Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Carpe Diem Diamonds

This afternoon I took my mother's wedding ring set to a jeweler to find out if I could take out the stones and put them into new settings. My mother's set included a band of small diamonds, a band of tiny sapphires, and another small band of emeralds and diamonds. Each of the bands are different in style and size.

But after the jeweler examined them, it turned out that the sapphires and the emeralds, being soft stones, were too scratched and damaged to safely remove and remount in another setting. "She really wore the life out of these," the jeweler remarked. Yes, she did. Mother wore them every day and I never saw remove them when gardening, cleaning, washing, cooking or for any other reason. She didn't believe in saving your good things--she believed in wearing and enjoying them every day.

So I decided to have the diamonds in the band, which are in good condition, put in a setting that I will be able to wear often. When I do, I will think about Mother and the two rings that went back to my jewelry box. And that will remind me to enjoy my good things every day.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Righting the Family Story

El Jefe is an amateur historian and geneologist in the "spare" time vouchchafed to him by Giga-Law Firm. Last week his cousin sent him this link to a story about getting your DNA tested for geneological purposes. Cousin had just ordered a mail-order test from a small company that specializes in analyzing DNA for geneological purposes and urged him to do it as well. Both of them have been gathering a lot of information about their shared family tree in the past few months.

When El Jefe read the article he was startled to see the name of Skip Gates. He knew Skip when they were both at Yale. Skip is now professor of African-American studies at Harvard. It seems that he had his DNA analyzed and found that his family story that one of his ancestors was a 19th century planter was wrong. In fact, one of his Anglo ancestors was a 17th century Irish indentured female servant and there was no slaveholder in his family tree. Apparently there was significantly more miscegenation in the 17th than the 19th century in America. Skip found that he was actually more European than African. Another man in the story who had always considered himself African-American found that he had no African ancestors at all--he was from mixed European, East Asian and American Indian descent. Talk about an identity crisis!

El Jefe is sending off his sample today. We don't expect anything as dramatic as the two results above, though both El Jefe and Cousin think they are Irish although their shared surname is TOTALLY English. Last fall we found out my maternal grandmother's family were Swiss Mennonites, when the family had always assumed they were Dutch. It goes to show that family stories can be really wrong.

Cousin and El Jefe are hoping the results will show they are related to some ancient Irish warlord: Neal of the 9 Hostages. Wager, anyone?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Confession of A Book-a-holic

I've done it again. I've accumulated so many books that I can't decide which to begin reading first. Understand, I usually read more than one book at a time, so starting on the first one doesn't mean I have to finish it before picking up another.

Toward an Evangelical Public Policy, edited by Ronald Sider and Diane Knippers, is a book I bought so I could keep up with the Kruse Kronicle where a series of posts discussing the book has begun. As a government major, retired lawyer and sometime political junkie, I thought this could be interesting. But it has already started and, YIKES, I'm behind already. It's a series of essays, so it doesn't have to be read straight through.

I also just bought a couple of history books. One is Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his book Guns, Germs and Steel which I found very interesting. Pretty dire title, eh? To offset that one, I have an offering from Babs: Sex With Kings : Five Hundred Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry and Revenge. Dishy gossip for the intellectual set, no doubt.

Then I was tempted by a new book from Bart Ehrman ( whose Teaching Company tapes on the New Testament and Lost Christianities are great!)--so I had to have it. Misquoting Jesus, The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why is the title. Now I'm wondering why must every non-fiction title be followed by a subtitle? What's up with that?

A girl has to have some fiction on her bedside table, so Babs gave me Plainsong by Kent Haruf and Maggie by the Book by Kasey Michaels. I also have Lamp of the Wicked by Phil Rickman which would be the third Rev. Merrily Watkins mystery for me. Thanks RevGals for the recommendation on the Watkins series--I just wish they would use slightly larger print!

I just love it when my bookstand runneth over! If I really like any of these, I will post a review later. What do you think, Gentle Readers? Where should I start? And what are you reading?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Lakewood Strikes Again

By now many of you are familiar with my perhaps morbid curiosity about Lakewood Church and All Things Osteen. Yesterday I had a meeting at presbytery, so I drove by again. There was another huge new sign up that read:
Lakewood Church
Joel and Victoria Osteen, Pastors
Huh? Victoria Osteen, "Pastor"? She gets to be Pastor because she's married to the Pastor? Oh, wait--I forgot, Joel Osteen got to be Pastor because he was the son of the Founding Pastor, didn't he! Silly me! He didn't finish college or graduate from seminary, so why would she have to?

On behalf of all my RevGalPals, who studied diligently in college and seminary--I'm disgusted!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

No Ashes, Please

Yesterday while I was editing the church newsletter for March I noticed a couple of articles about the meaning of Lent and the notice about our Ash Wednesday service. That prompted me to think about my own conflicted feelings about the upcoming Ash Wednesday services.

When I grew up in south Texas Presbyterians and other mainline Protestants like the Methodists and Baptists did not observe Ash Wednesday with a service or the imposition of ashes ceremony. You went to school on Ash Wednesday to see the foreheads of your Catholic friends and teachers smudged. Your Episcopalian and Lutheran friends went to a service that evening. But I can't ever remember an Ash Wednesday service in the Presbyterian church.

In those days and in that place there was a clearly defined difference between Catholic (or litugical churches like the Episcopalians and Lutherans) and the "low church" Protestants like us. Having clean foreheads on Ash Wednesday defined who we were as much as the fact that our church had no bishops and our ministers were married. We did observe Maundy Thursday with communion and Good Friday with a solemn noon hour service of remembrance. But we didn't pray the Stations of the Cross or engage in an all-night Easter vigil.

A number of years ago when I was chair of our Worship Committee the pastor began scheduling an Ash Wednesday service, complete with the imposition of ashes. As I recall, he told me that because we had a number of members who came from Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopalian traditions, he thought it met a need in the congregation and could also be an outreach to the community. I told him at the time that I understood his position, but I hoped that those who chose to attend the service without coming forward for ashes would not be made uncomfortable because El Jefe and I would be in that group.

Of course our church was not alone in starting to observe Ash Wednesday in this way. Out of curiousity I cruised the websites of several other local PCUSA churches yesterday and found that all of them have Ash Wednesday services scheduled. Some sites stated that ashes would be imposed and some didn't say, but I assume they will include that in the service. Today this is a widespread practice in all the churches that did not do this when I was young.

I believe in observing the liturgical season of Lent. I think that having a service to mark its beginning is appropriate. It is important to me to either give up something or take on something new for Lent as a spiritual discipline. Attending Maundy Thursday communion and Good Friday service are as much a part of the observance of Easter week as the triumphant Easter morning worship.

But I cannot part with my traditional upbringing and participate in the imposition of ashes. For several years when I sang with our choir it was very uncomfortable to sing in the Ash Wednesday service and then remain in the pews (the choir seats face the congregation) during that part of the service along with a few other hard-core traditionalists. I wish I could find a Wednesday Lent Begins Service that didn't include the ash ceremony, but called us to reprentance and reflection for the season.

Those of you who grew up in churches that always observed Ash Wednesday with traditional liturgy probably can not understand why this is a problem for me. But perhaps there are others of you who will say with me "no ashes please."

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Tag I'm It--the 7 Songs Meme

I'm it! I was tagged by BroGreg for this meme, so I decided to play along while watching the Olympics this evening. Here is the question:
List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they're listening to.
A word of explanation first. I've been constantly playing the album Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for the past couple of weeks whenever I am in the car. I needed a spiritual "jump-start" and for me, nothing does that like great classical choral singing. I love to sing along with this great choir. Here are my 7 favorites from the album, in no particular order:

1. Sheep May Safely Graze by J.S. Bach. I sang this melody with wedding lyrics ("Jesus Savior, be thou near them as they walk along life's way) at one of my neice's weddings. I plan to ask another neice to sing this for Portia's wedding. You really can't beat Bach.

2. Let Their Celestial Concerts All Unite from Samson by G.F. Handel. Fabulous intertwining harmonies in this one really lift your spirits!

3. Sing Unto God from Judas Maccabeas by G. F. Handel. No one does it like Handel--you can't listen to this and not want to sing along!

4. Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring by J.S. Bach. When El Jefe and I were married, the church choir sang this during the ceremony. I plan to use it as the processional for the bridesmaids at Portia's wedding.

5. Awake the Trumpet's Lofty Sound from Samson by G. F. Handel. If your morning coffee didn't wake you up, this will!

6. But As for His People from the Israel in Egypt oratorio by G. F. Handel. A more calm, lyrical chorus than the others.

7. Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah by G. F. Handel. What can I say? Everyone's favorite.

If Greg had tagged me at another time there would be a lot more variety in what I am listening to --for better or worse. But I really love this album and I'm not tired of it yet--it definitely puts me in an optimistic, happy mood.

You're supposed to tag 7 others to play, but I tell you what: if you'd like to play, too, then consider yourself tagged and leave word in my comments that you answered so I can visit you--or just answer in the comments if you're not a blogger. Thanks, Greg!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Using the "M" Word in Church

Presbyterian that I am, I know that it is no coincidence that my post yesterday about the "birthday party", which drew a record-setting number of comments for this blog, was followed by a lively discussion last night in the small group study I'm leading on the Gospel of Luke about Jesus' teachings on money.

"Why is the "M" word taboo in most mainline Protestant churches?" we asked ourselves. Some of the responses given in the group included:

~ Preaching about money always stirs up controversy in the church because people think they are being pressured to give more.
~ Tithing is no longer accepted as a standard by which to measure our faithfulness in giving.
~ We don't teach our children to give to the church or share with them the amount of our giving to the church.
~ People resent being told what to do with their money--they believe that their pledge should only be between them and God.
~ Although people want the amount of their giving to the church to be highly confidential (and some pastors insist on not knowing anything about individual pledges of church members), in most churches the identity of the big givers are known nonetheless.
~People want to pretend that the church doesn't need money to function, just faith.

We discussed the fact that talking about money in church always seem to be during Stewardship season, yet there are many ways in which Christians use money other than in giving to the church or charitable organizations or to individuals in need. Christians purchase products every day, make investments through pension plans or directly in stocks and bonds, and set aside money for different savings purposes. Some use money to create their own businesses and pay employees and suppliers. The list is endless in a complex economic society like ours. In most mainline churches, these other uses of the "M" word are never addressed.

Part of what horrified me and all of you who commented on yesterday's post was the breeching of that taboo by the New Light Christian Center in Houston. This group unabashedly promotes the Prosperity Gospel--and seem to have been rewarded for it as the church apparently is one of the fastest growing in the Houston area. The realization this teaching can be successful is almost impossible for us mainliners to swallow. Rev. and Mrs. Dr. Hilliard sure as shooting aren't afraid to talk about money!

The lesson for mainline Protestants is that we need to find a way to talk about money in church again. Jesus taught more about money than salvation. We must find a way to take the taboo out of the "M" word and study Jesus' teachings on the subject during and after Stewardship season.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ask And You Will Receive

Let's suppose that your husband is pastor of a growing independent church. Let's further suppose that the church purchased the original location of Lakewood Church which moved to the old Houston basketball arena. And then let's suppose that it's time to have a fundraiser for the church.

Your 50th birthday is coming up. How about a birthday party for you? Brilliant! Here's the webpage describing it.

The church can sell tickets to the party for $100 each. Gifts? Everyone is going to ask anyway, so let's save time by providing a link to your short list on the website: money, handbags from Gucci, Chanel and Vuitton, or gift certificates from Neiman's, Saks Fifth Avenue or Escada. You're just a simple girl with simple needs. Blessed are those who shop at the Galleria, for they shall find these Designers!

The columnist for the Houston Chronicle who wrote about this upcoming event called your theology "health and wealth."


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Me, too

I wasn't going to do this myself, but after contributing to everyone else's Johari Window on the RGBP webring I succumbed. For those of you who haven't followed this elsewhere, this is a model for mapping personality awareness. I'm still not sure I want to be aware of my personality, but I probably should be, so if you'd like to contribute to mine, click here.

Much obliged.

Orchids for Remembrance

I found this wonderful blooming orchid plant this weekend at my local grocery store. I brought it home for Valentine's Day and wanted to share it with all of you. Happy Valentine's Day!

Orchids remind me of my mother, who passed away a couple of years ago after a very long bout with emphysema. She loved orchids. Her birthday was Valentine's Day and I always had a new orchid plant shipped to her on that day.

My uncle was a florist and gave her two large cymbidium orchid plants when I was in middle school. This variety is hardy and performed well in South Texas. She took great care of those plants. They grew and she was able to divide them into several more. They bloomed between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. After I was married and moved to Houston, she brought me one of the orchid "babies" for our first home.

I'm not the gardener she was. Just call me "Grace of the Black Thumbs". But I was able to keep that plant going for a long time until one day an unexpected freeze killed it off. I had another orchid plant that I kept going here until our patio was redone last fall--it got lost in the construction. So I'm hoping to redeem myself by keeping this one alive and maybe even getting it to bloom again.

Happy Birthday, Mother. And Happy Valentine's Day to Y'all!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Valentine's Eve Wedding Update

Exclusive to the blog from the Bridal Frontlines:

While Portia and her Fiance were here this weekend for the baptism (see post below for details), we had a chance to review the wedding plans and make some more decisions. In honor of Valentine's Day tomorrow, here is a Mother of the Bride update.

* We engaged a string quartet and harp for the ceremony and the reception. Portia and Fiance did not want a band, DJ or dancing at the reception. "That's so NOT us," she explained. She wants classical music and a nice relaxed atmosphere so they can visit with all the guests. I'm one happy MOTB about that! It will be fun to help choose the music!

* We are not having a videographer, either. As Portia said, "we're not video people, we're book people. I want a nice album and we don't want video cameras in our faces. I don't think we'd look at that as much as we would a wedding album." Great!

* We have hired a photographer and he's going to take their engagement pictures in Hermann Park in Houston in a couple of weeks when they are back in town for Fiance to interview with the UT Health Science Center.

* They chose a "save the date" card which will be sent to everyone on the invitation list who lives out-of-state. Apparently "save the date" magnets are the trendy thing for young couples right now, but they decided they didn't want to do that.

* We looked at wedding invitations and they chose 3 favorites and decided to think about it and maybe make a decision on their next visit home. There's plenty of time to make that decision.

* Moeller's Bakery in Houston has been our family tradition for all our birthday and other celebration cakes. Portia had the brilliant idea of ordering petit fours from them to give as favors at the reception since the people who run the reception hall do all the catering, including the cakes. My resourceful SIL has already found cute individual pastry boxes online and arranged for the bakery to use them so all we have to do is pick them up the morning of the wedding.

It will all be SO Portia!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

All in the Presbyterian Family: Baptism

Here's a picture of our baby Annie who was baptised today. She is wearing a christening gown that is a family heirloom. The baptism quilt she is wrapped in is the one that I gave her and is fully pictured on the right. The Ministers of the Cloth (quilting group at my church) make quilts like this for each baby baptised at our church. The square at the bottom right is embroidered with her name, the name of the church where she was baptised and the date of the baptism. The quilt has a sleeve on the back so it can be hung on a rod and displayed, if the parents choose. Most of them do!

The church where she was baptised has a special tradition. The parents choose a verse from scripture to share with the congregation during the baptism. Annie's mother chose Ephesians 2:5--the same scripture that I use for this blog. El Jefe was the elder assisting at the baptism and even got to sign her baptismal certificate of the church. Although we are not members of this Presbyterian church, he can do this because of the connectional nature of the PCUSA. That was a very special moment for all of us!

Another reminder of this connectionalism came during the service when the church installed a new associate pastor to serve the congregation. All ordained as elders or ministers in the PCUSA were asked to come forward for the laying on of hands, so El Jefe and I got to join in.

There was a very scary moment when a woman participating in the installation fainted as she tried to read the charge to the congregation. After several folks rushed to her side, the senior pastor led the congregation in prayer for her. In a few minutes she walked away, supported by two other people, and the EMS arrived to check her out. I don't know what the cause of her fainting spell was, but I pray that it wasn't serious and that she recovers quickly. We were very impressed with the way the senior pastor and the congregation handled the situation.

Those of you who read this and are not in Texas today: I wish I could send you our gorgeous weather. It is in the 50's, very sunny and not a cloud in the sky. What a beautiful day for a baptism! This was a day that the Lord made--we rejoice and are glad in it.

Friday, February 10, 2006

YES, I'm Miss Piggy!

You Are Miss Piggy

A total princess and diva, you're totally in charge - even if people don't know it.
You want to be loved, adored, and worshiped. And you won't settle for anything less.
You're going to be a total star, and you won't let any of the "little people" get in your way.
Just remember, piggy, never eat more than you can lift!

Thanks to Gord for this one.

True confession: If I wasn't going to post this if I didn't get to be Miss Piggy. She's always been my favorite!

Friday Five: The Long Goodbye

Songbird posted the weekly RevGalBlogPals Friday Five meme on the subject of saying goodbye today--so I'm playing.

1. How do you say goodbye to someone you will see again soon?

To friends, just "bye-bye", to El Jefe, Portia and Babs, "love you."

2. What is your favorite foreign word for "goodbye"?

Adios. Note the "dios" (God) contained in this Spanish word. Favorite goodbye phrase: Vaya con Dios (Go with God).

3. Have you ever planned a special farewell for someone or had one planned for you?

I've helped plan countless farewell parties over the years for people leaving my workplace, church or social/charitable organizations. I can't remember having one given for me, but then I haven't moved in my adult life since I moved to Houston from San Antonio when I married El Jefe. Okay, now you've made me feel like a stick-in-the-mud!

4. What is the hardest goodbye you have had to say?

Excluding goodbyes associated with funerals and memorial services for loved ones, it was saying goodbye to Babs when we left her at college her freshman year because Portia was already in college and I was facing the "empty nest". A few days later when we took Portia to the airport so she could fly up to her college to begin her junior year, I found it just as difficult to say goodbye to her.

4. What is the most romantic goodbye you have seen in a movie?

A Tale of Two Cities--"It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. It is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known."

Bonus Question: Which von Trapp child would you like to be in "So long, Farewell"? Liesel.

Songbird's LH will be out-of -state on a two month work assignment, which prompted the topic. I hope the days seem to fly by for both of them!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Jesus the Samaritan?

Tonight I was leading a group at church studying the Gospel of Luke. We were discussing the parable of the Good Samaritan and I was encouraging everyone to look for more in the story than the traditional "morality play" presented in Sunday School and VBS.

That's when we all had an "ah-hah" moment, courtesy of some observations by Scott M. He said that as he was reviewing this very familiar scripture before class he asked himself why the Samaritan in the story was traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. That is a long way from Samaria. The Samaritan was in hostile territory, given the traditional enmity between the Samaritans and the Jews. What was he doing there?

Then it occured to him: Jesus is the Samaritan in the parable.

Jesus was a stranger--the son of God--in a hostile enviornment. He reaches out in compassion to the man in need of rescue when the religious people ignored him. Notice that the man's nationality isn't identified. We don't know whether he was a Jew, a Roman, a Greek or fellow Samaritan, which emphasizes that Jesus came to save both Jews and Gentiles. The Samaritan in the story saves the injured man and purchases his well-being by paying the innkeeper. Similarly, Jesus purchased our salvation with his blood on the cross.

What do YOU think? Could Jesus be the Samaritan?

QG for Arbitrator ?

Take the quiz:
What is your political orientation?

You're a WUNist! (World United Nationalist.) You hold beliefs that fall in the range between the views of the democrats and republicans. You're probably in support of globalization. You like to compromise and you're a level-headed person that considers what's best for everyone. You enjoy when conflicts are solved and you're usually the person best qualified to solve them.

Quizzes by myYearbook.com -- the World's Biggest Yearbook!

(Hat tip to Soli.Deo.Gloria for the quiz.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Gung Hay Fat Choy, Ya'll!

Last Tuesday I was sitting in my office trying to wrap up loose ends before leaving town for the APCE conference when I heard the insistent thumping of steel drums and squeals of delight from the sanctuary filled with kids from our school. The dragon dancers were performing to celebrate the Chinese New Year!

These guys were GREAT. Their costumes had eyes, ears and tails that moved in such a life-like way that you almost forgot it wasn't real.

Our church and school is located in an area with a high concentration of Asian-Americans. A significant number of them are students in our school. One of their moms, who is also a stalwart volunteer for our church VBS every year, arranged for the dancers. She also had several retired gentlemen from the local Chinese community center come to write the children's names on elegant bamboo - imprinted paper with Chinese characters and brushes. There was a long line at that table!

Gung Hay Fat Choy, y'all!

Monday, February 06, 2006

A Godsend for Valentine's Day

Here's the perfect gift for your Valentine-- assorted chocolate dieties. Really.

There's lots to choose from, including: Buddha, Celtic Crosses and Sacred Hearts of Jesus.

Thanks to Zorra, for sending me the link!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The 3 Faces of Grace

The 3 faces of Grace came with me to the APCE meeting in St. Louis. Sometimes that makes for an uncomfortable trip.

Lawyer Grace walks into this gathering and sees lots of teachers of children and youth—people with the imagination and skill to inspire the next generation of faithful Christians. And since Lawyer Grace has no formal teaching or child development experience (except the on-the-job training as Mom to Portia and Babs), she feels out of place and like an imposter.

Lawyer Grace thinks: “What am I doing here? Shouldn’t someone with the experience and affinity for children and youth ministry be attending in my place? Wouldn’t that be better stewardship of the church’s resources?” Then she reminds herself that she is there as Educator Grace, a person with four years of practical (albeit part-time) experience in that role.

Educator Grace’s focus is on adult education. Her mission is to improve the Biblical literacy of the congregation. Educator Grace believes in the “trickle down” theory—to involve children and youth in CE you must first involve the adults. So Educator Grace registers for workshops to help improve her work in adult education.

But the APCE meeting workshops are mostly focused on programs and curriculum for children and youth. There are few workshops offered in this area at the annual meeting and there were no real new ideas in any of them.

The third face is Blogger Grace, who brought along her laptop. Blogger Grace was disappointed there were no workshops beyond a very introductory level that offered a chance to improve computer presentation skills or discussed creative ways to expand CE ministry beyond the walls of the church through the internet. What about podcasts? How about tweaking the church's website to include "directed Bible studies" for those who prefer to read and study on their own, are homebound, or otherwise wouldn't participate in a group at church? What other ways can we use internet tools to help people grow in faith?

The RevGals (especially Reverendmommy) could really take this group to school on the subject. Blogger Grace believes this was a missed opportunity and was frustrated.

As I write this I'm back home and the 3 faces of Grace are no longer differentiated, but reunited. I've concluded that next year we need to send someone from the church active in our children and youth ministries and committed to making them better in order to take advantage of what APCE really offers. If session won’t increase our continuing education budget, then the 3 faces of Grace will stay home so we can equip someone else in these vital areas of ministry.

Friday, February 03, 2006

FreeWill and Grace's Friday APCE report

Bless us Father, for we have sinned--

Instead of attending worship, singing and plenary we slept late (9 am!!), ate a big breakfast, and then did the tourist thing. We walked over to the Old Courthouse, famous as the site of the Dred Scott case, then went to the famed Arch and visited the museum of Westward Expansion below, which is quite well done. No offense to the plenary speaker, but it is a rare speaker who can be interesting 3x2 1/2 hours total.

We did go to our workshops. The one I went to yesterday on adult Bible study was very good, but alas the professor who gave it had no handouts. He did a wonderful demo of how to lead a Bible study using just the text --but I would need to have a DVD of him or watch him do this several more times to learn how to do it myself.

The second workshop on adult education was given by a Phd candidate who spent the entire time on educational theory and was WAY over my head. Color me simple, but I was hoping for concrete suggestions for making adult classes more interesting. I did like the last class on Sabbath keeping for church professionals. The leader was very good and also realistic--a good trait. He suggested that we try for 10 minutes of Sabbath keeping once a week and then try to work up to 10 minutes once a day. The conversation in this group was lively and engaging, too.

Last night we had a fun evening with several other educators from our area and a couple of Virginians. I always learn something from meeting new folks. Tonight is the awards dinner. FreeWill (my roomie) is being honored as a brand new certified Director of Christian Education. I get to tag along at her reserved table and clap loudly. Yee-hah!!

There's one more workshop tomorrow and then the flight back to Houston. More later...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Thursday Evaluations

I walked out of the workshop on the new PCUSA confirmation curriculum because the workshop leader "forgot" to bring any of those materials to the workshop. She then began to try to describe them from memory, but kept forgetting things. How lame is that! Bah. Fortunately they have some available at the bookstore for the conference, so I'll go over there in a minute and look it over before my next workshop. But what a missed opportunity! I was hoping to get a real introduction and overview to these new materials and have the chance to ask questions about them and hear the questions of others. Grade: D

After spending another 2 1/2 hours with our plenary speaker, Rev. Eric Law, I decided that I am done. He had us do a couple of interesting group exercises, but I can't see the practical use of any of them in a church. At lunch with about 10 other educators I asked them what they thought and they all agreed. So tomorrow morning I think I'll do a bit of sight-seeing. Grade: C

On a brighter note, five of us from my presbytery were all wearing red jackets today! No one pre-arranged that, but it sure made it easier to find each other at the PCUSA breakfast and the plenary session. Grade: A from the Fashion Police.

Roomate (Free)Will and I discovered that she was friends with my sister many years ago when both were freshmen at UT. We've been friends through our work for the past 8 years, and APCE roommates the past 3 years and just now figured that out! Grade: A for providential.

Tonight is a free night so I'm looking forward to dinner with an assorted group from our regional group and lots of fellowship and exchange of ideas, to be washed down with some good wine at the Italian Restaurant we chose. Grade: A+

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

First Impressions

We got to St. Louis safe and sound and have finished our first day at the APCE meeting. Here are some of our first impressions:

* With almost 1500 in attendance, this is the largest national gathering of the PCUSA outside of General Assembly. Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase and new Presbyterian Outlook editor Rev. Jack Haberer are both here and very visible.

* My roommate (the DCE at a Houston church--she says to call her Free Will on the blog so I can report the adventures of Will and Grace) and I are not too sure about the keynote speaker, Rev. Eric Law. Today's presentation was riddled with references to "diversity" and culminated in a puzzling interpretation of the dove descending at the baptism of Jesus as symbolic of fertility and new birth. What?????

* Usually the music at one of these gatherings is happy-clappy. But today it was right out of the Baptist Boardman's Hymnal--Shall We Gather at the River, Down to the River and Operator, Get Me Jesus. There was a puzzling song about the Sycamore Tree that we didn't understand, either.

*I did get to meet Miranda of My Farcical Existence and the instigator of the Presbyterian Bloggers ring at our regional APCE meeting. She is a lovely young woman, graduate of Columbia Seminary, who is beginning the candidacy process. What a treat to meet a fellow RGBP'er and Presby Blogger!

*We all got tote bags for our workshop and plenary session materials from the Fair Trade store. They are in several bright colors and made from Central American style folk fabrics. While the women in attendance enjoyed choosing between bright purple, green or red bags, the men (admittedly a minority here) looked a bit sheepish carrying them around.

* 7 am is too dang early for a denominational breakfast meeting tomorrow. Workshops don't begin until after lunch, and that is usually the highlight of the conference.

More later....