Sunday, December 31, 2006

A New Year's Rhyme

(In the spirit of the New Yorker's annual New Year poem,
QG offers her own version for 2007.)

Strike the concertina's melancholy string,
Let the soul-stirring harp play like anything.
It's time for New Year's wishes round the ring,
To RevGals, Pals and Presbybloggers I sing.

Huzzah for the RevGals who now have gone "Inc",
With lots of new bloggers now in the link!
Songbird, Reverend Mommy and St. Cassarole,
Wills Mama and Jan and a Bear on a Floe
Join in sending their wishes for the best New Year yet
To Cheesehead, Rebel, Reverendmother, Mibi, and Net.

The year 2007 could be the calmest
For Wendy, Spooky Rach, Mindy and Psalmist.
Add Mary Beth, Zorra, Dogblogger and Miranda to my list
Of Texas Bloggers whose posts cannot be missed.
May this spring bring you bluebonnets and not too much haze,
May you soar through the minutes, the months and the days.

To Pink Shoes, to Gallycat, to Cathy and Lutheran Chick
May each day bring you more blessings than you can pick.
For Rev Abi, Preacher Mom, Singing Owl and Gannet Girl,
Some excitement, some adventure to keep you in a whirl.
Gord, Deb, Grandma Jean and Teri
Should find many ways to keep themselves merry.

The New Year brings with it a chance to sow the good seed
For Kathryn, John, Stacey, Bro Greg and Vicar of Hogsmeade.
We hope that the year 2007 will prove a good date
For Emily, Jane Ellen, Iris, and Anna Straight.
Now we have a chance to make a new start
And show the love of God lives in our heart.

What will the year bring for our fellow PresbyBloggers,
Who faithfully follow PresbyDoings as loggers?
Woe betide those who try to sneak a ruse
Past Will Spotts, Beau, Toby, Denis or Michael Kruse.
Hail Andy Moye, kairos, Presbyterian Gal, Russell Smith and Pastor Lance--
May the news from Louisville not prompt you to write rants!

In the spirit of comity, peace, light and grace
QG sends greetings all over the place--
To Moderator Joan Gray and even the Clerk.
May you find a way to make the PCUSA work
Together in the New Year better than in the last,
So the fussing and fighting can be in the past.

To the RevGals and Pals in our growing webring
May 2007 many blessings bring.
And to a broken world in need
Of healing from Jesse's seed,
May the New Year bring God's love and grace
To everyone in every place.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Not A Loyalist After All

Family Geneologist-in-Chief El Jefe was thrilled with son-in-law DK's recent interest in researching the family's geneology. With some guidance from him and using the ancient sampler that I have from my father's side of the family, DK has definitively exploded some hoary family myths.

I'd always been told that my father's side of the family were Loyalists during the American Revolution, who left New York for Canada during that time and returned later. DK has pushed the geneology back to the first family member to come to the New World to live in Plymouth Colony. This man arrived on the Fortune, which was the second ship after the Mayflower to bring English settlers to this country. Furthermore his descendants fought against the British and DK even found evidence that they were awarded pensions for their service from the fledgling American government. Instead of being eligible for membership in the Daughters of the British Empire, I'm eligible for the DAR! What a shock!

So where did that story about being Loyalists come from? We do have some ancestors who were Swiss Mennonites living in Pennsylvania at that time. Since Mennonites were pacifists we're guessing that this is the part of the family that may have fled the war for Canada--particularly since some of them stayed in Canada while those who became our direct relations migrated later to Michigan. Maybe that's the source of the story. El Jefe says that after 100 years a family's memory of its past is always suspect.

One thing remains constant in all of DK's research--the family was Puritan, Reformed and Presbyterian and active in church as well as educational endeavors in their communities. It's interesting to see that remains true of most of the descendants in the 21st century.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Devotions for 2007

As the New Year approaches, I started looking for a new daily devotional guide for 2007 since the RevGals don't (sob!) have a new one available. After browsing amazon for a while, I found and ordered A Year With Jesus by Eugene Peterson from amazon. Peterson has selected 365 readings from the Gospels of Matthew and John and written meditations on them. (He's a Presbyterian minister and the author of The Message translation of the Bible and a host of other popular books.)

Since I'm going to be spending a year with the General Council of New Covenant presbytery, I figured I really, really needed to try to spend that year with Jesus, too!

What are you planning to use for a devotional guide for 2007?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Adeste Fideles--Christmas Eve 2006

Yea, Lord, we greet thee!

Born this happy morning,
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing:
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

Friday, December 22, 2006

Festive Foods Friday Five

Things are slow in the Presbyblogosphere this week, thanks to preparations for Christmas observances. So let's play today's RevGals Friday Five, brought to us by reverendmother. It's all about the Festive Foods of the season.

1. Favorite cookie/candy/baked good without which, it's just not Christmas.

One of each: Turtle Cookies are El Jefe's favorite cookie because his mother made them every Christmas. See picture on the left. I don't think it's Christmas without fudge. We always have orange rolls on Christmas Day at breakfast.

2. Do you do a fancy dinner on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, both, or neither? (Optional: with whom will you gather around the table this year?)

We used to have it on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day at my house because I have room for the whole clan. This year Portia and DK wanted to host it at their new home and decided to do it on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) because so many other family events are planned on the 24th and 25th. There will be about 20 family and friends around their festive board.

3. Evaluate one or more of the holiday beverage trifecta: hot chocolate, wassail, egg nog.

Hot chocolate is great with lots of whipped cream. Get behind me, Satan, with that Starbucks liquid chocolate thingy! No one really knows what wassail is. Spiced hot wine? Yuck. Eggnog without liquor is too rich and cloying. With liquor it's an accident (or incident!) waiting to happen.

4. Candy canes: do you like all the new-fangled flavors or are you a peppermint purist?

Last night a group of boys rang my doorbell asking for a candy cane for their scavenger hunt. I didn't have one in the house which reflects my attitude towards candy canes in general.

5. Have you ever actually had figgy pudding? And is it really so good that people will refuse to leave until they are served it?

I never had figgy pudding. But I bet if you made a good bread pudding with raisins and currants and topped it with bourbon sauce and whipped cream people would wait for it!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Brought to You by the Letter K

Over at Mindy's place there is an alphabet meme. Here's how it goes: Mindy gives you a letter and your post 10 things you love that start with that letter. Mindy gave me K. That's a tough letter, but here goes.

1. K******. The last name of my wonderful sister-in-law and brother-in-law. What a blessing they and their children have been to me!

2. King. One of the names of Jesus Christ.

3. Knowledge. You will never get enough.

4. Kerfuffle. My new favorite word. It means a commotion. Hat tip to the Scientist (zorra's husband) who taught it to me. He has the best vocabulary EVER.

5. Kleenex. One of the greatest inventions of the last century.

6. Ketosis. Every dieter's friend.

7. Knee. My right one that still works. My left one has no cartlidge left thanks to an injury when I was 20 and so is problematic now.

8. Keys. You know how much you love them when you loose them.

9. Kitchen. I love kitchens because I like to cook and I love mine which we updated a couple of years ago.

10. Keyboard. Without which I wouldn't be posting this--or blogging at all!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Kid's Eye View of Charlotte's Web

Babs and I took my three nieces, ages 8, 6 and 4 to see Charlotte's Web yesterday afternoon. The movie is well done and faithful to the beloved book of the same name. Here's my interpretation of their reactions, which I hope will be helpful to those of you planning to take your own youngsters to this movie.

The oldest enjoyed it and followed it closely. Afterwards she told me that it was "better than the cartoon" because it included the scenes from the book where Fern brings Wilbur to school and when Wilbur meets Charlotte's offspring and names the 3 who stay. The middle niece added that there "wasn't any rain" in the cartoon while there were a couple of rainy day scenes in the movie. The youngest whispered in my ear from the minute the movie started, seeking reassurance that Wilbur wouldn't be killed in the movie and it would be like the cartoon. Clearly the cartoon version of the book has made the rounds of the preschool and elementary set and will influence the opinion of the children who have seen it.

Although my 8 year old niece followed the movie closely, both of the younger two girls found it got tedious and became restless. About 30 minutes into the movie the youngest started asking when it would be over. Ten minutes was my standard answer and seemed to satisfy her for a while until she asked again. Of course I had to take both of them to the bathroom so they could get a break. The movie, like the book, emphasizes dialogue rather than action. So I wouldn't recommend taking preschool age children to the movie unless they need to come along with older siblings. It's too long and not active enough for them.

Be prepared to discuss death and dying with the kids after they see this movie. The theme of the story is rescuing Wilbur the Pig from his intended fate as bacon and ham. Plus the heroine of the story, Charlotte the spider, dies at the end. My little four year old needed constant reassurance about Wilbur throughout the movie and at the end of it began asking questions about how and why people die.

Her reaction was probably enhanced because within five minutes of coming to my house she wanted to know where Gretel The Noble Dog was. She'd heard before that Gretel died, but started to realize what that meant when she didn't see her in her accustomed place. Then she and her sisters had to see Gretel's grave and the little marker we placed over it and ask questions about it. We had a good discussion with the girls and I think it probably helped the younger two process the movie experience.

Babs and I enjoyed the movie and I think most adults and older children and teenagers will like it. I would be cautious about taking younger children to it, however.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Upcoming Christmas Eve Marathon

Pastors and other church professionals find themselves facing truly rugged schedules when Christmas Eve or Christmas Day fall on a Sunday. This year I think that my sister, director of music ministry at a large Methodist church in San Antonio, may take the prize for craziest Christmas Eve.
There are 12 worship services planned at her church this coming Sunday. She must oversee the music at all of them, and will direct the music at 7 of them. She's planning a total melt-down on Boxing Day (December 26). No kidding! This is just nuts.

Many gentle readers are also gearing up for their own Christmas Eve marathons. I hope none of you are facing as long and difficult a day as she is.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pets Need Christmas, Too: A Sappy Christmas Song

C'est Fini!
~cue the steel gee-tars~

And grab your hanky. The Sappy Christmas Song is dedicated by Gannet Girl to the memory of Gretel, The Noble Dog, who surely would have walked away in disgust.

Pets Need Christmas, Too

'Twas lonely at the manse that Christmas Eve
As the pastor's dog waited under the tree
Buster's health was failing fast
When an angel came and asked
"Hey there Buster, I come to lift
Your sorry state with a heavenly gift"
She drew out a biscuit from her robe
And held it under Buster's nose.
"Smell this old friend, isn't it fine?
Guess what! It's 'Doggie Communion Time!!!"

Pets need Christmas too....
Just like me and Yoooooou....
When Santa lights Jesus' birthday cake......
Pets need Christmas too................

But the offering of that angel bright was not yet done,
For as soon as she had begun,
She served old Buster a dish of wassail true
And then, the dog did feel his strength returning,
Just then, with a flash of silken fur
The minister's cat, with a lordly purr
And a silver bell hung around his neck,
Announced, "No eggnog?! What the heck?"

Pets need Christmas too....
Just like me and Yoooooou....
When Santa lights Jesus' birthday cake......
Pets need Christmas too................

But cats are notoriously intrepid and brave
Especially when it's that eggnog they crave
And this one, with feline grace and speed
Leapt to the counter with little heed
For the cookies and cakes impeding her glide
And toward the vast bowl of eggnog did slide.
and drank deeply with kitty glee
and headed off to climb the Christmas tree

Pets need Christmas too....
Just like me and Yoooooou....
When Santa lights Jesus' birthday cake......
Pets need Christmas too................

But the nog had been spiked with whiskey,
(The pastor was not baptist, you see,)
Making the kitty rocky on his feet,
And seeing not one but two trees.
In one was her own dear mama
Dead these years gone by
She was hit in the road by an eggnog truck
And lives with that Lion in the sky.

Pets need Christmas too....
Just like me and Yoooooou....
When Santa lights Jesus' birthday cake......
Pets need Christmas too................

So I sing this sad song from the kitty stockade,
Awaitin' the hangin' tree:
I'm guilty of my sainted cat mama's death,
And as sorry as a drunk cat can be.
Dear Santa, if you're hearing my song,
Give my mama a message from me.
Tell her I'll look for her at the pearly gates,
And we'll go climb St. Pete's Christmas tree.

Pets need Christmas too....
Just like me and Yoooooou....
When Santa lights Jesus' birthday cake......
Pets need Christmas too................

Many thanks to our inspired sappy lyricists: Rev Dave, Presbyterian Gal, Toby Brown, jody too, purechristianithink, gannet girl, ceemac and Psalmist.

QG's virtual awards go to:

for contributing the last verse in which she managed to combine prison, death by hanging, a sainted mama, and St. Peter. Truly we are not worthy!

Presbyterian Gal for contributing the haunting refrain. Santa lighting Jesus' birthday cake?

Rev Dave (no blog) for setting the tone with the first two lines and starting us off.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Thursday Night Sappy Christmas Song Update

Thursday Night Update

'Twas lonely at the manse that Christmas Eve

As the pastor's dog waited under the tree
Buster's health was failing fast
When an angel came and asked
"Hey there Buster, I come to lift
Your sorry state with a heavenly gift"
She drew out a biscuit from her robe
And held it under Buster's nose.
"Smell this old friend, isn't it fine?
Guess what! It's 'Doggie Communion Time!!!"

But the offering of that angel bright was not yet done,
For as soon as she had begun,
She served old Buster a dish of wassail true
And then, the dog did feel his strength returning,
Just then, with a flash of silken fur
The minister's cat, with a lordly purr
And a silver bell hung around his neck,
Announced, "No eggnog?! What the heck?"

But cats are notoriously intrepid and brave
Especially when it's that eggnog they crave
And this one, with feline grace and speed
Leapt to the counter with little heed
For the cookies and cakes impeding her glide
And toward the vast bowl of eggnog did slide.
and drank deeply with kitty glee
and headed off to climb the Christmas tree

But the nog had been spiked with whiskey,
(The pastor was not baptist, you see,)
Making the kitty rocky on his feet,
And seeing not one but two trees.
In one was her own dear mama
Dead these years gone by
She was hit in the road by an eggnog truck
And lives with that Lion in the sky.

Kudos to contributors Rev Dave, Presbyterian Gal, Toby Brown, jody too, purechristianithink, gannet girl and moi.

Is it worse than Christmas Shoes yet???? What say you, gentle readers?

Sappy Christmas Song Update

Thanks to Rev Dave, Presbyterian Gal, Toby Brown, purechristianithink, j, too and yours truly here's our Sappy Christmas Song as of this writing:

'Twas lonely at the manse that Christmas Eve
As the pastor's dog waited under the tree
Buster's health was failing fast
When an angel came and asked
"Hey there Buster, I come to lift
Your sorry state with a heavenly gift"
She drew out a biscuit from her robe
And held it under Buster's nose.
"Smell this old friend, isn't it fine?
Guess what! It's 'Doggie Communion Time!!!"

But the offering of that angel bright was not yet done,
For as soon as she had begun,
She served old Buster a dish of wassail true
And then, the dog did feel his strength returning,
Just then, with a flash of silken fur
The minister's cat, with a lordly purr
And a silver bell hung around his neck,
Announced, "No eggnog?! What the heck?"

Let's far we have a lonely manse, a sick dog, a Christmas tree, an angel, Doggie Communion biscuits, magic wassail, a Christmas miracle and now the appearance of a cat with a silver bell demanding eggnog.

The song needs a big sappy finish! Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sappy Christmas Song Competition

There's been a lot of whining out there in the blogosphere about the sappy Christmas songs that assault our ears as we go about our daily rounds this time of year.

Last week's RevGalBlogPals Friday Five included a query on the subject. Actually, the question was "what song makes you want to stuff your ears with chestnuts roasted on an open fire?" It seems to me the RevGals think that Christmas Shoes is the worst of the worst.

Or is it?

I bet some of you can write something even worse. I KNOW you can. I've read your stuff.

In the spirit of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, QG is sponsoring The Sappy Christmas Song Competition.

Here are the rules:

1. The first commenter gets to begin by posting one or two lines of lyrics in the comments.
2. Each subsequent commenter can add one or two lines.
3. Extra points for those who mix religious/secular methaphors.
4. Puns are allowed--but keep them clean, this is a family-friendly blog.

QG will post the completed song when the comments trail off and then ask the readers to vote on their favorite lines. The top 3 vote getters will receive appropriate virtual prizes!

Ready, get set, get sappy!

UPDATE-- Presbyterian Gal asked if the rules could be changed so 4 lines could be posted. Since she said "pretty please"--sure. If your sappy Christmas muse is with you add as many lines as you like. Thanks to Rev Dave for getting us started. Here's what we have so far:

'Twas lonely at the manse that Christmas Eve
As the pastor's dog waited under the tree
Buster's health was failing fast
When an angel came and asked
"Hey there Buster, I come to lift
Your sorry state with a heavenly gift"
She drew out a biscuit from her robe
And held it under Buster's nose.
"Smell this old friend, isn't it fine?
Guess what! It's 'Doggie Communion Time!!!"

If you're inspired, please add more lines in the comments....

Monday, December 11, 2006

Twelve Step Program for Blackberry Addicts

Your humble correspondent has posted in the past about life with a Blackberry (a/k/a "Crack-Berry") addict before, so I was very interested in the piece in the Wall Street Journal this weekend about " Blackberry Orphans."

The article was accompanied with a suggested 12 Step Program for sufferers (only available online to WSJ online subscribers). As a Backberry Widow, I made El Jefe read both the article and the 12 steps in their entirety.

Result: El Jefe vowed to cease emailing while driving.

One step at a time!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fa-La-La-La Friday Five

Today's Friday Five questions for the RevGals are posed by Reverendmother, whose subject is the music of the season. Here are my answers. (By the way, Blogger is acting really funky with the formatting and I'm tired of trying to fix it, so excuse the messy post, thanks.)

1. A favorite secular song.
Twelve Days of Christmas. See answer to #4, below for explanation.

2. Christmas song that chokes you up (maybe even in spite of yourself--the cheesier the better)

Mine's NOT cheesy.
I can never make it through this verse of
Once In Royal David's City:
And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love;
for that child so dear and gentle
is our Lord in heaven above;

and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.

This verse and the music (and that descant!!) make me loose it every time.

3. Christmas song that makes you want to stuff your ears with chestnuts roasted on an open fire.

Can't I have more than one? (whine, whine) I can't choose between White Christmas; Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire; and The Little Drummer Boy (parum-pa-pum-pum to you, too!)

4. The Twelve Days of Christmas: is there *any* redeeming value to that song? Discuss.

Yes--little kids LOVE the repetition and are proud of themselves when they memorize it. I'm teaching it to my 4 and 6 year old nieces, just like I taught it to my girls when they were that age. Every Sunday when I see them we learn 3 verses and we'll finish (hopefully) by Christmas Eve in time for a little family concert.

5. A favorite Christmas album.

Messiah as performed by the English Baroque Soloists and the Montiverdi Choir
This version is done in the original style of Handel, not the lush overproduced Mormon Tabernacle Choir and huge orchestra version.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Atheist Church Member Update, Part Two

Those of my readers who have followed the saga of the atheist who was admitted to membership in St. Andrews' Presbyterian Church in Austin will want to check out the latest update on the situation provided by Toby Brown at A Classical Presbyterian.

On the one hand the Synod of the Sun denied the St Andrews request for an injunction against Mission Presbytery's resolutions that authorized its Committee on Ministry to counsel with the church about asking the appropriate constitutional membership questions for those who want to join the church. So St Andrews must cooperate with that counseling.

On the other hand they are setting up a symposium at Austin Presbyterian Seminary to discuss whether or not the English word "Lord" is required in membership and ordination vows. It's unclear whether a symposium has any standing in Presbyterian polity under the Book of Order. I'm going to say that it doesn't so it won't matter one whit what anyone says there.

Good grief.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Bible As Widget?

There's nothing like perusing the Wall Street Journal to find your blogging muse. Today's post is inspired by an article in the WSJ's Leisure & Arts section: Heavens, Bibles Are Really Booming by Joanne Kaufman.

The folks at the WSJ, being the committed capitalists that they are, require that you subscribe to their online site (or have a print subscription) to access the article. But never mind, QG is here to tell you all about it.

Ever been in the Bibles section of your local mega-bookstore and wondered who thought up all those versions? You'll find a women's Bible, a men's Bible, Bibles for teens and children or bibles with themes such as leadership, archaeology, or sports. Zondervan has a Bible in a Bag and is soon publishing "Immerse" the water-resistant version. Kevin O'Brien, director of Bibles at Tyndale House, is quoted in the article as saying, "people are seeing their lives not just in color but high definition color, and they want the Bible to fit in with that. This is not your Mother's Bible."

You can say that again. The article reports that Tyndale House will bring out a paperback Bible next spring that comes in a plastic case that looks like a flattened Nalgene bottle. That's in case the Bibles in your college colors, camouflage, metal or duct tape don't appeal.

Publishers apparently do have some limits. Thomas Nelson Inc. declined to publish a "sort of alarmist Bible" which featured headlines from USA Today of the fighting in Israel and Lebanon as well as the breakup of Jessica Simpson's marriage. They also take a dim view of the "Jesus Loves Porn Stars" version of the Bible distributed at last summer's erotica convention in Los Angeles. While its true that Jesus loves even porn stars, it was felt that this crossed the line between sacred and profane.

"The question is always how do we create Bibles that people will pick up and use but will not be too gimicky," Mr. O'Brien is reported as saying. "If you get too trendy, you've turned the Bible into a widget."

Hmmm. Methinks there are a lot of widget Bibles out there.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Agreed Judgment in FPC Baton Rouge Property Case

The Presbytery of South Louisiana and First Presbyterian Church of Baton Rouge have entered into an agreed final judgment respecting the church’s petition to clear title to its property. A summary and links to the text of the judgment and the original petition filed by the church are available on its website here.

The judgment concludes that all property of the church is owned solely by the church and that neither the presbytery nor any agency acting through the presbytery may control the use and ownership of the church’s property. In short, the denomination has no trust interest in the property.

This is a very interesting case, but one that does not have broad application to other churches in the PCUSA. First Presbyterian Church of Baton Rouge has a particular history that together with the laws of the state of Louisiana, make its legal situation distinguishable from that of most other churches.

Most importantly, FPC was a PCUS church at the time of reunion. In 1987 the congregation exercised its right to declare its exemption from the “trust clause” of the PCUSA under G-8.0700 of the Book of Order. Furthermore, from the time the church was founded in 1827, it was never affiliated with any denomination that claimed a “trust” interest on its property.

The church’s claim that it had never taken any action in the past that would create an express or implied trust under Louisiana law was agreed to by the presbytery as well.

The petition was brought to clear title to the church's property as it planned a new capital campaign. According to the statements on the website, there is no plan to withdraw from the PCUSA at this time. The fact that the Presbytery of South Louisiana did not contest the petition, but stipulated that the facts alleged in it were true and entered into an agreed judgment that was approved at the November presbytery meeting is a credit to all involved.

Dr. Gerrit Dawson, senior pastor of FPC Baton Rouge commended the executive presbyter of South Louisiana in his letter to the congregation, saying "Dr. Cutter does not believe the denomination should be held together by property and trust clauses but rather through shared faith, mission and love in Christ." Dr. Dawson hopes that "our Presbytery’s action will be an example for the entire denomination. Unity forced by holding someone’s property title as a trump card is not unity nor the path to renewal".

While I earnestly share Dr. Dawson's hope, I think we must also recognize that the facts and circumstances surrounding this case limit its application to other churches. But I pray that the gracious and pastoral attitude displayed by this presbytery and its leaders will be an inspiration to other presbyteries and the folks in Louisville in resolving other property disputes in the future. For surely the PCUSA will not be held together by litigation but only by "shared faith, mission and love in Christ."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Christmas Gift Idea From Joel Osteen

Just in time for Christmas Your Best Life Now The Game is now available. ($34.99 retail. Less online.)

"The game enables players to step beyond the one-on-one nature of the book and feel, touch and live Joel’s 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential," according to

It is based on Joel Osteen's best selling book Your Best Life Now. Joel Osteen is the "co-pastor" (along with wife Victoria) of Lakewood Church in Houston.

Also Known As: The Oasis of Love. Motto: Discover the Champion in You. Location: former NBA arena.

Following the book's 7 chapters, the game has 7 levels and the winner of the game is the one who first reaches the end of Level 7--Choose To Be Happy. The winner gets to open the MY MIRACLE envelope and reads the goals and promises all other players wrote down at the beginning of the game. Then the "losers" must now help the winner reach his/her goals by "living your best life now."

You know, I can't make up this stuff.

A spokesman for Lakewood was quoted in the Houston Chronicle saying that the church will not sell the board game because it does not fit "the message of the ministry." That's because he thinks the content of the game is "a little simplistic" compared to the book. (??!!???) He claims that the game "slipped between the cracks" and was not approved by the church before it was published. In fairness, he says the game doesn't represent Osteen's message about Jesus.

Whatever. All I know is Lakewood Church is a veritable font of blogging inspiration.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Great New Time Waster!

This afternoon's mail included a catalogue from something called Despair, Inc. located in Austin, Texas. I promise I'm not making this up. Their motto is: "Motivational products don't work, but our Demotivational products don't work even better."

So I went to their website:

They have a slew of posters with sayings such as "Depair. It's always Darkest Just Before It Goes Pitch Black." and "Strife. As Long As We Have Each Other, We'll Never Run Out of Problems."

But the fun thing is that you can make your own poster on the website and save it to your computer-- like the one I made above!

Talk about a sinkhole for time! If you make one, let me know in the comments so I can check it out. I've got some other ideas--maybe I could do one with a Presby theme, or Worst Christmas Song Ever, or RevGalBlogPals Rule!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dear Deer Feeder

My niece Baby Annie fed the deer Thanksgiving Weekend in Port Mansfield, Texas. Photo courtesy of her Daddy, also known as Uncle P.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

All About the FOG

I promised to write a post about the Form of Government Task Force workshop that I attended at the Moderator's Conference just before Thanksgiving, and I'm just now getting around to it.

First of all, we were asked to please not call it the FOG. But really, can you not ? So the FOG it is.

The presenter was one of the members of the Task Force, Dr. Paul K. Hooker (Executive Presbyter of San Augustine presbytery), who distributed the current draft which is available online here. I am impressed by the transparency of their process. The FOG task force invites anyone interested to send questions, suggestions, and comments to them through the website. A GA staffer collects the emails and forwards all of them to each member every two weeks. So if you don't like what you see in the draft, by all means let them know about it now.

The entire Book of Order (the "BOO") is NOT being re-written, just the old "G" section. The Rules of Discipline and Directory of Worship are not included in the FOG's job description. Also, the GA instructed the group that section G.0106(b) and the property trust clause must not be changed and must retain their present language exactly. The goal of the project is to revise chapter 14 and overhaul the entire form of government section. FOG must report a draft by September 2007 to the presbyteries and sessions, take comments and revise the document by March 2008 so it can be considered by the 2008 GA.

The old "G" section has become two sections in this draft-- "The Foundations of Presbyterian Polity", which will presumably become a new section "F" of the Book of Order, and "The Form of Government", which remains section "G".

The new Foundations section is a shortened version of G.1 to G.4 with updated language restating core values and the order is rearranged to make it more accessible. I have seen some criticism of the "Core Theological Commitments" chapter from some bloggers, already so the FOG folks are likely getting a lot of comments on this part of the draft. Other chapters in the new "F" section are: "Core Principles of Order and Government" and "The Church and Its Confessions."

The new "G" section--The Form of Government-- combines the old G.5 and G.7 sections of the Book of Order. It is still a work in process, but there is an outline posted on the website that reveals the current FOG approach to its task.

El Jefe, with 15 years experience as Clerk of Session, says that the BOO is one of the most poorly indexed organizational documents he has ever seen. And he has seen a lot of them in his 30 plus years of legal experience as a corporate attorney. On more than one occasion he has had to call the GA office in Louisville to get guidance on a question that he could have answered if the BOO were properly indexed. Anyone else had that experience? As far as he is concerned, the most helpful thing the FOG could do would be to prepare a thorough index for the BOO.

"Are we just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic?" one of those in attendance asked. Dr. Hooker replied that he hoped not. I hope not, too. I've long thought the BOO needed a complete re-write, because it just grew and grew and grew and badly needs pruning and rationalization. Not to mention a good index! I wonder if it's possible to do this in the current atmosphere of distrust that pervades the denomination and I wonder if it's even a good idea to expend the energy on it at this time instead of addressing other needs.

But I do commend the FOG for their openness in posting this preliminary draft and inviting comments on it as they proceed. I guess I better write and tell them about the index.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Cyber Monday Celebration

It's my favorite shopping day of the year--Cyber Monday. I made my rounds this morning, mouse in hand, and placed almost all my orders for Christmas gifts. Now it's time for a little celebration, so I'm reprising the Ode to Cyber Monday song I composed last year.

~cue orchestra~
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,

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Extreme DeLurking, Texas Version

In the spirit of Thanksgiving DeLurking Week, Denis Hancock (left) (The Reformed Angler) and I met each other yesterday in Sugar Land. El Jefe is on the right. Photo courtesy of the lovely and gracious Susan Hancock, Denis' wife, who also joined us.

Denis is one of my favorite Presbybloggers! He and Susan were in Houston visiting family for Thanksgiving. We had a great conversation in a local coffee shop and solved all the problems of the PCUSA and the world in an hour and a half. We hope to have the chance to visit with the Hancocks again when they are down here.

You'll notice that Denis is a really tall guy, like El Jefe, so I look almost petite between the two of them!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Delurking Week

The RevGals declared Thanksgiving Delurking Week. I'm a bit slow joining in due to travel around the country. Lurking is reading and not commenting on blogs. De-lurking means leaving a comment to let me know you're reading. If you can't think of anything to say, just leave a (0) which is a stone showing you stopped by.

Thanks to those of you who have already de-lurked here at QG this week. I'm grateful for your encouragement and support. I'd love to hear from more of you and I encourage you to delurk this week on other blogs you read.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sailing the Good Ship PCUSA

Saturday night's “Speak-Out” with Moderator Rev. Joan Gray revealed widespread concern from the Moderators’ group about the ongoing loss in membership in the PCUSA and the intractable divisions of opinion over a number of issues, but principally the ordination controversy, that divides the denomination. A couple of moderators even suggested that it may be time for some type of “gracious separation.” The crusty old football coach from West Texas finally got up and declared “woe, boo-hoo and misery on me! Can’t anyone find anything positive to say?"

Rev. Gray spoke directly to these concerns the next morning in her sermon in blunt and powerful words. She said “money in the bank” thinking is killing the church. “Money in the bank thinking” means that the church first considers what resources it has and then decides what it can do rather than asking what God is wanting us to do and finding a way to do it. The issues raised last night are “gifts to the church”, in her view, because we must learn to surrender in humility to God’s will rather than trying to do our own. Rev. Gray observed that want to “fix” our problems because it will make us feel good about ourselves—but it is not about feeling good about ourselves but about the glory of God.

Using the metaphor of the sailboat, which was an early Christian symbol for the church, she pointed out that there’s a weariness in the church that she hears wherever she goes. We are rowing as hard as we can, but the church is not meant to be a rowboat, but a sailboat catching the winds of the Holy Spirit. She called on all of us to join her in prayer and fasting every Friday for the spiritual renewal of the PCUSA.

Can we learn to hoist the sails of the good ship PCUSA and go where the Spirit will lead us?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Learning to Moderate

It's been a L-O-O-N-G day at the Moderator's Conference. Too long to write a really substantive post, but I promise that I'll do one after I get home about the FOG Task Force workshop that I attended for my Presbypolity readers, and about the Q&A session tonight with the PCUSA's Moderator and Vice Moderator.

So it's back to a little list of the day's highlights, to give you a feel for how the day at the Moderator's Conference went.
  • My old acquaintance and I remembered that we knew each other from our days back in the 1990's when we were involved with the Cho-Yeh Camp board (Cho-Yeh is the camp and conference center owned by New Covenant Presbytery)
  • In the session on Meetings for Moderators, I was reassured to learn that " I don't have to know everything, I just have to know more than they do!"
  • Other tips for running a presbytery meeting included: Don't let them have your mike, Consensus is NOT unanimity, and Preparation-GOOD! Surprises-USUALLY BAD. Truly words to live by.
  • There was a demonstration of how to use sticky note pads to keep track of motions, amendments to the motion and amendments to the amendment.
  • We were also urged to remember that there is a difference between being nice and being fair. A moderator's job is to be fair and if you do a good job of that, then people will think you are nice.
  • The best for last: the PCUSA Moderator, Rev. Joan Gray and her husband Bob came up and introduced themselves to me in the buffet line at dinner. He reads QG (among other Presbyblogs) and reports on it back to her. He'd read I would be here and was looking for me. I was amazed. And flattered. Thanks for reading!
I can't resist closing with a couple of excerpts from the Litany for Eight Useful Motions by Marianne L. Wolfe that we all recited at the end of the training about running a presbytery meeting.

"Liturgist: Amend. There are only three forms of simple amendment. They are: to delete or strike out, to add or insert and to strike out and insert. The words proposed for deletion or additions must be consecutive words.

Congregation: And Job said, "Do you think you can correct words, as if the speech of the desperate were wind?" (Job 6.26)
Liturgist: Limits on Debate. The assembly always has the power, and the moderator the right of suggestion, to limit debate to a particular hour, or extend or shorten speeches according to the necessity of the moment.

Congregation: And Job said, "Have windy words no limit? Or what provokes you that you keep on talking?" (Job 16.3)
ALL: Do not think that we have come to abolish Robert's Rules of Order; we have come to fulfill it..."

Okay, there was a lot of Job in this liturgy. That should tell me something about being a Moderator. Good night.

Friday, November 17, 2006

QG in GA-Land

Here I am in Louisville for the Moderator's Conference of the PCUSA. It's chilly outside but we're meeting at the Brown Hotel downtown which is a pretty old building. My room is nice and we just got started today.

Here are the highlights so far:
  • A good bit of talk over dinner about "whither synods". General conclusion--synods are an unnecessary additional layer of church government.
  • They gave me a nametag with "REV. QG" on it! I had to mark out "Rev" and handwrite "Elder".
  • An older African-American gentleman from North Carolina came over, introduced himself, and said he remembered me from his days in New Covenant presbytery 15 years ago. Fifteen years ago I don't remember doing anything with presbytery except occasionally attending a meeting as a commissioner from my church. I had to admit he looked familiar, though.
  • Learned Gomer Pyle's understanding of God--"surprise, surprise, surprise." No kidding!
  • Went down to the bar after the meeting hoping to meet more people and I wasn't disappointed. I wound up in a group listening to the amazing story of one man's parents, both German missionaries in the Pacific at the time of WWII who were trapped in Japan for the duration.
Tomorrow there will be workshops. Onward through the FOG! (Form of Government Task Force which is rewriting the Book of Order.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Why Did RGBP Inc Need to Incorporate?

A comment on the last post asked what the RevGalBlogPals Inc. can do as a non-profit corporation that it couldn't do just as a webring. That was a really good question, so I thought I should answer it in a post rather than respond in the comments because some of the other RevGals and Pals and my readers may wonder the same thing.

As a 501-c-3 corporation, we now have established a legal identity that we didn't have as an unincorporated association. This allows us to:
  • own the blogring and have an organization (rather than a couple of administrators) that can set policies for it and administer it
  • own the copyright to the name RevGalBlogPals and protect it from unauthorized use
  • own the Cafe Press store and use the income from it for the purposes of the organization without paying tax on the income
  • own the copyrights to the two books published by the blogring--Ordinary Time and A Light Blazes in the Darkness--as well as future publications
  • receive the income from the sales of any publications owned by RGBP Inc on a tax-free basis
  • receive tax-deductible contributions from individuals
  • apply for grants for programs that support women in ministry from foundations which require that their funds go to tax exempt organizations (example: the Lily Foundation)
  • make periodic financial reports to the membership that reveal the sources of RGBP Inc income and where the money is spent--we also will be required to file financial reports with the IRS that show the same thing--thus insuring proper financial accountability
  • provide for members of the corporation to elect their leadership
  • have perpetual existence and limited liability and eliminate the significant legal uncertainities that accompany an unincorporated association
These are the major advantages of incorporating as a tax exempt organization. Of course, the cost of incorporation is keeping records and accounts and following appropriate corporate procedures. But all these requirements also provide safeguards for the members to insure that funds are properly accounted for and spent for the purposes of the organization.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

RGBP Inc Receives Tax Exempt Status

I'm so excited that I'm cross-posting from the RevGalBlogPals blog! I just received a letter from the IRS granting RevGalBlogPals Inc. tax exempt status under section 501-c-3 of the Internal Revenue Code. When I filed the application I was told not to expect to hear from the IRS until late January 2007--so this was an unexpected and welcome surprise.

Now that we are recognized as a tax-exempt organization we will be eligible to do a lot of things that we couldn't do before. I expected that the IRS would ask questions about the group, since it is rather unique--organized around a weblog for the primary purpose of supporting women in ministry. But they didn't!

Thank you, IRS. You're my new best friends.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

New Covenant's $1 Million Problem

I've spent the last week or so dealing with the discovery that over $1 million in funds donated by church members to the PCUSA's special offerings were not forwarded by New Covenant Presbytery, but were diverted to pay for mission projects of the presbytery by the director of financial affairs for the last 3 years. I can blog about it now because a press release on the situation was sent to the PCUSA and to the Presbyterian Outlook--you can read the Outlook's report here.

The money given to the special offerings (Christmas Joy Offering, Peacemaking Offering, One Great Hour of Sharing, etc) is sent to the presbytery from the churches and then presbytery forwards it to the denomination for distribution to the agencies and groups that benefit from the offerings. They are essentially funds held in trust by the presbytery and passed on--the money should never have been used to pay any obligations of the presbytery. There was no authorization for this and the employment of the director of financial affairs was terminated.

An interim director should be in place this week and last week additional financial control procedures were instituted to make sure this situation cannot be repeated in the future. New Covenant has had annual audits by an independent accounting firm that did not discover this unauthorized diversion of funds. Apparently the auditors didn't understand that these funds were supposed to be passed on to the PCUSA and should not have been applied to presbytery obligations. Curiously, the GA offices never asked why the offerings had not been forwarded--and New Covenant is one of the largest presbyteries in the country.

The only explanation offered so far is that the former director of financial affairs started using the funds to cover short-term cash flow problems and then the numbers mushroomed into a never-ending cycle of robbing Peter (the PCUSA special offerings) to pay Paul (New Covenant). While the investigation into the situation is still ongoing, there is no evidence so far that the former director personally benefited from these unauthorized actions.

This coming Saturday there will be more discussion at the regular meeting of presbytery. I won't be there because I am attending the Moderator's Conference in Louisville. At this time, I am the "Moderator elect-elect" and don't have a role in the meeting, but in 2007 when I chair the General Council I will be dealing with the after-shocks of this revelation.

Our Vision 2010 which involved plans to grow more disciples and churches in New Covenant is threatened. There were already discussions about the need to develop a long term strategy to address the cash flow and budget deficit problems of the presbytery, which now will begin in earnest. Not only must we find a way to pay back the $1 million owed for the special offerings, but we will have to cut back on the items that we thought we could afford but were being paid for by the special offerings rather than by presbytery's money.

I'm praying that in the long run good will come out of this million dollar problem: that the churches will agree on and support a plan for repayment that will allow presbytery to pursue its vision and purpose; that the presbytery will establish better financial control procedures; that the presbytery will focus on and perform its essential functions well and that the churches will cooperate with each other and with presbytery to do the "nice to do" functions that foster mission, connectionalism and community.

Meetup Deep in the Heart of Texas

What fun it was to meet Mary Beth at her home in Denton this weekend!

We had a great time breakfasting together yesterday morning, getting acquainted and even talked a little RGBP Inc. business. (Can I write off my trip now???)

I was in town to hear my niece Catherine give her senior vocal recital at the university. Of course she sang gloriously (she's a mezzo soprano) and looked gorgeous and poised!

Photo is courtesy of the handsome and gracious Ken! Thanks also to her two precious Maltese dogs who also welcomed me to their home.

Wish you all could have been there, too! And Mary Beth, sorry about your cold, but I'm feeling great today so I must not have caught it. Feel better soon!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Christianity for the Rest of Us Book Review

When I picked up this new book by Diana Butler Bass I wondered, “Who is ‘us’?” Now that I’ve finished reading it, I can tell you that ‘us’ is the people in mainline Protestant denominations who see themselves as theologically centrist to liberal/progressive, and feel isolated in today’s American religious culture.

As Butler Bass frankly states in her introduction: “The religious right seems to have hijacked American Christianity, and I can barely stand to read the news about religion and politics.” The jacket contains endorsements by Marcus Borg (who calls it “the most important book of the decade about emerging Christianity”), Barbara Brown Taylor, and Brian McLaren, among others.

Christianity for the Rest of Us is the result of a three year study on vital mainline denominations, which was funded by the Lily Foundation and based at the Virginia Theological Seminary. Diana Butler Bass was the project’s director. An appendix details the methodology used in the project study, which involved varying degrees of investigation and participation in 50 medium size mainline congregations that are identified as theologically “centrist to liberal.”

For those not familiar with her background, it is helpful to know that the author’s spiritual journey has taken her from the fundamentalist, evangelical side of the church to life as a theologically liberal/progressive Episcopalian. The “us” and “them” dichotomy between these two viewpoints has thus become very important to her and colors many of her observations and conclusions as she continues to wrestle with her past.

This is an intriguing book that prompts the reader to critical thinking. I found myself tabbing 23 pages as I prepared to write this review. Some tabs marked places I thought were insightful and some marked parts that I disagreed with. Just when I began to wonder how to use it as a study for an adult CE class, I noticed that the author has thoughtfully provided a section in the back “reflections for reading groups."

Christianity for the Rest of Us is well-written and easy to read. There are a few graphs and charts included, but most of the book is devoted to anecdotal stories are included that illustrate the many ways in which some mainline congregations are reviving themselves.

Butler Bass emphasizes ten “signposts of renewal” that characterize the congregations she studied: hospitality, discernment, healing, contemplation, testimony, diversity, justice, worship, reflection and beauty. Each signpost gets its own chapter that includes descriptions of how some mainline congregations are living out that aspect of faith. The emphasis is on these spiritual practices rather than theology as a way of reviving and renewing the "emerging" mainline church.

This review would be too lengthy if I tried to explain each one, but here are a few examples. In the chapter on hospitality, Butler Bass distinguishes between hospitality as a recruitment strategy designed to manipulate strangers into church membership and hospitality as a a vital feature of congregational life which she found at one Seattle area Lutheran church that hosted a tent city for the homeless on the church’s front lawn. Another example was the “Welcome Table” at a Washington D.C. area Episcopal church that offered worship, breakfast and small group Bible study for 200 homeless people every Sunday. Although the impression of “emerging” churches is that they emphasize entertainment, constant activity and loud music in worship, Butler Bass’ chapter on contemplation examines a movement toward silence in worship. At one Presbyterian congregation in the study the worship service includes time for silent contemplation and there is a weekly evening Centering and Healing service.

As noted earlier, I do have number of disagreements with some of the observations and conclusions in the book. Again, the review would get too lengthy if I tried to include them all, so here are a couple of examples arise in the chapter on diversity.

In writing about a Presbyterian church in California, the Butler Bass states, “the most troubling division comes from the tensions within the Presbyterian denomination between the church’s traditionally more liberal constituency and its vocal evangelical minority.” In fact, every study of the PCUSA shows that the majority of its members identify as centrist to conservative theologically and that the “liberal constituency” is the minority—although it is not the minority among the national leadership of the church.

Butler Bass also attributes broader racial diversity in congregations as a reflection of the emerging mainline church as contrasted with the evangelical/independent churches. However in the Houston area, where I live, the church with the most diverse membership –1/3 white, 1/3 African-American, 1/3 Hispanic—is Lakewood Church, an independent conservative evangelical congregation. My impression is that this is true in some other independent evangelical "megachurches" so it seems that her bias against these churches affected her conclusion.

I’m sure that every reader of the book will find something to agree with and something to disagree with which is why I think it is a good subject for study and discussion for all kinds of adult small groups.

I enjoyed reading about all the different congregations discussed in the book. The “signposts of renewal” stories were usually inspiring and thought-provoking. Groups looking for ways to renew and revitalize their mainline congregations will doubtless benefit from a study of Christianity for the Rest of Us. If you’re interested in a hopeful book about the future of the American mainline church, then you will want to read this book.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Reflections on a Day in Write-in Land

After collapsing in exhaustion last night, I've had some time to reflect on the election in my precinct yesterday. Almost 50% of the registered voters in #4119 voted. That is an astounding turnout for any election, historically. The results for our precinct are still not available this morning--not surprising given the high number of write-ins that we observed and assisted yesterday. My guess is that the Republican write-in candidate for Congress won in 4119.

But here's what's really important about the election:

--the woman who brought her Arab neighbor, dressed in the Muslim hijab, to the election and asked if she could observe her vote so that she could learn about how Americans run an election

--the elderly African-American woman who came in with her son, the doctor still dressed in his surgical scrubs and her precious toddler grandson, Charlie, who entertained the dozens of folks waiting to vote with his winsome prattle and antics. She was recovering from knee replacement surgery, so we set up a chair for her and the grandson near me while her son waited in the long line at the end of the day and kept her place. That grandbaby really loved his grandma!

--the eager high school students who came in to see if they could vote at their high school

--the elderly Indian woman who was very anxious about trying to use the machine and understand the ballot, but who I was able to calm and help cast the votes she had carefully written down and brought with her

--the VERY pregnant young woman ( I mean, call the hospital someone) who came at the end of the day and faced a wait of more than an hour, but who was invited to the head of the line by a true Texas gentleman

--the good old boy, with the John Deere cap, who loudly remarked, "they made it really HAWRD! You gotta know how to SPELL!" as he exited the premises

--the reaction of the voters, who when seeing the long lines exclaimed "this is great!" They loved seeing the high turnout, even if it cost them an hour or more of their time

So, friends, whatever the outcome of the election--the republic is in good hands so long as the people treasure and use their right to vote. It's a great privilege and blessing to have the opportunity to be a part of the process in this great country.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

QG in Write-In Land

6:20 am:
It’s still pretty dark as I drive to the high school to open the polls. We rush around trying to open and set up the 6 E-Slate machines we have been given for our precinct AND get the machine that assigns the passcodes booted and up. Four men are already lining up to vote.

7:00 am: The polls open with about 25 people in line. The line grows longer and longer because 3 of the voting machines won’t boot up. After a call to election central, they come on and we make some progress. The wait to vote is now longer than the wait to check in. Lots of writing in is going on.

7:40 am: Three high school students show up. Their government teacher released them from class to help work the election. After being sure that they all are 18 and registered to vote, they are sworn in and I put them to work checking in the voters. They’ll get service hours for their time. It’s fun to have the kids helping us. They’ll go back to class for the second period. They told us their teacher will be sending a couple more to work after school, which will be great! We’ll need help at the end of the day.

7:45 am: The Republican poll watcher shows up. Where’s the Democrat?

8:10 am: The Democrat poll watcher arrives. Both of them are seated behind the voter check-in desk. Another worker arrives, and she also offers to be our Hindi/Urdu translator if needed.

9:10 am: Things are slowing down but we still have a line. Each machine has a list of the declared write-in candidates at each machine. I think that is helping the process. So far no one is confused and only a couple of people have requested assistance with the machines.

9:30 am: Time to post a tally! 153 voters so far. 840 voted early, which is 25% of the registered voters in the precinct.

9:45 am: First voter to screw up the “vote twice for Shelley” maneuver is reported.

10:00 am: The line is shorter now. A couple of smart young mothers came in with toddlers and babies who are doing just fine now. Bringing in tired and hungry kids around noon to one when there is a line is just asking for trouble. Things are pretty quiet.

11:30:Time to post again! 293 voters.

2:15 pm: Well, I spoke too soon. We had a big rush for the last three hours and things are settling down again now because most people avoid coming to vote during the time when the high school dismisses. I’ve been helping a lot of people who want to vote for the Republican write-in candidate. The machines won’t let you correct spelling mistakes easily—so there is at least one vote for ShelleySSSSSSSSS. Hopefully the voter’s intent will be clear. Mrs. America called out for a pizza and salad delivery for the troops because we were getting peckish and couldn’t spare anyone for a lunch run. They have been nibbling on the Texas Chocolate Sheetcake I brought all day—hope there will be some left for El Jefe. The poll watchers both left, but will probably come back at the end of the day.

8:52 pm: We had over 650 voters. I had no more time to blog during the election. Now I’m home eating the warmed-over pizza I didn’t have time to eat during the day and quaffing a restorative glass of vino.

Here’s the bottom line--(650 voters) X (6 e-slate machines) X (80% of the voters taking an average of 10 minutes to write in a candidate) X (40% of the voters behind on the learning curve of using the aforementioned e-slate machines) = over 100 voters in line at 7 pm when we closed the polls. They all got to vote of course. It took an extra hour and 15 minutes to vote them all.

I spent hours on my feet helping voters use the machines and enter their write-in candidate. In my nightmares I am going to see SHELLEY SEKULA GIBBS written on a wall like Nebuchadnezzar saw MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN.

I’m done. Goodnight everyone. Thankfully, there is one small piece of cake left for El Jefe.

Monday, November 06, 2006

On the Eve of The Big Fat Mess

This is a map of the 22nd Congressional District of Texas. Looks like a Rorsach ink blot, doesn't it? My precinct is in the roundish-looking blobby portion on the left. This has become one prime piece of political real estate since last week's polls showed that the Republican write-in candidate is in a statistical dead heat with the Democratic candidate who is actually listed on the ballot. Here's a review of the situation previously posted on QG.

The campaign ratcheted up several notches over the weekend. El Jefe and I had been in Austin attending the UT football game (Go Horns!) and returned to 7 calls on the voicemail--6 were political ads, including one from George W. and TWO from Laura Bush. One was a strange call saying that another write-in candidate was "too liberal" for the district. Huh? That little mystery was cleared up when I read in the newspaper that the Democratic Party paid for those calls in the hope of dividing the conservative Republican vote between the write-in candidate chosen by the party and the other guy. Oh those wacky Dems! There's a wily political ploy for you.

Mrs. America (yes, she competes in Mrs America pagents in her spare time), the election judge for my precinct, just stopped by to tell me we need to be there extra-early tomorrow morning. She's been told that there will be poll-watchers from both parties at our precinct. In the ten years or more I've been an election official, we've never had poll watchers attend our election. We've also heard rumors that both parties have lawyers poised for a courthouse sprint. Ugh.

The write-in campaign is sure to cause big delays. If someone wants assistance writing in their ballot, then two election workers plus one poll watcher from each party have to observe the proceedings at the e-slate machine. We'll have a PDA loaded with the names of everyone registered to vote in the precinct so we can pre-screen voters while they are in line and save them time by sending them to their correct precinct before they try to sign in. Since we are Tom DeLay's home precinct, we also expect a visit from the press. Oh joy.

Light a candle and say a prayer for St. Betty, Mrs. America, Sonia and me tomorrow as we do our d$%^*st to assure that the election is conducted with complete integrity. Spooky Rach and Mindy--please have the Texas Towncar Of Justice ready to roll! I'll be blogging throughout the day as I did during the primary, but there's no internet access in the voting area so I won't be able to post until after the polls close and we have gone home.

If you didn't vote early--vote tomorrow!

Going to The Why Presbyteries? Conference

In a couple of weeks (Nov. 15-17) I'm attending the Moderator's Conference at the PCUSA "headquarters" in Louisville. Any other Presbybloggers planning to attend? Let me know in the comments so we can get acquainted.

The theme of the conference is: Why Presbyteries?

Erm. Don't they know? Seriously, this theme reveals a lot of uncertainty about who we are and how and why we organize ourselves in a connectional fashion that isn't particularly reassuring to this newbie Moderator-Elect.

In preparation for the conference, I was sent a paper titled:

What The Book of Order, The Book of Confessions, and the Book of Numbers
Have to Say About Ecclesiology and the Presbytery

A little light reading before bedtime it's not. I'm learning new words: praxis, eschatological ecclesiology and proleptically. Sigh. Where's that dictionary? I'll have to read the paper more than once to be comfortable discussing it since it is highly conceptual.

I signed up for the workshop on Revising the Form of Government Project. That's the FOG for short. Heh-heh-heh. Write your own joke! Did you know the FOG was working on re-writing the Book of Order? Neither did I.
This week there were a couple of Presbybloggers who posted some criticism of what FOG has released so far. Jim Berkely thinks that the draft sections of dealing with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit lean toward the ancient heresy of Modalism. S T Jones (Curmudgeon's Progress) is also concerned about these theological statements and fears that trying to complete this effort in 19 months is unreasonable.

I haven't read any of this yet but I certainly agree that the theological basis for the BOO is very important. As a layperson with a legal background, I am more familiar with polity than theology, so I will say that in my opinion the BOO needs to be re-written and not just revised. Parts of it are not logically arranged and sometimes are internally inconsistent. As the denominational consensus has unraveled over the last couple of decades, it has been repeatedly amended in an attempt to keep the PCUSA together, which creates more confusion over its meaning and interpretation. Given the lack of internal agreement on many essentials of polity and theology, I'm doubtful this effort will succeed--but if it were done well, it could be a great thing for the church. The FOG website is here if you are interested in checking it out for yourself.

For my second workshop I had the choice of "All You Wanted To Know About Being a Moderator But Were Afraid To Ask" and yet another excursion into PUP-apologetics. I've heard enough about the PUP to last a lifetime and unless there is some PJC decision that changes things, I'm better off practicing how to moderate.

I've never been to Louisville, a General Assembly, or headquarters, so it should be very interesting. Our current Moderator, Rev. Joan Gray, will be there. I'll get to see the people I've read about for years. It should make for an interesting weekend.