Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween 2006

Witch QG with her "familiars":
Baby Bee, Biker Chik, Princess and Cleopatra.
Have fun tonight, y'all!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Best Off-Year Election Quip

Comes from El Jefe, who after hearing one too many political ads touting the candidate's record on improving education remarked in disgust:

"You'd think they were all running for principal."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A New Time of Life

One of the blessings of blogging is reading other bloggers and discovering that they are having some of the same experiences in life that you are. A couple of days ago I came across a post by Gannet Girl, who was musing about whether or not to move from the big old house where she and her husband raised their family.

One of her conclusions was: "I know that what we really need to do is re-think our lives. They no longer center on children, and they haven't in a long time." El Jefe and I have been having the same discussion recently. With the marriage of Portia and the passing of our beloved Gretel The Noble Dog, it finally occured to us that it is time to make some changes. For years after Babs left for college I found myself reflexively returning home at the same time every afternoon that she came home from high school. Only in the last year or so have I begun to break myself of that habit.

What kind of changes are we thinking about? Like Gannet Girl, we decided not to trade in the now too-big house for a smaller one until after El Jefe retires, if then. We like it, we love the location, it's paid off, and we do use it to entertain large groups from time to time. There's plenty of room for Babs and we expect her to move home for some period of time after she graduates from her master's program while she finds a job and decides where she wants to live. Portia and DK can come back and spend the night for a holiday if they want to.

But what other changes might we make? Some of them may be small changes in routine. Some may be more significant changes in where we put our time and energy. Where is God leading us now that our girls are grown and don't need us to focus all our attention on them anymore? It's something we're thinking and praying about in this new time of life.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Early Voting Report

Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack. The 12 machines were occupied when I went in to the early voting place near my house this afternoon, but no line had formed.

Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack. There seemed to be a lot of writing-in going on.

Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack.

I'm just saying.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Big Fat Mess

Within the next 10 days, I will be involved in two elections. The first one is a pleasure and concludes tomorrow—the election of the first board of directors for RevGalBlogPals, Inc. The email “polls” will be open until 10 am tomorrow morning, but so far we have received 45 ballots from the 49 members eligible to vote.

We won’t see that kind of turnout on Tuesday, November 7. No, gentle readers, what we are going to see is a BIG FAT MESS in Texas Congressional District 22. As one of the election workers for my precinct, I'll have to deal with it.

I’m not talking about the four-way gubernatorial circus: Governor Rick Perry vs. Carole "One Tough Grandma" Keeton Strayhorn vs. Kinky Friedman (of Kinky and the Texas Jewboys) vs. Democratic candidate Chris "Who?" Bell. That’s a state-wide problem. I’m talking about the write-in wrangle that is sure to develop in the congressional race to replace Tom DeLay.

Since the courts ruled that the Republican party could not put a substitute nominee on the ballot after DeLay resigned from the race, there is a big write-in campaign being mounted for the party’s choice, Houston councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. The Democratic candidate, Nick Lamson, normally would be the sacrificial lamb in this heavily Republican district, but not under these circumstances.

We have electronic voting machines, so technically, you don’t WRITE in, you type in. But not like on a keyboard. It’s not a touch screen system, it is an e-slate machine with a tracker ball. The ballot will contain the candidates for this race plus a “write-in” option. If you choose “write-in”, then a new computer window comes up and you use the tracker ball to laboriously spell out the name, then click on “accept” and then click on “vote”. Got that? I didn’t think so.

If you misspell the name you are trying to write in, or try to use a short-cut, like using the initials or last name or first name of the write-in candidate it will PROBABLY be counted. But there’s an election commission that will have to review each deviance from the exact spelling and determine what the voter meant. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs is not going to be easy to spell for our many English-as-a-second-language voters (or the native English speakers either). Plus there is no hyphen on the pad. Hanging chad deja vu anyone?

Oh, did I forget to mention that there are TWO races for this position? Yes, indeedy, Tom DeLay’s unexpired term must also be filled –from November 7 to December 31. The Republican candidate Sekula-Gibbs’ name IS on the ballot in that race. But Democrat Nick Lamson’s is not. He chose not to run in that race. I can just hear the Democratic voters asking why he’s not listed, because this race is the FIRST one on the official ballot. So Sekula-Gibbs could win the unexpired term and then loose the race for the full term.

Here’s my point: Texas has very liberal early voting laws. The polls are already open in the early voting locations. There are evening and weekend hours, too. Everyone needs to vote early and bring their patience with them.

A.BIG.FAT.MESS. No doubt we’ll be on the national news again. I’m not predicting anything else. I gave that up after the March primary.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Update: Mission Presbytery Candidacy Case

Classical Presbyterian posted an update on the Mission Presbytery case in which the presbytery voted to admit an openly acknowledged lesbian to candidacy for ordination as a minister in the PCUSA. The General Assembly PJC (the highest ecclesiastical court in the church) granted a stay of enforcement and will take jurisdiction of the appeal of the presbytery's action (the Synod PJC deadlocked on the case). At issue: whether or not presbyteries may admit sexually active homosexual persons to candidacy.

Stay tuned.

Monday, October 23, 2006

QG On the Links

Today was one of Houston's finest days--coolish, a breeze and bright, bright sunshine. It was also the first time I ever participated in a golf tournament. Or played golf other than putt-putt. This despite the fact that I have lived in a golf course community for nearly 20 years.

St. Betty needed a fourth for the Pink Lady Tournament at one of the many Sugar Land area golf courses. As you might guess, the Pink Lady Tournament benefits Breast Cancer research. (Theme: Stroking for the Cure.) So St. Betty, her daughter, our neighbor the Election Judge and I donned our pink shirts and headed out.

No, this isn't our team, but this team was kind enough to let me get their picture and it gives you an idea of the spirit of the day.

A LOT of the teams dressed up and decorated their carts with pink boas, big pink ribbon-shaped balloons, pink inflatable flamingos and pink bedazzled accessories. I even found a pink golf ball on the course!

I learned new meanings of words:
A Mulligan isn't necessarily a stew.
A divot may not be a dance step.
A fairway isn't always fair
A scramble doesn't always involve eggs.

I also learned:
To drive a golf cart.
To tip the caddies who shot our mulligans with the pink beer tickets. (The caddies were male members of the golf club who were stationed at every hole and were having a great time chatting up the ladies and showing off their powerful swings. )
That I need longer clubs than the ones St. Betty loaned me (I'm about a foot taller than she is!)
That I have an "eye" for the green (according to the caddies and St. Betty.)

How'd we do? We shot a two over par. Of course the mulligans helped. Still the Judge and I were TOTAL newbies, while St. Betty and daughter are pretty good. It evened out.

Golf is not necessarily a good walk spoiled. Particularly in a good cause. Maybe I'll take some lessons. Here's the view on the sixth hole. Just gorgeous!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My Own Illuminated Bible

This morning there was a lovely acknowledgment of my service as Director of Christian Education at both worship services. Besides the many good wishes and support for my new "job" as Moderator-Elect of our presbytery, I was presented with two volumes of the St. John's Bible: The Pentatuch and The Gospels and Acts.

I've always loved illustrated manuscripts. I remember saving money from my first summer job to buy a beautiful hardbound copy of a Book of Hours that I still have in my library. When Portia was about four I took her with me to an exhibit of illuminated manuscripts from the British Museum that came to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. She loved them, too, especially the fanciful animals and birds the monks drew around the edges of the text.

Although I had heard about this project which involves modern scribes writing the entire Bible and illustrating it in a modern style at a monastery in Wales, I'd never seen it. It's gorgeous. It's stunning. I'm amazed and very grateful to have these two volumes.

"Bet you can't read this Bible in 90 Days!" the clerk of session told me. Oh, no. It will take a lot longer than that. Thank you all. For everything.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Connecting From the Ground Up

Pastor Lance did a great job of examining presbytery from a minister member point of view in his series "What If...the Presbytery?". His suggestion that connectionalism comes from relationships that need to be built outside of presbytery meetings made me think further about how to build relationships between elders in different churches.

There are some ways that attendance at presbytery meetings benefits elders. Of course, participation in the larger connectional body of churches is important. But elders also discover that other churches have the same problems as theirs--and some of them are much worse! On the other hand, no matter how great your church is doing, you will hear about even better things going on at some other churches. Getting out of the "bubble" of your own congregation can be very enlightening for elders and can benefit their churches if the experience is effectively shared with the home congregation.

Pastor Lance suggests that this can happen outside of presbytery meetings. For most elders, I think it will have to. In my experience it is almost impossible to get elders to attend "equipping" opportunities provided by presbytery that encourage exchange of views and experiences scheduled outside of presbytery meetings.

But what if, as he suggests, pastors meet periodically with other neighboring pastors for relationship building and mutual support and then encourage the elders in their churches to do the same? What about meeting for before work or lunchtime Bible study together? Or just meeting occasionally for breakfast or lunch to exchange problems and joys in their work in the church? Or creating an email group to discuss problems or topics of interest?

I meet monthly with a couple of educators for lunch and chat. The relationships we have developed have been very helpful and meaningful to us. We didn't wait for presbytery to organize this, we just did it. What if some kind of "matching" service were provided at presbytery meetings for elders who are interested --a signup sheet for breakfast, lunch, Bible study or email groups, for example, with elders from other churches in the same vicinity? Could this encourage elders and pastors to build relationships and true connectionalism from the ground up?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

2008 GA Theme Announced

The theme for the 2008 General Assembly has been announced, but I think the one suggested by Presbyblogger and GA General Council member Michael Kruse is more prophetic.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Close Enough

What a difference a day makes.

Yesterday we were deluged with torrential rains--over 12 inches in some areas--and streets were flooded everywhere around the Houston metro area. El Jefe sent his secretary home early and made a run for the house in between rainbands. He found the high-ish water at the end of our street. Then he called Portia and admonished her to be careful driving home from her office reminding her that years ago we were overcome by rising water in the downtown area and had to abandon our car and hike home through waist-deep waters.

Most of us down here have kept a wary eye on developments in the Gulf of Mexico during this hurricane season. Katrina and Rita really got our attention. Now we get wacked at the tail end of it--no hurricane has hit this area after October 16. So it wasn't a hurricane. Or a tropical storm. But it was close enough.

Today there is beautiful blue sky and sunshine. I'm looking forward to November 1 (the official end of the 2006 hurricane season). Stay dry!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Presbytery Imponderables

Pastor Lance ran a series of thought-provoking posts for those of us Presbybloggers interested in PresbyPolity called "What If...the Presbytery?". He invited discussion about the purpose of Synods and Presbyteries in today's world.

A recurring theme in the comments was frustration with the format of most presbytery meetings. Meetings that last an entire day, never mind the ones that span a two-day period, exclude most elders from consistent participation as commissioners because of work and family conflicts. Many pastors find the meetings tedious as well. One suggestion was that more of the business of presbytery should be done by internet, thus cutting down on the time commitment required.

That could be a good option to investigate. But presbytery meetings also serve an important purpose that requires personal attendance: the development and nurturing of personal relationships between pastors and elders. Many ministers are solo pastors in smaller congregations and do not have peers to associate with on a daily basis. Presbytery meetings offer the opportunity to develop those peer relationships that help pastors feel less isolated and provide support and mentoring. As an elder, I have also found it useful to meet elders from other churches who provide me with a wider perspective on the church than I would otherwise have.

We do need to find a way to include more of our elders and not have attendance limited to those who are retired or who have flexible employment situations. But how do we find a balance between a new, possibly electronic format, for presbytery meetings without losing the benefits of the traditional style of meeting? Or am I overstating the benefit of personal interaction between pastors at these meetings?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bush Administration Prevents 2nd Coming

It's Friday the thirteenth, and time for another report from Houston on the doings of our local religious fringe leaders.

Houston-based evangelist Dr. (of what???) K.A.Paul , speaking at a rally in Cleveland, accused the Bush administration of delaying the Second Coming of Christ.

Hmmmm. So does K. A. Paul believe that the election of Democrats will hasten the coming of Christ? Somehow I don't think the Democratic Party will be campaigning on that platform.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Thank You

El Jefe, Babs, Portia, and DK join me in thanking our friends and QG readers who have emailed, commented or called us expressing their sympathy for the loss of Gretel The Noble Dog in the last couple of days.

We have been touched and uplifted by your prayers and kindness. Thanks to each one of you! You are also a blessing in our lives.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Gretel The Nobel Dog 1992-2006

It's a very sad day here. This morning it was clear that Gretel's tumor was growing and her condition deteriorating rapidly. El Jefe and I took her to the vet who has taken care of her since she was a puppy. He agreed with our difficult decision to release her from pain and return her to her Maker.

Let the bunnies in heaven beware! Thank you, God, for the companionship of this wonderful dog for these past 14 years.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Whither Synods?

Pastor Lance at Full Court Presby wonders why we have Synods in the PCUSA today. I've asked the same question myself. I agree with his conclusion Synods are a relic of the horse-and-buggy era that only add expense and bureaucracy to the denomination. What do you think? Join the conversation at his blog.

(Gretel update for those of you kind enough to ask: no change in her condition this morning.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Ministry of Skidboot

My brother sent me this video clip from a San Antonio station. It's about a cowboy in Quinlan Texas, his amazing dog Skidboot, and the ministry he didn't know he had. There are glimpses of everyday grace in this story--it's about 8 minutes long, but worth it.

I'm dedicating this to Gretel The Noble Dog, who's not famous but just as beloved as Skidboot. I just took her to the vet because of a mass on the side of her head. The vet put her on antibiotics in the hope it's an inflamed lymph node. If it doesn't improve in 48 hours, then it's a tumor and bad news indeed.

Friday, October 06, 2006

No More Limbo

I almost hijacked the comments at A Church For Starving Artists this morning when I read her post "TGIF No More Limbo."

You see, Limbo is more than a theological concept for me. When I was about six years old my mother had a baby boy who had birth injuries and genetic problems. He came home for a few weeks but hemmoraged when she was bathing him. I remember this because I was watching as she did it. He was rushed to the local hospital but there wasn't any way to save him.

The hospital was run by an order of Catholic nuns. At this time the pediatric intensive care unit was staffed with many nuns who were nurses (yes, this was a long time ago--late 1950's). The nuns told my mother that they wanted to baptise him so his soul wouldn't be trapped in Limbo for all eternity. She was horrified by both the concept and their wanting to do this to a Presbyterian baby, so my dad quickly called in our minister to baptise him in the hospital. He died shortly thereafter.

Mother never got over that incident. She couldn't understand how the Catholic church could teach an extra-Biblical doctrine that punished new born babies. She resented the pressure to baptise him that she got from the nuns. This incident added a lot to the stress and depression she suffered after he died which I remember well.

So I like to think that she is in heaven today thinking, "What took you so long?"

Thursday, October 05, 2006

QG Goes Cat Herding

Fellow Presbyblogger Michael Kruse compares his General Assembly General Council meetings to cat-herding. I'm starting to learn that his analogy holds for presbytery meetings as well.

This is my first week in my new life as Moderator-elect-elect. There have been lengthy meetings. The meetings are interesting enough but it's hard for me to grasp EXACTLY where we are when we've finished. This is complicated by the fact that QG is relatively new to presbytery doings and sometimes finds herself lost in the ecclesiastical Presbyspeak. Your humble correspondent is way too Type-A for this and finds herself spinning out of her comfort zone.

So today I brought my trusty I-Mac laptop and my imaginary Mom of Presbytery Hat and suggested that I act as clerk and take minutes for the "team" meeting. It worked for me. Hope it works for everyone else.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

MidWeek Linkin'

I came across several interesting posts today and thought that maybe you would enjoy reading them, too. So here's some Midweek Linkin'.

Pastor Lance says the PCUSA is not yet ready to die and makes a proposal for renewal of the PCUSA.

Denis Hancock has yet another example of school administrators who fell out of the stupid tree. Things like this happen so often that I guess it's not really news.

My friend Zorra, a frequent commenter on this and many other RevGalBlogPal blogs, now can be found at Red Heeler Ranch. Go say howdy.

Will Spotts wonders what in the world some former PCUSA Moderators are up to.

And finally: A Deeply Spiritual Post from Gannet Girl.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Name Game

Portia finds herself caught in a classic Catch 22 regulatory web as she tries to use her new married last name. She had to travel this week under her maiden name on their delayed honeymoon because the County Clerk hadn't gotten around to producing the certified copy of her marriage license so she could apply for a new driver's license under that name, and open a joint checking account with DK, and ask the Department of State for a passport in her new name. Of course even if they had given it to her in the 2 weeks they promised her, it's unlikely all those other agencies would have sent her the new documents she needs.

It really has bummed her out to be traveling as Miss X and Mr. Y on her honeymoon.

Thinking back to the Dark Ages when I got married, the name game was so much simpler. As I recall the only agency that demanded a certified copy of my marriage license in order to change my name was the State Bar of Texas (motto: where bureaucracy rules). The Department of Public Safety and the banks just took my word for the fact that I was changing my name as the result of marriage--no questions asked.

Now with all of our concern for identifying everybody a dozen times over, your name on your driver's license or passport MUST be the same as the one on your plane ticket or hotel reservation or you're toast--or detained for questioning.

Those were the days! Just another way life has become more complicated than it used to be.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Atheist Church Member Writes Again

Here's an update on the Atheist Church Member, Robert Jensen, the guy who joined St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Austin without professing belief in God, Christ or much of anything else. Jensen is back with another internet article: "Finding My Way Back To Church...And Getting Kicked Out." (Hat tips to A Classical Presbyterian and Presbyweb for the link.)

Some of you will recall the fuss that ensued last spring when he published "Why I Am A Christian Sort of" in the Houston Chronicle (still available on the web here). The fuss resulted in an investigation by Mission Presbytery which instructed St. Andrews to remove Jensen from the membership rolls and transfer him to the "baptised" list. Jensen was baptised as an infant, apparently. Classical Presbyterian reports that the session and pastor of St. Andrews have refused to comply and filed a complaint with the Synod of the Sun to set aside that determination, so the saga continues in Central Texas.

CP has some good observations about Jensen's latest publication in the post I linked above. Now that I've read "Finding My Way etc", I would not be surprised to see it turn up again in the Houston Chronicle or another major newspaper. Recall that Jensen is a professor of journalism and knows exactly how to write and position an article in order to have it picked up by mainstream sources, just as he did with "Why I Am A Christian Sort Of ". No one can accuse Jensen or Rev. Jim Rigby, the pastor of St. Andrews, of seeking to avoid publicity.

Jensen deliberately obscures the fact that no one is asking him not to attend or participate in the life of this church. He's no fool--he's had enough background in the church to know that belief in Christ is a prerequisite for membership. Perhaps he is sincerely seeking faith and one can pray that he may find it. But it doesn't seem likely with mentors like Rigby who seems to have a martyr complex and is failing in his duty to properly teach and mentor both Jensen and the church.

Confession of belief in Christ is the historic test of church membership or of self-identification as a Christian. It's nothing new. So what is the point of this foolish ecclesiastical legal jousting? Is it to expand the "inclusiveness" of the church? Is it to test the will of presbytery and the synod to enforce the Book of Order? Is it self-dramatization?

Whatever it is, the PCUSA cannot and must not back down on this case, even at the cost of ridicule from the secular press.