Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tagged for Presbymeme II

Wendy tagged me for the Presbymeme II. Thanks, Wendy--here you go.

The Rules of Presbymeme II

•In about 25 words each, answer the five questions below.
•Tag five Presbyterian bloggers and send them a note to let them know they were tagged.
•Be sure to link to this original post.

(1) What is your favorite faith-based hymn, song or chorus?

Onward Christian Soldiers. Now banished from the hymnal for being politically incorrect. It was my father's favorite hymn and I remember marching around the living room as a child, singing the song while he played it on his organ for me. Favorite lines: "Gates of hell will never 'gainst that church prevail. We have Christ's own promise and it cannot fail!" It reminds me of my beloved father and his own strong faith and commitment to the church.

2) What was the context, content and/or topic of the last sermon that truly touched, convicted, inspired, challenged, comforted and/or otherwise moved you?

Sunday's sermon by Dr. Dave Peterson at my church, Memorial Drive PC., Houston. He put together two unlikely scriptures (the story of Martha and Mary and the man who wanted to follow Jesus after he buried his father) and used them to discuss hearing God's call in the midst of the busy-ness of life.

3) If you could have all Presbyterians read just one of your previous posts, what would it be and why?

I would like everyone to read this post about the chartering of Tien An Presbyterian Church because we spend too much time focusing on our problems as a denomination instead of carrying the gospel of Jesus Christ into our communities and making disciples. This post celebrates one successful story from my presbytery.

4) What are three PC(USA) flavored blogs you read on a regular basis?

A Classical Presbyterian (Toby Brown), Presbyterian Gal and Cheesehead in Paradise. A diverse group! It's hard to just choose three, though.

5) If the PC(USA) were a movie, what would it be and why?

The Return of the King (as in, we're waiting for it.)

I'm supposed to tag three more bloggers. So...tag Presbyterian Gal, Toby Brown and Cheesehead. You're it!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Remembering Conventions Past

As the Democratic Party's convention opened last night in Denver, El Jefe and I were reminiscing about the "old-time" political conventions we avidly followed in our youth. Those of you of a certain age will remember along with us the days when the (3) national networks went wall-to-wall with 24/7 coverage of every speech and caucus of both parties.

Back in my teens and early twenties, I was an idealistic political junkie. Along with my parents, I watched every minute of television coverage and read the analysis of the pundits in Time, The New Yorker, and the San Antonio Express-News. So did El Jefe. Except he read The National Review and the Borger News-Herald.

Yes, my children, in those days stuff actually happened at the conventions. The vice presidential nominee wasn't chosen in advance by the presumptive presidential nominee. Sometimes the presumptive nominee was very very presumptive and votes changed at the conventions. My ambition was to be a delegate at a national convention someday and take part in momentous decisions.

But all that changed. Now both conventions are tightly controlled and scripted. Their purpose is not to choose the nominees of the party or adopt the positions in the party platform, but to be infomercials touting the ticket and trying to woo undecided voters.

We're not undecided, so we won't find ourselves watching much convention coverage this year. But I do remember with wistfulness those days when my family gathered around the TV set and felt that we were a part of the great events of the day.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Early Christmas Gift Ideas....Or Not

All righty, here is a site with some amusing Religious Tchotskes:
Shop Happy Trails.

My favorites are Nunzilla: The Walking, Sparking Nun--

The Looking Good for Jesus Lip Balm (returns lips to near virgin quality)--

And the Last Supper Lunchbox ("the power and glory of Jesus' last meal mixed with the blurry kitsch of homemade art")--

Thinking ahead for Christmas,


(Hat tip: PeaceBang)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Presbytery Meeting: Three Down, One to Go

Saturday was the third stated presbytery meeting of the year. We met at Grand Lakes Presbyterian Church in Katy, Texas. Just a few short years ago, Grand Lakes was a New Church Development. What a joy it was to see that this NCD has developed into a church with a lovely sanctuary and building large enough to host a presbytery meeting! When I was a young girl, I remember driving through the then small railroad crossing of Katy. Now it is a booming suburban area of Houston.

This year we have chosen themes for each presbytery meeting. Saturday's theme was "The Diversity of the Presbytery". The highlight of the meeting was the keynote address by Rev. Jin Kim, senior pastor of The Church of All Nations, Minneapolis MN. Rev. Kim's address at General Assembly created quite a stir as he afflicted the comfortable with his prophetic message about multicultural church. He did the same thing in our meeting. I found myself nodding in agreement some of the time and squirming uncomfortably in my seat over other points he made. Rev. Kim left us with a lot to think about!

There was a sermon for ordination given by a young woman who will be going as a missionary to a church in Northern Ireland and a candidacy service for another young woman who was a member of an NCD that serves second generation Asians. It's always a privilege to participate in the ordination process.

The meeting concluded about an hour ahead of schedule! Unless (God forbid!) there is another called meeting scheduled this year, I have only one more presbytery meeting to preside over--in November.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Listen to The Weasel Cantata and More!

For those of you who took my advice and are reading some of Mark Schweizer's Liturgical Mystery books (The Alto Wore Tweed, The Baritone Wore Chiffon, etc) , listen up!

Go here and you can listen to recordings of music from the books as:

The Mouldy Cheese Madrigal

The Weasel Cantata

The Pirate Gloria

You can also download the music!! How fun would these be to sing in choir? I would love to sing The Weasel Cantata in a Bible in 90 Days class.

Just click on the title of each book and when that page comes up you'll see the links to the recordings and the download on the left sidebar.

Just remember..."You cannot eat weasel, though it may taste fine! Leviticus eleven, verse twenty-nine."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

PresbyLimpic Events

Watching the Olympic Games I was struck with the thought: what if the PCUSA sponsored PresbyLimpic Games?

The games could feature:

Weightlifting, in which commissioners compete to see who can lift a GA mailing.

The Eternal Marathon, run by the F.O.G. Task Force in an infinite loop.

Verbal Gymnastics, where commissioners vie to produce the most verbose comments from the floor.

Leaps of Faith, where commissioners vote their best guess on a complicated issue they never heard of before.

Synchronized Sermonizing, where ministers compete to compose sermons based on the same scripture.

Moderator-a-Thon, where candidates for Moderator compete in blogging, resume writing, picture posing, and not overtly campaigning for office.

PresbyFriends, what events would you add to the PresbyLimpics?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beatrice Blogs: My New Job


Now that I am a big girl and all grown up, it's time for me to have a job. You know, to help out around the house and everything.

So I appointed myself the official shepherd of the Pool Dragon. Mom calls it a "pool sweeper", but it sure looks like a dragon to me. It has a long tail that sometimes throws water out onto the patio. What if it got out of the pool? That would be a problem for everyone.

It's my job to keep it in the pool. Here's how I do it: I lie in wait for the Pool Dragon underneath the diving board.

When it comes close to the surface, I look down at it and growl. GRRRR! If it dares to come up and spit water up, then I ran around and bark at it.

I'm a good Dragon Shepherd. It hasn't come out of the pool yet!

I've been trying to teach Olivia to herd the Pool Dragon, but she thinks her own cuteness is sufficient excuse for her existence! Not me, I'm a believer in the dogma of good works.

Any one need a Dragon Shepherd?

Love, Beatrice
Her Mark

Monday, August 18, 2008

Installation in Angleton

Yesterday I drove down to Angleton, Texas for yet another installation. Angleton is about an hour's drive from Sugar Land, but I don't remember stopping there before.

I was surprised to see by the monument sign that the church is over 100 years old! The building looks much newer than that and the sanctuary is a lovely space with pretty medium wood pews and a couple of large stained glass windows.

My guess is that over 100 people gathered for the afternoon service and they were a healthy mix of ages. It seems like a lively congregation. As I sat in the chancel area facing them, I wondered what their stories were and what the next few years will bring. Angleton is outside of Houston exurbia and appears to be a pretty, fairly prosperous small town. The new pastor is a second career woman about my age, I would guess, who came to our presbytery from Odessa, Texas.

Being a music person myself, I always notice the choir, who were enthusiastic and have a good director. They began the service with a spirited rendition of "Down to the River To Pray" and were even swaying to the tune--no frozen chosen here!

The most remarkable thing was the handbell ringer. Yes there was just one ringer and she deftly played a set of bells that had more than three octaves! Even more remarkable to me was the fact that the pianist who accompanied her sat behind her and no one directed the two of them, yet they stayed together perfectly. Amazing!

God bless Pastor Nora Fitch and the saints at First Presbyterian Church, Angleton. Traveling around the presbytery for installations is definitely the best part of being Mom of Presbytery.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Osteen Verdict

I know you've been waiting with baited breath for the result of the Osteen trial that began last week.

Here it is: the jury unanimously found that Victoria Osteen did not assault the flight attendant.

Here's what went down in the trial:
  • one of the plaintiff's co-workers testified that there was an assault (legalese for unwanted touching)
  • one of the plaintiff's witnesses, who had previously said there was an assault, changed her testimony under oath and said Victoria Osteen never touched her
  • a witness for the defense, a fellow employee of the plaintiff, recounted an incident in which the plaintiff had wrongfully accused her of assault
  • the plaintiff's attorney played the race card and the class card
  • the plaintiff seems to have dropped her claim that the incident caused her hemorrhoids to flare up
  • the plaintiff wanted the jury to award her over $400K for "loss of faith"
  • the foreman of the jury said that the jury thought the lawsuit should never have been brought
  • one of the jurors said that if they could have awarded court costs and attorneys fees to the Osteens, they would have
  • Osteen's response to the verdict was "Thank you, Jesus"
Of course outside of the controlled court environment there was wailing and gnashing of teeth for the benefit of the media--especially on behalf of the plaintiff. The defense attorney was relatively restrained calling the case "extortion dressed up as a lawsuit."

And really, it was a ridiculous waste of time and the resources of the court. If I were Mom of the Court, they would all have been so grounded.

Book Reviews: The Alto Wore Tweed and The Baritone Wore Chiffon

The Alto Wore Tweed and The Baritone Wore Chiffon
are two "liturgical mysteries" that offer hilarious sendups of modern church life and the detective story literary genre.

I had just finished The Alto before going to the Synod meeting and took The Baritone with me, finishing it on the plane while it circled for an hour over Houston. Tears of laughter were running down my face as the plane bumped around over a rainstorm. It was just what the doctor ordered to lift my mood!

The protagonist of the series is Hayden Konig, part-time choir director and full time police detective in a small North Carolina mountain town. He calls himself a "liturgical detective." The author has been a church musician himself, and it shows.

Between the two books I've howled in laughter over the satiric depiction of a Re-imagining Conference for Wimmyn Priests; a Clown Eucharist; the Feng Shui Altar Guild; the Edible Last Supper featuring the Mary Magdalene Coffee bar; the Penguin at the Manger and --drumroll please--The Weasel Cantata.

Sample lyrics from The Weasel Cantata (from The Baritone Wore Chiffon):
'The Weasel Cantata, it's not a sonata
You cannot eat weasel, though it may taste fine
Or lizards or vermin, 'cause they commence to squirmin'
Leviticus: eleven, verse twenty nine."

What more can I say? I've ordered the rest of the books in the series and recommend them as just the thing to restore your mental/emotional equilibrium after church meetings of any type.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Next Steps

The "Next Steps" event at Synod drew representatives from all the presbyteries of the Synod of the Sun for a couple of days of discussing the events of General Assembly and anticipated responses from our churches. The four of us from New Covenant were guilty of coveting our neighbor's Presbytery Building: the Presbyterian Center in Dallas is a gleaming, well-equipped new building which is a far cry from our poor-but-proud center in Houston with the duct-taped carpet.

Nothing of note transpired in the discussions. Predictably, there were calls for more "listening to each other", as if listening and understanding the deeply held division of viewpoint would somehow restore unity.

Tuesday morning I met with the "Outside the Box" small group. Members of that group expressed frustration that the structure of the GA does not provide for ways to address the continuing decline of the denomination. I did have a chance to float an idea that I've been kicking around with El Jefe and it got some traction. What if we put together a group of 10 pastors with a demonstrated track record of growing churches and making disciples and asked them to put together recommendations about how the denomination could support and enable its churches to focus on making disciples--by re-allocating resources, changing denominational priorities and staffing patterns, and changing denominational structures? I don't know who should serve on such a group, but I'm sure there are ways to find out.

One of the small groups was "Separation Without Division." That group reported that they believed that separation without division describes the situation in the denomination today. That has huge implications, but it is impossible to specifically project what those implications are at this point.

I try to stay positive when I post about the PCUSA, but I'm not feeling very positive after this meeting. I don't think anyone else did either.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Off To Synod Meeting

I'm off to Dallas this morning to attend the Synod of the Sun's "Next Steps" meeting in Dallas today and tomorrow. If there's anything of interest to report, I'll do it when I return.

Have a lovely Monday and Tuesday!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday Five: God Days of Summer

Presbyterian Gal brings us today's RevGals Friday Five and it's all about looking for the God Days of summer. She says:

"As I pass through this year’s dog days in my felon ridden neighborhood (OK, just two housefuls. But isn’t that enough?), I am trying to focus on the blessings apparent around me, past and present, that I might not notice, necessarily. In that spirit, this week’s Friday Five goes thusly:"

1. What is your sweetest summer memory from childhood? Did it involve watermelon or hand cranked ice cream? Or perhaps a teen summer romance. Which stands out for you?

On hot summer afternoons in San Antonio my mother took the four of us to the swimming pool. There was nothing better than swimming and diving in that cool water and then going home for dinner followed by trying to catch lightning bugs in the yard.

2. Describe your all time favorite piece of summer clothing. The one thing you could put on in the summer that would seem to insure a cooler, more excellent day.

My swimming suit!

3. What summer food fills your mouth with delight and whose flavor stays happily with you long after eaten?

Watermelon. Love it.

4. Tell us about the summer vacation or holiday that holds your dearest memory.

The summer of 1985, we were all together at a beach house in Galveston for a few days. Portia and Babs were four and two years old. Daddy left to go back to San Antonio a day or so before we went home. (My mother had not come with him.)

On our drive away from Galveston I burst into tears and told El Jefe that I had a strong feeling that Daddy would not come to Galveston again. This seemed crazy because he was in excellent health, but he died suddenly on New Year's Eve of that same year and in fact did not come to Galveston again. Sadly, El Jefe's mother was diagnosed with the cancer the following year and died also. So 1985 was the last summer all of our parents were still with us.

5. Have you had any experience(s) this summer that has drawn you closer to God or perhaps shown you His wonder in a new way?

See photo above of dawn breaking over the bay as seen from the porch of our place there. It's an amazing "Holy Holy Holy" moment every time.

Bonus question: When it is really hot, humid and uncomfortable, what do you do to refresh and renew body and spirit?

Go swimming and eat watermelon. And maybe have a frozen margarita instead of one on the rocks.

Thanks, Presbyterian Gal!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Osteens In Court

As your faithful, albeit self-appointed, correspondent on All Things Osteen, it is my duty to report that the civil lawsuit brought against Victoria Osteen (co-pastor of Lakewood Church) by the flight attendant she allegedly shoved goes to court in Houston today. Victoria has already paid a fine to the FAA in connection with the incident. Joel is expected to testify.

The flight attendant says the incident caused her to have "anxiety and hemorrhoids" and that it affected her faith. I'll bet. (Bad QG!) Osteen's attorney is the most renowned criminal defense attorney in the city, so I guess she thought she needed more than God on her side. (naughty QG--cut it out!)

I'll keep you posted.

Update note: I forgot to include the hemorroids allgegation when I first posted. Thanks to commenter Questing Parson for pointing that out!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Never Mind...

Edouard came onshore earlier and a bit farther east than expected. All we're seeing here in Sugar Land is a light rain, which we desperately need. The local TV stations are still All Edouard All The Time despite the fact that all those disaster declarations were (ahem) somewhat premature. And we're grateful for that!

Since Babs has the day off, we're thinking about spending the afternoon at the movies. Maybe Mamma Mia? Although El Jefe is staying home to work, he refuses to come with us saying that "its shameful to go to the movies on a workday." Whatever.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Edouard's On The Way

Signs that Tropical Storm Edouard is heading for Houston:
  • Portia's office closed this afternoon and will be closed tomorrow
  • Babs' clinic will be closed tomorrow
  • El Jefe's law firm is considering being closed tomorrow (neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night etc!)
  • Sugar Land canceled trash pickup for tomorrow
  • M.D. Anderson (the cancer center) re-scheduled my SIL's MIL's chemo from tomorrow to next Tuesday
  • Local TV went into All Edouard All The Time mode about 3 pm
  • Digital Highway signs are flashing: Hurricane Forming In the Gulf! Fill up your gas tanks!
Favorite TV Weatherperson quote so far :
"It could be not so bad, or maybe not."

Things I am grateful for:
  • It is not a hurricane
  • We're on the "good side" of it
  • St. Betty stocked up on white wine
  • I've got plenty of tequila and margarita mix
  • Babs came to stay with us until it is all over
  • I still have lots of water left from last year's hurricane season
  • There will be no mass exodus from the Houston area this time
  • Our power lines are buried in the ground

Another Nomination For the PNC Battle of the Bands

It's not often that the processional at an installation of a pastor features "When The Saints Go Marching In", led by a triangle player and banjos.

The church where the installation took place is A Community of the Servant-Savior, a small but lively congregation in southeast Houston.

Instead of a choir, the church has a small orchestra. The orchestra uses banjos, triangles, gourds, electric guitars, brass and reed instruments to play praise songs and hymns. When we sang "Standing in the Light of God", a young girl passed out gourds to the congregation so we could play and sing along with them.

Methinks I have another nomination for the presbytery Battle of the Bands!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Heads Up for Edouard

Edouard may be coming this way.

Here's hoping it stays a Tropical Storm!

Battening down the hatches,