Sunday, October 4, 2009

Famous Failures

A dear friend sent this to me in an email. It is very inspiring.


If you have never failed you have never lived.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Mid-Summer Update

It is hard to believe that it is already August. At the end of this month, I will be out of a job. The church I pastor has voted to close and it will hold its last service of public worship on Sunday, August 30, 2009. It is a sad time for me and especially the congregation. So I have been swamped with all the details involved with closing down a congregation decently and in order in the PCUSA. Actually a lot of the heavy lifting has been delegated to an Administrative Commission and they are doing an excellent job. God does provide for the right people to be in the right place at the right time to do difficult tasks.

I don't want to get hung up on writing about the details of closing down a congregation. Mostly I have been spending my time focusing on the pastoral care needs of the my congregation members in these last few weeks and finding meaningful employment for me since I have to have to some means of income to pay the family bills.

I have been on three legitimate job interview, one group interview, and one extremely deceptive interview in the past month. I am still waiting to hear about the last two job interviews. One is for a full time as an administrative assistant type with benefits job and one is for a part time term job as a fund raiser. I didn't get a second interview as a hospice chaplain (work I think I would be really good at doing as a pastor to older adults and a gerontologist) or a call back to an interview for a concierge at a retirement community (I had more eduction than the Executive Director of the facility).

I am tired of getting emails about going into financial services or insurance sales. I have a business idea but it isn't cooked yet and I need to spend some time developing my business plan, but really can't do that until I find work to keep the roof over my head and the lights on so I can run the computer.

Right now I feel torn in a multitude of directions - take care of the folks at the church - find a new job - don't panic.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It has Simply been a Tough Spring.

It's Been a Tough Spring.

Spring Cleaning hit my household early this year and it has continued with a theme of simplicity. We have lived in our house, which we are really blessed to have and enjoy living in for the most part, for seven years now. What we have come to realize in our household is that this house is just too big for two people and we have way too much stuff. A lot of our stuff is stuff that people have given to us over the years as we helped older relatives downsize their lives. Some of the stuff is stuff we bought that we no longer need, want or use. What I have come to realize is that I was happier when I had less stuff. Stuff has not made me happy. So Spring Cleaning has commenced in more ways than one in my life.

On the career front, I'm looking for my next new thing. The work I do as a pastor has me working with an aging congregation that is working through a process of deciding if they want to close or stay open. It is hard work to work with what many people consider 'dying' congregations. I am not sure if I am developing myself as a specialist in this area or not. I get frustrated with other organizations and entities that like to prey on vulnerable congregations. Lately I see this happening more and more.

I am also dealing with some related internal issue about consistency of my personal values with my exposed values of simplicity and that is difficult work of self reflection.

I did run across this interesting website and I want to link to it. It fits with the Simplicity theme.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Knitting Foibles

I just finished knitting the Shalom sweater and I have to frog the whole thing. I modified the pattern in an attempt to make a pattern for a small medium woman fit me – a plus sized woman. I ended up making a sweater that would fit a super plus sized woman. What I learned is that I have a mental image of myself that is a bit bigger than I really am. So I am going to frog this sweater and begin again. It is a quick knit and what really makes me sad about this is that my knitting was so good. The technique of the stitches were uniform, tension was uniform. The finished garment was beautiful. I hope I can reproduce it when I get the courage to try again.

I had added 40 stitches to the pattern and I don’t think I need to add that many. I am considering adding 15 and am now questioning if that may too many. Modifying sewing patterns, which I can do well, is so much easier than modifying knitting patterns.

Meanwhile, I want to post a picture of my finished Clapotis. I can do this ‘tangy’ pattern from Knitty. I had this yarn in my stash and I love how it came out. It is cotton and nylon so will wear well and I can wear it year round. It looks good with my orange dress and I have a red pantsuit that I can wear it with too. My learning on this project was how to twist stitches as a Continental knitter. I was also had some tension issues which I will address when I do this pattern again in the future. I am happy with the finished product.

Heartland Presbytery Votes in the Context of Worship

I have to give great kudos to my colleagues and friends on the Church Order and Listening Division for their work in putting together today’s Called Meeting of Presbytery to vote on the 14 Amendments to the Book of Order. The meeting was designed around worship and it was an excellent meeting if any Presbytery meeting can be described as excellent. It is a meeting and it was a really nice day today. 70 degrees and sunny. I would have rather spent the day reading on my porch than cooped up in a church sanctuary voting on BOO changes.

Well what amused me most was the typo/spelling error in the Prayer of Confession. It made me smile. It made me smile because it reminded me of how human we really are and how much we all need God’s love and forgiveness. It is the prayer of confession where we confess our human foibles and sin and receive God’s forgiveness so it was so appropriate that a type/spelling error be found in that very prayer that sets the stage for this part of our service.

The sermon by our Executive Presbyter was a good sermon. Again it reminded us that that the process of voting was not as important as the real work and ministry of the church that happens in our congregations and through the relationships we have with each other. Charles left to attend the funeral of a long time Elder Commissioner and former Moderator of our Presbytery. As a Presbytery we did fine in voting and many prayers were offered for Gurnie’s family. I had worked with Gurnie on a couple of committees over the years I’ve been in the Presbytery and he served the Church well.

After this we voted and we voted and voted. The Church Order and Listening Division engaged the Commissioners to the General Assembly in presenting the various Amendments and broke them up based on topic. I presented on a process motion regarding the proposed changes in the Book of Discipline and providing for an Alternative Form of Resolution. It passed. I was also called to pitch hit for another Commissioner who fell ill, so prayers for Jeff and Madeline that they get well soon! That Amendment on Membership Vows failed to pass.

About fifteen minutes before lunch, which was an Order of the Day at noon, we began the discussion on the ‘BIG” amendment – Amendment B. After our lunch break we continued to discuss Amendment B and the process motion to extend discussion, which needed to pass by a 2/3rd majority, failed so at the end of the 30 minutes of total discussion, we voted. Amendment B passed in Heartland Presbytery. I wasn’t surprised it passed because this Presbytery has always voted in the affirmative for the removal and/or change and modification of G-6.0106b. If you want to follow the outcome of this voting in all the Presbyteries, you can tune into the PCUSA’s official tally site at:

The final tally will be posted on the Presbytery’s website on Monday. Here is my unofficial tally of the votes, which was reported after worship closed with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

A. failed 81 Yes 132 No 7 Abstained
B. passed 127 Yes 90 No 5 Abstained
C. passed 199 Yes 17 No 2 Abstained
D. passed 203 Yes 9 No 4 Abstained
E. passed 196 Yes 16 No 2 Abstained
F. failed 72 Yes 140 No 6 Abstained
G. passed 228 Yes 6 No 0 Abstained
H. passed 189 Yes 26 No 0 Abstained
I. failed 60 Yes 148 No 9 Abstained
J. passed 149 Yes 55 No 13 Abstained
K. passed 202 Yes 13 No 1 Abstained
L. passed 185 Yes 28 No 2 Abstained
M. passed 215 Yes 3 No 0 Abstained
N. passed 207 Yes 7 No 2 Abstained

The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving incorporated prayer requests that we all had the opportunity to share and were collected during a time of offering. Our offering today was prayer – no money – just prayer.

As a Commissioner to the 218th General Assembly, I am very proud of Heartland Presbytery for how they handled the Voting on the Amendments process. It was much more orderly than the last round of voting and I was chair of Church Order and Listening during that last round of voting. There are more creative people on the Division and that showed in how they placed the meeting in the context of worship. To me it reflected the idea that grew out of the General Assembly of Solemn Assemblies. The way Solemn Assemblies were first presented to the Assembly had me seriously questioning the practice since so many non-Reformed sources were cited. The General Assembly did not pass Solemn Assemblies as presented to the Commissioners but did charge the office of Theology and Worship to develop some resources for the use of Presbyterians. I think our Church Order and Listening Division and the Worship and Fellowship Division captured what the Assembly asked for regarding Solemn Assemblies when formulating today’s Presbytery meeting. As meetings go, this was a good one. Now lets get on with being the Body of Christ.

Where to Begin

It's been a while since I've blogged. Has anyone missed me. It's been a difficult winter and I have a lot of issues - primarily heavy duty professional issues to think about. I've been thinking about my future as a pastor and my future job as the situation at my current church continues to struggle with its future. I'm also sick of winter. I have no energy in the winter.

Meanwhile I think this week was a fascinating week. There are so many things I could write about so I think I will start with Monday.

On Monday I was invited to participate an Interfaith Relations Clergy Institute sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Bureau of the American Jewish Committee. It was held at Union Station and featured a dialog between Father McManus and Rabbi Rudin on “The Parting of the Ways: The First to the Twenty-first Centuries and What New Scholarship Teaches Us” about Jewish Christian relations. I’m grateful for the invitation and learned much from both scholars that will be helpful in my preaching and teaching.

After the dialog, the exhibit “A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People” was open to us to view. It is a free exhibit sponsored by Avila University. I want to go back to see this exhibit again before it leaves Kansas City on March 27, 2009. It is in the Arthur Stilwell Room of Union Station and the exhibit is FREE. It is worth your time to see this moving exhibit.

On Wednesday I went to the Dave Ramsey Clergy Lunch. The Lunch was good and the presentation was for clergy on how we can support the Dave Ramsey LIVE event coming to Kansas City on May 2nd at Kemper Arena. If people buy tickets through their churches, they can save 30% off the $40.00 price for a ticket to the live event. If you are interested in a discounted ticket to this event, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do to get you one. In these economic times, economic education is important.

On Thursday I went to the funeral of a member of my congregation. This particular member had developed a close relationship with one of the Elders at the church and the Elder did the funeral. He did a wonderful job. I was glad that I could empower him to do so by providing the materials he needed to put together a good solid service that met the wishes of the family. What it also showed me, in reflection, that I am not irreplaceable. It is also symptomatic of my congregation and the larger church that it is dying. My congregation has lost two members so far this year. A roll of 55 has now gone down to 53. 53 people really cannot support a full time clergy person. I often grasp for things to do to keep me busy and keep my folks engaged – many of whom are elderly and infirm – it takes a lot of energy to just live life when you have difficulty moving. I often think that I have difficult job. It is difficult to watch a congregation die. It is difficult to walk with a congregation when it does die. In a culture that gets focused on doing, being is hard work and takes a lot of energy. I sometimes think being takes more energy than doing. So I see my primary task right now to BE with these folks as they grieve and as they It is difficult for me because I like to be doing something and I realize the end is probably coming soon for this congregation and I don’t have my next new thing lined up.

In terms of my next new thing - I am not sure what that will be. Discernment is hard work and the economic woes of our present time does not give one a sense of security or hope. In times like these it is difficult to remain faithful to what one believes God has called one to do. It is difficult to remain non-anxious in times like these, yet if I believe what I say I believe, this is exactly what I need to do.

After the funeral I went to Business Affairs committee of the Presbytery. Friday I tried to take as a day off, but had a medical test (routine) and end up in the office for about an hour to proof-read the bulletin. Saturday was spent – not enjoying the outdoors and 70 degrees and sunny weather – but a Presbytery Meeting. I’ll write more about that in my next entry.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

An Angel Food Cake for an Angel

I do not deny that I love my husband dearly. He is my angel and yesterday was his birthday. I baked him an Angel Food Cake from scratch. It's his grandmother's recipe and this isn't the first year I've done this. The first time I baked him this cake, I was deeply disappointed because it just didn't get very big, like the commercial angel food cakes or the mixes. Yet each year DH requests this cake from scratch. He says it tastes better. Well it doesn't taste chemically and I omit the almond extract (I don't like almond extract almonds, just not the extract).

Here's a picture of the cake. It made the house smell wonderful and it's gone. We ate it already.

Recent Knitting – Test Knitting and Knitting in a Meeting

I just finished test knitting a pattern for one of my knitting friends. I was happy to test knit because I got to learn two new techniques. Learning new techniques and stretching my knitting skills is important to me. I learned that I can do lace and will probably knit a lace shawl this year. I have some wonderful deep green lace weight yarn from a swap I was in last year. I also learned to do thumb gussets so I'll be knitting mittens for my great nephews and nieces in Minnesota.

Well here are the pictures of the Missouri Autumn Mitts and you can get the pattern from Celia Ann Knits.

I finished these mitts on Monday during the Presbytery Council Retreat. I usually knit in meetings where I have to sit for more than an hour of so. I hate just sitting and knitting helps me concentrate. Since I go to meetings prepared – I’m one of those who reads everything before I go to a meeting – I can sit, knit and listen and if I think I can add to the meeting, I will speak up.

What was so fun was I was the only knitter in the group of nearly 30 folks until one other Council member came an hour or so late to meeting and sat down next to me and pulled out her knitting. Knitting is viral!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It Just Goes To Show You It's Always Something

Gilda Radner’s character Roseanne Roseannadanna coined the phrase ‘well it just goes to show you it’s always something.’ So far this month it seems like it has always been something. But that isn’t necessarily bad. The ‘somethings’ of life can teach us more about ourselves and what we need in order to continue to grow and develop into better people.

Usually January is party month. I celebrated my 19th wedding anniversary and my 45th birthday so far this month. My DH’s birthday is coming up later this week.
Unlike past years, somethings have popped up that have attempted to ‘spoil’ the festivities. Problems at work, difficult relationship with friends and or family, being dissed by people you thought were your friend, breaking long loved objects, having minor accidents and problems happen to loved ones.

Yet even with the ‘spoilers’ the moments of learning and reflection have in and of themselves been a gift. I am pleased to say that they have not ruined any of the true celebration that has happened this month and I grateful for the learning the somethings have provided for me.

The 19th Wedding Anniversary was wonderful, it began with breakfast at Winstead's, a trip to the Kemper, US Toy, and lunch at Gates BBQ.

My 45th birthday was shared with the nation. My birthday falls on Inauguration Day every four years. This year was spent glued to the TV after a very early (we were in the restaurant, this time IHOP) before 6 am, breakfast! It was a momentous day. Although I someday would like to attend an Inauguration, or at least I thought I did when I was younger, I was very glad to be toasty and warm in front of my TV on the 20th. I could cry tears of joy, and share the day with my DH. Of course something came up that caused me to take a detour over to the church – this time one of the sanctuary furnaces, but it didn’t ruin the day.

Although the family celebrations were quiet this year, I did have a great day with my friends Charlotte and Donna as we ate lunch later in the week at my favorite KC restaurant, Eden Alley. I was even able to catch our day – Donna has a January Bday too!

I am grateful for the somethings, especially for the hurtful something that happened at my Saturday knitting group. The experience of standing there in a very loud and crowded coffee shop taught me what I need. I have learned that in order to nurture my knitting, I need a quieter environment and I need space to sit and put my pattern and cup of coffee and in the past several times at knit group, I haven’t had the space I’ve needed and Saturday there was no space for another knitter at the table. I need more than just pulling up a chair to an overcrowded corner of table and fighting for elbow space. I need a place where people appreciate me and are going to invite me to sit and help me find a place to sit. I have done well in coping with chaos throughout my life, but chaos and noise is one of those somethings that do not nurture me as a person. I am good at coping with chaos and dealing with the somethings that emerge from chaos, but I don’t need that in my life. My big learning was that I need to find a new knitting group that meets in a quieter setting that is less chaotic, loud and crowded…and one that will be more welcoming.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

2009 a New Year - with loose ends.

I haven't posted on my blog since the last day in October of last year. November and December of 2008 were tough months and I am really looking forward to 2009 as being a better year. Oh I have tons of stuff to be grateful for and I am. I also have a to do list a mile long on things I would like to change. I tend to over schedule myself and that got me into trouble the past two months.

I still don't have my assignment done, even asking for an extension, from my September continuing education class on Reformed Theological Issues of Middle and Older Adults. I have to write six hours of lesson plans on theological issues and it's just too much. The other two classes I have taken in this "under development" certification program only required four hours of lesson plans. A 'bug' that I will have to work out with the instructor, since I am the coordinator of the said "under development" certification program. It also would not look good if I didn't complete the assignment so I sit with that looming over my head.

I did manage to finish my DH's sweater, which I started in January of 2008, on the last day of 2008. I think it came out pretty nice. I liked the pattern, but if I were to do it again, I'd make the sleeves shorter and a size smaller. DH wanted a BIG sweater and he got one.

In terms of New Year's Resolutions. I rarely make them. I have made two related to my professional and spiritual life this year. 1) In honor of the Jubilee of John Calvin's Birthday, I have committed myself to read the Institutes of the Christian Religion every day (except the Lord's Day - which is Sunday) this year. I haven't read the Institutes since Seminary and thought this would be a good exercise in this special Jubilee year. 2) I was alarmed to learn when I went to Interim Pastor Training the last week of October, that the average clergy person only prays 6 minutes a day and lay members of the congregation pray even less per day. As people of faith, we should be all about prayer and prayer should under-gird all we do, so I have resolved to pray more every day in 2009. [Note to self: Check out and follow - up on the rumor that you have heard about Rick Warren saying that prayer isn't that important for church growth].

On a personal and health nature, I have made a resolution to be more mindful about the carbohydrates I eat. My body doesn't deal as well with carbs as it could and I want to watch that this year so as not to develop a chronic illness. I began doing this just before Thanksgiving and didn't gain any weight during the holiday and actually lost a couple pounds.

I was happy to get back to my knitting group last week and this week. We had a full complement of people today nineteen or twenty in the coffee shop at BORDERS. Of course BORDERS is dangerous to my budget. I greatly enjoyed my Iced Latte and Raspberry Thumbprint Scone (highly recommended - very tender and not too sweet) and of course books. I bought three today. So much for my book diet.

In terms of my knitting, I'm working on my stash this year. No buying yarn for a while. I have too much yarn. I'm knitting kitchen towels with this lovely cotton yarn that I received in a yarn swap last year when I went wild on swaps. I know have wonderful yarns to knit and look forward to lots of knitting in 2009.