Thursday, February 28, 2013


Several weeks I told the property guys that we needed a new toilet seat in one of the women's restrooms.  One of the men went to the local stores looking for one with an open front, and discovered he couldn't find a round one locally, as most new toilets for public buildings have the elongated bowls.  I suggested searching on the internet, and did quick search, which resulted in ads for toilet seats spring up on many of the sites I visit.  He did a search at home, and had the same problem.  We were laughing about it, and figuring out what searches we could do to get better ads. 

Last week, after several searches, the man came in and ordered one. I gave him the church credit card to do it, and he ordered it on computer the treasurer uses.  It arrived today, and it said it was a gift, for me, from the property guys.  Administrative Assistant thought it was funny.  It helps to have a sense of humor around here....

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Churches are the target of many scams.  There are the people who come in seeking financial aid.  They always have a good story.  I've heard many over the years.  There is the company that calls and asks for your copy machine model, and then sends you toner that is likely to damage your machine.  They insist that you ordered it.  There are some that involve sending light bulbs. 

The church was targeted today for one.  I was in the main office when Administrative Assistant answered the phone, so I heard her side of the conversation.  It went something like this:
"He no longer works here."  (I knew she was talking about the former pastor, who has been gone for 3 years.)

"May I ask why you are calling?"

"What company are you from?"

"What is this about?"

"What company are you from?" 

"What is this about?"

"Why do you want our electrical specs?"

"He no longer works here and we don't give out that information.  Good bye."

She then hung up.  She was mad, which is rare.  The phone rang again, and she glanced at the caller ID and let it ring.  "It's the same person."  The caller ID was blank, as they had blocked the number. 

The caller left a message on my voice mail.  She gave me a name, informed she needed to talk to me "about some odds and ends."  She didn't give me a company name.  She said AA was very rude and hung up on her.  She left an 800 number.  I looked up the 800 number online, and can't find any information on who it belongs to. 

AA was not happy at being accused of being rude.  I was amused, and assured her I was grateful for her protectiveness.  She said the woman couldn't come up with the name of the company she was with and wouldn't answer her question.  As we compared notes, we discovered that in the voice mail she left for me, she used a different name than the one she'd used with AA.  She clearly said, though, that AA "hung up on me." 

I didn't return the call. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Hard Part

We are now in the hard part of this move:  the waiting.  Daughter was in tears yesterday afternoon after a long day.  She wants to move, she knows she needs to move, and how does she tolerate living in her current house for the next month?  She is not sleeping well right now, and the staff is not checking on her through the night like they are supposed to.  She has a sleeping pill, but is afraid to use it, because  staff will yell at her if she over sleeps.  Plus, she doesn't trust them. 

I think it is going to be a very long month....

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Not Today

Several weeks ago I agreed to have my home evaluated by a company supposedly affiliated with the natural gas company in the area.  They came and did a free survey, and found some things that could be signs of trouble,so they convinced me to pay for a more complete test that included a door fan and infra red camera pictures.  Yesterday a man came out to give me a report. 

He had a 40 page report with lots of colorful pictures, that were quite dramatic.  They showed heat loss from my home.  He told me I had 3 very serious problems with my house, and a number of minor issues.  They could all be fixed for just over $8,000.  If I eliminated the more minor problems, the price would come down to over $4,000.  I told him I wasn't prepared to make a decision yesterday.  I needed time to process the report and consult with some friends.  He was not happy.  I told him to call me in about a week, and that I was inclined to do 1 or 2 of the recommended items.  He told me how important it was to do all of them, because the house is a system, and just fixing one or two would make the other problems much more serious.  After 2 hours, he left.  I hadn't signed a contract.  He refused to call me back, telling me I could call him if I decided I was interested. 

I have spent some time looking through the report in more detail.  One of the interesting pieces is that those dramatic infrared photos all have different temperature ranges, designed to make them look even quite dramatic.  I think I'll see about making sure there isn't any insulation blocking the soffit vents in the attic, but installing a ridge vent, additional soffit vents, and baffles will wait until I'm ready to replace the roof.  I don't think I will be calling him back.  I did some internet research on the company, and now I know why he didn't want to give me time to reflect.... 

I'm very relieved that I stood firm and said, "Not today." 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Daughter's First Visit

Daughter had supper at the home she will be moving to this evening.  From our phone conversation, it sounds like it went very well.  She had a dance off with one of the staff members.  The Owner asked her if I knew she danced that way, and Daughter said, "No, why?"  I don't know what moves she was doing, but Owner was apparently surprised to see them coming from a preacher's kid. 

She knew one of the women from the sheltered workshop, and said, "She's sweet."  She loved the house, and thinks the bedrooms are awesome.  She's going to try out two different rooms when she has her overnight visits to see which one she likes better.  She is very excited.  I was concerned because her bedroom will be much smaller and she'll no longer have a private bathroom.  She says that's okay, because she has trouble keeping the big room clean. 

The only challenge may be making her wait until April 1st to move in.  I'm glad it went so well. 


A chipper Daughter headed off for her program this morning.  It's amazing the difference a good night's sleep can make.  Her program is headed across town to the big mall today.  I'm not thrilled with the idea, since it is snowing and there were warnings about the interstate over by the mall this morning-- it was snarled with lots of minor accidents.  I am glad, though, that she's not stuck here with me today.  I don't plan to go out today.  Administrative Assistant suggested I start a fire and stay in-- she made it to the church safely, but said it was a very slow commute (she lives about 2 miles from the church). 

Tomorrow I plan to meet Sister for shopping and lunch at an outlet mall between us.  Sister finally figured out this year that my birthday generally doesn't get celebrated.  She asked me about my day, and I said it was good because Daughter didn't ruin it or spend the day trying to pick a fight with me.  She was shocked.  I guess she thought Daughter would be waiting on me hand and foot and doing everything she could to make my birthday special.  I explained that Daughter finds my birthday hard, for a variety of reasons.  This is a bit snarky, but finally, more than 2 weeks after my birthday, she managed to find time to meet me halfway between us for shopping and lunch.  Actually, it's major progress for Sister.  She has always been a bit self-absorbed.  I've taken her out to eat on her birthday the last two years, because I didn't want her to experience the pain of no family to celebrate with on her birthday.  She was getting really depressed because Mom and Dad are dead and she's divorced, and....  So I made sure I found a way to be with her on her birthday.  She finally figured out that I'm in a similar situation.  The only differences are I've never been married and it's been years since I had family around to celebrate my birthday. 

Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing her tomorrow. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013


When Daughter called this morning, she sounded terrible.  I asked what was wrong, and she said she didn't sleep well last night.  She thought she saw someone shining a flash light in her bedroom window, and she was terrified.  She didn't tell staff or ask for her sleeping pill.  She was ready to go to bed right after supper tonight.  I know she'll sleep well tonight, because she feels safe her. 

She said that the staff didn't check on her last night.  They are supposed to be checking her every 2 hours at night and logging whether she's sleeping last night.  I will be so glad when she moves.  Her bedroom in the new house is not on ground level, so that will help her feel safer.  Her room is also right next to a staff member's room, which should help as well. 

She said there was an altercation at her program today, which was her second trigger of the day.  I didn't make her go to choir tonight.  She is really tired. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Shift

We do a book study during Lent, and we always offer the congregation the opportunity to have us purchase the book for them.  This year the majority of the participants said they would get the book on their e-reader.  It isn't just the young members who are using e-readers, either.  This is a major shift in this congregation, and in society in general.  I am grateful to be serving a congregation that embraces technology with such enthusiasm.

We finished putting the documents for Monday night's board meeting on the website today.  There are 14 of them, and I'm so grateful we no longer print them all out for each board member.  Many of them will read them on their tablets, and bring their tablets with them to the meeting Monday evening.  I usually print out the agenda so  can write some notes on it. 

When I was in seminary 30 years ago, a classmate did an evening program on the use of computers in the church.  I didn't bother attending, because there was no use for computers in the church.  Shows how much I knew.   I've decided I like this technology. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Miracle and The Meeting

I lead a group on contemplative prayer at 8:45 on Sunday mornings.  I've been dragging Daughter to the group, and she's been sitting alone down at the end of the table, looking very bored.  This past Sunday she joined the group, and asked some questions.  After worship, she asked me if she could have one of the books on contemplative prayer.  I gave her one, and she was quite excited. 

This morning, she called and told me she was very anxious about the pre-placement meeting today.  I suggested she try some of the things we've been doing in contemplative prayer.  She got excited, and said she was going to go get her book and her Bible and work on that. 

The meeting went very well.  There were 10 of us in the small room.  Daughter will go have supper at the house Friday evening.  As we were laying out the visits, I turned to Case Manager, who was sitting next to me, and said, "You're not going to do that to me, are you?  I see where this is headed."  She chuckled. Daughter will move on April 1st.  I'm not thrilled to have her moving the day after Easter, but I wasn't going to try to move her Holy Week.  I also said I wouldn't have time to help her pack.  The staff at her current home will have to help her do that. 

The owner of her new home said she was like a beam of sunshine when she entered the room.  She was appropriate throughout the meeting, and contributed.  She gave the owner a big hug and thanked her after the meeting.  I am relieved.  Very relieved. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Growing List

I have a growing list of projects for "when things quiet down a bit."  I was just reminded of some work I had agreed to take on early in the fall.  I'm pondering making a list and then prioritize them and begin scheduling time for these various projects.

This week belongs to Daughter.   Pre-placement meeting on the move tomorrow, and then Psychiatrist Wednesday.  Fortunately, things are a little easier around the church right now, at least as long as I keep that long list of projects on the back burner....

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Not Quite the Point

Today I was preaching on the Garden of Eden.  I told the story of my nephew licking a cinnamon gum wrapper and holding it on his forehead until he was in quite a bit of pain.  He has no particular reason for doing it, his mother said the reason was he was a 13 year old boy.  The congregation chuckled, and I pointed out we all do things we know are bad for us. 

I was just on facebook, and a woman asked one of the younger men if he had stopped to buy cinnamon gum on the way home.  He hadn't but confessed to being tempted.  The wife of another man said her husband had wanted to stop, too.  I'm not sure they go the point, but at least the opening illustration was memorable....

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mixed Messages

I keep hoping for signs of spring.  As I was going to get Daughter through snow today, I saw that some of the geese are back.  One was standing on the frozen pond.  I wonder if they'll stay....

It has been a wonderfully relaxing weekend.  The taxes and laundry are done.  The house is cleaner, and I've had time to just sit and relax.  Tomorrow afternoon I have worship at the nursing home.  I've told Daughter she can stay until we're done with that, and then I'll take her back. 

I drove her by the new house today.  She liked the looks of it.  The meeting is Tuesday morning.  Last week I had lots of church meetings, this week it's lots of appointments:  3 to be exact.  I am grateful for the flexibility to take the time for personal appointments.  I only have 3 evening commitments this week, but two of them teaching-- and I have to finish my plans for them. 

Right Calling

Last night I went out to eat with some members.  One of the women was talking about some challenges with one of her children.  I offered some suggestions, based on my experiences with Daughter.  She loved them, and was quite impressed by my knowledge.  She suggested I had missed my calling.  The other people were quick to respond to that one, "No she didn't!" 

I do love what I do, and I'm glad that I can offer suggestions to parents dealing with challenging children.  I do know that I am in the right calling.  Daughter has been bugging me to come get her.  I told her I waned to finish my income taxes first.  I've been working on them, and think I'm about done.  I'm not going to tell her yet, though.  I have quite a bit of paperwork I want to get filed first.  Every year I vow I'm going to do a better job with the paper work next year.  Once again I'm making that vow.  Maybe I'll actually keep it this year....

Friday, February 15, 2013

Exciting Plans

Last night two of the women came seeking me out at choir.  I have been invited out to supper with them tonight.  These are two of my favorite couples.  Their husbands are among the men who drop by the church.  One has a developmentally handicapped sister, and we have had a number of conversations about the challenges of getting needed services.  He first came to see me about her after he broke a tooth grinding his teeth in frustration. 

I'm looking forward to an evening out.  Daughter wanted to come spend the entire weekend with me-- including Monday, since she is off.  Being the mean mom I am, I said no.  I'm going to do some cleaning and work on taxes.  I really know how to live it up!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

At Last!

Case Manager called this morning to assure me she was the responsible for the hold up of the meeting, not the new House Manager.  We now have a meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning.  Daughter is now beginning her standard freak out period before any scheduled meeting. 

In other news, I received a homemade Valentine's card from a member-- telling me that my accepting the call of this congregation was the best thing that had ever happened to them.  I think she may be a little over enthusiastic.  I think God has done some much more important things for all of us.  It's nice, though, to know I am loved. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Prayer Request

Yesterday I had lunch and a discussion with colleagues.  As I listened to them, I realized again how grateful I am to be serving this congregation.  Ministry is hard.  The demands keep coming.  We are pulled into very difficult situations.  We are expected to be on call 24 hours a day.  We are expected to be able to do a variety of things well, from administration and personnel to crisis counseling to preaching and teaching, to hospital visitation to grief counseling.  We are expected to be able to teach the Bible, leadership, interpersonal relationships, prayer, and comparative religions, among other things. 

We are held responsible for things that we have no control over.  Crazy people project all kinds of things onto us.  We are expected to satisfy everyone's needs, even when those needs are impossible or opposing.  One Sunday I had members telling me how wonderful the hymns had been while others were complaining about how terrible the very same hymns were.

When we get tired, and we do get tired, it is very hard to go with the flow and not let the criticism and complaints take a toll on us.  It is amazing how many people graduate from college and then seminary and within a few years are out of the ministry, no longer able to cope with it all. 

Today is the start of Lent, and it is a time when life gets even more challenging for many pastors.  Pray for your pastor today.  Pray for pastors everywhere who are working to be faithful to God amid the competing demands of the congregations they serve.  Pray for pastors who are struggling to maintain a healthy family life and a healthy church.  Next time you see your pastor, say thank you. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Too Old

Yesterday was over 12 hours, and then I was up early to go to the hospital for prayers before a couple of people had surgery.  I still have one more commitment tonight.  I think I'm getting too old for this schedule. 

Still no word on when Daughter's planning meeting will be, and Case Manager hasn't answered my email requesting an update.  That may be good-- one less thing to fit in this week.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Last Tuesday Case Manager sent out an email to set up a team meeting about moving Daughter.  She sent a follow up email later in the week.  As of this morning, she still has not heard from the owner of the new home about her availability for a meeting.  I'm frustrated, and wondering if she really wants Daughter to move into her home.  I also wonder who she'll respond to concerns once Daughter is there....

If we don't hear something by tomorrow, I think I'm going to have a conversation about my concerns with Case Manager.  We need to move forward with this, and if this house won't work out, let's look at other possibilities. 

In some ways, though, the delay is probably good.  I'm overbooked this week as it is, the last thing I need is another meeting.  To get Daughter moving, though, I'd squeeze it in. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013


This morning one of the members was telling me how impressed he was by my memory.  He said he was amazed by all the things I have to remember on Sunday mornings and how well I do with it.  Of course, 15 minutes later I realized I had completely forgotten the Sunday School teachers meeting that was taking place downstairs and I was supposed to be attending. 

I am beginning to delegate more, and it feels a bit weird.  I know, though, that it is what needs to happen if the church is going to continue to grow.  I have two people having back surgery Tuesday morning-- they have the same surgeon, and they are his first two cases.  I will be going to the hospital to pray with them both Tuesday morning, but I will not be staying through the surgery, it is a super busy week, and I'm looking forward to most of it.  All I have to do is remember what I'm supposed to be doing and when....

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Another Meeting

Today was the all day meeting 75 miles from here.  It was in a downtown church, and we'd received an email this week warning us that parking is challenging there, and directing us to nearby parking lots.  It strongly suggested we car pool.  Last night a colleague called, and asked if I wanted to go together.  He and his wife are sharing one vehicle, so I've provided transportation for him several times, and he offered to drive.  I also had a member going, so we met in the church parking lot at 7:30 this morning and headed out.  It was nice to go as a passenger.  The three of us had good conversations, so the trip went fairly quickly.

We had an excellent speaker at the meeting today-- the second meeting in a row we've had a good speaker.  I still don't like Saturday meetings.  The lay people love them, but us clergy types aren't as thrilled. 

I'm headed into another super busy week.  I'll be out 4 evenings in a row, have an extra sermon to write, and a chunk of each day is going to be consumed by various meetings as well.  I will probably do a little bit of work tomorrow to get a head start on things.  Daughter seems to be doing pretty well right now, and I'm grateful....

Friday, February 8, 2013


Today is my birthday.  Daughter is here, as her program is closed due to snow.  I don't like birthdays, for a variety of reasons.  I had a member who was willing to take me to lunch, but with roads a mess, that's not going to happen now.  I may make myself some chocolate muffins to celebrate....

I find myself remembering 5 years ago, when I turned 50.  We had just moved Mom into a dementia unit.  Dad went to visit her and then called me on his cell phone.  He tried to get her to wish me happy birthday.  He kept explaining to her that it was my 50th birthday.  It was a nice try.  I miss them both, especially today. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


This has been a week full of meetings.  Worship and education Monday night.  Music planning yesterday.  Property and communication today.  When I'm not in a meeting, I'm writing.  We need to have the Lenten devotional guide ready to distribute Sunday.  Sometimes delegating works well, and sometimes it doesn't.  I was only supposed to write one for each week this year, but that didn't work out very well.  There were two weeks that I only had to write 2, but several of the weeks I ended up needing to write 5 of them. 

Changes and challenges are also taking up time.  We decided to have a meeting with the Sunday School teachers after worship Sunday.  Sunday School has not been going as smoothly as we'd like this year.  The teachers are ignoring our child protection policy, among other issues. We are going to sit down with them, lay out the issues, and ask them to figure out together how they want things handled.

Administrative Assistant blew up Monday because a couple of board members came in and made some major changes in the sanctuary.  She opposed the changes, and doesn't think they went through proper channels to get the changes approved. Today she said she hadn't decided if she liked the changes or not.  That's progress-- because at least she's considering the possibility that they might be positive. 

We are supposed to get 6-12 inches of snow Thursday-Friday.  I have an all day meeting 75 miles away on Saturday.  I may decide I'm not going.

I made the mistake of looking at my calendar for next week today.  It makes this week look easy.  I have evening commitments Monday-Thursday.  I have day time meeting 3 days. 

Thankfully, Daughter is having a good week.  Even better, even when ministry is crazy busy, I love what I'm doing and wouldn't want to be anywhere else. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Churches with Reactive Attachment Disorder

I just finished an interesting conversation with Treasurer, who was also on the search committee that called me to this congregation.  He has a friend who has been in to talk to me several times about his belief that the congregation desperately needs a vision statement.  I have agreed with him, and told him that we would be writing one, but the time wasn't right yet.  When he last was in to see me in November, I told him that the board had agreed that 2013 would be the year in which we developed a new vision statement. 

Treasurer has been frustrated because Friend continued to complain about lack of vision, and didn't seem to be reassured by my comments.  Yesterday's sermon was focusing on the church as the body of Christ with the responsibility for carrying out Christ's mission, which he stated when he read from Isaiah in Nazareth in Luke 4.  I talked about all of us having gifts to contribute to the body of Christ, and our need to discern what it is God is calling us to do. 

This morning our website/social media coordinator asked me for the two questions I charged the congregation to ponder in their prayer time this week so she could post them to our facebook page.  She had really liked the sermon.  Today Treasurer that his friend was happy that I had said we would be working on discerning God's call to us this year as we write a vision statement.  That seemed finally to convince him.

Treasurer was frustrated, though, because my assurance we would do it at the right time had always been enough for him, and he just couldn't understand why they weren't for his friend. 

Just like children with Reactive Attachment Disorder, congregations that have had difficulty with previous pastors find it hard to trust.  They will test the new pastor, and just just as the adoptive parent of a RAD child needs to respond with love in the face of testing and acting out, the pastor needs to respond with love in the face of testing and acting out.  Treasurer had enough experience with me that he trusted me and my reassurances were enough.  His friend did not.  I had to earn his trust, and he tested me as he came in with his list of complaints about what was wrong with the church.  Each time I listened to him and responded calmly, hearing him out and agreeing with many of his points.  He didn't quite trust/believe me until I publicly stated in yesterday's sermon that we would be focusing on vision this year.  This month's newsletter came out Friday, and it mentioned vision in several places, as well. 

I am amazed how much I have learned about being the pastor of a congregation with a history of conflict from being Daughter's parent.  I knew that there was a lack of trust for pastors in this congregation.  After a long term, well loved founding pastor there had been a difficult interim, challenges with the second pastor that led to his dismissal, and a long-term interim who had alienated a number of leaders.  I knew that I would have to earn trust.  I believed that to try to write a vision statement before there was trust would be a disaster.  In November I asked the board if they thought we had built enough trust to address vision this year.  They said yes.  By publicly talking about it yesterday, I think I earned a little trust from Treasurer's friend. 

Treasurer was still frustrated by his friend's attitude this morning, but I think after I explained the trust issues in Reactive Attachment Disorder, he had more understanding of what is behind his friend's doubts. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday Snapshots

Daughter was quite excited today, telling everyone her good news about her upcoming move.  During of joys and concerns, she sat there squirming, eager for me to announce her news.  I did, stating that Daughter was happy because it's closer to my house and I'm happy because it's not close enough to walk.  For some reason, the congregation thought that was hilarious. 

Pianist was a proud grandmother with pictures of her new grand babies who were born prematurely this past week.  They are doing pretty well.  I told people to go check out her pictures, and after worship the piano was surrounded.

We had a visitor in worship this morning.  She's new to the area, having been transferred here from Florida.  She's not liking our winter weather.  She met someone who works for the same company and a couple who live right down the street from her.  She even stayed for the fellowship meal following the service.  She's planning to return. 

Two men are plotting a major change tomorrow.  I suspect they're stirring up a hornets' nest, but I'll let them figure it out. 

I was talking to some of our newer members at the fellowship meal, and learned he's a photographer.  We are looking for a picture to turn into a mural.  I called one of the men over and informed him that this new member has 1000's of nature pictures he's taken.  The man's whole face lit up.  I love it when I can connect people like that. 

Attendance is still down because of the various bugs floating around the area, but it was a good Sunday. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Daughter's Reaction

I told Daughter that she will be moving.  I told her she can't say anything about it yet, but that Case Manager will be working on it this week.  She is excited.  I explained that the house is smaller and more home like.  I also told her it is closer to me.  She was very excited when she heard she will keep her current Case Manager. 

I'm sure she'll get nervous in the days ahead but for now I'm delighted that her response is excitement. 

Friday, February 1, 2013


I spent time Thursday morning at Daughter's current house, trying to help them understand her needs as a diabetic and someone with severe PTSD.  The meeting went fairly well.  We made some things very clear-- she is not allowed to keep her lunch in her room over night.  I also told them not to let her threaten them with calling me.  I told them tell her to call me, because I will remind her she needs to respect the staff.  I told them she needs to know they are in charge. 

After the meeting Case Manager asked if I still wanted to move her.  I said I do.  I think Daughter will do better in a smaller house with more stability in the staff.  I asked CM what she thought, and she agreed with me.  She will begin the process of moving Daughter next week.  I have to write a letter giving the house 30 days notice.  The goal is to have Daughter moved by March 1. 

Administrative Assistant and I both had struggles with our computers yesterday.  She was trying to finish the newsletter, I was working on the PowerPoint for my sermon.  We were struggling with different software.  AA finally restarted her computer, and Publisher still wouldn't let her edit one box.  We traded computers, which solved the problems.  When she reopened the finished newsletter on her computer, it worked just fine.  We were quite proud of ourselves for outsmarting the computers. 

Once again I have every thing ready for Sunday morning.  I have printed out all the material and it is in the sanctuary, ready to go.  It means I will have two full days off this week-- sort of.  Today Sister Best Friend are going to work on a project for the regional committee we are on, and then we're going to paint. 

Tomorrow Short Niece has a violin concert, and Daughter and I will be attending.  Of course, all of these plans could change, as we are under a winter storm warning.