Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Traditions - Old and New

For the past 5 years my family has been "isolationist" about our Thanksgiving celebrations.  Most other holidays are working holidays, but Thanksgiving there are no services to prepare for or recover from, its just about us and being together.  So normally we have stayed home, cooked, played games, made crafts and just relaxed.  This year my extended family is gathering in Ames and many cousins that my kids haven't met are going to be there, so we are going down to be a part of the party.  For my kids this is a big change, and they aren't so happy with the change.  But as important as our nuclear family time is, I also want my kids to feel a connection to their larger family.  So we are breaking with tradition for a good cause.  Traditions are good and yet sometimes need to be broken.  

What traditions are you keeping this year?  What are you breaking?
What new traditions are you creating?

Have a blessed THanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Club Book: The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman is a novel about moral choices and the repercussions of those choices.  The main characters are a husband and wife, lighthouse keepers living on a tiny, isolated island off the coast of Australia.  The book has very interesting descriptions of lighthouse life.   The lamp of the lighthouse an apt metaphor for God and faith without ever using that language.   The book reminds me of long discussions held in college by students earnestly talking about sin and if the sin only affects them is it really wrong?  Stedman provides a fascinating case study in how two people literally on the island in the middle of the ocean still  prove the saying: No wo/man is an island.  Their decisions still have broad ramifications, and ethics are not just situational.

I highly recommend this book.  It can be read on many levels, and speak to all kinds of readers.  In the end its a great story that reminds us that every decision we make is significant.

Join us for book club this Thursday at 2 PM to discuss it!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Jesus ate with sinners

Mark 2: 13 + 
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

I wonder how the disciples felt being in the home of a tax collector eating with "sinners"?  Were they uncomfortable?  Did they struggle for safe discussion topics?  Did the "sinners" feel uncomfortable around these religious disciples?  Were they afraid of being judged?

I happened to get a call to do a funeral for a man who owned a local bar and the reception following was at his business.   Honestly, I haven't been to a bar that doesn't serve food since college.  I'm not sure how to act, what to talk about. One of the bartenders came over to tell me that I did a nice service, and mentioned that he was uncomfortable with all these "others" in his bar.  (meaning me and the parents and people in suits)  He asked if I felt funny too and I had to admit that I did.   We were uncomfortable with each other because we live in a world where there are "good people" and "bar people" and it was only because of a funeral that we were mixing.

 As I sat there, struggling to chit chat with exotic dancers and bartenders, I wondered how Jesus felt.  He probably didn't see people by their profession, but saw them just as children of God in need of love.  I tried to do the same, and I confess that I need more practice.  And it occurred to me that if I stay safe and comfortable in the restaurants and coffee shops that "people like me" go into, then I will never have a chance to practice being like Jesus. I need to go into those places to get to know people and to be known so that they will become comfortable with "religious people"  and I will be comfortable with them.  And in getting to know each other we can help one another to see each other as children of God rather than the labels of this world.

I resolved that this would not be the last time I would go to that bar.  I would go back and work at being non-judgmental and loving as Jesus teaches us to be and I think I will check out some of the other places around the church too.  This is our neighborhood and I claim it all for God and for love, every corner, no exceptions!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bishops, Trials & Gays. . . .Oh My!

The Council of Bishops (all bishops retired & currently serving in the US & around the world - around 150 in all) has been meeting this week at a retreat center in North Carolina.  Among them are Bishop Talbert who recently performed a wedding for two men, and Bishop Wallace-Padgett who publicly asked him not too.  During plenary times, the public is allowed to sit in on what the CoB is doing, and among the public are reporters, leaders in the anti-gay movements and leaders in the pro-gay movement.  And there groups of people on the grounds of the site holding prayer vigils - praying the CoB does this or that.

Its one of those times when, as a UM Elder, you say "I never want to be a Bishop!"

I feel great compassion for these Bishops who are charged with leading the UMC as a whole, yet love people on both sides of the LGBTQ issue.  They are each, at heart, pastors who got into this whole thing because they love the church, they love church people and they want to see the UMC grow.  I'm sure that none of them relishes anyone or any church leaving the denomination because of one of their actions or statements -- just like no pastor likes losing a member over something they do.  It always hurts.

Right now the Bishops can't change the Book of Discipline, only a General Conference vote can do that and they meet every four years (next one 2016) and even then it is doubtful that the BoD would be changed.  We are a global church and when we meet delegates are elected by membership in the Annual Conferences.  Annual Conferences in the USA are declining, in Africa and Asia membership is skyrocketing.  Their votes are consistently more conservative than USA votes.  The fact remains that in our current system, LGBTQ people will not be allowed to be pastors or be married in our churches in a very long time.

So what are people wanting the Bishops to do?

Several people have put forth the proposal to simply not hold any more trials for clergy who do a same-sex wedding or who come out as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or queer).   Rev. Dr. Thomas Frank who is a professor who teaches polity (church law) has written an open letter to the Council of Bishops asking them to stop church trials. 

Church trials are expensive and painful.  The Annual Conference has to foot the bill for lodging, travel and meals for a plethora of people:  an outside Bishop to be the "judge", an Elder to be the "Prosecutor", 13 jury members who are all pastors and alternates, support staff etc.  You have at least 20 Elders who are not in their churches working for a week, and lets face it, the weeks leading up to it and the weeks following are probably not productive either.  You have a whole Annual Conference of people anxiously watching and waiting, and the whole of Methodism watching and waiting.  You have churches not being properly cared for, and the home church of the pastor on trial is a big mess.

If you read the Book of Discipline (not fun, but sometimes necessary!) Para 2704.2 a)  has a lot of "shalls" which in UMC talk means "you have to do this".  It says "If the bishop determines that a written complaint is based on the allegations of one or more offenses listed in Para 2702.1 the bishop shall refer the complaint to the counsel for the Church"  In other words, if they did it or the Bishop thinks they did it then they have to refer it to a counsel who SHALL investigate and prepare documentation for a trial.

So, by my reading, asking the Bishops to not refer a pastor who has done a same-sex wedding for trial is asking them to go directly against the Book of Discipline.  I'm guessing most Bishop's won't want to do this.  Its possible that with the local bishop's support the counsel and the Committee on Investigation who are supposed to investigate may determine not to bring a trial.  This has happened before, in 2000 when 68 clergy in California presided over a wedding of two women, not the bishop (which happens to have been Bishop Talbert)  but the Committee on Investigation dismissed the charges.  How much Bishop Talbert advised the CoI on their decision is a good question, but ultimately it was not his decision alone.

So can (or will?) the Bishops be able to do anything?  They can ask their Committees on Investigation for a moratorium on clergy trials until the next General Conference and in the mean time call for a committee to bring a proposal on how to handle this.   They can call for a Plan of Separation to be brought to the next General Conference as was done in the 1850's with the slavery issue.  Or they can decide together to break the Book of Discipline on this matter.  Or they can uphold the Book of Discipline and prepare to spend tens of thousands of dollars on clergy trials.  No matter what, some people are not going to be happy.

My first senior pastor Rev. Martha Bennett always said, "Sometimes divorce is healthy."  And she's right.  I was determined to never divorce, yet I was a complete wreck trying to stay married to someone who lied to me and made me feel crazy for being suspicious (when I had every reason to be suspicious!).  The only way to be healthy - physically, mentally and emotionally - was to divorce my husband.  It was painful and difficult but I think made me healthier in the long run.

When First Lutheran Church in Milford had a break-away group leave and form a new conservative Lutheran church, I was horrified and angry.  I do not think that this is the way to be a Christian, and I think Jesus' heart breaks when we reject each other and break the church.  Yet, at the same time, if people cannot let the issue go and have a "live and let live" attitude then we can't be stuck in unhealthy relationships either.  First Lutheran Church is fine, in fact they have taken in more new members since the other church left to more than make up for their split.  And the other church, Harbor of Joy is fine too.  They have new members and are doing good ministry too.

No easy answers, just thoughtful discussion and prayer.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Canning. . .

Pineapple was on sale today, alone with grapefruit, limes and strawberries.  So I've got pineapple, strawberry & lime jam in the boiler right now.  mmmm    Making this tomorrow!
Cooking is relaxing and creative for me, as well as a way to nurture my family.
So its one of my favorite Sabbath activities.   What are activities that you love, that are Sabbath for you?

UPDATE  Pina Colada jam is wonderful!  Strawberry Daiquiri is divine too!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Activities Advent Calendar

Rather than having an advent calendar that counts down the days to Christmas with candy or presents - have one that names a simple activity that you can do as a family.  Here's an example of one family's advent activity calendar on their blog 

Here is an example of how you can make your own advent calendar around Thanksgiving (with hand turkeys)

Here's another one made out of muffin tins.  Instructions are here.

Write on little cards 25 little activities you can do together, Here are some suggestions for the Lakes area:

Decorate the Christmas tree
Take a bag of cat or dog food to the Humane Society (pet cats if you can go home without one!)
make a candy cane reindeer instructions are here
Sledding at Horseshoe bend
Make cookies
deliver a plate of cookies to a shut in from the Special People list at church
Go to the amusement park to look at the ice
"Spray paint" snow with water bottles filled with water and a couple of drops of food coloring
Visit the Nature Center
go for a walk at Gull Point park

Suggest other ideas in comments!

Friday, November 1, 2013

"Food Fight"

I grew my own tomatoes from seed this year - what a huge difference in taste!  How is it that tomatoes in the store just don't taste the same?  This movie - watch it FREE on Hulu -- to find out why and how we got into the flavor-less, factory -farmed food that we eat today.  Its a great documentary and really looks at all the different reasons why we got the kind of food system that we have - military, oil companies, consumerism, convenience-focused.  Fascinating history on Secty of Agriculture Earl Butts, and Alice Waters that I didn't know. A great flick
Check Out Food Fight on Hulu.