of over-the-counter decongestants difficult. And presumably for those who want to purchase them in order to make illegal drugs. It's not likely to do anything more than create a brief lull in the manufacture of meth because a substitute for that ingredient will be found and when it is, manufacturing and distribution will resume. Alas, the entreprenurial urge is not limited to those who direct it to lawful, community-benefiting purposes. Making it difficult to manufacture will not reduce the demand for it, either, by those who were buying it. It just makes it more expensive.

So the legislatures respond by getting out a cannon to shoot a canary. The predictable result is that the drug manufacturers have developed new products using a substitute for ephedrine that is not regulated. I asked the pharmacist if the new decongestants worked as well as the old ones. He said that everyone is different, and they would probably work for some people and not for others. So the law-abiding public finds it more difficult to purchase a medically safe and effective drug (when used for the purpose for which it is intended).

Boxes and boxes of these pills are needed to manufacture even a small amount of crystal meth. So why not use common sense? Educate the staff at the drugstore about the issue. If someone comes in and cleans the shelves of Sudafed or Claritin-D, get their ID when they pay --or go out and get their license plate number as they leave and report the sale to the police. Let their drug task force sort it out. Give more money to the local police and constables so they can investigate and arrest those involved instead of trying to turn pharmacy and drugstore staff into crime prevention personnel.

Here in Houston it's a very lucky person who doesn't suffer from allergies and clogged sinuses at least part of the year. On behalf of all the good citizens who are dismayed by this--let my Sudafed go! Hard facts do make bad law.

Preview of the Peaceable Kingdom

This is a picture of a group of animals rescued from Hurricane Katrina. I know a lot of you are animal-lovers and would enjoy this. It was sent to me by a friend who received it from her friend who is a Louisiana resident and was involved in rescuing animals left stranded and homeless in her area.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Lulu Delivers and Friday Five Meme

Yippee! My replacement order from Lulu arrived--so now I have a set of A Light Blazes in the Darkness with PERFECT covers. And just in time, too. Now I have good ones to give to everyone at our staff meeting next week so they will have them in time for Advent. The remainder I will take to church and re-sell to anyone interested.

It's Friday, friends, and that means it's time for the RevGal's Friday Five meme, courtesy of Songbird. Today's theme is Kiddie Lit, in honor of the opening today of the newest Harry Potter movie.

1. Earliest book you remember (read to you or by you):
Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne

2. Picture Book you would like to climb into:
Anything illustrated by Tomie De Paola

3. Favorite series of books (then or now):
The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

4. Character you would most like to meet:
Jo in Little Women. We have the same real first name: Josephine.
That fascinated me, because NO ONE else ever had that name.

5. Last childhood book you re-read (for yourself or to someone):
The Clown of God by Tomie De Paola

I provided links to amazon in case this gives anyone a Christmas gift idea.

How would you answer the Kiddie Lit meme?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

80% Done: Bible in 90 Days Update

Our study groups are reading the last part of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the beginning of Acts of the Apostles this week. This makes for a real immersion into the Gospel story and the teaching of Jesus. One of the things we have all noticed as we read our 12 pages a day is that we have the ability to make the connections between all of the books of the Bible because we have read them all recently enough to keep some of what we read in mind.

Every few pages I ask myself, "Did Jesus really say that? I don't remember it." Or "what can that mean?" Others are troubled by some of the hard sayings of Jesus that they are encountering. " The parables aren't clear to me," said one. "Often the one who makes a bad choice in the parable meets with no mercy, or worse yet, destruction. As a teaching device, that works. But where is the mercy Jesus speaks of in the next breath?"

Most agree that reading the New Testament has a very different "feel" after finishing the Old Testament first. Several have told me that they feel a call to return to study of the OT when they are finished with BIND. So we're planning to offer a couple of OT Bible study classes.

The Reformed understanding of interpretation of scripture is that scripture must be read in the context of all of scripture--not verses in isolation. This course has really reinforced the importance of that teaching to me. We are all tempted to focus on the passages that are agreeable to us and disregard or ignore the passages that challenge our assumptions and trouble our spirits.

This afternoon I attended the launch of the newly published BIND curriculum by Zondervan. I came back with a copy of the new starter kit to use for our next class. As I mentioned before, we are using a "Beta" test version this fall so I've been eager to see the finished product. Yes, we'll offer it after the New Year since I've had folks ask me when we were going to do it again.

If you are interested in reading more about the newly published curriculum, click on Bible in 90 Days which is on my blogroll. You can purchase at a discount through that site which is sponsored by the Bible in 90 Days non-profit organization.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Anti- Divestment Overture From New Covenant Passes

Yesterday was spent at an all-day meeting of New Covenant Presbytery near Galveston. It had its ups and downs. Among the ups were the chance to visit with old friends from a previous church and lead a small group discussion of what churches need from presbytery to help them grow disciples. Among the downs were the length of the meeting because the agenda was not well managed.

Please, people, refrain from the following:

~reading material previously distributed
~allowing acknowledgments to get too long
~giving EVERYONE their moment in the sun with the microphone
~pulling too many things from the omnibus motion
~giving a sermon instead of a budget report
~delaying the vote on the issues people came to attend until the end of the day

Okay. I feel better now that I've vented. Thanks for listening.

The next part of this post is for those of you PCUSA types interested in denominational issues--although this issue has also been raised in several other denominations. For me, it was a very big up.

The most significant piece of business yesterday was the endorsing of an overture (similar to a motion for you non PCUSA-types) to our General Assembly that would reverse the very controversial divestment policy that it passed in 2004. This overture ("Issues Affecting Israelis and Palestinians and the 216th General Assembly Divestment Action") passed by an overwhelming vote.

The text of the overture for those of you who are interested is available here as a pdf file--see pages 16-19. The goal is to turn the denomination from a punitive approach against the Israelis to seeking investments in the area that would either increase job opportunities for both Israelis and Palestinians, develop more social and health care infrastructures, rebuild homes, businesses destroyed by conflict and fund collaborative ventures between the two groups.

This is a well-researched and well-documented overture. We hope other presbyteries will join in endorsing it so that it will have a lot of support at the 2006 General Assembly.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Man of the House

I got this joke too late for St. Casserole's jokefest last week, but since all my girlfriends loved it, I just had to share....

The husband had just finished reading the book, 'MAN OF THE HOUSE'.

He stormed into the kitchen and walked directly up to his wife, pointing
a finger in her face, said, "From now on, I want you to know that I am
the man of this house, and my word is law! I want you to prepare me a
gourmet meal tonight, and when I'm finished eating my meal, I expect a
scrumptious dessert afterward. Then, after dinner, you are going to draw
me my bath so I can relax. And when I'm finished with my bath, guess
who's going to dress me and comb my hair?"

His wife replied, "The Funeral Director would be my guess."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Hurricanes That Won't Go Away

You don't hear much from the media anymore about the areas devastated by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma outside of those areas, except for the endless finger-pointing and arguing about rebuilding New Orleans. This last week I was reminded several times that the continuing problems for the people affected extend beyond those directly hit by those hurricanes.

Monday afternoon--I was paired with an educator from Beaumont, Texas for a "word/share/prayer" exercise during the educator's retreat at our presbytery. When it came time to share our prayer concerns I asked her about the affect of Rita on her church and her own life. As she began to talk she described a congregation scattered to the four winds, a pastor still trying to locate his flock, concerns for the safety of several elderly members who lived in areas that are STILL hard to access, no phone service, a landscape transformed by fallen trees and damaged homes and businesses--you get the idea.

Tuesday noon--I ate lunch at the retreat with several church professionals from Orange and Beaumont who talked about efforts to clean up their church buildings and carry on their ministry in the area. "We're still pretty fragile emotionally" was the consensus of this group.

Thursday--A set of pictures from El Jefe's cousin who lives in the Miami area was emailed to us. It showed a lot of damage on his property from Hurricane Wilma. Wilma? Does anyone outside of Florida remember Wilma? In any other year, you'd still be hearing about it.

Saturday morning--A small but mighty contingent from our church set forth on a day trip to Beaumont to help clean up the church served by the educator that I met on Monday.

Saturday afternoon--The game between Rice and Tulane became a "homecoming" for Tulane alums and the 100 Tulane students now attending Rice. These folks are working towards the re-opening of the school in New Orleans in January. Rice won the ball game, however.

Sunday morning--There was an announcement that the "small but mighty" contingent wanted to recruit a larger group of about 30 folks who would go to Beaumont to replace the roof on the house of the pastor at this same church.

We discussed the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on our congregations at the retreat. Although the metro Houston area was spared direct impact, we are dealing with a lot of the "spill-over" effects created by the evacuees and the efforts to assist them --which are still going on. We're not back to business as usual. Our people are showing the need for special spiritual care and nurture.

I think of St. Cassarole and all she and her congregation have been through. Take what I am seeing here and multiply it by God only knows how many times over for those who did loose their homes, their offices, their churches, their communities, and even the lives of relatives, friends and pets. Their world is turned upside down. Let's keep praying and working.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Thanks, Granddaddy

A few years ago a friend of my daughter Babs made this poster for a school project. The teacher of the government classes at our high school did this project every year. These posters were displayed like yard signs on Veterans' Day on the lawn in front of the school. Students were required to make a poster about a family member who had served in one of the world wars, Korea, or Viet Nam wars. They had to include a picture, name, armed service, and the job of their relative. They also had to write a brief paper about that person's service.

Shelia "adopted" my father, pictured above, as her veteran for the project. Like many of the kids in the high school, her parents were born in India and she had no family member who was an American veteran. Shelia was a frequent visitor in our home, so she came over and interviewed me about my father and I scanned the picture for her. Too bad he is in civilian clothes here!

Seeing all those posters on the lawn of the school is a very moving experience--each one represents a different family who lives in our area. It made me think about the WWII veterans in my family and their different experiences in the service.

My father served in the Navy in Key West, chasing German subs, and then in the North China Sea for about 6 years. After WWII he married my mother, who he met while in officer training in Chicago, and went home to Texas to become a businessman. Like many other baby boomers, I am the product of a marriage produced by the war.

My father-in-law served in the Army Air Force. He never went overseas because of health problems, which saved his life as his unit suffered terrible casualties as the first group sent to make bombing runs over Germany. Likewise my mother's brother, Tom, who was badly injured in an army training accident in the UK before D-Day escaped the fate of most of his unit on D-Day.

My uncle Wendell also served in the Navy, patrolling the Caribbean and South America. My uncle Doug, also a Naval officer, served in Asia. Each returned to civilian life, part of a generation now called "the greatest generation." Each volunteered to serve the country in a time of peril. None looked for reward or honor for the years of their young lives that were spent in the effort. They became insurance agents, bankers, attorneys, truckers, and florists. They built their families and their country in the '50's and '60's.

One did not return. My uncle Graham, an army pilot, was shot down by the Germans over Italy in the waning days of the war and perished. My grandmother told me that the night he died she had a dream in which he appeared and assured her that he was all right. She said that she knew immediately that he had been killed in action. A couple of days later two officers appeared at her door to give her the news. His name lives on in my brother and his son.

Bill, Wendell, Doug, Tom and Graham are all gone now. My father-in-law Claude is the sole survivor of his generation of our family. He will be 90 in April. Although his memory is impaired, he remembers the time he spent in service and can still talk about it with pride. It was the most important time of his life in many ways. Like many young men from small towns his service exposed him to different people and other parts of the country. For all men of this generation, their service in WWII was a common bond.

The last of the greatest generation will soon pass away from us. Veteran's Day began to honor those who died in WWI in Europe. Sadly, since then there have been more wars and more dead and more veterans. I don't believe we will ever be free of war in this world because of the sinful nature of mankind. As this generation passes, let us remember these words from the famous WWI poem, In Flanders Fields:

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

-- by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian army.

Thanks be to God for men like Bill, Tom, Graham, Wendell, Doug and Claude!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Advent Tid-bits including the book

Today in our staff meeting, the senior pastor suggested that when we finish the Bible in 90 Days study (which we are doing as a group) that we use A Light Blazes in The Darkness through Advent and Christmas for our staff study. I think we will just use whichever devotion is the one for that day--read and discuss it. Isn't that great? Now I really NEED my replacement copies with the perfect covers...oh LULU!!!

And since Christmas music is already being played in the grocery stores and malls, check out this link and vote for your LEAST favorite Christmas song by clicking on the comments. If you don't want to vote--read the comments, they are a hoot!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Using Spiritual Gifts

Our retreat was very nice and really was a "retreat" at the conference center in the Piney Woods. Equal numbers of educators and youth ministers were there so there was good spectrum of experiences in ministry represented. Our retreat leader did a great job of mixing guided quiet time with group discussion and sharing. And PCIT, thank heavens, no ****ing church business OR "visioning" (sorry, Songbird!).

We did a "Spiritual Gifts" inventory. I hadn't done one since I was in elder training lo these many years ago. I can't remember what my gifts were then, but here are my top five today:

1. Administration
2. Teaching
3. Giving
4. Leadership
5. Wisdom

So...taking these all together I made the ADMINISTRATIVE decision to take LEADERSHIP in TEACHING the group the accumulated WISDOM of the RevGalBlogPals by GIVING each one a copy of "A Light Blazes in the Darkness" (the ones with the messed up covers but the perfect text inside--also showing my gift for STEWARDSHIP).

Everyone was very interested in the books and asked how more could be ordered. My inventory also said I was very task/scheduled oriented--so I went home happy that I fulfilled my goal of spreading the good word about our book to many church staff members in the presbytery.

Now I must go to prepare for discussion of Jeremiah (and what was he smoking?) for tonight and tomorrow's Bible in 90 Days groups.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Retreating Again

Yes, it's true. Once again I'm heading out to an overnight retreat at the conference center in the Piney Woods. This one is for church educators and youth ministers and will NOT involve "visioning". This one is for professional development.

I hope to get some new ideas for our educational ministry--wish me luck! Our brand new director of youth ministry is coming with me so he can start to get acquainted with others in our presbytery.

Blogging will resume later tomorrow. Happy Monday!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Updating the Golden Oldies

Here's a light-hearted look at how aging rock stars will revise their lyrics to relate to their equally aging fans--thanks to my brother for sending it along.

1. Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Walker--Herman's Hermits
2. How Can You Mend a Broken Hip?--The Bee Gees
3. Splish, Splash, I Was Havin' a Flash--Bobby Darin
4. I Get By With A Little Help From Depends--Ringo Starr
5. The First Time Ever I Forgot Your Face--Roberta Flack
6. I Can't See Clearly Now--Johnny Nash
7. Fifty Ways To Loose Your Liver--Paul Simon
8. Once, Twice, Three Times To the Bathroom--The Commodores
9. Heard it Through the Grape Nuts--Marvin Gaye
10. A Whiter Shade of Hair--Procol Harem
11. You Make Me Feel Like Napping--Leo Sayer
12. Papa's Got a Kidney Stone--The Temptations
13. Denture Queen--Abba
14. Knock 3 Times on the Ceiling If You Hear Me Fall--Tony Orlando
15. I Am Woman Hear Me Snore--Helen Reddy
16. On the Commode Again--Willie Nelson
17. It's My Procedure and I'll Cry If I Want To--Leslie Gore

I don't know why there are only 17, there should be 20, shouldn't there? Gentle readers, can you supply the missing 3 or more? Here's one: Brown Spots--The Rolling Stones.

Friday, November 04, 2005

80 Years to Organize a New Church ?

I'm still thinking about the discussion about mega-churches that I linked to yesterday.

Today I read that a presbytery (regional governing body in the PCUSA) in Pennsylvania organized its first new church in 80 years recently. 80 YEARS! That means that there hasn't been a new Presbyterian church organized in that area since 1925. I'm stunned by that realization. The population of Pennsylvania has grown since 1925. Why weren't there any new churches until now?

Obsession with counting heads can certainly lead to some of the problems observed by those commenting on the mega-church discussion. I agree that imitating cultural trends in an attempt to attract the unchurched and keep current membership risks diluting the gospel and providing entertainment instead of a worship experience.

But failing to develop any new congregations for more than 3/4 of a century reveals a profound failure to follow Christ's Great Commission. No wonder the PCUSA is in a steep membership decline. There's no need to worry about falling into a "mega-church" mentality when the real concern should be whether we are being faithful to the gospel at all.

I do think that it is very difficult--but not impossible--to maintain a functioning faith community when the membership exceeds several hundred people. There are large (but not mega) churches in our area that do that. Once a congregation has more than a couple of hundred people you start to have problems creating meaningful connections between them--but there are creative and skillful pastors, church officers and church staff who do it.

Growth of large churches is not our problem as a denomination. Our problem is the failure to organize, develop and support new churches, which typically have a congregation of 50 to 150. One of the large churches in our area developed The Barnabus Project to address this. The goal of the project is to organize a new Presbyterian church each year for the next 5 years. Most of those churches will be small to begin with and may not worship in the traditionally "frozen chosen" way. The first of these churches has called its organizing pastor. The organizing team for the next church is already working on two new churches for 2006. It's a small effort to turn back a national trend and we don't know yet whether it will be successful. But it's a start.

Prepare to Waste Hours

It's the Music Map. Don't say I didn't warn you. Hat tip -- Dave Barry. Too cool!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Interesting Mega-Church Discussion

"If the electricity goes out in a Mega-church's neighborhood on Sunday, does it make a sound?" asks Susan Arnold who blogs at Heart Soul Mind Strength. Read the Oct. 29 post first and then the Nov. 2 post--she doesn't have her posts archived so I can't link them separately for you. There is a lively discussion in the comments.

Her critique of the Mega-church as entertainment is persuasive and interests me because of my own attempt to understand the appeal of Lakewood Church in Houston--one of the most prominent Mega-churches in the country.

Hat tip to Douglas Groothius who pointed me to this discussion.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Of Prophecy and Soup

It's time for this week's Bible in 90 Days update. We're now on the downhill slide in the Old Testament. We finished Isaiah, Jeremiah and are heading through Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel before meeting the Minor Prophets. Most of us are looking forward to those shorter books. You feel that you are making quick progress when you finish more than one book a day!

But the books of the prophets are tough. Except for Isaiah and Jeremiah, who are echoed in the New Testament, they are unfamiliar to the average mainline Protestant. We don't know what to make of these weird guys who kept making dire prophecies to the powerful of their time and then suffered the consequences of "speaking truth to power" themselves. If the prophets were the people God liked the best--then God please don't like me too much.

Another problem is that when you read them in the order in which they are arranged in the Old Testament the chronology of events is all mixed up. For a history major like myself, this is maddening--I'm spending some time looking up timelines and trying to sort out the prophets accordingly so I can understand them better. And what to make of those visions? When you read straight through as we do in this course, they tend to get all mushed together. The dry bones rattle around the wheel within a wheel inside the firey furnace.

I think many of us in the course are interested doing some real study of these books, to understand them better and try to learn what God is telling us in them. I'm sure I won't figure that out in this type of quick survey course.

Tonight's dinner for our BIND classes featured six different soups and stews contributed by choir members. Our Marvelous Martha who coordinates the meals even presented everyone at the end of the evening with the recipe for the chicken soup that drew raves. How's that for hospitality? We are so blessed, so I am sharing it with you since it's now soup weather--


4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 (8oz) loaf processed cheese spread, cubed (e.g. Velveeta)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large saucepan; cover and cook over medium heat 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Melt butter over low heat, add flour stirring until smooth. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in milk; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Gradually stir in vegetable mixture, soy sauce, cheese and chicken. Cook until cheese melts and mixture is throughly heated.

You can top this with bacon bits if you like (most people do). Being the South Texas girl that I am I would be tempted to use the Velveeta cheese with jalapenos. But that's me....Bon Apetit!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Anysoldier Quilts

American soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to send regimental patches to the Ministers of the Cloth, the quilting group at our church. We just completed the second quilt with their patches -- pictured above with many of the group. The quilt is now on its way to, the organization which collects the patches and forwards them to us. You can check them out here. Anysoldier provides many different ways to support our troops overseas.

Below is a picture of the first quilt we made with these patches. It is being displayed at airshows around the country. Here it shown on display at the Miramar Air Show in San Diego from October 14-16.

Each square with a regimental patch is embroidered with the name, rank and regiment or division of the soldier who contributed it. The quilt is VERY heavy because of the patches and the embroidery. A local quilt shop contributed the machine quilting on the second quilt because we found that the machines made for home use just couldn't handle all that bulk very well.

The Ministers of the Cloth continue to make lap quilts for wounded soldiers (distributed through at hospitals in the Washington, DC area) as well as baptism quilts for infants baptised at our church.