Monday, June 19, 2006

Here's my dad...

Blogger would not cooperate with me last night when I tried to load this picture of my dad. Miracle of miracles...tonight it works. This was taken in Minnesota. Other than the fish, the neat thing about this picture is the woolen shirt. Back in the day, my mom and I would go to the Village Shopping Center in Gary for a year's supply of plaid wool shirts, just in time for Christmas. They looked pretty snappy with khaki pants that had an ironed-in crease that would cut butter. Anyway, here is the guy I was named after - I'm pretty proud of that.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A day for father...

I been thinking lately about the people I meet
The carwash on the corner and the hole in the street
The way my ankles hurt with shoes on my feet
And I'm wondering if I'm gonna see tomorrow.

Father forgive us for what we must do
You forgive us we'll forgive you
We'll forgive each other till we both turn blue
Then we'll whistle and go fishing in heaven.

"Fish and Whistle" by John Prine

I’m blessed to have had a darn good father in my life. I have been without my dad for more years then I had with him, but the memories we made were good and plenty for a lifetime. Although my parents would never admit it, I am relatively certain I was supposed to be a son.

None the less, I was the daughter that could bait a hook and clean a fish. My dad and I fished in a boat, from the shore, and on the lake when it was frozen. I could catch night crawlers with the best of them...with a flashlight when the ground was wet...sneak up, grab them and pull gently, drop them in a cottage cheese container with a little dirt. It helped to write "worms" on the outside so my mom didn't get scared half to death.

We went hunting and dressed the pheasants in the laundry trays in the basement. I had the feathers packed into my little black patent leather purse, just to prove it, much to my mother’s dismay. My dad would open the gizzard with a pen knife so we could figure out what the bird had for lunch - pretty doggone cool if you ask me.

When my dad painted, I painted. When he had a hammer and nail, I did too. He would haul black dirt on the weekends to bring in a little extra cash. Me and my crayons and coloring books made many a trip along side my dad in the big red dump truck, from dawn until dusk. He would sing to me and I loved it…”I dream of Jeanie with the light brown hair…”

The last Christmas we had together I was in Lafayette and the snow was so deep and coming down steady. It looked like I was staying at school for the holiday until my mom called to tell me to be ready - dad was coming. And sure enough, he did. I still don’t know how we made it home. I-65 looked the same as the fields on either side.

The next spring he was gone. Pastor called him a fisher of men and I agreed. I'm not certain about the ever after but for my dad I figure it has something to do with a fishing pole and some nightcrawlers.

Thinking of you dad...

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Evangelize This

I have come to the realization that I am not very good at organized religion. It may be because of some underlying remnant of youthful rebellion. It is more likely that since I have been allowed the freedom to ask questions and learn about things that never made much sense - the dogma just doesn't work as well. Following along blindly is no longer in the cards for me.

It was kind of like getting my first pair of eyeglasses; glasses that were long overdue. The shock of seeing things clearly was breathtaking, but even better was gaining the ability to see things that I had altogether missed. At first the glasses were a little uncomfortable but after awhile they became second nature. It is pretty interesting how it works that way. New eyeglasses brought clarity and definition, as did the new lenses through which I see a more inclusive picture of living in “the here and now of Jesus” and the “forever and always grace of God”. There is no way I will ever go back to the old way of seeing things.

At any rate, the conflict for me is in being a member of a larger overarching body of governance that either goes in the opposite direction of where I think we should be, drags it heals rather than moving forward, or at the least gives that appearance. I understand that this is superior to an “autonomous church system” that does not have any checks and balances for finance and administration. And agreeably the ability to accomplish our mission is far greater when united with that goal in mind. On the local level our goal of service and learning is solid and moving forward. Diversity and inclusiveness are issues we as a church are well aware of and support, and I think for me, that is where the rub comes in.

Last week I had the occasion to attend a gathering at the close of the annual conference for Northern Indiana. It was an opportunity to celebrate successes, showcase the youth, and create a vision for the future. It was not surprising that the majority of those in attendance were my age or older. Understandably, the focus was on growth since our numbers, like those of other mainline denominations, are thinning. What a wonderful opportunity to address the issues that divide and exclude. Instead there appeared to be an acceptance of the same crippling fundamentalism that I have come to mistrust and avoid. At one point we were told by a youth group member that the numbers of her generation that were evangelical Christians would dwindle from 15 to 5% over the next few years. Was I supposed to feel bad about that? Instead it just ruffled my feathers. What followed reminded me of the televangelists I see while channel surfing, moral issues to boot. Surely this is not the way we are going. Or is it?

Admittedly I am spoiled. I have a pastor and church family that encourage growth and learning. We are striving to exemplify grace in both our church and community. This is one time when I am far better to focus on the little picture, because sadly enough the big picture I saw did not look so good.