Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Afternoon Skating Video - a little late

I love Johnny Weir. He's a drama queen and the reason why straight men hate figure skating. He drives his fans crazy because he's sooo very talented but lately there's always something that keeps him from the podium. I follow him on twitter and he's got these great tweets like:

"Practice makes perfect. Trying to style myself for the premiere. I can't decide what to wear. The tribulations of Johnny Weir..." and
"Ugh...a tiring day already and still two more hours on the ice and pilates. Plus I ran out of FF shampoo. Does the madness ever end?

I mean really, how can you not love someone like that?

Here is his 2006 short program at the Olympics. It was brilliant and put him second behind Plushenko (who nobody could beat because that man is a jumping machine) Then he fell apart in the free skate. Ugh. Shades of Nicole Bobeck. I like Evan Evan Lysacek too, but Johnny is an artist.

Self-Righteous Judging - It's Everywhere

No I'm not talking about the folks who pick on gays. I'm thinking a little closer to home. I was reading Keene's Kwikies (a great blog btw) recent post Humility. He's laid up in the hospital with a heart problem and he's one of those folks that even the most non-judgmental, loving, compassionate, gospel preaching liberals feel free to judge and berate to their face - he's a SMOKER. He's not a young guy. Probably been smoking for a long time. He's not stupid. He knows he's a sinner. And everybody's scolding and lecturing him in his hospital bed. Really. If this episode (and no doubt others) hasn't made him quit, do people really think self-righteous pontificating will? Is there no grace for the smoker?

See I don't think it's about helping him at all. I think we all want to feel superior to SOMEBODY. Liberals are not allowed to be racist or prejudiced, but SMOKERS.... that's different. They deserve it. I'm better and smarter and healthier than a smoker. Smokers deserve our public derision and judgment.

My sister experiences something similar as a skin cancer patient. She lives in Southern California, often has to take a bus, and it's very difficult for her to stay out of the sun. She can't always (nor can she always afford to, as she lives on Social Security) constantly be slathering on sunscreen. So everytime she ends up back at the clinic with another spot, she gets scolded and reprimanded and lectured about sunscreen. Really? She has SKIN CANCER! Do these people think she never heard of sunscreen? They don't care about her. They just want to feel superior.

So who is the sinner to whom you feel superior?

Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. Romans 2:1

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Simple Pico De Gallo

So it looks like I'm going to actually get some red bell peppers in my garden this year. Usually the growing season here is way to short for them to turn red but I bought an early variety and there is one that is half red. Had to buy a red and yellow one at the store for this recipe. The green bell and jalapeno and tomato was from my garden. All my cilantro has gone to seed so I had to buy that as well. I thought it was terribly hot but my daughter didn't . Hope I'm not getting wimpy in my old age!

I meant to put some red onion in it and just forgot but it was fine without it. Put some in if you like.

This a nice quick snack to go with your chips. We like the whole wheat chips. No measurements are precise. Make it the way you like it.

1 medium size Roma tomato, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 yellow red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 small carrot, diced
handful chopped cilantro
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp Garlic powder
2 TBl Brown sugar
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbl Chardonnay

Mix this all up and eat it. You will like it. Skip the jalapeno if you are a wimp. No shame in that.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

RIP Edward M. Kennedy, February 22, 1932 – August 25, 2009)

Love him or hate him, idolize or demonize him, Ted Kennedy was a giant and legend and his impact on American politics and the country will continue for some time.

Ted Kennedy was supposed tos follow in his brother's footsteps and become president. Instead he became the third longest serving senator in US History and probably achieved far more for this country than he ever would have as president.

Memories of Kennedy will always be linked with the 1969
Chappaquiddick incident when he drove off a bridge and the young woman who was with him was killed. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and was given a suspended sentence. No politician would get away with that today and rightfully so.

In as much as it is possible to atone for such an act, Ted Kennedy's tireless work to improve life for the least of these in this country certainly at least, adds another side to the his story. Some would argue there is no atonement for such an act, and I note those who do not approve of his politics are particularly unforgiving, while those who agree with his politics are more likely to gloss over this terrible incident.

Ted Kennedy, like all of us, was a mixed bag. It is the whole of our lives, the good and the bad, that makes us who we are. Who knows if it was not the guilt of the results of the act of a reckless young man that helped fuel his devotion to his work? It would not be the first time God has made something good out of something very bad.

I for one, believe we have lost a treasure.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Afternoon Skating Video

My favorite - Scott Hamilton - in 1994 - when he was at his best as pro

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Today’s Sermon

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

-- Colossians 3:14-15

I have been in Minneapolis this week from Wednesday through Friday as a visitor observing the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. It was also available to watch on the internet and I watched much of it that way before that and yesterday.

The lazy part of me that just wants everything to be easy and smooth (which is a big part of me) really wishes that I could have been able to just say something during the announcements about how exciting it was that the Assembly passed an agreement with the Methodists. Now we can hold joint communion services with the Methodists. In small towns and areas where there may be clergy shortages, a Lutheran congregation can call a Methodist pastor if there's not a Lutheran available and vice versa. I know there are a number of people in this congregation who come from Methodist backgrounds so you will find that exciting.

I wish I could just tell you about the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, an effort of all the Lutheran churches to combat Malaria a preventable and treatable disease that kills more than one million people a year.

Of course that exciting news has been overshadowing by other actions at the ELCA, that while difficult and potentially divisive, was also important.

There was a sexuality statement passed that laid the groundwork for discussing such matters as a community which does not agree. A two thirds majority was required for passing this statement and it passed by exactly two thirds. The statement was available and we did discuss it in our adult Bible Study.

Some news reports were that this study approved gay marriage. That is not true. I think what was controversial and difficult for some people about the study was that it acknowledged that we do not agree as a church body on the issue of homosexuality. Some people would have liked a very clear statement about this is right and this is wrong. But Lutheran social statements have never been the kinds of statements that have told people what they should think about social issues. They have always been statements that laid the foundation for discussion, outlined the different perspectives and recognized the ambiguities.

The ELCA is not like other churches which claim to speak for all its members when it comes to social issues.

Lutherans have always claimed that the basis for our unity is in Word and Sacrament. We are bound together by our faith in Christ, not our opinions on politics or social issues. In many ways it would certainly be easier if we all agreed on these matters. But we have been called to a great challenge. To love one another in Christ EVEN when we disagree on such emotionally charged, and controversial issues such as homosexuality.

Which brings me to the even more controversial votes at the churchwide assembly. These are the policy recommendations on Ministry. Because they were policy recommendations, they did not require a 2/3 vote. No policy change in the ELCA has ever been passed with a 2/3 vote. The vote to ordain women passed with a 57% margin. There were two separate motions to change the rules and require a 2/3 motion. One motion was made on Monday when the rules were being voted on and one was made just before the policy resolutions were introduced. Both those motions were voted down.

This was the first motion which passed by a 77% margin:

RESOLVED, that in the implementation of any resolutions on ministry policies, the ELCA commit itself to bear one another's burdens, love the neighbor, and respect the bound consciences of all.
This was, I think , the most important motion. The ELCA has committed itself to bear one another's burdens, love our neighbor and respect the bound conscience of all. I think this is much harder, but much more Christian resolve than to do what historically Lutherans have done, which is, if we couldn't agree we would start a bunch of new churches made up only of people with whom we agree. This is a commitment to live and work and worship together and respect that my neighbor, even though I think he is WRONG WRONG WRONG about the issue of homosexuality, I am going to respect that he is a beloved child of God, and that his faith in Christ is sincere and the he is doing what he feels bound to do by his conscience and his faith.

What I think is important to remember is that everything else that the assembly voted on was with that in mind.

This was the second resolution.

RESOLVED, that the ELCA commit itself to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships."

The important phrase here is to allow congregations that CHOOSE TO DO SO. A few months ago, the Salem Council made it a policy that we would only allow weddings at this church between one man and one woman. This resolution does not impact our policy whatsoever. Our bound conscience to not allow same sex marriages will be respected. However, other congregations who choose to recognize same sex unions, will be able to do so.

RESOLVED, that the ELCA commit itself to finding a way for people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church."

What this means is that congregations in the ELCA who CHOOSE to, will be able to call pastors who are in same sex committed relationships. They will be ABLE to if they CHOOSE. They will not be required to.

I'm not to going to read the entire wording of the 4th resolution because it's very long and convoluted, but it's the practical implications of implementing these resolutions but it does specifically say that we are committed to respect the conviction of members who believe that the ELCA should not call or roster people in committed same-gender relationships.

So what does all this mean?

I want to tell a story. It is a story about a family. It is a large family spread across the country. But they are a family who get together and do things together in the name of the family. One day the word spread among the family members that Joe who was gay, was going to marry Tom.

Now part of the family was very happy and excited for Joe and Tom and excitedly planned the wedding and looked forward to the celebration. Another part of the family was appalled by the idea of such a wedding. They loved Joe. But they could not in good conscience go to the wedding or support that relationship.

Now both sides of this family have a choice. The family members who do not support Joe and his wedding can separate themselves from those family members who do. OR they can graciously decline to attend the wedding but continue to be part of the family and gather with them at family gatherings. The other side of the family has a choice as well. They can condemn and refuse to have anything to do with the family members who do not support Joe's wedding. Or they do can respect their decision and continue to be part of the family and gather with them at family gatherings.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we ARE that family. I will not be surprised if some suggest to you or it occurs to you that it is time to leave the family. As your pastor, as someone who loves the whole family which includes this congregation but also the whole ELCA, I call you to the more difficult task of to bearing one another's burdens, loving your neighbor, respecting the bound consciences of all and sticking with your family, differences and all

Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who was at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? 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

Finally I want to share this quote from our Presiding Bishop:

We meet one another finally, not in our agreements or our disagreements, but at the foot of the cross -- where God is faithful, where Christ is present with us, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sorry but Missouri is the least of our worries

I missed it (doggone it) but apparently the ELCA Churchwide Assembly gave Gerald B. Kieschnick, president of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod an opportunity to give us a verbal smackdown for the vote on the sexuality statement and ministry policy. You can read all about it here: ELCA Assembly Hears LCMS President on Same-Gender Decisions

Apparently it's going to " negatively affect the relationships between our two church bodies." OH NO!!!! Because you know, we were SOOOO close to getting it on...

I lived in a small town with a Missouri Lutheran church. That pastor would not speak to me on the street. At Valparaiso University a while back Pastor Kieschnick refused to speak in the chapel until the female ELCA Chaplain agreed NOT to read the scripture lessons.

I'm concerned about how this is going to affect our relations with other international Lutheran bodies and hope we can find a way to keep talking and working at mission together. But Missouri? I'm sure there are some very nice Missouri people but as long as the ELCA has women pastors and they refuse to let women near the altar or pulpit to even read a lesson when there's a man around....I'm sorry what they think is just irrelevant.

Blogs Around Town Reflecting on CWA09

Some good discussion going on around blogs on the Churchwide Assembly - these are just a few that struck me. I'm sure there are lots more.

From Bradley Campbell in Civil Society

The most surprising moments came in casual observation. Those who spoke against change were at times outraged, hurt, and lost. They seemed to realize they were the minority and it pained them to think their church could move in a different, uncomfortable direction without their blessing. Many threatened to leave the church during their pleas to the assembly. Many warned the church about leaving the teachings of Martin Luther behind. But their pleas were in vain, as the body voted again and again for change. It's like they were on the other side looking in for the first time, experiencing what it's like to feel excluded.

Erik over at Koinonia is sharing a cigar with friends:

The cigar has disappeared into the night sky. Our conversation is done, for now. The conversations with the aforementioned friends will begin anew in the days ahead. I only hope that I will be able to speak to everyone with the kind of grace, patience, and respect that Lutherans have been able to show one another in these last few days.

Good thoughts from Pub Ponderings What Will Be My Witness - He quotes Bonhoeffer from Life Together

Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

Bishop Hanson's Pastoral Remarks Following ELCA Vote

I want more time to think about words from one you have called to serve as pastor of this church. I have been standing here thinking about my 23 years as a parish pastor and how differently I would go into a context if I was gathering with a family or a group of people that had just experienced loss, or perhaps were wondering if they still belonged, or in fact felt deeply that ones to whom they belong had been severed from them. That would be a very different pastoral conversation. And I would probably turn to words such as Romans 8:

“Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who was at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? 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.”

But then I thought, “What if I were going into a family or a group, a community that had always wondered if they belonged and suddenly had now received a clear affirmation that they belonged?” All of the wondering about the dividing walls, the feelings of separation seem to have dropped away. That would be a very different conversation. I would probably read to them out of Ephesians, Chapter 2:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”

But then I thought, what if those two groups were together, but also in their midst were those who had not experienced loss or the feeling of the dividing wall of separation coming down, but were wondering and worried if all that had occurred might sever the unity that is ours in Christ and might wonder if their actions might have contributed to reconciliation or separation? If all those people were together in a room, I would read from Colossians, chapter 3:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

That passage gives invitation and expectation that those deeply disappointed today will have in this church the expectation and the freedom to continue to admonish and to teach. And so, too, those that have experienced reconciliation today, you are called to humility. You are called to clothe yourselves with love. But we’re all called to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, remembering again and again that we are called in the one body. I will invite you tomorrow afternoon into important, thoughtful, prayerful conversations about what all of this means for our life together. But what is absolutely important for me is that that’s a conversation we have together.

I ended my oral report with these words:

“We meet one another finally, not in our agreements or our disagreements, but at the foot of the cross -- where God is faithful, where Christ is present with us, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ.”

Let us pray. O God, gracious and holy, mysterious and merciful, we meet this day at the foot of the cross and there we kneel in gratitude and awe that you have loved us so much that you would give the life of your Son so that we might have life in his name. Send your spirit this night, the spirit of the Risen Christ that has been breathed into us. May it calm us. May your Spirit unite us. May it continue to gather us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

You can download the video of his remarks here.

Respecting Bound the Consciences of All

“...the ELCA commit itself to bear one another’s burdens, love the neighbor, and respect the bound consciences of all”

This was the very first resolution that was passed on Friday morning of the ELCA Churcwide Assembly as they took up the four policy recommendations from the task force on sexuality. It was a covenent that whatever changes were made in the polcy, we committ ourselves “to bear one another’s burdens, love the neighbor, and respect the bound consciences of all”

It's a beautiful idea and I couldn't imagine how anyone on any side could object to it and in fact, after a little discussion (that often veered off into discussion of other resolutions about homosexuality) it passed by 77%

I was really really happy for that resolution. That is the resolution that is going to make it easier for me to talk about what happened this week with my conservative congregation. That is the resolution that I am going to cling to when some will inevitably bring up the question as to whether or not the congregation should leave the ELCA. (That and my favorite "Well I would be very sorry if you did that because I would no longer be able to be your pastor")

By now you should have heard that we have gone and done it. The assembly voted to find ways for those congregations who choose to do so, to recognize life long committed monogamous same sex relationships and to accept as rostered leaders those who are in such relationships. As you may remember, I predicted they would pass.

I do understand how difficult this is for some people. For many years I experienced something of a cognitive dissonance between the way I had been taught to believe what the bible said about homosexuality and all the gay people I knew who were faithful, gifted people who had much to share with the church.

But let me just share this between you and me (and God knows who else reads this blog) I'm getting a little annoyed and and fed up and not wanting to respect the bound consciences of all. I believe there are ELCA members in real pain and confusion over this. But I just am not buying all the tears of those who are more public about it. I commented about how annoyed I was to hear people take up assembly time at the mike yesterday to share their pain. I was frankly disgusted with Pr. David Glesne from Minneapolis who, after Bishop Anderson gave some very graceful and wise pastoral remarks, claims personal privilege and gets up to tell us all what a terrible thing we have done and how much we've hurt him. In other words, "the hell you with bishop and everyone else I disagree with - I do not respect your bound conscience" But we are supposed to be compassionate and respect his bound conscience.

WELL I DON'T WANNA! I don't want to respect the bound conscience of people who are going to throw that phrase which they don't believe in and will not adhere to back in my face to constantly tell me how hurt they are. I do not want to respect the bound conscience of people who have publicly compared gays and lesbians to dog poop and cattle who have gotten out of the gate. I do not want to respect the bound conscience of people who think a mild tornado that did very little damage was some kind of judgment of God.

But my church has committed itself to do so. And more importantly, Christ bids me do so. That's what it means to be part of the church. And so I will take a deep breath and forgive them. And continue to pray for us all.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thurs AM – “Quasi Committee of the Whole”

The assembly met this morning as "Quasi Committee of the Whole" which is a way to allow more discussion of an issue in a less formal matter. The discussion was on Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies

From the Task Force for the ELCA Studies on Sexuality. You can find these recommendations here

This was a very calm, graceful and even reasonable discussion. I'm going to outline what I thought were the more reasonable arguments against the recommendations. I didn't agree with the arguments but I thought they were well reasoned.

Also I want to recognize that there are people who desperately want to support the idea of ordaining gay and lesbian pastors, but their way of looking at the bible just will not allow them to do that. I don't think there are many people like that, but they are here and I'm sure this is very difficult for them.

First something unreasonable - we began the discussion not with one but TWO people who had to point out how hurtful and disrespectful it was to the "bound conscience" of those who opposed passage of the sexuality statement to hear applause after it passed. I just wasn't feeling the sympathy for these folks because a) those folks ridicule the whole notion of "bound conscience" and yet want to use it to play the "this was so hurtful" victim card and b) not okay to applaud and express joy at the passage but it is okay for not one but TWO people to express at the mike in front of the whole assembly, their "pain" that they didn't get their way. Okaaay....

Bishop expresses sorrow for their "pain" and we move on.

One of the arguments that I think is important to address is the ecumenical question. There are many of our own partner Lutheran bodies in Asia and Africa that are just appalled at the idea of ordaining gays. As a letter from a bishop in Hong Kong put it - "This is embarrassing for us" But what occurred to me was - what must it be like to be a gay or lesbian person in such a culture? It was very helpful to have Barbara Rossing, a member of the Lutheran World Federation to point out that the organization is in fact in the middle of a five year study on "Marriage, Family and Human Sexuality" to help us figure out how we live and work together with differing view on these things. The LWF is made up of churches who deny ordination to women, divorced persons as well as German and Swedish churches which do ordain gay and lesbians in committed relationships. So I think the dire predictions about the end of ecumenism, while important to consider, are overstated.

Someone asked "If moving in this direction is the work of the Holy Spirit, then why haven't all the other churches been moved to go this way by the Spirit?" You have to admit, that is a good question.

Someone else made a very good point that those who opposed ordination of non-celibate gays are not saying that gay people are going to hell. But the church does have a right and an obligation to criticize people who are behaving in dangerous, destructive sexual behavior. I agree with that. I just don't see life-long monogamous relationships among gay people as dangerous or destructive.

Someone else thought all this focus on sexuality was keeping us from doing mission. And yet I think of all the mission we ARE doing.

I'm just going to share two of my favorite arguments for the recommendations - to the worry that this is going to be church dividing, someone pointed out that for 500 years Lutherans have insisted that the basis for our unity is Word and Sacrament. Nothing else.

And I just liked the guy who talked about Lillo and Stitch and how you don't leave family behind just because they are not what you wanted or expected.

ELCA Churchwide Assembly -Odds and Ends

Just a few observations.

Listen folks. If you are a voting member of a Churchwide Assembly and you have any plans to go up to the mike - here's some advice. READ YOUR FREAKING MATERIAL. Read your schedule. Make sure you know things like the difference between the sexuality statement and the policy recommendations. And read up on your Robert Rules of Order. Otherwise you will surely look like a fool. If you haven't and you have any questions, ask the person next to you. Ask your bishop. Don't come to the mike and waste everyone's time and make yourself and your synod look stupid.

Who at Augsburg-Fortress thought it would be a good idea to send their salespeople to a "How to be as pushy as a used car salesman" workshop? Really you cannot go into that room without getting jumped on by these salespeople, who I think outnumber customers. If you feel you must ask me if I need some help, fine, ask and then go away when I say I'm just looking. I don't need you to pick up items and shove them in my face. I don't need you to keep asking "Have you seen this, have you seen that?" after I've politely told to I like to browse. And I certainly don't need you to keep up the sales spiel after I've been so creeped out I've turned my back on you an am walking out (without having spent a dime). I understand Augsburg-Fortress is having trouble staying afloat, but trust me, this is NOT the answer.

And a shout out to Wyvetta Bullock who works in the Bishop's Office. I just loved her suit. She looked great. Beautiful fitting turquoise suit. I'm sure she's a very competent gift to the work of the church as well. But I want her suit! And I want to look like her in that suit!

Coming up - a summary of this morning's Plenary Discussion on the Ministry Recommendations

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

ELCA passes Sexuality Statement and Survives Tornado

I'm in the Big City of Minneapolis tonight. Right here in downtown at my Hotwire discount room at the Radisson.

I arrived this morning, met up with a few people. It was about noon and with the afternoon session not starting until 2:30 I just didn't want to hang around at the Convention Center so I checked into my hotel. I was planning to go back and then there were tornado warnings on TV. Hmm...that looks like where I am. Turns out a tornado touched down very close to the Convention Center where the Assembly is meeting. They were not letting anyone out of the building. I was about a mile away watching the storm from the 13th floor. The front desk promised me they'd call if we needed to leave the room. So I watched the discussion on the Sexuality Statement on live feed here in my hotel.

I'm going to go out on a limb and make a prediction that this assembly is going to pass some sort of recommendation to accept gay and lesbian rostered leaders in committed relationships.

It's not that those opposed to the direction we seem to be headed didn't try to derail the train. There were amendments saying marriage is between a man and a woman, amendments to say marriage is for children. This amendment brought some very poignant pleas from infertile women to please not put in language that suggests childless marriages are without blessing -pleas which were pretty much ignored by those intent on turning the statement into some sort of weird idolatry of marriage and the nuclear family. That insensitivity was pretty disturbing. But then so is this weird idea of marriage being part of God's plan for our salvation. People! We are Lutheran, not Mormon!

At one point someone made a motion to "Bring all matters before the house" NOOOO I have BAD memories of this evil motion. This is what happened to me at the 1993 Churchwide Assembly when we were discussing amendments to the proposal to institute a 3 fold ministry structure. I got no beef with Bishop Herbert Chilstrom but in this case he did not explain the consequences of that motion. Everyone thought it would bring an end to discussion about amendments. ends ALL discussion about anything on the floor. So we did not discuss the proposal on the 3 fold ministry itself. We just voted. I was so pissed off because as I mentioned above, I was really unclear about this proposal and was looking forward to the debate. Yes I was a voting member who had not made up her mind and was hoping to learn something from the debate. Which never happened. So I voted no.

Fortunately Bishop Hansen was very good about explaining the consequences of this motion and it was voted down. But someone motioned to accept the Ad Hoc Resolutions committee's recommendations to not approve any other amendments. And that passed. This assembly was not interested in being distracted or derailed. Nor were they particularly interested in listening to debate and or discussion. We were just subject to a few people reading the bible at us (Really? You think I've never heard that verse in regards to this subject??)

And then there was Al Quie. He went on about how sorry he was that he never lectured his gay assistant on morality because then he died of AIDS. But that's not the worst. He gave this advice to someone else who was reluctant to break up with the woman he was having an affair with because she might commit suicide. "I told him if she wants to kill herself, that's her own business, that's not your problem." WHAT??? This is morality?? I'm thinking WHO IS THIS GUY??? And then I find out - he is the freaking ex-governor of Minnisota??? And I thought Jesse Ventura was just a temporary lapse of judgment. No, Minnesota has a history of electing weird governors. Well now they have Brett Favre so they have enough trouble... (don't EVEN get this Packer fan started on THAT whiney baby)

Well the assembly was not willing to listen to much more of this crap. The question was called pretty quickly. And the vote taken and the Sexuality Statement passed by EXACTLY 2/3. Make of it what you will.

Hold on to your hats folks....there's a new wind blowing....

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pastor On the Streets

Pastor Megan Roher is spending the week sleeping on the streets in Minneapolis during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly to draw attention to the problem of poverty and homelessness. Check out her Blog Homeless Retreat --I
I think it's a very good reminder for us that although the sexuality discussion is important, there ARE other things for us to be about as the people of God.

ELCA 2009 Churchwide Assembly –Day 1 in the Books

Wednesday I'm driving up to Minneapolis for a couple of days to observe the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. That's my church body's decision making gathering that happens every three years. I was a voting member back in 1993 when it was in Kansas City and our big decision was whether or not to adopt a 3 fold (Bishop-Pastor-Deacon) ministry structure. The most frustrating part of that was that I could not get anyone to give me a straight answer to either of two questions -a) just what is the difference between an Associate in Ministry (lay ministers we have now) and a deacon, and what difference it would changing our structure make? Since then lots of people have given me answers but they've all been different and contradicted each other so I'm still not sorry I voted against it.

Of course the big decision laying over voting members this year in Minneapolis is whether or not to recognize same sex marriage and to allow ordained pastors who are in life-long monogamous same sex relationships. Oh and there's a sexuality social statement that basically says, "We don't know for sure about this" (And don't get me wrong, I happen to think that is a fine stance to take on most issues)

I'm looking forward to going up, getting a little time away and meeting folks I have gotten to know through the internet. But really, I could stay home and watch it on live feed like I did for the first plenary session last night. It was really fun to watch it and read commentary and tweet my own commentary on Twitter. Gotta love modern technology.

Last night what would normally be a routine rather boring discussion of rules became quite important for setting the stage for Friday's vote on the ministry recommendations. According to the rules that we have used for every other meeting, social statements require a so-called "Super Majority" of 2/3. Policy recommendations require only a simple majority. This is the way it has always been. This is not a plot to take over the world by a simple majority. The motion to ordain women did not take place through a simple majority. The rule is so important that it would require a 2/3 majority to change it.

So the motion was to change the rules and require a super majority to pass any of the policy recommendations to recognize same sex marriage or to ordain pastors who are in same sex relationships.

When I first heard about this, honestly I thought it was a good idea. I was thinking along the terms of my bishop. The bishops recommended the Church Council implement this rule change, because according to what my bishop said, anything this divisive would just go over better if it was passed overwhelmingly. My bishop is a very reasonable man, who is bishop in a conservative synod and is trying to keep us all together. He's not trying to manipulate the rules to get his way.

Unfortunately it has become clear to me that most people advocating this super majority rule change are more in the latter category. One of my tweets was "So if the recommendations pass with a super-majority you who oppose them will be okay and willing to go along with the will of the church?" One person said yes. One said he'd know then that he should leave the church. And someone else said something about thwarting the hopes and dreams of the church with dishonesty. Huh?

As I was watching the discussion go on way too long I was beginning to regret my decision to actually be there when the vote takes place on the policy recommendations. I forgot how much it annoys me how some people just feel like they HAVE to go to the mike even though they are not saying anything either new or profound. The arguments about the need for a super majority so that we could speak with "one voice" and have unity just did not ring true with me.

This is going to be a divisive decision, regardless of how it goes or how it is passed. A super majority is not going to make the losing side happy. And I'm tired of hearing all this angst about the "angry people in the pews" who are going to take their marbles and go home if we decide to recognize God's call to gay people in committed relationships. (Actually we are not even voting to do that – we are voting to be willing to abide in the same church with those who do and those who don't) What about the people who have left already because of the way we do things now? What about all the congregations who have been excluded from full participation in the ELCA because they like their gay non-celibate pastor very much and are quietly without any whining just going about the work of God, many of them even sending financial support to the mission of the ELCA? Are they less important?

Anyway the super majority motion lost. I have a feeling their will be more procedural attempts to get in the way of the vote on the policy recommendations. I also have a feeling the assembly will not have any of it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rachmaninoff in Honour of Mary

"Virgin Birthgiver of God, rejoice! Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Saviour of our souls!"

Mary - Theotokos

Icon by Kenneth Dowdy

Men have crowded all her glory into a single phrase: The Mother of God. No one can say anything greater of her. ~ Martin Luther

Mary is the Mother of God.

Sometimes Protestants don't like to hear that. Even on our Lutheran Calendar, we call this day of her commemoration, "Mary, Mother of Our Lord" rather than "Mary, Mother of God"

But if you have any understanding of the Holy Trinity or even of the Incarnation, you have to confess Mary as Theotokos, or "God Bearer" as the Church did at the Third Ecumenical at Ephesus in 431.

Protestants sometimes veer off into ancient heresies with simplistic formulations like Mary was the mother of the human part of Jesus and God was the Father of the Divine part of Jesus. BUZZZ! WRONG!! Jesus is fully human and fully divine and Mary carried the whole Jesus, God in Flesh in her womb. If you don't get that , you need to go back and study your church history, Nestorius in particular, because he had the same problem. His side lost. The Church, in her wisdom, decreed that you cannot separate Jesus into a human and divine part.

Unfortunately I don't think today's problem with thinking of Mary has anything to do with confusion about the nature of Christ. People would actually have to have some theological background for that. I think it's partly our discomfort with the whole idea of Incarnation. Of God actually being in a womb and being born in blood and pain and messiness. We are always trying to keep God out of the messiness of our lives. Far better to keep God off far away - because then we can imagine we can leave the messiness of this world to get to God, rather than accept that God comes to us in our messiness.

There may be some sexism involved in the push to diminish Mary's role in our redemption. God forbid there be anything female about God or salvation. Although I haven't noticed that that either the Roman or Eastern church, both whom highly exalt Mary have been particularly respectful of the role of women who aren't both virgins and mothers.

I always enjoyed the way Sojourner Truth ended her famous "Ain't I a Woman" speech:

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More on Nicole Bobek

Very good, long article at ESPN about the rise and fall of former national figure skating champion, Nicole Bobek.

Why do some people rise above their upbringing and circumstances and some don't? And why do I care so much and feel so much compassion for Nicole Bobek when all I want to do is slap Tonya Harding?

Nelson: Sour times for America's ex-sweetheart

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Morning Skating Video

So I was talking about little little girls on the ice.

I don't know this just doesn't seem evil like beauty pageants. It's cute!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tomato Blight

See this leaf? This is what started showing up on my tomato plants nearly a month ago. It's Blight. It's spreads. It kills everything green on your tomato.

Ever since I've been growing tomatoes I've dealt with Blight. By cutting off every branch close to the ground, cutting off every leaf with even one spot on it and spraying Daconil I can keep it under control until the frost. But usually it doesn't come until much later so that I've had a good crop of tomatoes and I'm usually just saving the end of the harvest. But when it starts this soon -I think there are just some plants that are going to be done once the tomatoes on there are ripe. I just can't get any new growth.

I'm not the only one. There's an editorial about how bad it is in today's New York Times.
You Say Tomato, I say Agricultural Disaster

Apparently there was a bad batch of plants that went out to some big name stores. And I did buy a few plants from Home Depot and I think those are the ones that are bad. So far the plants I started by seed are under control. That'll teach me to buy plants. Next year - only seeds I start myself.

I don't like to eat raw tomatoes. I grow all paste tomatoes and can the sauce. That takes a lot of tomatoes. I don't think I'm going to have enough this year.

But the wonderful thing about gardening? There's always next year!

And if THAT Didn't Make you Throw Up...

Check out the Creepiest Worship ever...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Toddlers and Tiaras ...or How to Make Yourself Throw Up in Your Mouth

Ever since I got Dish Satellite TV I have discovered...there are a LOT of weird TV shows out there. What a sheltered life I have led watching network TV...(no really I had no idea who John and Kate were until very recently)

The weirdest TV shows are about so-called "real" people...who are really strange. I find myself in a hypnotic trance surfing from people who work in a tattoo parlor, to a cake shop, to a bridal dress shop, to a pawn shop. Quite amazing!

But watching Toddlers and Tiaras is like watching a train wreck. I know I shouldn't support this evil like I know I shouldn't go into Walmart (even though they have the cheapest price for my cats' favorite food..) but I can't help myself.

So this show follows little children in beauty pageants. Little little children! Little girls in curlers and false eyelashes who crawl around on the floor saying "I'm a chipmunk" - which would be cute IF THEY WERE PLAYING IN THEIR OWN HOME not about to be paraded like the sex objects their parents can't even wait for them to grow up to be.

WHO DOES THIS TO THEIR CHILDREN??? From what I can tell, I'll just say it and be politically incorrect....fat women and men who seem very gay to me do this to their children. Or like the father last night who knew and said out loud that it was wrong to pit their 6-year-old twin daughters against each other but apparently doesn't have the balls to put his foot down with his wife who smiles at the camera and without any shame explains how one of the twins "looks just like her mama" and is very pretty and wins more than her sister. Although I do give him credit for refusing to let the "pretty" twin finish the contest when she was having a melt-down and throwing a temper tantrum. Which left the ugly duckling daughter to win ..and Mom didn't even have to good grace to hide her shock that the daughter who doesn't look like her would win something!

What gave me pause is that the pretty dresses, makeup, hair...well this goes on in my beloved sport - Figure Skating. Little little girls are dressed up and put on the ice who often have to be carried out to their spot. I will say that MY daughter did not begin to compete until she was 11. And she didn't wear the really glitzy dresses - they were more sporty. We couldn't afford the fancier dresses. And at least you are judged by a skill, not how you look. I've even heard skating judges say they don't approve of the real fancy dresses for little girls because "what will they have to look forward to when they are older?"

I say there's no right age for a beauty pageant. If I were Queen of the world I would ban them all for everyone. But what is the right age for children to begin competing? Is there something wrong with a 4-year-old working on a skill like figure skating or tennis or gymnastics instead of playing? What exactly "is" a normal childhood? Playing all day and having no responsibilities or goals?

In skating, I've seen very talented children who would cry when you told them it was time to get off the ice. I've also seen parents nag and yell and push their children mercilessly. It's a delicate balance for parents, how much we push and how much we let them decide what is enough. When we moved I wouldn't let my daughter quit high school band (she played the flute) because I knew that would be a good way for her to make friends. She was not happy. But guess where most of her new friends were from? But another time I pushed her to take a skating test she was ready to give up on and it did not go well.
We do the best we can and as long as we are clear that we are doing this for our children, not ourselves...they will survive our mistakes. But NO BEAUTY PAGEANTS PLEASE!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sam the Koala Dies

Remember Sam the Koala who was rescued from the terrible fires last February in Australia? I posted a picture of Sam and her new friend Bob hugging. She had inoperable cysts and had to be euthanized. Poor little thing. Hopefully she'll have plenty of folks to greet her at the Rainbow Bridge. (Which I believe in, BTW)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My Version of Melissa's Flexible 4-Step Chicken

I recently got Dish TV and discovered the Food Network. I had it on cable before but it was only on the downstairs TV which I just never watched much. Now I get dish TV on all my TVs. I mostly watch TV when I'm in bed, what can I say?

I just LOVE the Food Network. I got hooked on the reality "Next Food Network Star" a few weeks ago and then Sunday they had a marathon rerun so I could watch every episode, which I did instead of napping. And I was rooting for Melissa, the homemaker who was looked down upon by the other professional chefs. And she ultimately won. I liked the second place guy, Jefferey, but Melissa always made things I would actually try.

Like her Flexible 4 -Step Chicken. What I love about this is that you can switch ingredients around.

I made these last night - BEFORE I found the recipe. So this recipe is a mixture of HER recipe, what I did and what I WOULD have done differently (I needed a little more liquid, and more orange juice.

3 Boneless Chicken breasts (she has 4 but I only had 3 in the package and there were only two of us-and I did not cut or butterfly them)
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Cup Chicken Broth
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 Oranges (I used small clementines because that's what I had but I would suggest more oranges to get more orange flavor)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter

When I dredge chicken in flour, I like to egg it first to give it more of a batter. Don't be afraid of the cayenne pepper, it just gives it a little spark. Because I cooked the whole chicken breast, it took longer and I found that lowering the heat, adding some wine in the pan and putting the lid on it after a few minutes, it cooked it without burning or drying it out. When the chicken is done, take the chicken out and I put it in the oven at 200 to keep it warm

Then cook the onions and garlic in the same pan. I added some more olive oil. When the onions are transparent and caramelized, then add the liquids, turn up the heat and cook for awhile until it starts to get thick. Take it off the heat and add the butter.

This was just delicious. I could not believe how good those onions were. And the chicken was very moist.

We had green beans fresh from my garden with this. I like to nuke my green beans in the microwave with a little water for about 5 minutes (we like our beans on the crunchy side), add some butter, lemon, garlic salt and lemon pepper.

My daughter said we should try this recipe with pork and add apples to the onions.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday Afternoon Skating Video - a little early

Michelle Kwan announced Friday that she would not return to skating, putting an end to hopes and speculation that she might come back and try again for that elusive Olympic Gold Medal. She has another life now. Skating will always be a part of me,” Kwan said.

“But, in the bigger picture of my life, I have always wanted to find a career that will allow me to make a positive contribution and difference in the world. Representing the United States as an American Public Diplomacy Envoy the past three years has been very rewarding, and I want to do more. Furthering my education will bring me closer to that goal, and I don't want to wait any longer to continue the journey.”
This is a young woman with a good head on her shoulder and she's not living in the past and wasting her life chasing some elusive dream which just isn't that meaningful in the long run.

This is a very poignant number skated to Eva Cassidy's version of "Fields of Gold" My daughter skated to this for her Senior Solo at our Ice show in 2008. It still makes me cry.