Saturday, September 30, 2006

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I am blogging in a state of sleep deprivation this evening after spending the night at a Lock In at the church with the Youth Group kids. It was a fun night, with bowling, snacks, big booty and sardines, but way too little sleep. Actually, I opted out of the sardines (a hide and seek game - I'll tell you about big booty later!) to stretch out on the youth lounge couch and read Chicken Soup for the Soul. It was 12:30am! Stephanie and I were the only adults, and Stephanie is great with the kids. She played sardines and was the un-defeated champion with her partner... I guess that makes me the party pooper!

I slept pretty well from 1:30 until 7:30. When we got up we ate donuts and waited for the parents, most of whom were on time! I arrived home at 9:30 to find Gary still asleep in bed! Nicky and Zeke were fast asleep too. After Gary got up (finally) Zeke joined me for a nap from 10:00 -12:30. I thought I would try to make it back to church this afternoon to catch up on some miscellaneous things in the office. Around 3:00 this afternoon, though, I thought better of it. I think the Lock In counts for overtime!

Gary and I are grieving over the end of our favorite show. Saturday evenings at 8:00 were reserved exclusively for Monarch of the Glenn. The last episode aired a few weeks ago and now we don't know what to do with our Saturday nights. (I'm not sure what that says about us... or our social life!) One pleasant surprise, though, was the replacement of Monarch with All Creatures Great and Small. While I don't remember much about the story-lines, I remember watching All Creatures with my Mom when I was young. Watching the episodes now has a comforting, familiar feel. I think I'll go now. I'm off to spend my Saturday night with some old friends.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Nicky to the Vet and Other Adventures

Admittedly, my blogging enthusiasm has waned a bit since I first started. My excuse for not posting much lately is that nothing very exciting has happened in our lives! The most interesting thing (which Nicky didn't find interesting at all) was a reluctant trip to the vet. I say reluctant because Nicky certainly didn't want to go.... and I always get queasy when I bring either of the "boys" to the vet. The problem was a relatively common issue for dogs. (I won't get into all the gory details, but it did involve a rubber glove.) My gentle and kind little boy had to wear a muzzle... and I had to put my head between my legs.... but we both survived. (Picture right of Nicky NOT HAPPY!)

Church has been busy, but that is to be expected this time of year. I am teaching a Bible Study on Esther that is going well. We have several women and one man attending the class. It is the study I designed for the Board of Ordained Ministry, so it is fun to teach a class I designed from scratch!

Well, since I don't seem to have anything creative to write, I'll go clean the house or read John Wesley or do something productive. I bought some new glasses (new frames) so I'll post a picture of me in my hip new frames soon. Also, Nicky has a special post he is waiting to put up with a picture of his girlfriend! (Yes, Fizzy, that's you!)

Spending time with Wendell Berry and Garry Wills

It has been quite a while since I posted. I have been preoccupied with church business (Charge Conference coming up!) and with some reading I have been doing. I should be reading for my UM Doctrine class, but instead I have been reading some Wendell Berry and finishing What Jesus Meant by Garry Wills. As of today my attention turns to John Wesley and the Way of Salvation!

I want to share a few things that I found particularly interesting from my recent reading:

I loved this Palm Sunday poem Wills quoted from GK Chesterton:

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Wills writes in the chapter "The Death of God."

"All have dressed Jesus in borrowed political robes . They will not listen to the gospels, where Jesus clearly states that his reign is not of this present order of things. The political power they claim to exercise in his name is a parody of his claims, like the mock robe and crown put on him by the Roman soldiers." (p.110)

Related to this, Wendell Berry writes in Blessed are the Peacemakers:

"Any observer would have to say that Christianity is fashionable at present in the United States. This might be a good thing, except that the observer, observing more closely, would have to conclude that it is loosely fashionable. It seems to have remarkably little to do with the things that Jesus Christ actually taught." (p.3)

It seems that both of the above are timely, especially as we approach an election in November! Our Senior Pastor stated in a recent sermon that we need to be careful of politicians who quote Scripture, because they are likely trying to sell something.

Going back to Wills for a moment, he writes about the meaning of the incarnation:

"Perhaps the Incarnation is just God's way of saying that, no matter what horrors we face or hells we descend to, he is coming with us." (p. 118)

Finally, Berry writes about the abundant life Jesus offers:

"We don't need much imagination to imagine to be free of hatred, of enmity, of the endless and hopeless effort to oppose violence with violence, would be to have life more abundantly. To be free of indifference would be to have life more abundantly. To be free of the insane rationalizations to kill one another - that surely would be to have life more abundantly." (p. 63)

Just a few disparate thoughts for reflection. Be Blessed!

~ Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me. (Mark 9:37)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Little House


Here are a couple pictures of our little cottage. It is the custom of those who have cottages on the campground to give them names. Our cottage is named "The Little House."

As I implied before, it is very rustic! Two rooms and a loft ~ electricity, but no water. When Ben stayed with us this summer he had to get used to the idea of walking all the way across the grounds to go to the bathroom! He did like staying up in the loft all by himself, though.

Gary and I are thinking we will re-paint the little place next year. Any suggestions of colors that would look good?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

What Jesus Meant

While in Maine I began reading the book What Jesus Meant by Garry Wills. Pastor Mark (our senior pastor) lent it to me with a high recommendation. I would like to share a few quotes from it that I found particularly thought provoking. I share them here both because I think you might appreciate them, and so I will be able to refer back to them at some future time. I just hate to spend my sermon-writing-time hunting down that perfect illustration or quotation from a book I read, but can’t find. I have yet to come up with a filing system that works, so I tend to rely on my memory. As Dr. Phil asks, “How’s that working for you?”

I have found this book insightful because Wills looks at Jesus’ actions and words from the perspective of what Jesus meant ~ not what we want Jesus to mean. How often do we ask in Bible study, “Did Jesus REALLY mean that?”

Wills begins his study by questioning our popular tendency to slap cloth bands around our wrists with the slogan WWJD. The truth is that we don’t really want to know what Jesus would do. If we did we would have sold all our material goods, taken up residence with the outcasts and disowned our families. We have reduced Jesus to a kind, humble man, with easily understandable motives. We have taken the radical-ness out of Jesus. To truly understand who Jesus was we need to appreciate the radical nature of his humanity and divinity, his life and death, his teachings and actions, and honestly assess who we are as his followers in light of it all. That is what I have gotten out of the book so far (about half way through).

Wills identified the journey that led him to write his book with the words of Saint Anslem, “…faith out on a quest to know.” I hope that I continue to embody that quest, the quest to know, in my journey of faith as well.

So, from What Jesus Meant by Gary Wills:

Writing about the story of Jesus’ birth, life and death: “As Chesterton (Gilbert Chesterton) said, his story resembles the great myths of mankind because be is the fulfillment of the myths. When someone said that other stories tell of God’s voice coming from heaven, and so does the scene of Christ’s baptism, therefore his story must be just like the other ones, Chesterton asked, ‘From what place could a voice of God come, from the coal cellar?’” (intro. xxvii)

Wills quotes Romano Guardini: “The statements of the apostles are guides to him which never quite do justice to the fullness of his divine-human natures. The apostles never state more about the historical Jesus than he actually was; it is always less.”

Writing about Jesus’ miracles: “His miracles are targeted to teach lessons about the heavenly reign he brings with him, and one of the main lessons is that people should not be separated into classes of the clean and the unclean, the worthy and the unworthy, the respectable and the unrespectable.” (p. 29)

Blogging from Maine

(I originally thought I would be able to both write and post this entry in Maine, but due to a malfunction of my wireless connection, I am writing this in Word and will post when I get back to Connecticut!)

It has been a while since I posted, so I will first write about our Labor Day weekend. For some reason it turned into a weekend of watching classic movies. Gary and I watched both Boys Town and Gone with the Wind. We wanted to see Boys Town after visiting the site of the original Boys Town (still in operation) in Omaha, Nebraska last May with Mum and Larry. The movie was wonderful and it was hard to believe it dates back to 1939. Gone with the Wind was, for me, a bit of a disappointment. I am embarrassed to admit that I have not read the book, nor had I seen the movie until last weekend. I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting. However, I was left feeling cheated when the credits rolled, after watching nearly four hours of film! Anyone else have thoughts about this movie, or suggestions of other good classic films?

To celebrate our rest from labor on Monday, Gary and I went bowling. We had coupons left over from when Ben was here. It was fun to bowl, although neither of us is very good! The first game I won and the second game we tied. It looked certain that Gary was going to win the last game….. until I came back in the final frame with two strikes in a row! I finished the weekend by polishing off the latest Anne Tyler novel, Digging to America. It was truly a masterpiece. Her best novel in recent years. She dealt creatively with the issues of race and what it means to be an American post 9-11, weaving in questions of American family life and faith. I would recommend this, or any other Anne Tyler book, to most anyone. She is my favorite novelist by far. My only regret in finishing this book is that I will have to wait another three or four years for her next.

And now I am in Maine. I will be taking a class on United Methodist Doctrine at Bangor Theological Seminary on Friday. For the meantime, though, I am staying in my wee cottage (I’ll post a picture when I get back), enjoying a day and a half of rest. The sun is shining and the chipmunks are rustling around in the bushes. There is a definite feel that fall is approaching, with the slanting of the sun and nip in the breeze. I had to sleep with my sleeping bag and two comforters last night, since our little cottage has no heat. It seems to me that there is really nothing more beautiful or refreshing than fall in Maine.

During my day and a half of rest, I’ve had a chance to visit with Dad and Debbie, over dinner at Cole Farms. I’ll also be seeing two of my good friends before I head south on Saturday. Then it will be good-bye to our cottage until spring. When we come back, after the snow melts we will be greeted by a different set of Maine blessings ~ mosquitoes and black flies!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Where I Serve


For the past six years I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. I have been in my current appointment, as an associate pastor, for just over two years. The picture was taken during the fall of 2004, when we were selling pumpkins on the front lawn! Our own "Pumpkin Patch."

The church, which is a rather imposing structure, was built in 1924. I feel blessed to serve at such a beautiful location, but the people really make the difference! The church has about 900 members and three worship services (two traditional and one contemporary). I preach at the contemporary service primarily, but once a month the senior pastor and I switch and I preach at the traditional services.

As far as the 'process' goes (the UMs out there will know what I am talking about), I am a probationary member, having been Commissioned at Annual Conference in 2004. This year I am eligible to go for my Ordination exam and I am going to give it a try! Last week I mailed in the last of my ordination papers, to my great relief. The exam is in October. Keep me in your prayers!

Today I preached at the traditional services and used the Lectionary Gospel lesson. The Pharisees catch Jesus' disciples eating without first washing their hands! (Gasp!) The title of my sermon was "Getting Our Hands Dirty." However, I just love the Old Testament reading for the day from the Song of Songs.

"My beloved speaks and says to me: Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. "

~ May your Beloved speak to you this day. May your time of singing come.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Gang

Since my blog will be focused primarily around the happenings in our household, I thought I would lay the foundation by giving you the cast of characters.

First there is Gary and I. We have been married since 2002. Gary is a reference librarian in an academic setting. I am a pastor in the United Methodist Church. We have been at out current location for the past two years. We have family in Maine, Michigan, and Nebraska. We enjoy camping, going out to breakfast, watching Monarch of the Glen and taking the dog for walks.... Which leads me to our next 'character.'

Nicky was 'adopted' by me in 2001. I found him at a kennel during one of my visits to Maine. He was hitched out in back of the kennel (I later found out that was because he didn't get along with other dogs) and as soon as he saw me he began barking. He captured my heart and I knew that he had to come home with me. As soon as I brought him to my parents house, where I was visiting, he peed on my mothers wicker love seat. This did not go over well! I was just beginning to date Gary when I 'adopted' Nicky. When I told Gary what I had done he said, "You did WHAT?!?" Little did we know that less than a year later Gary and I would get married and he would become Nicky's 'Dad.'

Nicky was full grown when I got him, so we are not sure about his age or background. His breed is part Border Collie, part something else. He keeps pretty quiet about his past, but we're sure he had some exciting adventures. Maybe he will share some of those on this blog. For now, though, he seems content to spend his older years in the quiet and comfort of family life.

Speaking of family, there is one member of the family that Nicky has not won over. Zeke was very used to being the 'only child' when Nicky arrived in 2001. I adopted Zeke when I moved out of my parents house in 1996. Zeke accompanied me through seminary and was with me when I began my first appointment. While he is very loving to Gary and I, he has very definite opinions that he does not hesitate to express. (This might explain the comment from Stephanie on my first post.) Some have described him as a guard-cat. Others have said he is just plain mean. Either way, at 10 years old, he isn't going to change. We have to keep Nicky and Zeke separated in the house by using s series of gates and doors. It's just what we have to do to keep the peace.

There is another important member of the family who is not pictured at this time. Benjamin is our seven year old son. He lives most of the year with his mother in Michigan, but spends Christmas and the summer with us. Right now he is into Harry Potter and playing with his cousin Andrew. We decided not to picture him because we have heard all the warnings about posting children's pictures on the web. We are going to wait a while to see how this bloging experience goes before we post any pictures of him. In the mean time, just know that he is an incredibly handsome boy!

Be blessed everyone!