Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What I'm Taking at APCE

Here are the workshops I registered for at the APCE (Association of Presbyterian Church Educators) conference that begins in St. Louis tomorrow:

1. Introduction to the new PCUSA Confirmation Curriculum. I'm going to this one to check it out for our senior pastor.

2. Deepening Your Bible Study. This session is designed to explore different ways of reading and interpreting biblical texts. I'm hoping this will give me some new tools for leading adult Bible studies.

3. Attracting Adult Learners. This is supposed to help you with comprehensive congregational planning for adult Christian education. I signed up for it because I'm convinced we have to expand our adult CE beyond Sunday School.

4. Beside the Still Waters: Reclaiming the Sabbath. Maybe this will give some practical advice on how not to be totally shot by Sunday evening. At the least it should provide time for a nap, don't you think?

5. As Seen On TV. A look at media images of families and the issues these images bring back to the Church. I signed up for this because it seems to go along with my "quotidian" theme and because people like to discuss TV shows and movies.

If any of you have a particular interest in any of these workshops, let me know in the comments and I will make a point of posting a report on it.

Fine print warning: I don't always attend the workshops I sign up for. Occasionally other attendees tell you about a "can't miss" workshop you didn't consider previously and you sneak in if you can. SHHHHH....don't tell.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Word Cloud BlogThing

Thanks to Songbird, who had this blogthing on her blog. Looks like both of us liked the tasteful royal blue lettering. I ordered the t-shirt which I think would be great for RGBP meet-ups and morning walks around the neighborhood.


Friday, January 27, 2006

When to Stop Emailing

Recently I've been involved in a distressing email experience that reminds me that this medium, while convenient, has significant limitations. I can't discuss this particular incident on the blog, but it is representative of problems that I have encountered in the past.

Email is a ubiquitous tool these days. It enables us to respond to others at our convenience. It is often helpful to have questions and answers in writing to refer to later. But because it is solely a written form of communication, and one that has lapses between responses, misunderstandings and hard words linger much longer than they would verbally.

If you get into a discussion of an issue with someone you can quickly and easily clarify what you meant if you are misunderstood. You can also use your tone of voice to create an atmosphere conducive to a civil exchange of ideas or disagreements. You can't do any of that in emails--harsh written words impact others more significantly than spoken ones. You can go back and read them again and again so that their force is magnified.

Push away from the computer and go to the phone, or hop in the car and visit personally with someone whenever your email exchanges start to be problematic. Don't keep emailing, that only makes it worse.

Here endeth my lesson for today, friends.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Meet Me In St. Louis?

Next Wednesday, February 1 through Saturday, February 4, I will be in St. Louis for the annual meeting of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators. Despite the name, APCE includes the Reformed Church of America and the United Church of Canada.

This year for the first time the Lutheran Association of Church Educators and the National Association of Episcopal Christian Education Directors are meeting with us as well. In fact the keynote speaker is an Episcopal priest, Rev. Eric H. Law. Pretty ecumenical, huh?

I'd love to meet up with any RGBP's who are also attending, so please leave a note in the comments if you're interested in a meet-up.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

QG Files Plea in Blackberry Case

Motion to Reconsider Denial of Certiorari in the case of NTP vs. RIM Popularly Known as the Blackberry Lawsuit

To The Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States:

Comes now Quotidian Grace, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, and on behalf of the members of Blackberry Anonymous, specifically including El Jefe, Mondo-Blackberry user, and others similarly situated, and files this Motion to Reconsider Denial of Certiorari on the following grounds:

1. Whereas the Blackberry has become as necessary as water, food and air to countless Blackberry addicts in the legal, medical, business, entertainment and financial industries; and

2. Whereas the threat of disruption of Blackberry service to the afore-mentioned industries will cause loss of instant communication between critical personnel in these economic sectors resulting in massive dislocation to the US economy; and

3. Whereas these same critical personnel, such as El Jefe, will not be able to be available to their clients/patients/ customers on a 24 hour basis, or set up lunch dates, golf dates, email jokes and instantly check sports scores wherever they are resulting in angst, pain and suffering; and

4. Whereas there is not yet a reliable cure for the known Blackberry addiction so that disruption of service will also impact their long suffering spouses such as QG and children such as Portia and Babs; and

5. Whereas when the Supreme Court makes a decision that affects me personally, then the Court has stopped preaching and gone to meddling;

Therefore, Plaintiffs respectfully pray that this Honorable Court set aside its previous denial of certiorari in this case and agree to hear and decide this patent dispute between the parties so that Blackberry service will not cease next week and the parties have more time to settle this dispute in a way that will enable service to continue.

Respectfully submitted,

Quotidian Grace, Esq, pro se
and on behalf of members of Blackberry Anonymous

Jesus Loves Me ( for Seniors)

Thanks to my Brother W for passing this one on!


Jesus loves me, this I know,
Though my hair is white as snow.
Though my sight is growing dim,
Still He bids me trust in Him.



Though my steps are oh, so slow,
With my hand in His I'll go.
On through life, let come what may,
He'll be there to lead the way.


Though I am no longer young,
I have much, which He's begun.
Let me serve Christ with a smile,
Go with others the extra mile.


When the nights are dark and long,
In my heart He puts a song.
Telling me in words so clear,
"Have no fear, for I am near."


When my work on earth is done,
And life's victories have been won.
He will take me home above,
Then I'll understand His love.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Squirming in the Pew

Heard during yesterday's sermon:
Too often we are merely auditing Christianity. Buy the books. Register for the course. Take it for a grade.
And yes, the pastor knows that I have been considering taking that New Testament course at the seminary extension.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Weekend Blog Grab Bag

Today I saw several interesting posts on other blogs that you should check out.

Rev Ed at Attention Span has a wonderful essay on "Easy Targets." Susan over at Heart Soul Mind Strength talks about the Gridiron Religion. What's next from the Purpose-Driven folks? Give Brother Greg your opinion. Finally John shows what can happen when clip art goes wrong.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday Five Guilty Pleasures

And there you have it! Love, QGrace

Closer than Most Internet Quizzes...

Your Life Path Number is 7

Your purpose in life is to find truth and meaning

You are very spiritual, and you are interested in the mysteries of life.
You are quite analytical and a great thinker. You have many theories and insights.
A life of solitude is perfect for you. You need time to think and do things your way.

In love, you are quite charming. You attract many with your confidence and wit.

While you enjoy being alo
ne, sometimes you take it to an extreme.
You can become too isolated, shutting out loved ones and friends.
Express yourself a little bit more, and you'll be surprised where it takes you!
What Is Your Life Path Number?

I Followed Frodo on this one. Interesting because the answer is generated from your birthdate only--not a lot of questions. Thanks, Gord!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Brand-Name for Lakewood Church

There's a new logo on the side of the Lakewood Church in Houston: Joel Osteen Ministries. You can see the logo here on the website for the same.

You can order your JOM fan merchandise from this independent vendor.

It's time to call out Joel Osteen: It's NOT about YOUR ministry. It's about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Good grief.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Triumph of Team Butterfly

Here's a picture from this year's official program of the Houston Marathon, which took place on Sunday. This is Team Butterfly--all of these gals are members of our church.

The picture was taken last year when they successfully finished the Houston Marathon together as walkers. This year the two ladies on the left RAN the Marathon, both finishing in about 5 hours. Outstanding! The other ladies stuck to their walking and also finished the race.

Team Butterfly has a story. They formed in support of Pam, whose daughter Lara was killed in an automobile accident. Lara was only in her twenties and had been married less than a year when this happened. She was a teacher and youth group sponsor beloved by all who knew her. Because Lara trained for the Houston Marathon, the Team got together to take on the challenge in her memory. They chose the name "Butterfly" because the butterfly is symbolic of the resurrection. None of them had ever trained to walk or run a marathon before, but they joined a local group that offers training and worked for months to get ready for their first race.

This is the second year for Team Butterfly and they decided to marathon for a cause. They got sponsors from the church and the community to contribute to the Presbyterian Children's Homes and Services, which is a Texas state-wide group that maintans several group homes and foster homes for children. I understand they will be contributing about $1,000 to this fine group, which, by the way, is the oldest charitable organization in Texas.

What a wonderful way to remember Lara. Congratulations Janet, Dorothy, Norma, Pam and Becky. Team Butterfly really rocks!!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Problems of Interpretation

Yesterday the subject of the Sunday School class I was going to teach was different styles of Biblical interpretation and their relationship to the issues addressed by the Report of the Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church (PUP, for short). For you non-presbies out there, this is a long-awaited (4 years!) report produced by a group charged with reviewing ordination standards in the PCUSA (read--whether or not to change the current prohibition on ordaining practicing homosexuals).

The recommendations of the Task Force will be voted on at the General Assembly meeting this June and they do not include a change in the current ordination standards but arguably open the door for a type of "local option" under certain circumstances. It's all very legalistic, in keeping with the Presbyterian heritage as the heirs of John Calvin, the ex-lawyer and theologian.

Those of you with sharp eyes will remember that I was down for the count with bronchitis yesterday, so I turned the class over to my husband, El Jefe. After briefing him on the subject he remarked that he saw a connection between the difficulty in interpreting the Bible and the difficulty in interpreting the Constitution of the United States.

With Judge Alito's hearings just concluded, this subject was on his mind. Both the Bible and the U.S. Constitution are very important documents. For Christians, the Bible is sacred--believed to be the guide to faith and life inspired by God. The Constitution is not a sacred religious document, but for Americans it is very much a sacred secular document--it is the ultimate source of governmental and legal authority for our country.

You would think that interpreting the Constitution would be much easier and less controversial than interpreting the Bible. It was written in an English that is still readable today. We have a much better understanding of the context in which it was written and the intent of the framers. But over the years distinct schools of legal interpretation evolved, some emphasizing "strict construction" and others emphasizing the need to adapt the Constitution to the times so it would be a "living document."

Yet as Judge Alito's hearings showed, the interpretation of the Constitution is just as divisive and controversial as the interpretation of the Bible. The right of privacy, first established by the Supreme Court in the 1960's in the Griswold v. Connecticut case (which was about contraception), is not specifically enumerated as a right in the Bill of Rights or elsewhere in the Constitution. The court later used the right to privacy in Roe v. Wade to establish a federal right to abortion. Those who oppose legalized abortion still are debating the validity of this interpretation.

Likewise there are numerous different approaches to interpreting the Bible. Some emphasize the literal truth of its words, some use symbolic and metaphorical approaches, some seek meaning from the intent of all scripture while others focus on isolated texts. There are those who try to apply the context in which the scripture was written to help interpret it and those who dispute the authority of scripture over some modern-day issues. These differences in interpretation fuel the controversies over the ordination of women, gays, blessing of gay marriage that are causing distress in many denominations.

Interpretation--aye, there's the rub! Both in the church AND in the state.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

On The Poor Thing List

I've officially been put on The Poor Thing List by my doctor. I called her this morning describing my bronchitis-like symptoms and she's ordering up a slew of lovely drugs that should make me right as rain ... in the fullness of time.

By the way, she sounded terrible and confessed that she, too, has the exact same thing and is also on The Poor Thing List.

Razzlefrackzit! This is not a good time to be sick, but I will heed El Jefe's pleas to stay home today and away from church. He'll have to teach my Sunday School class and the CE committee will enjoy meeting tonight without me.

And as for you, Gentle Readers (especially you Bible in 90 Days bloggers), I'll give you a topic:

The Red Sea was neither Red nor a Sea.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Progress on the Wedding Front

The trip to Austin was very successful on the wedding front: we ordered the bridal gown and all the attendants' gowns!

It's a good thing I decided it was better to get this done in Austin because, as I feared, the bridal gown will arrive and need fittings right in the middle of the bar review course! So this will be much easier for Portia, who is staying in Austin to take the course and the Texas bar exam in July.

Unfortunately there was more scheduled than I realized, so I missed meeting up with Mindy and Rach :-(

And because no good deed goes unpunished I came home with a bad case of layringitis which I'm hoping will go away by Sunday morning long enough for me to lead the class studying the Peace Unity and Purity Task Force Report. If not, well--I do have a video from the PCUSA they may get to watch instead. Thank heaven for videos.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Wedding Update One

1. Reserved the church

2. Engaged 3 ministers--the two pastors at our church PLUS our retired executive presbyter who happens to be the minister who married me and El Jefe (Cool, huh?) a mere 28 years ago.

3. Reserved the place for the reception (see picture--very southern, just what Portia wanted)

4. Called the groom's parents, who live in another state, introduced myself and had some wedding chat--they are very lovely on the phone and I am looking forward to meeting them.

5. Hired a photographer--and joined Weight Watchers. Nothing concentrates the mind on a diet like the prospect of being the MOTB in wedding photos for my posterity.

6. Decided that the wedding and bridesmaids dresses should be ordered in Austin instead of Houston to make fittings easier for Portia because the dress will surely arrive in the middle of the bar exam review and/or exam which she is taking in Austin, right?

7. Prepared to leave at dawn's early light TOMORROW for a trip to Austin to accompany Portia as she shops for a dress. I don't know if I'll make it a day trip or spend the night -- depends when we get finished and how it goes. And never underestimate the power of the blog--I may be able to meet up with Mindy and Rach while I'm there!

8. Made a preliminary start on the guest list. Very, very preliminary.

9. Alerted our church organist to be sure we're on his calendar, too.

10. There must be a 10 but I can't think of it! 10 is symmetry, 10 is completeness, 9 is not. Or am I wallowing in Biblical numerology?

Stop it! If it were Biblical it would be 12! 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles, 12 elders, 12 Angels around the Throne, etc!

Okay, I'm better now. Close call: almost a MOTB meltdown. Whew.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Book Review: Garlic and Sapphires--Image and Reality

Ruth Reichl's book Garlic and Sapphires is a lively memoir of her days as the food critic for the New York Times which veers into a thoughtful discourse on the power of image and behavior on personality and attitude.

I picked it up at the bookstore because the title intrigued me and because I am just enough of a foodie to be interested in the story of a food critic. That part of the book does not disappoint. Several of her most famous restaraunt reviews are included along with the stories surrounding her choice to visit them. There are also a number of her own recipes in the book for a variety of foods. Ruth Reichl is now editor of Gourmet magazine and she is a cook. However this turned out to be much more than a book about the eating and journalistic experiences of an influential restaurant critic.

A food critic strives to visit a target restaurant a number of times anonymously. If you are recognized as the critic for the NY Times you are going to get the best food the kitchen can produce and extraordinary service--not the treatment of the average patron who may read your review. So having been warned that her description was posted in kitchens all around town, Reichl decides to create several disguises as her "cover".

She goes to some lengths to make these disguises physically believable, even enlisting the assistance of a drama coach to help her learn behaviors that will suit each new Ruth. She imagines a "backstory" for each character that she creates to help her behave convincingly. Each persona is "auditioned" for her doorman and family to make sure that she isn't instantly recognized.

Reichl starts with "Molly", a character and disguise based on her late mother. Later "Miriam", "Chloe", "Betty","Brenda" and "Emily" are created and pressed into service. Each has a very different appearance, personality and "life story." As she spends time being one of these characters Reichl discovers that her own personality, behavior and outlook morphs into that of the character. She is startled to realize that she is jealous of her husband's approval of "Brenda" and had a fight with him over the way one of the more unpleasant personas was intruding on her private life. By the end of the book, Reichl is exhausted by the pressure of the disguises and leaves the NY Times for Gourmet.

Behavioral psychologists know the phenomenon described in the book very well: when behavior is changed, emotions will change and follow the behavior. If you are unhappy (and I don't mean clinically depressed--that's another situation) and you make yourself act as though you are happy or pleasant, after a while you will also FEEL a change in your emotions. Similarly, imitating unpleasant behavior will make you feel unpleasant and unhappy, as Reichl discovered when donning some of her disguises.

Another NY Times writer recently summed this up very well:

What can we do to improve ourselves and feel happier? Numerous social psychological studies confirmed Artistotle's observation that "We become just by the practice of just actions, self-controlled by exercising self-control, and courageous by performing acts of courage." If we are dissatisfied with some aspect of our lives, one of the best approaches is to act more like the person we want to be, rather than sitting around and analyzing ourselves.
Timothy Wilson, NY Times, 12/29/2005

Ruth Reichl found that when she acted like one of the personas she admired, she became more like that persona and when she acted like one she despised, she began to despise herself. The unexpected theme of this book is the one that makes it memorable and worth reading.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Bible in 90 Days Bloggers Begin Reading!

I'm so excited for Steph, who blogs at Narrow at the Outset, and those who have joined her in committing to read the Bible in 90 Days using a blog as a "virtual meeting place." I added Blogging Through the Bible in 90 Days to my sidebar so I can easily follow their progress.

Steph is one of the members of the RevGalBlogPals webring. She read my posts this fall about the Bible in 90 Days program that I brought to my church and was inspired to try it herself. Then she asked on her blog if anyone wanted to join her and before she knew it there were about 15 bloggers from around the world joining in. She created the Blogging Through the BIND blog so they could share their reactions and keep each other accountable and they are off and reading today! They are using the helps available on the BIND non-profit website instead of buying the Zondervan-published materials.

It's really amazing how the Holy Spirit works sometimes--even through blogs and the internet!
Steph is a nun in Indiana and teaches high school religion classes. We have never met but God has used our blogs to bring others to the reading of the Bible. What a wonderful thing.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Help Grace Decide

I'm not usually an indecisive person, but I've been dithering about whether or not to take this course for a couple of months. Help!

Should Grace take the Intro to the New Testament Class at the Austin Seminary Extension this spring?
You are a CRAZY woman. This spring you have to plan a wedding plus begin a new midweek program at church plus all your other usual stuff.
Go for it! There's nothing like being forced to read the Bible to keep perspective on things like weddings and church responsibilities.
Wussy out and audit the course instead of taking it for credit. You're not pursuing a degree right now anyway.
Take it for credit, don't be a wuss. You may want the credit someday to add to the Interpretation of the Bible class you took a couple of years ago.


Free polls from Pollhost.com

Friday, January 06, 2006

Scrappy Ministers of the Cloth Quilt

Isn't this a gorgeous quilt? The Ministers of the Cloth (the quilting group at my church) are raffling off this scrap quilt to raise money to support their fabric-habit. The kitty is depleted after several years of constant construction of baptism quilts, quilts for wounded soldiers, quilts for the Ronald McDonald House and other charities, and the auction quilts for our church school.

So these enterprising ladies made this scrap quilt from all the bits left over that they carefully saved. Quilters are the original recyclers, you understand. Of course they did have to buy the black fabric for the sashing and borders that holds it together--but then they really NEEDED that field trip to the quilt shop in Galveston and the lunch by the Gulf and the laughter and fun in the cars as they drove down together. So that was a good thing.

And so it the quilt. May it bring in enough money to fund them their good works for several more years!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Blogging Presbies Webring

A webring for Blogging Presbyterians has been started--I just got an email asking me to join, so I did. See the new addition to the sidebar underneath the ad for A Light Blazes in Darkness?

The Lutherans and Episopalians have similar webrings. If you're Presby and interested, click on the link to check it out. Cheesehead? Rebel? Apostle John? Will Spotts? Reverendmother? Saint Cassarole? Church for Starving Artists? Other Presby RevGals and Pals that I missed?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Morphing into M.O.T.B. Mode

Your humble correspondent has been distracted from her usual blogging routine the last few days. Portia and her boyfriend announced their engagement and set the wedding date for September 2.

Since Portia is leaving to return to Austin for her final semester of law school we dashed around to secure the church, pastors and reception location before she left. Who knew that Labor Day weekend was very popular for weddings?

But we were successful with our arrangements. So now the wedding is on for September 2! We are very pleased to welcome the son-in-law-elect into the family. He is a graduate student in engineering who plans to transfer to a Phd program in the Houston area for neuro-biology while Portia begins work as an associate at Big-Time Houston law firm this fall.

With visions of music, photographers, florists, wedding and bridesmaid dresses, and to-do lists dancing in my head, I'm fixing to morph into Mother Of The Bride Mode and hoping my friends and relations will hit me upside the head whenever I need it. Advice from my blogging friends as I begin this metamorphisis is also welcome.

We had a big couple of days and now I must repair downstairs for a little adult refreshment.

Cheers, y'all!

Vote for BroGreg's Blogosphere Awards 2005

Cast your vote for the Blogosphere Awards for 2005 at BroGreg's place. He has 10 categories for your consideration.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Why Jesus Came

"Jesus didn't come so we could celebrate His birthday. He came so that lives might be changed," our pastor said in his sermon this morning. This observation immediately reminded me of El Jefe's cousin who just left after coming for a visit with his father and youngest brother. Let's call him Matt. This is a good story for the first day of 2006.

Matt's father is my husband's first cousin. Matt is now in his late thirties and his life story up to now has been the classic tale of a young man gifted with great intelligence but no self-discipline and a wild streak. "I'm the failed product of liberal child-rearing," he told me yesterday. " I got to do whatever I wanted." Matt's parents married young and divorced early. He was raised by his mother with intermittent attempts by his father and paternal grandparents to intervene and try to straighten him out.

His problems contributed to the failure of his father's second marriage. While a teenager he developed drug and alcohol addictions that created chaos everywhere he went. Matt never finished high school and has supported himself as a laborer off and on. Yet even a brief conversation with him reveals the fact that he is a voracious reader. He can talk knowledgeably about history, literature and current events.

Over Christmas this year he and his wife separated. When I expressed sympathy with this turn of events he told me, "It's definitely a good thing." Matt has been sober for the past 2 1/2 years. This is a new record for him. He is working hard on learning disciplined life and work habits that he neglected growing up. Apparently his wife could not adjust to the "new" Matt, the one who no longer wanted to drink and party but now never has anything stronger than a Dr. Pepper in his hand.

This morning I told his father before they left that he must be proud of Matt's new sobriety. There have been so many disappointments over the years that I know he is still wary and concerned that there will be another relapse. But he said, " Yes I am. You know he started going to this church and it really seems to be helping him." Matt's father has never been a church goer and is openly cynical about organized religion, so this was quite an admission for him.

I don't know if Matt will be able to remake his life permanently and take advantage of the gifts he has neglected. He tells us that he plans to get his high school equivalency and try to take some college courses. How difficult it will be to do this at his age! But not impossible. Because Jesus came so that lives like Matt's could be changed.