Thursday, March 31, 2011




~ Everything can be filed under 'miscellaneous.'

~ To err is human; to forgive is not company policy.

~ Important documents that contain no errors will develop errors in the mail.

~ There is never enough time to do it right the first time, but there is always enough time to do it over.

~ If you are good, you will be assigned all the work. If you are really good, you will get out of it.

~ If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would get done.

~ The authority of a person is inversely proportional to the number of pens he/she is carrying.

~ No one gets sick on Wednesdays.

~ The longer the title, the less important the job.

~ Once a job is fouled up, anything done to improve it makes it worse.

~ Success is only a matter of luck; just ask any failure.

[forwarded by Gretchen Patti]


I'm gonna miss Kadafi's outfits. He makes Lady Gaga look like Johnny Cash.


Yeah, you can send this Funny to anybody you want. And, if you're REAL nice, you'll tell them where you got it!

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Prayer and Repentance

Using Job 1-12 and Esther 8-10 as the allocated texts for my time to pray with the CalPac Prayer and Repentance 80 hours of prayer and scripture reading, I was put to the test.

This, I share as part of my prayer reflection, living in the moment, and praying for discernment, and using the power of pulling the text out as it spurs my thought.

I wonder at the kind of repentance we are called to as a conference dealing with the hanging of Haman, and the destruction of all those who opposed the Jews

I am mindful of the text from Job, which reads "Job 1:9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied." - fear is awe and revere, lift up, not a matter of running from, in the NIV. And I question the levels of which we have allowed God to become too intimate, and not mysterious enough, listing away from the power of awe and reverence, to the point at which we might actually "fear" God, as the punisher - because that is the intimate we know: Fear and Danger, unmitigated anger, and grace which must be arbitrarily imparted, at the whim, not of God, but of the angels who attend our God.

And then in verse 16 the servant attributes to God, that which rightfully in action belongs to Satan, "16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”"

Imagine then my confusion at being confronted with worship in a new context:

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”

22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

A new context for worship is that which acknowledges God as the one of power, mystery and wonder. This is worship as praise. And I am mortified to think of the last time in my tragedy I praised God, not for the action that was perpetrated, or for anything other than the greatness of God, unassigned to any actual action, but instead to the very being of God.

And then this interchange between God and Satan:

4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

6 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

Satan is doing his level best to make God go against the nature of God to create and make whole, by asking God to strike against Job, and God, in wisdom, actually allows Satan his own wholeness, despite the anger he seeks to draw out of Job, and the pain he wants to assert. Definitely, an interesting little bit for my contemplation about healing and repentance. I might need to more seriously consider repenting of hindering others, even when they are seeking to diminish and destroy, as I have not allowed them to be whole in themselves, or I failed to impart healing which would bring about a different state of wholeness.

And that (pause) just brings to life a completely different, but related thought - I guess I always assumed that wholeness for one would look an awful lot like wholeness for another. And if I give credence to that earlier thought that the side of Satan that sought to inflict pain, and incite malice against God, was in fact leading to Satan's wholeness, then wouldn't it also follow that some people might have a similar path to wholeness?

Then I consider what it was to be a friend to Job, and marvel at the stamina of his friends, as I have a hard time staying even an hour

Job 2:

11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

What would it mean not to repent, or even to heal (in the sense of the miracles of healing as Jesus performed), but to heal in the sense of being "wholly with" another who is in pain, with torn robes, and in ashes - perhaps that means wearing a hospital gown to visit with those in the hospital (and now I am stuck wrestling once again with Simone Weil [which drove me nuts in seminary, and every time since])

And then this lament from Job:

20 “Why is light given to those in misery,
and life to the bitter of soul,
21 to those who long for death that does not come,
who search for it more than for hidden treasure,
22 who are filled with gladness
and rejoice when they reach the grave?
23 Why is life given to a man
whose way is hidden,
whom God has hedged in?
24 For sighing has become my daily food;
my groans pour out like water.
25 What I feared has come upon me;
what I dreaded has happened to me.
26 I have no peace, no quietness;
I have no rest, but only turmoil."

How often have I heard this from people with terminal illness? There is no rest. There is no peace. As much as they would give up, there is still life within them. There is no plan or progress, and no sense of what might be - other than death. And yet, as much as they give up and give in, without committing suicide and ending it themselves, this pain will not cease.

And here begins the litany of empty words offered from the friends of Job. So often I feel like my visits are the same. The only real healing that I can offer comes not from my words, or from the lack of physical wholeness I could provide, but instead from my simple presence. And maybe that is the healing I need to offer more clearly (and I might even submit that for actual repentance, I might need to do the same - be with those whom I have wronged, in a simple state, an act of being with, and nothing more of expectation, except that I walk with[and again I am drawn to Simone Weil - boy I wish I had something else to work with on this - Bonhoeffer perhaps?])

Edit: Job 6:14-23 seems to make the same point - your words are empty and your presence is that which is most valuable.

And I find that Eliphaz the Temanite is eerily reflected in the text of Isaiah 40. Both seeking to offer hope, despite great oppression, one for an individual and the second for a nation. And I find myself back in the comforting arms of a mysterious God that cannot be fathomed.

I also am slightly cowed by the sense present in the earlier monologue of Job, and the current monologue of Eliphaz that God inflicts injury. However, I have to find the space to reconcile (be healed? Repent of my wrong-headedness?) that thought and conception of God by humans (and perhaps all of humanity, with the God who does not actually do harm, but allows another to do so to fulfill his (Satan) sense of wholeness.

[At this point I stopped with the blogging prayer of discernment, due to time constraints, and trying to finish reading the scripture, and taking some time to pray with my daughter at bedtime (which did include prayers for healing and repentance*grin*)]

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011


The Past is the New Future

Introductory Notes by Doug Pagitt

Change, it's our norm

It's only a slight exaggeration to say that everything in our lives, everything we depend on for our basic survival, was created in the last 200 years.Think about your typical day. You wake up in a bed made of materials-internal springs, polymers, anti-microbial fabrics, that didn't exist 200 years ago. You are awakened by an alarm clock that was invented in 1876 (or maybe to an iPod that was invented in 2001). You take a shower (indoor plumbing arrived in the mid-19th century), eat eggs shipped by trucks from a different part of the country, purchased at a grocery store with a credit card, and cooked over an electric stove. You drive a car to work and maybe make a few calls on your cell phone on the way.

You might live in a state that was open frontier in 1860 or in a town that was nothing but grassland in 1922. You might send your kids to a school where they read digitally printed books and use computers and watch DVDs. You might go to church on Sunday morning at 11:00 where you speak into a micro-phone and sing along with words projected on a screen.

For most of human history, changes in broad social structures came occasionally and were limited in geographic scope. But in the last two centuries, cultural change has become far-reaching, constant, and increasingly rapid.

Doug Pagitt

To the Church at St. Andrew UMC, Santa Maria, CA

I noticed the other day just how often we come full circle in the church.

I was amazed to find several living will documents in the church files, along with an Advance Directive for Health Care. I wondered how these people 30 years ago knew that getting information out about Living Will, Trusts, Lifetime Giving, and Advanced Directives for Health Care are all on the agenda for several of our committees, including worship, finance, trustees, and church council. We have talked about how we haven’t done much with the Giving Tree (which is a Trustees item), about how helpful it was to have a file on a member with the particular wishes for how a funeral was to be carried out (Worship team), and with the many hospital visits to congregation members, and my own surgery this past year, I was reminded that everyone ought to have an Advance Directive for Health Care. We revisit many of the same themes in cycles in the church.

Another conversation led to the discussion about how we might grow the church, and what that means. This too has seen the history of the church take turns in each of several different modes - wandering people, temporary meeting places, permanent meeting places, transitional people (neither tied to a home, nor without one) and back through the cycle. I was asked how we might get people “out of the church” and “into the world”, which sounds an awful lot like the transitional phase, recognizing very clearly that St. Andrew UMC has been very permanent for nearly 45 years, as we come upon our 50 year celebration, and that for almost 100 years the motto has been “if you build it, they will come”, after simply setting up a tent where the people were prior to that. The movement of the church takes us around again.

I was talking with a friend the other day about all the stuff the pastor wears. You know the items, robe, collar, stole. We got to talking some about how those things have come and gone, depending on the times, and the denominations. These days robes are meant to signify something or someone different. They are a throwback to the role of the priest in the Old Testament. Only it wasn’t so much the robes then, but the colors, and the different armor the priests put on, from that of a common warrior. The breastplate had semi-precious stones embedded, and the 12 tribes of Israel inscribed on onyx shoulder pads, and a giant helmet. This was a very strong departure from Moses and his predecessor priests who led by example, rather than ornamentation. Since that time the church has seen the ebb and flow of each of these types of ornamentation, that which meets the people as they are, and that which shows the display to draw attention. The cycle is ever-changing, and the rationale always fluctuating between the need to be seen as “human, like them” and “a special one from God”.

And so it is with life cycles. Some lives run longer than others, like that of the church (institutions seem to have lifespans of about 200-250 years), versus that of a human being (current average age in the US is about 76), or the fruit fly (in optimal conditions about 30 days). As we consider where in the stages of the lifecycle we find ourselves, we have the opportunity to remember why we decided to act as we did in gathering for this activity or that one, and for the mission of the church at the outset. In doing so we have a great opportunity to re-envision how we can help the next generation meet those same questions of “why” in their lives, knowing full well, that the what will change, as well as the rationale that will get them to the why.

You see, for all the cycles and rhythms of life, the why of the church never changes, to worship God, and show God’s love into the world today. In a world with growing diversity, and increasing differences between people, economically, educationally, spiritually, ethnically, and beyond, the lines are also becoming more blurred, and open to question. Ours then, as the church, and its people, continues to be a deep need to share the Amazing God we know with the world, in such a way that God is made clear.


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