Thursday, April 30, 2009

Last Day of April NaBloPoMo

NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month)

Today, April 30, is the last day of this months NaBloPoMo challenge during which many of us attempted to post something to our blog at least every day this month. And it was definitely a challenge. I found myself returning home late at night sometimes, getting ready for bed, and all of a sudden realizing I had a blog to write. There were the times my mind went completely blank and I searched for something---anything---on the internet. Most of the time it worked, except for the "Placeholder" day.

There's going to be another challenge in May with the theme of "Sweet." Offhand, I'm having a hard time trying to figure out what to do with that theme. However, writing on the theme of the month is always optional. For example, this month's theme was "Growing Up:" I think I wrote about that maybe two times the whole month. But, a thought: I believe actually writing a blog entry each day for a month, as planned, is growing up, sticking to something even though it's hard at times.

My sister-in-law wanted to be sure I wasn't going to quit writing the blog and I assured her I'd continue. So, now it's time to think about what to write about "Sweet."

Perhaps a head start tonight might be in order. I just finished making some oatmeal/chocolate chip/raisin cookies for a meeting and lunch in Turley this weekend. Yes, they're definitely sweet. And, I think I was sweet to make them. Of course, part of it is self-serving at its worst because I love eating the cookie dough. However, I also love watching people down there devour them with smiles on their faces.

Have a cookie! I'll see you tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is it Necessary To Be So Busy All the Time?

I've been doing some thinking lately about my friends who are always on the go, volunteering for everything, accomplishing wonderful things, never stopping to take a breath before going on to something else, and realizing that was me a number of years ago. I've been wondering if I should now feel guilty because I no longer feel the need to be constantly busy or if I should feel enormously grateful that I can now read fiction or go geocaching without guilt. I've spent too many years working at unrewarding jobs that tended to suck the life out of me, leaving an empty shell, unable to be at home in my own body, unable to relax. I think it took graduation from seminary at age 57 after three difficult but rewarding years of study, field work, internships, and everything else graduate work entails to finally say,"okay, this is enough." I loved the challenge. I did not love the necessity of trying to accomplish too many things at school, at work, and at home. There was no time left for pleasure, for just pure fun. Those long papers always hovered in the background.

Now it almost hurts to see younger people trying to do too much. Yes, I know all those things they attempt to do can conceivably be done--the full-time career, the volunteer work, raising semi-perfect children, and so forth. The problem is, how long can they keep up the constant, dizzying pace? Is it even possible any more to get together with friends to have fun without planning it six months in advance. Is it possible to get away from the computers and other electronic apron strings long enough to learn to do things us "oldies" used to enjoy, things like playing a musical instrument, sewing, cooking, non-competitive sports, and so on? I'm ranting, I know, and will quit.

Here's an excellent article I found today, Tips for Women Who Juggle Too Much, by Stacy Wiebe. She gives many hints and tips for enjoying life more, for not getting bogged down with too many requirements and responsibilities. Just click on the red link above to find ideas on how to slow down the speed of life, to learn to say no once in a while.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jesus Christ, Superstar

All I can say is, wow! I remember seeing this show many, many years ago in a little theater in Oregon. It was good, but nothing like this sold-out traveling professional production. Tonight was one of the times I was so glad to live in Bartlesville, OK, walking distance from the acoustically spectacular Community Center. These reviews are for the same cast in various cities.

We had a tornado warning this afternoon. But, those strong winds had nothing on the voices in this cast, especially the rumbling bass of Darrel Whitney in the role of Caiaphas. Hearing him gave me goosebumps. Ted Neeley, who played Jesus, is now 65 years old. He's done the role for many, many years and starred in the film version. His voice seemed a little shaky in parts, but he could still let the moneychangers in the temple have it! Very powerful scene, one I won't forget for a long time.

One of the men from church arranged for the block of tickets and worked with the youth in the congregation, playing the soundtrack for them and helping them become acquainted with the libretto so they could understand the show more easily. I sat next to one young man, aware of his full attention to the stage, usually looking through binoculars. Needless to say, I think he enjoyed the experience very much.

Now I can't wait to see the production of "Cats" next year.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Just Show Up

This afternoon I watched the new movie, "The Soloist," starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx. It's based on the true story of Los Angeles Times columnist, Steve Lopez who befriends a schizophrenic homeless man, Nathaniel Ayers, a man with a wonderful musical talent. Lopez sees great promise in Ayers and tries to do many things to help him use his talent. This description is from Peter Rainer's review in the Christian Science Monitor.

"Lopez knows a good story when he sees one, but his involvement with Ayers is fraught with moral and ethical minefields. He tries to get him off the streets; he provides him with a cello to play, a safe place to store it, and a place to practice. He tries, unsuccessfully, and in the face of great resistance, to have Ayers put on psychotropic medications. All the while, Ayers, who favors sequined jackets and plastered-down hairdos, regards Lopez as something of an angel of mercy – his hero. And Lopez knows full well that, in Ayers's fraught mental condition, a hero can easily be downgraded to enemy at the slightest provocation."

I appreciated a phrase at the very end of the story when Lopez wonders what he did wrong, why Ayers doesn't appreciate the things he tried to do for him. Someone tells him to just be his friend, to just "show up."

It made me wonder how many times I've wanted to be there for someone but was afraid of being rejected. It made me think about all the wonderful things I have planned or thought about doing, yet never put them into play because I didn't "show up." How many of us hesitate, perhaps thinking we might not be able to do enough or that what we do would be the wrong thing, maybe taken the wrong way.

"Just show up" reminded me of a story by Parker Palmer in his short book, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. Palmer wrote about his period of serious depression when he had almost hit bottom. Some of his well-meaning friends tried to help by suggesting various things he might do to feel better. Nothing they did or suggested seemed to help. However, one man visited him every day and just rubbed his feet, saying very little. Palmer wrote of the acceptance and understanding he felt from that friend who made no suggestions, but just "showed up, " was there for him.

In her wonderful poem, "The Invitation," Oriah Mountain Dreamer wrote, "I want to know if you can sit with pain - mine or your own - without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it."

"Just show up." It sounds so simple, doesn't it? Perhaps growing up is being able to just "be there," not offering suggestions, not saying we know just how a person feels, not trying to fix things. Just showing up.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Telemarketer Call

I just read this on a Simple Living Discussion Forum and think it's hilarious:

This short conversation with a telemarketer made me chuckle. I felt like Bob Newhart. Hearing my side made DW laugh too.

But seriously, I thought I was being rational.

Me: Hello.

Telemarketer: Hello, is Steve here?(with boiler room noise in background)

Me: Yes,to whom am I speaking?

Jeff: Jeff.

Me: Do I know you?

Jeff: No.

Me: Why should I talk to you?

Jeff: I don't know.

Me: I don't know either, bye bye.

I swear this is exactly what we said. I expected him to at least respond that he could give me a better interest rate or something or other. Strange.

It's been a long time since I've been bothered by telemarketers trying to sell me things, probably because I've changed my phone number several times and use only my cell phone. No one's been able to catch up with me yet.

Am I complaining? Nope, no way. But, in the off-chance someone does call in the future, I now know a fun way to hopefully get them off the line.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Defrosting a freezer compartment and relighting a pilot light

This was a fairly interesting, though mostly routine housekeeping day, beginning with writing a minor rant to a few people about a church "bored" meeting last night. After that time pounding the poor keys of the laptop, I needed to do something much different so slid down the stairs into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and noticed the freezer compartment was mostly built-up ice.

This fridge is ancient, one of those with a small freezer compartment at the top, accessed only by opening the fridge door itself. The freezer doesn't hold a lot anyway, and so much space taken up by ice wasn't good.

I remembered my mom defrosting the freezer years ago and remembered she used a pan of boiling water inside. So, I unplugged the fridge, took everything out of the freezer, boiled a big pot of water, stuck it inside the freezer, and shut the doors. After about 8 minutes, I checked the progress. Sure enough, ice was breaking off and sliding into the plastic tray under the freezer. Perfect. Since there was still some stuck at the back, I boiled the water again and repeated the process. Oh, how beautiful! All done. I dumped the tray of water outside in my newly planted little garden, dried off the inside of the freezer, and stuck everything back in. And the whole process only took about 30 minutes.

Someone on a Simple Living Discussion Forum had this to say: "Enjoy, knowing a traditional freezer does not dry out your frozen food as a frost-free would, nor spend the energy trying to stay frost free."

I just want to be able to keep ice cream for longer than a day or so without it turning sloppy. It's a shame to have to eat it so fast. Right. Uh-huh.

Oh, and I also relit the pilot on the gas stove. Piece of cake. Next time I won't get so engrossed in writing a rant that I forget there are pinto beans boiling over.

Now back to reading
Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures by Gibbs and Bolger. Good stuff.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Malware Warning

My mind is blank tonight for some reason, which gives me an excuse to pass along a warning I received today from a computer consultant. Having just found some malware on my computer a few days ago, I paid close attention to this one. Very important!

I have gotten several suspicious e-mails this morning that at first glance appear to be legitimate. If you have purchased anything on Amazon recently you might get sucked into opening the attachment. I’m not sure what the attachment is, but DO NOT open it. It contains an executable file which will almost certainly do really nasty things to your computer. The attachment is named and the body of the message reads as follows:

Thank you!

Your transaction has been processed by WorldPay, on behalf of Amazon Inc.

The invoice file is attached to this message.

This is not a tax receipt.

We processed your payment.

Amazon Inc has received your order,

and will inform you about delivery.


Amazon Team

This confirmation only indicates that your transaction has been processed successfully.

It does not indicate that your order has been accepted.

It is the responsibility of Amazon Inc to confirm that your order has been accepted, and to deliver any goods or services you have ordered.

Whatever this thing is, it is so new that McAfee is not detecting it, and it is getting past the mail filters. Delete the e-mail immediately. DO NOT open it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Armadillos and Turtles: Roadkill Cafe Specials

Today I drove about 45 miles south to Tulsa to meet with a minister friend about doing some volunteer work. I've only lived here since the middle of February, so there are still many things to get used to, things that are quite different from Southern California and Oregon. For one thing, the roadkill. My ex used to have one of those Roadkill Cafe t-shirts, but I guess I never paid enough attention to the various dishes served as I just don't remember armadillos being on the menu. Opossums ('possums) are the roadkill item of choice in Oregon and parts of California. Of course, California also has the skunk; there's never any question about what that black and white squashed critter is on the road. The aroma gives it away.

Possums are just there. I swear they make bets with each other about how soon they'll get on the menu. I've got a wonderful, true story about possums for another time; this blog is about roadkill in Oklahoma and Texas.

Armadillos, the state mammal of Texas,"make common roadkill due to their habit of jumping to about fender height when startled (such as by an oncoming car)." Before today, I'd never seen one other than in a zoo. Today I really didn't see any complete ones as they were all in pretty sad shape (read: dead) alongside the highway. Someone told me they kind of explode when hit by a car, but I'll withhold judgment on that until I actually see it for myself. I don't remember seeing so many when the weather was cold and rainy, so perhaps they come out when the sun shines.

I also saw a few turtles; at least they used to be turtles. Not as many as armadillos, though. I've never seen a turtle on a highway. Makes me wonder why they were there and where they were going. These didn't get very far. I'm sure they don't jump to fender height, like the armadillos. Just the idea of either of those animals jumping makes for a strange visual effect.

Can't say I miss 'possums all that much, but I'm still trying to get used to seeing armadillos and turtles being "one" with the pavement. I wonder if any have actually made it to the top of someone's fender? Has anyone ever seen an armadillo as a hood ornament?

This is getting out of hand and, since it's late, I'm running the risk of becoming entirely strange so will quit. But, I do wonder what it feels and sounds like when a driver hits one. I don't really want to experience it first-hand, but if you've had the joyous experience, please let me know.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable

This afternoon I found this great parable on YouTube:

What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable

How many of us have seen or experienced this kind of treatment at our churches, club meetings, and so forth? I know I have. Perhaps the video might be a start in revising our welcoming of visitors.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ads Removed

I just removed the AdSense ads from this blog. To me, $2.07 in one month isn't worth the commercial feeling they gave to the blog. Now maybe if I had, say, about 600,000 followers or something . . .

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler

I just finished watching the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler," about a woman who saved 2500 Jewish children during the Holocaust. For more information about this courageous woman who was forgotten for many years, please check these links:
Irena Sendler Hallmark
Irena Sendler

Ms. Sendler, who died in May 2008 at age 98, is sometimes called "The Female Schindler."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Susan Boyle - "Cry Me a River"

Do you think I like Susan Boyle? Just a little! My good friend tangata just sent me this recording of her singing "Cry Me a River" on a 1999 charity CD. I could listen to her all night.

"Cry Me a River"

Friday, April 17, 2009

The joys of living in a real house

Finally! I took advantage of the weather lull today before more promised rain, spent some money at Lowe's, and planted the garden. Yes, it's pretty small, at least compared to ones I've had in the past, such as the one to the left in Portland a few years ago. Last month I dug this one completely by hand--I mean, with a shovel instead of a rototiller. I kept hitting tree roots, but pretty soon it looked pretty good. I mixed a few bags of compost with the topsoil and raked it all pretty smooth. No dance floor by any means, but it will do the job.

So, now I have two kinds of fledgling tomatoes , cucumbers, zucchini, jalapenos, parsley, lavender, and cilantro. If nothing else, I'll at least be able to make some pretty decent salsa. Wish I could claim these beautiful tomatoes in the picture, but, alas, they're from google.

To save money, I bought some eight-packs of small plants instead of the larger one-plant-per-pack plants, so had some tomatoes and cucumbers left over. My next-door-neighbors were tilling their garden last night, so I put the extra plants in a spot for them. The woman came over later and introduced herself, offering the use of their rototiller anytime I needed it. Hmmm. It's tempting to dig up the whole yard. No, not this year. Let's see how this small garden grows first.

Yesterday I spent a few hours opening some windows. This is an old house and they'd been painted shut a long time go. I like fresh air, so they needed to open. I first tried to do it with a paring knife - well, that was pretty dumb. Finally bought a nifty tool at Lowe's - a strong putty knife with a sharp point on one end - worked beautifully. I've now got to sand and re-paint the windows, but at least now they open. And the cross ventilation feels so good. The landlord is having a storm door installed at the front door next month. Because the door is an uncommon size, it has to be specially made. So, we agreed I'd pay the installation fee. Good compromise, especially since I'm the one who requested the door. The house has central air conditioning, but I'm partial to fresh air, especially since it doesn't cost anything. Cheapskate? Of course.

Time to do some reading. Ever since I moved into this house, my stack of books to read has kept getting larger and larger. I couldn't do that in the motorhome, so this is kind of fun. Let's see--what will it be tonight? Byron Katie's latest, one of my books about new kinds of small church, a Jeffrey Archer thriller I haven't read yet, or something else? Ah, decisions, decisions. So much fun.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Susan Boyle - Outstanding!

I might be just a little slow in seeing this performance but it was worth the wait. It just blew me away! Hope you enjoy it as much.

Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Who was killed?

Bart Campolo, a veteran urban minister and activist who speaks, writes, and blogs about grace, faith, loving relationships, and social justice, offered this story first told to psychologist Jack Kornfield by the director of a nearby rehabilitation program for violent juvenile offenders:

One 14-year-old boy in the program had shot and killed an innocent teenager to prove himself to his gang. At the trial, the victim’s mother sat impassively silent until the end, when the youth was convicted of the killing. After the verdict was announced, she stood up slowly and stared directly at him and stated, “I’m going to kill you.” Then the youth was taken away to serve several years in the juvenile facility.

After the first half-year the mother of the slain child went to visit his killer. He had been living on the streets before the killing, and she was the only visitor (in jail) he’d had. For a time they talked, and when she left she gave him some money for cigarettes. Then she started step-by-step to visit him more regularly, bringing food and small gifts.

Near the end of his three-year sentence, she asked him what he would be doing when he got out. He was confused and very uncertain, so she offered to help set him up with a job at a friend’s company. Then she inquired about where he would live, and since he had no family to return to, she offered him temporary use of the spare room in her home. For eight months he lived there, ate her food, and worked at the job.

Then one evening she called him into the living room to talk. She sat down opposite him and waited. Then she started, “Do you remember in the courtroom when I said I was going to kill you?” “I sure do,” he replied. “I’ll never forget that moment.” “Well, I did it,” she went on. “I did not want the boy who could kill my son for no reason to remain alive on this earth. I wanted him to die. That’s why I started to visit you and bring you things. That’s why I got you the job and let you live here in my house. That’s how I set about changing you. And that old boy, he’s gone. So now I want to ask you, since my son is gone, and that killer is gone, if you’ll stay here. I’ve got room and I’d like to adopt you if you let me.” And she became the mother he never had.

In these times, I'd like to think I was capable of showing that much compassion. How about you? What do you think of this story?


Monday, April 13, 2009

Handwritten letters

Last week I sent a birthday card to a friend in Virginia--a real paper card, not an electronic one. Several days earlier, I received an Easter card from another friend, along with a wonderful handwritten note and, because of who she is, a bunch of little paper Easter cutouts. Luckily I caught them all before they scattered all over the floor. However, that would have been okay--they were real, not virtual, and it was fun to have to worry about them.

I started thinking about how things have changed so much in the past few years, about how I used to write actual letters all the time and send real cards for holidays, birthdays, and "just because." Yes, it took more time than pounding out a quick email or clicking on an online Hallmark card. Yes, it cost a little more for the card, paper, and stamp. I also had to hand-write the address and stick the card or letter out in the mailbox to be mailed. But, I've always loved receiving actual written correspondence from friends and relatives and I've been known to hang onto them for a long time, perhaps even saving them in a scrapbook of some kind.

How many of you have received a real love letter from someone you care about very much? Have you thought about how much thought and care must have gone into that letter? Do actual birthday cards from friends make your day that much better, knowing someone cares enough to buy and send the card?

I'm as guilty as anyone else in taking the easy way out with e-mail and e-cards. For one thing, it's almost impossible to be late in sending a card: there are so many at the touch of a few keystrokes on the keyboard. I enjoy receiving fancy and entertaining cards with music and animation. I love the thought and care that friends put into selecting them for me, and I try to do the same for them as well. Sending email is very easy, and it's possible to write long letters quickly to friends and family in all parts of the world.

What's missing is a good way to physically save those cards and letters to read and savor many more times, perhaps at a time when you need an uplift or are feeling down or thinking no one cares. So many times I've appreciated reading letters again and again, feeling and experiencing the care and love that went into the writing of them.

It's a little late for New Year's Resolutions. However, I'm going to try to write more letters and send more cards. Who knows - perhaps mail carriers might even begin delivering things other than bills and ads. At least that's my wish.

So, if I have your "snail address," please expect a letter or short card soon. That's a promise.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

To all of you who celebrate this day, I hope it was a very special one. To all of you who nibble on your children's Easter chocolate (who, me? Not anymore - they're now bigger than I am) - the ears are really the best part, right? Makes me want to head out into the pouring rain and buy up all the store has in stock tonight. However, I made brownies with peanut butter frosting instead.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Giving and Receiving

Yarntangler wrote about giving and receiving in her blog tonight, and I'd like to piggyback on that theme just a little.

I spent two days at a minister friend's community center, "A Third Place," and their "Living Room Church" in Turley, Oklahoma, about eight miles from Tulsa but seemingly many more miles away. It was a wonderful chance to see his/their Unitarian Universalist Christianity in action and become involved, with no worry about "how much can we grow this church," or "Can I really say 'God' or 'Jesus' without people thinking I'm weird?"

The free community center has a health clinic, library, donation room, internet center, meetings for the community, "Saving Pets of Turley," "Let Turley Bloom" community gardening, nutrition class, lectures, music coffeehouses, sewing connections, cable TV, daily newspaper, games, free meals, Oklahoma Food Co-op, Turley trash-off coordinating, holiday community paties, Turley talks and neighborhood projects, and much more. It is a place to meet new friends and help others. The Community Center gets no grants and relies on contributions and donations. All work is done by volunteers as there is no paid staff.

The community center and church is located in the poorest zip code in the Tulsa, Oklahoma metropolitan area. Life expectancy there is fourteen years lower than that of the wealthiest zip code, about eight miles away. Within a two-mile radius of the rented space, their primary service area, the population is 66% African-American, and the largest growing population is Hispanic.

We had a small Maundy Thursday service and then ate a very simple meal together: soup, salad, and bread sticks. Friday morning I sat around the Center, ostensibly talking but mainly listening to some of the volunteers and people from the neighborhood who arrived there early. One volunteer was watching a soap opera on the TV, another was fixing the computer internet connection, others took care of receiving donated clothing.

Later in the morning, I rode with the minister to the Good Friday service in the chapel at All Souls Unitarian Church, located in the richest part of Tulsa. This church has around 1600 members. It was a beautiful service. People dressed nicely. The church is located in an area of beautiful homes.

On the way back, we drove through the unincorporated part of Turley, where I saw burned-out houses, empty trailers, and closed businesses, as well as a little nicer part of town up the hill. There was such a big difference between the large church and beautiful houses in nearby Tulsa and smaller, poorer Turley, only eight miles away,

Although I'm still not exactly sure why I'm here in Oklahoma, reasons and ideas are beginning to take shape, beginning with volunteering regularly down there. I'm not yet sure what I'll end up doing; I'm going to ponder that for a few days. While doing my chaplaincy residency with the Center for Urban Ministry in San Diego, California several years ago, the director's main goal was "to take the church down from the hill to the people." I believe this is what the people are doing in Turley--and it's something I feel called to do as well.

During my years of lay leadership, seminary, internships, field work, and chaplaincy, the focus has always been on church growth, numbers, adding members and programs. For many people and churches, those are important goals. However, somewhere along the way, I found myself believing those things were most important to me as well while losing track of why I decided to become a minister in the first place: community outreach and one-on-one ministry. I'm not a Pollyanna. I realize things are not remedied overnight. But, one of my first sermons was about living in abundance rather than scarcity, about giving freely as well as receiving. And I feel that abundance in the community center and church in Turley. It is a small but active, loving community, one I'll feel blessed to become a part of.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dutch Department Store, HEMA

A very good friend sent this to me tonight and I just had to share it with you.

"HEMA is a Dutch department store. The first store opened on November 4, 1926, in Amsterdam. Now there are 150 stores all over the Netherlands. Take a look at HEMA's product page. You can't order anything (it's in Dutch, anyway) but just wait a couple of seconds and watch what happens.
Don't click on any of the item pictures, just wait and see what happens.
This company has a sense of humor and a great computer programmer!! "


Thursday, April 9, 2009

This is actually a placeholder

Just finished some delicious cream of chicken soup, breadsticks, salad, and cookies after the small Maundy Thursday service here at "A Third Place Center in Turley, OK. My internet connection isn't the greatest out here in my RV in the parking lot, so will write more tomorrow evening.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Short Road Trip in the RV

Picture shows the first frog in garden water of new season in Turley, OK.

I spent part of today cleaning the inside and windows of the RV, making the bed, and filling the gas tank, preparing for my first short trip since moving here in February. The little motorhome has waited patiently in the back yard for two months. It's not going to be a long trip - just 60 miles or so down to Turley, Oklahoma, near Tulsa overnight. I'm finally going to meet Rev. Ron Robinson, Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship. Besides that hat (or along with it), he and others have started a different kind of Unitarian Universalist church--the Living Room Church. I'm going down to attend their Maundy Thursday service tomorrow as well as the Good Friday Service at nearby All Souls Unitarian Church. I'm looking forward to experiencing the living Room Church and their Third Place Center very much as my calling in ministry has continued to morph into one of "taking the church down from the hill to the people," in the words of Sister Anita Lapeyre, my CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) supervisor at the Center for Urban Ministry in San Diego, CA.

Ron recently wrote a series of three articles for "Small Talk," a newsletter for small UU congregations, describing his vision and ideas for this new type of UU church. Here is the first installment from September 2008. To me, this is a wonderful example of what church can be.

"Inside-Out, Upside-Down, Large-Small Church World: The Story of the Living Room Church, Part One

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Challenging Geocache

Some people have dogs as good incentives for long walks. For me, it's geocaching. One of the ones I found this morning was especially challenging. The hint: "No brute force is required. Use the most obvious retrieval method." Well, the thing was firmly attached to a large tree, about a foot above my head. It consisted of a dark green 2" tube about 2 feet long, open at the top, with a water hose contraption attached to the bottom. The most obvious method was to try and unscrew the hose thing - pretty tight but it did work. However, that really didn't help in any way. After pondering the state of the union for a while, I finally found a long, straight tree branch and inserted it into the bottom, pushing up. Gee, what do you know - out popped a small plastic pill bottle from the top of the tube. I had to give it a special shove because I couldn't reach it. It fell to the ground and I filled in my information on the log book. Hmmm. Now to get it back into the tube. The opening was way too high to just drop it in and I couldn't insert it from the bottom as the opening was too narrow. I finally took my life in my hands (or legs, as it turned out) and partially attempted to climb a thin, straight tree next to the cache. Grabbing onto the cache while attempting not to kill myself, I finally managed to drop the little plastic bottle back into the tube. Figuratively patting myself on the back, I started back down the 1/2 mile trail to the car. Halfway there I realized I'd most likely dropped the bottle in upside down. Tough. There's no way I was going back to go through all that again.

Are we having fun yet? Yeah, actually I am. As of today, I've found 36 caches in California, Oregon (well, actually my son found most of those since he kept the GPS from me), and Oklahoma, some challenging, some just plain weird, and some quite easy, especially the ones in shopping center parking lots, believe it or not. Think: light poles.

There was even one up here in the middle of the desert. However, it was just too windy to climb up to find it. Perhaps another time. Lots of great graffiti, though

Vermont Legislature Makes Same-Sex Marriage Legal

From this New York Times article today

MONTPELIER, Vt. — The Vermont Legislature on Tuesday overrode Gov. Jim Douglas’s veto of a bill allowing gay couples to marry, mustering one more vote than needed to preserve the measure.

The step makes Vermont the first state to allow same-sex marriage through legislative action instead of a court ruling. The law goes into effect Sept. 1.

Are we on a roll? I sincerely hope so.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Just a very short one tonight. It's been a busy day and I wanted to relax a little with a fun movie. Every week I get a code for a free movie rental from RedBox, so tonight I watched the Disney film, "Bolt." It's about a dog who's lived his life on the set of his TV series, believing he has superpowers. He and his "human," Penny get separated. The story is Bolt's trek across country to be reunited with Penny. For more summary, check out Bolt on the Internet Movie Database.

I fell in love with Rhino, the hamster in his little plastic ball, especially when he talked Bolt into letting him leave his home with an elderly lady at an RV park and take to the road to Hollywood with Bolt and Mittens, the cat, to find Penny.

Rhino: Bolt! I can be a valuable addition to your team...
Bolt: I'm listening...
Rhino: I'm lightning quick, I have razor-sharp reflexes. Wha! And I'm a master of stealth.
Rhino: Plus, I'll keep the cat in check.
[Mittens rolls her eyes]
Bolt: [Gets down close to Rhino's ball] The road'll be rough.
Rhino: [indicates] I have a ball.
Bolt: There's no turnin' back.
Rhino: Guess I'll have to "roll" with the punches!
["surfs" his ball]
Bolt: Easy won't be part of the equation...
Rhino: Promise?
Bolt: I gotta warn ya, going into the belly of the beast - danger at every turn.
Rhino: [getting closer] I eat danger for breakfast!
Bolt: You hungry?
Rhino: [cracks neck] Starving!

Fun stuff.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Church, politics, music, and movies - all connected

It's been quite a day, one that began with an interesting church service this morning. Normally I'd complain about a service that turns into a political forum, but not this time. I'm used to Unitarian Universalist services in the Pacific Northwest - Oregon and Washington - as well as Southern California. Those places are already quite politically liberal in many ways, and so it wasn't necessary to fight so much for things that were already well understood, if not always accepted, such as recycling, the health hazards of coal-powered power plants, nuclear power plants, health care concerns, issues about bisexuals, gays, lesbians, and transgendered people (BGLT), etc. Here, in the only completely red state in the union, it's a constant uphill battle. It will be impossible to not become more politically active.

After a very brisk (read: colder than h---) walk home, I grabbed some lunch, read email, changed my shoes, and headed over to the Community Center for a performance of "Carmina Burana." I love living so close to downtown as it's possible to walk almost everywhere. The Community Center is down an alley, diagonally through a park, then across the street - a five-minute walk. No parking problems or traffic plus some needed exercise. I met a couple of friends from church and we sat together, getting to know each other better.
Although I've listened to the CD of the program, hearing it live was absolutely wonderful. especially the first and last parts, "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi" (Fortune, Empress of the World.") The heavy bass drum and loud gong playing together made the whole thing an amazing experience. Performers were the Bartlesville Children's Choir, Tulsa Children's Choruses, Tulsa Youth Chorale, Signature Symphony Chorale, Tulsa Community College Choir, and members of the Signature Symphony, all conducted beautifully by Susan Mueller. It was the first time I'd been to any kind of performance in the Community Center and people were right: the acoustics were outstanding. The standing ovation was well deserved, not just a polite gesture. I'm looking forward to seeing the ballet "Coppelia" in a few weeks as well as the traveling, "Jesus Christ, Superstar."

After a short walk home (I probably could have spread my arms and flown the wind was so strong), I reserved the DVD, "Slumdog Millionaire" through RedBox, and drove over to Wal-Mart to pick it up. Needing some gas, I bought a $20 gift card at Walmart and used it at their pumps to receive a three-cent per gallon discount. Something to remember for the future.

I heated up some soup for dinner, sliced some of the whole wheat bread I made yesterday, and settled down in the living room to watch "60 Minutes." The main story concerned University Medical Center, the county hospital in Las Vegas, which recently closed its outpatient oncology services for lack of funds CBS Network Release It was a chilling report highlighting the terrible state of health care in the country and how the lives of the uninsured are at definite risk.

Finally, I sat down on the floor in front of the TV to watch "Slumdog Millionaire" because some of the important on-screen subtitles were just too small to read from anywhere else. Seeing this film about the lives of the very poor in India immediately after the "60 Minutes" report reinforced my "bleeding heart liberal" status. It is impossible to ignore the ways of life of the "slumdogs" in India, just as it's impossible to look away from the plight of the uninsured and poor with cancer in Las Vegas. As one who was finally able to obtain minimal health insurance after three years without it, I'm too well acquainted with the feelings of "what if something happens," and the thoughts about moving to Canada. And I don't have cancer or two young children to care for.

The day could have been a downer in a few ways. However, the uplifting music earlier in the afternoon provided a feeling of hope. The church service this morning helped me realize there are people here working their hardest to provide "justice, equity, and compassion in human relations," one of our Unitarian Universalist Principles. I'm now able to be counted among them.