Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Getting Ready for No Technology

I have a dream, that is starting to look like it will be reality, that I will be able to visit a certain African country later this year. I'm in training. We basically have no sewer system, at present, in our house. And today we have gone from having a water problem to having no water. The best solution to that would be to drill a new well, which probably would have to wait for late spring. The repair man has one more thing to try, IF he has a certain old part on a shelf somewhere in his shop. He is not hopeful that he can fix the problem.

The place I want to visit has almost no electric service, even in the city, because of drought. The lake level has gone down so much that the hydroelectric dam doesn't function properly.

They only recently got a well.

Toilets? I can only imagine.

This place has a residential school for 300 teens. How did they even function before they had the well?

Taking a broad view of the situation, instead of an America-centric view, I am thankful that I can drive 1.5 miles to a laundromat and I can take a shower at the school. Lack of flushing will be the most trying aspect of the next few months.

Now, if someone takes away my electricity and I can't get onto the computer or run my sewing machine, well, then .... well, then I guess you won't be able to read my complaints.

(Blue font in rememberance of clean water.)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Travel Pet Peeves and other thoughts.

I got back last evening from another of my 1000 mile trips to see my relative. I'm back before the double whammy snow storm is supposed to hit. However, we don't expect to receive snow here once again. We are still in a major drought, both from last summer's lack of rain and this winter's lack of snow. And yes, lack of snow is a problem because a good cover of snow is like a quilt protecting the earth.

My pet peeves: 1) Street-name signs at intersections that are small and hard enough to read in the daytime and almost impossible to see when it is dark out. Doesn't anybody realize that the purpose of signs is to communicate? There is no communication when the letters are small and the sign isn't near the street light.

2) People who pass me on the freeway and immediately pull over right in front of me so that I either have to slow down or tailgate. Hey, both lanes are wide open, speed up in the left lane, Ok?

I am very grateful that I can travel from one small town to another almost entirely on four lane roads. Our tax dollars at work for a good cause!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Communion and the Holy Ghost (part 3 on communion)

Ok, so I was too focused on the expression of the church on earth and not on the God of the Church.

I attended a church service today put on by "Trinity Lutheran Church" at a nursing home with my relative. I had no idea what type of Lutheran they might be, but I expected to feel the comfort of the liturgy and to pray and to worship, etc. And my expectations were well met. There was also a very good strong sermon, which was more than I expected because so many of that "congregation" were in wheelchairs, hunched over. I thought that might be simplified or shortened.

But I knew during the first sentence that I was in slightly unfamiliar territory. The service was opened in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I think it has been probably 45 years since I've heard about the Ghost.

Oops. And he had communion set out.

But we had a confession and I, along with all the people in the wheelchairs, hunched over, participating or not, were declared to have our sins forgiven.

And so, we all were served communion. Praise God. There was no hesitation on the part of the pastor.

There was a common cup. I have even bigger reservations about that in the nursing home setting than in church, but I guess there are germs everywhere anyway. [About a month ago, a really bad virus swept through that nursing facility and through the town, so there are good reasons for the warning signs on the door about not visiting if you have any signs of sickness.]

But how ironic. The Lutheran sub-denomination that I sought to avoid was the very one that served me communion.

And my own sub-denomination, that I attended yesterday, didn't have communion for Ash Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

No Communion

I went to very nice Ash Wednesday service this evening, all by myself, at a church of my denomination that is about 14 miles away. The sermon was on Psalm 51, about the difference between mercy and repentance. There was great choir music, confession and forgiveness, and appropriate hymns. But no communion. See previous posting. My fretting about communion was for naught.

BTW, there was kneeling during the confession. I can't kneel. I was fortunate that there was room for my legs and feet when the kneeler was folded down by another worshipper.

Ash Wednesday Church Choice

I'm away from home again, in another state. Today is Ash Wednesday. I've always been very "into" Lenten mid week worship services and the whole idea of preparing spiritually for Easter by trying to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, for me.

I've skipped church the Sundays I've been here in the past 8 months. That is partly due to laziness and partly due to a question of what time the Sunday services are. The churches that I could go to don't have that in the paper or phone book. Yes, I know I could call. The churches in my denomination are more than 10 miles away, so that is part of the problem. Also, I would have to attend alone.

But Ash Wednesday....I really want to attend this evening. Quite frankly, I would like to make sure that if I do go, I can take communion. What I don't know is if it is true that a person could be turned away from communion. There are two churches that are close, but I know that their denomination practices "close communion." I don't want to push this issue or go to church with some kind of emotional baggage about this.

So I have about 10 hours to decide what to do.

This makes me realize how and why people of faith can fall away from church attendance.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Moments of Truth and Learning

Every once in a while I have run smack dab into an incident that has broadened my viewpoint of the world and of other people.

When I was a child, my father had some health problems and some serious surgery. Although my parents didn’t share the details of their finances with me, it was obvious that we lived from paycheck to paycheck during the good times, when we would occasionally shop at the Good Will Store. When Dad was sick, my mother’s extreme frugalness was an important asset. I remember at Christmas time, we were the recipient of the charity of a group that helps out people in need. I remember receiving a new blouse from them with mixed emotions.

I know that period of time strengthened me, helped me make some sound frugal decisions later in life, and it also gave me a heart for the feelings of people in need. I learned well the difference between need and want.

When we were waiting for our foreign exchange student to arrive, we read the essays and questionnaires he had filled out. We thought we understood some of the information he had provided. Well, the information turned out to be literally true, but we missed the meaning by 180 degrees. When we later visited his country, we encountered places and situations and emotions that can’t be translated into words. Examples: imagine being among 11 million people living in the city that is physically the same square miles as a city in the US with, perhaps, one million people. What does it mean to have a “home” in such a city? And how is it that the teens go out and about on the busses and subways on their own for over 12-14 hours/day, everywhere, and the parents just accept that as natural?

While I know that I can be quite self-assured in my opinions, when I step back and reflect on these experiences, I try to remember to be more humble in thinking that I have the “right” interpretation of anything another person says or writes. For me, this also includes the meaning of Biblical passages. Sincere believers have come up with different (human) interpretations of scripture. The Pharisees sincerely knew their scriptures and tradition, but they missed the Christ in their sincerity and self-assured interpretation.

My very recent experiences with having a frozen sewer system and compromised water system has brought me face to face with a number of other people in the same boat when I go to the laundromat. [Since we’re in a severe drought, I guess that boat isn’t floating.] But, I had forgotten that there still are people who live without running water due to poverty. And there are people who are/will be in an expensive jam whenever we finally get thawed out. New sewer systems probably cost as much as $15,000. Can a person afford to be a strict environmentalist, following all the regulations, when you don’t have that kind of money? What laws and regulations can you break and still consider yourself a good citizen?

I am contemplating a trip later in the year to a country where I don’t expect to have the benefit of electricity, running water, flush toilets, or any other convenience that I take for granted. I guess I’m in boot camp training for the next few months.


That is a verb, as in “stuck between the two pieces of bread.” It is more like being chopped ham with pickle relish and mayonnaise (yuck), spread on the bread, the other piece of bread placed on top, and then the bully in the class sits on it.

I’m in the sandwich generation. That is a term for the people who are still responsible for their offspring, but their parents are getting to the age of needing care, so they are in the “sandwich.” You could say that they are pulled in two directions, but I feel more like I’m being squashed.

Our remaining parents are age 89 and 90. We still have two kids who are “in our household” although, we are officially empty nesters.

There isn’t a usual age range for having to take care of parents. There are people who still have the responsibility of smaller children who find themselves splitting their time caretaking their parents. I know people in our congregation who are retired, with grey hair and wrinkles, but their parents are still alive, but needing help.

I’m in a sandwich between two of my children. Mark Twain said, "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."

My girl, a college student, still thinks I’m the dumbest thing on two legs. My son, officially just graduated from college, calls me almost everyday to ask advice. Some of the things he has asked me would take an omniscient God to answer. No, I don’t know where you are to turn when you are driving on Washington Ave. I don’t know where you are going, and I don’t know where you are presently.

My daughter’s comments really dig at me. Part of me thinks, “Am I really that bad?” Part of me thinks, “Did I really do that bad of a job raising her?” And then she says something so over the top that I know it is about HER not me.

On the home front, I guess the house is the sandwich filling. The sewer pipe seems to be frozen solid about 70 feet from the house. The bread on the other side of the sandwich is the incoming water line….something is wrong. It is too cold to have this diagnosed, much less fixed. Maybe next week.

My husband was also sandwich filling. I called my husband at work earlier this week to warn him that he would be coming home to a sewer problem. I had to call him again today to tell him about the pump problem and suggest that he buy a certain device. He was wise enough to know his ignorance about this situation and did some research on the internet. He decided that my solution wasn’t the answer, so he saved $200.

So it goes. I worry. I know that worry doesn’t help anything. I pray. I need water. We are getting company. So I write.

No running water. But what about no home?

My last post was a complaint, dressed up a bit, about our water and sewer problem. So at church today, I mentioned this to the woman next to me in choir. I found out that she doesn't have running water and uses a porta-pot even on a good day. She has a well outside the house, so she can get fresh water, but she can't shower in her house.
But she does have a place to live, and she is keeping somewhat warm. I guess we are past the cold spell; it is 11.6 degrees F right now at 5:00 pm.

My husband visited a church in a very small city about 2 weeks ago for the ELCA's orientation to the new hymnal. He said that church, the musicians, the organ, all were wonderful. He told me that in the fellowship hall, there were six cloth-sided booths along one wall where they have places for six homeless people every night. That sounds like a wonderful commitment to social service. But then I think about this: those people have to be "put out on the street" every day. How can that be done in this bitter weather we've been having?

Aside: he picked up a copy of that church's annual report. They have a monthly mortgage payment of $15,000. I found this astonishing because I know that many churches would barely have twice that to pay an employee for a year. Clearly this congregation has people who make commitments.

Man cannot live by bread alone. Can’t get along without water either.

I’ve been contemplating the saying that bread is the staff of life. I was thinking that this was a Biblical phrase until I looked it up, and its origin, apparently, was after the KJV was written down. What is “staff?” It is something that “upholds or sustains.” So Jesus could have said that bread was the staff of life as long as he mentioned that water is even more important.

And the Bible does use water, quite literally, and also figuratively, as that part of the physical creation that does save and sustain us. I love that long prayer/recitation in the baptismal liturgy about the role of water in our faith story throughout history.

In the Bible, there are references to wells. Water was drawn up before it could be “had” and used. I don’t know that there are any references to where the water goes when it is used, i.e. waste water. I’m not caring to look this up at the moment.

I will be even more appreciative of water over the next few months. Earlier this week, we became aware (Phew….) that our septic system had a problem. After paying two men quite a bit of money to have the line steamed out, we found out that the problem is apparently way beyond the reach of their steam hose and not fixable until spring thaw. That could be a long while unless global warming takes hold here.

So in spite of our environmental awareness and desire to follow such regulations, our woods will be watered for the next few months.

THEN I realized that the incoming water pump was running every six minutes. We have some kind of a (non) pressure problem. To keep the pump from burning out, we’ve unplugged it. We need to go into the basement to plug it in when we need running water…..which is much less often than usual because we are trying to severely conserve water because of the septic system problem.

We’ve remarked often at how trouble free our utilities have been throughout the years. Well all things have a life span, I guess. And this bitter cold with flags-flying-straight-out wind, coupled with only about 3 inches of hard packed snow that hasn’t increased one wit since mid December, has driven the cold deep into the ground. We are far from the only people affected by this weather.

But the house has been warm and the cars have started. And we own warm jackets and mittens. This will be tiresome, but it could be worse. I will try to be thankful for what we do have.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Cold Is Not an Issue in MINNESOTA

60 above zero:
Floridians turn on the heat.
People in MINNESOTA plant gardens.

50 above zero:
Californians shiver uncontrollably.
People in DULUTH sunbathe.

40 above zero:
Italian & English cars won't start.
People in MINNESOTA drive with the windows down.

32 above zero:
Distilled water freezes.
The water in LEECH LAKE gets thicker.

20 above zero:
Floridians wear coats, thermal underwear, gloves and wool hats.
People in MINNESOTA throw on a flannel shirt.

15 above zero:
New York landlords finally turn up the heat.
People in MINNESOTA have the last cookout before it gets cold.

People in Miami all die.
People in MINNESOTA close the windows.

10 below zero:
Californians fly away to Mexico
People in MINNESOTA get out their winter coats.

25 below zero:
Hollywood disintegrates.
The Girl Scouts in MINNESOTA are selling cookies door to door.

40 below zero:
Washington DC runs out of hot air.
People in MINNESOTA let the dogs sleep indoors.

100 below zero:
Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
MINNESOTANS get upset because they can't start the Mini-Van.

460 below zero:
ALL atomic motion stops (absolute zero on the Kelvin scale.)
People in MINNESOTA start saying..."Cold 'nuff fer ya?"

500 below zero:
Hell freezes over.
MINNESOTA public schools will open 2 hours late.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Iraqi Church Ponders American Church

Quoted from a book, at this blog.

Powerful thought. What do you think?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Pastor Appreciation.....?

I have one of those site meters on my blog. Sometimes I'm able to see what place a visitor is referred from. The most frequent seems to be someone who has Goggled "Clergy appreciation," which I wrote about some time ago. However, recently, someone came to my site after Goggling "biblical foundations against clergy appreciation day . " They must really have it in for their pastor if they are looking for Biblical excuses to not appreciate the man or woman leading their worship.