Friday, June 24, 2011

My Neighbors

Even though I have to drive an hour an a half just to shop at Target, I have some great neighbors:

There's the deer that come and hang out around dusk.  Five or six of them at a time, they make themselves right at home in my back yard. 

I first found this guy in my trash can.


And there was the Red Tailed Hawk fledgling that popped in one morning.

He was very loud and he pooped all over my front porch.

And in the pasture behind the barn - Black Angus cattle and their young uns

I guess you can go to Target anywhere, but neighbors like these are hard to come by.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why I am Not a Member of the Amish Fan Club

I had an esteemed colleague who believed that there was more than just stinginess at play when congregations underpaid their pastors.  

He believed that at some level, some church folk believe the financial sacrifices of their clergy rub off on them vicariously.  You know like extra merit points in the Medieval Catholic system. (Ok maybe not so medieval)  

I think he was on to something.  I also think that is what is at play with this silly love affair Americans seem to have with the "idea" of the Amish.  Nobody wants to live as they do but the idea that there are some people living off the land, unsullied by the evil of the world in the world, just makes us all a little bit more holy.

Well that's a lot of horsepoo.  There is nothing romantic or holy about the Amish.  The fact is the Amish have just as big a problem with sexual abuse and covering up as the more vilified Mormon cults.  Just google Amish sexual abuse and you'll see the problem.  

Sorry I just find nothing romantic about patriarchal closed communities.

And the Amish are the largest operators of puppy mills.  You know those places where dogs are kept in unspeakably cruel conditions and then sold sick and unsocialized to unsuspecting customers? 

 I was ranting about this to my son and he said,  "And you blame ALL the Amish for this?"  Yes.  Yes I do.  

A community that requires conformity and shuns those who don't comply must also bear responsibility for the behavior of their whole community.

So no, I don't want to read the latest book about how forgiving and loving the Amish are. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

You Never Know How the Spirit Will Blow

So if it were up to me, I would be fine going my whole career having never conducted a Polka Mass. I could have ended my ministry never having to sing  "Please Forgive me" to the tune "Please release me..." (which isn't even a polka but more Country Swing)

But as those of us in the ministry know, it's not up to me.  People in the midwest LOVE their Polkas.  I like a good polka.  At a wedding or a beer garden.  But it's really just a matter of taste that I don't care for it in church. And worship is not just about my taste.  I get a kick out of people who insist worship can only be classical music or German chorales and criticize those who like rock or pop or polka music by saying "oh they think worship is all about emotion" without admitting that it's all emotion for them too-- they just get their jollies from different music.
So I showed up to lead the community polka service this morning.  Or I thought I was going to lead it.  Really the polka band was leading it.  Already my nose was out of joint.  No mike for me, no podium for me to preach.  Where am I supposed to preach from?  "Oh last year the pastor didn't preach."   Immediately I wished I had listened to my first instinct which was to take this Sunday for vacation.

I had about 15 minutes before my sermon to figure out how I was going to hold my sermon and bulletin in one hand (a sermon nobody wanted to listen to) and the mike in the other and preach standing behind the band.  When it came time to preach I just left my sermon folded up and talked about Pentecost and the gifts of the spirit and how the spirit brings us all together even though we are all from different churches.  Honestly I don['t know what I said.  I made few jokes which I NEVER DO and people even laughed.  

Whatever I said, people told me it was perfect.  The few people I admitted to that I just made it up five minutes before were amazed and said they had no idea it was off the cuff.

I'm not writing this to brag about how wonderful I am.  I'm not wonderful.  I don't do this sort off the cuff stuff.  I don't even like to pray off the cuff.  It was the Holy Spirit.  It blows where it will

But next week I'll go back to the manuscript.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

And our Bishop IS the Coolest

And here's the proof - he and is wife were invited to a State Dinner at the White House - on his blog, Erik share's his dad's description of the evening.

Koinonia: Rubbing Elbows

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Seriously, the Northeastern Iowa Synod is the Best Synod in the ELCA

Our bishop is too modest to say so, but he did keep saying that the future of this synod looks very bright and he's right.

I just got back from our Synod Assembly.  I've been to many assemblies in many synods and usually I leave thinking "well that's three days of my life I will  never get back" (except for the late night poker games in Wisconsin back in the late 80s but I digress) but I left today feeling good about the church, the ELCA and my synod.  

No fighting, no wrangling, no scolding, no politcking, just uplifting and encouraging stories about the mission.  

Some highlights

A touching and inspiring tribute by the Bishop for L. David Brown, the first Bishop of the Northeastern Iowa Synod.  I thought our present bishop was the coolest bishop ever.  No. Bishop Brown was the coolest bishop ever.  In 1961 the Rev. Martin Luther King jr. was invited to speak at the ALC Youth Convention.  Then some of the bigwigs of the church though it best to uninvite him.  King uninvited himself, not wanting to be the cause of controversy.  It was Brown who talked him into coming.  He really was a remarkable man, you can read more information about him here: L. David Brown.  But it was really touching hearing our bishop speak of him because he always gets emotional about these things.

A keynote by one of our own, Pastor Steve Brackett who spoke of how his ministry at St. Paul in Postville led up to them being prepared to respond to the crisis when ICE raided the town.  I just think it was so cool to hear from one of our own, to remind us that WE are doing the work of God, here, in Podunk Iowa.

We also heard from the Rev. Twila Schock Director for Global Mission Support, ELCA, reminding us that yes, the ELCA is still doing Global Mission.

Our synod is one of the pilot synods to support the ELCA Malaria Campaign. We passed a resolution with a goal to raise $350,000 for the Malaria Campaign in three years.  We had people dressed up like farm animals holding a mosquito net to take pledges.  I mailed my pledge in last week.  I didn't know we were going to have an opportunity to throw it in a net held by people dressed up like farm animals.  I feel a little cheated.  Kind of like on 9/11/01 when everyone was giving blood--I couldn't because I had given blood the week before.  By the time the synod was over we had $60,000 in gifts and pledges.  

We passed a new synod structure, pretty much doing away with committees that meet because it says in the by laws they need to meet.  We are going to do business through networks and task forces.  Not sure how it's going to work, but I think it's pretty exciting that we are blazing the way.  And it passed with nary an argument.  Which I credit to the synod doing good work on educating folks about it beforehand and the fact that people pretty much trust the synod.  So different than the days in some synods (Ahem....WESTERN IOWA) where you couldn't even pass a budget without folks arguing and questioning nearly every line item. 

And because we did not spend time arguing, we had time at the end to have people come to the mike and tell the stories of mission going on in their congregations. 

There was nary a word about sex at this assembly.  Because the sad hard truth is that pretty much anyone that is unhappy about the sexuality statement or ministry recommendations has left the synod.  A lot of congregations and pastors have left.  We are a smaller synod with less money to work with.  But we are moving forward doing good stuff, instead of arguing about sex.  It's a good thing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When Justice Becomes a Reality Show

If you are in the US and you have the TV on at all you will have heard of Casey Anthony a 25 year old who is accused of killing her three year old girl and then going to a party.  (That going to the party afterwards is what really seems to piss people off)

I've been wanting to ignore this because...

a) Nancy Grace has a lot to do with it and I can't stand that judgmental, manipulaitive,, woman

b) I refuse to get sucked into the national pasttime of  playing jury. and deciding the guilt or innocence in cases we really know nothing about but we think we do because Nancy Grace has told us what to think

c)  Between my soft spot for screwed up single mothers and penchant for taking the side of the underdog, I don't want to believe she's guilty but even her parents think she did it ...and that's a bad sign.

It's her defense that is so disturbing.  She's claiming that the baby drowned in the pool and she didn't tell anyone and went to parties because she is screwed up because both her father and brother sexually abused her.

If she wasn't hated before, that defense has really pissed off the peanut gallery.  How dare she accuse this wonderful family of such a horrible thing?  If she's lying about that, that's a terrible thing to do to your own family.  And it's a terrible thing to do to real victims because it makes it even harder for others to be believed.

But but but....this happens in so called "wonderful families".  And it screws up people.  It would explain her behavior.   And I keep hearing "It can't be true because why would she let her father and brother near her daughter if they did that to her?"  Why indeed.  But it happens.  Victims serve up their own children to their abusers.

Not that all sexual abuse victims party after their babies accidentally drown. And she could just be a truly awful person.

But it's also possible she's telling the truth.  I'm just saying.  We don't know what happened.  A jury is going to have to decide what is justice for this world.  In the end, God will decide ultimate justice.  But let's not make Nancy Grace anymore rich or famous over this perverted tragedy.