Friday, August 31, 2007

And then I cried.....

Yesterday, one of the blogs I read, peaked my interest in NSF Gruntvig, so before sleeping, I was reading the texts to a few of his hymns. I'm a person with wide ranging curiosities, so reading faith related blogs has brought me in contact with many "new" topics.

Then I slept hard for 7 hours.

Then I awoke, I walked stiffly to the bathroom.

Then I thought, "The most well thought out theology and philosophy just doesn't cut it when someone is murdered."

And then I cried.
(See previous two posts.)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Grieving, Grieving

Ed. note: the number in paragraph 5 was revised upward after I remember three friends who drowned some years ago.

All God's children are precious and we should grieve for anyone who dies, no matter how they die, yet there are circumstances that hit harder. We are more upset by violent deaths. We grieve even more when a young person dies. We attach deeper significance when there are multiple deaths. In a small town, death seems to hit harder because if you don't know the deceased, you may know the family, relatives, neighbors or friends.

My daughter called to say that a 20 year old woman who was in the same classes all the way through school was found dead yesterday. The circumstances haven't been made clear on the news, but the police are looking for "persons of interest." They are saying to be careful and lock the doors.

The girl's father comes from a very large family, so I know a number of the relatives and my son is good friends with several of the cousins.

My daughter mentioned on the phone that it seems that our town is cursed. I don't know if the number of young people who have died here is above the statistical average, but it is certainly true that there has been a lot of tragedy, deaths among young people, and accidental deaths in the last 7 years. Or maybe the numbers just seem so high because this is a very caring small town, and we all know the interconnections between people. I told my daughter that I wouldn't have known this young woman in the least if we had been in a city. I do, however, very often think about any victim being somebody's son or somebody's sister, etc.

Here are some personal numbers: my 23 year old son has had 7 friends or acquaintances die in the last 7 years. I've lived here 30 years; I can think of 22 people our family has known from this little town who have died of unnatural causes, accidents, etc.

I know that this will be extra difficult for so many families who have lost children. Please keep all these people in your prayers. The funeral will be at my church, so please pray for the pastor and church people as well. Thank you.

My previous essay on this topic is here.

More bad news

My daughter just called to tell me that a girl she graduated from high school with was murdered yesterday.

If you can' be a pastor.......

Interesting reflection on the "role of women" as it will be taught in the seminary of another strain of American Christianity. Hmmmmm

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Minnesota Sad

While I was out of state in early August, the governor of Minnesota declared 75% of the state to be a disaster area in terms of severe drought. The Forest Service fire signs, with Smokey the Bear on them, still say Extreme Fire danger in the northern part of the state, although we had about .5 inches of rain overnight, after about 6 weeks with no rain.

Also while I was away, the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River, with many people injured, and 13 confirmed deaths.

Last week, the southern part of the state received record rainfall, up to 17 inches in one day, forcing evacuations, and resulting in about 8 deaths. I
n some cases, the dikes and levies, meant to keep the rives from rising and flooding the towns, kept the water from leaving the towns and running into the rivers. Southeastern Minnesota is an area of steeply undulating terrain, coolies, and many rivers, which eventually flow into the Mississippi River. In some places, it was the homes on the lower parts of the slopes that received the most damage, rather than the homes in the flat areas near the river.

One of our relatives thought that her rented home and belongings were destroyed, but the water didn't get to her upstairs apartment, so her things were spared. Her car was washed several blocks down and ruined. She is working in a nursing home that is somehow managing to get by with no running water or electricity.

This same storm swept across southern Wisconsin and on into Ohio, with more devastating results.

Area Lutheran pastors gather to offer support

No St. PS ???

Obviously PS isn’t my real name. But my real name is in the Bible, as a woman of great faith. It occurred to me that I’ve never seen my name listed anywhere as the name of a church or the name of a saint.

I just Googled my name as a saint and also as St ___ Church and I found many pages of listings, including the names of several US Navy ships. But apparently, it is quite common to list my name as an acceptable misspelling for a name of a certain male saint who has many things names after him. That seems rather odd to me, but it was written so in news accounts, bibliographies, etc.

My name is uncommon, but at a party on the weekend, someone called out my name and there were three of us within 5 feet of each other! I think we added a saintly glow to the party.

Monday, August 27, 2007


I’m back home after a good week of activity that is different from our usual routine. I’m trying to catch up with all the posts on the blogs I read. Writers have been very busy this past week, according to my Bloglines notifier. I wonder which blogs I want to delete off of that. I follow two main topics: faith blogs and my hobby blogs. I’ve already pared it down a lot.

Since I’m on dial up internet, surfing can be a pain, even with the added accelerator I have from the ISP. But when the phone fiber optic cable was cut two months ago, the signal deteriorated somewhat, degrading my speed even more. My high speed choices are quite expensive. Since many websites are quite complicated these days, there are many things I can’t even open up. I’ll keep waiting until the high speed prices come down.

I see that many of my readers have been checking in. Thanks. More later.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Giving, Tithing

I copied this tithing thought from Lemonholm. Well, I guess he copied it too.

Christian thinker Ron Sider has figured out that if all the Christians in the USA alone were to tithe – give 10% of our income – we could provide basic nutrition and healthcare to all the poor in the world, and have about $70 billion left over each year.

How differently the Third World would see the USA if it was our priority to save life rather than to take it! The best way to store up treasure in heaven is to give our earthly treasure to people in need. As St. Augustine said, the bellies of the poor are the best storerooms for our extra grain.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

No, I'm not sick, but thanks for your concern!

I haven’t blogged much lately because of my 10 day trip to Philadelphia, then having one daughter home for a few days, then catching up on things, then having my son home for the weekend. I will be out of town again for a week of vacation combined with helping out a (different) relative who just got released from a nursing home. I’m putting in a plug for going to a theater for a play during this vacation. It has been decades since I’ve been to the theater.

I had a biopsy of a dark mole. Nothing alarming, just prudent.

Summer is almost over. We’ve been having what is called “good sleeping weather:” the days are warm or almost hot, but the nights are fairly cool. With the heat turned off and a few windows open, the house might cool down to 60 by morning. Eat your heart out, Southerners! That includes those of you in southern Minnesota who live in hot apartment buildings.

I’ve been in a creative slump, combined with too much blogging, so I haven’t gotten some of my “creative intentions” even started this summer. Maybe in September I’ll have time to dive into my sewing again. I need to make a stole for an ordination as well as a jumper for my trip to Africa. Time sure flies, even when you’re blogging.

Too Busy on Sunday to Take the Kids to Church?

The discussion about Bible School and Sunday School made me think of what I wrote on this blog awhile ago about people working on Sunday.

If we (Christians) think it is too bad that so few people are attending church, then we might want to think about how our own personal behavior contributes to the need for workers on Sundays. What does keeping the Sabbath holy mean in this day and culture?

In my community, it is especially common for the teens to be working on Sundays. For years there was a line about confirm the students and never see them again. Well, if the young people are indeed working on Sundays, they aren't developing a church going habit and they are not helping with the Sunday School.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bible School, question answered

(Almost pastor) David asked (here) about the numbers in our Bible School vs Sunday School. I thought I'd answer in a post rather than in a comment.

The Bible School combines the energies of two churches, our Lutheran Church and a small Covenant Church. I don't know how many of the children were from the Covenant Church and how many from the community at large, including summer people and grandchildren, etc. It has been common in this town for people to send their children to the various Vacation Bible Schools at the other churches. For the last several years, only the Baptists and the Lutheran/Covenant churches had a Bible School.

It is also not uncommon for people to send their children to a Bible School for some free day care. We are careful to not accept kids under the age of three unless the parent wants to be with that child full time.

Our town has about 615 residents, most of whom are senior citizens. But there are many people in the surrounding area, including summer residents.

Attendance at church is about 150 - 180/Sunday year round, with a somewhat different group attending in summer because so many of our residents have employment that keeps them busy on Sundays in summer. We have several retired pastors who attend in summer.

All the school districts around this area have had their census drop dramatically to the point where some schools may have to combine and/or close.

All these points are leading me to answer David's question. Yes, our Sunday School is very small compared to the VBS. And it is really small compared to about 15 - 20 years ago. This is partially demographics, as pointed out above.

There are two other factors, I think. More women work. I think that this leads to Sunday being the one day when the mom can sleep late or get to the store in a leisurely manner. There have always been kids dropped off at Sunday School, whose parents don't even come in the door, but now even this seems less regular. We've not been successful in getting the young mothers to help with Sunday School. The young mothers like to have a bit of a social time while the kids are at Sunday School. [It might be a good place to start a mother's group.] Most of the teens work too, usually on weekends, so we aren't doing a good job at getting teens involved with teaching the children like we used to.

Our pastor said that one of the mother's complained that her child wasn't getting much of a Bible education, yet she brought the child only intermittently.

Another possible cause of the Sunday School problems is the curriculum. We used to have a traditional curriculum. That coincided with the larger attendance. The leaders changed to a type of program, called rotation Sunday School, in which the stories are told in various ways over the course of a few Sundays. The kids have been dropping out. Maybe the parents don't think there is any 'meat' in the lessons.

Times have certainly changed. The active people in our church who are in their 50's were the active people when they were in their 20's and 30's. The current pastor is a bit more "user friendly" for young families, and we have a fairly new youth director who has some responsibility for Christian education, with the main work still being done by volunteers.

I was the Sunday School Superintendent during the mid 90's when the program was large and traditional. Because of changing demographics, I think the program would have shrunk no matter what. My bias is that the change to the rotation Sunday School accelerated the drop in attendance. In addition, we had a year or so during which a number of young families left for another church which has an extremely active children's program.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Vacation Bible School

Our church office reports the following for our Vacation Bible School: 69 – 82 children attended every day with over 70 teachers and helpers (adults and students from the two cooperating churches) daily. The total offerings received was $600 which will be divided between a local need and a school in Uganda, Africa.

I am always amazed at the creativity, energy, and caring of all the helpers, especially the leaders of our VBS. As usual, I worked in the background. This year, I was out of town for the week and missed the fun.

Trust and Faith, Daily Choices

I was in Philadelphia, checking the internet news, when I saw the headline about the collapse of the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis. Naturally, I looked for every link I could find about the situation because I’ve crossed the Mississippi River many times on this bridge, although it isn’t my preferred route through the Twin Cities.

One of the reports said that about every 20 years a bridge collapses. That triggered vague memories of a bridge falling into the Ohio River quite a few years ago. I had to cross the Mississippi River, from one state into another, when traveling to and from college. The rumor on campus was that the bridge was of the same design as the one over the Ohio River.

Whether we trusted the bridge or not, we crossed it. I suppose that isn’t literally accurate. Maybe we didn’t think about trusting the bridge. Maybe we made a conscious decision to take a chance and cross it. If we truly hadn’t trusted the bridge, we could have added an extra 50 or 100 miles to our trip and taken another route.

One of the commentators stated at the time of the I-35W Bridge collapse that now many people will have anxiety about crossing bridges. That may be true if people actually think about whom or what they trust. But generally, I’d say that people trust things all the time and don’t give a moment of thought to the idea of trust or belief, until something comes along to shake up our belief system. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines belief this way: a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing.

We trust a chair when we sit on it. We trust the floor to hold us up. We trust the roof to stay up there. We trust that the big branch won’t fall off the tree (known as a widow maker!) We trust that the gasoline we put into the car will go into the engine properly and not blow up. We trust that the food we eat isn’t full of horrible germs. We trust that the other drivers on the highway have maintained their cars and are paying attention to what they are doing. Sometimes, unfortunately, our trust is misplaced.

In most of these cases, we’ve either made a decision to go with the odds being favorable, or we don’t even think of possible negative occurrences. Or we stick our heads in the sand. Our mental health would be impaired if we had to process each and every situation we encounter. We could be eaten up by anxiety.

I tend to be too easily anxious. If I start worrying about something, I’m a mess. But sometimes I’m able to “let it go.” Sometimes it seems like my faith in God takes away my anxiety. Other times I want to control the future and other people and I lose sleep in rumination about a subject.

When my thoughts and faith are at their healthiest, I know that I’m not in control of most things, and I rest easy, because worry is just a waste of energy. I’ve actually had less anxiety about flying since 9-11 than I did before that. I used to be teased about gripping the edges of the seat of the plane, as if that was going to make a difference in an emergency. I was amazingly calm before major surgery a few years ago.

This week, however, I’ve lost sleep over several little things that I “want to control” and things I have second thoughts about. The middle of the night darkness magnifies some thoughts. I want things to happen my way. I worry about possible diseases. I want my children to make good choices. I must be thinking that I can play God rather than trusting in God.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Welcome Phone Call

My son called to say that he was fine and that he wasn't anywhere near the sight of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis. He was intending to drive home to his apartment this evening right after he called me , and that could be a problem because he lives less than 2 miles from the bridge.