Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Inner Child Is All Panicky

So I have to confess--I really don't like dressing up for Halloween. Oh, sure, I get a kick out of other people doing it. And I really enjoy watching Eric dress up, he just loves the whole idea of being someone else, if just for a little while. But not me.

No, when I was a child my mother had me dress up as a clown for the Halloween party in Nursery School. Yes, I know, that's been 34 years now, but the memory is still vividly etched in my memory. I don't blame my mom, really. Actually, it's all those years of group process in seminary that have helped me realize what this is all about. This loathing of having myself dress up for Halloween, that is.

Not to go too overboard in psychobabble territory, but really my inner child can't take it! Why is that, you ask? Well, for the better part of my life one of my big issues has been trying to figure out who I am. And having reached a point where I don't question my identity the whole idea of taking on another identity, even if it's just for an evening at church with a loving group of kids and adults is just too much for me.

And so I'll have to endure an evening of being the sour-puss, the party-pooper, the pour sport, etc. But as I do so I'll be myself. Even if my inner child is squirming and wanting to be left alone.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Matthew 10:29

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father."

Jesus' words about the care and compassion of God for even a little sparrow are words spoken by him in a larger passage assuring his disciples that they have nothing to fear in this world as long as they are following him and know that God is watching over them and caring for them. This seems to be the way the above passage is used by interpreters of this passage. But yesterday it was used in a startlingly effective different way in one of my favorite novels: "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell.

This novel has been out for about fifteen years and I read it for the first time about six or eight years ago and for some reason picked it up again a few weeks ago and finished it yesterday. The novel tells the story of a Jesuit and Scientific mission to the planet Rakhat to make contact with another sentient species. The story is told from the vantage point of the trip itself, in 2019 as well as in the distant future when the sole survivor returns in 2060. Throughout there is discussion of faith and God, especially one of the priests named Emilio. This main character experiences extreme mountaintops with God and utter desolation from God.

Very near the end Matthew 10:29 is mentioned as both a comfort and a warning; even as Emilio has fallen deeply in love with God and then feels utterly separated from God his superior reminds him of Jesus' words by saying "But the sparrow still falls." That is, at our lowest point when we are shaking our fist at God and wondering why God let bad things happen Matthew 10:29 reminds us that Jesus, that God never made such a promise. The promise made is that no matter what we go through, no matter how horrible how desolate we may feel God is there still even when we fall.

It may not be what many want to hear, but it is so true.

Friday, October 23, 2009

An Interesting Week

This sure has been an interesting week. It started off with a day off reading Mary Doria Russell's classic "The Sparrow". My morning reading took me from earth to Rakhat and first contact. Russell's book is so moving in its grasp of faith questions as well as what it would mean to contact other species (another way for sci-fi writer's to address race and culture issues). That Monday afternoon was spent doing stained glass, a small project for my nephew in Seattle for Christmas. Then the Price family was off to dinner at Jakkers' and then home to watch both the Denver Broncos & Philadelphia Phillies win on the same night. So it was a great day off and thank goodness because it has turned into a good but trying week of pokes and prods.

I say that because on Tuesday I went to see Dr. Dan about my hand tremors which turned out to be something called "Essential Tremor" and nothing more serious. We are going to look at treatment options in the weeks to come. But what was most trying about the visit was that he wanted some of my blood! And I had to get two vaccinations. So before I left his office I got poked in the left arm first with seasonal flu and then in the right arm with tetanus along with encouragement to fast on Tuesday night in order to show up first thing on Wednesday to have blood drawn for lab work, which I did reluctantly.

I know I sound like a baby, but I really don't need all that attention. Though on the up side it did give me the opportunity to bring out and practice in my head the "Jesus Prayer", that is, "Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner." It may not sound like much, but said over and over and over again in my head it helps calm me. And while I was at the dentist on Thursday--that's right--two vaccinations, blood work, and the dentist all in the same week! Anyway, while I was at the dentist having my teeth cleaned (no cavities!) the Jesus Prayer came in handy once again and while my gums were being probbed I felt for a little while as if Jesus was by my side comforting me through the ordeal.

Thanks to prayer and the fact that I've been flossing and brushing my gums along with my teeth and thanks to some really great nurses I've survived "an interesting week". Now it's Friday and I have Church Officer Training packets to put together and a graveside for an out of town family I do not know along with cleaning my office before I head home later today. All in all, it has been a good week, I can't wait to see what God has in store for the coming week!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hand Tremors

For the last thirty years I have had hand tremors from time to time. Over the last few months it has gotten worse and noticeable, especially at times like communion and when picking Red Bull cans up the wrong way. Earlier this summer a doctor friend in the congregation noticed it and told me that there was medication for such a condition. I don't know why I didn't run to his office right away, maybe its because doctors and others have told me there's nothing that could be done for it for as long as I can remember. But today I am going to his office, granted I'm not looking forward to a needle or two, but if it will help steady my hands in certain situations that would be great.

I guess its just difficult to have to trust that something can be done after so many years of being told to "just calm down" or having people saying "cut back on the coffee". Interestingly enough if I don't have enough coffee sometimes its worse. So I guess this is a good step forward; it has been embarassing from time to time with church folks and even my seven year old son wondering about it. So I will literally put my hands in someone else's and hope and trust that this doctor will be able to find out a way to help steady me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Visit from Mom

My mom is visiting from Pennsylvania this week. We got her into Twin Falls safe and sound on Tuesday after some airline mistakes and her bag arrived on the first flight into Twin Falls on Wednesday. She seems to be having a nice time, especially enjoying Eric whom she has not seen since February 2008. Granted she talks to him just about every Sunday afternoon so she has known for some time how far he has come and we've sent many photos so she and dad can see his growth, but it isn't quite the same. So she is very much enjoying his expansive vocabulary and equally expansive diet.

We are having a nice visit, even though we haven't been able to spend all that much time together. I was a little concerned about leaving her at LOGOS with all of my responsibilities, not to mention Kathy's. But she was able to talk with several different people and hear about how well adjusted and happy we are in Twin Falls and that means a lot to mom. I do often wonder how they felt about me interviewing in Pennsylvania and New York along with Idaho and feeling God leading us here. But the longer we are here the more certain I am of God's call and it seems the more at ease my parents are with the idea; even if it means seeing Eric seldomly.

Hopefully today will be a little calmer for mom. She is going to book club with one of her pen pals in the congregation and then she and I are picking Eric up from school instead of him riding home on the bus so that they can have a full hour more of time together. Kathy has book club at the house tonight, so that will just mean that much more time for Grandma and Eric to spend together. It's a short visit, but it has meant a lot to mom, Eric, Kathy and me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Red Bull + Laptop Keyboard = Not Quite Priceless!

My love of the energy drink Red Bull finally gored me! On Saturday before the worship committee meeting I grabbed the can the wrong way and some of it spilled on my keyboard. At first everything seemed to be o.k. Although sticky "v" and "c" keys would be the harbinger of worse things yet to come. But on Saturday morning with the laptop working fine and dandy I thank God that my mistake didn't prove too disastrous.

On Sunday morning, however, reality set in. As I sat down, while coffee was brewing before my regular Sunday morning preparation and went to log on to the laptop and check email, things were much worse. About half the keyboard would not function, meaning I could not log on to my laptop. Thankfully sermon and Sunday school materials were already printed out so it wasn't a complete loss. And thankfully today I called Jerry Green who suggested I plug an external keyboard into a USB port which I have done and accessed email and am writing this blog, along with backing up files.

On the other hand the only way to fix the fritzed keyboard is to send it off to Dell to be outfitted with a new one. That, of course will take 8-10 business days and in the meantime there is much to do. So your prayers are most welcome as I try to get by without my laptop for the next week and a half. It should be an interesting experiment and show me how dependent I have become on technology and my possessions, especially my laptop and internet access.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mr. Mom Chronicles 21: A Much Quieter Day

After the highs of Wednesday and LOGOS Thursday brought a much quiter and reflective day. Eric got up and dressed while I packed his lunch and started our day. Thankfully Eric's day was another "green light" day, but other than that he didn't have a whole lot to say once he got home from school.

As for me I spent a good deal of time readying myself for tomorrow's worship committee meeting by looking through resources for Advent & Christmas Eve along with a surprise catalogue that came in the mail. When I first saw it I thought it was a joke; it is the "Spiritual Expressions: Worship Dancewear 2010" catalogue. In fact I did chuckle a little until I opened it and saw something that the worship committee has been talking about for some time. That is a two foot long "wand" to which streamers are attached. What you do with that then is put different color streamers on the end of the "wand" and wave it over the heads of worshippers during a processional. I saw something like it when my friend, the Bishop of Idaho Brian Thom was consecrated as Bishop: it was a stunning effect. Saw hopefully sometime soon the Presbyterians of Twin Falls will give this effect a try in worship.

The balance of my day was taken up with working on the sermon as well as a pleasant morning visit with Stan Hoobing, the interim at Our Savior Lutheran Church here in Twin Falls. In the afternoon David Mead dropped in for a nice conversation for nearly an hour.

In the evening, after Eric got off the bus, he let me read a little while he unwound from school and then we throught the frozen dinners in the oven and played some Wii Sports. We watched survivor, read Harry Potter and headed off to sleep. All in all it was a really nice day, both as pastor and as parent.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mr. Mom Chronicles 20: LOGOS gives life!

The real highlight for both Eric and me was LOGOS! On the way home I asked him what he liked best about the night and he said "playing frisbee golf in the church and the table game after dinner." And while I have to agree with Eric that watching two dozen kids zoom foam frisbees throughout the halls of the First Presbyterian Church as well as seeing them turn playdough into different pet related items in a 3D version of Pictionary were both really great, I saw some other things that made my week!

Specifically watching two or three of the quieter kids smile from ear to ear and engage with the other kids and adults in a deep and wide way. As always there are some more reserved kids in any group, just like there are usually reserved adults (I should know as I am one) and as one my heart goes out to them that they just hang in there for there will be moments when everything clicks and they really do enjoy being at the church on a Wednesday afternoon and evening.

And yesterday was just one of those days when I saw a kindergartner who I'm never really sure what's going on with her, I watched her sing with joy and smile and really enjoy worship skills, thanks to Shastina's (the adult leader) definite gift of teaching. I saw an eighth grader who is usually quite reserved get a charge out of frisbee golf in the halls and I saw a very quiet ninth grader engage deeply in Bible study. Not to mention watching, as I've mentioned, an adult leader take the worship skills part of the night not only to the next level but to a place where the kids were having as much fun and getting as much out of singing as they got out of throwing frisbees in the hallway. Shastina Blackston definitely gets a gold star for the night and for what will, I'm certain, be many more successful evenings with our youngest kids.

So even though for all the adults and for a lot of the kids it is a good kind of tiring evening, it is also an time where we get to experience life in abundance! I am so grateful to the kids, youth, parents, and other adults who give so much time and effort to make this ministry happen at FPC.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mr. Mom Chronicles 19: Special Meals

Yesterday was a good day, after the jam jar jumble, that is. It turns out that I was trying to pry the lid off when it was simply a twist top. Live and learn, I guess.

As for Eric he had a "green light" day at school and after I blogged I was able to get the bulletin & some worship preparation done at the office in the morning. As things fell in place with the bulletin and Sunday planning the rest of the day kind of rolled along. Of course it helped that my afternoon had been planned out with the help of Margie Howard as we went and took home communion to several different people.

Those visits really bolster me. Even though I know it's not about me, that is, the reason for taking home communion to people is that they are not able to attend worship and so the church through their pastor (me) and one of our deacons (Margie) shows up at their door and live out Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” It is one of my responsibilities that I enjoy the most, especially when someone else does the planning for me and I can just show up, visit, share the scripture and we all break bread together. It really makes for a very special spiritual meal.

One of the highlights of those visits yesterday is that we took communion to a couple who are members of FPC, but who haven't been in worship for many years. Their names are Ron and Miriam Watson and Ron is Margie's cousin. When we showed up at their door Ron said that his oldes son would be joining us and so I got to meet three new people who know a whole lot about our church. And what was really fun was telling them who we had been to see before and who we were going to see after and hear about their connections with Lois Matheney and Fern Lewis which led to even more fond memories of their time at FPC. They really lit up when talking about the good times they have had at the church and it seemed to give them a deeper communion with their faith as lived out at the Presbyterian church in Twin.

The other special meal I had yesterday was with Eric. After he had a good day and after I realized that we needed to stay home and not go to a meeting at church I asked if he wanted to roast some hot dogs over the fire pit. Well you can guess his answer. And so he and I got some wood out, I lit the matches and we watched the fire for a while then had some high quality father-son time roasting weenies. It was a great way to end a really great day of special meals.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mr. Mom Chronicles 18: How Spoiled I Am

With Kathy off to exotic locations once again, this time Richmond, Virginia for the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators Board meeting, I am reminded once again how spoiled I am. More on that later, now let me recall yesterday.

Granted, things went pretty for the first couple of hours. We all got up around 5 a.m. on Monday, got Kathy out to the Twin Falls airport and then after a little more sleep and breakfast Eric successfully made it to the bus and I had a very relaxing day at home. I managed to do just about nothing which felt really good. About the only thing I did get done was a sketch of a Star Wars the Clone Wars storm trooper design for a stained glass piece that Eric has been asking for for some time.

Unfortunately Eric did not have such a good day. It seems he cannot wait until recess to tell his neighbors all sorts of things. And since he doesn't text yet he simply leans over and starts talking in the middle of lessons. That he was put on yellow light and then red light means that he had to do it and get caught not once, not twice but at least three times; not to mention the times he wasn't caught. And to top it all off, when he got home, after watching a little TV he announced to me that he thought he had to fart, but something more came out! Not only was he off his norm at school, but then to have an accident, it serves me right for thinking this would be a smooth week. So the punishment at home was that as soon as the pre-game show for Monday Night football came on ESPN his shows went off and mine went on. That and it was to bed early, though he's got me reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban a chapter a night so even though he went to bed at 7 p.m. I did not leave the room until 7:50!

So why am I so spoiled? Well, most every morning Kathy takes care of things around the house so I don't really have to turn on my brain until after I've showered, dressed, driven to church and made a pot of coffee. But not when Kathy's gone. Oh no. Now I have to get up early enough to get Eric showered, dressed, groomed, fed, lunch made, etc. And if any one thing goes a little off I'm not the most warm and cuddly dad, since I'm not used to the routine that Kathy and Eric have.

So the result today? I couldn't figure out how to get the blasted top off of the homemade apricot jam for Eric's school lunch. And in my frustration in thinking that I needed an engineering degree to remove the lid from the jar so I could make a PB & J sandwich I somehow managed to drop the plastic jar into the sink and break it! And of course Eric doesn't want hot lunch and he doesn't like grape jam, so he had to settle for peanut butter and honey sandwich. I'm sure I'll hear about that this afternoon.

So why am I so spoiled. In a nutshell, Kathy smooths out my day so I have very little to worry about other than church stuff. So as usual when she goes away I am very grateful for how much Kathy does that I rarely see or acknowledge. She sure is a strong person to put up with doing so much and going so unrecognized. Thank you Kathy!