Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Two birds are splashing around in the bird bath. I'm going to have to refill it. Mother Nature was doing that for me, daily it seemed like. Now that the rain has stopped, it's hard to remember to water plants and refill bird baths. But I must. And I will.
Had lunch with my lovely daughter Rachel today. We ate Korean food at B. Won - which is always good. And I always think, as I leave the place, that I won't have to eat again for twenty-four hours. But it's dinner time and I'm hungry.
Tim is working late. Maybe I can get him to meet me somewhere for dinner.

Work report (I recommend skipping this)
I've got the bulletin done. And the sermon outlined in my head.
I've had some nice visits with folks who can't make it to church. Very interested (in others and in the world) people make very interesting people, in my opinion. I'm proud to know them.
I have a very good idea about a fellowship series organized around canning. I hope I can find folks with the equipment and know how to make that happen, cause everyone I've mentioned it to wants to learn how and do it together. We have the kitchen, heaven knows! And preserving local food so that we can eat it this winter is part of environmental stewardship, if you ask me. (Did you ask me? No. No one asks me.)
Also - I have to get serious about a get together for prospective new members and session. I wish I had a social secretary to make the phone calls and give me a date and a head count. I could take it from there. I really could.

So . . . there you go. My daily digest.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A good beginning

It's Saturday morning, 10 A.M.(!) and I have finished the sermon for tomorrow's baptism service. I even like it.
I started it early. "Early" for me means I started pulling stuff from books and commentaries on Tuesday and had some "hot quotes" by Wednesday.
I got past the easy pickin's of the passage (I started out linking it to John Cotter's work on leadership and creating a sense of urgency to get transitions made),
got through the period where I just feel like Jesus is fussing at me,
and finally was blessed with a sense of the grace of it all.
On Thursday I had a "Movement" map. Once that happens, it is pretty easy to make some connections with what is going on in the life of the congregation.
So last night and this morning . . . I had the fun of writing. And it's done! In time to practice!! Oh how fun is this going to be!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

OK Here's what I did today

Had coffee with a wonderful member whose father died recently.
Got the septic system pumped out. (Actually, I just watched the very nice septic system service man and called for help from an elder with a back hoe.)
Almost finished the news letter.
Talked to the mother of the bride about a wedding in July.
Took pictures of two families who are joining the church next month.
Went to the Quad and heard a summer band concert that my hubby is taping for a Big Ten show on the new band director. (Met the Band Director and his son. They ARE Presbyterian, of course!)
Day is done. Gone the sun.
What a great day to be the pastor of Philo Presbyterian Church.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Thinking about Sunday's service

The Gospel (Luke 9) is about how Jesus says "drop everything if you want to follow me. Let the dead bury the dead, don't put your hand to the plow and look back . . . " (at least that's the last half of the pericope. The first is about a village who rejects J and the disciples want to call down fire from heaven. Jesus is against that, by the way.)

And we've got a baptism (baby girl) and a new member (her doting dad) and I want that part of the service to be really cool - cause baptism is the greatest thing (since broken bread).

So I could ditch the lectionary entirely - or could I take a tack about creating a sense of urgency. Babies have a great sense of urgency. They want it and they want it now. Babies create a sense of urgency in their parents. The sense of needing to get one's life in order often comes when the pregnancy test comes back positive. And shouldn't children create a sense of urgency for the church. These children are why we deal with problems and rededicate ourselves to doing God's will (as we know and understand it).

That might work. I'm going to give it some more thought.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday Morning

So last night I was sitting on the back porch, thinking about what a nice Sunday it had been and how glad I was that the service went well. And then, in a moment, the pleasant mental road shifted, almost imperceptibly, to an uphill grade. And I realized that now I've got to start getting ready to do it again next week.
What's on your agenda for the week ahead?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been

This was my "honoring men of the church" sermon. More or less. I'm sorry it doesn't include the soundtrack of "Truckin'".

June 20
Honoring Men of the Church
I Kings 19:1-15a (elijah)
“What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been!”

If Elijah the prophet had a theme song, I’d like to think it would be the Grateful Dead’s classic, “Truckin’”. Do you remember Jerry Garcia - the lead singer from that long playing band? He kind kinda looked like the prophet . . . I have a couple of pictures, in case you doubt me. I’m going to have you listen to a couple minutes of that song about how it feels to always be on the move, like Elijah. If you don’t get all the words, it doesn’t matter. Just dial your way back machine to tie dye and enjoy . . .

I especially like the chorus: Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me. . . . . Other times I can barely see . . . . Lately it occurs to me . . . . What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

Yeah! Elijah’s truckin! All the way from Israel to Jezreel, to Horeb and now on his way back to Israel to face down Jezabel. Life was a long, strange trip for Elijah and I’m not just talking about the story that we read this morning. What we have to remember, reading the Bible in drib and drabs on a Sunday morning, is that there is often much, much more to a story - especially a story like Elijah’s.

The cycle of Elijah stories in 1 Kings is long. The man Elijah has angry confrontations with powerful people, depends on the kindness of strangers, repays hospitality in a miraculous way, triumphs against tremendous odds, trains his own replacement, and, eventually is swept away by God in a whirlwind, accompanied by chariots of fire. Not a bad exit!

But my point is that this story is just one moment in Elijah’s long life with God. It is just one incident in an unfolding lifetime. It is a moment in time - an important moment, but just a moment in a man’s life.

This incident follows an episode in which he had utterly and completely humiliated the priests of the false God, Baal. He’d bested them in a contest of nerves and will. He’d demontrated God’s power in such a decisive way that he seemed as powerful and invincible as any man on earth. “Sometimes the lights all shinin on me! Other times I can barely see!”

As we meet Elijah in this moment of his life, he is low. Very low. But just a short time ago, Elijah had been on top of the world: Now he seems like a whiny child - dejected, full of self-pity and blaming everybody out there. He tells God that he just wants to lay down and die.

So which is the real Elijah? The powerful warrior/priest, or the pity-party poo-bah? Could it be both? On this day that we honor men, isn’t the man Elijah a reminder that no man can be completely known, or defined by looking at his highest triumph or the lowest that he sinks? Men can be awfully hard on themselves and, to be honest, men haven’t cornered the market on this way of thinking - by a way of thinking that says, in times of difficulty “Oh I’m just a loser who can’t do anything right” or in times when we are riding high, “I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’m different and better than those other mere men.”

Aren’t we smarter than that, really? The news is full of accounts of men - and women - who do wonderful things, and then terrible things. Are they great men, or pitiful losers? Well, if we pay attention to the Bible, we might admit that human beings have it within us to be both. Often in very close succession.

But what the Bible, and Elijah’s story have to add is it is not only a picture of what human beings are and do, it shows us who God is and what God does when the road gets long and the way gets weary. We can see from scripture that God does not abandon us. When we are courageous, God is there. When we are cowardly, God is there, too.
When we are determined - God is with us. When we are despondent, we are still within God’s loving care.
God met Elijah in the wilderness where he had run and gave him bread for the journey. The first time, Elijah went right back to sleep. He said,
I'd like to get some sleep before I travel
Did God say, ‘Well, I gave him a chance?” No. God gives him another chance. “Get up and eat. You have a long journey ahead.”

God fed him in the wilderness. Bread for the journey. I have bread for you men, too. It is bread for the journey of faith that all of us are traveling. You can’t be truckin for Jesus if your fuel tank is on empty. This is “Grateful Bread” (to remind you of the Grateful Dead) but more importantly to remind you that God is always with you, always available to strengthen you when you are down and feeling out. Jesus spent some time in the wilderness, too, and when he was there and hungry, the devil tempted him by daring him to make the stones of the desert into bread. Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God.” The Word of God is an important source of nourishment and strength on the journey of faith, too. When you are feeling low, open God’s word and hear him say, “I am with you. This, too, will pass. Circumstances will change, but my love for you and my belief in you will always be here for you.” God fed Elijah, and this bread is a reminder that God will always feed you.

Elijah eats and sets out.
I guess they can't revoke your soul for trying
Get out of the door - light out and look all around
He goes, not back to the fight, but to the Holy Mountain of God. Another rest stop, it seems. And God asks, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”
It is as if God said to his downcast man ‘Lijah, you got to play your hand. Sometime the cards ain’t worth a dime if you don’t lay ‘em down.

Another jag of self pity. He felt set up, like a bowlin’ pin and knocked down, it got to wearin thin. why don’t they just let him be? But God didn’t give up on him. He had a warrant and he was gonna come in.

God fed him in the wilderness. Bread for the journey.

God reminded Elijah he wasn’t alone. Elijah complains that he is the only one left who is faithful to God. We often feel as though we are alone. One of the characteristics of depression and depressive thinking is isolation and a feeling of alienation from everyone else. But God reminds Elijah that there are others in the same position. God says there are 7000 others who are also faithful. 7000 is a big number. Elijah is not alone.

God spoke to him in a still small voice. God runs through his repertoire of great loud triumphant tricks. And Elijah notices that what he really craves - God’s presence - isn’t found in the big showy stuff. Then God speaks to the man in the sound of silence.

Sometimes God’s presence is too profound for words. Our lives are so full of noise. Computers, TVs, iPods, give us a different kind of noise. And for some reason I think men’s lives are even noisier than mine and my sister friends. Maybe that’s because yesterday as I sat on the back porch, trying to get this service in order, the neighbor guys on both sides of me were running crazy noisy power machines. Every once in a while a Harley would cruise by with it’s distintive roar. But, from talking to Harley riders, who have told me that their time on the road is often when they feel closest to God, a time apart, when their lives come into focus, I wonder if those motors and machines aren’t one way that men shut out the noise of the world.

I can’t help but think, girly girl that I am, that getting up and walking in the park or hearing the birds call to each other, would be a nicer way to experience the silence in which God’s voice can be heard. I’d recomment going fishing and sitting on the bank of a river, or camping in the woods, or spending some time with a cup of coffee and the Bible in the morning before anyone else gets up. But however we do it, people, men included, might find themselves richly blessed by listening for, opening toward God’s presence in the sound of silence.

I invite the congregation to experience God’s holy silence now for a moment, to let God’s strengthening and loving presence take away the fears of life and fill us with purpose and peace.

Dear God, embracing humankind, forgive our noisy ways, reclothe us in a quieter mind, in purer lives your service find, in deeper reverence praise. Breathe through the pulses of desire your coolness and your balm. Let sense be numb, let flesh retire, speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire. O, still small voice of calm. Through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Sovereign. Amen.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nobody will read it here, either LOL

I just posted this on the Pastor's update on I believe I have the two least read blogs in the internet universe. But (with a smile) I'm just plugging away.

About Evangelism

The latest issue of Presbyterians Today is all about evangelism, something Presbyterians are notoriously bad at. There are lots of interesting and exciting stories in there about how Presbyterians DO manage to share the good news of Jesus Christ and invite people to join their churches, in spite of our supposed genetic handicap in this area of Christian life.

I encourage everyone in the congregation (who recieves Presbyterians Today as a "perk" of membership at Philo Pres) to read every word.

And I also want to share with you something I read this morning on one of my favorite blogs - "Beauty Tips for Ministers" (don't laugh. or do. the slogan of the site is "Because you are in the public eye and God knows you need to look good" which I find hilarious.)

Here's what the Unitarian-Universalist minister/writer of that blog says about evangelism:

“Let your life preach more loudly than your lips,” said our great American Unitarian founder, William Ellery Channing.

With that in mind, I DO so wish that folks would simply share our good news, be friendly, warm and respectful, and say something like, “If you’re interested, there are Unitarian Universalist congregations in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and we have a great web site at My life has been so enriched by being part of a congregation, I always wish that kind of positive experience for everyone I meet.”
THAT’s evangelizing.

All we have to do is
1)substitute "Presbyterian" for Unitarian Universalist in that speech,
2)Philo for Minneapolis and St. Paul,
3) for the UU website,
4)practice it until you can say it in your sleep, and
5)go out and talk to people in your neighborhoods, at the ball park, on your break at work and in the stores where you shop.
We can do this, people!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Well, this is fabulous news

sorry I can't get it to "live link" but watch this. copy and paste it into your browser. Really.

my garden this morning

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

inches from a hummingbird

I've just returned from the garden where I came within INCHES of a hummingbird. I was trying to keep the Japanese beetles from decimating my bee balm. And the hummingbird was going from blossom to blossom of the plant, being so beautiful I could hardly stand it. I stood very still and she came within INCHES of my face. I got to watch for . . . 15 seconds? 30? time stood still. She was beautiful.
In other news, I have drowned a lot of Japanese beetles. And I'm not sorry.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tueaday morning

Another beautiful, cool, overcast day in Paradise.
Even though I'm not preaching this week, the Luke reading from the lectionary keeps running through my head.
The woman who bathed Jesus' feet vs. the Pharisee who invited Jesus but didn't really welcome him . . . I think Brian Stoeffergen is onto something when he notes that oftentimes our churches are invitational, but not actually welcoming. We invite people to join us, but we don't do the things that let them know we are truly glad they are here.
And I wonder if Jesus was actually inspired to act out his love of the disciples through footwashing by remembering how this forgiven woman behaved. He told his disciples to do as he did - to act as servants one to the other. What acts of service and love can we extend?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday morning

I don't have to preach today. (Have to? Get to?) So I'm up printing bulletins and arranged the "script" for the High Schoolers who will lead us in worship. I'll post pictures.
When I walked into the sanctuary this morning, sun streaming in, windows glowing, everything prepared . . . it was so beautiful it just about made me cry. Thank you, God, for a community to fill this place.