Friday, October 26, 2007

Playing the Friday Five - Pumpkin/Apple

1. How did you celebrate this time of year when you were a child?

Dad's favorite pie is apple ... my sister's is pumpkin ... I'll take all of the above! My mom was an avid canner when we were children, so summers and into the fall were times to "put up" veggies, fruits and jams to enjoy. I think this was as much Mom's South Dakota roots as it was anything else - we lived in San Diego and pretty much had fresh fruits and veggies all year. And, of course, we trick-or-treated on Hallowe'en and made the obligatory jack-o-lanterns.

2. Do you and/or your family “celebrate” Halloween? Why or why not? And if you do, has it changed from what you used to do?

Sure! It's the "Hallows Even" - the eve of All Saints day. Episcopalians generally don't really have a problem with it (although a few do). It really hasn't changed much for us, but I do notice how some of my neighbors really go overboard with the decorations - I don't remember decorating for Hallowe'en growing up (of course, my Dad hated putting up Christmas lights on the house too ... so we were a little off-beat).

2. Candy apples: Do you prefer red cinnamon or caramel covered? Or something else?

Carmel - definitely!

3. Pumpkins: Do you make Jack O’ Lanterns? Any ideas of what else to do with them?

Cook 'em! Cut them down and cook them - a pressure cooker works really well. Then you can make fresh pumpkin pie or pumpkin soup (which is really good!).

4. Do you decorate your home for fall or Halloween? If so, what do you do? Bonus points for pictures.

Uhhh ... no. October is a crazy time with school and church activities, so I must admit decorating for Hallowe'en beyond the jack-o-lantern is not really on my radar.

5. Do you like pretending to be something different? Does a costume bring our an alternate personality?

Sure ... I'd like to pretend I'm Julia Roberts ... hahahaha! But seriously, it's fun to play and it gets you out of your own head for awhile.

Bonus: Share your favorite recipe for an autumn food, particularly apple or pumpkin ones.

Executive Inn Pumpkin Cheesecake (makes 10" cheesecake)
Prepare crust and press into 10" springform pan (bottom ONLY)
1 tsp. soft butter (brush on bottom of pan)
1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 lbs pumpkin
1 TBS pumpkin pie spice
1 cup whipping cream
Blend and pour filling into pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Remove and let rest 10 minutes, then pour sour cream topping over cake.

Sour Cream Topping:
1 lb. sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Cool thoroughly and then chill.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Church really is like a sewer ...

Why? Because what you get out of it depends on what you put into it! True for the septic tank, true for the Church ... and with apologies to Tom Lehrer for the co-opting of his famous sewer quote.

So why am I going down this rather bizarre road? Well, I've been thinking about what people think church should be. I've been amazed by the variety of images people carry about "Church." Even if they understand that "Church" is the people of God gathered together (as opposed to a building somewhere), they still have some interesting ideas of what to expect from the Church.

I live in the United States, which has to be the preeminent consumerist, capitalistic culture in the world. We worship stuff in the US - all kinds of stuff! My first degree was in Marketing, so I know how to write the liturgy of advertising to pull and tug at every insecurity you might have so as to conflate your personal wants into desperate needs you can't live without! Now that's something really scary, but most people don't really know how much they are being manipulated by the consumerist messages of buy, buy, buy and more, more, more every day of their lives. Insatiable wants are the engine that has kept our economy going, regardless of the damage to the planet (say "global warming"), damage to relationships (how 'bout those maxed out credit cards??), and damage to God's image in us. When we enter the Church for one hour a week on Sunday, after spending the remaining 111 hours this past week being bombarded by consumerist messages, is it any wonder that we begin to treat the Church as some sort of purveyor of "religious goods and services?"

OK, you're probably saying, "What's up with this rant, Vicar?" Well, it's really to raise the awareness that the Church isn't the local grocery store or big box outlet selling you programs and feel good stuff. I run into folks who complain about how our congregation doesn't have this program or that program, or the service times are inconvenient for their kids' sports schedules, or they don't like the worship style, or any of a hundred other comments. It's as if the attitude is they are here to shop for their own needs and the heck with becoming a contributing member of a faith community. If there's nothing handed to them on a platter, they're outta here!

Here's an idea ... if you don't find it ... found it! This is true everywhere, but critically important in the small congregation. Now if you're intent on being a "taker of services" and not a "contributor towards the Body of Christ," you'll blow off this advice and I can just feel you clicking away from this page. (Yeah ... I was given superpowers to feel those clicks at ordination ... ok, not really, but it would be cool wouldn't it?).

BUT, if you're looking to make a difference somewhere, then you're still with me and it's time to read on. Small congregations have some real advantages for people who want to be a part of something more organic and less structured than larger churches. Pastor Dave Fitch sings the praises of small congregations here. But if you're looking at a small missional church, Pastor Dave has these words of advice on what to expect and not expect from a missional church (my personal favorite is point #1 which influenced my musings today).

I do find the energy and flexibility of the small congregation exciting. When members hear about mission or outreach opportunities in our congregation, we bring it to the community and then we do it. We don't have tons of committees who have to "approve" things and lots of hoops to jump through ... if it makes sense, we do it. So we started shipping t-shirts, socks and sweatpants to the wounded soldiers at the 28th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad (50 pounds of clothes last month and another 50+ for this month), and we're joining the local CROP Walk for hunger relief, and we did a Blessing of the Pets service yesterday (check out the pictures here), and we're planning an intergenerational Advent party ... among other things.

So if you want something better out of the sewer, put something better into it! Same goes for your church.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The necessity of the Wilderness

Yep, you read that right ... the Wilderness is necessary to our faith life. Whatever wilderness you find yourself in (even if it's just figuring out where the paper clips are), it's the time in the wilderness which reminds us we are not completely in control. If we didn't have wilderness experiences, we'd get into a "Master of the Universe" mentality (with apologies to Tom Wolfe for this shameless rip off from his novel Bonfire of the Vanities). Some of us have a "Master of the Universe" mentality anyway, but that's another subject (maybe I'll write about perfectionist control freaks next ... hmmm ... maybe not...).

The Wilderness reminds us who we are and Whose we are. The Wilderness tests our ability to trust God even when everything seems to be falling apart at the seams. The Wilderness tests our ability to manage our fears and lean into trusting God. That's scary stuff.

The Wilderness also teaches us to put our own problems into a grander perspective. I may be thinking I'm dealing with a whole lot of confusing and disturbing stuff, but compared to the Sudanese refugee, or the AIDS orphan in Uganda, or the democracy protesters being gunned down in Myanmar, I am so blessed and fortunate.

The Israelites in the Wilderness were fearful second guessers who didn't want to trust God. Heck, they didn't even want to trust Moses ... and they could SEE him! But time in the Wilderness was where God met them in the tent (no matter where you go, there God is!). They had to work through their collective fear and anxiety and trust God ... and each other.