31 December 2007

Ham Desalination and Perhaps the best leftover Brunch Recipe

The Ham for Christmas dinner was fantastic!  I first washed and scrubbed it, then soaked it overnight before cooking it.  I hoped the local butcher shop would cut it for me, but they said no way (all I wanted them to do was cut the hock and shoulder off).  So I went out into the garage, located my coping saw and cut the hock off and left the majority of the shoulder on.

I knew, even after soaking it for 18 hours, it would still be too salty for the VOR and the kids.  I remembered while in NC one time reading on some ham steaks to fry them in a skillet with some water to remove some of the salt.  So I cut some razor thin pieces of the ham and fried them in about a half inch of water.  I flipped them several times, then washed them, added more water, repeating this process five or six times.  I couldn't get over how well it washed the salt out.  The VOR said it was one of the best hams she ever had!

Since only two adults, two kids and one junkyard dog (#3) ate this 16lbs ham there was a considerable amount of leftovers.  I cut major portions and froze them for beans and soups. The rest I carved and put in freezer bags.  On the morning of the 26th I got around to reading the NYTimes Wednesday Dining Section and discovered the baked egg recipe.  So I quickly butter a small Fiesta dish we got for Xmas, placed some hame and English Cheddar, then topped it off with an egg - WOW what a breakfast.  I have had this now five mornings (yes my veins are shrinking but lord is it delicious).  Try it, you will not be disappointed.

26 December 2007

Christmastide

Odd being in RI for Xmas and not in WV. Odd to have a big meal but just the five of us to eat it. Odd indeed.

Xmas went over well here. The kids were more excited by the thank you note Santa left than their toys and more excited about their stocking stuffers than their presents. They enjoyed.

First, the kids with Santa (#3 was having nothing to do with the man).We, by we I mean the VOR, made some party mix (with nearly a cup of bacon grease, aka renderings) delicious candy this year: peppermint bark, turtles, yogurt pretzels, corn flake clusters, chocolate covered peanuts, and 7 layered cookies. Here is a picture of the aftermath:Also, on the 23rd Sylven came over with the table! More pictures forth coming, but for right now here is a snippet:While waiting for the table to be delivered I walked outside to examine the bees (does not look good - losing about 50 a day. They are not eating properly and the mites are getting them). As I walked about in the yard I noticed that the maple leaves had melted into the snow creating a beautiful imprint:

The kids were angels in this years Xmas pageant. The Xmas Eve service, at 11:00pm was packed - I could not believe it, who stays awake that late on Xmas Eve? It was your standard Lessons and Carols. Over the week I have been listening to some songs by Steve Earle, Tom Waitts, U2 and Johnny Cash which made me think of a different style of lessons and carols - but how to you transition music that you listen to to congregational songs (this is one of my life goals).

The VOR's birthday is today, she tells stories of family forgetting her birthday, having presents wrapped in xmas paper and always getting a cake her dad liked more than she did. I took the kids (just #1 & #2) out shopping on Saturday for coffee (they got hot chocolate with whipped cream), then some wine for xmas dinner (they looked at amazement at all the bottles) mom's surprise xmas gift (they loved the croaking frog key chains) and mom's birthday present (for some odd reason they loved the dark brown and orange selections). #2 has a hard time with keeping secrets. He told me as we exited the van, "Hey dad, I can keep important secrets." Later that day he revealed to mom that we went to a jewelry store, but he didn't say what we purchased. Later on he said' "Hey mom, "I can't tell you what you got, but you can wear them on your ears."

In preparation for the birthday I finally got around to printing a picture for the VOR's locket. I found that if you print out a contact sheet of prints it will work perfect. Here is the picture I took for the locket, probably the best one of all three together:
More on the ham (by ham I mean the country ham, not one of the kids) later...

25 December 2007

23 December 2007

More Pork, More Pork and More Pork

On Friday the postman knocked on the door to deliver our 16 lbs country ham.  It is a gift from Lori's brother (he can not eat something with that much salt in it.)  The ham is now soaking, in the morning I'll take it to the butcher to slice, then cook it for the big dinner.  I'll keep the hock end for beans and the shoulder end for some flavoring and who knows perhaps some pork stock.
Last week a package arrived from Dr. Burg, his article was approved for publication in Presence; I asked him to send me a copy of journal.  In the package he included a tin of Bacon Mints.  I was excited but a bit apprehensive to ingest them: were they or weren't the for human consumption - Dr. Burg had no idea.  I thought perhaps they were in the genus of Yip Yaps.  I went ahead and tried them and loved them.  Thanks Dr. Burg.
Last night we were able to get the kids down sometime right after 7; we even watched a bit of a Seinfeld episode but the real treat was watching a Simpsons episode (the one where Lisa turns Buddhist).  In one poignant:
Homer: So, you think you know better than this family, huh?
Well, as long as your in my house, you'll do what I do,
and believe what I believe. [the camera pans to reveal
that Homer is talking to Bart] So butter your bacon!
Bart: Yes, father. [does so]
Lisa: Mom, Dad, my spiritual quest is over.
Homer: Hold that thought. [to Bart] Bacon up that sausage, boy.
Bart: Dad, my heart hurts. [Homer glares at him] Ohh. [wraps a
slice of bacon around a sausage link and eats it]

21 December 2007

1 down 99 to go

Last night I finished the first of my 100 books for 2008 (remember I am giving myself a "rolling start").  The book was the Ipod Book by Scott Kelby.  I saw this book at the local mega-lo-book-mart the other day and thought what a corny book I already know everything about my ipod; nevertheless I picked it up and found out all kinds of stuff I had no idea about.  Primarily about how to podcast.  I have been recording all my sermons on my ipod but couldn't figure out how to turn them into a podcast, now I know.  

19 December 2007

Second Hand Cursing

Golfing one day in college with a man and his son I heard the son say darn it after an errant shot. The dad replied, "Son you know how I feel about second-hand-cursing." I had never heard that phrase before in my life, still have yet to hear anyone else ever use it.

In the Sunday Times magazine there was perhaps one of the greatest usages of second hand cursing I have ever read. The cover story on Mike Huckabee contained some information by a reporter from Little Rock. The reporter said Huckabee would not swear but did have a cunning way of using vulgar language: instead of saying someone was full of *&%$, Huckabee would say the person was constipated. I thought that was pretty clever. I'm still not going to vote for him, but I do admire his cleverness.

here is the paragraph I am referencing:
Huckabee, on one wellremembered occasion, banned an alternative newspaper, The Arkansas Times, from the services of the governor’s press office. His usual weapon, though, has been his sharp tongue. Huckabee is never profane — one of his first acts as governor was to ban swearing and inappropriate sexual remarks by his staff — but he has a way of expressing himself that sometimes flirts with vulgarity. ‘‘Once he told a group of journalists that I was constipated,’’ John Brummett recalls. ‘‘That was his way of saying I was full of [expletive].’’

Gastronomical News

Since worship was cancelled Sunday due to inclement weather, I hopped in the truck and drove down to pick up a copy of the NYTimes.  (What I was thinking purchasing a small tome of news I have no idea.  Did I really imagine a day of leisure reading the paper with three kids trapped in the house all day?  I suppose I did).  Sometime after the kids were put to bed I was able to start on the Sunday magazine.  And wouldn't you know it an article by Michael Pollan.  

But this morning's Times had an even greater article on a magazine on the love of meat written by former vegetarians.  This line in particular is simply priceless: Both are in their early 30s, and both were once committed vegetarians. “We find over and over again that bacon is the conversion meat,” Ms. Standen said. “Bacon is how vegetarians change their minds.

18 December 2007

100 Books for 2008

First things first. For some reason family members, friends and even colleagues will ask me questions about suits. I suppose since I wear a suit 75% of the time I am some kind of unofficial know-it-all. All I know is what I have read about picking out a suit, spending some time in suit shops perusing the goods and paying close attention to the fashion in old movies. This morning I was searching for a suit brush when I found this great synopsis on picking out a suit.

Now to the issue at hand. I have decided to read 100 books for 2008. I am compiling a list of 80 books leaving space for 20 wildcards (new releases, new discoveries or expedient resources). I am trying to amass a list from a wide variety of authors and subjects. Furthermore (a word that we should use at least 3 times a day) I am asking for your help. Will you send me your recommendations of books you love(d) to read?

Let me further add that this is not a true 100 books for 2008 list. I am figure I need to give myself a "rolling start." I am, therefore (a word overtly used), including in the 100 books that I have already started and have yet to finish. We all have half read books laying around, haphazardly placed on nightstand or stashed in a briefcase somewhere. I am finishing all of these and going forward.

Suggestions are greatly appreciated. I will post the final list before the end of the month. Either email at gtnorvell@gmail.com or leave your suggestions as a comment to this post.

17 December 2007

Hmms

First, glad to see Huggins is not wearing just sweats any more.

Second, I laughed when I heard my brother-in-law tell me that at the last WVU basketball game a student held up a sign that read "Huggy, can you coach football too?"  I did laugh at this report.

Third, while I was at the coffee shop last week the dude behind the counter had a Patriots shirt that I wouldn't mind buying: it had a player in the classic Michael Jordan in mid-air-about-to-dunk- pose only the player held a football.  Below the figure were the words: Air Moss.  

Fourth, the winter (although it is not winter yet) storm that targeted New England this week brought another 8 inches early Sunday morning, followed by freezing rain and then just rain. Around 8 in the morning I called the moderator and we decided to cancel worship - everyone else did too.  Canceling worship services on a Sunday on the one hand is a treat, on the other hand it really stinks, especially when if you follow the lectionary!  After Epiphany I am officially chunking the lectionary for a good spell.


13 December 2007

The 2007 List

It is now time for the much anticipated List of 2007 Experiences.

Special note, these are discoveries and experiences I had, if for instance a cd was recorded in 1974 but I discovered it in 2007 it will be on the list.

Category I: Biblioteca
Best Children's Book: (a tie) Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rapaport and Zuzu's Wishing Cake by D.B. Johnson.
Best Non-Fiction (in general): Heat by Bill Buford
Best Non-Fiction (biography): Tunney by Jack Cavanaugh
Best Mystery: The Way Through the Woods by Colin Dexter
Best Essay: The God You Touch by Ann Ulanov
Best Professional Book: The Jazz of Preaching by Kirk Jones

Category II: Gastronomical
Best New Recipe:
The No Knead Bread
Best Spirit: Laphroaig 25 year
Best Meal: Boeuf a la Bourguignon at Pot Au Feu

Category III: Wildcard
Most Life Changing Event: "The Surgery"
Most Anticipated Event that Didn't Come to Fruition: The Release of American VI
Best Decision: To go ahead with vacation even though the van broke down in Maryland.
Biggest Surpise: Cask Ale

Category IV: Audiophile
Best CD: From the Plantation to the Penitentiary by Wynton Marsails
Best New Find: Elvis Costello (The other day while reading a review of Juno in the Times they described Jason Bateman's character as such: "while Mark tends the guttering flame of his youthful hipness, watching cult horror movies and trading alternative-rock mix CDs with Juno." And after reading Lady and Dr. Burg's best music of 2007 I realized that I just dont have the time or energy to keep up with new music, when I try to read Pitchfork Media it is just too much. So I have resigned to simply keeping up with known quantities and then searching the archives for in my world, lost treasures.

Finally, What I Can't Get Over a few weeks ago I referred to a Letterman joke about President Bush being a member of the Chuck Norris Fan Club. Since then, when I puruse the sitemeter findings it reveals that an ungodly amount of people are actually searching for the chuck norris fan club and are being directed to my blog.

09 December 2007

Celtic Women by 10

Each week during the announcements time at church I make my "famous" prediction of the score for the New England Patriots game. Today was a tough call: New England vs. Pittsburgh. I enjoy the Steelers and grew up watching them and the Browns. So I went with my heart and made the prediction of Celtic Women by 10. Some caught the absurdity, some didn't.

08 December 2007

Worshipers Bracing for the Effect of the Writers Strike Tomorrow Morning

Worshipers Bracing for the Effect of the Writers Strike Tomorrow Morning

by G. Travis Norvell
Birmingham, AL

A look of disdain passed over the face of Ida McKenna as she finished her last cup of coffee before washing the dishes in the Vista Hills, a suburb of Birmingham, raised ranch. "I suppose we'll hear a sermon from last year or who knows what he'll pull out of his (she paused choosing her words carefully) well you know what I mean."

Mrs. McKenna and millions of other Christian worshipers tomorrow morning will either discover what a "real" sermon sounds like or will hear a repeat! How is this? Most Christian preachers subscribe to a sermon service know as Better Ministry, a Los Angeles based company that specializes in writing and distributing what they refer to as "ministry enhancing materials" i.e. pre-written sermons. Better Ministry contracts their sermon writing product to members of Local #13 a member of the Writers Guild of America.

This Sunday, the Second Sunday of Advent, is the first Sunday that millions of pastors, preachers, evangelists and street corner hacks will find their inbox empty. The last of the pre-strike sermons were delivered last Sunday; which has almost driven Rev. Fred Deerpointe pastor of Our Mother of the Slain and Nearly Surviving of Cuyoga Falls, OH almost to drinking. Normally a calm, cool and collected professional parish priest Rev. Deerpointe this Friday was a nervous mess: hair tattered, unshaven and smelling of pickles and mustard. He said he didn't know what he was going to do. He said, "I think may be able to get away with a long and slow reading of Psalm 119, but after that it is any body's call."

From the looks of the Saturday morning church notices it appears lots of people will be hearing Psalm 119 tomorrow.

Some Saturday Stuff

This morning I am in charge of #1, #2 & #3 - the VOR is off at a art show selling her wares. (more information will be forthcoming on this new adventure in the near future). She is enjoying her business and nurturing her creative side.
****

One day last week we drove down to Sylven Medyesy's studio to see the latest progress on the table. She has the top finished and is working on the base and bench. The top is cherry, the base and bench is black walnut. Here is the top:*****
The other day #2 gave the VOR an oral report of A Charlie Brown Christmas, apparently there is a new character: Chicken Patty.

06 December 2007

Some Thoughts on Presidential Politics

First, my prediction of Mr. Huckabee as the dark horse candidate for the Republican nomination is coming true. As I listened to Huckabee I think he took a page right out of the Clinton camp and reversed it: he is sounding like a Democrat. This is my thought: he realizes that the nation is not leaning Republican, so sound more like the other side and see what happens. I don't really think that is his intention, but I do think it may be at play at some level.

*****
As I listened to the Democrats for the NPR debate I kept thinking at how paternalistic they are towards the middle class. They keep talking about the manufacturing base for the American economy as vital for the survival of the middle class. Are manufacturing jobs the best middle class folk can strive for here in America? Is the great investment in Americans with education, health care, public parks, highways, etc for a person to work at a shop making blue jeans every working day for 40 years? I would want Americans to dream bigger than that, to have a level of enjoyment, prosperity and financial security. We are a talented nation, we should have an educational system and economy that supports and lifts up creativity and let it strive.

My father worked at a bricklayer, his body after 30 years was worn out: knees shot (he couldnt go fishing) shoulder gone (could barely throw a baseball) and was in many ways tired. Is that what we want our economy to do its workers?

Come on Democrats quit sounding so paternalistic and idealizing the middle class and come up with some inspiring and uplifting visions.

******
If you haven't read Woody's latest post on Snickers, you must, you must!
I'm glad Ron found Woody's blog, it is great stuff.

******

Ron: any thoughts on which candidate(s) is impressing folk in WV?

*******

Now off to wrestle with Isaiah.

03 December 2007

Things I Vow Never to do Again in My Life: #435

A few weeks ago the family and I, along with the sausage eating vegetarians from down the road, went to the local Christmas Tree Farm to pick out our tree. Before we ventured out to tag the tree the VOR asked if we wanted to cut it ourself or if we wanted the farm to cut it for us on a certain day. (Thinking that the trees were just around the corner and since the sausage eaters would be with us when we go to cut the trees down, I said lets cut it ourself.) {In my head I was convinced that cutting the tree down myself would save us a few buck, hey I'm Scot what can I say. Even though the VOR clearly stated that the cost was the same to have them cut it down, I heard otherwise.}

Sunday after church, I packed my saw, gloves, put my winter coat on and toboggan on and headed down the road. I walked the mile to the tree and cut it down. Since it had started to snow the tree gained a few extra pounds. So I somehow was able to chunk the 100lb tree on my back and walk back to the truck. Never again.

There is a reason why Boy Scouts, local high school bands and meg-lo-marts sell trees. therefore from now on I am supporting my local tree selling gang.

29 November 2007

Advent Order of Service

The week has been crazy. I decided to start implementing some of the Getting Things Done objectives to my office and the way I work, spent three exhausting days labeling and organizing files - amazing to discover what all I had and amazing to see how useful this system is. Nonetheless time rolls on, Advent will be here in a couple of days and Sundays do not stop just because I am organizing myself. The sermons for the Advent-Epiphany cycle will all be from the prophets, I am using the lectionary selections but will break off after Epiphany and start a series on sharing our faith and hopeful ideas for the year in preparation for the Annual Meeting and Visioning Sessions.

So here is the Order of service for Advent this year:

LIGHTING OF THE CANDLES

PRELUDE

RINGING OF THE BELL

*OPENING HYMN NO. 154 VENI EMMANUEL
O Come, O Come Immanuel

*SENTENCES FROM SCRIPTURE

*INVOCATION
Creator God,
We praise you for you love in coming to us,
unworthy though we are.
Give us grace to accept the Christ who comes in your name,
and the courage to be Christ for others.
We praise and thank you, Creator God,
for you have not left us alone.
Each year you come to us, Emmanuel,
God with us in a manger.
Each time you come to us
in the broken bread and the cup we share.
In time or out of time you will be revealed
and we shall see you face to face.
Give us courage, God our strength,
to see your Christ in all who suffer,
to be hands to the helpless,
food for the hungry,
and rescue the oppressed. Amen.

THE CONGREGATION SEATED

PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God of all mercy,
give us grace to make a fresh start today.
We know we have not loved you
with our whole heart,
nor have we loved our neighbor as ourselves.
As we hope to be forgiven,
teach us also to forgive;
and lead us forward in a new life
where neither grudges
nor resentment have a part;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

PRAYER FOR PARDON

THE LORD'S PRAYER
In unison

*THE GLORIA NO. 182 Refrain ADESTE FIDELES
O Come, All Ye Faithful

THE PSALTER Psalm
To be read responsively

LESSON FROM SCRIPTURE
Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
Thanks be to God.

HYMN NO. 175 WIR HATTEN GEBAUET
We Light These Advent Candles

A TIME WITH THE CHILDREN
The children will light the first Advent Candle

CHORAL ANTHEM

SERMON

INVITATION TO DISCIPLESHIP

*HYMN NO.

THE MORNING PRAYER

PRAYER RESPONSE NO. 285 Taize Community
Jesus, Remember Me

THE PEACE
The Peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

INVITATION TO THE TABLE

OFFERINGS

AT THE OFFERTORY

*DOXOLOGY NO. 147 LASST UNS ERFREUEN
Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow

*PRAYER OF DEDICATION

*HYMN NO.

BLESSING

CHORAL BENEDICTION GOD BE WITH YOU

POSTLUDE

28 November 2007

400th Post

This evening I make my 400th post.

I simply want to refer everyone, if you haven't read it already, the Eric Asimov article in the NY Times about Bourbon.
Although it did not make their top list, I am a fan of the 18 year old Elijah Craig. I received it as an additional payment for a funeral about three years ago.

27 November 2007

Where is Blair?

Can anyone tell me what Tony Blair is up to these days?

He is supposed to be the "special envoy" to the Middle East yet I have seen neither hide nor hair of him in connection with the meeting in Maryland going on right now?

26 November 2007

Somethings and Nothings

The trip home to WV was fabulous. The first part was difficult for me without dad around. Although it has been nearly 18 months since his passing it wasn't until this trip back that many unreleased emotions came out: anger at dad not being around, sadness of time lost, sense of not knowing what to do with tools, projects, etc..
****

Turkeys: they turned out fine. The one at the VOR's mother's house worried me a bit, the meat thermometer was made in about 1953 and took about 15 minutes to before it would register a temperature. But I figured that the VOR's family had tough stomachs and could take their dark meat a little on the underside of well done.

The turkey at my mom's turned out pretty good. Only pretty good because it wasn't grilled - can't match the heat from a grill nor the smoke from wood chips.

Get this: wine is at least $2-3 dollars more a bottle in WV than RI. I bought an inexpensive Pinot Noir for dinner at mother's, went over well.
*****

St. Albans will play Parkersburg this Saturday for the State Championships.
******

Nephew has an office and his practice is up and running.
*******

This weekend WVU will play Pitt. The game has national championship implications for WVU but for me it is an even bigger game. Why? It is the only weekend when it is permissible for the entire state population (children included) are free to curse. They are free to say Eat synonym for scat Pitt. Dr. Burg, in an email I received last night, said:
In 5th grade we all made signs for the WVU-Pitt game. The kid who made the "Eat *&%$ Pitt" sign did not get in trouble.

********

My brother-in-law shot a yearling buck while we were in and gave me a hefty portion of the meat. I froze it and placed it in the van, despite my best efforts to keep it cool the meat thawed after 15 hours in the car. So yesterday I cooked the sausage, the shoulder, roast and steaks and gave the rest to some folk from church. I braised it all in a pot, it was even better than I expected. The VOR, #1, #2, & #3 all ate it! Oh yeah. I also tried the five minute loaf that was in the NY Times Wednesday. It was a hit. I made two loaves and have the dough for two more in the frig.
*********

Story of the week. As you may recall I mentioned in an earlier post that my sister-in-law (from now on the PostMistress) and her undisclosed "friend" (from now on: The Presbyterian) came up for a visit. The PostMistress gave the VOR some clothing (they are always swapping clothing). On Thanksgiving day the VOR wore one of her new outfits. The PostMistress wore black as did the VOR. As the VOR was washing dishes the Presbyterian came up behind her, and put his arms around her waist and said "hey honey." The VOR turned around with a what are you doing and talking about expression. The Presbyterian turned a new shade of red and quickly exited the room. You would think that was end of the story but later on in the afternoon The Presbyterian did it again.
**********

Coal River will be released on 08.Jan.2008

21 November 2007

Salty

We made it to WV in one piece, tired but okay. The trip so far has been fun. I have been chosen to cook turkeys for both sides of the family. I am brining both right now. Later on I will dry them and air dry them in the frig then I will rub under the skin with herb butter and on the skin will be my master mixture of sausage and bacon grease. mmmmm.

sleep tonight then a busy day tomorrow. I am also trying a winter squash soup as a starter.

18 November 2007

Nobody Knows the Trouble...

We are on our way to WV. Currently I am in a Marriott hotel in central PA.

We left yesterday thinking it would be nice to stop halfway, instead of plowing through and driving it all in one night. Bad idea.

#3, in case you do not know is a monster. He was crazy last night wanting to explore the hotel. Estimated Time he went to Sleep: 3:30am. Time he woke up: 6:45am, rip, roarin' and ready to go.

Around 2:30 last night I thought, perhaps we pack up and head back to RI!

It is going to be a long day, but worth it when we get there.

I'd better get back.

More later.

Questions for the Anglobaptist: did you order a Geneva type gown with the preaching tabs? Or are going to wear a cassock with the preaching robe and tabs?

09 November 2007

Preaching According to the Man who coine the phrase: The Anglican Oversoul

On Wednesday I headed up to ANTS for the inaugural Great Preaching series with Rev. Peter Gomes preaching. He was everything I expected and more. I have been scheming for five years to get up to hear him, but every chance I get he is away preaching somewhere. Finally I was able, boy am I glad.

He began with his amazement that folk still come to church to hear preaching; week after week they come to hear you preach. Despite all of the media and avenues available folk still come to hear preaching.

He then proceeded to preach a sermon with three points. He said it was not the classical three point sermon, for that never existed. He preached a one point sermon stated three different ways.

1. Clarity. Mark at the top of each page the point you want to get across. Be clear.

2. Conviction. Actually believe what you are preaching. A preacher actually convicted by her/his own sermon.

3. Christ. The question is not what would Jesus do (to all who have paraphernalia with the WWJD on it: burn them). The question is not what would Jesus do, that is a dumb question; Jesus could do anything and did. The question is what would Jesus have me to do? And that should be the Christ of the sermon.

That is in a nutshell what the Gomes had to say. In between he had all kind of great Baptist stories, Harvard stories, growing up stories and the like. He said that he was a Baptist who reads. I think that ought to be a new denomination The Reading Baptists.

He also talked about preaching sermons that he wished he had heard as a student in college. I think all the time what kind of sermons I wished I had heard growing up instead of the lame ones I suffered through.

Rev. Gomes preaches on average 40 minutes, about twice as long as I do. He talked about growing up with two services on Sunday and one on midweek (my routine too). And how now folk only go to one service on Sunday morning; most do not attend bible study. So folk are to get all of their religious education in one 20 minute sermon. (He did say that old rule of thumb was the sermon was to be 1/3 of the service. He then stated a saying I had never heard of: One Lord, One Faith, One Hour.) So incrementally increase a minute or two at a time till you have trained the congregation to listen more attentively. He suggested taking them down roads that don't work, back up and then go down another. Have the congregation walk along with you till all are together at the good news.

There are three congregations that one preaches to:
1. that is with you as soon as you begin.
2. those who were once with you.
3. those who will be with you.

You preach like conducting an orchestra, in comes the percussion, then the wind then the strings, by the end you are all playing together.

At the close he stayed around for a few minutes and I asked him about the Anglican Oversoul. He stated how he loved the flow, beauty and order of the Book of Common Prayer, then he raised his hand with his index finger erect and said But I have never left. Thanks for not leaving Rev. Gomes. I then asked about robes and preaching tabs. He strongly urged me to go with the cassock, gown and tabs. Alright, he twisted my arm. I am going to purchase the outfit after the first of the year.

06 November 2007

Niebuhr iv, Preaching and Fosdick, Adventures in Colorful Language iii, Deacon Reconfiguration, and a New Hymnal

Niebuhr iv,

Since it is Stewardship Season and the time of year most churches realize they have to increase their budget and that they desperately need to increase membership I offer a quote from Letters from the Notebooks of a Tamed Cynic

Of course we make "acceptance of Jesus as your savior" the real door into fellowship of the church. But the trouble is that this may mean everything and nothing. I see no way of making Christian fellowship unique by any series of tests which precede admission. The only possibility lies in a winnowing process through the instrumentality of the preaching and teaching function of the church. Let them come in without great difficulty, but make it difficult for them to stay in. The trouble with this plan is that it is always easy to load up your membership with very immature Christians who will finally set the standard and make it impossible to preach and teach the gospel in its full implications. (p.39)

His cynicism here doesn't sound too tamed. Pastors would love to have perfect congregations and I'm sure congregations would love to have perfect pastors - but they do not exist. You take what you have and go from there. I'm not proposing folk settle or dumb down but go from where you are and see where G-d leads.

Fosdick and Preaching

Yesterday I was reading my way through The Making of American Liberal Theology: Idealism, Realism and Modernity 1900-1950 by Gary Dorrien. I am in the section talking about Harry Emerson Fosdick. I have always liked Fosdick from afar. But he seemed a bit too chummy with some of the social elite. Dorrien makes this point throughout this section. I have always wondered what it was like to be H.E.F. to have that kind of reputation as a preacher and to be taken that serious. I especially liked his idea of holing oneself up for a few hours a day to devote to sermon preparation, but four hours a day seems a bit excessive.

Anyway here is a quote about Fosdick:
"He (Fosdick) could be whimsical on occasion and freely admitted to various changes of mind, but Fosdick was almost never ironic; his earnest liberal moralism was allergic to irony, and he indulged paradox only as much as necessary." (p. 384-385)

Other than the obvious differences I would say this statement places my theology of ministry on a distinctly different track than Fosdick's. I love irony and reveling in paradox.

Adventures in Colorful Language part iii

The other day NPR ran an interview with Stephen Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard, talking about his new book and his latest article in the The New Republic on swearing. (Be forewarned, if you read the article it contains just about every swear word you can imagine - and then some.) I found it to be a fascinating article. It gave a very comprehensive view of how cursing affects other people, why folk find it so offensive, etc.

Diaconate Reconfiguration

Ever since I became a pastor I have had a dickens of the time trying to figure out what the board of deacons are supposed to do. I have gone over the passages in Paul letters, read church bylaws, recalled memories from church experience, asked the deacons themselves and so on. But nothing worked. Then yesterday the lightbulb went off while having coffee with a colleague. Here is the proposal I presented to the diaconate board last night.

Underlying principle: striving for a standard of excellence.

Three concentric circles of
Congregational Worship
Congregational Care
Congregational Life.

They seemed to be all for it. It was a fun meeting.

New Hynmal

Several years ago this church purchased the New Century Hymnal (the hymnal of the UCC) I
was all excited to tear into to, liberal hymns, no masculine language, etc. But the more I tore into it the more I disliked it. Luckily, lots of others didn't care too much for it either. So we searched and found the Worship and Rejoice hymnal by Hope Publishing. It is definitely a hymnal, 749 of them. (No psalter, which is a bummer.) Good mix of classic and new hymns, including my magic three: Iona, Taize and Spirituals. Those three make up the main mix of hymns I like. Folk are excited to see all of the original tunes and words back. I desired a hymnal that encouraged congregational singing, joyful singing, soulful singing and even some blues. I think we found it. Is it perfect? No way. But it is the best choice for this congregation and for the future.

04 November 2007

A Growling God

For the sermon this morning I asked folk to enter into the gospel narrative with their imaginations. In college a Catholic priest walked me through the Ignatian Exercises and the value of imagining the gospel story. I think it went over quite well. Some folk were deeply moved and even a few wiped some tears away at the end. You never know where God may lead people.

I asked people to climb the tree with Zaccheaus, imagine what it felt like for Jesus to find them and call them a child of Abraham to give you just a few of the examples.

When I asked to imagine what Jesus' or God's voice sounded like, #3 sitting on the VOR's lap growled really loud. It was quite humorous and caught me off guard.

Here was the introduction to the exercise:

Scripture Lesson

In the 18th chapter of Luke
after the rich young ruler departed Jesus’ presence with his tail between his legs the disciples asked: If the rich cannot be saved then who can?

I imagine Jesus laughed it off and responded:
What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.

I’m sure Jesus’ comment comforted the disciples then about as much as it comforts us today. It should make us squirm a little bit, why? In comparison to Jesus’ day every one of us would be considered not only rich but rolling in the dough. So what are we to do then? Sell all we have? Or is there another religion that is a little less stringent?

If we look at this question solely from the perspective portrayed in the gospels then there is no way out of the corner. But the way the situation is proposed in the gospels is kind of like asking people how do you pronounce the capital of Kentucky is it Louisville or Louisville? It is pronounced Frankfort. Or like one of those puzzle where you are asked to draw a square with a diagonal going through without lifting your pencil from the paper. You try and try but can’t get it, the answer is to draw a large triangle with a square in it. So the same goes for what are we, the rich to do. How can we, the rich, be saved?

Our answer is an old one, you have it somewhere in the childhood memories. Sure you know it:

Zaccheaus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he
He climbed up on a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see
And as the Savior passed him by, He looked up in the tree
And he said, Zaccheaus, you come down from there
For I’m going to your house today, I’m going to your house today
Zaccheaus came down from that tree, as happy as he could by,
He gave his money to the poor and said: “What a better man I can be

(Yes I actually sang that)


Zaccheaus the toll collector, the wee little man, the dude up in the sycamore tree – he is our answer. Aint that just like God to surprise us with examples of grace, faith and salvation.

This morning I want us to experiment with our imaginations to discover the good news. When you watch a television show you watch them from the a specific vantage point in the room. Only when the camera pans back do you realize that the room you were in is a set. The gospels are the same, we are to view them not as disinterested outsiders but as intimate insiders. They invite us to be nosy and to fully engage the story.

Do you remember sitting in class daydreaming and the teacher calling you back to reality? Do you still daydream? Studies are showing that daydreaming is one of the most helpful techniques for setting goals and creating self initiative. Have you seen all the books of lists, things you must do before you die? All built on imagination. God gave us both reason and imagination, they are exist symbiotically.

This morning I want to invite you into the story and experience it as a total sensory experience. The goal of sermons week after week, bible reading, praying, fellowship, and the rest is to somehow internalize the gospel. We want the biblical story to join our life story and form a new and transformative narrative. We desire for the bible not just to be a book we turn to for comfort but a book that is thoroughly ingrained in our consciousness and life.

So join come on and join me.

02 November 2007

All Hallow's Day, well actually the day after

I'm quite open to the possibility of inspiration from saints. here is the well I draw from:


Roger Williams
without the insistence of Soul Liberty where we would be?



Howard Thurman
Activism of the soul.




MLK, Jr.
(I love this photograph, it is also on the cover of Michael Eric Dyson's book
I May Not Get There with You.)



Dorothy Day
read The Long Loneliness and you'll never be the same



Thomas Merton
I wanted the picture of him in a black turtleneck, but couldn't find it.
I wanted to be a monk in college because of this man. His eclectic reading, commentary and wide range of interests fascinated me.



Walter Rauschenbusch
If there is one Baptist you must read it is...
His writing is dated and a product of its time, sure - but he provided clarity and artful articulation of the Social Gospel.

01 November 2007

Niebuhr, iii



I am still on a bit of a Niebuhr kick, I invite you to scoot over here and read Gary Dorrien's interview in the NYTimes. Then scoot over to Union Theological Seminary's web page and gander at Dorrien's speaking engagements, notice how this guy is lecturing against the war and looking for creative strategies for ending it.

I gotta give this guy credit for his relentless work and untiring ethic. He came to CRCDS twice when I was student. One particular night I gave him a ride to his hotel then picked him up the next morning. My experience of him and talking with others about him I would classify him in the true gentlemen category.

I cannot get over how prolific of a writer he is. I don't think his pen every stops. I am currently grinding my way through his three volume history of American Religious Liberalism. But my favorite work of his has to be Soul in Society

The Niebuhr article in the Atlantic Monthly ends with an assessment of the Iraq War what do we do now, from a realist position (not an idealistic one). Can we pack up and leave? Nope. Can we keep up what we are doing now? Nope. I wish the presidential candidates would talk candidly about realistic options for exiting Iraq. Multi-National talks, soft power as the IAEA director Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei discussed the other day on the Charlie Rose show.

There are also great discussion of Social Security, National Health Care, Education, Foreign Relations, The future of the Military, the Environment, Agriculture, Housing Prices, etc that will be shuffled along with some dilly dally answers meant to snuff out any real discussion or proposals.

Time to get back on a sermonic kick. Preaching on Zaccheaus, I wrote a first draft comparing the rich young ruler and Zacchaeus, but after writing it I found that the possible visual elements of the Zaccheaus outweighs the comparative sermon. The sycamore tree, you can feel your way up a sycamore, you can feel the bark sliding off, you can see its monstrous leaves, you can hear Jesus speak your name, what is it like to meet Jesus' eyes, and how does an encounter with the God who is seeking you out change your life? See what i mean with this story, lots there - and I am only scratching the surface.

All Hallow's Eve

Last night was a great night. The kids loaded up on sugary confections, visited the neighbors and woke up this morning to find that the Great Pumpkin once again visited them.

Here are the pumpkins, I know the picture is out of focus (that is another story for later)
Yes that is a John Edwards pumpkin, carved by yours truly.

The kids and VORJust the kids:#1 was an old pro at trick-or-treat.
#2 was a skunk, a growling, urinating skunk. He would growl at you then back up and say Pee, Pee, Pee (it was quite hilarious)
#3 it took him a good bit before he got the hang of t-o-t but once he did, oh man. He would run up the door and push kids out of the way and then just start grabbing candy. Later on that night as the VOR nursed him to sleep he made loud mooing sounds.

Finally witches fingers:The VOR made these a couple of years ago, they freaked everyone out and they wouldn't even touch them. This year they looked more like witch's toes. When she first made them we put them out for coffee hour at church, it was priceless to watch faces that day.

31 October 2007

Niebuhr, part ii

The recent Atlantic Monthly article on Reinhold Niebuhr got me thinking: how many people actually have read Niebuhr at all. I did a search on R.N. on the NYTimes webpage and couldn't believe all the hits. Most of the references are rather light, which makes me wonder if folk have actually read Niebuhr or have they just read someone commenting on Niebuhr. This indeed would be ironic, because Niebuhr really laid the hammer down on Rauschenbusch and Shailer Matthews but the question begs to be answered: did he, R.N. actually carefully read the work of W.R. and S.M.? I think the record shows that he didn't. I have even wrote a paper on this. (for the record I wanted to name one of our kids Shailer, I thought it was a proper name - the VOR did not think so).

But some more on Mr. Niebuhr.

A quote from Leaves from the Notebooks of a Tamed Cynic.

The minister is therefore easily fooled by extravagant conceptions of his own moral stature, held by admiring parishioners. If he could realize how much of this appreciation represents transferred religious emotion he could be more realistic in analyzing himself. And if he could persuade himself to speak of moral ideals in terms of specific issues and contemporary situations, he would probably prompt currents of critical thought which would destroy the aura which invests his person with premature sanctity.

If a minister want to be a man among men he need only to stop creating devotion to abstract ideals which every one accepts in theory and denies in practice, and to agonize about their validity and practicability in the social issues which he and others face in our present civilization. That immediately give his ministry a touch of reality and potency and robs it of an artificial prestige which it can afford to dispense with, and is bound to be stripped of, the kind of prestige which is the prerogative of priests and professional holy men. (p.16)


I appreciated Mr. Niebuhr's words, quite wise for a 24 year old at the time. I think they are true, but it is harder than hell to get past the transferred religious emotion folk project on you. There are cute ways to cut the corner on this, but they are rather trite. The only way I have found that works is to be as honest and transparent: doubt, frustration, anger, love, laughter, playfulness, full recognition of finitude & etc.

28 October 2007

Niebuhr

This afternoon, four hours exactly, the VOR made me my birthday dinner: French pot roast, mashed potatoes, green beans and hotrolls. Amazing. In order for this dish to be made I needed to buy a bottle of Cotes du Rhone and bottle of Chardonay.

While driving home from the liquor store I turned on NPR and heard a wonderful story on Reinhold Niebuhr. If you have a chance either listen to it or download it for later.

I used to stay away from Reinhold - he unduly influenced a narrow reading of Rauschenbusch - I always cared more for his brother H. Richard. But after listening to the show, perhaps I need to go back and reread some of Reinhold.

Sermons and Improvisation

This morning for the second time in as many weeks my computer shut down as I went to print (I also forgot to save the document). When I reopen Word I the document is recovered but without an ending - thus the need for some improvisation.

This week I read where Wynton Marsalis was in the middle of a solo when someone's cell phone in the front row started to ring. Marsalis stopped then began to copy the ring on his sax, then began improvising the ringtone and then segwayed into his previous solo. This morning a man, three pews from the front, began to ask the woman in front of him what was in the floor in front of the man in front of her. There are some things you cannot incorporate into an improvisational piece.

So here is the rough cut of the sermon for this morning. I was trying to go in one direction but found myself going in another while I preached. I was also experimenting with my voice and projection. To my surprise many more people could hear this morning without the aide of their hearing devices.

A little over 430 years ago a young man walked home and got caught in a terrible lightening storm. He fell to the ground in fear of his life and made a deal with God: let me get home safely and I will devote my life to You. Most people make this type of deal all the time, no one actually keeps their promise – this man did. Against the wishes of his parents he ceased his study of law and became a monk of the Augustinian order.

He fretted over just about everything. He fretted over the salvation of his soul, whether he could work his way to salvation, if grace was really enough, and so on. He spent countless hours on the toilet trying to figure out issues. Why the toilet? Well I am sure that it was quiet but when one eats a sparse diet consisting primarily of dairy and dairy created products you are going to spend quite a bit of time there. Many have even surmounted that his bathroom experiences inspired his great theological treatise of salvation: there is nothing you can do about salvation you cannot force it to happen, it just does, and it is a gift.

At the same time this young monk was working in Germany the Pope in Rome was constructing the Basilica of St. Peter. The Pope was also creatively coming up with ways to pay for its construction, you try pleasing Michelangelo! So the Pope sent his greatest salesman out to sell indulgences, a way to pay folk out of hell. He even had a bumper sticker slogan: every time the coffer rings a soul in purgatory sings, the dude was good!

When the salesman came to Germany the young monk was furious; so he sat down and listed all of the grievances he had with the selling of indulgences and with the church. He came up with 95 complaints. He did not set out to create a splinter group but a reform movement to get the Catholic Church back on track.

The young monk was Martin Luther and the movement he is credited with starting is the Protestant branch of Christianity. So it would seem that to read the history of our particular branch of Christianity would necessarily be anti-Catholic. For many years it was. But much has changed between now and then. But we have to recognize the anti-Catholic roots of our faith heritage. Roger Williams referred to the Pope as the anti-Christ and the Catholic Church as the great Satan. So the challenge is always to tell our story for what it stands for rather than what it stands against.

In a remarkable fashion the same is true of our parable this morning. I cannot think of any other biblical story where the literary device employed by the author leads us to such a one-sided reading than the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.

In this short parable we are led to really chunk it on the Pharisee, it would seem that it is fair to throw any label, derogatory term or smug epithet you want. But should we? Is this religion defined by what we are against or religion defined by what we are for?

I scratched my head a lot over this parable; it threw me for a loop. Not because I think it is difficult – it is pretty straightforward. My problem was its one sidedness and obvious slamming of the Pharisee. It is true that in order for Jesus to make a name for himself he did have to engage in the honor-shame culture of the time. Jesus had to build up a reputation by taking the religious establishment head on and scoring major rhetorical victories by showing them up on numerous occasions. But our parable this morning does not involve a social interaction between Jesus and the religious establishment, it is a parable from afar commenting on an event taking place in the Temple, this is Jesus as Monday morning priest.

What we have going here is religion at its worst, defining itself by putting another down. Could there be something else going on here?

I believe there is.

Stay with here for a moment and let us see where this road may go.

If we take a step back and look at chapter 18 as a whole we find a hodgepodge chapter, it does not read as a well threaded narrative but as a shoddy attempt to make a seam. The chapter is a bunch of independent Jesus stories thrown together, this is Luke’s stone soup or his version of a mad scientists witches brew with a little oil of newt and three squirrel legs. Although the literary quality and flow of chapter 18 may not be Luke’s best work the theological parings do present for us a most intriguing picture.

All of the stories deal with the prospect of religious truth, God’s self-disclosure and religious practices emerging from the least expected: the nagging widow not from the judge; the tax collector not the Pharisee; the children not the disciples and from the Galilean peasant Jesus not the rich young ruler. All four of these stories contain a great element of surprise: do not expect truth about and from God from the usual suspects: religious professionals, agents of the state, those who seem to have been blessed by God with material goods. Expect God also to be creeping in from surprising sources: kids, widows, tax collectors and peasants.

It may very well be that the Protestant Reformation was a mistake, a tragic break in Christian unity. Continuing history will tell whether the great earthquake of the 16th century will be looked on as just a tremor that will be corrected later. Martin Luther wanted to cause a revolution not a new branch of Christianity.

If you are so blessed to have a tachometer on the dashboard of your automobile then you get to see how many thousand revolutions per minute your engine turns. One revolution is measured from the four cycles of your pistons: the intake, compression, fire and exhaust cycle each piston in its cylinder. In a technical sense a revolution is just a spin, to turn around and return to your original position.

A religious revolution is meant to live life fully open to God and return to your original position not the same but greatly changed, to have experienced a metanoia, and then live life forward from that new position. The goal of worship is not to exit through the doors without some small or great change taking place. It would be a great shame if nothing happened or began to happen to your soul; so that you return to your starting place re-newed, re-created, even re-born.

Jesus was after this type of revolution. He could not challenge the powers of the Roman empire mano el mano. But he could challenge and change the hearts of people. He could present a way of life full of dignity, creative personality and love centered on the work and grace of God. This he did with utmost perfection.

27 October 2007

Change in the Weather

Today it is time to say goodbye to a good friend, our pair of kitchen scissors and hello to our new friend, kitchen compost container.
For our wedding Dr. Burg, God bless him, bought us a set of knives with these scissors. These scissors lasted 10+ years! They cut any and everything: chicken bones, sliced bacon, opened up packages, rib bones, pork bones, they were great to removing ligaments from chicken tenders and much more. So long ol' pal you were useful and will be missed.

We, the VOR and myself, have been complaining for some time about the compost container smelling up the kitchen. We used to put our scraps in the freezer but then our ice took on their taste, we used to keep them on the counter top but every time you would open the container it would about knock you out. So the VOR bought this counter top container, what an invention. It holds in the smell with a charcoal filter and is very handy and sturdy.


This morning we went to our favorite farm to pick our pumpkins for decorating and apples for making caramel apples. Here are the highlights, #2 and myself are not too crazy about them.


Now that Fall has officially arrived I decided to switch from Gin and Tonic to Single Malt. For my birthday I purchased a bottle of McClelland's Islay. I couldn't get over what a perfect Fall selection it was: smoky, peaty and went down great.

25 October 2007

Is There a Better Compliment?

This morning a parishioner called wanting to know the recipe for the sauce I developed for the Pulled Pork BBQ this summer. Normally this would be great compliment but it is even greater because this guy is a butcher, he is the guy who told me when we first moved here what cut of meat to use for pulled pork, etc. Now this guy is asking me for a recipe. Ahhhh.

By the way, a different parishioner gave me this action shot of yours truly cooking the very pork above mentioned ate that night:

Just the Right One

Over the weekend we joined our neighbors, the sausage eating vegetarians, and headed to Chase Farm (right down the road in town) to tag our Christmas Tree. We chose this tree:
I wanted to take a picture of it so when we go to cut it down in a few weeks I know where it is and what it looks like.

Hard to believe that Chase Farm is only 8 miles from downtown Providence:When I went to NH I saw two signs that popped out: first the Liquor store signs,and all the Mitt Romney signs (I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of those).

Here is a picture of the mountain right after you enter the park:
And now some general interest stuff. While reading PD James novels I noticed one time how she mentioned one of her characters ate fried toast for breakfast. The idea of deep frying a piece of bread in bacon fat made me silly with anticipation. The other morning I finally made my own and made a piece of standard toast:The fried is on your right. I am sad to say that I liked the traditional toast better, the fried toast was a little too sweet. But that doesnt mean I am giving up on it. Although I could feel my veins tightening with every bite.

Political news. I can not get over the positive coverage Mike Huckabee is getting from the NYTimes columnists. First there was David Brooks' article and this morning Gail Collins'
If I were a Republican I would vote for this dude. What if Huckabee wins the nomination and it is a showdown between he and Clinton. That would be interesting. If I was assured of a larger Democratic Senate and House I would vote for Huckabee. I cannot believe I just wrote that, spur of the moment, stream of consciousness, imblogivsation.

Furthermore, what is wrong with men who want to slow down the growth of their beard? I have been trying to grow a beard for years. All I can consistently grow is an ingrown hair in the area where my mustache and chin meet. For years I have strained, visualized and tried to talk my body into producing a full beard - no go. This Fall? Perhaps, perhaps some kind of physiological change may take place since the surgery - wouldn't that be a hoot.

On a last note. If you haven't thrown your two cents in please do. The Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation opening for public comments on the Bush administrations proposal to change the Clean Water Act to more freely allow mountain top removal closes on Nov. 3.

23 October 2007

XXXIII

Today I begin the 33rd year of my existence. It was supposed to be a year of some significant changes and new starts. But I believe I blew it. Why? I got scared and didn't know that I was scared. By the time I figured out what was going on it was probably too late. So what did I learn, be better in tune with myself and more open and honest, not only with myself but with the V.O.R. As partners we recognize what is going on with each other and even bring things out of each other that one cannot see without the eyes of the other.

A problem is a chance for you to do your best. Duke Ellington

Fright. As a kid I lived on a dirt road. It was great, every Spring the road grater would come and churn up all kinds of treasures: broken bottles, small boulders, old rusted toys and occasionally something I would swear was a dinosaur bone. On a busy day our road would see 10 cars. So during the summer I would ride my bike up and down the road with on fear (I asked for a skateboard but they had yet to invent a dirt road model). One particular day I was riding down the road at a pretty good speed, so fast that I couldn't steer so well. About this time a car was coming the other direction at a pretty good speed too. We looked each other in the eyes and I'm sure what he thought was chicken, at the last minute we both jerked the steering apparatuses of our vessels. He went off road and then back on, me I went in the big mud hole. I feel in some ways that is what happened. I was a bit fearful and instead of applying the brakes and getting on safe ground I landed in the mud hole. Live and learn, sure but you still get muddy learning.

So how did I come to this epiphany of fear?

Yesterday I loaded my backpack for a day hike, got the map, water bottle, binoculars and headed north to Mount Monadnock outside of Jaffery, NH. The trip took about two hours. I got out of the truck and headed up the White Dot Trail to the top. For some odd reason I was hiking at ridiculous pace, I was dripping with sweat and leaving a trail of body odor that kept all matters of flies and bears miles away. I had hoped to sort things out during the hike up, but my pace and amount of huge rocks kept that from taking place. I did make it to the top in one hour and four minutes. I had to climb on my hands and feet part of the way but eventually I could see the Presidential Range and the beautiful valley below. I purposively didnt take any pictures, I saved them in my memory.

I sat down for lunch and realized that the ancients were onto something when they thought mountains would get you closer to God. The adventure of climbing and then the reward of the sights is quite a spiritual accomplishment. After lunch I started down, by the time I got down to the Spruce Link trail it hit me: fear. Fear was keeping me from moving forward in life. I named it, realized it and it evaporated.

When I got home I tried to mask my fear from The V.O.R. but she saw right through it and named it too. I tried to sidestep her, but she was onto me. In her words, she jerked a knot in my tail, yeah you could say that. I went to bed around 8:30, woke up sick this morning, slept till 11. Now I feel great and at peace. I admitted my fear and am trying to make the most of my muddy situation.

Not exactly the birthday present I was hoping for, but one that I needed to take place.

16 October 2007

Parenting Survey

Yesterday's On Point with Tom Ashbrook had a wonderful conversation on kids and sleep. I am a big advocate of sleep, anytime and anywhere. I love sleep and wish others loved it as much as I do, that way they wouldn't call past 9:30.

Go here to take the Survey of Parenting Styles and Assumptions. The survey is a good entry point for counterintuitive parenting assumptions that researchers are finding.

On Sunday the family and I, along with the sister-in-law and her unidentified "friend" went down to the Barnsiders for dinner. I love this place a little too much. More than anything I love their salad bar (which I think is like Shoney's on steroids). I particularly love their fresh baked bread and the big blocks of cheese. Any way, I started with a Bass then with dinner (tenderloin medallions and garlic smashed potatoes {which I believe is way overused as a description of mashed potatoes with roasted garlic}) a glass of C-S. The proportions were way too much. Then after dinner we went to Ben and Jerry's where I had a scoop of Chocolate Therapy and Triple Carmel something or other. We made it home around 7:30 and I was in bed by 8:30. But you know you can't sleep with a belly full of all that. I thrashed and swooned all night. Lori, the s-i-l and friend said they could hear me over the child monitor - said I sounded like a wounded cow. All this is to say: I find sleep so precious that I try to eat a minimal dinner.

Waiting...

Odd that American Recordings, JohnnyCash.com or Lost Highway records haven't fully disclosed the release date of American Recordings VI. The wait is just too much.

In a few moments a few members of the congregation will come over to the office for the weekly bible study session. I provide coffee, knowledge and gossip - they provide complaints of aches and pains, questions about the text and in general come to laugh. I have been threatening for some time to switch the coffee and actually make regular instead of decaf. I really wonder if they would notice?

This weekend my sister-in-law and friend came up for a visit. Due to federal regulations I cannot release the name, gender, orientation, height, weight, or hair color until a to be determined future date. I can only say that the friend is a good person and I was glad to meet the person. I can also add that this person won second place prize at the Inaugural Family Pumpkin Painting Contest. (pictures forthcoming) This unidentified person would have one an easy first place prize if this person was, well let us just say "legal," we'll leave it at that for now.

The sermon Sunday went well. The scripture was the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Many people have said that if Jesus were to come back today that he would mainly hang around the poor, displaced, hungry, and the untouchables. I firmly believe that, but I think this parable also shows that Jesus would be hanging around rich folk too. If the kingdom of God is good news for everyone then it has to touch everyone!

I found it interesting that Bill Richardson, as he is inching his way up to almost pass Edwards in some polls, has taken on Edwards' view of the "two Americas." I find Edwards' two Americas right on the money, but is it enough to simply explain a reality? On the same note Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam, in the song Bushleaguer sings the haves have not a clue. I agree that most do not, but then my cynical side laughs at Vedder writing this when no doubt he is living high off the hog. These are just some swirling thoughts, I find it best to jam a bunch of conflicting thoughts together, let them fight it out and see what synthesis emerges.

I have been predicting, from the pulpit, for weeks that the Patriots are going to lose - but they keep winning. I really don't care. I have never been able to get into Pro Football, it is too boring. The offenses are predictable and the defensive players are too fast. The only Pro Football I ever enjoyed was the Buffalo Bills of the 90s. Why? I distinctly remember Jim Kelly running the option one time with Thurman Thomas. I about fell out of my chair. The only other pro football worth mentioning is the neckbrace days of Steve Grogan. To see a quaterback wear a neck pad was really something. For Christmas a few years ago i bought dad an autographed picture of Grogan. What I really wanted was an autographed neckbrace but no one had one!

11 October 2007

This is Too Good to be True

I learned today that the West Virginia Council of Churches has come out not only against mountain top removal but also has criticized the Bush administration's relaxation of the Clean Water Act.

Go here to read the press release.

Home Life

For Christmas last year I bought an Ipod. I was enamored with it at first. I think I expected it to open my garage door, change channels on the tv and maybe even scratch my back. Nope, it is just a hard drive with flash memory. Oh well.

This morning I went to the coffee shop with the Ipod in my briefcase. I sometimes put my headphones in to keep people from bugging me when I am working at the establishment. But this morning I was using the Ipod and praising Steve Jobs for his invention. Why? The folk behind the counter had Def Leppard blasting from the sound system. I've never felt more thankful for my ipod as I put on the earbuds and listened to Ben Harper and some Johnny Cash.

The Only Lady went to the beauty shop and asked if I would watch #2 and #3 while she was away. No problem, and could I also take #2 to swim class. No problem. #2 did great at swim class, swimming by himself, jumping off the side and diving blocks - he was beaming with self-confidence. As I sat watching, feeding and observing #3 the two mothers there commented how quiet #3 was under my care than under the only lady's. They asked that I don't dare tell the Only Lady, but come on those kind of comments don't come very often.

The sister-in-law arrives this evening. It will be good to see her and spend some time with her. She is a great sister-in-law more like a sister than an in-law. No Mrs. P no one could replace you, you are the best sister ever.

08 October 2007

Ah Man...

I read in the WV Gazette on Saturday that my beloved Souther Kitchen will be closing on the 15th. I loved that place. Dad and I used to go there for chili, fried chicken, biscuits and gravy or perhaps just bacon and eggs.

I think it was one of the few authentic foodie places in the valley. Goodbye ole friend, you will be missed.

Later that day, St. Albans, ranked #2 in the state going into the game, lost the Battle of the Bridge to Nitro: 58-14.


No sermon yesterday, Liliana Da Valle, the new executive minister of ABCORI was the guest minister. She preached an interesting sermon, I'm glad the search committee hired her - wise choice.

03 October 2007

Candidate Templates

The 2008 presidential election this year seems awful silly, so many folks running, so much money being raised and not much that really excites me. As a Baptist minister I don't put too much of my trust and faith in politicians. I am more of an issue oriented person. I was brought up with my father's side split one being Republican farmers and the other strong Democrats. On my mother's side it seems they were all Republicans, my cousin once told me my grandpa said vote Republican because they have all the money and you want to make money too. I started out Republican but have moved more to the Democratic side, but I'm not an Armani Democrat which most of the party seems to be nowadays. I'm more of a Democratic Christian Socialists, more of the Netherlandic model expressed by Bob Goudzwaard (I heard him at CRCDS during convocation ceremonies.)

Nevertheless I was intrigued by the templates offered by the Des Moines Register: templates for pumpkin carving. I'm going to carve a John Edwards pumpkin this year.

Who will be the Democratic nominee? I cannot see Hillary Clinton hanging on through the duration as the front runner. Will Obama rise to the challenge? I do not know, he has a lot so ground support and lots of donors and I think he taps into a deep hunger for change and authenticity. I dont buy the not enough experience argument. I think is bogus. Edwards, even though I like him I cant see him breaking through, that leaves Bill Richardson. Richardson is my dark horse candidate to win the nomination.

Who will win the Republican nominee? I can't see Giuliani winning, too squirelly for the voters I believe. Cant see Romney winning, his flip flops make Kerry look conservative. Thompson is too lanky. I see McCain making a run and being the nominee. I heard him speak in Rochester in 1999, couldn't believe the people at Highland park in the cold that came out that evening. If he can tap into that once more, who knows what may happen...