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Archive for June, 2009

Down on the Farm

Just over the back yard and across a bit of common space is my neighbor’s organic farm. I can see her goats from my windows when the trees are bare, or when I’m sitting on the patio. She has chickens too. My kids love the chickens.

After church yesterday the boys and I did the youth group thing–a quick ice cream outing. They weren’t content to hang out after playing on the elementary school playground so I offered them a movie outing. We’d seen “Up! in 3-D” with Daddy on Friday, but now Daddy was at camp and it was Mommy time. I took the boys in and showed them the previews of the movies I thought they’d enjoy, nothing too scary or old. The choice was “Night at the Museum.”  We were all tired, but the cheapskate in me figured I’d save at least a few bucks by going to a matinee. I saved $2! A lousy $2.

We were all tired, but we enjoyed the movie any way; even with 5 bathroom trips. But hey, no one wet their pants! After a trip through the fancy grocery store, we went back home. J feel asleep in the car, really asleep. So I put him on the couch when we got home. R wanted a snack, so he munched on goldfish crackers while I cooked up some chicken nuggets. He decided to go outside. Farmer T was out, so Robbie asked if he could go over. I told him he’d need to ask her if it was ok. Soon he came back to report that he could come over at 8:15 pm.

We waited. I ate dinner. J slept. R waited outside. At 8:15 R came in to check the time. J was still sound asleep, so R & I went to the farm. We talked to the dogs, checked out the goats, but tonight was all about the chickens. R learned how to pick one up, which delighted him. Thankfully the chickens are very docile and didn’t seem overly bothered by being picked up. Farmer T and I chatted while R talked to the birds. It was getting close to bedtime for the animals, so Farmer T suggested R might like to collect the eggs for the day. She got the bucket and told R what to do. He counted as he went– 24 eggs! Some of them he even had to reach under the hens to retrieve.

Farmer T was putting the goats to bed, so R & I took the eggs up to the garage where the egg cooler is. Farmer M offered us a dozen in appreciation of the work. R beamed. He wanted to take one of the still warm eggs home and hatch it. He didn’t quite understand why I told him the egg probably wouldn’t hatch and would be more likely to smash under his weight. He was so excited when he got home that he just had to wake up his brother. I washed the eggs and put them in the fridge while the boys ate their chicken nuggets.

R asked if we could have chicks at our house. I told him I didn’t think so. Where would we put them? Besides, we couldn’t get approval from the city to have our own coop. Too bad. Sometimes it seems the city regulates the wrong things. We can’t have a coop, but the landlords of the rental properties in town don’t have to keep up their properties to any standard. Something wrong with that.

As I finished cleaning up the kitchen, I reflected on the blessing of knowing the farmer and even the chicken who supplies our eggs. Now that’s not something I could have ever said before.

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Last Sunday I returned to my previous congregation to join in the celebration of the dedication of the new sanctuary. I didn’t tell anyone I was coming, but I was so pleased to receive the invitation. For some reason I have been dropped off the newsletter mailing list again. Likely it’s because the secretary doesn’t think I need to receive it. But I did get an invitation to the dedication.

I called my friend, the choirmaster, as I was leaving home to let him know I’d be there. It takes 3 hours exactly to get there from here, so I had to leave right after church to get there when the building would be open for viewing. The service would start 90 minutes later. I drove across a state road rather than coming interstate highway all the way. It’s probably good that I went a way I didn’t usually travel; there were fewer emotions hitchhiking that road.

I pulled into the parking lot right at 4:30. I almost parked in my usual spot, but opted to go left instead of right in recognition of my status as visitor, and no longer settled community member. It wasn’t that I didn’t park in a reserved space; I just didn’t park where I used to. As I was getting out, I saw familiar faces arriving too. As I walked alone up the path to the new doors, I could see Dick C in the upstairs window taking pictures. He was snapping shots of me so I smiled and waved.

It was hard to get more than two steps inside the door before people started recognizing me and stopping me for hugs and how are yous. I felt right at home, almost like I had just returned from vacation or arrived at a family reunion. I could hardly get a look at the building because every time someone would start to show me in one direction someone else would stop me. I nearly gave up trying to see the place so I could give my full attention to the people who seemed so eager to see me and to know that I was well. Just thinking about it now makes me cry. Here were the people who had so lovingly stood by me as I prepared for surgery and yet didn’t get the chance to see me through my recovery. Their vision of me must have provided some sense of relief and clarity, knowledge that I had really been OK after all I had been through. I wonder what misspent care and concern had been floating around; and would it now be resolved?
I finally made it upstairs and got glimpse of the bridal room. While in there I caught up with Ceri W, one of those people I dearly loved and had a connection with. Her buddy, the other C, had moved back to Germany; no doubt a joy for Carolina, but it left a hole for Ceri who lost both of us in a years time. She held back tears as we talked about her decision to step back from teaching Sunday School.
Finally it was getting time to assemble. Still seeing people I hadn’t seen, I eventually made it to my car to retrieve my robe. I didn’t know where I was supposed t go, so I just went where I had always gone, back to the offices. I put on my robe and went outside to join the gathering throng of clergy.

I cried through the whole service. I had some tissue in my pocket so I kept wiping my eyes. It seemed like every time put away my tissue I’d realise that I had tears streaming down my face again and I’d take the tissue back out. The service was beautiful, and the sanctuary so full of light. I would like to go back and spend some time taking it in.
By the time I made it back to the Parish Hall, most everyone was gone and the food had all been cleared away. I was starving. I hadn’t had a proper lunch and the dinner hour was long past. It was almost 9:30 before Travis and I left for dinner at Max & Erma’s.

We sat and ate, just like old times. It was 10:30 nearly when we got out. I called Bruce and asked if he minded me staying over night. Travis had a guest room and I could get some sleep before having to drive back. Bruce said it’d be all right, so I stopped at Meijer and bought some pajamas to wear. And staying over would give m a chance to drive around the neighborhood. After breakfast at Paradise Cafe I drove through town and saw what had a changed. I drove past my house. It looks good. The new owners have replaced the windows; even put in one of those pop out bay windows, kind of like I wanted to do. They were home but I resisted the urge to go up and say hi.

I went to Whole Foods and saw another favorite church member. I went to Target and thought about how I had shopped there and how I could almost just feel myself back there as if nothing had changed. I got in the car and drove back into Carmel, up the roads I used to travel and past the sights I used to see. I went to the car wash and used one of the coupons from the book I still have. And I cried a little, in the car wash, thinking about how many times I’d been through there with my children and wouldn’t they like to be with me there now. I drove past their school and lamented that John wasn’t there now. I headed north some more, through the center of Old Town. Saw the construction of the new arts center and hotel. I stopped at the yarn shop and discovered it was closed. I wonder if it just moved? But there was no sign saying so; just an empty building. Likely a victim of the construction traffic reroutes. I kept heading north and figured I’d better keep moving or I’d never get back to the place I now live. But I feel so much connection to that old place. My heart was aching to come home to the place I resisted. It took me 7 years to decide I loved where I lived and even then it was because we had started looking else where. But it was that looking that made me realise how much I really did love Carmel. It had so much to offer that I couldn’t easily find anywhere else.
I made one more stop on my way out. I stopped at Chick-fil-A. We don’t have those in the place where I now live. So I got some lemonade and some chicken strips. The chicken was so hot, even after I let it sit for 20 minutes.

The drive back was easier in some respects. People were moving along more, even the construction zones, now active, moved along.

We’ll be back in 6 weeks. Will it be harder then to leave? I’ll be at the convention center, but I plan to get out in to the surrounding area. It’s all part of the place where I used to live. It’s all part of me.

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It disturbs me

On Memorial Day our little town holds a parade. Everyone comes out to line Main Street and watch the tractors, trailers, big trucks, old timey cars and rescue vehicles go by. There are some veterans in the parade, and everyone throws candy to the kids. I swear, this town keeps the candy companies in business! My kids bring home pounds of candy from school, day care, parades and social events. It’s insane. The dentist must be the richest guy in town. Surprisingly we didn’t get as much candy from this year’s parade; the kids had it all eaten within minutes of arriving home.

What caught my attention is the same thing that often catches my attention in this town. It’s the families of the conservative churches, one in particular. It’s the biggest church in town, and it’s families seem to dominate a lot that happens here; which kind of makes sense as they are a major population. Anyway, as we stood on the corner waiting for the parade a family arrived to take up space on the opposite corner. The husband looked like any other guy in town: clean blue jeans, nice shirt, well kempt hair, followed by a couple of kids, a baby in a stroller and the wife. Their presence didn’t bother me until I saw the wife. Young, probably mid to late 20s, wearing the telltale ankle length denim skirt, blouse, sweater, jewelry free, naked faced, long hair in a bun and walking a few paces behind.

Let me say here that I support every woman’s right to dress as she chooses. I stand next to President Obama who this week spoke in Cairo about the need for understanding between groups who hold different values and that one country and it’s culture can not dictate its way of life to another. Having said that though, it chaps my hide to see that in that church culture the men have been allowed to dress with the culture and blend in, but that the woman’s dress has been dictated and held to an outdated standard. They bear the burden of representing their tradition through dress and subservient roles.

I know that they are entitled to their lifestyle and values, and I didn’t even know they existed until I moved here. The other thing that bothers me is that while they are not permitted to dress like modern women, they are able to acquire most all the trappings of modern life: fancy cars (not Mercedes or Lexus but the top of the line van or SUV of another line), cell phones, fancy jogging strollers, big homes with two kicthens (one for family, one for church parties). You get the idea?  They aren’t allowed to speak in church, but are expected to teach the children at home and instruct them in the faith. And they aren’t supposed to have friends outside their church.  In my imagination I can picture how it works, but I wouldn’t want it to be me.

What really gets me ruffled, is the approach to education from women. While there are women of that church who hold jobs outside the home and even own businesses, they are more likely to be single (old maids) or widows who were forced to work to support themselves. The usual pattern is for girls to complete high school, repent, get baptised and join the church, then get married all in the same year or month. Of course the first baby arrives within the following year. What might have happened for these girls if they had gone to college? I suspect the fear is that they would be hijacked by the prevailing culture and taken away into the sinful material world. But if your religious instruction and values haven’t taken root by age 18, then you’re not likely to return to them after the experimental and experiential years of tertiary education and young adulthood. That much is true regardless of your upbringing.

For me it is a case of the disappointment of unfulfilled potential. What contributions are not being made to the world when a girl of any faith or locale is denied and refused the ability to expand her knowledge base? And how many girls don’t even bother to challenge themselves because they know the road ends at high school graduation? Still many are pushed to achieve in school because to do otherwise would be sloth and laziness which would bring shame on the family. Shame not as deep for a girl as for a boy, but shame nonetheless.

There is little I can do to change this; but my presence alone is a challenge to their way of living. Any ankle skirt woman who knows what I do for a living is challenged if she stops to think about what I do and how I got here. And every once in a while, she’ll come to a wedding at which I preside or perhaps a funeral, and she’ll see what happens when women are allowed to pursue paths that God has created. She will be challenged, and her husband may be scared or maybe, just maybe he’ll be challenged too.

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Cancelled : {

My camp has been canceled. We had 3 kids register at PP and 26 at CWS. I’ve called my kids and offered them a space at CWS. In the meantime I recruited 4 more kids and an adult from a big city church. I called all of my staff members and thanked them for their service this year and invited them back next year. It’s rough starting a new camp, especially when the topical focus is relationships and sexuality. My husband will still be going to the camp. The other site needed 1 male counselor.

I had a feeling (call it a premonition?) that either I wouldn’t be going to camp or my camp wouldn’t happen, now  I know it’s both. But to tell the truth, I had been very anxious about it and concerned that the stress of camp would be too much on this already overtired and spiritually depleted pastor. Then again, camp recharges me too. So I was looking forward to being out in nature, singing church camp songs, communing with God, worshiping, and even giving keynote presentations. But now, I’ll instead be at home and might even take a couple of days off. My folks will still be coming up, since they were planning to keep my boys that week. I might actually get to spend some time with them.

Back to thinking about why my camp didn’t make…It was a new concept, and many people were uncomfortable with it. And, it may have worked out better had I made some “dog and pony” visits to the congregations that we were trying to target. Obviously it’s important because the 4 big city kids were recruited after I met their pastor and talked about the camp in person. I had spoken with people from other chuirches on the phone, but in sensitive cases like this, the personal touch goes a long way. So over the next year, I’ll be much more intentional about making contact with people and inviting them to consider the camp. And I also suspect that the cost of camp was an additional factor. A week away at camp is a bargain at $250, but if you haven’t got $250 it’s no bargain. And many people won’t take a scholarship to go; their just too proud. As for adults, if you’re worried about losing your job you’re less likely to consider taking a week of vacation to go to church camp.

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