Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve Post

2008 ... what a year. My 401K became a 200.5K, my Mini Cooper had a clutch and water pump replaced, and I found out that I have arthritis in both my hands.

At least my cholesterol levels are down !!

What am I praying for in 2009?

Hopefully a full Alpha course this quarter (See previous entry: here).

A congregation that will understand that while budgeting 10% of offerings for missions and benevolences is a great goal, having the church fall around your ears while doing that is NOT good stewardship.

That the same congregation will learn that being a Christian does not mean showing up for Sunday worship, then forgetting about church for another week; ignoring all attempts to educate them in their faith.

And finally, that my friend will find a location that will accept her as the pastor I know she can be.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Post

This is probably why I like the KJV of the Christmas Story:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Talking about Sessions .....

In my little screed about a Session meeting previously, I mentioned a few issues I have with the Session I serve on at Stodgy Presbyterian.

It seems that I'm not the only one who feels that more and more Sessions have become executive boards, rather than Sessions. They're more worried about the business side of a church (and lets face it, a church has a business side), than the spiritual well being of the Congregation.

So I throw out a question, could this be due to the fact that the PCUSA did away with the original titles for elders of Ruling and Teaching Elders?

Update: 20081220.00:48 I guess no one had any good answers to that question. So, I'll just throw it out for thoughts: why are Sessions changing from the courts of the church, to the Board of Directors ??

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An interesting Session meeting.

Well at Stodgy Presbyterian, as in many other Presbyterian churches, its budget time. Time to look at the amount of pledges made, and to figure out how much each ministry gets for the following year.

The PCUSA Book of Order has said that the Session is required to be good stewards. It has also been said that the church should provide for the minister so that he ro she can tend to the spiritual needs of the congregation, and not have to worry about the temporal needs of his or her family.

That said, in many churches, the last thing considered is the Call of the pastor. Usually, that's figured in after the cost of keeping the building open. This year, Stodgy Presbyterian was no exception.

As I'm the commissioner to presbytery meetings, prior to the budget discussions, I brought out the list of the terms of call for all the churches in Plodding Presbytery. A quick perusal of the list shows that in comparison with churches of the same size, our minister (of over 25 years) is not making as much as others with less tenure (and no D.Min).

Later once we kicked the minister out so we could do our deliberations, one of the elders on the Personnel committee said that "she personally felt that my bringing up the salaries of others is only rubbing [his] nose in the fact he's not making as much as others", I retorted that this information could be had by [the pastor] anytime he wanted by just a download as it was part of the last Presbyterian meeting materials. I had brought it to Session so that Session would have an idea of what others are getting. In the back of my mind, I had hoped that it would shame those elders into giving a better raise.

However, since pledges are down, and we need to make sure that we can pay the water bill, the pastor got a 3% raise, which is in line with the rest of the Presbytery. Still, based on what I've seen, the guy is about 7 to 10K below what he should be getting. And one of the reasons I was told was that he's not doing visitations to people, and that his next raise would be based on how the church increased membership.

I remarked that putting it all on the pastor is not an answer, the pastor cannot be friend, confidant, teacher, preacher and evangelist all at once. The rest of the officers need to step up and take some responsibility for the growing of the church.

They basically had no idea what I was talking about. Our deacons drop off flowers, a meal to those who are sick, provide donuts on Sunday (the pastor makes the coffee), and hold fundraisers. When I mentioned that the deacons should be contacting the congregation's members on a regular basis, someone said that in other churches they were in, the Deacons never did that !! Its not their job!!! I said that their job is Congregational Care ... in order to care for the congregation, you have to keep in touch with them.

The puzzled looks I was getting were frustrating.

Anyway, because we lost our custodian for a while this year, the pastor was doing a lot of the cleanup, so they decided to give him a $2K bonus for his efforts. It was joked that it was a retention bonus. They didn't want to put it in his salary, as that would raise it up, and it may not be possible to pay that next year.

I didn't mention that if the pastor did leave or retire, they wouldn't be able to hire someone with his experience and degree at the rate they're paying the current pastor. I'll let them figure that out when COM tells them that!!

And so it goes

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sappy Christmas Song

Quotidian Grace has again sponsored the 'Sappy Christmas Song' contest. I am an inveterate song parody lyricist, and can sit and write parody lyrics to a song at a moments notice.

Not that I can write a note, I can however, fit a word to the tune and the beat on a very close basis. I happen to enjoy contributing to this song contest, and I hope that what I did contribute added to the sappiness.

You can read (or sing) the Sappy Christmas Song here.

Update The final stanza that put this year's song in the Sappy Christmas Song Hall of Fame is here;

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Speaking of Presbytery Meetings

I've not commented here in a few weeks, primarily because its been a very busy few weeks. However, since I was speaking of Presbytery meetings, there's another one I want to comment on.

As some know, I have a few contacts over at the better PTS in Pennsylvania, and I know a few people who graduated this past year and are now either ordained or going to be. At this past presbytery meeting, one second career seminarian friend was given his orals, and approved by the COM as the new Pastor/Head-of-Staff at 1st Presbyterian of Pittsburgh.

At a previous meeting, two young men who went from college to seminary, were OK'd for ordination, and were installed as the founding co-pastors at a new NCD in Pittsburgh targetted at those attending the many colleges and universities in Pittsburgh.

In all cases, these new pastors are evangelical and articulate in their beliefs, as are many of the new Presbyterian graduates coming out of PTS. However, was this what was seen in the local newspaper, and on Presbyweb.

No ... it was that an attempt by a local church Session to try to put words to what they feel is the only correct response to the question

Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?

And, of course, the newspaper phrased it as a change to gay ordination standards, and featured the name of a local, progressive pastor who brought the last attempt to the GAPJC. While many seemed sympathetic to the idea, the thought of another church legal battle gave many pause.

So again, instead of talking about the good things happening in the church, only the hot button issue is talked about.

And so it goes ....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A few interesting presbytery meetings!

Tuesday, Nov 18th, was the third Tuesday of the month. In many presbyteries, this is the night of the scheduled presbytery meeting. There were two separate meetings that night that I was interested in.

The first was at Woodchuck-Servant Presbytery. The Open Theological Declaration was voted down by a 8 vote margin, but referred to a Presbytery Task Force. You can read about it here. I was wondering what would happen, and while saddened, not surprised that this would happen. The good thing is that its not going to go away. These are things that need to be talked about, especially if the change to the Fidelity and Chastity clause gets voted down, then what happens. Its going to be an interesting set of votes coming down.

The second was at Nother Completely-different Presbytery, where a friend of mine was approved to move to Candidate status in preparation for ministry. This was not a given, and my friend was somewhat nervous. The friend's spouse told me that the Presbytery made it very easy for the Inquirers who were moving to Candidate status. Their examination consisted of telling the assembled commissioners a 3 minute long version of their faith journey. They were also the first item on the docket after approval of previous minutes, and so on, so they'd be able to leave right after worship.

Evidently, there were three Candidate candidates (kinda redundant, no?). Anyway, from what I understand, the first rambled all over the place, the second read from a prepared script not really looking up to get eye contact, but my friend's spouse said that when my friend got up to speak, and started out with the first phrase of her journey, those who were reading papers, and such, stopped and listened. There was humor and some chuckles from the commissioners, a few nodding heads, and they were in the palm of my friends hand. Of course, the spouse is telling me all this, so I figure that this is a biased report with all the baggage that comes with that.

That said, my friend is now a Candidate.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Blog Retirement

I just read that Toby Brown of a A Classical Presbyterian blog is going to hang up his pen. Not totally, but he has made it evident that he feels that the Spirit is leading him to take his talents in a new direction.

I suspect that Toby will be visible on the many blogs both he and I read, so that his insight will not be totally lost, but he is retiring his blog at the end of this week.

Which is sad, there has been much on Toby's blog that has made me think and grow into a Reformed Catholic, with emphasis on the Reformed.

Blessings Toby !!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Friday Five

Once again, I've found a RevGalPals Friday Five that I can join in on.

Presbyterian Gal asks:

1. What was your favorite comic strip as a child?

2. Which comic strip today most consistently tickles your funny bone?

3. Which Peanuts character is closest to being you?

4. Some say that comic strips have replaced philosophy as a paying job, so to speak. Does this ring true with you?

5. What do you think the appeal is for the really long running comic strips like Blondie, Family Circus, Dennis the Menace as some examples?

Bonus question: Which discontinued comic strip would you like to see back in print?

1. Growing up in the NY/NJ area, it was DICK TRACY !!

2. Hmm ... hard to say. I always follow SALLY FORTH, as its carried in my local paper, but I now follow ROSE IS ROSE online as it was the strip I loved at my previous state of abode. Between the two, I find ROSE IS ROSE more often then not makes me laugh out loud.

3. Charley Brown ... for one, I always say Good Grief when something happens, for another, something is always happening to me !!

4. Somewhat true! You can find answers to almost anything going on today in the comics. Need political advice: see Doonesbury, Opus (sniff), Mallard Fillmore. Marital Advice: see Sally Forth, Rose is Rose, For Better or for Worse. Trouble with coworkers: Dilbert, computers: PC and Pixel (online comic).

5. They're consistently funny and true to life. Charlie Schultz inparted his Christian values into Peanuts in a way that appealed to all, Christian and non-Christian alike. Blondie has kept its starting premise from the 1930's, that is, Dagwood is always the hapless, sandwich-loving office manager and husband, who Blondie always one-ups. And Dennis is everybody's 5 or 6 year old, so everyone could relate.

Bonus: I'd love to see Pogo return. One of the first strips that was a Sunday comic, yet had an editorial edge about the national scene. It skewered without regard to right or left, and still left the 'skewee' (??) laughing.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

This Yellow Dog's Side Did Not Win !!

Some say that I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat, that is, if the Democrats put a yellow dog up for election, I'd vote for it. That's not necessarily true, but coming from a blue collar Democratic household, it has a ring of truth. I've not lived in a state with a party line vote selection in over 30 years, right now I do.

This area of the state uses electronic voting machines, so voting is touch screen, you could vote party line in less than 15 seconds if you're good, 30 seconds if you're really slow. That said, when I was at the polls I noticed it was taking people a lot longer than it would have by voting party line. I suspect it was a very considered vote both nationally and locally.

In this election, I voted for the other guy. I've always been a contrarian, more often than not, winding up on the other side of the Presidential vote. Primarily because I vote on issues, not on whether a guy looks good in a suit on TV. Based on my background, I voted for McCain on a lot of issues that I have strong opinions on.

1: Support of the military, and of the modernization of our military weaponry. We may decide to stop for the next 4 to 8 years, but other countries not so friendly to us have not. Witness the interesting move of Russian missiles near to the Russian-Polish border !!

2: Support of a pro-life position. Now I'm not against abortion on demand during the time defined in Roe v. Wade. This may make me an apostate in some pro-life eyes, but its my opinion that people make mistakes, or accidents happen. A child should not be brought into the world that will not be loved from the moment of conception. That said, I reject any thought of abortion past the that time as listed above.

3: He was totally vetted, as I mentioned in my previous post, there are still a few unknowns about our next President.

That said, I finish with an email I wrote very early Wednesday morning to a friend:

McCain conceded about 30 minutes or so ago, a very good and honest speech. I hope he'll still be the maverick in the Senate and give the Majority Party some heartburn.

FWIW ... I do NOT like having an Executive and Legislative Branch controlled by one party. There will be no check or balances until the next Congressional election in 2010, which is way too long.

This is why I voted for McCain for President, I would rather have someone who can work with the Congress, yet willing to tell them NO, then someone of the same party who is less than willing to do so.

That said, we're all Americans and I'll support the new President where I can, and oppose him where I must.

God Bless America !!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Just too much going on !!

I've not blogged for about 10 days. The reasons for this are many, one of which was an eye problem that I thought was cured, but returned without warning. That said, its cleared up now and hopefully, will not return.

Then there has been this election season. ARGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHH !!
Enough with the ads. Neither candidate says anything, and in order to find out what is what, you have to do some deep research. The average voter is not going to do that, they'd rather see what Jay Leno, or the Early Show has to say. I've actually heard a coworker tell me that his sister-in-law is going to vote for the Democratic candidate because she liked his wife !!!

Of all the inane reasons to vote for a candidate!! However, there are others. I'm worried that the country is more likely to go for the 'not-Bush' (that is Democratic) candidate, in much the same way that in 2000, people voted for the 'not-Clinton' (that is GOP) candidate because they're tired of what Bush has wrought.

Again trying to find out more about the candidates' positions is aggravating. Even when you go to their websites, the candidates really don't give answers that you can find easily. You can go to the tax reform site setup by the Democratic candidate to find out 'how much you could qualify for' under his plan, but it doesn't tell you how we're going to have to pay for it??

Everyone wants tax cuts, but no one wants to pay for the costs of government. Everyone knows there is fraud in goverment, but no one wants their earmarks for their favorite pork pie cut. The unions want to pay less for insurance, but they don't want their taxes raised, but who will help pay for the insurance that the Democrat is espousing.

Then there's the other side. I'm glad to hear that he's going to let the estate tax changes expire, but then I'm not so sure that reducing tax rates right now is a good idea. We need to have income to pay the national debt, and we won't get that by reducing tax rates anywhere.

In the meantime, foreign investors are buying up what they can, because the economy is in a downturn. Hey, why should they go to Neiman Marcus (European companies), when they can shop at K-Mart (USA)??

Final thought on elections ... QUIT THE ROBOCALLS !! I got calls from Obama, McCain, one of the state's Senators, even the Atty General of the State all asking for my support. I'd be flattered, except all they do is take up my time spouting the same drivel I'm trying to avoid on TV (thank God for DVRs).

Can you tell I'm sick and tired of all of this. I voted for McCain for a number of reasons:
1. He's a decorated Navy vet. He's had command responsibility, he knows about war, and also knows that you shouldn't take on two areas at once. The biggest problem of the past 8 years was that "W" did not finish the task he started in Afghanistan, but had to show Hussein who was boss (my emphasis). If we were on a war footing as in WW II, we'd have no problem with the manpower nor the supplies to keep going full tilt in both areas. The fool didn't do that, nor did he get good advice (or got it and didn't listen) to find Osama bin Laden first and neutralize that threat. I fully believe that John McCain would do what is needed to extract us from Iraq, and find bin Laden, and do it swiftly and efficiently.
2. He's a known quantity. All of his skeletons are out of the closet (No pun intended). There is nothing for him to hide, as its mostly all known. As one pundit put it this past Sunday: "why are people prepared for vote for a man where whole years of his life are not being explained or explored?". Its what I don't know that I'm afraid of.
3. He's not Bush! I know, that refutes what I said I was worried about initially, but in this case I meant it to mean that McCain "has been there". He wasn't flying F102's in Texas keeping that state from being invaded by the Commies during Vietnam, he was 'in theater' risking life and limb, and getting captured for it.
4. I happen to like the Separation of Powers between the Executive, the Congress and the Courts. Having a President and a Congressional majority of the same party would tend to negate any check and balance that having the President of one party and the Congressional majority of another would give us, the common people. FWIW ... after this election, we'd have 2 years of a House and/or Senate rubber stamping whatever the President and/or Congress wanted to do. A lot can be done in two years that could never be undone, after all, Congress hardly ever eliminates a program once they start it !!

OK ... such is my election day rant for today. I'm not going to post tomorrow in case I'd have more to rant or crow about.

And so it goes ....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Talk about jumping through hoops !!

This past weekend, a female friend of mine met with her church's Session and then her CPM in order to move herself along in the path toward ordination. It doesn't appear that she's going to have much of a problem.

However, someone I had talked to about this has a sister who's a minister, and a mom who has been involved with the CPM and other Presbytery committees in a Presbytery out west. He recounted how his sister when she went through the process ten years ago, had a minister on the CPM who was rather traditional (his phrase, not mine) about women ministers. This CPM member was worried that she didn't have enough training, so she had to do another six months of education.

Of course, not knowing more about what training was required, its hard to figure what was going on, since in 1998, women in the ministry were no longer an anomaly, but normal in the PCUSA.

Not knowing the background, I can only figure out two areas of education that would have been required: field education, interning with a church, or CPE, doing a period of chaplaincy at a hospital or hospice.

Today, I feel the main issues today are the lack of trust in the denomination, and the problems with a Presbytery that leans one way politically, and an inquirer/candidate who leans the other way.

The issues of either using too much inclusive language, or not enough inclusive language; belief whether the Bible was inspired or that the Bible has good ideas; what the definition of marriage should be; whether or not an ordained officer should be faithful in marriage, or chaste in singleness; etc, etc, etc.

Those issues are more likely to be asked about on the floor of a Presbytery, than whether or not the person has enough education.

Is this really the Holy Spirit, or just a mean-spiritedness of those who are opposed to whatever the inquirer/candidate believes.

And so it goes ....

Friday, October 17, 2008

RevGalPals' Friday Five

While I'm not a RevGal, I've been reading blogs on their list for some time now. I saw this Friday Five, and thought that this would be a fun one to play:

Friday Five: Coin Toss Edition
Well, Gals and Pals, this weekend we'll be rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and that has me thinking about coinage.

1) When was the last time you flipped a coin or even saw one flipped in person?

I believe it was about a month ago, it was for a joke, but I pulled out a quarter and flipped it. Settled the small disagreement too!

2) Do you have any foreign coins in your house? If so, where are they from?
I have a number of foreign coins, and paper bills. A British 2 pound coin, along with 1, 10 and 50p coins. A 5 punt note from Ireland, which I picked up in 2001 before they went to the Euro. I also have coins from Saudi Arabia, and Greece, as well as a 100 dinar note from Oman.

3) A penny saved is a penny earned, they say. But let's get serious. Is there a special place in heaven for pennies, or do you think they'll find a special place in, well, the other place?
Well .. I do know that they used to congregate in jars on my dresser until my wife yelled about possible dents in the wood from the jars. Now they proliferate in and over the small tray on the dresser. I won't swear by it, but it sure looks like they're taking the Biblical exhortation to go forth and multiply much like wire hangers do in closets.

4) How much did you get from the tooth fairy when you were a child? and if you have children of your own, do they get coins, or paper money? (I hear there may be some inflation.)
No kids of my own, but when I was a child back when Eisenhower was president, I got 10 cents, later my sisters made 25, and they were only 2 and 4 years younger than me. I claimed age and sex discrimination, but due to the times I was labeled a pinko and told to shut up.

5) Did anyone in your household collect the state quarters? And did anyone in your household manage to sustain the interest required to stick with it?
I looked at the idea, then thought, that there'll be so many in circulation, even if I got all 50 coins, they would not be worth any more than face value in my lifetime.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Justice for the Migrant Worker ... but what about our Seniors ??

OK ... I have to admit, I'm approaching that age where I'm looking at what is going to happen when I reach Social Security Retirement age. Not that I'm thinking about taking the early retirement at 62, but still with what's going on, with the economy, I'm looking at what I will be receiving at that time.

So I'm looking at this morning's (Oct 16th) paper, and there's an article on how inflation increases to Social Security payments (Cost of Living Allowance or COLA) do not help to offset the actual expenses that seniors experience on a day to day basis. This year's COLA will probably be in the neighborhood of 6%. That sounds kinda nice, but then, when the increase in home heating bills can range anywhere from 10 to 50%, this increase doesn't do much.

There was a chart showing that the cost of gas has increased 185% since 2000, eggs 147%, Medicate part B monthly cost 112%, Dental exam 52% and homeowner's insurance 36%. The flip side of this is that the average Social Security check has only increased 24% since 2000.

Doesn't make much sense does it? Well part of the problem is the way the SSA has to calculate the way the COLA is determined. Since 1975, the COLA was based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers or CPI-W, developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS later developed the CPI-E, CPI for Elderly Earners, which tracks the spending of elderly consumers and more accurately reflects the costs of health care. If this had been used from its inception in 1984, the average SS check would be $75 more per month. Hey, any little bit helps.

Of course, changing the CPI used to the CPI-E has no advocates in Congress, not to mention in the SSA or the BLS. Wouldn't this be a great measure for the PCUSA and especially its Washington office to pursue, considering the average age of Presbyterians in the PCUSA is approaching 60? Instead of the Washington office advocating positions not fully endorsed by a majority of people in the pews, and the office of the Stated Clerk and other PCUSA offices advocating for a living income for migrants; why not include advocating a change to help seniors who need help to get by.

Not everyone has a 401K or huge dividend income to live on. Then again, after the past few weeks, even those who thought they had a residual income to live on could use a boost, no matter how little.

And so it goes ...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

There is hope!

I just returned from a blogging friend's installation in Woodchuck-Servant Presbytery where I was gratified to hear evangelical Presbyterian preachers, both male and female, proclaim the Word without pussyfooting around the terms 'sin', 'redemption', 'atonement', and 'blood of Christ'.

There was an exhortation to those present to always be faithful to the Word, and to always point out when the Word is not being faithfully proclaimed. Speak the truth in Christian love, but SPEAK IT !! The congregation was very pleased at their choice of pastor, in fact, the elder who lead the congregation in its section of the required Book of Order requirements had to say as an aside, that he was very excited at this new beginning.

It was a very uplifting and exciting service, and I was very glad I was able to make it.

And so it goes ....

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Last one out turn out the lights!!

Just finished reading the Sunday paper. Seems like another mainline Protestant denomination is undergoing upheaval because of a move from biblical and traditional standards.

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (ECUSA)has voted with approximatedly 2 to 1 majority of laity and 3 to 1 in clergy to secede from the ECUSA and align themselves under an Anglican Province in the Southern Cone (evidently based in Argentina). What this will do is move about 56 or so congregations to the Anglican Church from the Episcopal.

The reasons they're leaving are the same for many other ECUSA churches moving under an Anglican Province, the trend in ECUSA doctrine, biblical authority and sexual ethics moving toward what is happening in the culture and away from standards that have been in place for 2,000 years.

There were those conservatives who wanted to reform from within: "Jesus' instruction to the church is to seek and save the lost, many in the leadership of the Episcopal Church are still among the lost ... and are leading other souls astray. I believe those of us who can see that are sent by Christ to those very people to call them to repentance and new life."

However, those who voted to leave talked about leaders who deviate from classic doctrines are not fit to follow. One of those pastors cited a diocese that declared all humans were "begotten children of God," a title the ancient creeds give to Christ alone.

"We only want to preserve the faith that the people who came before us have believed and loved and known," he said.

And what did the liberals do, they took their ball and went home claiming they did not want to condone these actions by staying for the rest of the convention.

So much for discourse. Of course, this has been done in the past, when those mainline Protestants who support the conservative view are labeled fundamentalists or anti-gay or so on. In reality, many of us Presbyterian moderate/conservatives have great compassion for our gay brothers and sisters, and pray for them daily to recognize that while we love them as brethren, we cannot condone actions or a lifestyle that the Book of Confessions and Scripture call sin.

So that makes two ECUSA dioceses that have decided to leave, San Joaquin and Pittsburgh. And have no doubt, there are individual congregations outside of those two dioceses whose vestries are looking at severing ties.

Which makes me wonder ... with so many large churches deciding to leave their mainline denomination, churches that are growing on a regular basis, and seeding new church plants that hold to the same biblical standards. With liberal churches slowing losing members, either through transfer to a more moderate or conservative church, or members just dying off, I'm wondering what will happen to the PCUSA in the next 10 to 20 years.

As the title suggests ... the last one out please turn out the lights!!

And so it goes .....

(Some quotes and paragraphs taken from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report by Ann Rodgers, Oct 5 2008)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Another sad day!!

If you read Presbyweb on Oct 3rd, you'll see that the Pittsburgh Presbytery's PJC ruled in favor of the defendant in a certain trial held at the Priory (which I believe is a hotel in a former RC Church and Benedictine residence) in Pittsburgh.

Although the principle in the trial said publicly that she considered the ceremony performed was a marriage, and said so during the ceremony. Evidently, that doesn't hold sway with the PJC because the PCUSA's Book of Order (BOO) says that there is no such thing as a gay marriage. So just because she said she performed one, doesn't mean it was one.

Even though the 1991 General Assembly said:

GA (1991, 395, 21.124, Req. 91-23): Not proper for minister to perform same sex union ceremony that the minister determines to be the same as a marriage ceremony, nor should a session allow use of church property for such a ceremony.

The verdict was unanimous for acquittal. Here are some excerpts from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article:

Since church and state define marriage as between a man and a woman, she cannot have done what she was accused of, the court ruled yesterday.

"It can't be an offense to the constitution to attempt to do the impossible," said the decision, read by the Rev. Stewart Pollock, chairman of the Permanent Judicial Commission of Pittsburgh Presbytery.

Of course this flies in the face of this admission, again from the P-G:

The Rev. Edwards, a parish associate at the multi-denominational Community of Reconciliation in Oakland, conducted the ceremony in 2005 in McKees Rocks. Church court rulings at the time said that ministers may bless same-sex couples but "should not" use liturgy that resembles a marriage ceremony. The Rev. Edwards admits she intended to perform a marriage, but says that "should not" doesn't mean "must not."

"Should not" does not mean "must not" ... when the GA said that it is NOT proper for a minister to do a same-sex ceremony the minister determines to be the same as a marriage. The BOO itself on page 5 that: SHOULD signifies practice that is strongly recommended.

So, the BOO strongly recommends that a minister NOT claim a same sex ceremony is a marriage; the GA says its NOT proper to claim a same sex ceremony is a marriage. Doesn't it logically follow that doing so is not a good idea, and is violating the intent of the BOO and AI in this case ??

While reading the Classical Presbyterian blog, another blogger who is in favor of same sex marriage, as well as the ordination of practicing homosexuals, left a link to his blog where he said that the prosecution's case was one of 'Presbyterian Ineptitude' because the prosecution had only one witness; while the defendant had three lawyers, and witnesses such as a doctoral student in theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif (AFAIK ... not a bastion of centrist thought).

The student "drew chuckles when she argued that "unnatural acts" are not always sinful. "Resurrection is very contrary to nature," she said."

Oh that's funny, drawing a parallel between Christ's Resurrection, and "unnatural acts", which could include bestiality, pederasty, etc.

Another witness: "professor of historical theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, said that a core church document, the Westminster Confession of Faith, defined marriage as between "one man and one woman" because of 17th-century sects that promoted polygamy.

Really, I had thought it said so because Jesus said so in Mark 10-6,pp: But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.'[a] 7'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,[b] 8and the two will become one flesh.'[c] So they are no longer two, but one.

Ineptitude ?? More likely it was poverty rather than ineptitude, it must be nice to be able to find pro bono legal advice and expert testimony to be able to put on your defense with.

However, who am I to argue with the Presbytery PJC, who could only rule on the evidence brought before it. As part of the decision reads:

The Prosecuting Committee offered no evidence of the words actually used (emphasis mine) at the ceremony ... and thus there is no evidence that the words used held out the ceremony as a marriage. The only evidence offered included the bulletin and the "Wedding Ceremony Order of Service". While it could be inferred that the actually words at the ceremony were identical to the words in the "Wedding Ceremony Order of Service", there simply is insufficient proof that the actual ceremony was intended by the accused to be a marriage, or that she believed it could be a marriage ceremony.

Not knowing the procedure of a PJC trial, I have no idea if the accused was asked questions, but I suspect that there, as a normal civil trial, the accused does not have to take the stand. Instead she sat and let her defense team of lawyers, and flown in "experts" from California and LPTS demolish the prosecution.

After all with no actual audio of the event; at least none available to the prosecution, there wasn't much else the prosecution could do.

What is it going to take in order to be able to make any charge stick to those who are determined to thumb their noses at what has been polity for years, hiring private investigators to follow them with a video camera or tape recorder??

And so it goes.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I Hate Being Sick!

Its that time of year ... weather changes ... ragweed ... allergies ... stuffy head ... sore throat ... what I call the creeping crud.

This year it has hit in full force, and I've been fighting headaches, sinus pressure, inability to breathe, runny nose and a racking cough. I've not had more than six hours of sleep in the past two days, and I've left work early the last two days I was scheduled, and I've called in today. I'm sitting in my recliner, with my laptop, watching the 1st Season of Babylon 5 on DVD, and nursing my hurting ribs.

And this happens to me twice a year in Spring and Fall, when the seasons start to change. Ah ... CHOOO !!!

And so it goes!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Suppose you gave an Alpha Course and nobody came?

As the Evangelism Elder at Stodgy Presbyterian, I'm tasked with trying to reach the unchurched in the surrounding community; to teach them about, as Paul said, "Jesus Christ and Him crucified". In order to do that, I've tried a few things, mailed postcards to targeted households, paid newspaper ads, new church sign. Some of those have been effective to a point, it got people in the door, but didn't make them stay.

The other problem is that this church has a lot of pew sitters, but no true disciples. Oh they put a lot of time into church 'functions' but none into church evangelism. They're ready in a flash to assist at Sunday School, but only with the curriculum they're really comfortable with (IE: been in use for over 5 years or more), and only when their kids are in the class.

This is a congregation where most would not understand (or recognize) the Westminster Confession if someone hit them across the skull with it. To say that they could use a refresher course in Christianity would be an understatement.

I've been really impressed with the Alpha Course as a way to bring people to Christ, and as a way to present a refresher course in Christianity to the congregation. I am committed to hold the Alpha course here as a way to give members and non-members alike a way to find out "Is there more to life than this?". I dutifully advertised the course in the church bulletin, on the web, on the church sign. I talked prior to worship letting people know that its a great evening with good food, good talk, good discussions, and good desserts.

I had sign ups from outside the church, and from inside the church. I knew I was going to start out small, but I hoped to have at least 10. Well, I had 6 signed up, and half that showed up today. The good news, is that all of the church members who signed up appeared, and I already knew that one person was not going to be there tonight, but I had hoped that the other 2 sign ups would show; they missed some good food.

While disappointing, it wasn't the biggest disappointment; only three people from this congregation signed up (I don't count the 7 volunteers, including me, who are small group leaders, greeter or the course director).

We have anywhere from 10 to 12 people at adult Sunday School, however the same people are also seen at the Monday afternoon Pastor-led study, a few are also at the Wednesday night small group, and then some of the same faces are at the every-other-Sunday evening group. Out of a purported membership of 260, and a weekly Sunday attendance averaging 92, we see 12 people (give or take) who actually try to learn more about their faith. Of those 12, 2 showed up tonight.

Talk about a frustrating job. You can't have an effective evangelism ministry to the community, when most members can't take the time to become better disciples, and thus evangelists, themselves.

Can you tell I'm very frustrated and very depressed.

And so it goes ....

Thursday, September 18, 2008

First Official Presbytery Meeting

At Stodgy Presbyterian, I'm on the Session. For non-Presbyterians, its a governing board like a Vestry, but with somewhat more autonomy (to a point). The Session is supposed to send a representative to our next level governing body, Plodding Presbytery for its bi-monthly meetings. Well, we haven't had a representative there for a while, and I'll get to why in a few paragraphs.

Today I attended my first presbytery meeting as an Elder-Commissioner from Stodgy Presbyterian. Our minister asked me to drop off his card, as he really does not like to attend these things, I couldn't figure out why. A friend of mine had attended a presbytery meeting at 'Nother Completely different Presbytery and told me that lots of important work went on there, so I looked forward to taking part.

The original docket looked promising, however once the presbytery packet was available there was a lot of consent items, which I can understand, however there is a Presbytery Council that makes a lot of decisions that are later ratified at a regular Presbytery meeting in a consent agenda.

While I understand that it keeps the business of the Presbytery running, it makes for a rather boring meeting. That said, there were a few items that were not on a consent agenda. One was about a church who's Session resigned en-masse. The Presbytery is creating an Administrative Commission to find out what is going on. Based on research I did online, the church is one of those that the Session may be the only members of the church. What's very interesting is the Committee on Preparation for Ministry's (CPM) report. You get a few people who are moving from the 'Inquirer' phase to the 'Candidate' phase, or people who are being examined for ordination. The questions I heard asked were very good, and it shows that the Presbytery takes its mandated requirement very seriously.

Other stuff covered the sale of a few church buildings, or what we're going to do about reviewing and voting on the BOO amendments from the GA this year. This is all good stuff, but it doesn't seem that critical. Evidently, each presbytery does things somewhat different, some meet monthly, some every other month, and some once a quarter. So I guess that explains why you have a council to handle those things that come up between meetings.

What really bothers me however is the lack of age diversity in the presbytery meeting, this in a denomination that prides itself on its diversity. The age of the attending elders is decidedly ... well ... elderly, and majority female. While the average age of the minister-commissioners looks to be well balanced, with a good range of ages, and a closer plurality in gender, although it did seem to me to have a higher male constituent.

Then there's the number of actual elders attending, 113 elders to 130 ministers. There are roughly 140 churchs in this presbytery, but according to the membership report, only 69 churches had elder representatives.

Putting those two items together tells me that you have more ministers for two reasons.

1. Its part of their job description. They are members of Presbytery, not the church to which they are called. They are required to attend the meetings.

2. They don't have to get out of work to do it, in fact, they are paid to go!

Remember I said a few paragraphs ago I'd get to why we haven't had a representative from our Session at Presbytery meetings, one reason is Presbytery meetings are held during the week, during the day. WHY??

No wonder the only elders able to attend are those who don't have to work, or those who are either salaried and can arrange their days off, or those who work shift work and are off that day.

That leaves the majority of elders who cannot attend these meetings; those who are in their prime earning years, and so we get very elderly elders, or no elder-commissioners from many churches. The numbers show that with only 69 churches represented that many of the larger congregations sent the extra elders they are authorized. In one case, they car pooled or 'convoyed' in as I watched the pastor, associate pastors and elders walk in together (about 8 people).

So what's the fix?? Make Presbytery meetings accessible. At 'Nother Completely different Presbytery they at least alternate the meetings between days and evenings, so that working elders can attend at least every other meeting. Or have them on a Saturday!! I realize that Saturday is for some ministers a day off, for others another work day, but on the week of the meeting, another day can be taken off during the week. It may be an inconvenience for some ministers, but it would possibly allow more elders from more churches to attend.

And have meetings in a location that is easy to access!! Not the presbytery camp located in the middle of nowhere that requires an hour to drive to, but somewhere where those who have to take public transit can take a bus to, or else can carpool with another church to. Think about using teleconferencing, you can have two remote sites along with the main site, the remote sites can vote and ask questions as easily as those in the room.

Finally, why do you need to take all day for a meeting that actually took only 4.5 hours ?? Why schedule an hour and a half for lunch, when no one is leaving the location to get lunch? Add in a half hour for worship, and you have 5 hours for the meeting. Having the meeting from 1pm to 6pm would work fine, if you want to leave time in the schedule for networking, add some time in the middle for a half hour coffee and cake time.

A better idea is to have evening meetings!! WHOA ... all the little old ladies won't be able to attend as they don't drive in the dark. I hate to say it, but that may actually revitalize the presbytery when you have some younger participation.

Start off around 3PM for registration and welcome, 4PM for light dinner, 5 to 8/9 for worship & business. This allows people to arrive and sign in before full business begins. Leaving work for 3:30 or 4 is do-able for a lot of people, allowing more elders from more churches.

Some random thoughts, from a new elder-commissioner.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ike Strikes!!

You'd think being hundreds of miles away from the Gulf of Mexico, one would not be affected by Hurricanes. Of course, you'd be wrong. While not affected in the same way as those in Texas, Ike brought very gusty winds, which tend to bring down the old trees in this neck of the country.

And of course, these trees manage to find the closest power line to bring down with them. Always interesting in the aftermath. It happened to us when we were living in the St. Louis area, we had a house located in an area where it was us and another house fed by the one transformer.

A storm hurricane's aftermath traveled up the Mississippi and Ohio valleys, and caused a lot of rain, and wind. We had a 40 to 50 foot oak on an edge of a ravine, we believed the roots were undermined by the runoff thus providing a weak spot which the wind took advantage of. The tree came down, hit the power supply wire, which then pulled down the single transformer to large displays of blue light and noise, hilarity then ensued !!

We had water pressure, but no hot water, and no way to get out of the house as the tree also fell across the only way out of this little area.

This time, the tree hit farther away from us, but darkened the houses around us. At least we had a gas water heater this time. Because of the patchwork quilt of development in this area, our section of houses were without power, but as you go down the road, the next block had houses on the right with power, on the left without. And if you looked out my back window, you saw lights on in the houses down hill on the street back there. Look up, and you could see high voltage lights hitting one another with blue flashes every so often. Amazingly the power stayed on over there. We were without for about 22 hours or so, again, not as bad as Texas, but when it hits at dusk, you're searching for a flashlight, and matches to light candles with.

Of course, we had phone service as the cable modem for phone & internet has a built in battery, but that lasted for about an hour, then goodbye phone. Cell phones work, as long as you remembered to charge the battery. There is something to be said for the POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) that the local phone company offers, however, if you had FIOS, you'd be in the same boat as I was, as that modem also needs power.

There are still areas around here that do not yet have power; all the Home Depots and Lowes have long since sold all their generators, many within an hour after opening yesterday. I was seriously thinking about going to get our RV, and hooking up that generator to the fridge and freezer if power was not back on yesterday evening. If it was winter, I'd have gotten it the first day as it has a furnace and this house does not have a fireplace.

I cannot image what those who lived through Katrina, nor those currently surviving Gustav or Ike are going through, the small taste I've seen makes pray all the more for them.

And so it goes ....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Property ... Property ... Property

Well, the Kirk of the Hills has lost the first round in its battle to keep its property, see the news article here. A tip of the hat to Presbyweb for this update.

And in Beaver-Butler Presbytery, a church that was given a gracious separation, now seems to be in the middle of an issue created by some in the Presbytery who do not believe that the church should have been let go. An appeal was submitted to the Synod of the Trinity against the Administrative Commission and the Presbytery citing 'irregularities' in the way the dismissal was done. Info here.

And so it goes ....

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Just Blog Surfing !

Spending some time reading blogs this evening, came across an entry on the Pulpit Magazine blog talking asking the question Is Divine Election Unfair.

Written by John MacArthur it talks about how many professing Christians today feel that the doctrine of election is unfair and how this objection is based on a human idea of fairness and not a divine understanding of true justice. He then goes on to talk about how any discussion of true justice must set aside human considerations and focus on the nature of God and Divine Justice.

He goes on to say:
What is Divine justice? Simply stated, it is an essential attribute of God whereby He infinitely, perfectly, and independently does exactly what He wants to do when and how He wants to do it. Because He is the standard of justice, by very definition, then whatever He does is inherently just. as part of his conclusion he says To say that election is unfair is not only inaccurate, it fails to recognize the very essence of true fairness. That which is fair, and right, and just is that which God wills to do. Thus, if God wills to choose those whom He would save, it is inherently fair for Him to do so.

Its a very good article which also can be used to show that someone who justifies their position by stating I believe Jesus would do such and such, I know I do, really has no basis for such a supposition, for as MacArthur says as his final conclusion:
We cannot impose our own ideas of fairness onto our understanding of God’s working. Instead, we must go to the Scriptures to see how God Himself, in His perfect righteousness, decides to act.

Monogamy Gene??

While perusing Presbyweb today, I read this post which linked to

Evidently scientists in Sweden have discovered a relationship between monogamy and a certain gene variation, 334 allete. In a study of 552 twins and their mates, men who had the gene variation did not do well on a 'bonding' test, and were likely to be unmarried. Men having 2 copies of the gene variation, were twice as likely to have a disfunctional marriage. Only 15% of men having no gene variation had a marital crisis, while 34% of the men having 2 copies reported a crisis.

Finally, partners of the men without the gene variation reported they were most satisfied with the relationship.

So, what does this mean, is there a monogamy gene? No, as those without the variation are more likely to be monogamous in a secure marriage. As the study authors said:

"The study suggests that two of every five men have this gene variation. The team isn’t sure what the variation does to a man’s behavior, but believes it has to do with their ability to communicate and show compassion. However, Walum stressed that larger studies need to be done to test how the variant affects a human being’s behavior and says other factors such as culture, religion, and family background also shape a man’s marital behavior."

They also say that since this shows a propensity for such behavior, like the genetic variation for alcoholism can alert those to avoid the temptations of bars and liquor stores; men can avoid the situations that would lead them to temptation.

This twin study actually found something that shows that there is a genetic propensity to stray, however, that genetic propensity does not control the person's actions. There was a twin study done a few years ago that did not find anything, whether a gene or gene variation, that could control or give any propensity to another behavior that would violate the chastity clause of the BOO, but that doesn't matter to some who only believe what they experience, rather than the truth of the written Word of God.

And so it goes.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Another Summer Sunday

While it is the Sunday before Labor Day, technically its not the last Sunday of the summer, which is fine with me.

Its in the 80s here today, but it cools down to the mid-60s at night so its actually nice in the evenings, unlike some areas where it just drops to the mid 70's with 80% humidity.

So ... besides worship, what else is on my plate for today. Time to cut the lawn again, then treat for crabgrass. Its been dry, and the crabgrass tends to take over unless something is done. So out with the Weed-B-Gone and the lawn sprayer.

Then there's my computer play. No, I'm not doing gaming (at least, not today), but I've been working on setting up an online registration form for Stodgy Presbyterian so that people can register for classes, and so on. The church website is hosted on a Linux host, so using .ASP pages is out (not that I'd want to use a M$ solution for this). I did some research and chose a Joomla backend which is a great open source content management system, and added CiviCRM which is a great add-on component that will allow non-profits to do stuff like online registration, online donations, etc.

I needed to get it up and running fast, so before I went on vacation, I had it going, but it wasn't very pretty as far as design. I wanted a signup form, and nothing else. However, an online friend of mine asked for some assistance with a church website, and was looking for something that could be very easy to maintain.

Well, Joomla is the perfect software to do this with. It allows people without any web programming or HTML experience to update a webpage by using a browser. So, along with the Visual Basic stuff I did over the vacation, I'm getting into the documentation for Joomla and getting ready to play with templates. What I want to do is eventually have Stodgy Presbyterian's website moved to the Joomla platform in its entirety and away from the M$ editing system (FP) that I'm currently using. OK .. it was available and its fast, so sue me !!

So, for the rest of the afternoon, I'll be reading online docs, and playing with a test system I setup. That is, until a local friend calls me to say he's home, and can I fix his firewall. As my wife says, "He's at his happiest when he's got a computer or programming problem to work on !!"

And so it goes ....

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Five

I don't belong to the RevGalPals bloggers, but I do read a lot of their blogs. I saw this meme today and I thought I'd play:

Singing Owl at RevGalBlogPals writes: Here in the USA we are celebrating the last fling of the good ol' summertime. It is Labor Day weekend, and families are camping, playing in the park, swimming, grilling hotdogs in the backyard, visiting amusement parks and zoos and historical sites and outdoor concerts and whatever else they can find to help them extend summer's sun and play just a little bit longer.

It is supposed to also be a celebration of the working man and woman, the backbone of the American economy, the "salt-of-the-earth nieces and nephews of Uncle Sam. With apologies to those in other countries, this is a Friday Five about LABOR. All can play. Put down that hammer, that spoon, that rolling pin, that rake, that pen, that commentary, that lexicon, and let's have some fun.

1. Tell us about the worst job you ever had.
Worked as a consultant on an EDS project as an employee of another consultant firm. EDS didn't have anyone who knew anything about IBM mainframes at this location (weird huh), and we were hired.

Because we were not employees we were able to do as we liked, but for the same reason, we didn't get the type of perks that the EDS employees did. And because we were working directly for an EDS person, our consulting company boss didn't know what we were doing, so our reviews were VERY average, even though the EDS guy rated us top notch.

Turns out that at this consulting firm, the account manager got his raises on how much he brought in, and how much the company got net. So, by not rating us higher, we didn't get as high a raise, and he looked good so he got the bucks, not us.

2. Tell us about the best job you ever had.
Its a toss-up between working as a Nuclear Weapons Technician in the US Air Force, or later on in my Air Force career working as a programmer supporting Tactical Air Command headquarters. They were both interesting and fun in their own ways, and I met a lot of good people.

3. Tell us what you would do if you could do absolutely anything (employment related) with no financial or other restrictions.
Own my own programming firm of consultants. If I had my own source of income so I didn't have to worry about my salary, I'd work at providing the best working environment for my consultants.

4. Did you get a break from labor this summer? If so, what was it and if not, what are you gonna do about it?
Um ... read my previous post on Surprise - Surprise

5. What will change regarding your work as summer morphs into fall? Are you anticipating or dreading?
I work at Trader Joe's, and now that the kids are back at the universities and we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas, the business picks up and I'll be getting more hours to work. Which can be a bad thing ;)

Bonus question: For the gals who are mothers, do you have an interesting story about labor and delivery (LOL)? If you are a guy pal, not a mom, or you choose not to answer the above, is there a song, a book, a play, that says "workplace" to you?
Well, being in the Air Force for as long as I was, the book Catch 22 seems to sum it up nicely.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Getting Ready for Alpha (and other nonrelated drivel)

I've been spending a few days just winding down from vacation, along with putting in some days at work. Today was an off day, and I spent some of the time doing some I.T. work at the church.

Upgrading the computer to WinXP's Service Pack 3, fixing an issue with Outlook and a ghost email in the outbox, making sure the backup software is backing up the church files.

I also spent some time getting ready for the Alpha Course we'll be having at our church this fall. If you don't know about Alpha, you can find out more here Alpha USA/North America. As the Elder for Evangelism at Stodgy Presbyterian Church, it is my responsibility to lead the Evangelism committee, trouble is most of the people who sign up for the committee, never tend to appear when needed.

OK ... so its a sign of church member burnout. So, what do you do? You try to grow the church by reaching out to the unchurched, or in the case of Alpha, those who have never been a Christian, or who have fallen away. In many cases, I suspect we'll have current members as participants who have never been taught about Christianity.

The problem is that Alpha was written without delving into the differences between branches of Christianity. So, how does a Reformed congregation teach Alpha? Luckily there is a book Alpha From a Reformed Perspective that will help us through that sticky wicket. Trouble is, the last time I checked, they were out at the bookstore, I reordered it, and have not heard back, so I'm hopeful that all is well.

Anyway ... as the Alpha Coordinator, I need to get volunteers to lead small groups, help setup for dinner, man the buffet line, provide drinks, etc, etc, etc. This is going to be the fun part. I need to have everything in place by the end of September. We shall see.

I'm also taking some time to read a book I picked up on the 50% off rack at a Cokesbury store. Debating Calvinism is a series of debates between Dave Hunt of the radio program Seach the Scriptures Daily and James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. With my R.C. background, I'm finding White's lumping of Hunt's anti-Calvinism in with the R.C. churches anti-Calvinism very interesting, and Hunt's arguments as familiar teaching from those R.C. days.

Yet, leaning in the bookcase behind my recliner is my copy of H.P. & the Deathly Hallows, which I'm re-reading again just for the pleasure of it. Now with the new Harry Potter flick bounced from this Thanksgiving to next Summer, I may just start from the beginning again to take care of my Harry Potter jones.

And so it goes ...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Personal DNA

OK ... my wife turned me on to this site, It supposedly will reveal your true self !! Its a personality profile that asks questions, then comes up with what they claim is your Personal DNA. So here's mine:

What does it prove ?? Who knows!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Outrunning Fay !!

Well, we're back from vacation, and while the first 8 days were relaxing, the last two were somewhat worrisome. Our flight was out of Orlando around 1pm on Tuesday, and as of Monday afternoon, it looked like we would not be flying as Tropical Storm Faye was due to pay a visit to the Mouse and environs.

Well, we had to decide whether to change the reservation to the next day or so, or just try to see if we could get out. There wasn't much of an option to stay longer than Thursday, as there was somewhere we had to be locally on Friday, and that was something we could not postpone.

We decided to try the original flight, but we made backup plans to stay with my wife's brother who lives in Orlando, just in case.

Come 6am on Tuesday, we're checking the Internet for the latest storm track prediction. Some showed it to the west in the gulf, others to the east, and one sending it straight up the middle of the state.

We headed to Orlando, and listening to the radio for any updates. When we reached Orlando, Faye's rain bands were coming through with heavy downpours, which then changed to showers. The winds were not that strong, and when we reached the airport itself, the storm had its second landfall, but was heading in a more easterly direction aiming for the Cape Canaveral area. Still not all that good a location for us in Orlando, but it had also slowed down alot.

So, we waited for our flight, which was delayed until 1:30pm, but we got out OK, and arrived home about 45 minutes later than the original time. All in all, stressful, but OK in the end.

Now, back to (ugh) work !

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Still on vacation!!

Its been very quiet on vacation, trouble is whenever I head to Florida, it seems that I bring the rains with me. This year its not a problem, they need the rain to help keep down any fires.

That said, it also keeps down any thought of doing some floating on the water. Floats and thunderstorms don't mix well. So, its back to reading, and doing the Visual Basic thing. Finally picked up some Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan mysteries. She's the author whose character has been adapted for the Fox TV show Bones. While the locales are different from the novels to the small screen, the stories are still great, with some very interesting plot twists.

Well, back to the relaxing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Surprise ... Surprise

So .. there I was on a flight to Orlando, knowing that this year visiting the Mouse was not on the itinerary. So we get to Orlando, and we pick up the rental car, and I start thinking of a place to eat.

That's when SWMBO mentioned that we've been invited to dinner by her father, who's staying at Walt Disney World. Then she mentioned that she picked out the location, and she picked my favorite restaurant, Artist's Point at the Wilderness Lodge on property.

They make the best Cedar Plank Salmon there, I've not found another place that does it as well. So we get there for dinner, enjoy a great meal. Then my F-I-L says "Well that was the good part about the evening, now here's the bad part, you have to spend the next two days here at WDW with us." Well, I was dumbfounded. It seems that my wife conspired with her father to set me up with two days at WDW for my birthday. EVERYONE knew, even my sister who kept her mouth shut, and I was talking to her earlier that day and remarking that we'd probably have dinner at Chipotle's then head up to the Vacation Spot. I was also talking about how I wasn't taking my camera with me because I'd be hauling my laptop to do what I talked about in my last blog entry. So, no pictures of the WDW trip.

So I spent two nice days at WDW, and am now at the Vacation Spot, which is only a half-hour from my M-I-L's where I'm sitting now typing away. So, I've had a belated birthday present, and was totally gobsmacked !!

Now to catch up with the rest of the blogs.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Relearning Basic ... the Microsoft Way !!

Well, as I mentioned previously, I've been spending time in Visual Basic 2008, mainly to get myself reconnected with programming and into that regimented thought process again. Having A.D.D doesn't help much, but its surprising how compartmentalized I get when I have a programming problem to work on.

I actually have a project that will be worth all this studying. A pastor friend of mine has asked me if I could put something together that would help him create an order of worship. Something that would pull together passages from the Book of Common Worship, perhaps from the Book of Confessions, and so on, then create a MS Word document that would just need to be tweaked with announcements and so on.

Sounds like fun! OK .. to most of you it sounds very dreary, but its a problem that needs a solution and I'm all hyped up to begin work on that. I even plan to take this on vacation with me and work on it. Wait you say, you're on vacation and you want to work?? Well, as my wife says, I'm at my happiest when I have a computer and a problem to solve. So it will be very relaxing for me.

Now all I have to do is get the hang of Visual Basic. Mainframe COBOL is so much easier ... !!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Not much to talk about today ...

Its been a slow day, did some errands, and played around with Visual Basic 2008 for a while. I used to program in Basic in college, mainly first year programming, but Basic over the years has been added to and modified by Micro$oft so that its now a fully featured language that can do a lot more than print Hello World on an old teleprinter.

So I checked today's mail, and the latest issue of the Presbyterian Outlook arrived. Lots of reader mail about the 218th GA, the new PCUSA's Stated Clerk and its legal eagle went over what changed with the votes at GA ... laying out what AI's were superceded, and what GAPJC decisions may no longer be correct. Those Letter to the Editor and the Stated Clerk's article are available on line for perusal if you don't get the print edition. Based on what the people in the pews are saying, and then what's coming out of Louisville, its going to be an interesting 2 years, that's for sure.

However, in that same print edition was an article by Jerry Andrews that was in a Point/Counterpoint type of juxtaposition with an article from Susan Andrews (no relation). Jerry states in that article much of what has been said by center-conservative/conservative Presbyterian bloggers. I urge you to read it if you can.

Update: The Outlook has finally posted that article online:
Some Words. They have it listed under 'Presbyterian Heritage Articles'. If the move of the PCUSA away from Biblical standards is part of 'Presbyterian Heritage', then I wonder what part of Presbyterianism it is the heritage of, surely none that Calvin or Knox would recognize.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

August 2nd

On this day, 57 years ago, a boy child was born to Mary.

OK .. the mother's name was Marie, it happened in a clean, sterile hospital, and his name was Reformed Catholic. However, coming from the Italian Catholic family I did, and being the first born child, it was announced with as great a fanfare as the angels did on the eve of the Saviors birth.

So ... its my birthday, and I'm going to celebrate by going to work. Hey, we all gotta do what we all gotta do. But I'm having a celebratory lunch, and will have a great time doing that.

Now, to put out that fire in the kitchen started by all the candles on the cake.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday Meme

I read alot of Presbyterian Blogs, and I read one at least once a week. I found this RevGalPals Friday Five on Presbyterian Gal's blog and figured I may as well join in on this one.

I bring you the "Lock Me Out, Lock Me In" Friday Five.

1) How do you amuse yourself when road construction blocks your travel?

It depends, if its still slowly moving, I continue my merry way, albeit slowly. If its a dead stop, I wonder what bureaucrat didn't have this listed somewhere, then look at the idiots trying to get around it by traveling in the breakdown lane. Of course, SWMBO would say that I am not that calm, and become obsessed with the #$@#$)@s who are failing to obey the law. Did I mention that I have adult A.D.D. ??

2) Have you ever locked yourself out of your house? (And do you keep an extra key somewhere, just in case?)

Yes, and basically broke down a door to get in. No extra key, just make sure that the keypad to the garage has a good code and battery from now on.

3) Have you ever cleared a hurdle? (And if you haven't flown over a material hurdle, feel free to take this one metaphorically.)

Material hurdle ... hmmmm... if you can call being a mainframe programmer with 8 years experience coming out of the Air Force who had never worked on an IBM mainframe before a material hurdle, yes I have. I basically told the recruiter for the consultant company that just give me a three month trial at the minimum rate, if after three months I don't make the grade we'll shake on it, then move on. However, if I prove myself, give me a raise to what the salary of a senior programmer would be. I worked there 2 years before moving to a new company.

4) What's your approach to a mental block?
Ummm ... ahhh ... what was the question again ??

5) Suggest a caption for the picture above; there will be a prize for the funniest answer!

Kumbaya, my lord, Kumbaya....

Thursday, July 31, 2008

So much for acting Pastorally

Skimming the blogs I was able to find out that Beaver-Butler Presbytery dismissed a congregation to the EPC with prayers and best wishes. That showed the Pastoral way of working with a congregation that while doctrinally alike with most of those in the presbytery, finds itself no longer doctrinally in tune with the rest of the PCUSA. All in all a gracious, and Christ-like way of behaving, as has been the Presbyterian way.

Then you have Washington Presbytery which, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette :
... has filed a countersuit against the Rev. L. Rus Howard and a church treasurer, demanding return of all church property and rent for use of the buildings.

There is some background to this, the majority of the original Peters Creek UPC:
has occupied the property since a 207-26 vote in November to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) for the more theologically conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

But Washington Presbytery, the local governing body of the Presbyterian Church (USA), declared the minority who wanted to stay with the denomination the "true church."

It argues that the minority owns the property because the majority broke church law by taking the property without presbytery approval.

The majority filed a lawsuit last year to keep the property. The countersuit against the Rev. Howard, pastor of the majority, and Robert Elmes, the treasurer, asks for return of property ranging from the sanctuary to the handbells, and funds, financial instruments and pledges estimated to total about $3 million.

The church, as a registerd Pennsylvania corporation, filed suit against the Presbytery to keep the property saying that the 'trust clause' is in violation of its corporate rights. The Presbytery, following advice given by the PCUSA HQ in Louisville, is claiming that its a Hierarchical church, which to any Presbyterian lay person is a bunch of hooey !!

The original church suit named the Presbytery as the defendent, however the Presbytery's countersuit is:
against the Rev. Howard, pastor of the majority, and Robert Elmes, the treasurer, asks for return of property ranging from the sanctuary to the handbells, and funds, financial instruments and pledges estimated to total about $3 million.

A Peters Creek spokesman said that its okay for the Presbytery to file a countersuit against the church corporate, after all it filed against the Presbytery.
But to file a suit against two individuals, one of whom is a 74-year-old widower on a fixed income, is ... just an attempt to harass and intimidate and scare,"

The reply from the interim presbyter was basically, they sued us, we're suing them. However, the original suit (I believe) did not name individuals. Then you have the slight dig at the EPC by the interim presbyter.
We are preparing for the trial, as is the judge, as are the folks in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church," he said.

AFAIK ... the EPC has not involved itself in ANY litigation between congregations and a governing body of the PCUSA, and to imply that is self-serving and just mean.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Losing Weight.

I've been trying to lose weight lately. Oh I used to watch my weight previously. Yeah right ... I watched it as it rose when I stepped on the scale.

When I retired from the military, over the years I went from around 185 to 230. I had stayed around 226 for the longest time, but then went up to 232 and decided that I needed to do something.

I'm doing one of those plans that provide food, as well as help you realize what good portions are. In about 20 days or so I've lost about 7 pounds. This is not to say I don't cheat. I like to have dinner out, and there's one place I love to have lunch at. That said, I've already started to train my stomach on what a good portion is.

I never used to leave anything on the serving plate when I went to PF Chang's, now I regularly take home about half the serving. The diet recommends brown rice, well I really do not like brown rice, so steamed white rice it is. And I love it, and I'm still losing weight.

Lot of it has to do with the fact that it requires you to eat properly; veggies, fruit or salad at every meal, and that it provides a snack at mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and evening. This fulfills the craving for sweets, or something that normally would result in a bowl of ice cream, or something like that.

So, I hope to lose at least 20 pounds, the real test is when I take some vacation next month, will I have the will power to not pig out because I'm on vacation.

In any case, I hope my friends will see less of me during the next part of the year.

UPDATE: I now know I'm really losing weight when a pair of shorts that fit tight without a belt a few weeks ago, dropped to my knees as I walked down the stairs. Time to hit the boxes full of mothballs for any smaller sized clothes.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Found this over at the Around the Scuttlebutt, who credits Rev. Kim, for the link.

Where I've visited in the US:

visited 28 states (56%)

Now some of these visits were made in conjunction with a job I had for a while with Uncle Sam. Then there's the map of the world ... again, with places visited thanks to Uncle Sam:

visited 12 states (5.33%)
Create your own visited map of The World or determine the next president

All in all, a mindless pursuit. FWIW ... I had no idea I had visited over half of the US.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Way ?

There's a funny email going around that purports to be a chain letter, that lists the attributes of a Perfect Pastor :

....The Perfect Pastor preaches exactly 10 minutes. He condemns sin roundly, but never hurts anyone's feelings. He works from 8 a.m. until midnight, and is also the church janitor.

....The Perfect Pastor makes $40 a week, wears good clothes, drives a good car, buys good books, and donates $30 a week to the parish. He is 29 years old and has 40 years' worth of experience. Above all, he is handsome.

....The Perfect Pastor has a burning desire to work with teen-agers, and he spends most of his time with the senior citizens. He smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his parish. He makes 15 home visits a day and is always in his office to be handy when needed.

....The Perfect Pastor always has time for parish council and all of it's committees. He never misses the meeting of any parish organization, and is always busy evangelizing the unchurched.

....The Perfect Pastor is always in the next parish over!

All in all fairly funny. However, the first line of the email is pretty telling: The Perfect Pastor preaches exactly 10 minutes. He condemns sin roundly, but never hurts anyone's feelings. Are pastors getting to the point where they are so worried about offending someone in the church that they don't preach the entire Word? That there is something called sin that can separate us from sharing in the light of the Trinity ? Think about it, when was the last time your pastor talked about how Jesus is the only Way?

Come ot think about it, when was the last time anyone in Louisville's ecumenical office said anything about the Way, the Truth and the Life?

When you talk to the average Presbyterian, do they equivocate when asked if they believe other religions can lead to God? According to some, over 50% of those in the pews will. Why, because its the culture of the US to live and let live and give others the benefit of the doubt. So when Christ said that "no one goes to the Father but through Me" He was speaking to the people of that time, in the context of that place.

But hold on, Jesus is Lord, Savior and our God. He was God then, and He is God now. Beginning and the End, forever and ever. He knew what He was saying would be true then, and that it will be true today. Did Jesus lie ?? Did He tell an untruth ?? Did He who is without sin, sin ??

Somehow I don't think so.

Update Sat, July 26th: Evidently Sylvia Dooling feels the same way: .
Tip of the hat to Presbyweb for this link.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why is it that some churches simply die away?

I became a member at Stodgy Presbyterian Church a few years ago. As someone who is a computer geek, and who is not one to wait for someone to ask for help, I jumped right in to bring the church office into the 20th century .. still working on the 21st.

Upgraded the computers, added a network and broadband, all without much fanfare. I even created a web presence for the church. As I continued in membership, I noticed that the same people who were at the doors ushering/greeting, providing coffee, were the same people who were on Session and Deacons. After six years, they usually moved from one place to the other. Most of the work of the church is done during conversations between individuals in the halls or on the phone, and the rest of Session finds out once its already occurred.

Programs that worked fine 10 years ago, are still being run today. Any hint of a change, is greeted with the 7 last words of a dying congregation We've never done it that way before!. Staff with great ideas to expand the outreach of Sunday school and youth groups are driven off due to lack of support, and backbiting. In the meantime, the church has lost 1/3 of its members, some to moves, most to moving on to the Church Invisible since 2002.

I'm the evangelism elder, there are some things I'm happy to see I had a hand in, such as doubling the new members this year (yeah ... from 6 to 12 ... whoopee). However, an announcement of a new bible study at church, was greeted with indifference, and only 4 people turned up, none of whom notified the leader in advance.

We're looking to do an outreach course for the community. Starts off with dinner, then a talk, etc. I'm guessing some readers of this blog will know what I'm talking about. Again, a request for volunteers has gone out. In three weeks, no responses. I'm hoping I get some people before the official start ... cause I can't do this one all by myself.

Of course, you then get the how much is this costing? questions, or why does the pastor need a new computer? (even though his is completely shot), isn't there one around here he can use?, well yeah, only until the new staff member is hired, then what. People are so worried about the investments and cash flow and less worried that not using that hoard for the advancement of the church and Kingdom is not following the Great Commission.

I know this is not the way its supposed to work. Coming from an RC background, I learned more about Presbyterianism then most of the long term members of the church or of the Session. There's no urgency, no sense of gee, this church is dying . I can imagine in 10 years or so, hearing that the doors are being closed for good.

At least I tried.

Well ... Its time I had my own place!!

I’ve been floating around the various Presbyterian Blogs, reading, commenting, agreeing, disagreeing, and making a pest of myself.

Well, here’s a chance for everyone to get back at me. I’m not sure what I’ll post about, but it will be what I’m thinking about that day or week. At least I’ll have a chance to say I’ve got a blog, now the fun begins. What will this place look like. I’m thinking pastels !!

Here’s goes nothing.