Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pray for the Boys, Too

Following up on my post yesterday about the children from the polygamist ranch near Eldorado, Texas, blogger Beau Weston noted the disparity in numbers between the teenaged boys and the girls in this community: authorities found the numbers of boys and girls roughly equal for those under age 13 , but remarkably skewed in favor of girls for those ages 13-17.

Where are the boys? Apparently teenaged boys are kicked out of these communities so they will not compete with the adult men for "wives". Weston speculates that some of them may be found on the streets of Fort Worth (or other cities in Texas).

Remember these boys in your prayers, too, wherever they are. Christ have mercy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thoughts on Eldorado

Since once upon a time I represented a Child Protective Services agency in Texas as an assistant district attorney prosecuting child abuse cases, I've been following the developments following the raid on the FLDS compound near Eldorado, Texas very closely and trying to decide how to post about them.

The Houston Chronicle has done a good job of continuing to follow the developments, which I haven't seen duplicated in the national news media which seems to have reported the sensational raid then returned to its coverage of presidential primary minutia.

Here's some of what the paper has reported, since the mass hearing in San Angelo:
  • Twenty-five of the adult women were reclassified as minors after further investigation
  • Forty of the adult women chose to request placement in domestic violence shelters rather than return to the compound
  • 31 out of 53 of the teenaged girls at the Yearning for Zion Ranch were pregnant or had given birth--some more than once
  • Group homes that are sheltering the children around the state have been advised to keep them isolated from other children and will conduct school for them on the premises rather than traumatizing them further by sending them to the local public schools (this is a big exception to the usual regulations which require prompt enrollment in the local public school)
  • Workers in the homes are urged not to wear red (because the children have been taught to believe that this is a color reserved for Jesus' robes when he returns) and the men are to be clean-shaven and wear long-sleeved shirts so as not to alarm the children
  • Social workers report the children have had very little education and their skills are significantly below grade level
  • The children will not be exposed to television, radio, music, etc of the "outside world" for the time being to minimize the trauma of their removal
  • Presbyterian Children's Homes and Services are caring for a significant number of the FLDS Children (see their story here) Hat tip: Classical Presbyterian
As I read these reports, I regret that we have set up our legal system makes it so difficult for authorities to rescue (yes, rescue) these women and children from the exploitation and oppression of a cult like this.

Recall that the complaint that triggered this raid has been shown to be fraudulent, which is going to be a big legal problem. Yet authorities in the area KNEW what was going on here for years and have not been able to intervene because there was no complaint or probable cause to go in there. If you saw any of those interviews with the women involved on television, you were probably just as creeped out as I was by their demeanor and obvious fear and oppression.

This case sets up a dramatic conflict in the courts between legitimate concerns about infringement on civil liberties and the responsibility of the community to protect minors and women from sexual abuse by those who are stronger and more powerful than they are. And of course, those children who were removed from the only home and family they have ever known and thrust into a world they have been taught to fear are suffering major trauma.

Still, some things in this fallen and sinful world are just wrong and dressing up false teachings in the guise of religious practice doesn't change that fact. Kudos to Judge Barbara Walther of San Angelo for taking on this case.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Hosting Book Discussion at RGBP

Today Presbyterian Gal and I will be busy hosting the RevGalBookPals discussion of James Robertson's novel, The Testament of Gideon Mack.

Click here to go over and join us in the discussion!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Book Discussion Coming Up Monday at RGBP!

This coming Monday, Presbyterian Gal and I will co-host the monthly RevGalBookPals discussion at the RevGalBlogPals site. The book for April is The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson, which I reviewed here.

If you've read the book, please join in the comments Monday. If you haven't read it you might like to check it out and see if you'd like to add this book to your reading list!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Give it Up for Nazbo II

Here's a challenge for PresbySeminarians everywhere: Can you match this Nazarene Rap group? They're dissin' your homie Calvin!

Be sure to watch it until the end when the Nazarene women get in on the act. Love the Church Lady!

Hat Tip: Ben Witherington

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Concluding the Journey Through Hebrews

This was our last day of the 2007-2008 Bible Study Discussion program at church (a/k/a BSD, see this post a description). We finished the study of Hebrews that we began in September.

Hebrews is not a long book, so I wondered how the study could stretch out over eight months. It actually works very well, because there are so many references to the Old Testament in the book, that we spent a lot of time going back and reading those relevant passages that helped explain part of Hebrews.

There was a big celebration luncheon afterwards, and I came away with two lovely souvenirs shown in the photo at left: one is the lovely carved wooden angel which was a table decoration (reminiscent of chapter 1 of Hebrews) and the other is the metal sculpture given me by the members of the discussion group I led. The metal sculpture is called "Open Hearted Woman" which I love because it is so cheerful it makes me smile and remember each member of my wonderful group. I added the orchid plant to the shot because, well, don't an angel and an open-hearted woman deserve a bunch of orchids?

Taking part in this study has been a huge blessing to me and has really helped me stay grounded throughout my adventures as Moderator-elect and Moderator. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be involved with BSD and of course, I'm going to do it again next fall!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

More on the Stated Clerk Election

Continuing yesterday's topic, there are a couple of interesting posts at Presbyblog (written by Bob Davis, a California pastor) about the process of electing a new Stated Clerk, which fellow PresbyBloggers may be interested in reading.

Davis presents a critical analysis of the Standing Rules governing the election process, recommending that the rules be suspended. In his next post, he reconsiders that idea and instead advocates amending the Standing Rules. Davis previously "stood" for Stated Clerk, but says he will not do so in 2008.

It does seem that the Standing Rules unreasonably restrict the ability of GA commissioners to evaluate candidates for this important position, if his analysis is correct. It will be interesting to see if anyone brings a motion to amend to the floor and if so, how the commissioners deal with it.

Hat Tip goes to Presbyweb again!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Stated Clerk Race

It was sadly predictable that the Nominating Committee charged with recommending a candidate to fill the post of Stated Clerk for the PCUSA General Assembly named Gradye Parsons, who has served 8 years as associate Stated Clerk. For my non-PresbyReaders, the Stated Clerk is roughly the equivalent of the CEO of the PCUSA. This after a much-publicized national search for the nominee which generated at least 6 candidates for the committee to consider.

I don't know Gradye Parsons. He may be an excellent choice. However, I think that recommending a long-time insider from headquarters sends the wrong message and makes the "national search" of the committee seem perfunctory. I would much prefer a fresh face in the Stated Clerk's office--someone with good pastoral and administrative skills and experience in the local church where ministry happens. But maybe that's just me.

Presbyweb reported yesterday that Ed Koster, pastor/attorney/stated clerk of Detroit Presbytery, has announced he will "stand" for the position. (In PresbySpeak, "stand"="run".) Additional candidates may emerge as well. PresbyPolity Geeks will be following this election with great interest.

Stay tuned!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pics I Missed at BIND Yesterday

Darn it, I got so busy with the administrivia of our last day of Bible in 90 Days classes yesterday that I forgot to take pictures of our cakes! And they were fabulous, too: the folks at Whole Foods decorated them with an open Bible complete with bookmark, fancy scrollwork and the inscription "Bible in 90 Days." It was also muy delicioso. As faithful QG readers know, I'm all about having cakes at important celebrations.

By the way, between the two visits I made to Whole Foods to order and pick up the cakes, I got the chance to talk about BIND with 6 people in the bakery and checkout departments who asked me about them. Maybe I'll teach a class in Cake Evangelism!

Between the two classes there were about 70 people who finished! One of the "graduates" came in wearing a cap and gown, too. Wish I'd gotten a picture of that.

Ted Cooper, the founder of BIND, accepted our invitation to join us. He got up and gave a congratulatory talk wearing a huge pair of over-sized bright yellow sunglasses to illustrate his point that once you've read through the whole Bible, you see it and the world in a different way. I didn't get that picture, either.

One of Ted's challenges to the graduates was to continue the daily Bible reading habit they had formed, maybe by reading a chapter each day. I decided to go back and read a chapter a day of the last week's BIND assignment (Hebrews-Revelation) using the Message.

Several folks in one of the classes are interested in forming a new class to continue Bible study and one of our small group leaders took on the responsibility of organizing them and taking the idea back to the appropriate committee at church for approval. Woo-hoo!

Friday, April 18, 2008

El Jefe Reforms

Back when Bush the Elder was Prez, there was a minor flap over a visit he made to a grocery store. Bush 41 was ridiculed for not being familiar with the scanning systems at the check-out counter.

Ahem. That could have been El Jefe. About the same time as that story ran in the media, I had some minor surgery. We needed some things from the grocery store and because the girls were too young to drive, I sent El Jefe. I had to send him with a drawing of the grocery store aisles complete with directions of how to find the items on the list. He had some trouble with it. It was not a pleasant experience. El Jefe has always resisted any effort to get him inside a grocery store.

Fast forward to 2007, and the opening of the Whole Foods store near our house. One weekend in January I took him with me to pick up some soup for lunch and suddenly his life was transformed! Now he is all about going to the grocery store--well, not just any grocery store, just Whole Foods. When we went in there recently he said he just loved the smell of grocery stores. He loves poking around, especially at the seafood, meat and prepared food counters and will even go over there all by himself!

I never ever thought I would see this day! Yippee!

So there is hope for Bush 41. Barbara, here's a tip: send him off to Whole Foods.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

After-Meeting Thought

Whenever everyone spontaneously joins hands while singing "In Christ There Is No East Or West" after a called presbytery meeting, then you know it was a good meeting.

Just sayin'.

Some Thoughts on Presbytery-Prayers

One of the responsibilities of the Moderator at a presbytery meeting is to choose the open and closing hymns and to give opening and closing prayers. The stated presbytery meetings for this year are planned with themes for the day, often focusing on a guest speaker's topic. That makes it easier to choose hymns for the day that reflect the theme and to offer prayers that are appropriate for the meeting. Called presbytery meetings present a different challenge because they are usually called for the purpose of deciding issues that could be contentious.

Although I am comfortable offering prayers in public, offering prayers before a large assembly containing many pastors is another matter. Here are some of my thoughts about praying at presbytery meetings, both stated and called:
  • It's a prayer, not a sermon. Keep it short and avoid opinionated pronouncements.
  • Be specific and pray about the purpose of the meeting. Remember that God already knows why you are meeting and doesn't need an explanation.
  • Ask for God's direction and help, don't give instructions to the LORD.
  • Some phrases to avoid: "we just", "the ways in which we blah blah blah", "live into whatever".
  • Too many adjectives are like a verbal stutter--one or two suffice.
  • Choose hymns with text that is appropriate to the meeting and then repeat an appropriate phrase in the prayer to reinforce the message of the hymn text.
  • Be prepared with an outline in order to avoid rambling, but allow the Holy Spirit to guide the prayer through the outline.
Comments and additional suggestions from my Gentle Readers are appreciated!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Just For Fun

Hat tip to El Jefe for this one. I love Tom Leher's satiric songs and the video that goes with this one is quite clever!

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Holy Bible, Revised West Texas Version

Spooky Rach is trying her hand at Biblical translation, West Texas style, with the story of Lot,complete with photo illustration.

Someone call Zondervan, she's the best thing since Eugene Peterson!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Olivia the Cone Head

Woof! It's Beatrice. I'm blogging while Mom is outside with Olivia. At least she says it's Olivia. I'm not so sure. This dog sort of looks like her, but has a fearsome contraption on her head. Should I be afraid of it? I can't decide.

Olivia used to have a funny thing on her eye, but its not there anymore. Mom says the vet did something to fix it. She's sleeping over for the weekend because Portia and DK had to go out of town.

If it's really Olivia--then yippee! If it's a messenger from the Dog Star, then WOOF!

Love, Beatrice.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Me and St. Paul at the Polls

It was a v-e-r-r-y slow day at the polls, despite the fact that we were conducting the run-offs for 3 precincts instead of one. It was so slow in fact that I was able to read several days worth of Bible in 90 Days assignments while there. Since we're in the midst of the Pauline epistles, you could say that St. Paul was very much my companion at my post. This led to some discussions of my BIND Bible and what it was and why I was reading it with my fellow election clerks.

Nothing really exciting happened after the machines failed to work when the polls opened at 7 and we had to call for assistance. Once rebooted, they worked fine. Here's a brief summary of 12 long hours:
  • No Democrats showed up to preside over their runoff.
  • Since the Democratic party in effect was paying for our time, we debated the best use of our remunerations. Party at the wine bar? Donation to the Republican PAC? Wine bar won.
  • About 200 people voted today in the Republican run-off and 6 voted in the Democratic party run-off.
  • Only 3 people tried to vote in the Republican run-off who had voted in the Democratic primary election--a lot fewer than we expected. When informed they could only vote in the Democratic run-off, they left without voting.
  • Our take-out lunches didn't include eating utensils, but we managed to finagle them from the high school cafeteria (our polling place is in the high school auditorium).
  • There was only 1 election placard for a candidate, instead of the usual dozens that we see.
  • I almost finished reading all of the Pauline epistles!
What's it all mean? I don't know, I've given up political prognosticating because my record of accuracy isn't very good. Don't you wish all those political pundits and talking heads would do the same?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Run-Off Let-Down

Tomorrow we're having the Texas primary run-off elections. Bet you haven't heard nearly as much about that as you did about the primary itself!

I'll be on duty along with neighbors St. Betty, Mrs. America, the Defender and Roaming Widow at our local precinct by the dawn's early light until night's first gloaming. There are only a couple of races in the Republican primary that require a run-off, but one is for the congressional representative from District 22 (Tom Delay's old seat). I've already had several calls from celebrity politicos about that one at home today.

Apparently there is some run-off in the Democratic party as well. For what I don't know. At this point it looks like we will be running both run-offs because no Democrat has signed up to do it. Oh, well it won't be the first time, as my gentle readers know. I wish my new pal Ruby were registered to vote in Texas instead of little blue state because then she could come down and be the official Democrat and the day would be much more entertaining! We always repair to a nearby wine bar after delivering the vote to the county election officials for some much-needed adult refreshment.

We're expecting a relatively light turnout and a high percentage of cross-over voters who will be muy sad when we tell them they can't vote in the Republican run-off because they voted in the Democratic primary. Ha!

If anything of interest happens, I'll let you know.

Return to Camp

One of the nicer things about growing older is seeing that your efforts have made a difference to something that you care about.

Portia and Babs were pre-schoolers when El Jefe first joined the board of Cho-Yeh, the presbytery's camp and conference center. I remember that we were encouraged to bring them with us to one of the first board meetings he attended up in Livingston (about 90 miles from Houston). I was dubious about coming along with the two girls, but as soon as we got there, he went to the meeting and two perky college students appeared and whisked the girls away to entertain them on the camp grounds. El Jefe got to attend the meeting, I got to read my book on a rocker on the beautiful back porch and the girls loved the attention so much that they couldn't wait to be old enough to go to "sleep-over camp."

So is it any wonder that when we were asked last year if we would serve on the committee for a new capital campaign to upgrade and build new facilities for Cho-Yeh, that we said yes? Portia and Babs and their friends thrived at the camp in the summers and looked forward to the youth events sponsored by presbytery during the school year that were held there. Every year we've sponsored a scholarship for a camper who couldn't otherwise attend.

Yesterday we returned to the camp for Open House Day, because El Jefe hasn't been there in a number of years (I have!). It was a gorgeous day and there were lots of young families visiting the camp. He saw the newly dredged lake, the new cabins and the new-ish dining hall and meeting facility and was impressed. We still remember the WWII-era cinder block cabins and primitive trails through the camp that were there the first year Portia was a camper!

It's exciting to see all the changes that have already taken place, and to anticipate the plans for the future that should be completed in time for our grandchildren to enjoy. There is just something about getting away from an urban environment and back into the woods that helps you connect with God and develop faith. It's so satisfying to see that others cherish Cho-Yeh as well, and that it will continue to serve as a camp and retreat center for the presbytery and other church and community groups in the future.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Moving Anniversary

This week has been jammed with mostly unbloggable stuff so it's been difficult to find both the time and the inspiration for a post. This weekend however brings another important milestone Chez QG.

Tomorrow, Babs is moving out to her own apartment in Houston, not far from her job and Portia and DK. The downstairs is full of bags and boxes and we're just about ready for the movers to arrive tomorrow. Yes, her bags are packed and ready to go--standing there inside the door!

El Jefe pointed out that tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the day we moved into this house. At that time Portia was 6 and Babs was 4. They grew up in this house and now El Jefe and I will become full-time empty-nesters. It's a sad day and it's a glad day, because, as one wise friend told me years ago, seeing our children become happy, successful, independent adults is the goal of parenting. Still, I'll probably have to weep a happy little weep after she's gone. And then I'll count all the many blessings we've been given with Portia and Babs and embrace the next stage of our lives.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Big Event Pic

Here's my now-traditional (okay I only did it once before, but who's counting?) RevGal meetup Pedi-Pic. I took it on the first day onboard the ship.

I came home to find myself deluged with stuff to do, so I apologize in advance for not posting more details about the event. Suffice to say that the company was excellent and I very much enjoyed meeting everyone that I had not met before. My friend, Mary Marcotte, who led the event did a wonderful job and I think that everyone felt that out theme of "self-care" was certainly carried out on the cruise. If they didn't, you could have fooled me!

One of the most important things that I realized from the meeting was that you really don't know a blogger as well as you think you did until you meet her and spend some "quality time" together. Getting the opportunity to complete the picture I had in my head of many of them was a blessing indeed. There's nothing like spending hours watching the wake of the ship on the aft deck to create and deepen friendships.

Thanks be to God!