Sunday, September 27, 2009

Let's start a post and see what flows forth.

I just came upon Cheesehead's post from Thursday, and she has a point. Lots of us are blogging less frequently. It's not all for the same reasons, as you can see from her comments, but as the social media landscape continues to blow about like so much sand, it's true that different demands on our time, online or offline, play into it.

I haven't blogged in a week, and though for a while I had been much more consistent, I realize that consistency had a lot to do with the remodeling our kitchen, and not much about life in general.

One factor of holding back on blogging is that I'm not anonymous. So there's lots of stuff I could write, but won't.

Another one: My schedule has been packed. Have had to pay attention to other things on Friday mornings lately, which means skipping the RevGals' Friday Five. And yesterday was my first obligation-free Saturday in weeks. I spent it walking dogs, hanging out on the couch finishing up The Vicar of Dibley on DVD, taking supper to some friends, playing a round of Scrabble with The Alpha. Doing laundry in between all of those things, too. And yes, intentionally staying a little less connected to the Intarwebs than is typical.

I feel a list coming on. Category? Who needs one? I don't.

- Actually cooked a meal on Friday and had a friend over for lunch. She ate everything I put before her: salad, apricot chicken (a recipe shared by a neighbor just before I got married, which was a great help in my newlywedhood), even the brownie that turned out to be a bit under-done, despite my having checked it according to the instructions on the box. Such a gracious woman! (It helps if you really do like brownie batter, as we both do...)

- Introduced my friend's four-year-old to Alice Cooper and Vincent Price, via a DVD of The Muppet Show (really, she picked that disk herself... no kidding).

- Getting excited about going to visit Zorra and The Scientist soon.

- As instructed by my sweet niece, bugged said niece about getting an engagement photo made. Hasn't worked yet. My powers may be weakening.

- I get my temporary crown replaced with the real one in 2 days, and look forward to being able to once again chew on the right side of my mouth.

- Halloween decorations go up this Thursday. I'm trying to convince The Alpha to wait until someone else is here to help him before he hauls out the sections of wrought-iron fence. This is no prop. It's a real fence, given to us upon a friend's backyard reconfiguration last fall. It's freakishly heavy. I'll take more pics of the setup than I did last year.

- How are you?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tough talk update

For those who commented on my recent rant/post: Thought you might like to know that The Alpha and I pretty much purged the anger out of our stewardship talk. Not until 11:30 the night before, mind you, but we did do it. Here's the script, very similar to what we delivered at two worship services this morning.

ALPHA: During this focus on our membership vows in the context of stewardship, The Typist and I have been talking over what we might say.

TYPIST: Two words that have come to mind are Vision and Commitment. For us, they go hand in hand.

ALPHA: The best description of vision I’ve seen is something Bobby Kennedy said, which I’ll paraphrase: “Some people look at the way the world is and say, ‘Why?’ I dream of the way the world could be and ask ‘Why not?”

TYPIST: Commitment is deeper than just being involved. The difference between "involvement" and "commitment" is like a ham-and-egg breakfast: the chicken was "involved"; the pig was "committed."

ALPHA: Commitment without Vision is drudgery. Why are you committed, and what are you committed to, if there’s no vision behind it?

TYPIST: And Vision without Commitment is just wishful thinking. How are you going to help vision become reality if you’re not willing to work toward it?
In our culture we don’t make vows very often – but vows are to be taken seriously. When my parents had me baptized as an infant, they made vows before God and the church about how they would raise me. Through those vows, they made a commitment to a vision for my life, and that’s one of the biggest reasons I stand before you today.

ALPHA: When we got married, we took vows. In our 13 years of marriage, we’ve encountered situations where the words, “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health” mattered. We’re committed to each other, and to a common vision for our marriage, and are stronger for it.

TYPIST: We have vision beyond our own household, though. We have a vision that a family will have enough to eat. That’s why we’re committed to the Food Share ministry.

ALPHA: We have a vision that young people will grow strong in their own personal faith. That’s why we’re committed to the youth ministry.

TYPIST: We had a vision of a new, well-built, and welcoming facility. That’s why we’re committed to the Capital Campaign.

ALPHA: We have a vision of God’s people transforming the world by making disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s why we’re committed to uphold the church through our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

TYPIST: There was a time when we didn’t take our membership vows quite as seriously. But when we arrived at here nine years ago, something changed. It was in this place that we, as a family, made our first real commitment to a community of faith. Our lives are sustained by the prayers we vowed to pray. Our presence here is a requirement for us: If we are in town and well enough to leave the house, we are here on Sunday morning. We made a vow to be here. And when things have been less than comfortable here, we’ve stayed committed, waiting to see what God’s vision would be for us in this place.

ALPHA: Vowing to uphold the church with our gifts has helped us grow in generosity and faith. If you’d told us ten years ago that we would be tithing by the time we hit our early thirties, we wouldn’t have believed it. Yet, several years ago, we began to work up to giving that 10 percent, and here we are. It’s like physical exercise; you have to start where you are, and be willing to work harder to reach a higher goal. Even incremental improvement is still improvement. Working at our giving has helped us grow spiritually.

TYPIST: Our service has taken many forms here: things like working with the youth, teaching Sunday school, serving as a member of the choir and of MorningSong, sticking it out through committee meetings. Less-noticeable things, too, like setting up and taking down tables and chairs, folding bulletins, and making sure the lights get turned off after classes.
Our faith community means so much to us, and we are thankful that this church has helped us become willing to stay committed to a vision higher than our own, and we joyfully renew that commitment at every opportunity.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oh, teh cuteness.

I think that I need to make time very soon to go through all the pics I took of a certain sweet puppy girl nine years ago and submit any napping shots to this site.

Now, follow the link and start up with the "Awwwww"s.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tough talk

So, I volunteered us (The Alpha and me) to give a talk during our church's annual stewardship focus (for the uninitiated, that's the church version of the public television pledge drive). Our turn is one week from today.

Typically, people have been sharing what our faith community means to them, and maybe a little about giving.

The Alpha and I have strong opinions about what this faith community means to us. It means a great deal to us. We could have found various excuses or opportunities over the years to give up and walk away from it. Others have, but we haven't. That's not who we are.

The investments we make in this faith community mean a great deal to us, too. This is the place where we really began to understand that our lives and our money can make a positive difference in the world. That we really do have the power to help feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick. That it really is our job to do all those things.

I think where The Alpha and I tend to get bogged down, though, is that we notice all the ways in which we aren't, as a church community, living up to our potential. The average United Methodist gives less than 2 percent of his or her annual income. He and I realized years ago that we could do better than that, and started moving toward tithing -- giving 10 percent of our incomes. Now that we are tithing, it seems easy. It took years of working up to that goal to reach it, though. We want to encourage others to do the same... which is where the urge to rant begins:

We want to say, Seriously, y'all. Come. ON. Isn't our church community worth more than an average of 2 percent of our incomes? Don't y'all like having electricity in this pretty new building we moved into last year? Wouldn't you love it if the youth didn't come before you to beg for money for their mission trip? If we all gave up front, they wouldn't have to do that.

My personal favorite example of misplaced effort is the church auction
[which, this year, is the night before The Alpha and I are speaking to the congregation]. People spend a lot of time planning, gathering donations, and working really hard so we can essentially convince ourselves to give a few thousand more dollars to ourselves -- in the form of moving it from our own bank accounts to the church's account. What if all that time and work could be used on mission instead? If we all really took a hard look at where our money goes, we wouldn't need extra funds from a church auction, or a variety show, or a chili supper, or any other kind of fund raiser. Instead, we'd have the time we spend on those events freed up... to do more ministry!

As The Alpha likes to say, "This church has all the money it needs to carry out any number of ministries. The trick is getting it out of people's pockets."

Abundance, y'all. The vast majority of our congregation has it. There are people all around us who we could be reaching with the love of Christ if y'all would quit pretending you're poor when you come to church, but that you're rich when you go to the mall.

But I'm guessing all that shame would backfire on us.

I've got to quit fantasizing about grabbing people by the scruff of the neck, demanding to see last year's income tax statement, showing them how to calculate 10 percent of that number, and rearranging their checkbooks so it works out. That isn't our job.

That isn't our job. That isn't our job. That isn't our job. Really, it isn't. So we're not going to do it. It isn't our job.

Ideas for how to do what is our job, anyone?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Another who's being missed this week.

Sweet Amie, who came to visit us this spring, has gone on to claim her golden tail. She was a darling girl, and I had the privilege of spending time with her on two occasions. Please keep Zorra and The Scientist in your prayers as they grieve.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Peace for Steve

After a long struggle, Steve Damm is at peace.

Please pray for Tyra, Cooper, and Katie as they grieve and give thanks for the amazing life of their beloved husband and daddy.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Recharged/ recharging Friday Five

It's been way too long since I played the RevGals' Friday Five, and Sally's invitation today was just perfect for me, so here we go... Sally writes:

A few weeks ago my lap-top battery died, suddenly I found myself looking at a blank screen and was rather relieved to find that it was only the battery and not the whole computer that had failed. This morning a new battery arrived in the post, and suddenly I am mobile again!

After a week with what feels like wall to wall meetings, and Synod looming on the horizon for tomorrow I find myself pondering my own need to recharge my batteries. This afternoon Tim and I are setting off to explore the countryside around our new home, I always find that walking in the fresh air away from phones and e-mails recharges me. But that is not the only thing that restores my soul, so do some people, books, pieces of music etc....

So I wonder what/who gives you energy?

1. Is there a person who encourages and uplifts you, whose company you seek when you are feeling low? Just this week I sought out Mid-Life Rookie for that very reason. Thanks, friend.

2. How about a piece of music that either invigorates or relaxes you? Oh, this is almost too difficult to answer. I've been listening to a lot of Terri Hendrix lately. A couple of months ago she gave me permission to sing one of her songs in worship, so the band worked it up, and it fit really well with what our pastor was preaching. She's a wonderful musician, composer, and person.
But I'm thinking it's probably time for a change of pace in my listening habits -- even good stuff can get you in a rut. So today, right now (hang on a sec...), I'm pulling out some of my long-time musical comfort food: Billy Joel's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1. Ahhh.... Piano Man...

3. Which book of the Bible do you most readily turn to for refreshment and encouragement? Is there a particular story that brings you hope? While I have a few problems with Paul, he did write some spiritually-uplifting gems. Romans 8:28 comes to mind, as do verses 35-39 just a few sentences later.

4. A bracing walk or a cosy fireside? (Notice Sally's British spelling of "cozy." Lovely!) I think one, followed by the other, would be refreshing. (Unfortunately, there are storms in the forecast and the high today is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit where I live, so neither will be happening.)

5. Are you feeling refreshed and restored at the moment or in need of recharging, write a prayer or a prayer request to finish this weeks Friday Five.... Oh, am I ever in need of recharging! I realized a couple of days ago that I don't have a free Saturday until the end of the month. Friends are coming this weekend, and I'm looking forward to spending time with them, but the next two Saturdays are booked with church-nerd activities. I'd appreciate prayers for my energy level and a positive outlook.