Thursday, May 31, 2007

1000 Year Old Cross

Here's my photo of the second oldest sight we saw in Ireland.

It's the Muiredach Cross which dates from the 10th century. The cross stands in the middle of the ruins of the medieval monastery of Monasterboice, which was founded by a little known disciple of St. Patrick known as St. Buite. Anybody ever hear of St. Buite?

It is massive--17 feet 8 inches tall. One side of the cross depicts scenes from the Old Testament and one side stories from the New Testament. The monks used it to teach the Bible because the people couldn't read the Latin in which the Bible was written at the time and also couldn't read anything else.

The cross is in the middle of an ancient graveyard that you can see in the background. It is full of different styles of Celtic crosses.

You don't see the well-preserved and restored ancient sites in Ireland that you see in Britain. Most of the historic sites we visited have a wall, or a tower, or the outline of a foundation standing. At Monasterboice this famous cross, the graveyard and a small tower are all that remain of the medieval monastery.

Sunburned but Happy

We're back from vacation! We must be the only tourists in the history of the world to return from Ireland with sunburns rather than being being waterlogged. The weather was sunny and cool all but one day we were there. The people were the friendliest we've ever encountered abroad.

Today is catchup day around here! I'll be blogging more about the trip in the next few days.

Glad to be back in the USA,


Tuesday, May 22, 2007


QG will be on hiatus today through Wednesday, May 30. I don't plan to do any posting while away. We're off to Ireland with Babs to celebrate her MEd. She and El Jefe are eager to see their Irish heritage.

Blessings in the meantime to all my gentle readers!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Faith and Medicine in Houston

Houstonians are more apt to turn to religion for health and well-being than doctors, according to a story in today's Houston Chronicle.

The results of a recent survey on health and well-being revealed that although Houston has one of the great medical centers in the world, 43% of the residents turn first to religious organizations and their leaders as their first source of help in matters of health and well being, while only 21% cited doctors. One local doctor joked that medical information has become "so hard to interpret that you almost do need divine guidance" and that at least you know where your pastor is one day a week. I have to note that the survey only polled 150 people, so some are critical of the results.

Still, this story reminded me that there is clearly a co-operative relationship between medical science and religion in Houston. World-renowned cancer center MD Anderson is creating a new palliative care program for patients in terminal care. My good friend and pastor is leaving his church call this week to work with the doctor in charge of the program to oversee the spiritual component of the program that the hospital sees as an integral part of the care it provides. MD Anderson called him after an extensive nationwide search to fill this new chaplaincy. It is a very exciting opportunity for him, and his ministry will be a blessing to people from all over the world. Godspeed, Rev. Steve.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Five: Big Event Edition

Songbird brings us today's RGBP Friday Five which is all about planning The Big Meetup.

Did you know that the major purpose for forming a non-profit, RevGalBlogPals, Inc., was to be able to attract grant support for a large scale RevGalBlogPal meetup? My dream from the beginning has been attracting financial support that would allow as many of our bloggers to be together as possible. RGBP, Inc. now has a planning committee, and we are in the early stages of planning the RevGalBlogPal Big Event. What, When, Where and Who are all on the table at the moment. In that spirit, I bring you the Big Event Friday Five.

1. What would the meeting be like? (Continuing Ed? Retreat? Outside Speakers? Interest Groups? Workshops? Hot Stone Massages? Pedicures? Glorified Slumber Party?)

I'd like to see this first meetup be a retreat with emphasis on getting to know each other and building fellowship in the group. I don't know about you, but I'm workshopped and seminar-ed out! Interest groups could have their own meetings at the retreat and the hot stone massage/pedicure/pampering ideas would be really swell.

If we did have a workshop, I suggest it be something that improves our technical blogging skills, since we all blog. We have several RGBP members who could conduct workshops on html, creating different blog templates, importing sidebar goodies, and what to do when you get the blue screen of death. We could also have a workshop on blog content.

2. When in 2008 might you be able to attend? January? Shortly after Easter? Summer? Fall? Some other time?

Right now I'm pretty open except for presbytery meetings, which aren't all scheduled yet.

3. Where would your dream meeting location be? (Urban Hotel? Rural Retreat Center? New England Camp? Southwestern Fantasy Hotel? Far away from civilization? Nearby Outlets or Really Great Thrift Stores?)

A retreat center would be great, but the rural ones would be more expensive to get to. We probably should plan to meet in a major metro area. Personally, I'm a lot more flexible than most of the group so I'll go along with the consensus on this.

4. Who would make a great keynote speaker? (That's if #1 leads us in that direction.)

For this first gathering, I would prefer not to have a keynote speaker unless we need to do that to enable Continuing Ed credits or to get a grant. If we had a keynote speaker, I would not choose someone who is identified with one denomination or who is controversial for this first meeting. Someone like Diana Butler Bass (who is too expensive for our presbytery when we asked her last month but we have no money, remember) would be ideal.

5. Did I leave out something you want to suggest?

Come to Texas! We'll meet you with the TTOJ and my Texas Lexus of Justice. Margaritas, Mexican food, real BBQ and nice weather will greet you as long as we don't meet in the summer....

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pipe Organ Praise Music ?

Toby Brown, over at A Classical Presbyterian, has an interesting post and comments about pipe organs and contemporary worship music.

What a great question! Pipe organs are capable of all kinds of cool musical effects. Of course, they are very hard to play and it takes skill and experience to coax these sounds out of them.

I'm not aware that anyone has ever tried to do this. But if they did, the result could really be awesome!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Presbytery Post-Partum

I'm back with a quick review of today's meeting.

We had worship in the morning and the pastor who presided over communion MIMED the words of institution. I know what you're thinking--no he didn't wear a mime outfit or makeup! He did explain before he did it that his idea was that most of those present had heard these words so often that seeing them acted out would make it more meaningful. It was different, I'll say that. I had a hard time getting into the spirit of it because in my mind I kept hearing the snarky remarks and seeing the eye-rolling that would have ensued if my daughters were present. ~sigh~

The Cho-Yeh report recommendations passed by a large margin after discussion at the presbytery meeting. Now El Jefe will help the board file all those legal papers!

A pastor friend who is leaving the presbytery for a call in California wished me well next year and then added he hoped I'd have some money in the budget next year. Me too. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth and a serious Come To Jesus discussion on this subject at the meeting. We have until the August meeting to raise more revenue or be faced with more budget cuts. My wacky Youth Minister buddy wisecracked during a presentation that our email was "" Sometimes you just have to laugh, too.

Stushie and PresbyGal suggest my title should be MOMDERATOR. I like it!

On The Road Again For Presbytery

I'm hitting the road again in my role as Mom (oops, make that Moderator) Elect of Presbytery. We're meeting up the road in Livingston at Camp Cho-Yeh. Leaving tomorrow morning would add an hour to the already 2 hour drive because I'd find myself in the midst of the commuter traffic until clearing Houston. So El Jefe persuaded me to drive tonight after traffic clears and stay in a nearby hotel rather than stress about getting up there by dawn's early light. Of course that way I won't be rousing him earlier than usual....either.

One of the items on the agenda is a report written by El Jefe that recommends major organizational and legal changes in the relationship between presbytery and Cho-Yeh. Unfortunately he can't spend the day up there so his co-chair will present it and he's prepped me to answer questions. Now I'm looking for that lawyer hat to pack in the suitcase. Hope it goes with the camp outfit.

Presbytery made the 2007 payment to GA that was authorized by the Repayment Task Force to reimburse the special offerings monies that weren't passed on, so that's good news. The finance folks are struggling mightily with the 2007-2008 budget plans now that we know what funds we really have available. That's not such good news, but its an inevitable consequence of the fact that for several years the previous business administrator was diverting special offerings to our operating budget instead of passing them on to GA.

Time to go. Where's the sunscreen?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day Prayer Post-Its

Last week a number of the RevGals discussed different ways of observing Mother's Day as they were making plans for Sunday worship. They were particularly concerned with the pain that the day causes for those who are mourning the loss of a mother, have a conflicted or estranged relationship with a mother or grieve their inability to have a child.

Yesterday at our church tables were set up in front of the chancel area with pens and medium size post-it notes. Several large easels displayed large boards to put them on. The congregation was invited to come forward and post prayers of thanksgiving, remembrance or for healing of relationship for their mothers on the boards while the choir sang an anthem. Then one of the pastors gave a closing prayer that specifically included prayers for those who struggled with fertility issues and those with troubled relationships with their mothers. The process was surprisingly efficient given the fact that there were several hundred in the congregation.

I pass this idea on in case some of the RevGals find it something they could use or adapt for their own congregations. By focusing on the the mothers OF the congregation rather than the mothers IN the congregation, the acknowledgment of Mothers Day was more inclusive. We all have mothers, but all women aren't mothers.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Five: Potato Po-tah-to Edition

Today's Friday Five meme is brought to us by the inimitable Reverendmother, who says:
There are two types of people in the world, morning people and night owls. Or Red Sox fans and Yankees fans. Or boxers and briefs. Or people who divide the world into two types of people and those who don't. Let your preferences be known here. And if you're feeling verbose, defend your choice.
1. Mac? (woo-hoo!) or PC? (boo!)
Why yes, the Friday Five author reserves the right to editorialize!

Mac Mac Mac Mac!!!!! RM got that one right!!! Macs need no defense.

2. Pizza: Chicago style luscious hearty goodness, or New York floppy and flaccid?

A pox on both thine houses! By the time Portia and Babs were teens we were all SO over pizza. When it comes to cheesy-bready-edibles, give me quesadillas with beef fajita meat every time! Pass the guacamola, pico de gallo and the margaritas! Pizza? Bah.

3. Brownies/fudge containing nuts:
a) Good. I like the variation in texture.
b) An abomination unto the Lord. The nuts take up valuable chocolate space.
[or a response of your choosing]

A, but only if you leave the nutmeat whole. Thus saith the Lord, "thou shalt not split thine pecan or thine walnut or any other nut of the tree and bake them in thine brownies."

4. Do you hang your toilet paper so that the "tail" hangs flush with the wall, or over the top of the roll like normal people do?

Comin' after you, RM. Everyone knows that you hang it so the "tail" hangs flush with the wall so the TP tears evenly. Repent now.

5. Toothpaste: Do you squeeze the tube wantonly in the middle, or squeeze from the bottom and flatten as you go just like the tube instructs?

"Wantonly"? Somebody is wound a little tight, you think? Don't stress RM! Most of us in the 21st century are using the pump toothpaste container thingies so there's no issue with wanton squeezing! Just sayin'.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Overcoming Acedia

Kathleen Norris brilliantly described the spiritual malaise known to the ancient church fathers as "acedia" in her book The Cloister Walk. She says that today this state is most often described as despression, but acedia is not the same thing as depression. Kevin Quast, writing for Christian week, says "Acedia is a spiritual languor. We experience it as apathy, boredom or inertia in one’s discipleship."

For the last couple of years, I've experienced some of the symptoms of acedia. That's not unusual--our journey in faith is full of both peaks and valleys. One of the great blessings both El Jefe and I have found in our new church is that we are being pulled out of that acedia.

The latest antidote to this condition for me was the surprise invitation to become a small group leader in Bible Study Discussion. "BSD" is described at MDPC as "Bible Study Fellowship with grace and mercy." Bible Study Fellowship is an interdenominational Bible study group that is very active in the Houston area and has very strict attendance and participation requirements.

The curriculum for BSD is different than that used for BSF. I began attending a group this March at church and found that it was more compatible with Presbyterian and other mainline Protestant viewpoints than BSF: conservative but not leaning toward fundamentalism. I loved the fact that the lecturer cited Eugene Peterson and Calvin in her remarks.

Like BSF, BSD is interdenominational. It is a mission of our church. I've been told that 60% of the participants are not members of MDPC. That's amazing! BSD has several hundred participants that meet at different times during the week and although most are women's groups there are some coed groups as well. People drive from all over the Houston metro area to attend.

When I was asked to be a leader, I prayed about it and felt that this was the way I was being called to use my spiritual gifts in mission to others. Today I went to a leaders' meeting for the coming year. What a pleasure to be part of a well-run group that has structure but is also flexible when necessary! Without exception the other leaders were warm and genuine in their welcome to us "newbies" and their joyful spirit is infectious. I'm really looking forward to growing spiritually in different ways. Our study for next year is Hebrews, a book that I have never studied in depth.

Praise God, the acedia is receding and the spiritual mojo level is coming up!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

In Which We Learn Not To Rely On Annotations

PresbyPolity wonks will be interested in this post at A Classical Presbyterian which contains the decision of the General Assembly's PJC in a case (Stewart v. Mission Presbytery) challenging the advancement of an openly lesbian inquirer to candidate status. The inquirer withdrew from the process to seek ordination in another denomination during the appeals.
Although the case was declared moot for that reason, the GAPJC pointed out in its decision that the case cited by the presbytery as a precedent in its defense was based on the summary in the Annotated Book of Order which misstated the case, and thereby mislead the Committee on Ministry, the presbytery and the synod to the extent that each body relied on that annotation in this case. The cited case, Sheldon v. Presbytery of West New Jersey, in fact appears to support the plaintiff in the Stewart case rather than the defendant.

Toby posts the entire decision, so you can read it and interpret it for yourself. It's a reminder that the summaries in the Annotated Book of Order are not authoritative, and that the case that is cited in the annotations should always be read in full before relying on it. That's something we were taught early on in law school.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Pesky Details

Yesterday's meetings at presbytery were full of pesky details. Mostly they were about planning the meeting next Tuesday which will be at Cho-Yeh , the presbytery's camp and conference center in Livingston, Texas. That's about a 2 hour drive chez moi and a pretty far piece for many others to travel on a weekday.

Most of the planning has to do with how to move people between the dining and meeting areas. Since the meeting is on a weekday, we expect a (ahem) slightly older group of elders attending. So tractors and flatbeds will be used to haul those who have difficulty traversing the terrain around. We decided not to meet in the outdoor facility for fear the temperature would get into the '90's and be a problem for the aforementioned elderly elders.

Now after all that effort you just know that the weather will be perfect Tuesday and we'll have a lively group of commissioners of whatever age who will not be happy we didn't plan everything outside.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Preparation for Witness

A couple of the RevGals bloggers, Jan and Songbird, recently posted reflections about the need for pastors and lay leaders to get out of their churches and into the communities. They were discussing this in the context of the Emergent Conversation, but that's not my purpose here.

Before sending people out into the community, the church needs to do a better job of preparing people to share their faith with others. Specifically, we are failing to "equip the saints" to wrestle with the hard questions that can be posed by thoughtful skeptics and seekers in discussions about faith.

For example, in a recent Bible study group I am involved in, the leader asked whether the Jesus and the disciples could have "engineered" the events in the New Testament that fulfill the Old Testament prophesies about the coming of the Messiah. She was referring to Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the events leading up to his crucifixion. Most everyone in the group nodded their heads, no, that wouldn't have been possible. I told them that some would argue that it WAS possible. Skeptics have said that Jesus and the disciples knew the OT prophesies as well as anybody else in that day and time and could have arranged for his entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey and for the dinner in the room. Furthermore, there are those who argue that Jesus colluded with Judas to arrange his betrayal to fulfill that prophesy and even some who would go further and say Jesus expected God would intervene to prevent his death.

After a bit of stunned silence, there was a lively group discussion about how they would respond to someone who agreed with the skeptical view. A couple of the participants talked to me afterwards and said they had never heard those arguments and would not have known how to respond to them before we had our discussion. I was surprised that these folks who have spent many years in intense Bible study and are very active in their churches had not been exposed to these views before and didn't know how to address them.

Before going out into the community to witness, you need to be prepared to respond to the thoughtful skeptic or else you appear uniformed and unpersuasive. Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ,and The Case for a Creator are a couple of good resources for the layperson seeking that kind of preparation that I have used in classes before. Some of the Alpha materials can be useful for this purpose as well. What would you suggest?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

When Faith and Science Mix

The Prince of Darkness has recovered from his nasty lunchtime accident, and invited El Jefe and me to a fundraising dinner for Houston's Open Door Mission last night. He is a trustee of the Open Door Mission and has been an active supporter for many years.
I'd heard of this mission before, but didn't know that much about it. The staff has developed a biofeedback technique that has a significantly lower relapse rate than other methods. Researchers for the Journal of Neurotherapy concluded that this method combined with Open Door's "faith based programs is effective in the treatment of crack-cocaine addiction."

That's pretty exciting. It doesn't surprise me that a group in Houston, renowned for its suberb medical facilities and research, developed this combination of high-tech science and faith and apply it to the problem of drug/alcohol addiction and homelessness.

Who says faith and science don't mix?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

All Grown Up--Since You Asked

For Gannet Girl and Presbyterian Gal.

Here's a recent photo of Portia and Babs that updates the First Day of School picture posted below.

~Proud Mama QG

Another Last Day of School

About this time last year, I posted this picture of Portia (brunette) and Babs (blonde) taken on Portia's first day of elementary school to mark her last day of formal education as she finished her third year at UT Law School.

Today I'm posting it again, this time in honor of Babs. Her last day of formal education is today as she completes her course work for the master's degree in counseling at UT's Graduate School of Education. She's looking for a job in the field of Human Resources after graduation.

Babs is a joy and delight to everyone. Funny and witty enough to be on Saturday Night Live, she is also an exceptional student, accomplished cook (like her aunt), actress, and insatiable reader (just like Mom). There's never been a dull moment with Babs--from nursery school through high school.

My favorite thing about her college years was the long road trips I made with her back and forth between Sewanee, Tennessee and Sugar Land, her car stuffed with all her gear, trying to find something other than fundy preaching on the radio as we drove through Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. I miss those trips and I miss both of my college girls.

Without Babs I wouldn't know about Project Runway, What Not to Wear (British and American versions), The Tudors (trashified), David and Amy Sedaris, Nigella Lawson (cookbook author), or the novels of Alexander McCall Smith--just to name a few things. I might even still be wearing Fiesta dresses and wooden painted earrings if she hadn't staged an intervention!

Now Babs will be making the transition from the world of the student to the world of work. It's an adjustment for anyone, but I'm sure she'll make it beautifully. Her whole family is so very proud of her.