Monday, July 31, 2006

All Wine-d Out

This is a picture I took of one of the vineyards we saw on our tours of the California Wine Country this weekend. Here are some random wine-y comments about it all:
  • Learn to like goat cheese, flavored honeys, figs, olives, olive oil and bread. Not your mama's Wonder Bread--Artisan bread in wierd shapes. How do you make a sandwich out of that???)
  • Looking back over the first comment, I wonder if California cuisine isn't just the Old Testament Diet minus the locusts.
  • Actually, if you stuffed the locusts with sun-dried tomatoes and grilled them, then they might eat that too.
  • Still am not a big fan of white wines.
  • I learned to like Zinfandel.
  • The weather was spectacular--clear, dry, sunny and coolish.
  • The flowers were gorgeous!
  • California is crowded, crowded, crowded with people. El Jefe observed that 1 in 9 Americans live there. You can tell.
  • The Oakland airport is a madhouse between overcrowding and construction. I haven't seen security lines like that since just after 9/11.
  • New vocabulary words: Brix, bottle shock, must (a noun), and tercetto.
  • It's good to meet new people from different parts of the country who (shock and amazement!) have different points of view from me.
  • When can I go back?
A special word for El Jefe, who left the Blackberry in the "off" position in the hotel room on Friday, Saturday AND Sunday. There were a couple of his buddies who kept fooling around with theirs all weekend. So...all praise to thee, El Jefe!!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

QG On the Left Coast

Tomorrow El Jefe and I are off to join several of his old college classmates for a mini-reunion and tour of some northern California wineries. It's our micro-vacation before the Big Wedding! We're leaving Portia and DK in charge of the house and Gretel The Noble Dog, along with some Astros tickets and money for a special dinner celebration.

Last Sunday I presented the Children's Sermon which was based on the lectionary reading for the day, Mark 6:30-31--
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them " Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
The lesson for the children was that even Jesus and the disciples sometimes had to get away from their important tasks to rest and regroup. You can't do that if you take your work with you--so the computer is staying home. That is also today's devotion from Ordinary Time, the book of devotions written by members of the RevGalBlogPals webring. Thanks, cats, for your thoughts today!

I'll catch up with y'all on Tuesday. I'm still working on getting El Jefe to leave the Blackberry behind. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Back to Normal...

Portia called this afternoon after finishing today's portion of the Texas Bar Exam. She confessed to a restless sleep last night but is feeling confident and calm now that she has part of it behind her. She even took DK out for Retail Therapy--it seems she found a 2 for 1 suit sale so she is getting him fitted for a suit and a tuxedo. Ah! Everything is back to normal, even though 2 days of testing remain. Thanks for your expressions of support.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sitting for the Bar

Anxiety is running high Chez Grace as Portia prepares to “sit” for the Texas State Bar Exam tomorrow morning in Houston. The exam is a real endurance contest as it continues all day Wednesday and Thursday. As I have told her several times, the bar exam is not a sprint, but a marathon. And she's been studying with all the intensity that it requires.

Fortunately her fiancé, DK, is here to provide moral support. He actually begins orientation for his Phd program on Wednesday as well. Portia is pretty calm, all things considered.

Daddy "El Jefe", not so much. He worries that she needs an umbrella, and pencils...and maybe she should have a sleeping pill in case she gets too wound up to sleep (this is not historically a problem for her!). I think El Jefe needs the pill--a big CHILL PILL.

Some prayers wouldn't hurt, either.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

RGBP Inc.--It's official!

Cross-posted from RevGalBlogPals blog:

This afternoon's mail brought the certificate of filing from the Texas Secretary of State's office showing that RevGalBlogPals Inc. was officially incorporated as a non-profit corporation under the laws of the state of Texas effective July 17, 2006.


Here's what happens next:

1. Filing with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts for state franchise tax exemption
2. Obtaining a federal tax ID number
3. Preparing and filing our application to the IRS for 501-c-3- status

The organizing directors are Songbird, Mary Beth and myself. The three of us will serve until the first group of 7 directors is installed. We will be in touch with each other to adopt the by-laws (which are drafted and have been approved by The Matriarchs), approve the above filings and open a bank account. Then we will be ready to post information about how to join RGBP Inc. and we will schedule a meeting to elect the first group of directors. For your information, you must be a member of the RGBP webring in order to join RGBP Inc.

We can begin operating as a non-profit corporation, but will not be qualified as a 501-c-3 until the IRS approves our application. I'm not sure how long that will take, but hope it won't be more than a couple of months from the time we file our application.

The next 5 weeks will be really hectic for me as my oldest daughter's wedding is September 2. I hope to finish all the paperwork and get it in the mail before then, but can't promise! So I beg your patience in advance.

Meanwhile, let us all rejoice and be exceeding glad as RGBP Inc. has been created!

I wonder if we are the first webring to become a non-profit corporation?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Celebrating the RGBP Anniversary


Join me in a virtual margarita (non-alcoholic, if you like) in celebration of the first anniversary of the RevGalBlogPals webring! RGBP has grown to more than 160 members in that short time, published two books of devotions, and now is seeking to incorporate itself as RevGalBlogPals, Inc. so that it can apply for 501-c-3 status. And I, your humble correspondent, am serving pro bono to draft and file all these legal documents. That will teach me to miss a blogger meet-up!

Here are my answers to the first anniversary RGBP meme:

1) What is your first memory of the RevGalBlogPals?

The now-famed 100+ comment thread at St. Cassarole's place on July 19, where the RGBP webring was born. Yes, I was so fortunate to be there at the beginning.

2) Have you met any of the other ring members in real life?

Yes. Wendy Bailey of My Backyard is a minister in my presbytery who now is one of our Associate General Presbyters. Becky Downs of Monday Morning Letters served as Minister of Congregational Life at my church before moving to Chattanooga. I met Miranda of My Farcical Existence at the APCE meeting in St. Louis in February of this year. I've talked to Songbird and Mary Beth on the phone.

I almost met Mindy (Princess of Everything) in Austin but we didn't work it out, darn it. But I did get to talk to her on the phone! I know people who know Reverendmother, and ask me about her blog, but I didn't know her when she lived in Houston.

3) Of those you haven't met, name a few you would love to know in person.

Oh, it's so hard to name just a few! So I'll list those who are on my bloglines account:

St. Cassarole (first commenter on my blog!); Songbird; Reverendmommy; Reverendmother, Cheesehead; Mindy (and her sidekick Spooky Rach, who is not--technically speaking-- a RGBP but should be); Purechristianithink; Lutheran Chik; Will Smama; Mary Beth; Singing Owl; Gord; RevAbi; Pink Shoes; and Mibi. I'd like to meet just about anyone in RGBP!

4) What has Ring Membership added to your life?

Recently, it has forced me to find my lawyer hat and brush up on all things nonprofit as I agreed to prepare all the paperwork for incorporation and 501-c-3 status. I'm thrilled to be a contributor to both of our books. But the most important thing it has added to my life is a wider group of friends who share many of the same values and interests that I do. Plus they are so much fun!

5) Describe a hope for the future of the WebRing.

That we can maintain the spirit of the group as it continues to grow.

And on a fun note, when we have our first conference wouldn't it be a hoot to have PeaceBang of Beauty Tips for Ministers do some make-overs? And we'd love to have her join RGBP, too.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

M.O.B. Update

It's about six weeks until the big day! ACKKKKK!! Everyone is asking me how the plans are coming.'s what's in the Mother of the Bride's Bag.

Wedding invitations mailed.
Response cards coming in. Yeah!
Bridesmaids' Luncheon invitations--in the works.
Rehearsal Dinner invitations--in the works.
Rehearsal dinner powerpoint--in the works.
Sunday Brunch invitations--check.
Wedding favors--in the works, thanks to wonderful SIL.

On the "TO DO" List:

1. Music decisions for the ceremony. I'm thinking Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze" for the bridesmaids' processional and the Jupiter theme from Gustav Holst's The Planets for Portia. Now, who should sing "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring"--the mezzo soprano or the lyric soprano? The recessional will be the hymn "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee, with the congregation singing the along with the string quartet and the organ.

2. How many handkerchiefs will the MOB need? More than 3?

3. Finalize floral arrangements, bouquets, etc.

4. Transportation for bridesmaids, groomsmen, relatives coming from out of town. I have no idea what we'll need to do about this yet!

5. Housing for out of town relatives--El Jefe in charge here. I can delegate.

6. Miscellaneous details yet to be determined are probably looming out there.

Let's hope it's all in the bag.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Deliver Us From Evil

Last Friday I asked for prayers for the family and friends of Ashton Glover, the young girl on the left, whose body was found in a muddy field in our neighborhood. She was only 16. Two of her high school classmates were stopped at Port Huron, Michigan as they tried to escape into Canada after her body was found.

Yesterday one of them was returned to the Fort Bend County jail. The other suspect is fighting extradition from Michigan .

Local law enforcement officials held a press conference.

At the press conference, they revealed that the young man told them he shot Ashton in the head "out of morbid curiosity". Then he and the other teenager left her body in the field while they went to the local IHOP for breakfast. After eating, they returned to the field, dug a shallow grave and buried the body. When the body was found, they fled to Michigan, hoping to escape the country ahead of the police. Both boys are 18 and will be tried as adults. At this point it does not look like capital charges can be made against them because there the murder wasn't made in conjunction with another felony--just committed out of "morbid curiosity" about what it is like to shoot someone in the head.

Throughout the area, there are white ribbons tied to trees in the esplanades in Ashton's memory. The tribute in the photo above was created with Dixie cups placed in the fence around the tennis court at the neighborhood's Middle School. Marquees at all the local elementary, middle and high schools announce that a spaghetti supper fundraser will be held this evening at her high school to raise money to help her family pay for her funeral.
I didn't know this girl, the boys or her family. But I know people who do. And you don't need a personal connection to this tragedy to be appalled and horrified at the evil manifested here. Has murder become just another everyday happening to these teenagers?

For: "...the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth..." Genesis 8:21

Lord, deliver us from evil. Evil that hardens our hearts. Evil that devalues life. Evil that encourages morbid curiosity.

UPDATE (7/20/06): Russell Smith at The Eagle and Child wrote a thoughtful commentary, " A Call for Sanity, please!" on this post here.

He asks an important question: What can we do together about the culture of death manifested in teen-focused entertainment? I look forward to your comments on his blog or here. Thank you, Russell.

On the Ground With VBS 2006

Here's a report from behind the lines at Vacation Bible School, from Doodle, one of the faithful readers of this blog. Doodle is an elder and also an attorney. She took off from work to lead the Octopuses (Octopi?) last week and posted her reflections on her blog.

Doodle and her two sons not only survived, but thrived. May her tribe increase!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Musing on Musings

PresbyPolity wonks are familiar with Advisory Opinions issued by the Office of the Stated Clerk. Advisory Opinions seek, sometimes more successfully than others, to clarify questions about the prospective application of provisions of the Book of Order and/or Authoritative Interpretations. Recently, the Stated Clerk's office issued one about the meaning of the adoption of the Peace, Unity, Purity Report at General Assembly.

But did you know that the Stated Clerk also issues "Musings"? Yes. The latest Musing, #11, was linked on Presbyweb, but as of this morning was not yet on the PCUSA Musing Page. Presumably it will be added soon.

A Musing is apparently less authoritative than an Advisory Opinion. Which makes me wonder if there isn't a plan to develop a whole series of utterances from the Oracle of the Stated Clerk's Office. Maybe it will look something like this, ranging from least authoritative to binding:

Random Brain Waves of the Stated Clerk
Bad Dreams of the Stated Clerk
Stream of Consciousness of the Stated Clerk
Idle Thoughts of the Stated Clerk
Musings of the Stated Clerk
More Than Musings But Less than Advisory Opinions of the Stated Clerk
Advisory Opinions of the Stated Clerk
Directives of the Stated Clerk
Go to PresbyJail Do Not Pass Go Judgments of the Stated Clerk

I'm just saying...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

King of Jews King of Beers

Found on a billboard about 3 blocks from El Jefe's office in downtown Houston.

I'm not making this up!

Here's the full story....

Friday, July 14, 2006

Reverendmother's Pet Peeve Meme

Reverendmother of the RevGalBlogPals posted today's Friday Five on the topic of pet peeves. Heh-heh. I'm in a snarky mood today, so this is just perfect!

1. Grammatical pet peeve

Run-on sentences and professional jargon, be it LegalSpeak, ChurchSpeak, AccountantSpeak, EducatorSpeak or whatever. Yeah, verily, for it is written "Let your yes be yes and your no be no."

2. Household pet peeve

Picking up used dishware in the family room left by twenty-something daughters and friends. Yes, Portia and Babs. This means YOU.

3. Arts & Entertainment pet peeve (movie theaters, restaurants, concerts)

People who are famous for being famous and have no talent, intelligence, knowledge or wit to recommend them. Example: Paris Hilton.

4. Liturgical pet peeve

I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might tend to incriminate me. Can't even go there.

5. Wild card--pet peeve that doesn't fit any of the above categories

Bonus: Because
all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God: What do YOU do that others might consider a pet peeve?

I have a brain glitch about left and right. Although I know which is which, I always hesitate when asked to give left/right directions. This drives El Jefe CRA-ZEE.

And what are YOUR pet peeves, my friends?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Random Bullets and Serious Prayer Request

Following the lead of some of my RevGalPals, here's a bullet post Hey! I'm from Texas--we do bullets down here--not round ball thingies.
  • It's a two-fer link day: Presbyweb linked one of my posts.
  • VBS is going along spendidly, for the first time in the history of the church. I'm wondering if the aliens came and exchanged our kids for 'droids. Just kidding. (Not really!)
  • This afternoon Dorothy, her teenaged daughter, and I went to one of those "private collection" clothing shows in a Houston hotel. We decided to stop in the ladies' room before going in. There, to our astonishment, we found a woman buck naked, soaping herself off by the sink. A quick glance at the floor revealed a backpack and paper sack. When we came out we wondered if we should report it to the desk, but decided that the poor lady was probably homeless and was trying to clean herself up. God bless.
  • Dorothy brought me a "Put On Your Big Girl Panties and Deal With It" sign that she found on a recent trip to Dallas. I'm the envy of the RGBP, no doubt.
  • Speaking of the RGBP, today I filed the papers with the Secretary of State of Texas to incorporate RevGalBlogPals. Yes, I know: Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again!
Here is a serious prayer request. There's been a horrific murder that has affected my neighborhood. A 16 year old girl disappeared this weekend. Her body was found in a shallow grave behind the home of one of our friends. She had been shot in the head. Today the border patrol stopped two of her classmates at the CANADIAN border in Michigan, trying to flee the country. Dorothy's son knew the two boys who were in one of his classes at the local high school all year. He knew who the girl was, but wasn't well acquainted with her. He's pretty freaked out. As are we all. Including one of our church members who is a high school teacher and had the victim in her class last year.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

Please pray for her family, friends and the family and friends of the two young men who are now in custody. They are 18 and so will be treated as adults. What a senseless tragedy.

Fashionista Alert

I'm so excited, I'm positively verklempt!

Quotidian Grace is linked on Beauty Tips for Ministers, the new cult favorite of ministerial fashionistas on the internet. Here's the link, and here's the post and comments that prompted the link.

Oh, dear Peace Bang, I am not worthy!!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Never Too Young For Mission

Here's our Mission Zone group from this week's Vacation Bible School. These are our third through fifth graders who think that VBS is for babies. Today we took them to help the volunteers from our church who spend every Tuesday at the local Food Pantry. All the VBS kids were asked to bring canned goods this morning for this group to take as donations.

They were very glad to see us today, because our "regulars" were about 5 people short of their usual number. None of the kids had ever visited the Food Pantry before, and some had never heard of it. ( Several children in the group don't attend our church.)

What a great group of youngsters! They divided up into small groups and sorted, stuffed and broke down boxes. Several of the girls had a great time sorting out boxes of donated "hotel size" toiletries and making up little bags. They carefully read each product and we all discovered that there seem to be an infinite number of ways to say "shampoo" and "bath gel"!

Many of the kids asked if they could come back and work again. ( It didn't hurt that one of the men showed them where the soda was kept and invited them to help themselves!)

As I drove my group back home, I heard them making plans to raise money to buy food to donate to the Food Pantry. After some discussion, they settled on the idea of having a lemonade stand in their neighborhood. Then one of the girls asked me, "Mrs. Harrington, do you think our teacher can give us a map to the Food Pantry so my Mom will know how to take us back there?"

I just bet she could!

Monday, July 10, 2006

What Does the Advisory Opinion Mean?

Presbyweb posted the Stated Clerk's Advisory Opinion on the new Authoritative Interpretation passed by the 217th General Assembly. That's recommendation #5, as amended, of the Report of the Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity (PUP) for you Presbypolity-types. I linked it, but it is a subscription website (based on contributions--it's well worth checking out).

UPDATE: Thanks to Stewart, who shared this link to the Advisory Opinion that is available from the PCUSA website. I looked for it yesterday, but didn't find it.

Within 12 hours of its release, two critiques of it also appeared on Presbyweb. I read the whole thing and summarize it thusly: Ordination standards have not changed, probably, but please don't deliberately set up a test case for the ecclesiastical courts because that would be divisive. This doesn't seem very helpful to me.

I'm pretty good at LegalSpeak, but not so good at ChurchSpeak, and the AO is a combination of both. I invite my fellow Presbybloggers who have read the Advisory Ruling to chime in. Do you think this AO clarifies anything?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

So THAT'S How They Do It!

Now you, too, can make extra cash on E-bay auctioning food with the image of Jesus on it!

All you need is the Jesus pan!

(Hat tip: Ship of Fools.)

Write your own joke in the comments.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Prayer in the Public Square

So today I went with my good friends and neighbors, St. Betty and The Old Marine, to a politically-related luncheon in beautiful downtown Sugar Land. The invocation given before lunch by a local Baptist minister was the most unpalatable mix of blatant partisanism and fudamentalist rhetoric that I've ever heard. And I've heard a lot of it! I think I have a fairly high tolerance for the trappings of civil religion, but not enough apparently.

When it was over, The Old Marine leaned over and exclaimed, "that was the most political prayer I ever heard in my whole life!" The minister closed by saying "in the name of MY Lord Jesus Christ." We looked at each other in amazement. St. Betty's daughter said indignantly, "is Jesus Christ only HIS Lord?"

As I've remarked before, Sugar Land is religiously and ethnically diverse. The majority of people in the room were Christians, true, but I had friends and acquaintances in the crowd who are Jewish, Hindu and Muslim. In this context, it seems to me that an exclusively Christian prayer is insensitive.

A number of years ago I taught a Sunday School class using the book The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion by Stephen Carter, a Yale Law School professor and devout Episcopalian. The thesis of that book is that we have created a "civil religion" in this country that is acceptable in the "public square" only because no one takes it seriously.

I think this is true, and it seems to me that it is just as offensive to routinely offer prayers at public events that are so generic as to be meaningless as it is to offer the type of prayer that is exclusively Christian (and partisan). I'm coming around to the conclusion that it would be best not to have invocations at political functions or civil gatherings because there is no way to do it without trivializing the practice of prayer or making those who don't share the majority's religious beliefs feel excluded.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Praying for Ken Lay and Family

This morning while driving over to the church for the weekly staff meeting, I was stunned to hear over the radio that Ken Lay died suddenly of a massive heart attack. Enron’s financial failure and the scandals, indictments and trials that evolved from it have dominated our lives for several years. It wasn’t hard to believe that the stress of the corporate and personal bankruptcies and his criminal conviction were major factors in the death of a man who had a history of cardiac problems.

Shortly after that as I was driving home, I heard a local talk show host take calls from people who wanted to talk about his death. I understand that many, many people in the Houston area were financially devastated by the collapse of Enron; that they rejoiced when he was indicted and convicted; and eagerly anticipated his sentencing in a couple of months. Those who lost so much really wanted to see him go to prison. Emotions have been running very high.

But the people who called in made my hair stand on end. Here are some sample rants:
  • Ken Lay took arsenic and committed suicide to avoid prison
  • The President and Vice President conspired to have him killed so Enron wouldn’t continue to be in the news
  • Justice has been cheated by his death, so the government must prosecute his family
  • Ken Lay faked his death and has made an escape to avoid prison (a latter-day Elvis???
I heard all that in less than five minutes, then I shut the radio off. The conspiracy theorists were on a roll, frustrated that death cheated them of longed-for revenge. It sounded like a big rock had been kicked aside, revealing all manner of venomous reptiles hissing, snarling and threatening to strike.

The man died. Under the circumstances, it was almost predictable. He was tried and found guilty, but did not live long enough to be sentenced. God's judgment is now upon Ken Lay. And that judgment is surely tempered by God's grace and mercy, as we pray it will be upon each of us because we have ALL sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

And that's why we prayed for Ken Lay and his family in our staff meeting and again this evening at our midweek worship service.

Forgive us our debts, Lord, as we forgive our debtors.

More Trinity Comment

I Believe in Larry, Moe and Curly Joe.

(Sidebar comment--the bluebonnets are back! I found it unsettling to see my face appear every time I left a comment on other blogger blogs, so I restored my bluebonnet picture. I'm planning to post my picture on the sidebar of the blog so it doesn't get picked up on comments I leave, but couldn't get that to work this morning. I'll get it back up eventually.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day Chez Grace

Portia's future in-laws flew in from Florida and spent the weekend with us. Portia, her fiance, and Babs all came over from Austin to join us. We had a wonderful time getting acquainted. We took them to see the place where the wedding reception will be held and they had a chance to particpate in some of the plans. They even survived meeting all the extended family (25 plus) Sunday evening and seemed to enjoy themselves. They're keepers, too!

Yesterday evening we all saw the Astros play the Cubs (and win!) and then a great fireworks display at the ballpark. The fireworks were choreographed to music--which included each of the armed services songs, the Stars and Stripes Forever and a collection of obscure country western songs. It is Houston, after all.

On this Fourth of July, I am surrounded by first-generation Americans from all over the world in my neighborhood and city as Sugar Land and Houston are among the most ethnically diverse populations in the country. With all her faults, America is still "a shining city on a hill whose beacon light guides freedom loving people everywhere", as Ronald Reagan said in his farewell address to the nation. May God grant us the wisdom, the character and the courage to fulfill that promise in the future so that, like Abraham, we will have been blessed to be a blessing.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Check Out Monday Mission Moment

The RevGalBlog Pals webring blog begins a new schedule for posting this week. I am teamed up with PureChristianIThink (of Rebel Without A Pew) for the Monday Mission Moment. Our goal is to inspire Christian service to our communities and the world. Today my first post is about a project that a friend from my church participates in each year which matches donated prescription eyeglasses with needy villagers in the mountains of southern Mexico through Volunteer Optometrists in Service to Humanity.

You can check it out here. We'd love to have your suggestions for future mission projects and programs that you are familiar with for this feature. Email them to missionmoment at gmail dot com.