Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stove Top

Fun fact: Bruce and I don't have a microwave, so when we re-heat leftovers we have to do so in the oven, toaster oven or on the stove top.

The key to stove top reheating is really keeping enough moisture in because a lot evaporates.  I put olive oil in the pan before I started heating and then continue to stir in water as the spaghetti heated.  And I only ever had the heat on medium-low!  Slow and steady.

Leftovers + Garden Salad.

(Have I mentioned I love my garden?!)

My eyes were wayyyyyy bigger than my stomach - I only ate about half of the spaghetti!  All of the salad though. :)

I'm off!

What I Am Loving, Chapter II

1. Listening to NPR while finishing my bulletin.

I think NPR only hires people with soothing voices.  Agreed?

2. Milog, my newest iPhone app.

I have to track my mileage when I am driving for church-related things and the old-school pad/pencil (that my mom has used successfully for 30 years!) doesn't seem to work for me - I always forget to write one of the logs down.  This app will flash a little number if I do that, so it's really helpful.

3. Young House Love's Kitchen Remodel

If you don't read YHL, you need to.  Just trust me.  They inspire me every day.

Although, in my case, I'm being inspired to finish unpacking from my move three months ago.  Not remodeling.

4. Talking theology and faith with my church members.  They make me think in a way seven years of theological and philosophical education never did!

5. Writing my own liturgy.  There so many wonderful resources out there for church liturgy and worship, but I love sitting down and thinking about my congregation as they will say it in worship.  A very cool part of my job.

And I love scribbling it on a legal pad before I type it out.*

What are you loving?!

*My handwriting is usually much neater than that but when I right prayers I do a stream of consciousness and scribbling is the only way for my hand to keep up with my brain!


What I Am Loving Chapter I

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Momma Hawk Down

Hey, remember that time I was out for a walk and got dive bombed by a hawk?

It's a long story.  Here's the dumb thing - I know that the hawk is there AND I know that she's protective of her babies.  My neighbors have warned me (she's gone after several of them and one of them needed stitches on his head!), she's gone after Bruce on his bike and we've seen her from the car.  She has a nest in a tree right on the road and we all know where it is, but there is not much anyone can do about it. 

Bruce realized that he and I had only seen her at dusk so we thought we would avoid walks or bike rides near the nest at that point in the day.

Apparently I forgot.

Oh - but do you remember last winter when I posted this facebook status?

I suppose I can add to my repertoire of bizarre running partners.  I'm just glad my reflexes were on tonight and I ducked in time.

Never a dull moment, friends.

Oh!  But it was lovely walk - 5.19 miles in 1:17:27, averaging a 14:54 pace.  I did a little bit of run/walk, but mostly a quick paced walk.

Guess who grilled herself tonight?

I'm so handy.

Burgers + Garden Salad --> The grill and the garden have made house living so much fun over apartment living!

Always have a little faith nearby!

Musings Of A Twenty-Something Pastor Part I

A List ...

1. I locked myself out of the house this morning.  Here's how it went down.

I don't know what is more pathetic.  The fact that I did it - or the fact that I continue to tell people that I did it.

2. I realized this morning that it is a good thing that there is a strong treeline between our house and our neighbors.

No explanation necessary.

3. I took this photo five years ago when Kari and I were on our cross-country driving adventure.

Barrington Congregational Church in Barrington, Rhode Island.  It was one of our first stops and we met some wonderful people there.

I took this photo today:

Who knew I would eventually live 20 minutes from that church?  Circle of life, friends!

4. I love my accent wall.

Just felt like sharing.

5. I meant to show you these earrings that I wore with my Wear a Dress Tuesday outfit yesterday.

Two different people told me they look like a bass clef.  They were my mom's!

6. The Otter Box that you see above was the greatest thing I ever bought.  My phone did a stop, drop and roll thing down the driveway yesterday and still is as good as new.

7. After Monday's bike ride all I want to do is go for another one.  I'd leave the office now, but so far all I've done for Sunday's service is pick the hymns - and the bulletin is usually done by Tuesday afternoon.  It's not even started right now.

What if we just didn't have a bulletin this week, sung the hymns I picked and talked about my bike ride?

8. I should really go back to work.

9. Thanks for listening.

10. I don't really have a #10.  I'm just Type A.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On Cats, Busy Days & Italian Food

There is a chance I'm becoming a crazy cat lady.

But seriously, how cute it she?

When she gives me this look I always wonder what kind of trouble she is getting herself into.

Anyway, how was your day?  Mine was insanely busy, but also insanely productive.  And it was Wear A Dress Tuesday, so who's complaining?

I was doing some work with a church member over dinner tonight and I thought it would be fun for me to cook at home.

I started with fresh greens from the garden ...

... and added onions, radishes, some tomatoes that I bought at the grocery store and almonds I had in the pantry. I <3 garden salads!

My house was still so hot from the afternoon sun when I turned the stove on, but it was SO worth it!  Spaghetti & Meatballs totally hit the spot.

That's amore!


Red Shoes!

Happy Wear a Dress Tuesday!

Little Black Dress.  Red Shoes.  Love.

I'm off to do some visiting.  Have a great day!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Okay, I'm Sore

It's the classic story.  Boy meets girl.  Boy marries girl.  Boy and girl buy matching schwinn bikes.  Girl eventually gives girl's daughter the girl's schwinn bike.  Girl's daughter rides it for awhile and then it sits in girl's daughter's garage for years.  Girl's daughter decides to give girl's daughter's daughter the schwinn.

Did you follow that story?  If not, here's the short version.  For years my mom had my grandmother's 1970-something schwinn bike (she and my grandfather had matching ones) and she hasn't been riding it lately.  I don't have a bike, but don't have it in my budget to buy one right now so my dad brought me my mom's or me to ride.  While I was at work this morning they went out to buy me new tubes so I would be all set to ride today.

We drove over to the East Bay Bike Path, which was highly recommended from church members.

Here I was about five minutes before we set out ...

... 10 minutes later my dad was walking my poor bike back to the car.  The gears don't shift.  I think it has something to do with a metal part.  I wasn't really paying attention.

Of course we didn't let a broken bike get in the way of our ride.  Bruce drove home to pick up his other bike, my dad lowered the seat on the bike that Bruce had originally brought to ride so that I could ride it, we rode around a little bit, reconnected with Bruce when he got back with his other bike and (an hour later) headed out on the path.


The ride was GORGEOUS!  It's a rail trail, so it is relatively flat and there is a pretty good balance between sunny and shade.

The fun part about this trail is that there are little shops along the way.  We stopped about six miles in for frozen lemonade!

I love having my dad here! Do you think he'll stay here all summer while he's on vacation?!

(Yes, I'm so cool I wear my helmet when I'm not even on the bike.  Don't you wish you were like me?)

All in all, we road 15.03 miles.  It was a great way to re-integrate myself back into biking without killing my legs.  Although, I have to say - I'm not moving as quickly as I usually do!  I'm walkin' like a cowboy!

We came home, showered quick and headed out to dinner.  My dad asked if there was a Chili's or an Applebee's nearby so we went to Chili's.

We were SO HUNGRY by the time we got there!  We started with chips and salsa.

And I ordered the Quesadilla Explosion Salad.  Delicious!

My dad snapped this picture.  Hysterical.

I had so much fun at book club tonight, but I'm exhausted!  We're winding down with some TV and heading to bed soon.


Back On The Horse

Guess what I did for the second time in about six years?

I went on a bike ride!

I'll be back later with fun details and pictures (and stories, of course - I actually rode one of Bruce's bikes, which is kind of a funny story), but for now I'm off to dinner with my dad and Bruce and then to women's summer book club at the church!

See you later!  I'll probably be sore!

Weekend Catch Up

Catching up on weekend posts?
Busy weekend!

I never do this, but I stopped at Dunkin Donuts this morning to grab a bagel and coffee.  I added my own peanut butter - and look! CREAM in my coffee! Look at me, trying to cut down on the acid.

I'm playing catchup at my office - trying to get out by noon so I can go hang out with my dad and Bruce!  But I wanted to show you a better picture of my accent wall first ... 

I love it!

I printed some of my black and white photos and put them in white frames - it really pops on the blue!

I'm off to finish my newsletter article!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Being A Church Of Extravagant Welcome

Bruce and I just got back from the dance recital of one of the youth in our church - it was so much fun!  I love when we have the chance to do stuff like that.

Before we left ... 

... Bruce fired up the grill for the first time!

He and my dad went out for burgers and hot dogs.  Bruce took one bite and said, "I'm never cooking inside again."

Fresh salad from the garden!  Mixed greens, onions and radishes.  Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing drizzled on.  Have I mentioned I love eating out of our garden?!


Today's sermon - enjoy!

(The audio is now available here.)

Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Being A Church Of Extravagant Welcome

A few years ago, the United Church of Christ launched an ad campaign for their ‘God Is Still Speaking’ initiative. One of my favorites was the ‘Ejector Commercial’. The commercial starts off with an aerial view of an old church on a Sunday morning as parishioners settle into their pews for the service. The first shot that you see is the quintessential American family – a husband and wife dressed in their Sunday best, slipping into their pew with their daughter – her hair perfectly pinned back and dressed in the same shade of pink as her mother – following closely behind. As they sit down you start to hear the sound of a baby crying and the scene cuts over to a single mom trying to calm her baby daughter. She is looking around nervously and you can tell that she is worried people are going to be bothered by her child’s noise.

All of a sudden you see a panel on the wall with a series of large red buttons. Before you have a chance to wonder what the buttons are for, a hand pushes one of the buttons. You hear the sound of a slingshot as the camera pans back to the mother and her screaming baby just in time to see them ejected out of their pew.

It doesn’t end there. No sooner do you see a biracial couple move close together as they ready themselves for worship that you see the wall of buttons again, hear the slingshot and see them go flying through the air.

A Hispanic man sits down and looks around – buttons, slingshot, gone.

The scene speeds up and you hear slingshot after slingshot and see about half the church go shooting through the air. The last one to go is an elderly gentleman with a walker. Both him and the walker go flying through the air and you hear him yell, “Ahhhhhhh!”

The screen goes black. And you see and hear the words, “God doesn’t reject people. Neither do we. The United Church of Christ: No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here. The United Church of Christ.”

Now it sounds tongue and cheek, doesn’t it? Surely, there is no church out there that would possibly install slingshot ejector seats in their pews so that they could send someone flying through the air and out of their building if they didn’t fit the mold of who ‘should’ go to their church, right? Right?

Okay, so the truth is, perhaps the United Church of Christ exaggerated slightly when this commercial came out. I have never actually heard of any churches installing slingshot ejector seats into their pews.

(Especially not in this economy, they all have oil bills to pay!)

However – I have heard of churches, full of well-meaning and well-intentioned congregants, that haven’t exactly been welcoming to people who are visiting for the first time, people who are new to the church community and even people who have been members for years. I have heard of a lot of them, actually. I have been to them.

Bruce and I both grew up in churches from the time we were very small and never knew what it was like to have to have to find a new church until we moved to Atlanta in 2007 for my master’s program. I was shocked at how difficult it was to start over! Sunday mornings brought anxious nerves instead of excited readiness to spend time with my friends and connect with my spirituality. Instead of running for hugs and cheerful embraces during the passing of the peace, we would awkwardly extend our hands to the people around us. We would slip out without going to fellowship or coffee hour, get in the car and have a, “What did you think?” “I don’t know, what did you think?” “Well, I thought it was nice, did you like it?” carousel conversation.

It is not that any of the members of the churches that we were visiting were bad people. It is just that I believe it is against our basic human nature to reach out to strangers.

Now this is a bold statement for me to make. But hear me out! I think that it is within our basic human nature to seek safety, to seek shelter and to stay inside the comfort zones of our friends and our families. I think that we want to be protected and that it is very, very difficult to move outside of those comfort zones.

I think hospitality is a lot more difficult than it seems.

The reason that I say this is because eventually Bruce and I did find a church, a wonderful congregation in Marietta, Georgia. We quickly became involved with the youth and Christian Education programs. We helped out with lunches and dinners and fellowship hour. We led the children’s church and helped with the music in worship. Sunday mornings were not only a time met with excited readiness to spend with my friends and connect with my spirituality, but also a time to run in five different directions and try to get myself organized for the morning. And looking back I wonder if I ever stopped and looked around to see if there were any new anxious-nervous-looking faces in the congregation. I was focused, I was trying to catch up with my friends and I was trying to recharge myself spiritually.

So even though the Gospel said, ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me,’ and even though I know in my heart that I want to be a person that always extends the highest level of hospitality, sometimes I think I fall short. Sometimes I think that a lot of us fall short.

I think hospitality is a lot more difficult than it seems.

Now you don’t have to raise your hand and confess, but I invite you to think about times when you may have fallen short. I love this church – but I would be willing to bet that there have been times when radical hospitality and extravagant welcome, have not been extended to visitors, to new members and even to existing members.

I think that hospitality is a lot more difficult than it seems.

So maybe we are not ejecting people out of their seats per say, but I do think that members of churches – all churches, including this one and churches on all sides of the theological spectrum – have a difficult time extending hospitality.

We are nice people. We are good people. We are wonderful, charming and loving people. This community is lucky to have one another – I see that every single day! I feel blessed to be a part of it.

But I also think that now is the time to push ourselves just a little bit further.

Paul’s letter to the church in Rome that we read this morning used a language that we don’t often use in our church today. He talked about sin exercising dominion over our mortal bodies and the fact that we obey passion rather than rely on God’s grace. Paul said that we ‘are slaves of the one whom you obey.’

Language of slavery, dominion of sin and mortal passion make it hard to read this passage and find relevance in the world today. But I think that if you remember that Paul was speaking to a specific audience when he wrote this and try to read between those contextual and cultural lines, you can hear and see something that speaks so strongly to what I am talking about today.

Paul knew that humans were not perfect. When Paul said ‘sin’ and ‘slaves to impurity’, I say ‘humanity’ and ‘human nature’. When Paul said, “Therefore do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions,” I say, “Sometimes – even though it is hard – you need to push back against your human nature, you need to put yourself outside of your comfort zone and extend a different kind of hand of hospitality.”

Jesus said, ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.’ But Jesus did not say that this was going to be easy.

Paul said, ‘Do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies.’ But Paul did not say that it was going to be easy.

I say that ‘I think that now is the time to push ourselves just a little bit further.’ But I am not going to say that it is going to be easy.

The sign above the front door says, “A New Beginning”. I wonder how many people – people who have been to this church in the past, people who have stopped in on Christmas and Easter and people who have always wondered what the big white church in The Village was all about – wonder what “A New Beginning” means. I wonder how many of those people will slow down to see what time church starts on Sunday mornings. I wonder how many parents will see ads for Vacation Bible School or Fall Church School and sign their children up, because they are intrigued by the new beginning. I wonder how many people will see that sign and stop in for a visit some Sunday morning.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I know that one of the things that everyone would like to see at this church is growth. People would like to see members who have left come back and people would like to see new people in the community visit and join us.

Now in a way, it is hard to really focus on this during the summer because attendance drops so significantly. But I do think that the summer is a perfect time to think about hospitality, to think about what it means to be a church of extravagant welcome and to think about what it means to truly live out the Gospel message, ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.’ I think that the summer is a perfect time to acknowledge Paul’s words that we are human and find new ways to move outside of our comfort zones. I think that the summer is a perfect time to think, to really think, about the type of Christians that we want to be and the church that we want to be. I think we all have a lot of learning and a lot of growing to do this summer – and I am really excited to see what comes out of it.

If you came to church this morning looking to hear a definitive sermon with a lot of concrete answers, then I apologize, because that’s just not what you are going to get today. But if you came to church this morning looking to hear a sermon that pushes you and causes you to think and has the capability to transform you and the church that you love so dearly, then I think you came to the right place.

I do believe that we can be a church of extravagant welcome. I believe that we can grow, that we can be transformed to something we never thought possible. It may not be easy; it may push us to do things that may make us uncomfortable and scared; but I think the result is going to be spectacular.

I think that hospitality is a lot more difficult than it seems. But I also think that with a little bit of hard work, a lot of love and commitment and a showering of grace, we are going to journey on a path towards radical hospitality.

We WILL be a church of extravagant welcome.


A Green Garden Update

Bruce and I cannot get over how green and big everything is in the garden right now!  I feel like we are on the cusp of having most everything ready to go and once things are ready, we will consistently have fresh vegetables all summer.  Here are some photos I snapped after church!

I always stand on the edge for a few minutes to check for snakes. ::shudder::

This is an early crop of onions, so we should be able to plant a later crop and have them into the fall, too!

Brussels Sprouts:

We're actually not sure what is supposed to happen with these - any thoughts?  I think the sprouts grow above ground, but I have no idea.

The radishes, on the other hand, are growing strong!  I've been picking the ones that poke out of the ground.

I'm assuming the same will happen with the carrots?


Look - KALE!  My mom brought some plants last week from a church member and they have taken nicely to our soil.

Also budding ...

Tomatoes ... 

And cucumbers!

Bruce had to build a ladder for the cucumbers and they seem to be climbing well.  Some of our cucumbers are from plants and some we planted from seeds.  Not sure what we'll do next year.

Green beans!

The ladder of green beans - I have this feeling eventually we are going to be overrun with them!

 And the peas.

The potatoes are doing well as usual!  The potatoes start forming when the flowers bud, so we should be able to dig in a couple of weeks.  We want to give them time to grow, so we have big potatoes for baked potatoes!

And last but not least ... our sunflowers!

I think I am going to head back to the garden and pick some stuff in a bit - my dad is here and we are going to fire up the grill!

I will also get today's sermon up in a little bit - see you later!
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