Sunday, September 30, 2007

I did it!

I'm pleased to announce that I have completed my 2007 50 book challenge. Below are the 50 books I've read this year. There are really more than 50 here but I didn't figure I should count all the Harry Potter books yet again! It is really quite exciting. I ended up just short last year, so I'm proud that I completed this before October. I'll keep track of the rest of the books for the year just to get an additional goal for next year, but 50 is a good baseline for me.

Best of all, I liked nearly every book I read here. I'm happy to tell or recommend any for you guys, and would love additional recommendations for the year. I have a list that I'm working through right now, but I still pick and choose as things look interesting.

The 50 book challenge!
1. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
2. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling*
4. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett*
5. Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
6. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
7. The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner
8. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
9. The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander
10. The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel by Diane Setterfield
11. Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
12. On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
13. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
14. By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
15. Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
16. Digging to America by Anne Tyler
17. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
18. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
19. The Guy Not Taken: Stories by Jennifer Weiner
20. The Children of Men by PD James
21. The Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
22. These Happy Golden Days by Laura Ingalls Wilder
23. The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
24. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
25. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
26. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
27. One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
28. Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich
29. Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich
30. Gentlemen and Players: A Novel by Joanne Harris
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
31. The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs
32. Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
33. High Five by Janet Evanovich
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
34. Hot Six by Janet Evanovich
35. Seven Up by Janet Evanovich
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
36. Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
37. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling!!!!!
38. Vision of Light: A Margaret of Ashbury Novel by Judith Merkle Riley
39. Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich
40. To the Nines by Janet Evanovich
41. In Pursuit of the Green Lion: A Margaret of Ashbury Novel by Judith Merkle Riley
42. The Water Devil: A Margaret of Ashbury Novel by Judith Merkle Riley
43. Dune by Frank Herbert
44. Amsterdam: A Novel by Ian McEwan
45. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
46. Stardust by Neil Gaimen
47. Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith by Rob Bell
48. The World According to Garp by John Irving
49. Speaking of Faith by Krista Tippett
50. Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Five: Swan Song edition

Reverend Mother writes: Well friends, as I prepare for the birth of Bonus Baby, it's time to simplify life, step back from the Friday Five, and let one of the other capable and creative RevGals take the helm. It's been a great almost 17 months of co-hosting the F5, but it's time to say goodbye... so here's my swan song. On Endings and Goodbyes:

1. Best ending of a movie/book/TV show.
I can think of many great endings right now but I think one of my favorites is the end of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Frodo, being forever changed by carrying the evil of the ring, must leave his world with the remaining elves, Bilbo, and Gandalf. In changing the world and making it new, they lose the ability to be a part of the new world they created. Instead they sail off to the West leaving the saving and preserving for a new generation. I think the book does it beautifully and so does the movie. It is bittersweet yet the way it must be.

2. Worst ending of a movie/book/TV show.
The Princess Bride (the movie). The best kiss ever, they ride off into the sunset and everything is great. The kid says "can you come and read it again tomorrow Grandpa" etc. It is a fine ending, but I love the ending in the book so much better that now I'm very annoyed that they didn't include it.

In the book, the narrator says (in italics):

'And they lived happily ever after' my father said. The truth was my father was fibbing... I spent my whole life thinking it ended that way, up until I did this abridgement. Then I glanced at the last page:...

...But there was no reason to worry: they were on the fastest horses in the kingdom and the lead was already theirs. However, this was before Inigo's wound reopened; and Westley relapsed again; and Fezzik took the wrong turn; and Buttercup's hourse threw a shoe. And the night behind them was filled with the crescendoing sound of pursuit....


...I'm not trying to make this a downer; understand. I mean, I really do think that love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops. But I also have to say, for the umpty-umpth time, that life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all.

And yes, I did go find my book to type that out. I didn't do all of the final pages but you get the idea. But isn't that a much cooler ending than the movie. It is just more real. Protecting a son from unfairness but a son ultimately learns of it anyway. And yet there is hope too. Love it so much more than the movie ending. Ok, I think my geekiness just went up exponentially.

3. Tell about a memorable goodbye you've experienced.
When I was young (elementary or jr. high - I forget the exact age), I went for a week to a camp an hour away from home. As with all summer camps it was a great week and you come home dirty and exhausted and ready for a nap. When I got back, my Mom, Dad and sister were all in the car and they said to me, "We are going to Milwaukee (2.5 hrs away) to see Grandma. She doesn't have a long time." Being the tired almost teenager, I threw a fit. I didn't want to go to the hospital. I didn't want to see Grandma sick again (She'd had cancer for a long time). I didn't want to know that she was now refusing dialysis and only had a few days. I was angry and didn't want to go, and I was angry because it didn't seem right to have to say goodbye to her.

But I didn't have a choice in the matter and we went anyway. And I was able to see my Grandma before she passed away. I gave her a stained glass cat that I'd made in camp for her hospital room and she told me she loved me. I'm glad I was forced to go, even if I didn't know how important it was at the time.

4. Is it true that "all good things must come to an end"?
Nope, I don't. I think that the love of God and the grace of God are given to us always. And if that is true, and one of the best things, then I have hope for the other good things in my life: that they can be sustained and upheld. They may change and grow, but there are good things that do not end.

5. "Everything I ever let go of has claw marks on it." --Anne Lamott Discuss.
Sometimes I think we cling to things, habits or people that are unhealthy for us. We may cling to them for so long that by the time we are ready to let them go they have marks of being desperately and manically help onto. Even if letting something go is the best thing for us, it takes an effort to withdraw our claws and wills from them.

Bonus: "It isn't over until the fat lady sings." I've never loved thisexpression. So propose an alternative: "It isn't over until ____________________"
"It isn't over until - the last page!" Cheesy I know but I'm thinking about books I love now. It's really your fault!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Perfect Storm

I feel as though I owe you an apology blog-land. I left a vague and worrisome post for you all on a day that was a perfect storm of badness, with a tidy portion of biological ticking thrown in. I have to say that sorry to you all if I made you concerned. And I thank you for you kind words.

But I'm trying to be postitive about things today. I have a weekend coming up with very little planned and am looking forward to some relaxation and possibly a chance to clean and organize. Anyone want to go to a movie?

If I am stuck waiting, then I might as well have fun with it!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Waiting for the bus.


Right now I'm neither here nor there. I don't know which way I want to go, but the choice hardly matters because I'll still be waiting for a while. So I keep waiting and weighing my options, and trying hard to ignore the feeling that I'm about to be thrown under the very bus I'm waiting for.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Meme: The Nachfolge Interview

Scott, over at Nachfolge, was interviewed a while back and offered to interview other blogs. I have my five questions from him so here we go: (P.S. these are sure tough questions to answer!)

1. You're a musician: describe the most powerful moment you've ever had performing music.
I'm having a hard time choosing but here is one: In college I was priveledged to be in a (not the) St. Olaf Choir. That meant that I participated in the St. Olaf Christmas Festival. Every year and every performance ended with the F. Melius Christiansen arrangement of Beautiful Savior. Every year we would sing this and as the last note faded away the lights would dim as well. And then there would be a pregnant moment of silence. When I think of my most powerful musical experiences they all include this moment of silence. There is a swell and a cresendo and then a falling away and then...silence. It is a moment in time where God is uniquely present. No matter what the workload I faced, or the turmoil of life, that moment was a time of infinite possibility, hope, love and joy. I miss those moments. I try to get to a Christmas Fest every year to take in that bit of hope.

(P.S...in the post below (because I can't figure out youtube) is a clip from a ChristmasFest of Beautiful Savior. You don't really get to experience the silence and the clip isn't that good, but it might give you an idea. Also, this is from the year after I graduated so I'm not in it, but if those of you who know Chris look closely you'll see him in a red and white robe (it was his Sophmore year).

2. What was your favorite television show when you were eleven?
Star Trek: The Next Generation. My mother and I watched it together (and my little sister too). It was cheesy at times but fun and completely entertaining. You knew that the Enterprise and her crew would escape mostly unscathed but they managed to make you doubt it even still. It was one of my earlier introductions to the world of geekiness. And I'm very grateful for the introduction!

3. What's your philosophy on shoes? Do you buy lots of cheapies, or spendy clogs that should last a while? Full price or only on sale?
Mmm...Shoes. I have some of each: cheap and expensive. My frivolous shoes tend to be cheaper. Those shoes are spur of the moment purchases and are often in weird colors. Since I don't wear these all the time they can be more disposable. But I do splurge (in the $60 -100 dollar sense, not really more than that) for the basics: The brown work shoes, black pumps, work-out shoes, etc. And when I can find my favorite brands on sale I tend to buy them even if I don't need them *quite* yet.

4. Ever laughed so hard your stomach hurt? Describe the moment.
Many times! One of the most recent moments was in a job interview I was doing recently. (I was an interviewer not interviewee). It was for a children's music position and the woman was describing how she had gotten into the field before. At one point she told a story about a pastor who would ask his congregation to do things in the following way...


"Joe, could you do X here at church, *pause* .... for Jesus?


At this point the whole room (including the interviewer) burst out laughing and we immediately came up with ways this useful phrase could be used in church get people. Our imaginary requests got more and more outrageous and we mastered the perfect pause length for the maximum "for Jesus" effect. If I could do it without laughing it might be a great tool for getting volunteers but I just can't!

5. What's your favorite book that is NOT written by J.K. Rowling?
Only one favorite? I've been thinking a lot about this question and I'm not even sure I can say that J.K. and the Harry Potter books are my favorites. They are among them certainly, but my favorite book is often that which immediately speaks to the mood I'm in. Among my favorite authors and books are The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis), The Wrinkle in Time series (L'Engle - she actually just died last week, which is sad because she is so brilliant.), The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien), Bel Canto (Ann Patchett), The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini), and countless others. You'll note a large quantity of "children's" books in my favorites too. These are some of the best books out there, simple and unpretentious but full of wonder and Truth! I love books and will read almost anything once! (Book suggestions are always welcome!)


Now, here's the rest of the deal:
1. If you are interested in being interviewed, leave me a comment saying “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by posting five questions for you. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with a post containing your answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

St Olaf Choir - Beautiful Saviour

Friday, September 14, 2007

Who am I?

I was recently told by my senior pastor that one congregant thought that "they had to take all the initiative to get to know me." While this is hard to hear, and likely a symptom of my introvertedness, it has gotten me thinking about "Getting to know you" as an idea. For example, while i'm make a large effort to get to know my congregants and families that I serve, most of my time is spent knowing you they are. Very little has been sharing of myself, mostly because I want to feel open and able to communicate them as best I can.

Still, this isn't the first time I've wondered about how people "get to know" one another. Sometimes it is a natural affinity for another person and there is a very easy sharing of information, other times it can be forced long before it comes simple. Sometimes getting to know you means knowing your fears, your joys and your hardships...other times it is knowing your hobbies, your interests and your politics. I think people define themselves differently depending on the situation - I know I do.

For example, I work mostly with parents and families. I know that their lives are often defined (not wholly but certainly in part) by the lives of their children. Thus, I try to get to know the child and their interests as much as the parents. But I wonder if my lack of kids in this kid-centered job makes me a suspect. Sometimes I feel I have very little relevant personal information to share with the parents I work with. I don't have a child to wax eloquently about. I certainly want to avoid politics and major church debates. You won't catch me talking about the ordination of homosexuals at church, for example, even though I feel quite strongly about it (It should be allowed by the way!).

Instead, I talk about my husband, my cats, football or other sports, various tv shows from time to time, good books, seminary (in passing). I will share a funny story as it relates, but most of the time I keep personal information on the basic level. But what do people think of as "getting to know me." I feel as though I am open with most of this information, and while I certainly spend more time getting to know the families I serve I don't think I hold back.

So what does it mean to get to know me? Or you? How do you define who you are or introduce yourself to someone new, especially when it isn't a natural connection? I know enough about myself to know that I'm diverse and complex. In many ways I'm a chameleon, fitting into a variety of situations and being able to converse (hopefully intelligently) about almost anything. But given a fully blank canvas I have a hard time defining it. I know a few words I would pick, but the full definition elludes me.

Does anyone else feel this way? I'm pleased I'm not easily defined but in trying to learn how best to share who I am with the congregation (even after almost 3 year here) I'm feeling confused. I'd love to know your thoughts. What does it take to get to know someone? How do you share who you are with others? Or if you know me well enough, who do you think I am?

Existentially yours,
Liz

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sleep-blogging.

Hi blog land. Did you miss me? Probably not, but I shall type on undeterred. I'm glad to have made it to Sunday night on a week that was in a word...exhausting. It was mentally, physically, spiritually and completely exhausting. I guess to be fair, I probably have had enough sleep (not what I'd like but enough) but I am worn down.

But I will start with the good news! My friend Emilie seemed to do well in surgery. They got the tumor out and the baby is still alive! I don't know what the next steps for her are and I'm sure that recovery is painful and probably long, but so far it seems like the best outcome available. I pray that it stays that way. It has been really moving to see so many people ban together around a good friend. Keep on praying out there in blog land and thank you for all the prayers already.

On the other side...church. What to say about church? I love church, I love working in a church, but I'm really not sure how much I love working in this church. And I don't hate it, most of the time, but it really knows how to suck life out of you. It seems that everything that could go wrong this week did. I know there are weeks like that, but the week before Rally Day, when you are already putting in long hours, it just adds up. For all intends and purposes, Rally Day turned out fine today, but there is so much baggage everywhere in the church.

For a religion that reminds us not to judge, I feel very judged by the church. I feel like people complain to me, and more often behind my back. They complain about things they are unwilling to help with but feel strongly about. I have parents who are upset that there are 20 preschoolers in a Sunday School class but are unwilling to teach so I can split up the numbers. I feel like when I call people that they screen their calls from me because they just know that I'll be asking them for something. I wish all my calls didn't need to be begging for help but I cannot do it alone. Gone are the days when people are committed to "work" in the church. And it is frustrating. So frustrating.

And I get it. I know about being busy. Believe me. I've hardly seen my poor husband, and frankly if I had kids right now I would quit because this is completely unacceptable the amount of work I need to put in to drag a Children's Ministry program together. I get busy. but it is about priorities. Even busy I committ to church. I did in college with three majors and 5 music ensembles. I did in High School with all sorts of activities.

People want me to provide their kids with faith. They want kids to grow up to be good adults and good Christians. The same kind of Christians that they are...Sunday morning, its good so long as it doesn't interfere with my real life Christians...

And I don't have the answer to it. I wish I could be persuasive enough to preach a Word that speaks to the families. That makes them excited to be at church. But I can't. It seems like it gets harder to muster the energy to try over and over again too. Does this mean I should look to leave? Or does the sign that I care still count for something.

I do think about some progress that I have made in the last 2.5 years. Do I abandon some of these precious people who I've come to know. I don't feel like I've got enough established to not leave a big mess for someone else, and that doesn't seem fair either. Maybe I just need to confirmation that I am making a difference there.

And there are days that I love it. Is it a tired and long week talking? I don't know.

I want to have a job that means something to me. I want a vocation, not just a job. And I know that I was going mad in retail. Not a gift of mine. Perhaps Sunday night after a long week isn't the time to ask these questions.

(Is it annoying to you out there in blogland that I often use this space to bitch and complain I don't want to be a constant complainer.)

Maybe I'll just go to sleep. Tomorrow is a day off. I'll go to the dentist. Do something fun. Clean up the apartment. Maybe I'll gain some perspective.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

In search of the church volunteer.

(To be read with a stuffy british accent)

The search for the the church volunteer is one of the most difficult for the children's ministry-ologist. While its habitat is diverse, they are a naturally skittish creature, shy of outsiders and wary of intruders. Even in their native habitat the church volunteer is rarely seen in the same place twice, with the few exceptions of the kitchen lady variety. Locating them to begin cataloging and studying them can be quite difficult.

Here we see one young children's ministry-ologist in search of some new church volunteers. Ah, yes, she is beginning with the church directory. Many a church volunteer has been found using this method, but the results can be discouraging and it can be weeks to catch a glimpse of a possible church volunteer. Even in the directory, the church volunteer is not often found in the same location. Where a preschool church volunteer may have been found in the Rs last year, they may no longer be found in that location now.

Alas, the church directory has not yielded any leads on a fresh batch of church volunteers and our children's ministry-ologist tries another approach. This time she is using fresh bait to lure the church volunteers from their hiding spots. Ah yes, the bait has been known to work from time to time and she has made it obvious to the church volunteers far and wide:



Yes, the appeal of coffee has long been documented in church volunteers, particularly those of the Lutheran variety.

And yes!, indeed it has worked. See a church volunteer approaches...



This happens to be one of the yellow-bellied type. They are known for showing up initially, but their overall shy and timid demeanor prevents them from being excellent long term test subjects, particularly to the children's minstry-ologist. Alas, our explorer will leave this expedition empty-handed but will return tomorrow to continue her age-long search for...

The church volunteer.

Next time on Planet Church.