Friday, October 31, 2008

my companion

I'm at home, in the recliner, with laptop, thinking about my sermon, as is too common on Fridays, and I've pushed His Majesty off my lap 3 times. He is back sleeping half on the keyboard, head tucked under. He twitches if I use the left shift key. Persistent. Love. Kinda like grace. Blessing.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

patterns of work

One pattern of work I want to establish is spending Thursday morning reflecting on the texts for Sunday. In an ideal world this would be done a lot earlier - like Monday morning, but my Mondays - I work on Monday - seem to be the day for all the little office and program duties. And I've found it peaceful at home in the Mornings. So Monday I look at the texts, and pray them, then leave them.

There is a pericope study that meets on Thursdays to look at the texts for the following week. I have mixed feelings about this. I was invited when I came back to work in this area, and went off one day to find the study, which meets at a coffee shop. No one was there. Turns out they were all at another meeting. The second time I went only one other person showed up and she wasn't preaching that week and so we had a nice talk, but . . .

Shouldn't be too quick to write this group off, however, because I do feel I need additional support.

Introversion - too much of a good thing.

Working with the lessons for All Saints - I have a strong leaning that comes with reading the Beatitudes - that they are axioms for community living - not just individual categories. But, since this lesson has appeared earlier this year, I went in that direction. And it is the day of All Saints - an interesting moment of balancing the individual life of sanctification and the community of worship (the community at worship)

I'm preaching at bi-polar church this week. Very traditional, very contemp. One set of folks has a firm sense that tradition is what they like, what the church is really about. The other set of folks rejects on principle anything 'old', 'traditional', 'liturgical'. American church history, all in one building.

Upon reflection, both sets of folks have 'loose ties', however. Among the traditional set, except for the various family units and some old friendships, connections are distant, the anonymity of the large group - it's actually seen as a positive. On the contemporary side, one pastoral concern has been lack of welcome for visitors and newcomers - it's very haphazard because the 'regulars' turn to each other.

Is there a teaching in these lessons about 'ties' - about the balance between individual and group, about inclusion in the company of the saints, about common purpose (praising God) leading to deliberate welcoming?

I return to that basic question that has been with me for months now. What is the church? What does it mean to be 'part' of it? Is what we are today anything close to what God desires? Is what we have today healthy? Can it be saved?

Praying away

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

no details please

All I can say is that I'm in the middle, and I didn't do anything!

And one way or the other someone will think I'm in the wrong.

What would Jesus do?

He would have a great comeback or baffling question and all would go away amazed.

I got nothing.

except prayer. Going to do a lot of that.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Wednesday's confirmation class was actually fun! I used clips from Horton Hears a Who - available from WingClips - to illustrate the Lord's Prayer. We covered three petitions in 60 minutes - it was rapid-fire. They didn't have time to misbehave. This particular group was been - to put it nicely - difficult over the years.

Lesson being: cartoons are my friend.

what I found in my car

  • many, many receipts
  • a coupon for $1.00 off to the grocery store. It expired yesterday
  • a check from a funeral!
  • more coupons for things I will not buy
  • 4 books with bookmarks in them that I will read sometime
  • 2 prayer books
  • a bible
  • a hymnal
  • a single glove
  • a somewhat broken umbrella
  • a water bottle
  • sunglasses - which is what I was looking for all along, but they were broken
I was pleased that I found no empty fast food containers. I do eat fast food, but I throw away the containers.

Friday, October 24, 2008

friday musings

Letting my fingers ramble to warm up my thinking muscles for the sermon.

“You can’t stand the truth”
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

We are buoyed up by Jesus great statement – the truth will set you free. And as modern, 21st century folks – we know that the search for truth has meant a great deal. But is truth all it’s cracked up to be? One of the points of current cultural identity is that truth differs from person to person – it’s true for me, it’s true for you. And here’s the rub – that’s totally unbiblical – totally outside the frame for Jesus. And the truth he’s speaking of – it’s not an intellectual truth either, it’s about truth as in “standing and being in harmony, at-one-ness with God’s will and law – as expressed in the the presence of the Risen Christ”– since we’re in John-land.

So that ‘freedom’ that comes from this 'truth' looks nothing like the concept of ‘freedom’ or 'truth' we understand culturally. Nothing like the ‘freedom of religion’ or ‘freedom to divorce’ or ‘freedom to abort’ or ‘freedom to spend outrageously’ or 'truth for me''truth for you.'

This 'truth that makes us free' is a lot more like Jeremiah’s having the covenant inscribed on our hearts. As the commentator from one of the Christian Century essays said – it’s a brand – painful and leaves a scar. It’s the freedom to not – not be enslaved to sin, not be enslaved to stuff, not be enslaved to chemicals – and the freedom to be – to be a loved child, to be a loving adult, to be someone who changes over time to look more like Christ.

Since this summer I’ve tried to understand myself as being ‘rounded off’ – being someone who does not have to response sharply, does not have to be defensive, someone who can be with the flow for many matters. It has changed my responses (not consistently – I’m still sharp now and then!) and especially my interior perspective. I think it has given me freedom – the freedom to hold back and wait for God’s urging.

Early thoughts too late on Friday – how do I preach this? The whole semantics of 'freedom' and 'truth' are just so out there. And it's confirmation, too!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

go pack back to work

my morning started at 6:30, and ended at 2:00. Watched the Packers and then the end of the game with the guy who should have stayed retired, and then back to work.

Sermon for this Sunday is done (still to be preached once more), and two lesson plans are over with. The confirmation powerpoint got handed off to a high school senior, and the stewardship writing will be shared by a council member. Things are looking up.

Need a funeral sermon by 1:00 tomorrow, be prepared for a longish set of hospital visits and a pre-baptismal visit. Tuesday - I know I have four meetings on Tuesday, but it's possible I don't have anything to do at them. Wednesday I teach a class of 9th graders. Thursday I have some counseling, and we have a visioning meeting. Somewhere in there the funeral family would like me to drive up to 3 hours one way for the committmal of their loved one. I also promised a clergy friend I saw at the conference that I would connect with her and be supportive.

My dear husband says - you seem preoccupied. Yah think?

Quote from the son. "You've been watching the debates? I can't take my eyes off them, it's the original reality television."

By the way, the message for the day from Matthew 22:15-22 - look hard at the question the opponents ask Jesus - they ask: Is it lawful? That's code for what's in the scriptures. And Jesus answers - hey, the scriptures aren't there to tell you exactly what to do in this exact case - look at the big picture - God is in charge. It's all God's world.

Jesus is doing fast and dirty and deep and profound exegesis in this passage. It's the kind of exegesis we need to do every day in these anxious times. Is it lawful to buy stock? Is it in the scriptures that I should make so much more than others?

It's all God's world - and he works in history and in economies. More important - is it lawful to use our economic power for good, to make socially responsible investments and charitable gifts to justice? Well, of course. Then why don't more Christians do it? "Give to God what is God's" is not just about the money - but it is about trusting God's word.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I don't particularly care for that comment that ministry happens in what is not planned, but that's kinda the way it is these days.

I counted that I have 8 major projects to complete by next Sunday. Some are time-limited,like this Sunday's sermon (now finished), after church confirmation class, and Monday's funeral. Some go out a little farther - the Wed. confirmation class, next Sunday's sermon (actually 2 of them)and powerpoint. Then there are the things in the stream that need to get done - stewardship writing, Thanksgiving service - that's only 7, but there is another one somewhere.

And then I have two connections to find and just spend time listening, one on Friday, one today. And follow up. And dear son needs a new pair of steel-toed shoes because he thinks he has work Monday - hurray!

Just breathe.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


First day back and my to-do list is too long and too full of heavy things to do. Too many projects that will take substantial time. All I can do is chip away, as I did tonight at home for 3 hours.

Add to this an un-bloggable request to connect with someone who - well, this will be a time for personal perspective, remembering it's not about me.

No real day off tomorrow.

Pleasant weather, though.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

back resting

We are back and we are resting. And Aquila is resting his back. He has been doing the manly man thing and sighing about his backache, lots of anti-inflamatories and heating pads and all that. But today he called the doctor. Three weeks is too long.

Going away together - couple hundred bucks. Argument over theology - priceless. Really, we should not go to these kinds of conferences together. I found it less than valuable for exactly the opposite reasons he did. I thought - teaching tap dancing on the Titantic, and he thought everyone was muddled.

I am still struggling with the Matthew texts, and with the role and authority of the preacher to speak out these words and speak gospel instead of law. Or law and gospel, properly differentiated. And whether folks out there hear this - or do they primarily hear judgment (don't come to the party and you'll be slaughtered = you'll go to hell if you aren't a good church member - which was not what I said - but what they might have heard!) and check out before they hear gospel (the doors are now open to all - good and bad - to come to the feast - put on your wedding garment - which is a grateful heart - and come) which is how I completed the sermon.

I was complimented on actually taking on the question of the wedding garment guy. My line was - it's not about fairness, but about relationship with the king himself. It's not unfair to expect gratitude and joy and a proper response to the great gift.

I used the example of my Dear Son who won't dress up to look for work. What do you expect if you show up at the job fair looking like you've just come from the skate park? No, it's not fair - but if you desire a relationship with another, you have to reach out to the other on their terms.

God reaches out to us - these lessons remind me that there is a response required. A response which acknowledges who God is, what God did for us, and our proper relationship in this.

Friday, October 10, 2008

So for today's Friday Five, you're invited to share your experiences with the exciting, challenging world of business travel....

1. Does your job ever call for travel? Is this a joy or a burden?
Let's see - ordinary travel. 1st interim 30 miles/40 minutes for 9 mo.
2nd interim - 7 miles for 12 months - wa-hoo!
3rd interim - 50 miles/60 minutes for 2 years.
Now long-term call - 20 miles/30 minutes
Usually business travel, such as for contining ed, is really local. Often to Madison. Maybe to the Twin Cities.

2. How about that of your spouse or partner?
Ah, that's different now. He sometimes travels across the state or to Chicago, but I am hitchhiking on the big national conference in Florida - in February. I will register and attend workshops. But we are taking 4 days to go to St. Augustine for the fun of it.

3. What was the best business trip you ever took? Probably going to the Twin Cities with the rest of the staff - we had fun together and were inspired.

4. ...and the worst, of course?
Way back in my last regular call - this was before 9/11, it was that long ago, I attended a seminar by a famous church consultant connected with a famous firm. This was to be joint with the Senior pastor on staff. The famous consultant was rude and dismissive, the senior pastor didn't have time for me, and the flights were - interesting.
We've had much worse experiences traveling for 'pleasure'.

5. What would make your next business trip perfect?
No-stop, easy in and out. Really good and interesting speakers, and a comfortable bed.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

my desk

I hate my desk. Or rather, I have a love-hate relationship with my desk.

My desk is large, and I've made it larger by having a small file cabinet at one side and a table at right angles to it. So I should have plenty of space. I have two 'thingees' to hold upright files. I have my computer turned so I can gaze out the window (past the run-down house with 4 cats who appear and run about on the roof!)

All that space means things have more space to get lost. From left to right in front I have - a pile of folders dealing with the three levels of confirmation I am working on this fall - a pile with Good Samaritian notes that need to be entered into the database and then filed in the safe - an open space with the blotter with the monthly calendars under the plastic - the phone and all the note pads that seem to pile up. Turn to the table and I have a little thingee with cds and cdroms and which is now holding notes for christmas 2008. then the computer and the other file thingee with active committee files.

From left to right in back I have - a pile that is stewardship materials - a pile that is things that have to go to other people or things I still have to read or do something with - a pile that is cute kids books that might make children's sermons - an upright file thingee with directories, extra note pads, wedding info, the master calendar book, and which sometimes holds my traveling sermon book for the week.

Behind me is a box that holds stuff that should be filed.

I took a good look at this because we got a call on Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. that said I was to be at the nursing home at 9:30 (but I had a 11:00 o'clock funeral). Thank God for partnered ministry - MP was able to go - grudgingly - I have his date in Nov.

I can't find that schedule anywhere in this mess. Aquila is gone this weekend - I have all morning Saturday before the wedding to do something.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


We should send a memo out to our staff about e-mailing.

Do not e-mail your concerns without speaking to the person directly.
Do not e-mail everyone on the list if they don't need to know.
Do not e-mail a series of questions that no one can answer.
Do not e-mail 1,2, 0r 3 on Friday afternoon.
Do not forward e-mails without informing the original sender.
Do e-mail ordinary concerns that might be helpful to have in writing.
Do e-mail to remind us of duties.
Do e-mail to ask a specific question.
Do e-mail to ask to talk.

We're all adults.

Matt 22:1-14

Beginning thoughts

God does not play by our rules

Like a cat, God is just God

Do we think our everyday garment of compromise is adequate for the wedding banquet?

Should I spend any part of the sermon trying to explain that the issue isn't that God is unfair? It's that God is God.

Shouldn't we be terrified? (Thanks to BB Taylor's essay "Tales of Terror, Times of Wonder.' found on

Where is grace to be spoken here? Where is true grace?

Monday, October 6, 2008


A day that started calmly and turned wilder and busier each hour. An expected funeral consult turned into 4 hours of calling and leaving messages and calling back looking for a soloist and an organist who could play the family's requested song. During that 4 hours I made 4 hospital calls, gave blood and ate lunch. And received calls to visit the dying, arrange another funeral and come to a community organizing meeting. And dealt with a request for familiar religious music that might be familiar to both Christians and Jews. Finalized info for next Sunday. Preached at the late afternoon service. E-mailed all day. Visited the dying. Made it home to watch Heroes. I could use some superpowers. Maybe flight. not freezing people or turning into a fly.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

other men

I stopped by the quilting and others group. The ladies quilt. The gentlemen talk to each other and watch the ladies quilt. They are supposed to stop for a bible study, then have potluck lunch.

Elderly gentleman 1: Aren't there any pastors here?
Elderly gentleman 2: Why, Pastor Prisca's right here!
Elderly gentleman 3: She's our favorite lady pastor.
EG1: What's she going to do here?
EG2: She's going to do the Bible Study.
Me to EG1: What's your favorite Bible story?
EG1: Noah! Love Noah!

At the end of the Bible study EG1 led grace. We went off topic several times. I won't tell his wife. He'll never hear the end of it.

little green men

I actually quoted Luther in the sermon. The text (I preached from Philippians 3) drove me to the idea of alien righteousness. So I had to find Luther on the "Two kinds of Righteousness" (which are the alien and proper kinds). And that was the theme of the sermon.

First we recognize that all we are, achieve and do is 'rubbish', and then we respond to our new track suit of grace by running the race with eyes on the prize.

Yeah, I know, mixed metaphors. For first service I did it straight. At the second service I had powerpoint and pictures - including a little green man for the alien.

There are two retired pastors in our congregation. They seemed to approve. Lutherans tend to be get queasy about santification - it's not a popular subject. Aquila in his pure Lutheran mode had a problem with including the last line of the passage from Philippians 2 for our wedding text - "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (You can tend we were quite the serious couple way back when.)

However, perhaps our reluctance to think about 'proper righteousness' and preach on the challenges of the life lived in grace is part of our on-going problem of cheap grace. Yep, God died for me, now get out of my way.

We encounter the misapprehension of the church and the cheap grace over and over. An e-mail - I'm a member of the church but haven't been active for a long time. I'd like my child and spouse baptized. Can we do this privately? Can we do this without any pre-education? Can we do this without ever talking to one of the pastors? Can we do this without ever darkening the church door again? (I made those last two requests up).

About a year ago I met with a family who presented with 3 children and a baby. They wanted to join the church, enroll all the children in Sunday School and get the baby baptized. Great! Turns out each child was baptized in a different local church of our denomination - each about two years apart. The family had joined each church in succession. Children had never gone to Sunday School anywhere. I started to think that this had a lot to do with family stresses and shame. They were ashamed that they never followed through on their promises. I discouraged them from attaching to us and asked them first to contact their last pastor (a friend of mine, the gentlest soul in the world) and work with her about accommodating their family and it's needs. MP thought I had driven them away. But I felt that unless they heard a word - a considered and thoughtful word, not a shaming word - that asked them to reflect on the separation between their words and actions, they would never come to terms with God's call to them. They did not return. I didn't ask my friend if they came back to her church.

And then there are the 12 year olds who are dropped off on Wednesday night for confirmation who have never been to worship or to Sunday School - really, never. Those parents I get really angry at. And they are the ones we have the most issues with.

Friday, October 3, 2008

day off????

Well, something of a day off. The realtor came back to take new pictures of the house, off we go again hoping to make that change. Then back to work on the sermon. Sermons have not been flowing for a few months. Off the blog I've been collecting thoughts why that may be. I'll post them as I sort through them.

I am blessed to have a spouse who does get it - gets the day in and day out issues of parish ministry - because he once was there himself. He listens to me grouse about squeezing sermon writing in between loads of laundry, and lack of leadership and mixed signals and he just shakes his head.

My dear Aquila has worst days than any of mine in the parish. As a chaplain he's been at the Big Trauma Hospital for 6 months, and has filed more trauma reports in those 6 months than were filed in the last year. (he was asked if he was a trauma magnet) And the community had another child injured in a car accident this week. Those are times he knows he really 'does ministry' but I know he lays awake. (it's much quieter).

I think sermon writing is one of the reasons I'm beginning the blog. To practice writing - not really polished writing - but writing down the bones - as part of finding and refining my voice.

His Majesty Fuzzy the Bunny zkiller is on the keyboard! oryrrrr. Purr, Purr. Me, Me. The pure unadulterated self-centerness of the cat. Priceless

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

fifth week

It's a fifth week and that's a great blessing. A fifth week means that there were - not five Sundays which makes the treasurers antsy - but five Tuesdays! Five Tuesdays means I have a whole week with no meetings! Church A has committee meetings on the First Tuesday, council on the 2nd Tuesday, and Church B has council on the third Tuesday (they have meetings on the 2nd thursday)- add in Monday worship every other week. And usually on that last week.

And more blessings - confirmation is a 'service & social night' and the YDs don' need me!

The whole week at home in the evening. I don't know what to think. I estimate I work about 12 evenings out of 20 weekday possibilities in the average month. And of course, I never get home during the day with these gas prices - and it takes too long.

DH reminds me not to talk guilty. This is a normal work week for most people.

I'm making meat loaf tonight. And baked potatoes.

We are going with a realtor in our 'selling' community instead of in the working community. Hope this will draw lots of people to see and say 'this is a great house' and just right for us. I do like the guy, he's upbeat, and with 24 hours notice he did his homework to sell us, and that impressed me.

As St. Julian says: All will be well.