Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday 5: Seasons Change

I've got time to play the Friday 5 this morning with Beatrice in my lap! The questions are brought to us from RevGalBlogPals by Reverendmother.

1. Share a highlight from this summer. (If you please, don't just say "our vacation to the Canadian Rockies." Give us a little detail or image. Help us live vicariously through you!)
Me, El Jefe and Babs in the Irish countryside. 'Nuff said.

2. Are you glad to see this summer end? Why or why not?

Summer never really ends in southeast Texas. We can have 90 degree weather any month of the year.

3. Name one or two things you're looking forward to this fall.

Resuming my attempts to learn to play golf (thwarted by incredible rains and repairs of the greens where I play) and leading a BSD group for the first time.

4. Do you have any special preparations or activities to mark the transition from one season to another? (Cleaning of house, putting away summer clothes, one last trip to the beach)

See answer to question 2. Since we don't really ever get rid of summer weather, we're always prepared with shorts, flip-flops, sunblock, hats and a/c. Frankly, there are only a few days a year you can't go to the beach.

5. I'll know that fall is really here when we get the first cool front of the season. We call them "blue northers." That means the temperature stays below 80 degrees for 24 hours. Woo-hoo! Break out the woolens!!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Running Ragged

Gentle readers,

Please excuse blogging slippage. I plead as an excuse:

  • Countless meetings at presbytery
  • BSD leader trainings
  • Letting out the puppy every hour or two
  • Trying to get up to speed on being a BSD leader
  • Choir practice resuming
  • Walking the puppy
  • Planning big family dinner for Sunday Chez Grace celebrating 1st wedding anniversary of Portia and DK and engagement of Doc and Queenie
  • Praying it won't rain before said dinner so DK can grill for me (El Jefe doesn't grill.)
  • Trying to find gate puppy can't push down at night
  • Wiping the "no" off my forehead one too many times --ACK!!!
  • Email overload
  • Cleaning up after the puppy
  • Sunday School planning meetings
  • Conflicting family scheduling snafus
  • The puppy--where's the puppy?
What's your excuse???

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Two Years Later

Today is the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Several months before, I read an extensive and alarming article in the National Geographic that persuasively described the structural problems with the levee system in New Orleans and accurately predicted the devastating results of a strong hurricane's direct hit on that city. It all came to pass just as the article predicted.

The really sad thing about Katrina is that the death, destruction and dislocation it caused so many people was largely preventable. Louisiana officials had diverted funds for levee repair and reconstruction to other projects. Too many residences and businesses were located below sea level. As New Orleans rebuilds, I pray that the lessons learned in Katrina will be taken to heart and the mistakes of the past are avoided.

A series of feature stories in the Houston Chronicle this week mark the anniversary with reports on the more than 150,000 former residents of NOLA who now live in the area. Think about it. That's far less than the number who were fled here immediately after the storm, but it's still the size of a good sized city. These people are now part of our community and most of them will stay here. They've found jobs, homes, and better educational opportunities for themselves and their children. But they are still suffering from emotional trauma as well as economic loss.

It hasn't been easy. The Houston crime rate spiked up and there's no doubt that some of the bad actors from NOLA continued their activities while living in the area. That causes resentment and conflict between Houston residents and the evacuees. It's been different, to say the least, to see Louisiana and NOLA officials campaigning for office in Houston -- complete with billboards, radio ads and free bus rides back to the Louisiana polling places to relocated residents. How long you can reside in Texas and continue to vote in Louisiana?

On the whole, I think Houston is doing a good job adjusting to this massive social change. It helps that we have a vigorous and growing economy. It helps that the metro area has a tradition of welcoming people from all over the world. There will be more bumps along the way because the process continues. Let's pray for understanding, patience and God's guidance as we all continue to adjust to the future wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dog Days of Summer

So here's the story. My niece, Aunt Sissy, and her three little girls were so taken with Beatrice that they visited the Doxie Ranch where we got her and came home with not one, but two dachshund puppies.

James is the black and white long hair piebald puppy. Dainty Dolley is the chocolate long hair puppy in the pictures to the left. James has the same father as Beatrice!

James and Dolley are named for President James Madison and his wife Dolley. Dolley Madison was very petite and her namesake puppy is the runt of her litter.

The little girls are thrilled with their new pets and their father is relieved to have dachshunds instead of the bulldog they were previously begging him for.

Beatrice enjoyed romping with them, but we're not sure James was her favorite brother.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Grants, Overture and a Good Meeting

Yesterday was spent at the presbytery meeting. I got to make what will probably be my favorite report of my year as Moderator-Elect. It was the announcement of the Vision Initiative Grants which awarded a total of $120,000 to 10 different churches and groups in the presbytery for the purpose of supporting our vision: "Growing congregations that passionately engage their communities to make disciples. "

As Moderator-elect, it was my job to chair the committee that reviewed the applications and made the recommendations to General Council for their approval. Money for the grants came from a recent generous bequest to the presbytery, so in this first year our committee had to develop the process from scratch. This was a fun job--everyone loves to give away money--and it was a great hard-working committee.
Some of the projects the grants will support are the planting of a new missional church in our presbytery, the implementation of a program to train pastors to develop lay leadership, the redevelopment of another church, a lay leader training program for an ethnic church, and an innovative outreach to the Hispanic community by another church in a changing neighborhood. I can't wait to see how these projects develop and look forward to seeing more innovative proposals from folks in presbytery next year.

Presbytery passed what will probably be a unique overture to the 2008 GA:
The Church Addressing Intergenerational Injustice in America. (Go here and scroll down to pgs. 42-43 for the full text.)

This is a call for the church to "declare that federal government practices and policies which create ever-increasing debt and unfunded or underfunded obligations for future generations of Americans are a grave moral concern as well as a clear danger to the republic." The original overture was amended on the floor to add a call for a national day of prayer to consider the issue. There wasn't much debate and the overture was adopted by a vote of 132 to 53. One pastor quipped, "It's nice to have an overture that addresses the boardroom rather than the bedroom"!

A balanced budget was presented, thanks to additional contributions from churches and individuals. We have made our first repayment to the General Assembly of the special offerings funds that weren't paid. We now have a new permanent Business Manager and have set up an Audit Committee. Woo-hoo! We're working our way out of the Million Dollar problem.

Worship was led by the youth who attended Triennium and they did a wonderful job with it. New Covenant sends one of the largest delegations to that event. We got everyone who wanted to make announcements to send the information on slides and set up a rolling slideshow before and after each session and during all breaks, and I prepared a powerpoint of the Vision Initiative Grants that was projected behind me while I made that report. This all worked really well and we finished early! We will continue to try to use technology to streamline the meetings.

All in all, it was a very good day. My good friend was recognized for completing the requirements to be a certified Director of Christian Education, and two candidates for ordination were examined and approved. Everything's looking up in New Covenant Presbytery at the moment! I hope it's looking up where you are as well.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Talk To Your Family

It's a good thing that I wrote my posts about the Presbyterian Global Fellowship meeting right after it was over, because most of this week we've been at the hospital with El Jefe's father. He's doing better now and will hopefully go home soon where he will be more comfortable in his familiar surroundings. But at 91, his systems are failing and so the family has had to make some difficult decisions.

This has been made so much easier because many years ago he had a very specific discussion with his daughter (now his primary caregiver) about his wishes in addition to making out advanced directives. She and El Jefe have no doubt in their minds about what he would want them to do for him.

So I'm getting up on my soapbox to urge my gentle readers not only to be sure you have advanced directives and a medical power of attorney, but to TALK to those who you know will be called on to make these decisions if necessary so that they don't have to wrestle with uncertainty along with the other emotions that will come up. I've seen cases where family members got into ugly conflicts with each other because this discussion never took place.

We are blessed by my father-in-law in so many ways, and this is just another example of that blessing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

PGF--Conclusion and Reflections

Saturday, the Houston Chronicle's Saturday Religion Section had notices from several Presbyterian churches about guest preachers who were speakers at the PGF conference. Michael Frost, the founding director of the Centre for Evangelism and Global Mission at Mowling Theological College in Sydney Australia was the guest speaker at my church on Sunday.

Last year when the PGF had its first conference, many people wondered what this group was really all about. Its leadership is predominately from the evangelical, conservative wing of the PCUSA so there was speculation that, like the New Wineskins proved to be, it was a "stalking horse" of sorts for the formation of a splinter group or denomination. In the context of church politics after the GA of 2006, that concern was understandable.

What then is the PGF all about? Michael Frost stated it explicitly in his sermon on Sunday:
Just as God reveals Himself through Jesus as the sent and serving God, His Son and Spirit sends us into the lives and needs of others. We need to abandon the church attitude of "come to us and see Jesus" for going into the world to represent Jesus and to invite others to be disciples. The issue is about the stance we adopt to the world around us.

The purpose of the PGF seems to be like that of the plowman, who dangles the goad in front of the ox so that it will keep dragging the plow through the earth. (Not my metaphor, I'm borrowing it from Michael Frost.) PGF is trying to encourage and empower individuals and congregations to represent Jesus in the world and invite others to be disciples.

The evidence of the last few decades should be enough to convince anyone that churches that take the "come and see" stance are not likely to be around a few decades from now. We need to find, in the words of Paul, "a yet more excellent way." That's what I think the Presbyterian Global Fellowship is trying to be about. Checkout their website here and the PGF blog The Outbox, here and see what you think.

Friends, I've been as guilty as anyone for spending more time, energy, thought and prayer on the PresbyPolity wars than on the Great Commission. Isn't it high time that we change our priorities and lay down our verbal swords and legally-drafted shields for a while?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

PGF Report 3-A Voice From the Middle East

"I am a Christian Palestinian. I am your forgotten brother," said Father Elias Chacour who is the Melkite Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Galilee and a three time Nobel Peace Prize nominee as he began his address to the PGF.

I read his book Blood Brothers which recounts the story of his life and the little known struggles of the Palestinian Christians in the land of Israel where they are literally caught in the crossfire between the Palestinian Muslims and the Jews. Even more compelling is the story of the Mar Elias school he founded, which now includes a university, where 4,500 students of all faiths (60% are Muslim) study side-by-side in the land of Israel. " Life is very different from what the press represents it to be," he observed in his presentation to the Presbyterian Global Fellowship's Friday session.

Father Chacour believes that education is the key to peace and justice for the Palestinians and that the Palestinian Christians can be the bridge to peace between the Muslims and the Jews in Israel. But he warns, " Immigration is threatening Christianity to disappear from the Holy Land. There are only 147,000 Palestinian Christians left in Israel. "

What can American Christians do? "Go and visit the Palestinian Christians who are feeling isolated and marginalized," urged Father Chacour. "Be the friends of the Jews, but do not be the enemies of the Palestinians. You must be the common friend."

He closed with an appeal to the Presbyterian Church, saying that we have something the world needs--we are not part of the "weird separatist fundamentalist subculture." "You are in the lifesaving business," he concluded.

Some in the audience were not comfortable with his appeal because they thought it critical of Israel. I think he is remarkably unbiased, considering the fact that his family was forcibly removed from their land by Israeli authorities when he was nine years old at the time of the establishment of that state. A few years ago I heard an extensive presentation about the good work of the Mars Elias Educational Institutions, and that wasn't discussed in any detail at the PGF. I wish it had been, because I'm sure Israel, the Middle East, and all of us need to learn that it is possible for young Muslims, Jews and Christians to study, work and play in peace in the midst of the most intractable conflict in the Middle East.

Monday, August 20, 2007

PGF Report 2--Voices of Africa

El Jefe and I have a very close friend who grew up in Nigeria. His father was killed in the Biafrian War and his impoverished mother managed to get him accepted at the local mission school, run by Presbyterians from Canada. He subsequently made his way to the US where he entered the University of South Carolina for premedical studies. The local Presbyterian Church there adopted him, and his sister, and made it possible for him to get his medical degree. He has established free medical clinic in his home village and members of that church are among the doctors and nurses who accompany him on his missions there. He has always says that he is a proud "product" of the mission school. Today he is sought-after internist in Houston and an elder in his Presbyterian church.

Which brings me to the testimony of two other Africans who spoke at the PGF conference about the importance of overseas mission. Urgessa Biru grew up in Ethiopia in a Muslim family and clan. He came to faith in Christ because of his education in a Christian mission school. Although he was estranged from his family after his conversion, they have since reconciled and he has returned to his hometown to build better relationships between Christians and Muslims. Dr. Amon Kasambala is a minister of the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa and is now Director of Partnership Development and Africa Initiatives for Focus on the Family Africa.

Both of these men echoed the story we have heard for years from our Nigerian friend: the importance of partnership in mission with people in Africa. Dr. Kasambala said, "We've lost our inspiration and motivation" for mission in the West. "When a congregation closes its doors on mission, it is heading to its demise." He also stressed that there is no shortcuts in mission, but rather effective mission partnership requires a long-term commitment.

Here is Dr. Kasambala's prescription for effective mission partnership:

1. Equal fellowship
2. Reciprocal interaction
3. Mutual respect and interdependency
4. Love for each other
5. Keen interest in what each other is doing, and offering to help in practical ways

Truly we have as much, or more, to learn from our African friends as we have to teach and share.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Introducing Beatrice

We interrupt QG's coverage of the Presbyterian Global Fellowship meeting for this special announcement. Please welcome the newest member of the QG family, Beatrice!

Beatrice is a 12 week old white piebald mini dachshund and too cute for words. Portia found her in Brenham, Texas! We all drove up to get her and bring her home. She'd been returned to the breeder by her first family, a septugenarian couple who had never had a dog--never mind a puppy--before and realized it was too much for them. She's just right for us!

QG will return tomorrow with another report from the PGF.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

PGF Report 1--International Justice Mission

I'm planning to write a couple of posts about the Presbyterian Global Fellowship meeting in Houston this weekend based on my own experience and observation. For more comprehensive coverage of this event, check out the Presbyterian Outlook and Presbyterian Layman reports which I'm sure will be posted since both Jack Haberer and Parker Williamson were in attendance.

Gary Haugen, President of the International Justice Mission, made a powerful presentation about the work of his group. A former federal prosecutor, Haugen was appointed by the United Nations to investigate the Rwandan genocides in Africa. Haunted by his experiences there, he founded the IJM which is an international human rights agency that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery (yes it still exists) and oppression.

Haugen believes that the root cause of suffering for much of the world's poor is violence. Violence is intentional, scary and causes deep scars. Therefore in his opinion the traditional mission approach of the church--food, medicine and shelter-- are not effective. Christians must confront the violence in the world that manifests itself as sexual violence, police abuse, illegal detention, forced labor and violent land seizures.

The problem is that Christians have not prepared their minds for action against violence, but IJM has discovered that with the power of God, violence can be stopped.
My whole being will exclaim, "Who is like you, O Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them."
Psalm 35:10
Haugen says that the vulnerability of the victim contributes to violence. If the poor and oppressed have a consistent strong advocate, the oppressors fade away because they are not brave. IJM's goal is to change the fear equation by finding those trapped in these violent circumstances, bringing in local authorities, rescuing them from their situation and then providing extensive aftercare services to help them recover. This is a dangerous mission for those who are involved in the investigations and rescues and some of them have been subjected to physical violence themselves.

Among the examples of people rescued by IJM was a family in India who had been held in forced labor in a brickyard. Undercover work by IJM led to the intervention of local authorities and the freeing of dozens of families who had been trapped in slavery by the owners of the brickyard. A couple of other examples involved very young girls who had either been sold or kidnapped by prostitution rings in southeast Asia. The foreign predators who flew thousands of miles to exploit them were also charged and punished thanks to the work of the IJM.

As a former prosecutor of child abuse cases, this is a mission that really speaks to my heart. Benefit dinners for IJM are being held in several cities this fall, including Houston. I'm planning to attend.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Quick PGF Report


Today was spent at the Presbyterian Global Fellowship Conference in downtown Houston. About 800 people attended from all over the country. The convention center is so large that it seemed like we were rattling around in it!

I'm stuffed full of information from plenary speakers and workshops and will write in more detail about them later this weekend. But in the meantime, here are some quick highlights of the day:

~ Hearing Gary Haugen describe the work of the International Justice Mission which rescues people from slavery and the sex trade all around the world;
~ Rev. Dr. Li Mei Lan of China pastors two churches--of 8,000 members EACH--proving that it takes a real woman to be a minister in China!
~The plea on behalf of Palestinian Christians from Father Elias Chaucor,Archbishop of Galilee of the Melkite Greek Orthodox Church;
~John Ortberg's analogy of life as a Monopoly game which was compelling but too long to attempt to recreate on a blog.
~There was no arguing about ordination issues, amendments to the BOO, or overtures--just lots of talk about bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to a world in need.

Goodnight, friends. More later.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What Summer's Heat Brings

A few days ago I was bemoaning the uber-hot weather down here in southeast Texas. Now the temperatures are 15 degrees cooler....thanks to Tropical Storm Erin which is rumbling outside my house even as I write. It came in south of here, so we're on the "dirty side" of the storm.

Here's the deal: the hotter it gets, the more likely tropical storms and hurricanes are likely to form in the Gulf of Mexico and blow inland, reducing the temperatures with the rain and clouds. I've seen this phenomenon all my life as a native of the area.

As tropical weather goes, this is not a concern. Even the hysterically overanxious local tv weathermen are relatively laid-back about it. For them.

But it's only two years after Katrina and Rita, so we find ourselves paying much closer attention to every blip on the radar screen in the Gulf of Mexico then we did before 2005. Now whenever I see the temperatures climb into the 100's, I begin to watch for the formation of the storms.

This is one reason why August is not the best month to plan events in Houston, but hopefully the Presbyterian Global Fellowship event that kicks off this evening will be unaffected. Welcome, Presbyfriends! I hope you packed your umbrellas!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Distracted by Distractions

Last night I went to the Presbyterian Coalition's service of repentance at Grace PC in Houston. The Coalition is meeting in Houston in advance of the Presbyterian Global Fellowship's meeting later this week, and I was invited to attend their service.

It was very interesting--they said that the order of worship was a traditional form that was used by Calvin. There was lots of singing of traditional hymns, which I loved. It's always uplifting to sing with a congregation full of ministers who sing with gusto!

Unfortunately I found myself so distracted by concerns at home that I just couldn't focus on the service when it became clear it was going to last much longer than the hour I expected. Since I was sitting at the back, I finally crept out of the service, but felt like a heel. Then I was late for the next thing I was going to.

Now I'm repenting of being distracted by my own distractions and resolving to focus better next time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Something We're Pondering

Last week Portia decided that old Mom and Dad need a puppy--to replace Babs when she moves out on her own. Portia thinks Dad is ready for Gretel The Noble Dog's successor. Why don't Portia and DK get their own puppy? Because they have two cats and aren't home much, that's why.

Babs agrees and even has a name for the prospective pooch: Beatrice. This is a reference to Princess Beatrice, the youngest child of Queen Victoria who lived with her mother to keep her company, even after marrying. (The picture to the left reminds me of El Jefe's saying: "as cute as a speckled pup in a red wagon.")

Babs thinks a dog is a good replacement for her. Not true. Although a dog might watch "Big Medicine" and "What Not To Wear" with me, it wouldn't help cook dinner or have her witty sense of humor. She promises to train it while she is home. Hmmm. Now that she's an adult, I could hold her to that promise, couldn't I? We all know who will be primarily responsible for a puppy now, don't we?'s an appealing thought. El Jefe is all over it, but his one requirement is that the puppy must have different coloration than Gretel, who was a red dachshund.

Stay tuned....we're pondering the idea.

Monday, August 13, 2007

We Need Ice, Ice, Baby

Houston's got really hot weather.
Here's a cool place we can get together.
When it's one hundred and five,
You need ice to survive.
Summer's heat is now worse than ever!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

More Theology of Nudgment

A friend from El Jefe's hometown visited us this weekend. He and El Jefe had a wonderful time reminiscing about growing up in that small town in the Texas Panhandle. We showed him around the area and took him to the Astros game on Saturday night. When he showed interest in our plans for attending church Sunday morning, we invited him to come with us before driving home, and he readily accepted.

This afternoon he called me while driving back to Dallas to thank me for our hospitality. "I really needed to hear that message from your minister," he said. " I can't tell you how much it meant to me today! I made a point of meeting your pastor and thanking him for that sermon. I'm going to start looking for a church home in Dallas now. I loved our visit and your hospitality, but that service was the highlight of my trip." (The sermon topic was Managing Expectations and the scripture was the first beatitude: Matthew 5: 3.)

And to think that it hadn't occured to me that he would be interested in coming to church with us until the Holy Spirit gave me a nudge and made me listen to our guest more carefully! I can almost hear God saying: " That wasn't so hard now, was it?"

Friday, August 10, 2007

Thursday, August 09, 2007

PGF blogger meetup?

Presbyterian Global Fellowship is having its meeting in Houston next week--August 16 through the 18th, to be exact.

More than 100 members of my church (Memorial Drive PC in Houston) are registered and the presbytery staff is also planning to check in. I'm looking forward to attending a national PresbyConfab that focuses on mission rather than sex for a change! I'm also hoping some of the PresbyBloggers will be attending.

The schedule
says that Friday night's dinner is "on your own in Houston", so if any of you would like to meet up with other PresbyBloggers, leave a comment or email me (link through the "about me" link in the sidebar for my email address) and I'll reserve a table for us at Josephine's--a nice Italian restaurant in walking distance of the Brown Convention Center.

Hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Book Review: The Sparrow and Children of God

If there is intelligent life on other planets, in other solar systems, then how does God fit into that reality? The Sparrow and Children of God by Mary Doria Russell explore that question with a blend of science fiction and religious themes.

The premise is that the Society of Jesus sponsors a team of Jesuit priests, medical personnel and computer techies on a journey through space to explore the planet Rakhat in the Alpha Centauri system. Otherworldly enchanting music from Rakhat is picked up by radio signals on earth which convinces those who hear it there must be civilization on Rakhat.

The major theme of these books is the encounter between two different civilizations as the Jesuit mission encounters the inhabitants of Rakhat. There are obvious parallels between this storyline and the history of the Jesuit missions in the New World at the time of European colonization of North and South America.

Father Emilio Sandoz, the main character of the novels, suffers unspeakable abuse on Rakhat as a result of the misunderstandings between the two cultures. He returns to earth a mental, emotional and spiritual wreck at the end of The Sparrow. His story continues in Children of God as he is forced to return to Rakhat and discovers much that he didn't understand before. Father Emilio is a complex character whose commitment to God, loss of faith and subsequent redemption are a compelling reading.

I'm not a science fiction buff, but I found these two novels intriguing and thought provoking. They are well-crafted and full of suspense and memorable characters who raise serious questions about the nature of the universe, faith and God.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Hall of Fame Report

We had a great time at the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend as we traveled up there to see our friend Bruce Matthews honored as a member of the class of 2007! The folks in Canton, Ohio really know how to plan and carry out a wonderful festival weekend.

Above are a couple of pictures from the front of the Hall and at Fawcett Stadium, where the Hall of Fame game was played Sunday night. The pictures below show Bruce giving his acceptance speech and the HOF mug that I won as a keepsake at the Friday night dinner.

Some quick observations about the weekend:

~ Lots of ex-players were in the crowd. They are Big and Tall. They made me feel, if not petite, at least almost average in height.

~ Big Men do cry. A lot. They supplied each inductee with an athletic towel. A couple of them made ample use of it. (Not Bruce).

~The guests were very friendly. We met lots of interesting people, including the current head of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes who, along with his wife, were seated next to us at the Friday dinner.

~The dinners were similar to industry or corporate events where awards you never heard of are given to people you don't know (unless you are a die-hard sports fan and consumer of sports news).

~Whenever I hear someone invoke their "spiritual advisor" I am immediately on my guard. Michael Irvin began his way-too-long and way-too-confessional acceptance speech with these words. Let me just say--too much information IMHO.

~The most poignant moment was when three of the members of the HOF wheeled out Gene Hickerson, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease during the ceremony. His son had to give his acceptance speech.

~Every member of the HOF is represented by a bronze bust. Some are better likenesses than others. Bruce's doesn't look like him much at all. He joked that they had to pay extra for the bronze to cover his "dome" (high forehead).

~ There was a family-friendly carnival party for the Matthews' guests after the ceremony complete with jugglers, carnival games, an ice cream soda fountain, popcorn, funnel cakes and cotton candy. A perfect reflection of the family-focused Matthews clan.

~ Bruce must be exhausted. He was constantly being greeted, giving autographs, posing for photos and being ushered around from event to press opportunity along with the rest of the group. He's not someone who seeks or enjoys a lot of personal attention. I bet he was really glad to get home.

~El Jefe was really flattered when a former-player-looking-guy came up to him with a Hall of Fame football and asked him to sign it! We are still wondering who they thought he was, but as El Jefe quipped, "whoever he thought I was, I'm definitely down from my playing weight!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bruce Matthews: My Favorite Hall of Famer

This weekend our friend Bruce Matthews will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio. If you're interested in reading about his remarkable 19 year career in the NFL you can go here. I'm going to share some things about Bruce that you won't read in the sports reports.

El Jefe and I got to know Bruce and his family years ago when we attended the same church. There are seven children in the family--five boys and 2 girls--which keeps Bruce and his wife Carrie hopping. Nonetheless they filled up a couple of pews on the side of the sanctuary every Sunday they were in town. El Jefe and my girls usually sat near them in what Babs termed "Testosterone Row" (because of all the boys).

Bruce has a wonderful singing voice, too, but because he needed to corral his restless band of cowpokes in worship he couldn't join the choir. But one year the children's choir director persuaded him to play the role of Goliath in the children's musical presentation of David and Goliath. My friend Dorothy and I had to create his Goliath costume from scratch. There's no pattern in the McCall's catalogue that will fit a strapping NFL center! Bruce was a great Goliath and it was a memorable performance.

Once the Houston Oilers morphed into the Tennessee Titans, the Matthews family spent football season in Nashville and the rest of the year in Houston. The first year they returned after football season was my first year as Director of Christian Education. Bruce came to me the first Sunday he was back and asked if he could help teach Sunday School. Could he ever! Bruce led the high school Sunday School class for several years. He was a wonderful teacher because he related easily to the kids. An evangelical Christian, Bruce shared freely with them how important his faith in Christ was for him in his personal and professional lives and encouraged their spiritual growth. That class had its highest attendance in the years he led it.

Bruce has a degree in industrial engineering from USC, so he began a small construction business that he worked with in the off season. He often loaned the services of his company to do repairs or upgrades for the church's physical plant. One time I asked the session for bookcases for my office when Bruce was serving as the elder in charge of buildings and grounds. Lo and behold a few days later Bruce appeared toting two extremely heavy tall bookcases that he assembled for me himself. El Jefe nominated him to the board of our presbytery's conference center and he was very helpful there with their building and expansion projects.

El Jefe and Bruce shared a deep interest in the history of the Civil War and had the same political, religious and theological viewpoints. Every Sunday between services they solved the problems of the world and the church on the porch outside the sanctuary. Every Sunday that he played football we were looking for number 74 on our television screen. In the past couple of years both of our families moved to different churches and we miss seeing them every Sunday.

With all the scandals today erupting around professional athletes in almost any sport you can it is important to recognize someone like Bruce Matthews, who not only excelled in his sport but lives a life of integrity and faith worth emulating. El Jefe and I were invited to attend the festivities at the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend with the Matthews' family and friends this weekend. We're off to Canton, Ohio tomorrow morning for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hooray for Bruce!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

HP and the Dark Lord Waldemart

I totally stole this from Presbyterian Gal who totally stole it from Barbara B. who stole it from someone else. Why break the chain, I say? B-wahahahahah!