Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Five ~ Busy Edition

RevGal will smama writes, "As I zip around the webring it is quite clear that we are getting BUSY. 'Tis the season' when clergy and laypeople alike walk the highwire from Fall programming to Christmas carrying their balancing pole with family/rest on the one side and turkey shelters/advent wreaths on the other. And so I offer this Friday Five with 5 quick hit questions..."

1) Your work day is done and the brain is fried, what do you do?

If I'm just a little bit fried I find it refreshing to cook dinner or take the dogs for a walk or read a good novel. It is nice to just get 'out of my head' for a while. If my brain is totally fried vegging out zombie-like in front of the TV has been known to be healing!

2) Your work week is done and the brain is fried, what do you do?

Go to bed early! Get up late! Have dinner out and go to a movie or just hibernate in the house without answering the phone. Baking is fun, too. As an introvert it is important for me to have a few hours each week when I don't have to have any sort of human interaction or contact.

3) Do you have 'stop everything' TV programming or books or events or projects that are totally 'for you' moments?

I thank God for the inventor of the DVR! There are several shows I like to watch, but almost all of them are on past my bedtime. (Yes, I go to bed at 9:00pm!) But with the magic of the DVR, those shows are at the ready when I've had one of my totally fried brain days! And I don't even have to watch the commercials! A few of my favorites are: Brothers and Sisters, Grey's Anatomy, Law and Order: SVU and (lately) The Biggest Looser. As for books, when the latest Anne Tyler book comes out ~ I'm there!

4) When was the last time you laughed, really laughed? What was so funny?

Gary and I shared a good laugh a coupe days ago. It was over something funny Bady did. (I can't remember exactly what right now.) When they are not being annoying, the pets supply endless comic relief.

5) What is a fairly common item that some people are willing to go cheap on, but you are not?

The thing that comes to mind is coffee. While I can and do drink cheap coffee, first thing in the morning I love my Dunkin Donuts French Vanilla. The day just doesn't seem right without it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quote of the Week ~ Back to the Desert

One more quote from the 'desert.'

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, "Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office; I fast a little; I pray and meditate; I live in peace; and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?" Then the old man stood up and stretched out his hands toward heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, "If you will, you can become all flame."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Invisible

This week I attended our monthly local clergy gathering. It was there that I had an experience I can't seem to get out of my mind. I tried to forget about it ~ pass it off as no big deal ~ but it's still there. Since I had been unable to attend last month, this was my first meeting of the new program year. Most of the regulars were there, but there were a couple new people. There were no official introductions (I assume those happened last month), so after a time of chatting I caught the eye of one of the new people, stuck out my hand and said, "I don't think we've met. I'm.... "

This is where I was totally shocked. The man took my hand, glanced at me briefly and began a conversation with someone else while I was in the middle of saying, "I serve at....." I felt completely and totally dismissed. As our gathering went on, I noticed that this man's focus was mostly directed at the other men in the room. To him, it seemed to me, the women were invisible.

Even after the official gathering concluded, and we were getting ready to leave, he went out of his way to say good-bye to the man I was giving a ride home to.... completely ignoring the fact that I was standing next to him.

While I have certainly experienced sexism, this was my first experience with such, seemingly, blatant sexism from a colleague in ministry. In my mind I tried to make excuses for him ~ perhaps he doesn't realize he is doing this ~ maybe it's not as bad as I think ~ he's new at this gathering and might be uncomfortable ~ maybe he is not used to dealing with women on a professional basis. But even if those things are true, it is not an excuse. And if he dismisses his colleagues like this, I wonder how he treats his female parishioners.

So, my question becomes, what do I do at our next gathering? Do I hold my tongue? Do I challenge him? Do I subtly try to draw his attention to the gifts and graces of his female colleagues in the room ~ myself included? Should I speak with the other females in the group to see if they felt similarly? Is it worth it to put myself 'out there' when I could be seen as the one with the problem? Any thoughts?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Doing Our Jobs

Yesterday evening was SPRC meeting. I arrived at the church about fifteen minutes early to prepare, center myself and unlock the doors. When I pulled up there was a man (a stranger) standing in the church parking lot. It was dark. He had a hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head, partially obscuring his face. (It was windy.) He had most likely simply arrived early for the Boy Scout meeting, but there was no way to tell for sure.

In the past (due to my history and ~ yes ~ the fact that I am a woman) I would not have gotten out of my car. I probably would have left and come back closer to 7:00 when people would have started arriving for the meeting. However, this time I had Bady ~ German Shepherd Dog extraordinaire. As we got out of the car the stranger said, "Nice dog." I smiled and said, "Thank you." Bady looked at him and gave a nice 'big dog' bark. Nothing threatening, but it was as if he were saying, "Don't get any ideas, Dude. This is my Mumma." We then walked ~ calmly and assertively ~ into the church.

At a busy church, situations like this come up all the time and I've always struggled with them ~ strangers in the parking lot ~ strangers in the building. Let's just say Bady got a few extra kisses and some peanut butter in his 'kong' last night. Because he is doing his job, I am better able to do mine.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quote of the Week ~ Reconciliation

My quote this week comes from Rueben P. Job's Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living. My cluster group is reading this for discussion. I thought this section was quite thought provoking, and appropriate in these weeks before the election.

I frequently receive mailings from denominational groups that appear to be intended not as much to nurture and heal as to divide and conquer. So often the rhetoric seems more like gossip than truth telling in love, aimed at discovery and mutuality. The division, partisanship, and sharp criticism, not only of positions but also of persons, have not strengthened denominations, communities, congregations families, or individuals. The louder our voices and the more strident our rhetoric, the weaker and more wounded we ourselves become. Our witness to the redeeming love of God loses its authenticity and its power as our unwillingness to be reconciled continues.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Equality

Last Friday the Connecticut Supreme court ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny marriage to same-sex couples. I celebrate this ruling and am proud to live in a state that affirms the rights of all people. Two other states have done the same ~ Massachusetts and California. California is in the process of voting on whether or not to remove the right of same-sex couples to marry. My blog-friend (and fellow UMC pastor and daughter of my mother's good friend), Molly, wrote this great post on why she supports same-sex marriage.

Connecticut is just entering into the debate that may or may not lead to a similar vote. So far there have been angry letters to the editor and people protesting the ruling in Hartford. I thank Molly for her insights and hope that I may be so eloquent in describing my position to friends and parishioners if I find myself in a similar situation. For now I celebrate marriage equality in Connecticut and pray that this spirit of equality spreads.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Quote of the Week ~ Desert

I've been spending time in the desert lately ~ or at least the with desert mothers and fathers. In fact, it seems like whatever book or journal or devotion I pick up, it has something to do with the desert. I'm not quite sure what I'm supposed to be learning, but I will keep praying and reading. For today, here is some advice from Anthony, desert father of the 4th century.

Believe in the Lord and love him. Keep yourself from impure thoughts and fleshy pleasures. Pray continually. Avoid vanity. Sing psalms before sleep and on awakening. Hold in your hearts the commandments of Scripture. Be mindful of the works of the saints so that your souls, being put in remembrance of the commandments, may be brought into harmony with the zeal of the saints.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ooops.... Friday Five on Tuesday

I'm way behind on my RevGals reading, so I'm just now getting to last week's Friday Five! I thought it was a good one, so here goes.

RevGal Mother Laura suggests, "... share your experiences with the exciting, challenging world of business travel...."

1. Does your job ever call for travel? Is this a joy or a burden?

My "business" travel is mostly for Annual Conference and Continuing Education events. Most of the time travel is within New England, but a couple times I've been able to go a little further. In 2003 I went to the School of Congregational Development in Washington D.C. In 2005 I traveled to the National Pastor's Convention in Nashville. Both were great! In about a month I am heading to the mid west for a mediation training institute offered through the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center. I can't wait!

Since my business travel happens relatively infrequently it has not become a burden. I would say it is a joy. At least it's a change of pace.

2. How about that of your spouse or partner?

Gary has yet to join me on a 'business' trip. Next month he will be staying home to take care of the dogs and cat. If he did come, we would have to pay his way. But that's okay! We'll save his time off for exotic vacation travel!

As for his business travel, most of his travel is day trips. However, he did have the chance to go to a conference in California last summer. It happened to fall during Campmeeting, so Ben and I stayed here in New England while he enjoyed the other coast.

3. What was the best business trip you ever took?

My trip to the National Pastor's Convention was a lot of fun. I heard lots of amazing speakers, got the chance to experience new forms of worship and explored a little bit of Nashville. It didn't hurt that the hotel was really nice and I had a room all to myself! (See below!)

4. ...and the worst, of course?

Well, the Washington trip was good. I learned a lot and got to hear Adam Hamilton speak. The accommodations at the hotel were nice, but I was trying to save money by sharing a room with 3 other women that I didn't know very well and.... well.... it just got.... crowded.

5. What would make your next business trip perfect?

Smooth air travel, nice hotel, the chance to grow in my faith and ministry skills and the opportunity to make new friends!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Quote of the Week ~ Norms

I've been reading Discerning Your Congregation's Future by Roy M. Oswald and Robert E. Friedrich. I'm not really in a place to begin such a process, but I'm trying to learn more about visioning, strategic planning and long term planning. One part of the process they outline focuses on norms. They write:

All of us - all parts of our congregational system - think, feel and act the way we do as a result of our interactions as members of this system. Family systems therapists refer to 'family strategies' which largely go unnoticed by outsiders and that frequently are unstated and not always understood by participants themselves. Nonverbal exchange patterns between family members in particular represent subtle, coded transactions that may transmit family 'rules.' Norms are those unwritten psychological rules that govern the way any human community behaves. They are generally unconscious, especially for people who have been part of the community for a long time. People are not trying to keep 'secrets' from one another. Norms simply are by definition unconscious and therefore unspoken.

This made me think about those unwritten rules that operate within our congregation. How do these influence our interactions? Our ability to get things done? Our relationships with each other? Norms are not necessarily bad, but they can become unhealthy if they are used to ignore or cover over issues that should be dealt with upfront. And how do our norms either welcome or exclude new comers? Is our process open and transparent or would a new member of the Administrative Board wonder why we do things the way we do? Thoughts to ponder....

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

One More Face...


This face, however, may be a face that only a mother can love!

Monday, October 06, 2008

This Face, too...


You have to admit, this face is pretty darn cute too!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

This Face


Who wouldn't love this face?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Final Wishes

One of the side benefits of reading Kate Braestrup's book Here if You Need Me was a conversation Gary and I had regarding our final wishes. Not to get morbid, but it is essential to tell your loved ones what you want to happen upon your death. Most importantly because it lessens the stress for those you leave behind. If you are clear about your wishes, they don't have to guess what you would have wanted.

So despite the fact that we are relatively young and, hopefully, have many years left together, Gary and I have given some thought as to what we would want at the end of life. Here are some of my requirements:

~ I want the disposition of my body to be done in the most environmentally friendly way possible. No embalming. No fancy vault-like casket that will preserve my remains forever. Cremation would be my choice. I want to go back to the earth ~ ashes to ashes, dust to dust, or something like that! I don't have a strong preference as to where to scatter my ashes, just somewhere beautiful and peaceful.

~ I don't want my family to go broke in the process. Please, no talk of "only the best for Mom." As far as I am concerned, the best would be for my family to celebrate my life by living. No limousines. No visiting hours. Just a nice Memorial Service at whatever church I had been attending followed by a reception in the Fellowship Hall. A good, ole Methodist collation with lots of food and lots of laughter.

~ As for the service, I only have two requirements. I would like to be there ~ my urn, that is. To me, there is something about being brought back to the church, surrounded by the community of faith, one last time. And Marching to Zion has to be the final hymn ~ clapping and all!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Grace Returns

Several months ago I wrote this post about a cat that appeared out of the fog and reminded me of the gift of grace. After being away for a while, Grace has returned. He accompanied us on our walk tonight and has been visiting several other dog walkers in the neighborhood. He likes to stroll along a couple paces behind, but not quite out of site.

I'm not sure why he was gone or why he has returned, but it is nice to have Grace back. Or maybe , like the Prevenient Grace he reminded me of in the first place, he was there all along but we just didn't realize it.