Sunday, June 28, 2009

Turning Books into Movies always fraught with peril and fans of the book are usually disappointed with the movie. (Although I thought they did a fine job with Gone with the Wind!).

So "My Sister's Keeper" was on my wish list of books to read but I didn't get to it before the movie came out. Didn't read the book, didn't read much about the movie so did not realize that apparently they changed the ending. And it seems those who read the book hated the movie because of that change. I'm actually kind of glad I didn't read the book because I loved the movie.

From what I've read, I think I have guessed the twist ending in the book but of course now I must read the book. I understand the brother's character is more developed and he was the one character that was least fleshed out in the movie. My daughter and I both were a little confused by him. The trouble is, with a movie you just cannot do justice to all the characters the way you can in a book. Some things have to be sacrificed.

Anyway I'd be interested in comments from anyone who has both read the book and seen the movie. Just don't spoil it. Even though I think I've figured it out. Now I must get the book!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dr. Duane Priebe reflects on "controversial" notes from Lutheran Study Bible

So I didn't think it was such a big deal but some people have been upset/confused by some of the notes in the new Lutheran Study Bible. One particular note says the following re the "Great Commission"

Jesus now sends the disciples to make disciples of all nations. That does not mean make everyone disciples. Most people who are helped by Jesus and believe in him never become disciples. Jesus includes in salvation people who do not believe in him or even know about him. Disciples are students, called for the sake of the world to learn from Jesus and to bear witness to the kingdom.

Makes sense to me but apparently this is some sort of evidence the ELCA is going to hell in a handbasket. Erik Ullestad over at Koinonia went to the source and got an explanation from Dr. Priebe himself. It's worth a read!

My Sister’s Keeper - Review

My daughter and I went to see My Sister's Keeper when it opened Friday night. This is a very good movie. Well written story. Good acting. Bring Kleenex. I could hear the entire packed theater sniffling. I cried a lot. But it was not a sentimental Hallmark manipulated cry. I simply cried with the story, so engrossed in it I often wasn't even aware I was crying.

This movie is not what you think it is about when you read the description. The story begins with the voice of 11 year old Anna Fitzgerald describing how she had been genetically engineered to be a match for her older sister Kate, who has cancer so that she could first donate cord blood, then later white blood cells, bone marrow, and finally when our story takes place her sister needs her kidney. Anna announces she has had of enough giving away her body parts and seeks a lawyer to sue "medical emancipation" so that she has the right to decide about giving away her body parts.

But the movie is not really about the moral and ethical dilemma of such a situation. The movie is about how a family survives when one child is sick and a mother decides her only purpose in life is to keep one child alive.

There was a period of time just before my son was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and was having all kinds of problems and so I know the danger and the guilt of being all consumed by the present and pressing needs of one child to the point of neglect of the other.

The deeper question the movie brings out is -just how much control do we have and should we have? Kate has no control of her life or death. Anna fights for control of her body. Their mother fights so hard for control of the situation that she nearly loses everything. Where do we draw the line about control?

This Sundays' gospel is about two different people seeking Jesus' healing. Jairus the powerful man must give up control and even wait to receive Jesus' help. The woman with the flow of blood must take control of her life to seek Jesus' healing. There is a time to take control and fight for your life and those whom you love. And there is a time to let go. The difficulty is in deciding which time is which. That is what My Sister's Keeper is about.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Three Deaths This Week

Farrah Fawcett died of cancer yesterday morning. When I was in high school I never missed an episode of "Charlie's Angels" This was commercial TV's version of "Women's lib" where women didn't wait for a man to rescue them, they solved mysteries, they kicked fought their way out of trouble...all with sexy figures, heels and hair dos that my friends and I spent hours with curling irons trying unsuccessfully to emulate.

But all I can think of is her boyfriend Ryan O'Neal's troubled daughter Tatum telling of how the two of them were so wrapped up in each other there was no room for anyone else, not even their own children.

Nobody is perfect we all make mistakes and one is not supposed to speak ill of the dead. But when we idolize celebrities, especially at their death, this failure on her part needs to be acknowledged. I think your children are a much better legacy than your work. When I think of Fawcett all I can think of is Tantum and Redmond.

And then yesterday afternoon came the shocking news of the death of Micheal Jackson. We thought we'd always have Micheal Jackson around to make fun of. Of course no one is making fun of him now. He's a tragic heroic figure. Everybody loved Micheal Jackson but it seemed nobody loved him enough to say no to him. Not the doctor's who kept operating on him until he looked like a freak. Not his agents. Not the women who handed their children over to him to be raised in his isolated freakish world.

I never was that big of fan of his music, though I recognize his genius. I just hope those who admire his work so much realize at what cost it came. It is a mystery to me as to why the genius that produces the art that gives joy to so many costs the artist such a high price.

Farrah Fawcett and Micheal Jackson were not heroes. A real hero died earlier this week. His name was Ed Thomas and he had coached high school football in Parkersburg, Iowa for 37 years. He served as an elder in his church and taught Sunday School. He was instrumental in getting the football field rebuilt after it was destroyed when a devastating tornado ripped through the town last year.

He was more than a coach but a mentor to his students. Detroit Lions defensive end Jarod DeVries said in a statement: "Aside from my own father and mother, no one had a more profound impact on my life than Coach Thomas. He truly was like a second father to me and to the hundreds of players from our community he coached over the years. "

He tried to help a troubled former member of his team, Mark Becker.
Wednesday, for reasons no one knows and probably will never understand, that troubled young man walked into the weight room of the high school where coach Thomas was working with other students and shot the coach to death. Ed Thomas was a real hero. His death was a real tragedy. When the media laments the loss of our "icons" this week, I remember a community who lost someone whom they knew and loved, a man who truly gave his life for others.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Recent Skating Competition

Last weekend I competed at the Quad City Figure Skating Championships in Davenport Iowa. I was going to take my daughter along as a coach but she had an opportunity to work at a figure skating camp in Minnesota so I just went by myself. It's a pretty low pressure thing when adults compete. We cheer and compliment our competitors and we are just proud of ourselves for getting out

There were three in my freestyle group and I came in second. It's the first time I didn't come
in last in freestyle. So that was pretty exciting. This was my last time with this program. The music was AshokenFarewell and I loved it but I've been doing this program for two years. This summer I'm getting a new program.

I came in last in dance. I love ice dance but it is really hard for me. They played music I had never heard before and I never did quite figure out the
But I skated better than the last time I competed. In skating you have to learn to skate against yourself because you really have no control over who you are going to compete against. With different people I could have come in last or even first with the same performance.

I'm the Competition Chair of our club and we are hosting the figure skating competition at the Iowa Games on July 25 so I'm working on that. I probably won't compete there because it's a lot to run a competition and compete - tho I've done that. I like doing stuff for the club. People are so much more willing to volunteer and help out than people at church are. Why is that???

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Right Side of History"? Oh Please!

I joined Twitter just in time to get in on the Twitter protest in Iran. It really was quite exciting. You felt you were actually part of it. I changed my avatar to green and everything. I felt like Neda was my best friend. Power to the People!

But the reality is that I am not part of it. This is a fight for the Iranian people. And I'm getting a little weary of the pompous rantings of the Republicans against Obama for not taking this opportunity to "be on the right side of history" When you ask these people just what EXACTLY do they expect him to do, I have yet to hear an clear answer. We don't have a really good track record when it comes to US interference in the Middle East. Or South America. Or Southeast Asia. Or central America.

Of course we should support free elections. But the way the Republicans are going on you would think Mousavi was a western loving Baptist! Um. No. And frankly recent news of the country's clerics joining the protest makes me fear the whole thing is being co-opted and even if Ahmadinejad is toppled, we will not see much difference in US-Iran relations or even human rights in Iran.

The Republican cry for American support in this annoys me too because why now and why Iran? What about Darfur and the reluctance to use the G word? What about China? I cannot tell you how pissed off I was when China was chosen to host the Olympics and I thought AT LEAST Bush should NOT be at the opening ceremonies. Oh no. We can't offend China. They might stop buying our debt. Oh the hypocracy!

So I think we need to just shut up about this right side of history crap.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It is God who Justifies - Who is to Condemn?

So I write a daily (well Tuesday-Sat) email devotion - mostly for some congregation members and some others. Usually I use a text from the Daily Lectionary. I'm leading a summer bible study on Romans so lately I've taken the text from Romans..

I started out writing it every single morning but that got to be too much so first I cut out Sunday and then Monday, my day off. But it is still quite a commitment. Sometimes I forget or blow it off. Or write what I think it's pretty much fluff. But my wonderful secretary will often give me some feedback that shows she's been thinking about what I said. And I got feedback from my never met facebook friend Ruth that she found today's devotion particularly meaningful. So I think I will work harder on these devotions. It is good discipline and prayerful for me to do as well. This was today's

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is probably one of my favorite verses to read at a funeral. But it is a message of hope and encouragement for us today. If God is for us who is against us? Who dares to say that you are not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not “spiritual” enough, not strong enough, not skinny enough, not popular enough, not wealthy enough, not cool enough, not well read enough, not educated enough, not “straight” enough, not American enough, to stand before God and your fellow creatures as a beloved child of God set apart to love and serve God and your neighbor?

Anyone who would dare say that needs to be forgiven because they don’t know what they are talking about. It is God who justifies. It is God who created and breathed us into life and Christ who lived, rose and died to bring us into new life and it is the Holy Spirit that sanctifies and strengthens and encourages and keeps us in this new life to which we have been born anew. No one can contradict what God has said and done. You are God’s new creation. You have been called to new and abundant life. Go and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God!

Gracious loving God, open our hearts to hear and accept only your message of grace and to those who would condemn us, close our minds to their condemnation but open our hearts to pray for the message of your Gospel to reach their hearts as well. Amen."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Afternoon Skating Video - Nicole Bobek

Nicole Bobek is the figure skater that broke a lot of skating fans' hearts. She had it all. Big jumps. Amazing fast, centered and beautiful spins. She was the first one with the full split spiral position, held across the entire rink that made you stop breathing and is the reason that position is now practically required of all ladies.

But it was the way she interpreted the music and poured soul into every performance that made you fall in love with her. She could have won it all. But something about the way her vulnerability spilled out made you cringe because you knew there was just not going to be a happy ending for her.

She had an unstable childhood. (Although if you knew anything about how figure skating prodigies are raised, none of them are "normal") She was taken from one coach to another. She was known for her lack of discipline and her "wild" teenage ways.

This is her 1995 short program at the Worlds. There's a bit of fluff before it but it does explain a bit about her. She went in as National Champion and this brilliant performance set her on course for winning the World Championships. But she fell apart in the long program. Chen Lu from China won, Michelle Kwan took silver. Kwan became the next Figure Skating Princess and won nine national championships and except for one comeback in 1998 that got her on the Olympic team, Bobeck never was much of a contender again.

Lots of fans were infuriated with her because she didn't seem to live up to her potential.
But maybe she did. Maybe she really did the best she could and from what little we know of her upbringing she did mighty fine for herself. She turned out much better than Tonya Harding for sure. I hear she's still skating professionally here and there.

I couldn't find it on Youtube but if you ever get a chance to see her skating to "No Sacrifice" - that performance could make you weep it was so beautiful. She had a presence on that defies explanation.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Oh my gosh they are STILL Harping on Michelle in the garden

So now the buzz is the fact that she wore that lovely salmon outfit with a sweater in the garden. Some even commenting that she is setting a bad example. For looking nice for a photo op in the garden? Are you people kidding me?

Setting a bad example? Because, what someone might "get ideas" and garden in a cute out fit? And then what? Heck I'm so obsessive about weeding I've been known to get out of my car dressed fairly nicely, see some weeds and start going at it and the next thing you know I'm on my knees getting grass stains on my slacks. That's what washing machines are for, people.

I did mention her nice outfit in my last post on this subject. But my heavens. She's the First Lady. She's not going to wear dirty raggedy clothes in public. Nor should she.

Friday Five - Life is a Verb

I haven't done a RevGalBlogPals Friday Five in a couple of weeks - I just never get to it so I decided to just stop and do this right now.
Jan writes
Jennifer recommended this book, which I got because I always value Jennifer's reading suggestions. The author of Life is a Verb, Patti Digh worked her book around these topics concerning life as a verb:
  • Say yes.
  • Be generous.
  • Speak up.
  • Love more.
  • Trust yourself.
  • Slow down.
As I read and pondered about living more intentionally, I also have wondered what this Friday Five should be. This book has been the jumping off point for this Friday.

1. What awakens you to the present moment?
Okay, um, I have to confess this kind of language about "awakening to the present moment" is pretty foreign to me. It's poetic language and I'm a prose person. To me life needs to be a balance of reflecting on the past, looking and planning to the future and being aware of what is going on right now. To be "awakened to the present" makes me think of an emergency of something that needs to be addressed right now. Like when my daughter suffered suddenly from a kidney infection a week ago and I had to take her to the emergency room. That "awakened me to the present moment" fer sure.

2. What are 5 things you see out your window right now?
I could mention rain 5 times since there is so much of it. My garden. Robins. The raspberries growing in the backyard of the house across the alley. The church. OH CRAP!! THE GARBAGE MAN IS HERE AND I HAVEN'T TAKEN THE CANS TO THE ALLEY AND I CLEANED OUT THE REFRIGERATOR LAST NIGHT AND IT's RAINING. Be right back. How's that for "being awakened to the present moment"?

3. Which verbs describe your experience of God?
Present. Loving. Grace giving.

4. From the book on p. 197:
Who were you when you were 13? Where did that kid go?
I was a sullen, overweight, unpopular, very unhappy child. What happened to her? She survived a lot of difficult things. She discovered Grace and learned to be happy and grateful for what she does have and not worry about what she does not have. She's still tough and doesn't take any shit from anyone.

From the book on p. 88:
If your work were the answer to a question, what would the question be?

Who is going to tell you the truth?
Bonus idea for you here or on your own--from the book on p. 149:
"Go outside. Walk slowly forward. Open your hand and let something fall into it from the sky. It might be an idea, it might be an object. Name it. Set it aside. Walk forward. Open your hand and let something fall into it from the sky. Name it. Set it aside. Repeat. . . ."
Yea. Maybe after it stops raining. But probably not.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pretty Outrageous invasion of privacy

So if you want a job with City of Bozeman, Montana, are expected to provide information about any social networking sites you are a part of, complete with passwords. See above link.

I understand that there is no privacy on Facebook. From the very beginning I joined facebook to keep in touch with my youth. Then it was mostly my friends and I started joining all these "liberal" pro-gay rights, Bush is the anti-Christ groups. Then as congregation members began to sign up for Facebook I was a little worried because in real life I'm pretty circumspect and try to be even handed when we discuss controversial topics in adult Sunday school and I was a little concerned about my "Yes I am a Tree Hugging Hippy" and "Silly Christian, Jesus was a liberal" flair. I decided I should be on Facebook as one should be in life - open about my beliefs but not rude So I did leave the "Bush is a big fat Jerk" group. But I still am a member of Dick Cheney Needs to Shut the Hell Up.

So I'm okay with an employer not wanting to have someone with pictures of them drunk and puking on Facebook. If you get drunk and puke and post pictures of it deal with the consequences.

But to ask people to fork over passwords is just outrageous. I have personal messages from family members. That's like asking for your password for an email account. I can't even imagine how they can ask for that. Yes I can. People are desperate for jobs.

I suspect that whoever thought of this requirement doesn't even understand how Facebook works and doesn't realize you can get access to those drunken puking pictures without a password.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Michelle Obama's Garden Conspiracy

When I read this I thought YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME???? The Drudge report has posted photos of the white house garden in March when it was planted and June when it was harvested...and there's some suggestion the plants could not possibly have grown that much in that time and so Michelle is pulling a fast one on us.

Fortunately Sue Reimer at the Baltimore Sun, has been to the garden and can testify to it's authenticity.

Um...maybe Matt Drudge should get off his ass at the computer and go out and garden a bit himself and find out what plants will grow in a hurry, especially when you use good compost. Geesh. They'll look for anything.

But I do question one thing - WHO looks like that when they are gardening??? Not me!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Body is NOT Community Property!

Peace Bang tells a story over at Beauty Tips for Ministers about how a parishioner patted her and made some comment about her extra weight. Most of the comments are about the comment. I am rather more appalled that someone feels free to "pat" her.

I am very uncomfortable when people I don't know touch me without my permission. This seems like a reasonable attitude but I lived through the huggy touchy feely 80s and 90s and so realized that I tend to be more "uptight" about this than most.

I remember being at some continuing ed event when to my horror the leader told us to stand up and begin massaging the shoulders of the person in front of you! These were men I barely knew! I consider back and neck massages rather intimate activities. I made a beeline for the bathroom.

I was a voting member of the 93 Churchwide Assembly and by the end of it I was so tired of what seemed to me like assaults on my personal space that at one of the last worship services I just plain did not want to hold sweaty hands with the stranger next to me. I tried to beg off saying "oh my hands are so sweaty" so she pushed me aside and took the hand of the person next to me. So that I was out of the line. And I thought "Well this is interesting. If you do not play the game exactly by the rules, you are excluded"

At this year's Synod assembly we had the ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson tell us all to put our hands on our neighbors head while we prayed. The thought horrified me. I looked at the man next to me (we had not even met!) and said "I really HATE this sort of thing" "So do I" he grumbled. Whew. No head touching while we prayed, thank you Jesus!

Yes yes yes - I know we are all one Christian family and none of us are strangers. I don't think that means we all have to be physically intimate! I shake hands at the passing of the peace. If a parishioner initiates a hug, I hug back. But strangers don't get hugs. Sorry.

At first I thought I was this way because I grew up with a single mom who was not demonstrative. (In fact, after my son was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, I put together a lot of strange things about my mother and I think its very possible SHE has Aspergers) But then I thought it may also very much have to do with the fact that I was beaten and physically abused for many years at a day care center. And I wondered how women who have been sexually abused feel about this mandated touchy feely stuff. Is not the essence of abuse being denied control over who has access to your body?

After that every time there was some required back rub or hug (I guess holding hands is okay) I wrote to complain about it. I always used the "abuse" word. I figured it had more clout but really, whether you've been abused or not, you should not be made to feel like a spoil sport because you don't want some strange man or woman fondling you!

Anyways all that crap pretty much stopped by the end of the 90s. No I don't think it was my complaints. It's probably not a coincidence at the same time we began having a lot of sex scandals and we all went to "Boundary Training" events. So I was a little taken aback by the hands on the head thing from Bishop Anderson. I hope it's not a new trend.

All this to say my body is not public property. And neither is yours.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Afternoon Skating Video

Known affectionately to their fans as "G & G" - two time Olympic Gold Pairs Medalists Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov were possibly the greatest pairs skaters ever. You just loved watching them together. Grinkov died suddenly of a massive heart attack during a Stars on Ice rehearsal. He was 28 years old.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Prayer Request for this Sunday

In collaboration with Pastor David Vasquez (Luther College) and Sister Mary McCauley (St. Bridget's Catholic Church Administrator, Retired), I would like to invite all congregations of the Northeastern Iowa Synod to add a prayer for the upcoming immigration summit to their weekend prayers of intercession.

On June 17th, President Obama is scheduled to meet with a bipartisan group of key lawmakers to start a policy conversation around Comprehensive Immigration Reform. This meeting presents lawmakers with the opportunity to set a tone of fairness and humanity for immigration reform.

In the days before this meeting, from June 14th-17th, interfaith immigration advocates are asking communities to come together and say a prayer for President Obama and these lawmakers. We encourage you to include the prayer below in the prayers of the Church this
Saturday/Sunday, June 13/14. This prayer follows the pattern of the Prayers of Intercession from Sundays and Seasons for this weekend, and was prepared in collaboration with Sister Mary McCauley who served St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Postville, Iowa. A similar prayer will be included in worship by a variety of faith communities in our state and the nation.

Please hold President Obama and these lawmakers in your prayers so that they may be guided towards the best and most humane form of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.


Your kingdom reaches the ends of the world. As President Obama calls a bipartisan summit on immigration this Wednesday, we pray that you gift each person entering this conversation with the wisdom, understanding, and courage necessary to bring about a change in our current immigration policy. We are all your people. Help us to live as brothers and sisters, open to the gifts and sensitive to the heartache of our twenty-first century immigrants. God of mercy, hear our prayer.
Thank you for your continuing support of the people of Postville -- past, present, and future.

Pastor Steve Brackett
St. Paul Lutheran Church

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Two Very Different Men who Need to SHUT UP...

Dick Cheney and Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Rev. Wright - "Them Jews" keep me from Obama

I'm sure I don't need to explain why Cheney needs to shut up.


This week I've been at our club's "Skate Camp" - 3:20-6:00 pm every afternoon. Twenty minute off ice warm up class, 20 minute off ice jumps class, 1/2 hour power skating class (which is basically kill yourself on ice) and an hour and a half of freestyle practice.

I'm not ashamed to tell you that I am almost 52 years old. Trying to keep up with little girls and teenagers. There is one lady older than me. But she whines a lot. I do not believe in whining. Although I kind of am now. We have five of these weeks over the summer. The first week is the worst. I haven't been able to skate the last half hour this week.

Yesterday I had enough stamina but my feet just hurt too much from being in skates that long. Last year when I did this by the end of the summer I was in very good shape. I had passed my Adult Bronze Moves and had improved my skating.

This weekend I am competing in Davenport Iowa. Three dances and my freestyle. I will probably come in last (I can say that because it's a small competition and I know who is in my group) but I'll have fun. Adult figure skating competitions are a whole different animal. We put each other on the ice and cheer our competition and have fun.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What is it really about?

I really enjoy Madeline's Egg. I can't tell you how many times I start to comment on one of his posts and it's gets so long I realize, "Hmm...I need to put this in my blog." It's happened again and I think he has started an important conversation about the the current schism in the ELCA and other denominations. "It's always about sex. Except when it's not" Is it really about sex? I think not.

One thing I learned quickly in parish ministry is that when people were unreasonably angry with me about seemingly trivial things, it was not about me or the thing at all. The church and clergy are a bulls eye for a lot of anger. Which makes sense. We represent God. And ultimately we are all pissed off at God for one thing or another.

Ages ago back when I was an intern I proposed to change the language in a song in choir to make it more inclusive. I would NEVER do that again. I just have other battles to fight these days than worrying about the word "men" in a song. But I was young and strident and foolish. And a woman in the choir confronted me about it and told me it was silly and the change was awkward. And she was right. But then her voice got shakey and she began to sob and tersely said to me "And when YOU PEOPLE changed the Apostles Creed - you took God away from me!"

And I thought "This cannot possibly be about language!" And it wasn't.

It's frightening how little it has to do with what we say it is about. I also find it frightening how much power we clergy have in swaying a church to leave or stay.

It's become kind of the *in* thing around these parts to leave the ELCA or threaten to leave the ELCA. So we were at a meeting and someone suggested "Maybe we should leave the ELCA."

Now I was prepared to give a lot of good reasons as to why that was not a good idea. But the first thing I said was, "Well I would be sorry if you did that because I really like here"

"You would leave if we did that Pastor?

"But of course"

The suggestion to leave has never been brought up again. They may be tempted to revisit the issue depending on how the sexuality vote goes this summer. But I don't think they will leave. And not just because they love me so much, although the influence I have over that decision is a heady somber responsibility. But because they are essentially a healthy congregation, they love each other, they have work to do and in the end, as Father says over at Madeline's Egg disagreement over genital matters is not important enough to disrupt their relationships and work.

But it again emphasizes the important mantra clergy need to keep in our heads "It's not about ME" - When the folk are unbearably cruel, that mantra keeps the personal hurt feelings from keeping us from doing our jobs and when they get very admiring and flattering, that mantra helps keep our eyes on the prize - Jesus Christ and the Church's mission to proclaim the Gospel of love, forgiveness and acceptance for all people.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Clergy who think they are paid too much

There's a much better answer than bravely playing the martyr to your congregation by begging them not to give you a raise. GIVE MORE IN YOUR TITHE! I know that doesn't give you all the attention you get when you announce to the council (and synod assembly) what a brave sacrifice you are making for their sake, but you are actually not doing your congregation a favor to allow them to get so far behind in their salary. Because when you leave (yes there is life in the congregation after you) they will have to face the harsh reality that they need to come up with a big increase to attract another pastor. And you will have put the next pastor (who maybe doesn't have a working spouse, or has more children or seminary debt or need than you) who cannot magnanimously and publicly give up their raise at a disadvantage. Because you know, it's not all about YOU!

So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:2-4

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Afternoon Skating Video

The mid-90s was the hey day of Figure Skating on TV. It was wonderful. Lots of fans complained about "Cheesy fake" pro competitions like this one - The Rock and Roll Championships. I love them. Here is a very sexy Kurt Browning skating to "Lightening Crashes"

Other Votes at Synod Assembly

Minimum Salary Guidelines. Why is there always some pastor who probably makes a hell of lot more money than me who has to get up and complain that the guidelines are too high and he feels so sorry for the poor poor congregations and suggests we lower them? There's always one in every synod!. It was pointed out that our synod has the second lowest salaries in the region and we are one year behind cost of living raises. His motion to lower the guidelines was soundly defeated. Personally I think Minimum Guidelines are a joke. In my entire 24 years I have never been paid guidelines and the older I get the less likely I will come even close.

The Budget passed without discussion. I have NEVER been to an assembly where nit picking the budget was not the main event.

ANOTHER study - this one on "Justice for Women" that I think is making the rounds. I did not speak against it. I fear the women in this synod already view me with suspicion because I did not support a move to require 50% women clergy on the synod council (there just are not enough of us for that and I'd probably get stuck serving on it!).

I don't like this idea of dwelling on all the injustice for women. I think there's enough injustice in this country to go around and I don't think a study is particularly helpful. Particularly in family court with issues of custody and child support, I think we could use a little work on justice for men. I would like to see some time and effort to tackle the problem of human trafficking and sexual exploitation that involves children and minors of both sexes. And frankly I'm just tired of listening to white American women with $50 hair cuts, big houses, and computers whine about being "oppressed". You still live better than most women and men in most of the world so get over it. But it passed overwhelmingly.

May 12 - Day of Remembrance and Prayer for Immigration Reform There were two - one for our synod and one to memorialize the Churchwide Assembly to do the same. Passed unanimously.

Then I came home to face the Vacation Bible School kids!

NE Iowa on Sex

The North Eastern Iowa Synod of the ELCA is a conservative synod. So it was not surprising that there were resolutions to memorialize the Churchwide Assembly to defeat the Proposed Social Statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust and Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies

I was encouraged that there were proposed substitute resolutions to memorialize CWA to accept the sexuality statement and recommendations. Of course they were voted down. The discussion was decidedly lacking in both passion and profundity on both sides. I guess people are just tired of talking about it and want to just vote and get on with it. Both the resolutions to memorialize to defeat passed but not by much. About 200-150 for both of them. I think that says a great deal that even as conservative a synod as ours is not of one mind on this issue. The times--they are a changing....

There was a truly awful resolution to encourage members and congregations to urge Iowa State legislature to pass a constitutional amendment to declare marraige to be only between a man and a woman. That was soundly defeated, thank goodness.

Probably the stupidest resolution was to table the proposed agreement for full communion with the United Methodist church. The reasoning?? It wouldn't be fair to the Methodists, since we are voting on the possibility of ordaining Gay and Lesbian pastors in committed relationships and currently Methodists do not ordain them. Um, the Methodists have already voted to accept this agreement. And they knew darn well what they were getting into so I find the whole thing rather specious. Anyway we voted to refer that whole question back to the Synod Council.

North Eastern Iowa Synod Assembly - General Reflections

I've been in this synod 4 years and this is the first assembly I've made it to. I had good excuses before, really. But was plumb out of them this year. I did have genuine excuses to miss Synod Assemblies but was not sorry. I've had bad experiences had synod assemblies. I've seen some very bad behavior. Especially from Word Alone folk. And I hate long speeches. I have had some fun. When I was in Madison Wisconsin, I would play poker with the guys. In East Central Wisconsin there were a lot of good women clergy I hung out with. And in Western Iowa I would go out for beer with the Buffalo Synod - so named for the Sioux City and others clergy who would meet at the bar "Buffalo Alices". We were such regulars the owner had a table for us with a sign that said "Reserved for Clergy"

I don't have a gang to hang out with in this synod. So I was dreading this assembly. Turns out the people in this synod are very well behaved. The speeches were short. I want to know how they did that! When I was on an assembly planning committee we would give the speakers a time limit and they just ignored us.

I really like and admire our Bishop Steven Ullestad. Very down to earth person, but also, good solid, Lutheran theologically minded person. He did an excellent job of running the assembly. We were always on time and yet everything got discussed and voted upon. Remarkable. I'm used to assemblies held in convention centers. This was at Luther College in an auditorium. I did not like that. For one thing, I like a table to spread out and drink my coffee. This made me feel more like I was in the audience for a performance rather than a participant. And if you are in the middle, it's just not very encouraging to have to crawl over people to get to the mike. I've been known to go to the mike a few times...but I refrained this year. I do wish I had said something but I thought of it later. You know how that is. But I'm sure the price difference between a convention center and a college makes this a no-brainer.

Mark Allen Powell. If you get a chance to listen to this guy or are looking for a speaker - He is excellent. I really have high standards. I want to be challenged intellectually but I don't like being lectured do and I have a short attention span. He had good solid material, but spoke down to earth in an engaging manner and he didn't talk for more than a half hour. He talked about how his North American, Russian and Tanzanian students all saw things in the story of the Prodigal Son that the others that really made me look forward to preaching on that story again!

The Bishops Report.
Really! It was a very interesting and engaging talk. One of the best uses of power point behind enhanced what he was saying but was not distracting. He started out quoting Dylan's "The Times They are A'Changing" and showed the video
Did You Know on the progression of information technology.

This has been a difficult year for our synod. We had the Parkersburg Tornado. Then the ICE raid in Postville. Then flooding. We had to postpone our assembly last year because of the floods. This assembly seemed to be a celebration of survival and affirmation of the good work that was done despite the hardships. So even though I didn't get to drink beer and play poker it was a pretty good experience.

More about resolutions in other posts.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

N.T Wright on Phillippians

I found some lectures from theologians you can download at Truett Theological Seminary.

See I'm about as South west as you can be in the North East Iowa synod so it's about a 31/2 hour drive to go anywhere. So on the way to our Synod Assembly I listened to a short gem by N.T. Wright on Philippians. (It's the one from 10/22/2002).

It's the best explanation of that odd saying from Philippians 2:12 "work out your own salvation in fear and trembling" I've ever heard. He puts the Christ hymn "he did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself" in the context of the PR Roman emperors put out about themselves. Turns out the Roman emperor said something very similar about himself - he was a humble person who sacrificed himself for the sake of the people so they could have "salvation". The working out of salvation Paul is talking about, sez Wright, is not going to heaven when you die, but figure out how you are going to live the gospel in this life in the midst of Roman claims of salvation. You should listen to it yourself. I love listening to him talk!

I have to say I just really am taken with much of what I read by Wright. Although I do think he has it wrong about homosexuality in the church but perhaps he'll come around.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I'm at our Synod Assembly

More later. I would just like to comment on how INCREDIBLY RUDE the "gentleman" was last night who not only did not turn off his phone (that happens to the best of us) but answered it and CONTINUED TO TALK loudly on the phone while we were hearing a very interesting talk about the recent trip of some of our folks to our Companion Synod Namibia. Good thing he was a couple of rows ahead of me or I'd have smacked on the head. Really. I do things like that. Embarrasses the hell out of my kids.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Thin Pizza Crust Dough

If you are using the packaged pizza dough that you mix with water to make homemade pizza, just stop it right now and use this recipe. It really isn't any more work. If you are not making home made pizza at all, well you don't know what are missing

Preheat oven 500

.25 oz pkt active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
3/4 cup hot water
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp Italian herbs (I use Penzeys mix but even some basil would be good)
1/4 Cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the warm water and wisk it up a bit. The sugar feeds the yeast. But you are not going to let this dough rise because it's thin crust --it's actually pretty thick but it doesn't get soggy this way. Wait till the yeast starts bubbling and add about 3/4 cup flour and all the other ingredients. Then the rest of the flour and get your hands in it and knead it up a bit.

I like to put olive oil on my hands and then work with the dough so it is covered in oil. I also spray my pizza pan. Spread the dough out to the ends of the pan. Put whatever you like on it. We like red onions and red bell peppers and spinach and Italian sausage and pepperoni and mozerella cheese - especially the fresh stuff! It looks really pretty and tastes good to sprinkle the cheese with basil. Bake for 10-12 minutes - keep an eye on it - when the crust is golden and before the cheese burns.

I used to make heart shaped pizzas on Valentine's Day for my kids.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Ambiguity of Abortion

As a blogger one is usually expected to comment on recent news. As a church blogger one would be expected to comment on church news. And as a feminist (albeit unconventional one) I know I should be reflecting upon the horrible news of the murder of Dr. Tiller, in his own church, in front of his wife who was singing in the choir.

And yet I'm speechless. I note that this man has been called a "mass murderer" by some anti-abortion activists. He was a hero to those in the pro-choice movement and no doubt to many desperate women. He was an active faithful church member.

Those facts point to the ambiguity of life and faith. It is that very ambiguity that makes me hesitant to comment. Mind you, I don't mean there is any ambiguity about the wrongness of walking into a church and flat out murdering a man.

I don't talk about abortion in terms of "rights" I'm very uncomfortable by the whole notion of "rights" . I think that's very unChristian talk and does not help to foster community. Community requires we set aside our "rights" for the good of one another. Our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Social Statement on Abortion states that no woman has an "absolute right" to her body, nor does everyone conceived have an absolute right to be born. I like that statement.

What I wish about abortion is that there was no question of it always being safe, legal and available for women. And THEN, if we weren't so defensive about keeping it safe, legal and available, PERHAPS, feminists and others could sit down and have an HONEST discussion about how abortion really is not a good thing, how abortion often is oppressive and violent to women, how often women have them to please the men in their lives, how it is life and how we can take care of one another so that women and men could bear and raise the children they conceive. That's what I wish.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday Afternoon Skating Video

This was a great number by Josee Chouinard - "The Sweater" 1997 Check out her amazing huge triple lutz - taken off a nice deep outside edge.