Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Modern Pilgrims' Progress

Years ago--just about 6 months after the birth of Babs to be precise--I had emergency surgery to take out my gall bladder. The surgeon was a young personable guy from South Africa. A few years later El Jefe went under his knife for the same reason. Dr. Bob Davis is a memorable character, but nonetheless I was startled to see him on TLC as the star of a new reality show Big Medicine.

"Big D" and his son, Garth, are now partners in medical practice, specializing in bariatric surgery. I have no idea how they came to have their own show, but I'm now a faithful fan. Seeing familiar faces and places around Houston is part of the appeal of the show for me, but I find universal themes in Big Medicine as well.

There's something fascinating to me about the journeys of their patients as they struggle to renew and redeem not just their bodies from obesity, but their minds and souls from the crippling emotions and habits that brought them to that place. It seems to me Big Medicine is a Pilgrim's Progress for our time as the stories of the doctors and the patients illustrate many of the spiritual struggles we encounter our lives. Temptations, sin, self-discipline, the need for community support, and appeals for grace and mercy are familiar to all of us as we strive to transform ourselves and become the people God intends. It's not just about the weight.

El Jefe can't abide medical shows of any kind, so his curiosity about what Big D was up to these days was quickly satisfied by a brief look at the screen. But Babs joins me every Monday night to catch up with Big Medicine since she is interested in the psychological aspects of the show.

As a bonus, it reminds me to keep my own head out of the feed bag.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Moving Day

El Jefe and I are waiting at the house, after attending the early service and Sunday School, for the movers bringing Babs' stuff back from Austin. She and I made room in closets and spare bedrooms for the few pieces of furniture she is bringing back and for the boxes of paraphernalia from her apartment that she won't need until she moves out again.

El Jefe is delighted that both of his daughters are back in Houston and out of Austin. He never figured out how to drive in Austin and he often remarked that he couldn't wait to get both of them out of there. I think he just missed them and wanted them living closer to home.

So Babs will be living at home for a while as she looks for a counseling job in our area now that she has completed her masters in counseling and has her temporary Licensed Professional Counselor certification. We'll enjoy having her company, but know that the time will soon come when she moves out on her own.

Welcome home, Babs!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday 5: Floods and Drought

Today's RevGalBlogPals Friday 5 is brought to us by Sally, a UK blogger, who is weathering some flooding right now. I identify with her as we are enduring the rainiest July ever in southeast Texas.
1. Have you experienced living through an extreme weather event- what was it and how did you cope?

Hurricane Alicia passed directly over our home in Houston in 1983. We didn't try to evacuate, because it was a low level storm and we didn't live near enough to the Gulf of Mexico to worry about tidal flooding. Portia and Babs were 2 years and 6 months old, respectively. The winds had that eerie "howling" for about 18 hours before the storm hit land.

Afterwards there was a strange energy in the air. I remember how silent the neighborhood was since the freeway near our home was shut down and there was no traffic noise. El Jefe kept fielding phone calls from lawyers and bankers in New York City who didn't understand why the firm was closed. There was broken glass everywhere downtown and the police cordoned off the area until it could be cleared.

We had no power in sweltering heat for 3 days. Just as I was packing up the babies to go to my sister-in-law's home the lights came on. Glory Hallelujah! But our across-the-street neighbors had no power for 2 weeks. I kept my friend's perishables in my refrigerator for her.

2. How important is it that we wake up to issues such as global warming?
I think people are concerned about it. But we need much more thorough "hard science" to determine what is the best way to address the issue than we have at the moment.

3. The Christian message needs to include stewardship of the earths resources agree/ disagree?
Most denominations address this issue, as far as I know.

And because it is summer- on a brighter note....

4. What is your favourite season and why?
I love fall, but we don't get much of it here. It's wonderful to get that first cool front of the season in late September and know the unrelenting heat is about to break!

5. Describe your perfect vacation weather....
I loved the weather in Aruba--warm but not stifling, breezy and low humidity. Perfect for sipping margaritas and reading on the beach.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Prayer for El Jefe's New PC

Today El Jefe's firm made him turn in his laptop computer for a new model. This is a high anxiety moment for El Jefe, who is NOT the least bit geeky. That makes QG the resident geek. So I'm offering up this prayer as I attempt to install software on the darn thing. I'm a Mac girl, myself, but the firm's network is not. I did not need this aggravation today!

From Windows and crashes
And error messages
And endless downloads of printer drivers and updates,
Good Lord, deliver us!

P.S. Dear Lord, make the firm go Mac.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Help Wanted: Adult SS Topics

Well, you knew it wouldn't be long before I found myself involved in working with adult Sunday School classes again.

The class that El Jefe and I have been attending at church wants to revitalize and renew itself. For the rest of the summer we will be using The Wired Word curriculum. But then we need to find a new topic and/or study that can bring in new participants this fall.

I'm convinced that there are a good number of folks in any church who can't become involved in adult Christian education or small groups during the week, but can do so on Sunday mornings. I've made a list of some possible topics and books, but would love some other ideas.

Can any of you offer some advice about a study or topic that you are familiar with and think would help a class reach out and attract new participants?

: QG readers responded with a wonderful discussion of different ideas for adult classes in the comments. If you are looking for some great suggestions for adult groups, check out the comments below and give us your ideas, too.

Monday, July 23, 2007

RGBP Book Discussion: A Vision of Light

(Cross-posted from the RevGalBlogPals blog, where I'm leading this discussion today. QG readers who would like to join in can go to RGBP or leave their comments here.)

Since we’re well into the summer vacation season, the RevGalBookPals chose a “lighter” selection for this month’s book discussion. A Vision of Light by Judith Merkel Riley features one of the most engaging heroines in historical fiction, Margaret of Asbury. I hope you enjoyed traveling back to fourteenth century England to meet her.

There are a lot of interesting characters in this story, but let’s start our discussion with Margaret.

Why do you think Margaret was granted the Vision of Light and its healing power?

Do you think that Margaret’s faith and her relationship with God are portrayed convincingly in the book?

The gift of healing got Margaret into trouble with the church of her day. How would your church react if a member claimed to have this gift?

Brother Gregory is Margaret’s antagonist at the beginning of the story. How and why does his attitude toward her change?

Why is it so important to Margaret to learn to read and write?

In my opinion, Margaret’s second husband Kendall is the hero of the book. Do you agree?

Contemporary historical fiction depicting strong women protagonists often ascribes anachronistic attitudes to them or to other characters in the novel. Do you think the author avoided this common problem?

In some ways the church in fourteenth century England is also one of the characters in the book. In what ways did the church of that time provide for the needs of the people and in what ways did it fail to do so?

That’s enough from me. Now it’s your turn to join in the discussion by leaving your comments. Like it? Love it? Meh? Fie --Away With It?

There are two sequels to Vision of Light that carry forward Margaret’s story. If you’d be interested in the BookPals reading the next novel in the trilogy, The Water Devil, please let us know.

The next RevGalBookPals discussion is August 27. The book selection is Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

El Jefe's Harry Potter Movie Review

Ten minutes into HP and the Order of the Phoenix:
El Jefe--" I haven't got the foggiest idea what is going on here."
QG--"Muggles are ordinary people without magical powers."
El Jefe--"Got it."

Twenty minutes later:
~sound of snoring to QG's left~
*gentle elbow to the ribs*

Ten minutes later:
~repeated sound of snoring~
Heads turning around
*another gentle elbowing*
"Was I asleep?"

Big laser fight scene at the end of the movie between Professor Dumbledore and the Dark Lord.
El Jefe now awake and riveted to the screen.

Movie over.
Babs-- "Did you like the movie, Daddy?"
El Jefe-- " That was a great fight at the end between Bumblebee and whoever. Isn't the guy who played Bumblebee the same guy who was in Lord of the Rings?"

Score one for El Jefe.

P.S. He snagged two HP and the Deathly Hallows books right after the movie. One for each of Babs' friends. Good Daddy Jefe.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Gospel According To Tammy Faye

From the QG Department of Houston Religious Oddities:

The Gospel According To Tammy Faye, a new musical, debuts at the Alley Theatre in Houston this weekend. The performances are being staged by a local Methodist church with proceeds benefiting the church's support network to assist those affected by HIV/AIDS.

You might think that this musical is a SNL- style parody of the famous televangelist--her hair, makeup, propensity to shed tears, and general over-the-toppedness. Not so. Apparently the playwright and composer, both of whom are gay, intend a sympathetic portrayal of her rise from poverty to the lavish lifestyle a televangelist, the fall after her husband Jim Bakker was imprisoned and their ministry bankrupted, and her re-emergence as a gay-friendly, albeit fundamentalist Christian public figure now battling cancer.

They're hoping to take the play to Broadway eventually.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Many Hats of the Mom-derator

It's been a busy few weeks down at presbytery. In order to keep up with all the action, I've found myself looking for these hats in my closet:
  • Head-Hunter
  • Reporter/Editor
  • Attorney
  • Real Estate Developer
  • Editor
  • PowerPoint Expert
  • FinanceWoman
  • Cheerleader
What's my real job down there? Oh, yeah. Mom-derator 2008. Who knew?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Is The Ark Here Yet?

With a month of rainy days in the last 6 weeks, Houston fashionistas flock to buy the newest ladies' footwear.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

El Jefe, Meet Harry Potter

This Friday El Jefe will meet Harry Potter for the first time at the movies.

No, he hasn't read any of the books or seen any of the previous movies. El Jefe is not a fan of most fiction and definitely eschews fantasy, which he calls "whimsey", at all costs. He is not amused or edified by references to the Lord of the Rings trilogy in sermons at church ("not the hobbits again, he moans) and you can bet he'll feel the same way about Harry Potter, despite his otherwise pronounced Anglophile tendencies.

But here's the deal: one of his clients invited him to a late night showing of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix this coming Friday night. After the movie, he gets a copy of the new HP book as a "party favor." Knowing that his daughter Babs is a huge HP fan, El Jefe the Good Daddy agreed to take me, Babs and two of her college friends to the showing so Babs can get the book.

Now the movie is way past his normal bedtime, so he's trying to decide how to stay awake. He's thinking a late supper with all of us and coffee might do the trick. I told Babs that she needs to give him a little instruction in Harry Potter 101, since I've only read the first book and part of the second. She's thinking about it. Any advice, Potterites?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Book Review: Boomsday

It took me longer than usual to finish Boomsday by Christopher Buckley. That's because I was enjoying it so much that I didn't WANT to finish it and rationed myself to a couple of chapters per day.

Christopher Buckley (son of William F.) is a master social and political satirist whose novels (Florence of Arabia, No Way To Treat A First Lady, Little Green Men, God is My Broker) pillory the hypocrisy of the American political and social elites with a trenchant mordant wit. His best known book is Thank You For Smoking, which was made into a moderately successful film.

Here's the premise of Boomsday in a nutshell: Blogger Cassandra Devine turns her justifiable rage at her self-centered Boomer Dad into a crusade to persuade the government to solve the social security problem by encouraging senior citizens (the Boomers) to kill themselves in exchange for tax breaks. This proposal is called "Transitioning. She's not serious about Transitioning, but hopes that by advancing this radical idea she will force the government to take real action to reform the Social Security system that is placing an increasingly inequitable burden on the earnings of the younger generation to fund the retirement of the older generation.

Along the way Cassandra meets double dealing White House staffers, romances a one-legged Senator with Presidential ambitions, and sends the ratings of Congressional hearings through the roof with her memorable sparing with fellow commission member Rev. Gideon Payne, head of SPERM, the nation's most influential right to life group. This all culminates in the most outlandish Presidential campaign ever. The Vatican even gets involved as Pope Jean-Claude the First issues a Papal bull excommunicating any American voting for anyone supporting Transitioning.

Buckley masters the art of revealing absurdity by being absurd. Despite his conservative pedigree, he is an equal opportunity satirist skewering the ways in which all sides try to "spin" anything and everthing to their own advantage. Those of you who are news junkies and/or enjoy social and political satires will really enjoy Boomsday.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Real Church Without Walls

Less than a mile from my home stands this church without walls. It's a Catholic church that is expanding its sanctuary with several hundred additional seats, in addition to some other renovations and expansion.

The walls have been knocked out and only the skeleton of the building with its pointed roofs and stained glass windows remain at the moment.

The congregation is worshiping across the street in the gymnasium of its education building for the next year or so until the expansion is complete. This is a very large, growing congregation with several thousand families in the parish. Masses are celebrated almost around the clock from Saturday evening through Sunday evening. El Jefe and I plan our weekend driving in the neighborhood around its schedule. A parochial school that goes from preschool through middle school is on this site and operated by the church.

While my denomination is threatened with yet another in a long line of schisms over theology and practice, the growth of this church is not fazed by the controversies within the Catholic Church. And they have their share, too: the scandal in the American church involving pedophilic priests; disagreements over the ordination of women, birth control, abortion, divorce, priestly celibacy etc.

It's interesting to note that my friends who attend this church say the only thing limiting the growth of this parish is the shortage of priests. Priests from the Third World are routinely rotated through the parish to assist the resident pastor. In contrast, there is a surplus of Presbyterian pastors in the PCUSA--especially in urban and suburban areas.

This week the Pope kicked up some controversy by reiterating the traditional Catholic position that Christ established one true church on earth and that is the Catholic church. Many of my Catholic friends would demur on this point, as they do on some of the other official policies and doctrine of their church. But I don't hear or read a lot of talk about schism in their church.

We Protestants are well-named. We protest and divide when we don't agree. Our heritage is one of division, not unity. The Presbyterian Church emphasizes in its ordination vows the pledge to further the "peace unity and purity of the church." Unity and peace seem to be more valued by Catholics, while purity in theology and practice has historically been the most important value for Protestants.

I think each side could learn from the other and bring those values into better balance.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Random Wrapup

Whew--got out on an earlier flight than scheduled. Thank you, Delta!

Give it up for--
  • Questing Pastor, official RevGal chauffer and Factotem *air kiss*
  • Reverendmommy, official hostess and her assistant, Chaos
  • Songbird, President Extraordinare
  • St. Casserole, VP, Presidential Purseholder, and RGBP Answer to Comedy Central
  • Cheesehead, second tallest and undeterred by o-dark-thirty flights
  • Mary Beth, Treasurer, fellow Tall Texan, and FRF (favorite roommate forever)
  • Will Smama !!!!
  • Natalie (Take My Hand)--World's Youngest RGBP'er
  • Making progress on the Big Event (details to come on the RGBP blog)
Later, friends.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

RGBP Inc. The Photo Essay

We ARE meeting at LAST!

Facing the camera: Natalie (Take My Hand) our special youngest RGBP'er, Reverendmommy, Songbird, me and Mary Beth.

The gorgeous gals with the amazing hairdos are: St. Casserole, Cheesehead and Will Smama.

Cheese, Mary Beth, St. Casserole, Songbird and I compare pedis.

These wreaths remain from the Fourth of July on the front doors of the church. This one's for zorra.

Mary Beth and I are missing our pal Spooky Rach so we're sending her a shout-out from the cemetery next to the church where we were meeting.

More later....

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I'm off by the dawn's early light tomorrow morning to Atlanta for the first RGBP Inc. face-to-face meeting of the board of directors. I'm so pumped!

We formed the corporation, approved the by-laws, elected the officers and had several business meetings through the miracle of modern technology. However there comes a point when trying to conduct a meeting via chatroom and/or email is just too inefficient.

So we're gathering in the Atlanta area today through Wednesday, thanks to Reverendmommy who arranged for her church to host our meeting and who is acting as facilitator for the meeting. Each director is traveling at her own expense, too. That's how dedicated this group is to making RGBP Inc. successful. The main item on the agenda is planning for the Big Event (a conference for RGBP Inc.), in 2008.

Mary Beth, fellow Texas blogger, is the only one of the group I've had the pleasure of meeting in person. I've talked on the phone to Songbird several times, but other than that only know these friends through their blogs and comments. Yet I feel like they are already good friends. What a blessing.

Bloggers that we are, I'm sure we'll be posting from Atlanta the next couple of days.

Legal-Type BoilerPlate and Small Print: QG has picked up several new readers in the last few months who may not be familiar with the RevGals webring or why we formed a non-profit corporation. (Click on the hyper-linked text for more information.) We received our 501-c-3 designation from the IRS and so we are eligible to receive grants and tax-deductible contributions.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Ark Wherefore Art Thou?

The rain came down in TORRENTS this afternoon. That makes rain for more than 2 weeks straight.

Swapping my car for an ARK....

Soppily yours,


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Next RevGalBookPals Selection

Dear Readers:
I'm cross-posting this post from RevGalBlogPals. You don't have to be a member of RGBP to read the b
ook and comment on the discussion I'm hosting on that blog July 25. Join us!

A VISION OF LIGHT by Judith Merkle Riley

10. You need a book to read on vacation that is diverting, but not ploddingly predictable or a bodice ripper that you will want to hide from the children or the disapproving gaze of your in-laws.

9. It was written by a professor of political science, but is NOT about politics.

8. Historical fiction depicting women with appropriate sensibilities to the era of the novel is hard to find. There’s no “ Gwynth plead with her father for a suit of armor so she could joust like her brother Garth” type stuff in this book. That sort of thing makes QG toss a book away in disgust.

7. Margaret of Asbury is one of the best characters in modern historical fiction—she’s complex, charming and intriguing.

6. God makes an appearance (or two or three) in the story.

5. If you thought your ex-husband or ex-boyfriend were Bad News, read about Margaret’s First Husband From Hell and be comforted.

4. One of the themes of the book is the power of knowledge and the importance of reading and writing.

3. A second theme is the ways in which the church of the Middle Ages failed to meet the spiritual needs of the people.

2. The most important theme is the ways in which God can choose an ordinary person, like Margaret, to heal people injured in body and spirit.

And the number 1 reason to read A VISION OF LIGHT is:

It’s the topic for the RevGalBookPals discussion on July 25 and you still have time to order it from the RevGals Amazon store, read it and join our discussion that day!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Overwhelmed by Basil

It's been coolish and very very rainy the last couple of weeks here in southeast Texas. As a result, my little herb garden is now overwhelmed by three varieties of basil: Sweet, something smaller more pointy and less fragrant that I'm calling Mystery Basil, and Purple Basil (really strong yummy flavor !).

Donde esta el cilantro? It vanished, choked out by its basil bedmates. Somehow these basils are surviving my notorious Black Thumb.

This morning I felt myself morphing into Forrest Gump, but trying to think of all the ways to use up the basil instead of shrimp. Basil pesto. Tomato basil soup. spaghetti sauce with basil, pico de gallo con basil, cheese omlettes with basil: basil leaves in salad greens, basil basil everywhere and even more than I can share.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Question for the 4th

Zorra's reflections on the Fourth of July service prompted me to join her in pondering the question of how we can "express gratitude to God for the advantages and blessings we enjoy in the United States, and ask for God's blessing and guidance for our country and its leaders, without all the bombastic, non reflective flag waving?" There's no question that sometimes patriotic enthusiasm spills over inappropriately into worship on the Sunday nearest to Independence Day.

Yesterday's sermon at our church was one of the more unique Independence Day related sermons I have ever heard. The text was 2 Samuel 6:6-8: the story of Uzzah who was struck dead when he tried to steady the Ark as it slipped from an oxcart while being transported into the city of Jerusalem by King David. The king and everyone else is shocked and afraid, so the Ark is left in a nearby home. After a few months word gets out that the family who lives in that home has been remarkably blessed--presumably by the Ark. So King David regains the courage to complete the Ark's journey into Jerusalem where it ultimately finds a home in the temple built by King Solomon.

The gist of the sermon was the exposition of an analogy between the story of Uzzah and the tension between our relationship with our religion and faith and the obligations of the state, focusing on the twin concerns of either leaving God out of the political realm and or having God represented in an abusive way.

History is full of examples demonstrating the struggle between these two concerns. In response to a visitor to the White House during the Civil War who said, "God is on our side", President Abraham Lincoln responded: "We trust, sir, that God is on our side. It is more important to know that we are on God's side."

We should focus in worship on getting ourselves on God's side.