Monday, November 27, 2006

Climate Change

It is SNOWING in Seattle, where the Packers are playing on Monday Night Football (and actually winning!)

Today it was 82 here--I'm in shorts, T-shirt, sandals still.

There's nothing that makes me more homesick than snow, hey, m'ijo?

We're getting an "arctic freeze" later this week. Hopefully I'll notice!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

You Can Take the Girl Off the Farm....

Oh, wait, I grew up in town (yes, Iowa does have towns)--and this was very obvious to me today.

I arrived at church first, being the new pastor on her first day and all. I pulled up the gravel drive in my Texas Cadillac (no longhorns on the front, however; that's how you can tell that neither the Caddie nor I am really from Texas); got out of the car, and unlocked the cattle gate. That's when it hit me, for about the third time this week: I am doing rural ministry.

I opened the door, and checked the floor immediately for any critters that may be skittering, or slithering (God forbid!) across the floor. [I've never seen any, but apparently in October a snake was carried into the church in a plant that had been sitting outside during the week. I've already warned them that if I disappear suddenly they should look for me in Wisconsin, as I probably saw a SNAKE INSIDE the church and had to depart immediately.] Coast was clear-- that was all fine.

As I was greeting people near the door, I noticed a large shaggy animal approaching down the driveway, and I thought, "Wow, there's a pony coming to church". Now, of course I knew it couldn't be a pony, but hey, we're sort of out in the country, so you never know. In fact it was a large red furry dog, who belonged to members who live across the street. They had walked to church, so the dog followed. One of their sons had to take her back home. She was a nice enough dog, but not everyone wants to be greeted by a shaggy pony/dog when they arrive at worship, not even when you share your space with a veterinarian clinic, as we do.

So, all the laughter aside (well, not all of it; it was a JOYFUL morning)--my first Sunday as Pastor of Living Word Lutheran Church in Beautiful Buda Texas was wonderful. There was a fullish house (about 50, I guess) with several visitors who *should* have been elsewhere (members in other congregations) who were there to support me on my first day. The energy was positive and palpable, the music was rolling off the piano, the singing was jubilant, and the preaching...well, you know how I preach. It all felt good and right and was a great start. The congregation often says, "God has begun a good thing here" and indeed, today a good thing was begun, and it was all about God.

Wow, it is amazing how good it is for my soul for me to have the time and place to BE a pastor. I've long maintained it's what God made me to be, and it seems still to be true. Thanks be to God! I think of that in my rural place (with all those thousands of homes going in around me) as I look out the office windows and see cactus and scrub trees--no roads, no traffic, no buildings visible from that side. This is where, and who, I am to be.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Beautiful Fall

OK, for all the times I have complained about Texas weather (too many to count, so don't try!)--I hereby rebut myself.

Saturday I rode (yes, my bicycle, you slackers!) in the "Wurst Ride in Texas", from Austin to New Braunfels, 100 K. The weather was cool (60s) and the wind behind us--it was lovely. And, I averaged 14.7 mph, which is fast for me!

Today I topped that even--Bibb and I rode from Gruene to Sattler on River Road, 30 miles. The bluffs along the river are amazing, the cypress trees are turning orange, some oaks are yellow, the water is clear (though barely flowing from such a dry summer). It's about 72 degrees and sunny.

I realize I live in one of the fastest growing areas of the state, right on I-35 with trains and trucks speeding single-mindedly to and from Mexico to make this a better world through NAFTA and CAFTA. (Choke!!) Traffic, asphalt, noise. But today I headed west, and escaped it for awhile, and remembered that I DO like living in Texas--from October to April, at least.

Sorry I didn't take a camera to show the rest of you. I recommend it for a picnic or a scenic drive, if you're near enough to take advantage.

I hope creation shows off for you today, wherever you are!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

In the beginning...

there was a call. And the call was issued to me, and I accepted it.


I have accepted the call to serve as pastor of Living Word Lutheran Church in Buda, Texas. I will begin on Weds., Nov. 15, my first Sunday being Nov. 19, 2006. It will be my first solo call.

Living Word is a small congregation, the only ELCA congregation in Buda, and one of 5 in all Hays County. They started in south Austin about 8 years ago, and moved to Buda in 2002. They meet in an old creamery building of a former dairy farm. It's a great location, but I hope to outgrow it quickly! There are about 80 people listed in the directory, some from Austin, most from Buda, Kyle, Niederwald, and other north Hays County areas. They are interested in being bilingual and reaching out to young families (so to reflect the community), and willing to consider RIC. Under the spiritual guidance of their previous pastor, they have embraced Holy Scripture as God's Living Word, embodying their name in a very real way. They said to me, "We are very dedicated to and serious about Bible Study; our pastor would have to be willing to teach that." It's like a pastor's dream come true! Teach the Bible? No problem!

Anyway, worship is at 9:30 Sunday mornings, Bible study and Sunday School at 10:30. Please come visit some time!

Please pray for me and for the congregation, as we get used to each other and get into ministry together!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sex Choices

OK, now that I have your attention, I want some feedback on this one!

You may remember I've been volunteering with teen moms at the high school. Wow! I think the program is an immense help to them, but an even greater help would be not having to deal with this in the first place. Duh.

So, tell me, please:

if you were NOT sexually active in high school, why weren't you? What tools did you have to help you make the choice? What made a difference for you? Was it lack of opportunity, moral conviction, fear of repercussions, personal responsibility?

and if you WERE sexually active in high school, how did you make that choice? What did it mean to you? Could anything have "stopped" you, and if so, what? Do you think now that it was a good choice for you then?

As for me... I had plenty of opportunity, unfortunately; I never took advantage of it, fortunately. I was afraid of disappointing my parents, had my mind set on college, and had an ideal about sex being such an important thing I didn't want to share it with just "anyone". Romanticized, perhaps, but it does work. I thought about my partner: would I have wanted him to have been sleeping around before he slept with me? STDs, pregnancies, pain...all this played into my decision, and it was a conscious decision. I also assumed that IF I had sex, I WOULD get pregnant--statistically not true, but it was a good deterrent. Oh, and there was that pastor thing--I knew in high school I wanted to be a pastor, and sleeping around did not seem a good choice. Besides, I dated all the gay guys at school and wasn't enough in love with anyone to want to.

So, what's your story? This is a sociological survey; I'm pondering how we might reduce the rate of teen pregnancies in this community (currently 50 women are pregnant at San Marcos High School). Teach me.


Sunday, November 05, 2006


I had an interesting conversation about forgiveness last week. There were three of us, and we offered many helpful definitions:
"Forgiveness is when you don't feel like you have to hit back." (Anne Lamott--she wasn't there, I just quoted her)
"Forgiveness is letting go--when your hands are holding the offense, you can't receive the gift, or anything else; you can't take God's hand to be led to a new place." (me)
"Forgiveness is giving up on trying to live a better past" -- David, another participant

Well, yes. Forgiveness is all these things. At the end of the conversation, we agreed that it's a process, not a one-time thing. Having studied languages, I'd say it's imperfect, not preterit tense: it isn't a once-for-all thing. You may have to forgive and re-forgive the same offense, the same hurt, the same person over and over, as you learn more about yourself and the situation and God.

What made this conversation so interesting is that it happened in the context of a "Wounded Healer" workshop/training I attended. The model is of family members of victims of violent crimes having mediation with the perpetrator of the crime: often the mother of a young adult who was murdered meets the murderer, years later. (More info at; What became clear to me as we "met" several people by videos is the power of reconciliation, the power of dialogue, the power of forgiveness. Lives were changed, those of the victims' families as well as the offenders. Life began again. The offense wasn't undone; amends were horribly inadequate, yet there was a new level of healing that simply was not possible before the dialogue.

I know we cannot always forgive. We cannot always move on, either. I don't think it's "required", even though the prayer says, "forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us". But when it does happen, when it can happen, it is a holy moment, when we glimpse God's dream for us. Perhaps we ought to think of it as a goal, one of those "already but not yet" pieces of the faith, something we want to do, for God and for us, which God miraculously does when we cannot.

May your needs for forgiving and forgiveness be few, and may you know its power when you do need it.