Friday, November 13, 2009

Yesterday I was listening to "Talk of the Nation" on NPR. They were interviewing Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. He is most well-known for being the first openly gay Episcopal bishop. The interview was ostensibly about the past, current, and future state of gay rights in America, but it really encompassed a lot more than that, including the diocese leaving the Episcopal church in the United States for more conservative waters - including the Roman Catholic church, if the Pope has his way. The whole thing was interesting, and my respect for the man, which was already considerable, only grew.

At any rate, one thing he said really resonated with me. A woman called the show who lives in one of the most conservative Episcopal diocese - they didn't even ordain women. And Bishop Robinson, in talking about inclusivity and all that good stuff said this:

"And what I would say to her is when youre in the middle of all of this
acrimony and unfortunate turn of events, having to turn to the courts and so on,
I want you to think about of the little girl who was in church and sees a woman
standing behind the altar celebrating the Holy Communion and what that means to
that girl, that her gifts for ministry are every bit as fine and God-given as
the little boys who is next to her, and think of the change that youre making in
that kids life and in so many others."

That really resonated with me. Growing up, I never saw a woman behind the altar. I was Catholic, obviously, so that accounted for a lot of it, and ordination of women was still a pretty brand new concept in most mainline churches in the 1970's. The first female pastor I ever met was the woman who became pastor of my mom's church when I was in college.

I sometimes wonder if my path would have been different if I would have had different examples when I was younger. Oh, I knew women in ministry - they were all nuns. And I knew I didn't want to be a nun. I didn't know much about them, except that they were all teachers or nurses - that was still pretty much the only things nuns were doing in those days. And in fact, in my experience, that was pretty much the only thing women were doing. That's the reason I wanted to be a teacher. But I've written about that before.

But ministry is a whole 'nother animal. I've written before about how crushed I was that I couldn't be an altar server when I was a kid. But really, the only examples I had of lay women doing ministry were lectors and the altar society ladies who cleaned the church and pressed the linens. That was never what I wanted either, though I do enjoy reading Scriptures in church.

It wasn't until I got to college that I had any other examples, but because I was Catholic, my options were still limited, and always would be. While women are enjoying the most options they ever have working for the Catholic church (in places where the priest shortage is severe, they are even running parishes), they will always be second class citizens. They're able teach doctrine, comfort people who are hurting, handle the finances, and do everything else a priest does, but they are denied the opportunity to celebrate the sacraments, and therefore can't serve their communities fully. How exactly is that just?

But I digress...

What if I had had examples of women serving in ministry when I was a little girl? Heck, what if I had had examples of women doing anything besides being teachers, nurses, wives, and mothers? Where might I be today?

And the bigger question - what kind of example am I for the young girls and women I come in contact with? Between Sunday school, youth minsitry, and campus ministry, I see a lot of young women over the course of the month. What kind of example do I set of a woman in ministry (lay ministry and voluntarily, granted)? Although I try to hide it, sometimes I wonder if my frustrations and impatience color the way I am perceived. And that makes me wonder what the source of that frustration and impatience are.

I pray about that a lot. I'm so afraid that I'd be advancing a personal agenda by saying things in committee meetings or on council that I don't say anything. But I can see so many needs in our congregation and in our community that aren't being met. I can see so many people who are looking for something, but aren't finding what they need. And I feel powerless to do anything about it because I'm too afraid that my observations are coming from me, not the Holy Spirit.

I just wish that God were more explict sometimes. If He would just tap you on the shoulder and say, "Hey. I want you to do this," life would be good. Instead, we're left to try to interpret signs and feelings and whatnot to figure out what He has in mind. And we're left to play the "What if?" game with whatever decisions we make.

I have more thoughts on this, I think, but I'm getting tired. Have a lovely Saturday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thoughts in the middle of the night

So I'm mostly over my breakdown from Saturday. "Mostly" being the key word.

I don't often lose my temper like that, and when I do, I recover quickly. Mostly because I realize that it's one of my most major...well, let's just say that during the confession and absolution on Sundays, impatience, intolerance, and arrogance top my list. And I don't mean arrogance in the sense of having a superiority complex; rather, I mean it in the sense that I take things too personally. The world doesn't revolve around me, and I need to remember that.

Still, though, it leaves me thinking about things a lot. Why I seem to be an easy target, and why, when I agree to help with something, I seem to end up not just helping, but being responsbile. It's true in other facets of my life, but it is especially true in faith life.

And I think I've figured it out, at least partially. People who have done various ministries or programs for years want to give them up, but they can't admit that they want to give them up. So when someone comes along who agrees to "help," it provides them with an out. But then, nobody steps up to help the person who stepped up to help, and you end up with a vicious cycle.

But all of this makes me think of even bigger issues, like what it means to empower people to serve and to "equip" people for ministry, which is a phrase that has seemed to pop up lately on a lot of blogs I read that are written by pastors. I'm trying to instill that model into the committee I chair, mostly because conversation and observation have taught me that people don't want to serve on committees because they are the ones who get stuck doing all the work.

Jan over at A Church for Starving Artists has been writing some interesting things lately about what it means to be church, and institutional vs relational membership, and institutions, traditions, and programs vs ministries. A lot of what she has to say really resonates with me. I think that's why I find myself drawn toward the emergent church model more and more lately. I think there are a lot of people out there who, for whatever reason, can't find themselves being a part of a traditional, institutional church, or "being a member" of any church at all. Maybe they've been hurt by so-called "organized religion," maybe they are still trying to figure out the whole faith thing, maybe they just want to be a part of a community without having to sign on the dotted line or fill out a pledge form. I know that there are times when that's what I want.

I think that, on the off chance God really is calling me toward ministry again (and I'm still not sure about that for a lot of reasons), that's the kind of community I would want to work with. But I don't have a lot of first-hand experience with the emergent church. There are no liturgical, sacramental emergent communities in Baton Rouge, despite it being a college town. I did go to the emergent service at one of the non-denominational churches once, because that's where a lot of our Lutheran students worship on Sundays (our church is the closest ELCA church to campus, but were still seven miles away. The non-denominational church meets on campus). It wasn't comfortable for me because I'm in a very different place in terms of theology and spirituality.

But I was impressed with the sense of community there. It was a large gathering, but there were distinct small groups within that larger group who were obviously in relationship with each other. The got what it means to be church.

Sometimes I wonder if all the experiences in my life are leading to this point. The sense of rejection I felt at my own church in high school, the welcome I got at the Presbyterian church down the street during that same time, the community I found at Gannon - both in Catholic campus ministry and at the Kirk House, the leadership formation I got from a fantastic mentor at my home church after graduation, the utter nightmare that was my experience at the CCC, and now what I've learned and observed and felt in my current congregation. There's a pattern there, and a path. It may be a labryinth, but I have found that God has a tendency to lurk in the corners where I'm not looking, moreso than in the clearings where I am. Who knows what's around the next bend?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The guy on the left in this picture is a friend of mine from church.

Just though y'all would appreciate that.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Le Sigh...

...Having a bad day.

I overslept today. Well, had it been a normal Saturday, I got up at the very reasonable hour of 9 a.m. However, I was supposed to be in a meeting in Mandeville, about an hour and 15 minutes away, that started at...9 a.m. I could have rushed and been only an hour and a half late, I suppose, but instead, I took my time and lazed. By the time I got to Mandeville, it was 12:30, and the meeting ended at 2. Oh, well.

I'm not broken up about not making it, as you can maybe tell...though I do feel a little bit guilty. It was a planning meeting for a junior high event for the Louisiana side of our synod. I wasn't terribly invested in the thing to begin with because the Baton Rouge congregations have literally no junior high students. I also wasn't terribly excited about the fundamentalist bent the thing seemed to be taking - the congregation that is hosting is probably the most conservative on our side of the synod when it comes to both theology, spirituality, and morality. And honestly, I was just tired of church stuff.

I wish someone had taught me to say no to clergy when I was a kid. I feel like I'm incapable of it now as a result. And that makes me sad and stressed. I end up with more on my plate than I can handle with a more-than-full-time job, and when that happens my brain and my body just want to shut down and give up on it all. And that isn't healthy, either.

And somehow or another, people have decided that I am the only person capable of doing anything with or even talking to our youth. That really ticks me off. If I were a paid staff person, things might be different (though I am doing the work of a paid, part time staffer now - I'm just paying for the privledge, instead of the other way around...more on that in a minute). But I'm not. I work a full-time job outside of church. I am not retired. I do not own my own business where I can make my own schedule. I can't be at the beck and call of whoever needs me whenever they need me. I just can't do it.

What prompted this reaction right now? The pastor sent me newsletter stuff on Wednesday of this week. I should have gotten it on the previous Monday. And when she sent it, she said, "I want the completed newsletter back this evening." I was ticked. I'm not an employee - I'm a volunteer doing the secretary's job out of the goodness of my heart because the secretary is a temp, and they don't want to pay for her to learn Publisher, or pay the agency extra to get someone who knows publisher. The pastor says I can give up on the newsletter "if" I give up a whole day of work to come in to teach the secretary Publisher. I don't have the time or the desire to waste one of my vacation days on that.

I still haven't done the newsletter, by the way. That is ostesibly one of the reasons I'm at CC's right now. It is going to be very, very simple this month, and I don't care.

Oh, and the other thing that ticks me off is that I got a little bit of a lecture because I am on council and I am behind on my pledge for this year. You know why I am behind on my pledge? Because I spent about $500 of my own money on the youth gathering this summer. Oh, and I spent about $30 to replace the sports equipment that got lost during daycamp. Plus about $75 to replenish the activity bags we have for the little ones. And $100 for the desserts for the first faith formation meeting (that the pastor invited another committee to, too). Not to mention $13 every week to buy donuts for the high school students and about $20 a week in craft supplies for my own class. That is why I am behind on my pledge.

I've decided that I'm not filling out a pledge card this year. Whatever I give will just be a bonus, I guess.

Am I being passive-agressive? Yeah, a little. And I hate that about myself (hence my, "I am a bad, bad person" status update on Facebook earlier this week, prompted by ignoring two phone calls from the church).

But you know what I really think? I think churches have to stop doing things like this.

I think sometimes pastors and staff people and committee chairs see people who are generally enthusiastic and spiritual and compliant, and they paint an invisible target on their foreheads. They go to those folks because they know that they are genetically incapable of saying "no." And they burn them out and frustrate them and make them never want to do anything ever again. Which is how I feel right now. Tomorrow, I want to just sleep in, skip teaching Sunday school, skip worship, and watch "Meet the Press" followed by a Doctor Who marathon or something.

But I won't. I'll let this resentment I'm feeling fester until the next time I dump it all on the internet for all the world to see. I don't think this is what God had in mind somehow.

Tune in tomorrow when I share with you the...fascinating insights...I heard on Jimmy Swaggart's radio station last night. Don't ask why I was listening, because I have no idea.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Midlife Crisis, Continued

So I think this overwhelming desire I have to pull in to the parking lot every time I pass a tattoo place is part of my midlife crisis. I never thought about getting a tattoo before, and I probably won't do it now. Maybe. Perhaps.

But if I did, what should I get, and where should I get it? I'm afraid to have something really big or really visibile, but if it is going to be completely hidden, what is the point?

I can't believe I'm contemplating this.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Malaise Thoughts


My friend Jenn posted a status update about having a midlife crisis - specifically if we are old enough to have one yet (we went to high school together).

I was thinking about it on the drive home from the laundromat, and I realized that is exactly what my problem is. I am having a midlife crisis. I figure I'm old enough. Both of my parents were dead before they reached the age I would be if you doubled my current age (that would be 76), so while I might have a few more years since I don't drink or smoke, I figure I'll probably be getting ready to kick the bucket by then.

Anyway, I'm having all the hallmarks of a midlife crisis. I bought a new car in the last 18 months (OK, it's a Chevy Malibu, but still), I'm questioning my career, and I'm crushing on much younger men. I'm restless, and cranky, and I just want something different.

I think that's at the root of my problem. I wonder how long a midlife crisis lasts? Hope it isn't until menopause. I might not make it (though my mom had that kind a early too...).

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

I spent 12 hours yesterday redacting, therefore the remainder of this post is redacted.

Sigh. I wish I could find my muse. Apparently, she/he/it slipped away in the night and got lost. Silly thing.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Feeling Blah...

...partly physical, partly emotional.

I promise I will write something profound and thought-provoking sometime this month, however I just don't have it in me right now. That makes me sad, but it's where I am.


Monday, November 02, 2009

Looky! Two Days in a Row!

The only problem is I have nothing I want to write about. Life isn't great, but it doesn't suck, either. My stomach is giving me problems and the only thing that doesn't make me sick is bananas, but what else is new?

I guess if there is a point of contention in my life right now, it's that I'm less happy in my job that I should be. I like what I do, and I like the people I do it with, but I find myself wanting more than just...satisfaction. I want passion in my life. I want to wake up in the morning wanting to go to work, wanting to do whatever it is I'm doing, wanting to...well, make a difference.

Yes, I'm aware of how cliche that sounds. But, while I like my current job, I don't feel any of those things. I mostly feel frustration because I don't feel those things.

I imagine I'll find myself writing more about these things in the near future, so I'll stop there. All I'll say is that, at the end of the day, whatever decision I end up making about where I am going comes down to money - as in I don't want to borrow any more - so I'm pretty sure I'll be finding a way to make myself feel passion about my current job if it kills me.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

So Where Have I Been??

That is the question some of you have been asking, perhaps. I was a faithful updater for years and years, and then...I just kind of fell off the face of the earth. From what I can tell, that happened to a lot of bloggers this year. Is Facebook to blame? Perhaps a little bit. I certainly spent more time over there this past year. Work? Definitely a contributing factor. Increased responsibility at church? OH YEAH.

But really, this has been kind of a topsy-turvy year for me, and I haven't really had the words to talk about it, at least not in a public forum. I've spent the better part of the last year doubting myself, and questioning everything I thought I knew about who I was, what I wanted out of life, and where I am going in the future. It's made concentrating on anything - work, church, my own writing, reading, etc. - really difficult.

And honestly, it still isn't resolved. You don't make major life decisions overnight, and you really don't make them overnight when you are nearing a birthday that ends in a zero and has a number between three and five in it. And you certainly don't make them that way when they involve taking on more student loan debt.

So I've been muddling along, trying to figure out what the Big Guy wants me to do with my life, now that it is half over (I know, I know...38 is not that old. But my parents died young, so I am realistic). He hasn't done a real good job of clarifying, but He has done a fabulous job of making me more confused than ever.

Nevertheless, I'll be blogging here all month, and hopefully it will reignite the passion - any passion. Because that is one thing I seem to be lacking lately.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Still Alive and Kicking...

...but I haven't been blogging much. I've been spending more time on Facebook lately than here. If any of you regular readers are on Facebook and would like to friend me, send me an e-mail or leave a comment with your e-mail addy, and I'll send you my real name.

I fully plan to keep this blog up and functioning, but I may have to reimagine what I use if for.

Oh, but I have to share a story with you.

Today at church, I was decked out in black and gold - I've had a running debate going with my high school students throughout the playoffs, and I had to represent today of all days. I also had a Terrible Towel in my laptop bag.

So after services, I had to coordinate a surprise fundraiser for the youth - I literally found out about it minutes before worship. I was in the church library, and one of our oldest members came in. She's been a member for years and years, and had been in Baton Rouge, for over 40 years now, but she is originally from Pittsburgh. And if you've been reading the articles this week, you know that once you are a Pittsburgher, you are a Pittsburgher for life, and pulling for the Steelers in encoded in our DNA.

Now, a couple weeks ago, I ordered a couple more Terrible Towels. I couldn't find mine anywhere (yeah, I lose things), and I ordered two to justify the shipping expense.

Anyway, she and another older lady who is also originally from Pittburgh, came and started talking about the game. Ms. Ruth (the first lady), got all excited about waving a Terrible Towel during the game, and Ms. Char said that she didn't even have one. So, knowing I had another one at home, I gave her the one I had, and she made a donation to our youth ministry trip fund.

I knew I ordered two of them for a reason. God must really be a Steelers fan.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It never fails to amuse me...

...just how badly my congregation sings, "This Little Light of Mine." It's such a simple song, but we just can't seem to get it right.

I think playing it on the organ has something to do with it. The organ was not made for upbeat ditties, despite its ubiquitous presence at skating rinks everywhere up until the last twenty years or so.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yet another person active in the Civil Rights Movement who I never knew existed.

Ever hear the saying that goes something like those who forget the past are doomed to reapeat it? These folks are dying. We can't let their memories or their actions die.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Reflections on a Moment in History

I was thinking today, as we celebrate the life of a great proponent of human rights and as we prepare to see the first non-white person ever inaugurated into the highest office in the country (something I honestly never thought I'd see), about the Civil Rights Movement.

As someone who was born in the 70's and who grew up in the north, I don't think I have nearly as much appreciation of everything that happened in the South in the 50's and 60's. I mean, I have never witnessed institutional racial discrimination (to the best of my knowledge). I have seen bigotry, but it is usually covert, as opposed to out in the open. To me, it seems like a distant part of history.

But then I read articles like this. Almost half of the school systems in Louisiana still have desegregation suits pending. That's insane. And I learned today that the bus boycott in Montgomery, the one we all learned about in school, was actually patterned after a successful bus boycott in Baton Rouge, which we never learned about up north. And I watched this documentary, which was fascinating.

I'm realizing now how little I know about the struggle for civil rights for African Americans and other racial minorities. And through my friendships with certain other minorities who still don't have equal rights in most states, I realize how far we still have to come.

I think my next reading jag is going to be about the Civil Rights Era. So much I don't know...

A Foray Into Politics

I like Barak Obama. I voted for him because I though that, of the two candidates we were offered, he was the best option.

I don't understand, however, the almost cult-like following that has arisen around him. I just read about Oprah talking with a whole bunch of celebrities about what Obama's election has meant to them.

I'm sorry, but I didn't realize that Justin Timberlake was terribly influenced by what happens in Washington.

And Oprah had this to say about Obama's election:

"I feel like I am better because of his being elected," Winfrey said. "And
I think that the country is going to be better. I feel like it is a beautiful
thing, and we all start to see ourselves differently, the possibility."

He hasn't done anything yet. I think he has a lot of potential, but wait until he actually does something substantial to make those kind of judgements.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I thought this article was really interesting.

In all my years of being a good, little Catholic girl, I never knew such an office existed, or that there were sins a priest couldn't forgive.

Of course, I pretty much gave up on reconciliation as a sacrament back in high school, after a couple of bad experiences. For a sacrament that is supposed to be healing, it has never done anything other than cause me pain. As far as I'm concerned, sin is a matter that can be (and has been) handled directly between human beings and God in the person of Christ.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hello, loyal readers...

...I am not dead from proposal. The thing shipped on Wednesday, and I promptly slept for 20 hours straight. I really haven't done that since college, and I'm not actually sure I made it that long back then. I'm getting old, though, and the all-nighters are taking more out of me these days. It didn't help that I had a major adrenaline rush at the end of the whole process. The high-volume printer broke, just as we were getting ready to reprint sections with corrections. We had two additional color printers, but they were much, much slower. Plus, we still had to prepare electronic versions of the proposal, and there was some miscommunication about the lable for the cd's, and that was about 95% my fault.

But it is done, and that's all that matters. And I know I'm at least two big proposals away from managing another one of these. Maybe by then our process will be fully mature, because this one went better than the last one we did.

So today my congregation had a unity service with an African-American Baptist church. It was really cool. And their choir showed us how to really sing spirituals. Although I have to say it was funny to see us white midwesterners try to figure out when it was appropriate to clap during a hymn and when it wasn't. We sing. We don't clap or wave our hands or otherwise engage bodily with the music. We tried, though.

Actually, I've learned some really interesting things about my congregation over the past couple of months. It turns out that we were one of the first five "white" churches in Baton Rouge to declare ourselves fully integrated and welcoming to all, and we did it within a year of our founding. Now, for a congregation in the deep, deep south to do that in in 1959-1960 took a lot of guts. And even though it was mostly a symbolic gesture (there still aren't a lot of African-Amercans in the ELCA), it has been part of our heritage to this day. We have about 5 or 6 African American families who are memebers, which is more than a lot of churches twice our size can claim.

I also learned that we were one of the founding members of the interfaith federation in my city, and we are still one of the more active congregations. In fact, their Executive Director keeps at our church. We were also one of the first churches to participate in the Congregation-to-Congregation program that was instituted after a series of church burnings in the south in the late 1990's, and we are one of only four congregations still doing it (our partner is the African-American Baptist church; the other two are the Unitarian church and a predominantly African-American United Methodist Church).

I think that's really exciting for a lot of reasons. First of all, denominations tend to stick to themselves down here. That was a big shock when I went to work for the CCC. I was all about trying to do things ecumenically, which I was used to in the area where I grew up. You would have thought I had grown two heads. The Catholic churches down here are really scared of the big, bad Protestants trying to steal away their young people. I always wanted to say that perhaps if we made an effort to be more relevant, that wouln't be a concern. I always found that doing some things ecumenically made a huge difference to everyone who participated.

Perfect example. In my neighborhood, every Good Friday the Catholic churches (one of which was my church) and the mainline Protestant churches (we invited the non-denominiationals, but the declined to participate) sponsored a community Cross Walk. Basically, we reinacted the Stations of the Cross (an ecumenical/biblical version - no Veronica in this one, and the Last Supper was added) on a walk through the neighborhood up to the West End Overlook. The youth played most of the parts, and they took it very seriously and prayerfully. It moved the whole community (literally about 500 people came out for it every year), and really had an impact. That kind of thing just doesn't happen here.

So it's exciting for me to belong to a congregation where inclusivity and diverstiy matter.

Next week, we start on some developmental tasks in preparation for calling our next pastor. This could prove to be an adventure, I think.

Now, I'm going home to watch the Steelers, unless I fall asleep.

Happy Sunday!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

An advantage to working long hours by your self in the middle of the night... give yourself a mental break, you can learn a new skill.

Tonight, I finally, after trying for over 30 years, learned how to use chopsticks.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

There is nothing quite like editing technical text written by a Ph.D. who is not a native English speaker (he/she is from India) and who was educated in schools based on the British educational system, and therefore teaching British English and writing style.

It has taken me all day to get through a 25 page section of text.

Friday, January 02, 2009


They just don't make TV like Doogie Howser, M.D. anymore.

That's what's wrong with this country.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Dear Whole Foods...

I am not a cook. I don't pretend to be a cook. That is why I buy prepared food at your fine establishment.

However, Whole Foods in Baton Rouge, I know enough to know that when you make any kind of custard or mousse, you have to temper the eggs and strain the custard. Otherwise, you end up with bits of cooked egg in what should be a perfectly smooth end product. Like the ones in the Dulce de Leche mousse I bought today. There is nothing more disgusting than having bits of stuff in mousse.

Please make a note of it.


A loyal but slightly disgruntled customer.