Friday, December 29, 2006

Outdoor Ministry Affects on the Church

Voyageurs Lutheran Ministry reports "We give thinks to God for the number of VLM staff members who have heard God's call to ministry. A number are already serving as clergy and youth directors. Of course, many more do ministry within congregations as active lay members. However, at this time,VLM has an astonishing 14 former staff in seminary study. We give great praise to God for touching their lives and calling them to service in the church."

As a child and teen camper, I looked up to my counselors and aspired to be one of them one day. It didn't happen. I certainly didn't have the right personality and verve as a young adult to do that work. But I know so many young people who got interested in Christian service and became counselors. Or maybe it was the other way around.

It is hard to attract counselors because the camps can't provide pay that is competative to what the young people really need to finance their college education. And camps struggle with attacting enough campers due to all the competition out there for kid's attention. Camps also struggle with fund raising, since in many areas with a high concentration of Lutheran churches there is declining/aging population.

The church as a whole needs to continue to subsidize camps because of the fine Christian support and friendships developed there for the campers and because of the seeds that are planted, both in the campers and in the counselors.

Nurture these seeds. May God bless us with a big crop of pastors!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Faith

I recently called my relative, the one I've mentioned helping out during health problems in the past 6 months. I said, "Will you be lonely being alone this Christmas?" She said, "It will be OK. Jesus was born."

This was both her simple and deep expression of faith.

May God bless her and you this Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Not a Happy Christmas Story

When I read a news article telling about some sexual indiscretion or alleged misconduct by a person I have no connection to, my reaction is to think in two dimensional terms: How stupid. How could he? How could this person let his urges get the best of him and ruin his career and hurt those around him?

Of course, it is easy to be judgmental. And if I’m in an honest mood, it is too easy to list any number of things that I’ve decided to not do again....for which the resolution lasted all of 15inutes.

In the context of sin in general, I believe that all sins separate us from God, and all sins are forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. So I am no better when I sin than somebody who does a “big” sin. And I am no better or worse when I am forgiven than any other person loved by the Lord.

But it is true that many sins and actions have consequences that are devastating and long lasting for the sinner and for those around him/her.

Maybe I drive drunk only one time with a horrible result. Maybe someone shoots a gun in the air for joy but the bullet hits a child.

The context of my thoughts: A respected mentor to a person I care about has admitted sexually inappropriate behavior. The news reports state that it wasn’t illegal behavior. The mentor had to resign his position.

Now the people around him have complex emotions to deal with. His institution is tainted in some people’s eyes. And other people he was a mentor to may have some of this reflected on them. All his good work is tainted by one action.

My thinking on this matter is no longer simplistic. This doesn’t mean that I excuse this behavior. But I know that God forgives.

May God work peace in the hearts of all affected by this situation.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wal-Mart joke for subversives

Wal-Mart joke.

Christmas Decorations

I have an uncomfortable relationship with Christmas decorations and decorating. Mostly, I want, desperately, to be NOT like the world, i.e. the commercial establishments, that decorate even before Thanksgiving and then are so, so tired of these red and green do dads, that they take them down on Dec. 26. Freudian slip: I wrote "red and greed."

But decorating just before Dec. 25 so that my decorations are up until Ephiphany makes me feel like I'm just behind again and dull. Besides, if we travel for the holidays, we don't even get to enjoy our own decorations.

So I compromise by doing some Advent activites and slowly getting out the Christmas related decorations.

And what does it mean to be Christmas related? Now that is a good question. It seems that anything at all that is red, green, gold, or can hang on a tree is Christmasy.

I was looking at my ornaments, most of which I purchased, and asking myself, "What does this have to do with Christmas?" But I found one little tacky plastic ornament that actually has a Christmas message. Glory be to God for His Son!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Are Churches Replacing Altars with Stages? ,,

Pamela Jackson's new novel, On This Side of Heaven, reviewed here

Apparently this author feels that this is a problem because she has started a group called Restore: “I founded the RESTORE Group to help restore brokenness resulting from wounds created in the church, and to strengthen the body of Christ as a whole.”

The title of this book review caught my eye. Obviously, there are denominations within Christianity that haven't used altars traditionally. Since my tradition does use an altar and the speaker's platform, ie the pulpit, is off center, I feel like the "center of attention" is the altar and the cross. When I've visited in houses of worship in other traditions, I find myself wondering, "Why is my worship directed toward the pastor who is in the center of the platform?" Well, obviously, that is just a mind set. But I can see why morphing toward a "stage" with "performers" (in some people's opinion) isn't as great a change for some groups.

I've also wondered, when occassionally seeing TV "worship services" with this set up, do people who sing to God in public have to be so good looking? Do they have to dress to the nines? What about the praise, songs, and worship of the regular schmucks like me? If I were in one of these big "churches" would I be allowed to join the choir?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Working with the Victims of AIDS in Nigeria

I've just posted a new link in the side bar for the Mashia Foundation in Jos, Nigeria. This is a ministry begun in 1999 by a husband and wife who saw the needs among the people, primarily women and children, affected by AIDS. They are doing amazing work, teaching the women skills to increase their income, taking care of and educating children, helping to change the adoption laws so that the children have a chance at a "forever family."

My connection to this ministry is just that I am friends with the founder's mother, who lives in my town. Please check out the link to see what wonderful work this young couple is doing in Nigeria.

"Mashiah Foundation (Hebrew for Messiah) is a Christian, non-governmental organization that reaches out to people infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. The ministry began in 1999 when Mary Beth and Bayo Oyebade saw the needs brought on by the devastation of AIDS in Nigeria. They started out in a very limited way funding the programs from Mary Beth's teaching salary. This included various materials, salaries and rent. As word of the ministry spread, donations began to come in enabling them to expand in many areas."

But you O God,
do see trouble and grief;
you consider it
to take it in hand.
The victim commits
himself to you;
you are the helper
of the fatherless.
Psalm 10:14

Monday, December 11, 2006

Trip to The God's Child Project, Guatemala

The volunteer crew, including my family members, at the building site in Guatemala, taking a break. Note the small "footprint" of the house to be built and the condition of the existing home.
Clothing distribution, Guatemala. Donated clothing is shipped from N.D. to be distributed to needy families.
A worship service at the Dreamer Center, Guatemala.

The God’s Child Project

Some of my family traveled in Guatemala in 2002 to do a service project with the Gods’ Child Project. There they met the founder, Patrick Atkinson, saw the needs of the people, helped distribute clothing, and helped build two houses for two families in need.

This organization is based in Bismarck, North Dakota, serves people in Guatemala, El Salvador, Malawi, and in the southern part of the US, including people displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

When my teenage son came back, in winter, he was wearing sandals. “Its winter in Minnesota,” I reminded him, at the airport. But he had given his shoes to help the poor people who come to the Dreamer Center in Guatemala. I was impressed that he had seen this need and acted on it. He hadn’t given away “extra” shoes, but the only pair he had taken with him. His shoes at home were too small.

This trip gave my children a small taste of life in another country and an exposure to the struggles that many people, especially children, in other countries face every day.

Follow the links below to learn more.

Please consider a gift, large or small, to this worthy organization. Perhaps even give up something so that The God’s Child Project can help others. Thank You!

The God’s Child Project as reported on ABC NEWS

The God’s Child Project Mission Statement

The God’s Child Project North Central, who we are

The God’s Child Project history and finances

The God’s Child Project awards and recognition

The Dreamer Center

The God’s Child Project El Salvador

The God’s Child Project Africa

The God’s Child Project Help Now

Giving, Giving What?

Ah, the Christmas season…the Christmas shopping season. What to get; what to give? Who do I include on my list? Who do I lop off my list? What a problem: what do I get for the person who has everything?

Well, few of us have “everything” but many (most of us who would be at a computer to read this) have “enough.” Enough stuff. Too much stuff. What do I get rid of now? How can I get rid of that; it was a gift from my dear ___? But I don’t need more things.

I’m not a shoppaholic in the usual sense, but I’ve been known to have my moments. I will seldom come home with “too many clothes” but I’ve been known to buy more for ME than I buy for others if I get pointed in the direction of a store that carries items related to my hobbies.

As I’ve related in previous posts, I’m helping with the situation of a relative who has been ill. She kept everything. If she got new slippers, well the old ones are still there, “just in case.” And she views gifts as somehow sacred. She will never get rid of something that has been given to her as a gift, even if it isn’t her taste, is taking up too much room, is unnecessary to her life, or even when it has gotten old and worn out. I think that by hanging onto excess stuff, she missed opportunities to give useful items to people in need.

And so I’ve been reevaluating my own possessions. Yes, I have too much in certain categories. Compared to the closets of many Americans, my collection of clothes is small, but that is only “in comparison.” After all, I can only wear one pair of pants, one shirt, and one sweater at a time. There is a saying, “She who dies with the most stuff, still dies.”

I actually have been paring down in some other areas. There is a test: if you haven’t used it in two years, throw it out. I’m adding another test: when I have to dig behind too many things on the self to find a certain item, something has to go.

Back to Christmas shopping: How should I reevaluate my shopping in light of the too much stuff stuffing the closets of many of my giftees? Three ideas come to mind: Give the gift of time, give the gift of service, or give to a charity in the name of my loved ones.

A worthy charity that I have personal knowledge of and which puts the donations directly to service is The God’s Child Project. Please consider this group when you make decisions about giving to others this Christmas. We've found that some of our relatives have been pleased and touched when we've given in their name to this organization and others like it.

More about The God’s Child Project in the next posting.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

21st Century Lutherans at the Confluence of Religion and Ethnicity

"A Mighty Fortress" Far from Lake Wobegon: Selected photographs and audio-visual recordings and hymnals from twenty different Lutheran services in the Twin Cities illustrate our increasing global urban lnadscape and challenge archaic assumptions of who Minnesotan Lutherans are.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Birthday Meme

Via several other bloggers

The Rules:
1) Go to Wikipedia
2) In the search box, type your birth month and day but not the year.
3) List three events that happened on your birthday
4) List two important birthdays and one death
5) One holiday or observance (if any)

Events: George Washington marries Martha Custis.
FM radio is demonstrated to the FCC for the first time.
Major league baseball player Jackie Robinson retires.

Birthdays: Walter Mondale, politician (a Minnesotan, of course)
Alfred Brendel, pianist (love his recordings of Schubert!!!!)

Death: George Washinton Carver, American educator

Observance: The eleventh day of Christmas in Western Christianity (which I still celebrate, because I don't believe in all this celebration before Christmas Day.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pastors in Worship

I attended a short worship/communion service today. There were 12 pastors and 5 lay people. Besides being a meaningful service, it was great because several of the pastors had great singing voices and they also were using their "public" voices during the worship, even as 11 of them were in the pews. So the Amens and other prayer words were loudly proclaimed.

Could it be that pastors wish that the usual lay people in the pews would speak up more?


Who'd have thought? The oldest mosque in the US is in Cedar Rapids, Ia. I just saw this on CNN. Sorry, I can't get a good link to this information. I think it will be shown again later in the evening.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Poetry about the Bible

I just posted a link (see side bar) to the Camp Loony Muse which has poetry on Biblical subject matter. I was moved by the directness and depth of the message of these poems. There is almost no informatin about the author, but he does provide a link to the ELCA, so that is a clue.

How's your knowledge of Middle East Geography

This quiz challenged me. Try it!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Raffles are gambling

After the Lutheran Zephyr posted regarding gambling, I found this joke and I couldn’t resist posting it. Did I tell you I hate raffles, especially in church.

Donkey Raffle

A Cajun named Jean Paul moved to Texas and bought a donkey from an old farmer for $100.00. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. The next day the farmer drove up and said, "Sorry, but I got some bad news. The donkey died."

"Well then, just give me my money back."

"Cain't do that. I went and spent it already."

"OK then, just unload the donkey."

"What ya gonna do with em."

"I'm gonna raffle him off."

"Ya cain't raffle off a dead donkey!"

"Sure I can. Watch me. I just won't tell anyone he's dead."

A month later the farmer met up with the Cajun and asked, "What happened with the dead donkey?"

"I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at $2.00 apiece and made a profit of $898.00."

"Didn't no one complain?"

"Just the guy who won. So I gave him his $2.00 back."

Friday, November 17, 2006

is Sunday your Sabbath? What do you do?

The news story about the Lutheran woman who won a case because she didn’t want to be forced to work on Sundays interested me. Here are some thoughts that have been swirling in my mind regarding when we worship and if there are alternatives provided for worshipers. Don’t expect any logical conclusions or logical progressions of ideas here. Hey, I’m Lutheran; I live in the “tension” and in “the question.”

When I was a child, the pastor preached from the pulpit that women shouldn’t work, and people shouldn’t work on Sundays. Well, his wife was a nurse. When they needed her income because their boys would soon be going to college, she went to work. And being a nurse, she often had to work on Sundays. Of course, that was explained away as being one of those necessary jobs.

And, of course, when I was a child, most stores weren’t open on Sundays. Or evenings. People actually had to plan better. And the economy wasn’t as vigorous. I really don’t know how families got their business done. Dad would have taken the car to work, and by the time he was home, mom could shop, but many of the stores were closed.

Sunday worship was a given. Most churches I was aware of had at least two services on Sunday morning, so there was some choice and flexibility. Large churches had many Sunday services.

In the area where I currently live, most of the churches have only one Sunday morning service. My church has toyed with the idea of an alternative worship time for years, but there were always arguments against this, such as the pastor’s preaching not being as fresh, the organist had too far to drive to do it twice; we would lose the “sense of family” which one service provided. [Wednesday evening Lenten services are attended by a committed group of about 50 people.]

Meanwhile, the local Catholic Church with a priest who is already stretched by serving churches in two towns has provided a Saturday alternative mass for years.

And the culture has changed. The Big Box stores opened on Sundays.
The local stores have to be open at least a few hours on Sundays to keep from losing too much business. More restaurants are open on Sundays. Lots of people have developed a tradition of going out to eat after Sunday services. And we pick up groceries of the way home from church, as well. At the grocery store close to church, they have a predictable “Lutheran Hour” as well as a “Baptist Hour.”

We used to have a Sunday School class at church for teens. Now the conventional wisdom is that “they have to work on weekends.”

And people travel more on weekends.

Last year my pastor said to me, “People don’t go to church as much as they used to.” We all know that. But the next weekend, as I was eating in a restaurant on a Sunday morning because I was on my way to my daughter’s concert at a Lutheran College, I suddenly had this light bulb moment. Christians are contributing to this cultural change of people not attending church “because they have to work on weekends.”

That begs several questions for me: Are we commanded to worship on Sundays? Is an alternative worship time acceptable (to God) Biblically? Do our churches serve our populations by providing an alternative worship time?

Two other notes: While surfing some other Lutheran blogs, I ran across opinions about worshiping on other days being wrong. This made me wonder about doctrine of various churches on this point.

I recently received a book in the mail from an acquaintance called, “Ten Commandments Twice Removed” by Shelton and Quinn. This apparently has Seventh Day Adventist overtones, but doesn’t overtly say so. It does promote worship during the OT Sabbath day. On the back cover it says, “Is our defense of the Ten Commandments triggered simply by a sentimental interest of Christian culture? Is it possible the Church stands before God as guilty as our government for discarding the Decalogue?”

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lutheran Wins Religious Discrimination Case

It is good to see that a Lutheran person stood up for her convictions. It does make me think about how much we all seem to cave in to the society and culture in large and small ways. What have you been taught that is "Biblical" that you don't follow in your daily life? Or things you know are commanded in the Bible that you don't do? I'm not talking about the obvious "big sins," but the smaller things that have slid away in the rush of our daily life.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Own.........

My own living room, my own bedroom, my own bed, my own space, my own noise, my own TV shows, my own radio show choices, my own food on my own plate, my own bath tub, ....
my own everything! I'm back home to my own (still cold) house!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Oh, Lord, I need patience and grace toward others!

I'm once again far from home, dealing with the family situation I've alluded to earlier. My family member has been moved to another care facility which, I hope, will work out well in the long run for her.

What is "the long run" when we are dealing with the elderly? The other person and I, who are in charge of all of this, have had to make decisions based on some assumptions and on input from the elderly person, even when we might not agree with it.

The "other person" has some different strengths and professional background than I do, so that part is working out well, since my work background is also helpful. However, the other person and I are driving each other crazy, due to our very strong foibles. I feel like I'm getting stuck doing things we should share, because she backs out. But, I'm holding to some boundaries of my own. Lord, help us both!

Yet, we are able to have moments of joy and laughter with our elderly loved one.

I am so looking forward to getting home again. Now I have to look at forecasts before I drive, darn it. The weather doesn't look good for driving this coming week.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The danger of spiritual isolation

Haggard and the Challenge of Finishing Well

"In his book The Making of a Leader, Dr. Robert Clinton of Fuller Seminary notes that few leaders finish well…including less than 30% of leaders in the Bible! Even many of the biblical figures who did finish well--Jacob, Moses, Aaron and David, to name but a few--experienced significant moral lapses in mid-race that undermined their ministries......."

Seven Deadly (Inward) Sins

The situation of Rev. Haggard somehow made me think of the Seven Deadly Sins, which I was able to look up on, see below. "Sin" is not listed in two encyclopedias I consulted.

The ancient Christians came up with this list that is certainly relevant in any era. It is interesting to me that it isn't exactly a parallel to the Ten Commandments, although several of these are are about "coveting" what others have.
Luther's explanations of the commandments explain not only what we are NOT to do, but also what we are TO DO. In that way, I find them a good summary to think of when I confess my sins of omission on Sunday mornings.

The short explanation of the Seven Deadly Sins, as listed below, shows that each has a spiritual dimension. They are sins that happen primarily within ourselves, in our own minds and hearts and spirits. In a superficial sense, they don't hurt other people, at least not in the short run.
I am also struck by the correspondence of these sins to the values that are encouraged in contemporary American culture. They may, in some respects, be the fuel of our economy. These Sins can put us on an unhealthy treadmill we can't escape, and which leaves us no time for Sabbath and spiritual reflection.

How do our American churches encourage these "values?"

Pride is excessive belief in one's own abilities, that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride is also known as Vanity.

Envy is the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation.

Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.

Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body.

Anger is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury. It is also known as Wrath.

Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is also called Avarice or Covetousness.

Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.

Vatican Against Hanging Saddam

The Catholic beliefs on the sanctity of life extends to Saddam Hussein, who was condemned to be hanged.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Things I've Done and Back Again

Things I've Done


Between Oct. 20 and Oct. 29 I was away from home again, covering 1600 miles.  I’m still not back in the saddle, especially when I realize I will probably be making a 1000 mile round trip next week again. 

So, I’ve been enjoying reading blogs again, catching up when I can, but I haven’t had the emotional energy to post anything, which isn’t to say that I haven’t thought of anything.  I do feel strongly that my faith influences my life and my life influences how I think of God, so I’ve had a lot of timely thoughts, but no inner resources to do much except get the toilets cleaned, etc.


However, Anastasia and LP posted this list, which I found interesting.  I don’t have to think too much to do it.  I've bolded the things I have done. Everyone else who wants to play can play.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain (sort of, an easy mountain, Mt. Lassen)
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula

07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise.
14. Seen the Northern Lights (just last month! But that wasn’t the only time.)
15. Gone to a huge sports game (and survived the crush afterwards)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars

20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk.
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales (almost, the raft ride was cancelled.)
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe.
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan (I’m counting this one because I’ve been to Korea which is even less visited than Japan.)
55. Milked a cow - I was in 4-H when I was a kid!!!
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient site (I’m counting ancient Native American burial mounds)
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo - yeah, one or two
81. Rafted the Snake River--no, but I kayaked Lake Yellowstone
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date (actually tried to avoid getting kissed, it was YUK)

89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house

91. Been in a combat zone  (The DMZ, officially still at war)
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently well enough to have a decent conversation
95. Performed in Rocky

96. Raised (raising) children (child)
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication (letters to the editor???)
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart

111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone

114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol (would you believe I did this at a Lutheran Camp and at Luther League.  Times have changed, haven’t they?)
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the 118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days  (5 days)
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read - I didn't read Salinger until just a couple of years ago
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions (only went to one)
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream depressing though, that.
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair

147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I am again away from home, visiting the ill relative, dealing with some of the “business” that comes up at these times.  That includes negotiating the financial system by poking into the relative’s finances and trying to figure out how to pay the bills, make the money stretch, and then, eventually, get this person “into the system” so that the government pays for the care at the end of life.


[We have, by the way, a government in this country which is committed, at least in principle, for care of the elderly, assuming that people spend their own money first and the family is able to negotiate through the paperwork maze.  I’ve been told that it isn’t an adversarial system, but that if the government people find that the family is trying to hide assets, that’s it, no help.  And I think our elderly would want it that way.  They are usually not the type to want to go on “welfare.”}


So yesterday I was checking into alternatives to the current care my relative is getting.  The big question is, what to do when the money runs out, which place will take the lower payments that the government pays out, which means Medicaid.  Many places won’t take this.  I checked out a very nice care facility yesterday that takes an alternate government program.  The administrator was very surprised that I hadn’t yet been told of this program.  I was too, considering we’ve been to see social workers, a lawyer, and a person in the office of aging.  Then there is talk of the assessment and the long waiting list. 


I know that this is where I have to be and what I have to be doing at this stage of my life.  But it is hard.  I make a 1000 mile round trip when I come here and I’m away from home and my usual activities, and I also have grown children to visit or be there for when they come home.  I don’t know how I will handle this when winter driving is bad.


Then there is the house:  I posted previously that “You Can’t Take It With You” applies to the nursing home as well at to heaven.  This relative never threw out anything.  The relative who lived there previously saved too much as well.  Perhaps there is money to be made in selling some old stuff, but I don’t have an interest in that.  And I don’t need a new hobby. 


Resolution for myself:  Don’t put THAT burden on my kids.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Going away again.

I'm going away again.   Five days of fun, I hope.  Since I've been gone so much, this fun trip is seeming like work, and I'm only in the packing stage.  I'm really tired. 
Then next week, I'll again be traveling for family reasons.  Each time, it is over 1000 miles round trip. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Links in a Post

Posting the links embedded in a post drives me crazy. It works about 1/2 of the time. When it doesn't work, I don't know why because I try to do it the same way each time. I also can't get consistant results with the fonts. I like to be fussy with my work, so this is annoying.

Higher Education, how do we support our students?

I spent part of last week at a conference at one of our wonderful Lutheran colleges. I know that these colleges provide an excellent education to those students who work hard to receive it. I also know that these places cost big bucks to attend. I am sure that they try their best to provide Christian support and encouragement to the students. Often, students find a sense of vocation that has the Hand of God guiding their choices.

That said, I have wondered how much our Lutheran colleges work toward teaching the students to be "of the world, but not in the world" as Christians. It is NOT evident that they teach anything counter to the American condition (and even Christian American condition!!!) of Affulenza.

I'm reposting an essay I wrote awhile ago about our colleges.

My husband and I are grads of Lutheran colleges, as are two of our children. The other child will graduate from a college of another Christian tradition. We are all "above average" intellectually and attend churches and volunteer in them.

So I guess the Lutheran colleges did their jobs: to educate us and to help build church leaders. I think often and with thankfulness of the Lutheran college I attended.

But think what a narrow segment of the population in general, and even the Lutheran population, attend Lutheran colleges. They aim to recruit the cream of the crop from high schools, maybe the top 10 or 20% of the class, and/or students that have other outstanding talents or interesting backgrounds. Given the cost of private college these days, only those people who qualify for lots of financial aid and know enough to apply for it, or those whose families have saved enough for college can afford to attend. [Or the student steps into a large loan with little education of what this means for the future. But that is the subject for another time.]

Some Lutheran denominations have a presence next to the campuses of larger state universities in the form of Lutheran Houses. How much outreach they provide I don’t know, but I did use one of these houses as a place to hang out at one university I attended.

What kind of support or encouragement do we give to the more “average” students attending state colleges? How about tech schools and smaller junior colleges? Do we encourage spiritual development in any way in students learning welding, electrician skills, police academy? Do we support a sense of vocation in those students to whom God has given great mechanical aptitude or those with an interest in hairdressing or cooking?

If someone has an obvious artistic talent or a gift of music, we might readily say that this comes from God and give that person (spiritual) vocational encouragement. Our Lutheran colleges are especially good in the area of music. But would we not want the mechanic who works on the Boeing 707 to also feel a sense of vocation or calling, and therefore be diligent in his/her work?

Even jobs that don’t take an education have value and should be honored. What hospital would keep a good reputation for very long if the cleaning staff wasn’t diligent?

People of God: let us honor all workers around us, encourage people spiritually by honoring their choice of job and vocation, encourage society to provide a living wage to all who do necessary work, no matter how “lowly.” And let’s encourage the Church to provide spiritual support and encouragement to all students, not just the top 20% of the high school classes.

Volunteer work and hobbies can also be part of a person’s vocation. Several times I have felt a strong call from God to volunteer in certain areas, mostly church related. Consequently, I don’t have a problem saying NO when I don’t feel called.

Originally posted 02/06/2006

Unexpected Stained Glass Window

The light of God breaks through the ruins of our lives in unexpected places. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Pastor's Appreciation Month

The Bible tells us that our good works do come back to us. Here is a little true story about how appreciating and helping a pastor came back to help our family.

Some years ago, my mother's church got a new pastor who had a very young family. My mother volunteered to take care of the kids while they moved into their house. She continued to help with the kids off and on while they were preschoolers. Because of this, my mom became friends with the pastor's parents, who, it turns out, have a summer home in my town, so we sometimes saw him here.

Two pastorates later, this pastor's new church was in the city down the road. When my mother would visit me, she would stop to see this pastor, and when she would drive through another city, she would stop to see the pastor's parents. I urged my son to meet up with my mom at these peoples' house. He got along well with the pastor's parents and did chores for them. He became friends with another son, who, two years later, did some networking to get my son a coveted internship in a business in a large city.

Meanwhile, when I was hospitalized, that pastor visited me in the hospital because it was in the same city as his church.

I doubt that we would feel this close to a pastor that my mom had so many years ago if she hadn't gone out of her way to help him.

I copied this (see below) from Singing Owl. No matter what our job, there can't be too much appreciation.
From via Singing Owl

12 Ways to Appreciate Your Pastor

When we look at our pastor or minister what do we see? A spiritual giant? Someone who can go it alone? Someone who works a day and a half a week? A servant of the congregation? Someone who does it all?

The truth is that clergy are real people with real families, dreams, needs, desires and gifts. And like all of us, they shine best in situations where they are appreciated and supported. Here are a dozen ways you can bring out the best in your pastor:

1 Write a note of appreciation.

2 Pray for your pastor regularly.

3 Stop the rumor mill.

4 Invite him or her out to lunch, golfing, or some other shared interest, without an agenda.

5 Offer to baby-sit the kids so pastor and spouse can have an evening together; even better, offer them a gift certificate to a restaurant they enjoy.

6 Honor his or her day off – allow time for rest, personal renewal and family time.

7 In times of loss, offer sympathy, care and practical help.

8 Consider holidays and other family days – if the pastor is far from their family of origin, invite them to your celebration – no strings attached.

9 Ask him or her how you can help and then follow through.

10 Tell him or her what you’ve learned from their sermon.

11 Go to for ideas on how to celebrate your minister during Pastor Appreciation Month.

12 Consider a sabbatical time for your pastor and find a way to provide one as needed.

Pastors Retreat Network provides pastors and their spouses with a five-day, self-directed retreat experience that is free of charge. It is a time to rest, spiritually renew, and reconnect with God and spouse. Consider how an experience like this might benefit your minister. For more information, please visit our Web site --

Enjoying church???

While I was gone again this past week, I ran across a local opinion newspaper called the Reader Weekly ( Unfortunately, they are behind in posting to the web. I do love well written opinion pieces. This newspaper is definitely full of opinions, and they don't slant to the right! It would probably go up in flames if touched by a Christian-right-Republican. It was interesting, none-the-less.

One article, by Paul Ryan, was entitled, "Nobody enjoys church, not even God." Basically, the guy doesn't like anything about traditional church services. And who ever said that we all have to have the same taste in anything? His concluding paragraph says, in part, "The main problem with church services is they just don't inspire me.....If I'm going to attend something meant to enlighten me, I'd sure as hell better feel at least partly enlightened when it's done. Instead, I just sit there bored, feeling guilty every time I check my watch.....Some church leaders would have us believe that it's our fault for not being interested but is it really? It's not my job to make church relevant. Relate to me, or I'll just stay home and watch football...."

Which begs the question, "why do people attend church anyway?"

I guess I attend both to worship (what I do) and to be fed (what comes to me) through the service. Each week the percentage of each probably varies. Sometimes I attend out of habit, sometimes because there is something special going on, and sometimes I really do want to be there to worship. A Catholic friend of mine says she would tell her kids when they complained about having to attend church, "If you don't have one thing to give thanks for from this past week, well, then you have a sad life."

But who can blame the writer, or any person who has a less-than-deep understanding of the "worship" service for feeling as he does? Perhaps this is why there is a segment of the American Christian church that uses entertainment type music and preaching and other "attractions." Maybe it is meant to hook people with the secular-type goodies, and then give a dollop of the Word of God, but maybe don't be too challenging with what part of the word is preached.

I saw a church ad in the Rochester, Mn newspaper last week for a church which stated, "We are not seeker sensitive and not purpose driven." Now that made me wonder if they are insensitive and without purpose.

Last weekend I attended the church of a relative. It is an old fashioned type of Lutheran Church. The songs dragged on and I could hardly hear anybody singing but us. The liturgy was scant (that is what is in their book.) And the preacher gave a very basic sermon based on Jeremiah 11:18-20 titled, "It's in the Lord's Hands." I felt like he was talking to me and the others as if we were in 2nd grade. The whole theme was how God takes care of His people. If this had been in my own church, you can bet I'd have found a chance to ask the pastor, "But what about ____ and ____???"

Well, as soon as we got up to leave, I said to my companion, "I don't think he could preach that sermon the Sunday after someone in his congregation was murdered." My companion responded, "And not after the Tsunami." That was not the Word of God one could fall back on during hard times.

Quite frankly, I did my best to listen well, to sing praises, to participate during the liturgy, but I didn't feel all that worshipful during those draggy hymns, nor was I fed or inspired.

Hmmmm, why attend church?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Buy a truck, get a gun.

OK, I'm editing this, since I heard it again this morning. See below.

"Where else can you buy a truck and get a gun? Only at ________ dealership in _________."
Yep, I heard that on a local TV station during the evening news.
These domestic car manufacturers are really desperate.

"Where else can you buy a truck and get a gun? Only at ________ dealership in _________. Now, that's a blast."

I will never buy a car from this dealership. Wouldn't anyway, since it is too far away.

Stewardship book recommendation

Our church is at the beginning of a stewardship campaign, actually a mega-fund raiser, for a building project.  Part of the process, under the auspices of the ELCA Stewardship Key Leaders program, is for some members of the congregation to be part of the leadership process within our church.  One of their assignments is to read the book, “Ask, Thank, Tell” (Improving Stewardship Ministry in Your Congregation) by Charles R. Lane


I am recommending this book, not because I’ve read it yet, but because my husband is reading it and reporting to me that it is an excellent book, well written, easy to read, grounded in the Bible.  He says it presents the Biblical message of stewardship in ways that makes one think. 


He does not praise any book lightly.  And he has read a number of books on stewardship, service, and giving, so he has a lot to compare this to. 


And yes, I do hope to read the book, but I have some heavy family issues weighing on me in the next few months, and I know I will be away more than half of October.  I wanted to post this while I could.



When a Gift becomes a Burden

I have alluded to family issues in other posts.  The specifics, as far as I want to divulge them, are that a close elderly family member has had two serious health events and is in a nursing home.  I am part of the “team” that has to help make decisions as well as help with sorting out the financial issues.  I am in this position both in the emotional sense and in the legal sense.


I am not likely to inherit any money in this situation; nor am I looking for that to happen.  I am mentioning this only because it occurs to me that people in my situation could have conflicts of interests. 


Just in case you are not aware of the price of things these days, I’ll tell you that it costs about $6000/month to stay in a nursing home.  Living in Assisted Living is about 33 – 50% of that cost. 


So….. as a family member, I have to help weigh the costs, the health care needs, the social needs, and some intangibles regarding moving our loved one.  We have to make some decisions within a month.  And when the money is gone, then the government pays for the costs of taking care of the patient.  I am feeling overwhelmed.


In this case, the patient had the foresight to give the house to a family member some years ago.  This means that the family is not forced to sell the house to pay for the nursing home costs.  While this sounds good, it actually is a burden because the current owner has no money to pay for any of the ongoing expenses. 


As in all parts of life, there is no way to know the future, no certainty of how things will turn out.  This uncertainty is playing into the anxiety I feel about this.  I keep reminding myself that there is not certainty apart from my salvation.  When I feel burdened, I get a backache as if I’m wearing a yoke. 


I need to pray harder.