Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Year(s) in Presbytery Land


As 2008 draws to a close, so does my two year stint as Moderator Elect and Moderator of Presbytery of New Covenant. Both years were demanding in different ways.

As Moderator Elect I had many more meetings to attend and preside over since I chaired General Council --and we also had to solve the Million Dollar Problem. As Moderator I only chaired 5 presbytery meetings and had fewer committee obligations. However me and my trusty SUV logged in many miles presiding over ordinations and installations around our large geographical area.

The experience has been quite a ride. Just a few weeks after agreeing to serve as the 2008 Moderator, the "Million Dollar Problem" was revealed. This doubled and tripled the number of meetings required to address the problem, which ultimately was resolved through the faithful work of many people. Today PNC is well on its way to repaying GA for the special offering funds that were diverted and the presbytery's accounting and auditing procedures have been overhauled and brought up to professional standards.

PNC is almost uniquely blessed in its location in an area of the country that is growing in population and still has one of the strongest economies in the nation, despite the lower price of oil and the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ike this fall. Many volunteers and much effort is being put into rebuilding Galveston and the other areas just east of Houston that were destroyed by that storm.

PNC is dedicated to new church development with more NCD's than any other presbytery. During my year as moderator, three NCD's received full charters as churches in the PCUSA. One was a traditional suburban church plant and two others were ethnic churches--Vietnamese and Filipino. Presiding over the charter services was the highlight of this year!

PNC is also blessed because there is an atmosphere of collegiality and respect that transcends differences of opinion on the PresbyIssues of the day. Much of this can be attributed to the leadership provided by our very pastoral General Presbyter, Rev. Mike Cole, our associate GP's Rev. Wendy Bailey and Mary Marcotte (a certified DCE) and the small but dedicated presbytery staff. I have to also make a special acknowledgement of the best Stated Clerk in all of PresbyLand, Rev. Diane Prevary, whose advice and advance preparation were invaluable to me at presbytery meetings. .

We're not immune to the tempests tossing the denomination, however. One church departed the denomination for the EPC this year, leaving a smaller congregation and their property behind in the process, and another filed a lawsuit against the presbytery and GA asking the court to declare the trust clause of the BOO invalid in Texas. Other sessions have expressed grave concerns about the direction of the denomination after the last General Assembly meeting. There are as many challenges ahead for PNC as there are for any other presbytery in the country. Fortunately, the Rev. Wayne Eberly, our new Moderator, is uniquely gifted to serve in this role in 2009.

In PNC, the moderator has only one duty in the post-moderator year: to assist in making nominations to the Nominating Committee. As the year came to a close and I was starting to think about what to do with all the "free" time I was about to gain with stepping down, I got a call from the Nominating Committee at my church asking me to go on session and take on a major administrative assignment.

Now I know that the gifts of the Spirit include administration, but somehow that never seems like a "real" work of ministry, does it? Not like preaching, teaching, and pastoral care. It wasn't what I thought about doing--but it seems to be what God is calling me to do. I should be old enough not to be surprised by God, but...it still happens.

So although I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to serve the presbytery these last two years, I'm happily returning to service in my home congregation.

I will continue to blog about things Presbyterian and things Not Presbyterian in my continuing search for grace in everyday life. My first article for the "Best of the Blogs" column in Presbyterians Today appears in the January/February issue -- and is available on the online version here.

Now that I no longer have an official position with the presbytery, I will be free to express my opinions on whatever goes on in the denomination without concern that my opinions will be confused with any official position of PNC.

Yes, QG, there IS life after presbytery!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Adventures in Family Land

We've been immersed in Family Land for the past week, just the same as many of you.

Here are some random highlights from the week:
  • On Christmas Eve as the pastor read from Matthew the story of the 3 Wise Men bringing "treasures" of gold, etc to the baby Jesus, the littlest member of the family (aged almost 3) looked up from the coloring in her lap and eclaimed "Treasures? Gold? OOOOO!"
  • Cleanup after Christmas Day's dinner for 25 was accomplished under the capable direction of my niece Txbelle and St. Betty's daughter, The Defender. Muchas gracias, damas!
  • Portia's SIL turned out to be an excellent cook, contributing great side dishes and coffee cake to the menus for the week.
  • Having the aforementioned almost 3 year old and her brother, age 4 1/2, run down the stairs on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought was just priceless.
  • Olivia and Beatrice made a new friend, Ricky the Min-Pin, who was the perfect canine guest.
  • I got several books from authors I'm not familiar with, but are the among the favorites of the givers. New authors! New books! Yippee.
  • It was also my Kindle (tm) Christmas. I downloaded and am reading my first book on it--the new biography of Andrew Jackson. Using the gadget does take some getting used to, but I think I'm going to like it. After I've used it awhile, I'll do a review.
  • For the first time, Babs didn't spend all of the holiday with us. She left Christmas afternoon to join the BF in Alabama and meet his family. Stay tuned.
  • The Old Marine, now the CEO of a food company, brought over a basket full of their latest product--excellent Spanish olive oil. Yum.
  • This last Christmas in the big house was definitely one of the very best. What a blessing! I'm so thankful.
Now it's back to the "real" world....

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas at the Bay


Can you see the little Christmas tree on the dock? We've been down at the bay since the day after Christmas with all the family in tow and away from the internet. (Update: there were 25 for dinner on Christmas Day Chez QG!)

We just got back and had a great time. I hope you and yours had a good celebration, too.

In an uncharacteristic burst of domesticity, El Jefe just made a trip to Home Depot (yes, of course I had to go along) and bought a new steam vacuum cleaner hoping it will clean the dang beige carpet downstairs of the "mystery Bea" stains.

I know. I'm shocked too. Will wonders never cease?

More later.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

QG's Tips for Aspiring Hostesses With the Mostess


After reading a number of comments to my Friday Five play expressing astonishment that I am hosting 22 for dinner on Christmas Day (plus 4 adults, 2 toddlers and a dog out of town guests staying at the house), I am sharing my tips for hosting large numbers in the spirit of the season.

My own mother was not a good hostess--Christmas always made her tense and nervous. This was something I had to learn as an adult and fortunately , my sister and brother-in-law have the gift of hospitality and provided a great model for me.

Herewith QG's tips for Aspiring Hostesses (and Hosts):

1. Delegate, delegate and again I say: delegate. When a guest says "what can I bring?", tell them. Forget being Martha Stewart yourself. You are not a caterer! I always provide the entree, but let guests bring side dishes, bread, wine and desserts.

2. When you tell someone what to bring, take into consideration that guest's personality and lifestyle. Don't ask the busy working mom to bring an elaborate dessert or side dish--assign her bakery rolls or bread from the supermarket. Or wine. Let those who love to cook or bake bring home-made offerings for the table.

3. Fill in the festive board with left-overs. For example, SIL and St. Betty are both having big dinners on Christmas Eve. They will bring left-over side dishes, wine and desserts to my house on Christmas Day. The food is still good and there is a slightly different group who will enjoy it.

4. Set up a large cooler on the porch (or other easily accessible place) filled with ice, water bottles, soft drinks, and fruit juice for the kids. If there are beer drinkers, set up a second cooler with beer and ice. Let everyone help themselves.

5. Assign someone to oversee the bar. Chez QG that is El Jefe's job. This includes setting up and making sure the coolers mentioned above are refilled.

6. Set up a large garbage can in an easily accessible place for disposal of plastic cups, paper plates, etc.

7. Know who is in charge of the cleanup. This year that will be Portia and DK, with assistance from St. Betty and her daughter, The Defender.

8. Choose an easy main dish that doesn't require a lot of fiddling and can be kept warm if necessary until everyone is there and ready to eat. QG's first law of lots of guests is that someone will be delayed so you don't want to serve anything that is ruined if not served immediately.

9. Set up extra tables and chairs wherever you can around the house. Everyone HATES trying to eat in their laps. This may cause crowding, but trust me, it's worth it.

10. RELAX AND ENJOY YOURSELF. Your guests are not going to be critical of your efforts. They are coming to share Christmas joy with you, your family and each other. They are happy to be there and grateful to you for sharing your home and giving them the gift of hospitality.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Beatrice Blogs: On Being a Good Hostess


WOOF!

Mom is not the only one entertaining guests this Christmas. Last night DK's brother brought his dog, Ricky (a Min-Pin), to the house and introduced him to me and Olivia, who spent the weekend with me.

Olivia needs more instruction in hospitality, IMHO. She barked furiously at poor little Ricky. And this isn't even her house! I remembered my manners and approached my guest with the Ritual Sniff of Peace-- which he reciprocated.

After a few minutes Olivia calmed down and reverted to her usual gracious self.

Note to self: order Olivia a copy of Gracious Canine Entertaining by the late Paw Paw (Martha Stewart's dog). Put in her stocking.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Five: Countdown to Christmas Edition


Since I'm making a to-do-list this morning (and checking it twice!), I'll share it with today's RevGals Friday Five, brought to us by Rev. Songbird. I'm sharing the beautiful picture she put on the RGBP blog.

Here's the prompt:

There are only five full days before Christmas Day, and whether you use them for shopping, wrapping, preaching, worshiping, singing or traveling or even wishing the whole darn thing were over last Tuesday, there's a good chance they will be busy ones.

So let's make this easy, if we can: tell us five things you need to accomplish before Christmas Eve.

1. Get my upstairs ready for our out-of-town guests: four adults, two toddlers and one dog.

2. Trip to grocery store. Buy beef now or later? Juice boxes for the kids? Do they like goldfish? Cereal? Pancakes? Pondering these things.

3. Plan Christmas Day dinner for 22. Delegate side dishes to nieces, neighbors and SIL. Real plates or disposables? Cheese grits or potatoes? Cheese grits AND potatoes?

4. Find extra food dish for visiting dog. What does he eat? Can he sleep in Beatrice's large dog car bed? (He's a minature pinscher or "MinPin".)

5. Christmas Eve service at 4 (for kids), 6, 8 or 10? Who will decide?

What's on your list?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Faucets Are SO '80's


The fixtures in our "powder room" next to the kitchen decided that the week before Christmas was a good time to go on the fritz. Fritz as in not repairable.

The plumber just called from the plumbing supply house to report that polished brass fixtures are not kept in stock anymore--it seems they are just SO '80's.

A special order is required. It takes 2 weeks. But we'll have 9 houseguests next week and need everything to work. So we'll have to find something in stock, though it won't have the same finish.

The 80's don't seem that long ago to me. Who are the Design Police anyway?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Whither the Christmas Card?


My friend Rev. Di commented on Facebook that she wasn't receiving many Christmas cards and maybe this was the last year she would send them. I've noticed the same phenomenon myself--usually by this time in December we have a big bowl full of cards. This year not so much.

Which raises the question: Whither the Christmas card? Is this tradition that began in Victorian England loosing its popularity?

I can see several reasons why this may be true.

The popularity of email, blogs, Facebook and Twitter (and other internet social networking sites) enable people to find and keep in touch with long-lost friends and relatives year-round. Even us Baby Boomers are doing it!

This year I created a Christmas letter and enclosed it in more than 75 hand-addressed envelopes. This took many hours. Rev Di reported she sent out more than 100! E-greetings would be cheaper and quicker. I have to admit that in some ways I would be relieved to give it up.

On the other hand, we've grown up with this tradition and it wouldn't feel right to abandon it just yet. I do limit my card-sending to close family (because they want to see the Christmas letter) and out-of-town friends. Otherwise the task would be overwhelming.

Are you sending out Christmas cards this year? Why or why not?

Do you think this tradition is becoming less popular? Will E-greetings replace it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Review: HMNS Exhibit The Birth of Christianity


Last week El Jefe and I had were privileged to have an invitation to preview "The Birth of Christianity, A Jewish Story" exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science because his law firm is one of the sponsors of the exhibit.

It was a great evening. Our friend Dr. Weston Fields, Director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation, and one of the curators of the exhibit, acted as our guide through the artifacts and manuscripts on display.

Those attending seemed to be evenly divided between Christians and Jews, including a number of Israeli officials and the Israeli consul to Houston. It was fascinating to hear a Jewish man in the group giving a tour to a group of his friends. He stopped in front of the Galatians manuscript and gave a brief lecture about "Rabbi Paul", concluding that in his opinion Rabbi Paul was responsible for the creation of Christianity. An opinion shared by many Christian scholars as well!

The most compelling parts of the display, IMHO, are:

1. One of the earliest known manuscripts of the Christmas story from the oldest known Gospel of Luke. What a thrill to see this during the Advent season and think about the many centuries that the faithful have gathered to hear those inspiring words!

2. The earliest manuscript of the Letter to the Galatians, which most scholars believe to be the first book of the New Testament written. The Greek text is so clear that I could read it...if I could read Greek.

3. An ossuary inscribed "Alexander, son of Simon of Cyrene". An ossuary is a box containing the bones of a deceased person. See Mark 15:21:
" A certain man of Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing on his way from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross." (NIV)

The exhibit will be open through April 12, 2009. If you live in the greater Houston area or will be in town during that time, get thee hence to the museum and see it! And bring your friends and family, too.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The 2008 Sappy Awards

~sound of orchestra playing "White Christmas"~
(QG enters stage left, goes to the podium and
begins the 2008 Sappy Awards Ceremony.)

Thank you, thank you! Gentle Readers and Lurkers, today I am pleased to announce the awards in QG's Third Annual Sappy Christmas Song competition. We are grateful to everyone who participated in creating this year's Sappy Christmas Song, which is surely the best one yet! Santa's Bailout is not only timely, sentimental--and thanks to a last-minute challenge--very sappy.

So without further ado--the envelopes, please!

The Who You Gonna Call? Award goes to Presbyterian Gal for responding to our request that she contribute the first stanza of the 2008 song with a financial bailout theme. She also gets the award for contributing key verses that moved the "plot" along when it seemed to be flagging. Well done, PG!

Key Players Awards go to Bill, and Singing Owl for outstanding individual contributions to this year's opus.

The Like Mother, Like Daughter award goes to Averill (known here at QG as Portia) for joining in with her own stanza!

Stushie submitted his own unique Sappy Christmas Song in the comments to this post to the tune of "Little Drummer Boy." He is hereby given the Holistic Song Parodist Award with crossed drumstick clusters.
Parum-pa-pum-pum!

QG had to create a new category in order to give special recognition to Mac ("once a Marine, always a Marine"), who not only submitted his own contribution, but issued a challenge near the end of the contest that elicited the sappiest stanza of them all. The "Listen UP" Award goes to Mac for keeping the focus on the sappy.

And finally, there is one whose contributions were so outstanding that QG has decided to knight him. He not only wrote several stanzas, but created the refrain and met Mac's challenge.

Reformed Catholic
, please come forward and kneel.

I dub thee Sappy Lyricist Extraordinaire. From henceforth you shall be known as Sir RC, S.L.E. by QG. Our virtual hats are off to you!

~wild applause~

Let's join in singing R.C.'s refrain:

O Citibank, O Citibank
My 401 is failing!

Thanks for joining us today for the awards and plan to join us again next Christmas!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sappy Christmas Song 2008--Postscript Stanza

In response to Mac's challenge that the song wasn't really sappy, Reformed Catholic composed a new closing stanza (see comments on the previous post!):

Santa woke on Christmas Eve
hungover like a sailor,
Mrs Claus was thrown in Jail,
for DUI test failure
Claus drank up all the bailout cash
and Rudolph smoked his entire stash

Oh woe is me OH woe is me
They repo'd my double wide trailer.

And THAT, Gentle Readers, is a truly sappy stanza in the style of "Please, Daddy, Don't Get Drunk For Christmas"!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sappy Christmas Song 2008--Santa Needs a Bailout, Too

Gentle Readers, it is finished! Reformed Catholic provided the perfect closing stanzas to our song and I couldn't resist adding a stanza of my own.

QG's Sappy Christmas Song 2008 Awards will be posted Monday morning. Many thanks to all who participated this year!

And now, let's sing it all together...and a one and a two and a three:

Santa Needs a Bailout, Too

(Tune: O Christmas Tree or Tannenbaum)

It’s the eleventh hour on Christmas Eve,

the north pole stars are all a’twinkle.
But Santa Claus just looks like hell

as he wishes for Rip Van Winkle.
He lost all his operating capital
from
trusting CFO elves Fannie and Freddy.
Paulson turned him down with an evil sneer
Now at midnight he won’t be ready!


Oh, Citibank, oh Citibank,
My 401 is failing!


The other elves have gone on strike

Because he cannot pay them.

There's no more food the reindeer like
How will he ever feed them?

And Mrs. Claus is crying there

In a big heap upon the stair


Oh Citibank, oh Citibank,
My 401 is failing!


Santa's credit line, is all used up
he has no recourse waiting.
The picket line is keeping his

deliveries from mailing.

The Teamsters will not cross the line,

it looks like its scab hiring time.


Oh, Citibank, oh Citibank,
My 401 is failing!


Fred forgot to winterize
Santa’s sleigh this season,
The reins are stuck, the seats are cracked,
the runners they are freezin’.
De-icing fluid we can’t find

because of strikes at the potash mine,
O Santa sleigh, filled with gifts, you ain’t going nowhere.

Oh, Citibank, oh Citibank,
My 401 is failing!


Oh, orders from the USA,
They surely are a-tumblin’.

The kiddies and their parents, too,

Have taken to a-grumblin’.
Transferred jobs to cheaper elves,
And bank accounts now gone to…well,

Ol’ Nick had better recognize

Out-sourcin’ can be humblin’.

Oh, Citibank, oh Citibank
My 401 is failing!

So Santa took a ride to buy
A drink to numb his noggin
But he drove by a cheesy sight
And soon he was a sobbin'
In someone's yard, quite full of snow,
He saw a sight that made him slow
Cash overflowed from a leather bag
after a meth house's bust forgot that swag.

O Citibank, O Citibank,
My 401 is failing!

Now Santa's hired laid off folks,
to deliver all the gifts
Though the elves suits were not their size,
And not a comfy fit.
By noon on Christmas Day now,
Santa's sipping brandied hot choc-o-late,
Flipping through the MLS,
looking for retirement real estate.

O Citibank, O Citibank,
My 401 is failing!

That great old tune, O Tannebaum,
is ringing through the city
Its Christmas Day, and while kids play,
Mrs Santa says, "no self-pity !!"
Get on that Sleigh, and head due south,
To Washington and get bailed out.

O Citibank, O Citibank,
My 401 is failing!

With Santa waiting on his bailout,
We're all left to shop at Walmart
Moms tell their kids "without a doubt,
your grand dreams you'll have to part.
With our all savings down the tubes,
Expect no more Wiis or Game Cubes.

O Citibank, O Citibank,
My 401 is failing!

Politics...as usual
What else is new in D.C.
Concessions here, obfuscation there,
Another day in D.C.!
So Santa waits another hour
While kids expect a Lego tower.

O Citibank, O Citibank
My 401 is failing!
Santa's not giving up with out a flight.
Rudolph is dispatched into the night,
To seek pecuniary relief
From the Fed Reserve's chairman in chief.
Bernacke's the man who has the clout
To save Santa's ride without a doubt!
O Citibank, O Citibank
My 401 is failing!

So Santa gets his bailout cash
And North Pole, Inc. is working!
And Mrs. Claus is busy in
The kitchen baking cookies
Their retirement plans, they've put away
He needs to work another day.

O Citibank, O Citibank
My 401 is failing!

So as we gather Christmas Eve
Let's think of those less lucky.
And Him who made lame beggars walk,
The blind see, the dumb talk.
Good will toward men* (KJV)
The angels sang.
Glory to God, sing it every day!

O Citibank, O Citibank,
My 401 is failing!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sappy Christmas Song--Third Update


Our 2008 Sappy Christmas Song is really taking shape! Our newest stanzas are from Sappy Lyricists Singing Owl, Presbyterian Gal, Reformed Catholic and Averill (a/k/a Portia):


It’s the eleventh hour on Christmas Eve,

the north pole stars are all a’twinkle.
But Santa Claus just looks like hell

as he wishes for Rip Van Winkle.
He lost all his operating capital
from
trusting CFO elves Fannie and Freddy.
Paulson turned him down with an evil sneer
Now at midnight he won’t be ready!


Oh, Citibank, oh Citibank,
My 401 is failing!


The other elves have gone on strike

Because he cannot pay them.

There's no more food the reindeer like
How will he ever feed them?

And Mrs. Claus is crying there

In a big heap upon the stair


Oh Citibank, oh Citibank,
My 401 is failing!


Santa's credit line, is all used up
he has no recourse waiting.
The picket line is keeping his

deliveries from mailing.

The Teamsters will not cross the line,

it looks like its scab hiring time.


Oh, Citibank, oh Citibank,
My 401 is failing!


Fred forgot to winterize
Santa’s sleigh this season,
The reins are stuck, the seats are cracked,
the runners they are freezin’.
De-icing fluid we can’t find

because of strikes at the potash mine,
O Santa sleigh, filled with gifts, you ain’t going nowhere.

Oh, Citibank, oh Citibank,
My 401 is failing!


Oh, orders from the USA,
They surely are a-tumblin’.

The kiddies and their parents, too,

Have taken to a-grumblin’.
Transferred jobs to cheaper elves,
And bank accounts now gone to…well,

Ol’ Nick had better recognize

Out-sourcin’ can be humblin’.

Oh, Citibank, oh Citibank
My 401 is failing!

So Santa took a ride to buy
A drink to numb his noggin
But he drove by a cheesy sight
And soon he was a sobbin'
In someone's yard, quite full of snow,
He saw a sight that made him slow
Cash overflowed from a leather bag
after a meth house's bust forgot that swag.

O Citibank, O Citibank,
My 401 is failing!

Now Santa's hired laid off folks,
to deliver all the gifts
Though the elves suits were not their size,
And not a comfy fit.
By noon on Christmas Day now,
Santa's sipping brandied hot choc-o-late,
Flipping through the MLS,
looking for retirement real estate.

O Citibank, O Citibank,
My 401 is failing!

That great old tune, O Tannebaum,
is ringing through the city
Its Christmas Day, and while kids play,
Mrs Santa says, "no self-pity !!"
Get on that Sleigh, and head due south,
To Washington and get bailed out.

O Citibank, O Citibank,
My 401 is failing!

With Santa waiting on his bailout,
We're all left to shop at Walmart
Moms tell their kids "without a doubt,
your grand dreams you'll have to part.
With our all savings down the tubes,
Expect no more Wiis or Game Cubes.

O Citibank, O Citibank,
My 401 is failing!

I sense a big surprise finish coming up! Who will write it? If you're inspired, leave your contribution in the comments. And if you're not--check back to see how the song develops.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow?


News flash: The weatherman claims there are snow flurries in Houston. I thought that's what hit me on my way to the mailbox just now. It won't stick because it's not cold enough for that.

Still! How fun! Okay, as you were. Back to the song contest.

Sappy Christmas Song--Second Update

Thanks to Reformed Catholic, Bill and Mac for their contributions to our Sappy Christmas Song! Here's the current version:

It’s the eleventh hour on Christmas Eve,
the north pole stars are all a’twinkle.
But Santa Claus just looks like hell

as he wishes for Rip Van Winkle.
He lost all his operating capital
from
trusting CFO elves Fannie and Freddy.
Paulson turned him down with an evil sneer
Now at midnight he won’t be ready!


Oh, Citibank, oh Citibank,
My 401 is failing!


The other elves have gone on strike

Because he cannot pay them.

There's no more food the reindeer like
How will he ever feed them?

And Mrs. Claus is crying there

In a big heap upon the stair


Oh Citibank, oh Citibank,
My 401 is failing!


Santa's credit line, is all used up
he has no recourse waiting.
The picket line is keeping his

deliveries from mailing.

The Teamsters will not cross the line,

it looks like its scab hiring time.


Oh, Citibank, oh Citibank,
My 401 is failing!


Fred forgot to winterize
Santa’s sleigh this season,
The reins are stuck, the seats are cracked,
the runners they are freezin’.
De-icing fluid we can’t find

because of strikes at the potash mine,
O Santa sleigh, filled with gifts, you ain’t going nowhere.

Oh, Citibank, oh Citibank,
My 401 is failing!


Oh, orders from the USA,
They surely are a-tumblin’.

The kiddies and their parents, too,

Have taken to a-grumblin’.
Transferred jobs to cheaper elves,
And bank accounts now gone to…well,

Ol’ Nick had better recognize

Out-sourcin’ can be humblin’.

Oh, Citibank, oh Citibank
My 401 is failing!

Will Santa be bailed out? On what terms? Will the government take shares in Santa's Workshop, Inc.? And what about Santa's contract with the Brotherhood of Elves? Or will Christmas...(sob!)...not come this year? Add your lyrics in the comments and check back for updates!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Sappy Christmas Song--First Update

Here's our song so far. What happens next? Add your lyrics in the comments! Remember the tune is "O Christmas Tree" (or "Tannenbaum").

It’s the eleventh hour on Christmas Eve,

the north pole stars are all a’twinkle.

But Santa Claus just looks like hell

as he wishes for Rip Van Winkle.
He lost all his operating capital
from
trusting CFO elves Fannie and Freddy.

Paulson turned him down with an evil sneer
Now at midnight he won’t be ready!

The other elves have gone on strike
Because he cannot pay them.

There's no more food the reindeer like

How will he ever feed them?

And Mrs. Claus is crying there

In a big heap upon the stair




Monday, December 08, 2008

Third Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest

Are you already driven crazy by "Jingle Bells"? Is "The Little Drummer Boy" playing on an endless loop in your brain? Nauseated by "The Christmas Shoes"? Does the country western carol "Please, Daddy, Don't Get Drunk For Christmas (I Don't Wanna See My Mama Cry)" drive you to distraction?

Take action! You know you can do better! In the spirit of the Bulwer-Lytton Bad Writing Competition, QG offers you the opportunity to win (virtual) prizes and internet fame by submitting the sappiest possible lyrics to complete our Sappy Christmas Song 2008 Version.

Submit your entry in the comments. I will post periodic updates of the entire song as it evolves into the sappiest, most sentimental song no one would ever want to hear.

Presbyterian Gal graciously agreed to kick off the competition by contributing the opening stanza. Our theme this year is Santa's Bailout. Thanks, PG! You're the best!

And now, ladies and gentlemen, start your keyboards---here is the first stanza. Take it away!


It’s the eleventh hour on Christmas Eve,
the north pole stars are all a’twinkle.

But Santa Claus just looks like hell

as he wishes for Rip Van Winkle.
He lost all his operating capital
from
trusting CFO elves Fannie and Freddy.

Paulson turned him down with an evil sneer
Now at midnight he won’t be ready…..

UPDATE: Be sure to check out Stushie's original song in the comments to the tune of everyone's "favorite" Little Drummer Boy--it's about Hummers!

I don't think I made it clear that the idea is that commenters add verses, stanzas or refrains to the beginning stanza until the Sappy Christmas Song is completed. Now, back to the contest!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Over Booked


The most overwhelming task involved in downsizing is pruning our book collection before we move. There are books in every room of the house, except the dining room and many of the bookshelves are overstuffed. That's what happens when you haven't moved in more than 20 years!

I'm selling some books to Half-Price Books, but it would take multiple trips to get rid of them all with very little return. Our books are not suitable for the Literacy Council because they are above the reading level they need. Anyone have a suggestion of other groups that want donated books?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Excited and Nervous


This afternoon I shot this photo of our new house. Ground was broken on the project this week.

El Jefe and I have never had good timing when it comes to real estate. This year we've been kicking around the idea of downsizing and visited a new development near our present home that offered pretty patio homes. We found a plan we loved and committed to make the move.

All that was before the stock market tanked, of course. We're fortunate that home values here have not declined drastically. But if we had known what was coming, what would we have done? I don't know. We really are excited about having something just for the two of us.

We'll put our house on the market early in the spring and hope for the best! I'm excited about the new house because it will be mostly one story and we'll each have our own study. And an outdoor kitchen!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Another Honor For Chris O.


Just thought y'all would like to know: Chris Ogbonnaya, My Favorite Longhorn, was named an Academic All-American.

Dr. O called to tell us about it and reminded me that I told Chris when he accepted the offer from UT as a senior, that my prayer for him was that he would be an Academic All-American whether or not he was ever named to the All American athletic squad. Wow.

We're all so proud of him!! Go Chris!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Behinder I Get


Remember that old saying: "the faster I go, the behinder I get"?

That's me this Advent season. When we got back from celebrating Thanksgiving with a big crowd down at the bay, I intended to put up the Christmas tree and set out my Christmas decorations. But that hasn't happened yet.

I guess it will get done next weekend. If Babs and Portia will come help me. El Jefe always confines his assistance to hauling the tree from the garage and putting it together.

When I was growing up, we always had a real tree. The family tradition was that we never got the tree before my father's December 8 birthday and it came down on New Year's Day. Now that I use a faker-jocker tree (due to family allergies to the real ones), our tradition has been to put it up after Thanksgiving.

So I'm already behind.

When do you put up the tree in your home? Fake or real?

Monday, December 01, 2008

More Virtual Advent Retreating

This afternoon's post at the RevGals Virtual Advent retreat focuses on the story of the Annunciation -- the angel Gabriel visits Mary and tells her that she will become pregnant with the Messiah (Luke 1:26-38).

I believe that we continue to encounter God today, but it is seldom in such a dramatic fashion. In my experience, God seems to manifest Himself in more subtle ways. He nudges me through the voices of others or by creating circumstances for me to respond to. The season of Advent reminds me that when I don't take the time to watch, wait and listen for God's guidance--He nudges me a bit harder the next time.

Mary had no doubt that the Angel Gabriel was a true messenger from God, but I am not always sure that the nudge is Godly or a manifestation of my own will. When I have been very sure, it is usually because I have prayed for guidance. When I don't pray for that guidance, God has to "re-send" that nudge to get my attention.

Thanks be for those Godly nudges!

Virtual Retreating

I'm joining in the RevGals Virtual Advent retreat this morning a bit late, so I am combing my response to the first two reflections. If you want to join in, go here.

Since this is the first day of the month, I did my accounts before joining the retreat. We don't usually think of Advent as season that emphasizes accounting in the way that Lent is. But I think Advent nudges us to do some accounting in our hearts in order to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ.

The powerfully poignant opening solo of Handel's Messiah, "Comfort Ye", emphasizes the twin Advent themes of repentance and redemption. I like the way The Message words these verses:
"Comfort, oh comfort my people," says your God. "Speak softly and tenderly to Jerusalem, but also make it very clear That she has served her sentence, that her sin is taken care of—forgiven! She's been punished enough and more than enough, and now it's over and done with."
Isaiah 40: 1-2
Today I am also preparing Thursday's lesson for my Bible Study Discussion group. Our memory verse this week, appropriately enough is:
If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then will I hear them from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)
I am called to humble myself and seek God's face in this season of Advent and pray for that redemption promised in the coming of Christ. Comfort my people, comfort me with the knowledge that our sins are taken care of--forgiven!

One of the ways in which I am 'making straight in the desert the highway of our God' is by simplifying my preparations for Christmas this year. We're cutting back on the gift-giving, house decorating and seasonal "busy-ness" by not exchanging gifts with other adults in the family, winnowing that old stash of Christmas stuff that I used to put all around the house and vowing not to try to out-Martha-Martha (Stewart, that is) in the hospitality department. Setting out a few take-out dishes and taking some shortcuts reduces the stress of being with family and friends.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks




Celtic Woman sings "We Gather Together."
Happy Thanksgiving to my dear readers. I am grateful for each of you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving To-Do List, Checkin' It Twice


This afternoon we're off to the bay house to celebrate Thanksgiving with 17 to 20 people ( no one knows for sure) and 5 dogs.


So I'm making a list to be sure I get everything in the car I am responsible for contributing:

-meat, salad, bread for dinner tonight
-Olivia's allergy-free salmon/sweet potato chow (that's why she's called Shrimp Breath)
-ingredients for killer sweet potato casserole for T'Day
-wine and coffee and milk
-jackets
-dog beds, leashes and harnesses
-books to read
-better attitude (see below)

I'm looking for a better attitude to take along because in the midst of all this I have to get a set of keys to Portia's place to Babs so she can get Portia's mail. Portia should have taken care of this before she left for her in-laws, IMHO. This means getting the keys made and then a round-trip drive into Houston that I didn't need. But packages are getting stolen from behind her gate so we need to check on it.

Praying for help to set aside the petty irritations and enjoy the big picture,
QG

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

RevGals Virtual Advent Retreat


The creative folks at RevGalBlogPals are hosting a Virtual Advent Retreat this coming Monday, December 1.

Here's how it works: early in the morning, mid-morning and afternoon reflection posts for Advent 2,3 and 4 will be posted by different facilitators. You can use the reflection pieces for contemplation or writing prompts. Participants are encouraged to leave their responses in the comments or post them on their own blogs.

What a great way to come together in cyberspace and prepare our hearts for the Advent season!

Mark your calendar and join us.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Those Who REALLY need a bailout


With all the loose talk about the need for the federal government to bail out the banks, the auto companies and their unions, the home builders and God only knows what other big business or special interest will be next, how come these folks aren't getting added to the list?

Oh, yeah. Forgot. They don't have lobbyists or PAC funds. Just blue tarps (if they're lucky), empty foundations (if they're not), and tents (if they're in the middle). UTMB just laid off half its work force in Galveston and it is the largest employer there. You do the math.

Just sayin'.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Five: Mix and Stir


It's been quite a while since I played the RevGals Friday Five meme, but today I'm inspired by Songbird's Mix and Stir Friday Five.

She writes: "Next week, I'm hosting Thanksgiving. I need your help. Please answer the following kitchen-related questions:"

1) Do you have a food processor? Can you recommend it? Which is to say, do you actually use it?

I have two--regular and mini size. I use the mini size fairly often to chop onions, carrots etc. It does a better job with a small dice than the large one. Plus now that we're empty nesters I don't need to chop in big quantities very often. On the whole, I prefer a knife.

2) And if so, do you use the fancy things on it? (Mine came with a mini-blender (used a lot and long ago broken) and these scary disks you used to julienne things (used once).

Nah.

3) Do you use a standing mixer? Or one of the hand-held varieties?

(And isn't that color delightfully retro?)

Great color. Babs has one that is bright pink--a Breast Cancer Awareness one. Mine is dark blue. I use this a lot because it's great for baking and I like to bake.

4) How about a blender? Do you have one? Use it much?

We have one which is used almost exclusively for margarita or other cocktail making. And no, we don't use it much, particularly since the kids got me a Margarita Machine last Mother's Day! The MM is a very festive red color. Love it.

5) Finally, what old-fashioned, non-electric kitchen tool do you enjoy using the most?

The garlic press! Fab.

Bonus: Is there a kitchen appliance or utensil you ONLY use at Thanksgiving or some other holiday? If so, what is it?

The gravy-fat-separator thingie.

Presbyterian Pie Parade

This weekend we're getting ready for the Presbyterian Pie Parade at our church. Members have been asked to bake and bring Thanksgiving pies on and $25 Wal-Mart gift cards on Monday and Tuesday to the fellowship hall.

Donors are encouraged to write notes of encouragement and caring to accompany the pies, which will be boxed up and driven by anyone who can help with the Parade on Tuesday to Galveston for distribution to those who are still struggling to rebuild their lives after IKE. The city's largest employer, the medical school and center, just announced massive lay-offs necessitated by the economic burden of that disaster. Many who survived to this point are now out of work in a difficult job market.

We're planning to bake our pies Sunday and freeze them so they will be fresher. I'm thinking pecan and chocolate brownie pies travel well. I'm so thankful that we had little damage from that storm and can join in the Pie Parade!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Football Creep


Anybody else noticing the football creep?

It used to be that college and pro football games were played on Saturdays and Sundays and, okay, on Monday night. But the last couple of weeks Faithful Football Fan El Jefe has managed to find a pro or college game every night of the week.

Last night, by the early hour of 6:30 CST, he was glued to a contest between Ball State and Central Michigan. Just riveting.

When do these "students" get to study if they are playing games out of town in the middle of the week? Quo Warranto? Why is the NCAA permitting this? Is it all for the revenues from TV coverage?

~shakes head sadly~

Here's what I believe: College football should be played on Saturday and NFL games on Sunday. And that's all.

Is it not written in the Book of Billy Bob, Chapter 2:4,6,8: " Thou shalt not play with the pigskin except on the weekend"?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ba We're Lambs

Check out this very cute Christian parody of the Beach Boys classic Barbara Ann on You Tube!

Sorry I couldn't embed it, that feature was disabled by request of the creator of the video.

Hat tip--Brother W.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book Review: Acedia and Me


I am a big fan of Kathleen Norris' writing. The name of this blog was inspired by her short book "Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work." I loved Dakota, A Spiritual Geography; Amazing Grace; and The Cloister Walk. I've been eagerly anticipating her latest book, Acedia and Me : Marriage, Monks and a Writer's Life and finally got my copy a couple of weeks ago.

But...

Yes, there's a big but coming.

I did my best to read it, but finally gave up about page 200 and then skimmed through the rest. The book is a cross between an academic study of the spiritual phenomenon acedia and a personal grief journal written in the aftermath of the death of Norris' husband in 2003. I found it dense, wordy and lacking the engaging quality of her previous writings. Which is understandable, given the book's subject and the context in which it was written. Still. I just couldn't get into it.

Those of you who, like me, are die-hard Kathleen Norris fans will probably read it anyway and I would be interested to know your reaction to the book. Anyone who is interested in a very thorough dissertation on the subject of acedia and its relationship to clinical depression will want to have this in their library. I don't think it would be helpful to someone dealing with the recent death of a loved one, but I could be wrong.

I hope to be more enthused about her next book.

Monday, November 17, 2008

QG's Swan Song as Mod


Saturday's presbytery meeting marked my last time to preside as Moderator. I took the opportunity to Honorably Retire the old Moderator's stole, which displayed the Year of the Child logo. The Year of the Child morphed into the Decade of the Child. But the decade elapsed in 2000 and yet the stole kept being passed down.

My suggestion that it was time for a change was received with enthusiasm, so my gift to the presbytery is pictured here. Dear Friend Dorothy embroidered the badges on it for me which represent the logo of the presbytery and then the legend "Moderator Presbytery of New Covenant." Our inimitable Stated Clerk took H.R. Stole home with her to get dry-cleaned before displaying it at the presbytery offices.

The meeting theme was "the vitality of the presbytery." There were no controversial issues on the agenda since the proposed BOO amendments will be voted on at the February meeting.

We did hear a comprehensive report on the presbytery's IKE recovery efforts. The election and the economic crisis have pushed IKE off the front pages of the national news and there has been very little support outside our area for the recovery effort. Other denominations are reporting the same thing. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is preparing to open two worksite camps in the area soon as they open their long-term rebuilding program.

Many thanks to the thoughtful saints at First Presbyterian Church of Pasadena who did a superb job hosting the meeting. I was fighting a new cold and was delighted to see the lectern thoughtfully stocked with water bottles! That really helped to keep me from having a very unattractive and distracting coughing fit in the midst of the meeting.

Although we installed our next Moderator (Rev. Wayne Eberly, good luck and Godspeed!) , my term continues until the end of this year. I have a couple more meetings and at least one more ordination to go. Then I'll return to my local church (Memorial Drive, Houston), from whence I came.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Prayers for Our Moderator's Family


Brian Pugh, the brother-in-law of the PCUSA Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow was killed in a workplace shooting in the San Francisco Bay area Friday evening. He and his wife have two young children.

You can leave prayers for the family on Bruce's blog. Or at this remembrance website.

We got the news Saturday morning at the presbytery meeting fromRev. Shawn Coons, a friend of Bruce's. Shawn led the presbytery in prayer for the family and all involved.

Lord, hear our prayers!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

10 Most Annoying Presby-Phrases Revealed


The nominations are in and the votes have been counted. Many thanks to all of the QG readers who joined in the effort with your comments and encouragement!

The judges (Me, Myself and I) have made their decision. The envelope, please.

And the winners are...

Ten Most Annoying Presby-Phrases

1. Intentional
2. Live into
3. Fellowship, the verb
4. If the way be clear
5. A new thing
6. Unpack
7. Jesus, we just
8. Gift, the verb
9. I feel that the Jesus I know would...
10. Missional

Honorable Mention:
These are phrases that are very annoying indeed, and need recognition, but require some explanation (or exegisis, if you will....)

1. Decently and in Order (when used to justify creating yet ANOTHER committee)

2. Bubble up Ministry (when used to justify replacing paid staff with volunteers)

3. This is an issue over which reasonable people can disagree (when used to trivialize debate)

4. In the spirit of Christian love (as much a harbinger of a judgmental remark as ‘bless her heart’)

5.“Post” the adjective meaning “so yesterday” as in post-denominational, post-connectional etc.

6. Resonate (people are not tuning forks)

And the prize for Most Creative Use in a Sentence of Annoying Presby-Phrases goes to Presbyterian Gal for this entry:
I find profound challenges daily as I live into these post-menopausal years where I often miss the connectional relationships previously enjoyed on social and familial levels where the daily missional projects and goals could be met if only the way be clear and I am not constantly distracted by hearing "Jesus we just pray she doesn't throw another spoon at our heads!!"
Sentiments shared by many PresbyGals of a certain age....

And last but not least: QG's Special Award Defying Categorization goes to Rev. Dave for this tongue-twisting, eye-crossing acronym stew:
The COM suggested that the AC, with the concurrence of the the PJC, the APNC, the PPRC, the CPM, the SPJC, the PC, the GA, the GAPJC, GAMC, the OGA, the PILP, the PPC, the FDN,the BOP, the PHS, WJKP, the NNPCW, PHEWA, the COTE, CORLE, the CAM, the PAM, the PCAN, the PDA, the POAMN, and one lone CLP, be set at 70 degrees to conserve energy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Last Chance to Enter The Contest

This evening the judges of your nominations for the 10 Most Annoying Presby-Phrases will review the entries and make their selection. (The judges are Me, Myself and I.) We have some great entries on the posts below and in the comments, so cast your votes or make your additional suggestions now!

A special virtual prize for the most creative use of Annoying Presby-Phrases In One Sentence will also be made, so put on your thinking caps and submit your entries in the comments below.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

IKE Redux and Presby-Phrases Contest

Yesterday our lovely weather changed to warmish and rainy--but not stormy. During the day, however, the power went out briefly five or six times so I called to report it thinking it might indicate a real problem.

Did it ever! About 30 minutes afterwards I was treated to a major light show and then darkness for a couple of hours. Then the lights came back on for another hour and then went out for good until about 5 am. So now I'm off to a very slow start this morning!

As Yogi Barra would say, "deja view all over again."

If you haven't added your vote for most annoying Presby-Phrase in the post below, please join in! In addition to the great suggestions several commenters cleverly used their nominations in a sentence. So there will have to be a virtual prize for the best effort in that category of Most Annoying PresbySentence.

If the way be clear, be intentional. Live into the contest by unpacking your opinions. Show your connectionalism. Jesus we just ask that in the fullness of time a new thing will appear.

~ducks and runs~

Monday, November 10, 2008

Most Annoying Phrases--Plain and Presby


Thanks to Mike Kruse at Kruse Kronicle for tipping me off to the list of the 10 most annoying phrases compiled by Oxford University researchers. Here's their "great hierarchy of verbal fatigue":


1 - At the end of the day
2 - Fairly unique
3 - I personally
4 - At this moment in time
5 - With all due respect
6 - Absolutely
7 - It's a nightmare
8 - Shouldn't of
9 - 24/7
10 - It's not rocket science

Nice list from the Brits, but we Americans might have a slightly different list. After the late campaign, I would have included hope, maverick, change, working families and family values.

It seems to me we could compile a list of the most annoying Presby-Phrases--our own hierarchy of verbal fatigue, as it were. Here are my nominations--add yours in the comments and later this week I'll post our results.

QG's Nominations:
  • Live into
  • In the fullness of time
  • If the way be clear
  • Connectionalism, connectional
  • Missional, unmissional
  • "Post" used as an adjective meaning "so yesterday" as in post-denominational, post-connectional etc
  • "Jesus,we just" prayers
Add your votes and additional nominations in the comments!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Christmas Project Suggestion


This is about the time of year that Sunday School classes and church small groups begin to think about what to do for a group Christmas project--do I have a suggestion for you, especially if you are part of a Presbyterian congregation in the Synod of the Sun.

SCRAPCE (South Central Region of the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators) is sponsoring the IKE Classroom Recovery Project to help congregations devastated by the storm rebuild and re-equip their Christian Education space.

Remember IKE???? We sure do.

Congregations that will be assisted by the project are First Presbyterian, Galveston; Emmanuel Presbyterian, Galveston; West Isle Presbyterian, Galveston; and Hurricane Gustav-damaged Baker Presbyterian, Baker, Louisiana.

Donors can elect to fund all or part of a classroom and will be put in touch with the recipient congregation so they can share prayers and develop relationships as well as send money. SCRAPCE will match the donors with congregations to ensure that the funds are spread equitably.

For more information about the project and how to participate, go to the Hurricane Ike Recovery page on the New Covenant Presbytery website. Scroll down to the middle of the page to the Classroom Recovery Project links.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Beatrice Blogs: From the Dog House


Woof! Beatrice here, blogging from the doghouse.

It all started with a ball. Just a little ball that I love to play fetch with until I found it more fun to hide it under El Jefe's recliner and then try to get it out. All by myself!

Well, okay, so I couldn't quite reach under there, so I had to chew on the chair some to try to get it out. And so the leather sort of came off in chunks once I got down to the chair's frame. My plan was to chew the frame off and then--voila!--retrieve my ball. Ingenious.

But QG was--ahem--NOT AMUSED. She took away my ball for the rest of the day and won't let me bring it back in the house. She taped up the chair and sprayed it will something nasty, too. Words were said. Faces were scowly.

The doghouse isn't much fun. I want my ball. I bet I can chew off that tape and get it....

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Hardest Part Begins

Like many of you, I'm relieved the election is finally over. Two years of constant campaigning is too much. I wish that the election cycle could be shortened to six weeks, but realistically, those who benefit from lengthy and expensive campaigns will never let that happen.

Congratulations and best wishes to Barack Obama on his historic victory. His election demonstrates that the American dream is not myth, but reality. This is a very good thing for the country. He was not my choice, but I pray that he will deliver on the promise in his acceptance speech to reach out to those who did not vote for him.

"Change" and "hope" were the catch-phrases for this election for both candidates. Now that the election is over, let us put it in perspective.

Presidents are limited in what they can achieve by many things over which they have no control: the powers of the Congress and Supreme Court, history, competing interests of powerful lobby groups, the expectations of their party and supporters, the opposition of those who do not agree with their policy proposals, the actions of foreign countries, the strengths and weaknesses of their advisors and Cabinet secretaries, and their own human shortcomings. Campaigning is very diffcult, but governing is even harder.

Psalm 146 reminds us not to have unrealistic expectations for our leaders:

3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men, who cannot save.

4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.

5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,

6 the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
the LORD, who remains faithful forever.

7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,

8 the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.

9 The LORD watches over the alien
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

10 The LORD reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the LORD.

President-Elect Obama needs our prayers for God's guidance and wisdom as he begins the process of choosing members of his new administration, and continuing after he takes office. May the Lord be with him and with this country!