Friday, June 10, 2005

The Circle D Revisited

I was a child in the era of the great television Westerns. I watched them all. "Bat Masterson," starring Gene Barry, was my favorite. I would also get up at 6:30 on Saturday mornings to watch the Roy Rogers show. To be honest, I probably watched them because I was horse crazy, and Westerns were pretty much the only place on tv you could see horses. But I digress.

Somewhere in there as I learned Western lore, I learned about brands and how they branded horses and cattle. (Today they use microchips under the skin -- my horse has one -- but I am digressing again, bad habit.) And somewhere in learning about brands, I created one for my imaginary ranch. I called my ranch the Circle D. I have no idea why D and not A, B, C, or something else. But it was the Circle D. And being a creative child, I made up a song to go along with it. It used all of seven white notes on the piano. "Circle D (D, D), Circle D (D, D), it's the best ranch in the land." Well, I was six or seven years old, and I was no Mozart.

My mother's brother, however, WAS a musician. And his last name started with D. Whether he thought I came up with the Circle D as homage to my maternal family or what, I don't know. But he composed a grand piece of music to my Circle D melody. It was awesome.

My Circle D imaginary ranch went by the wayside as I grew up. I hadn't thought about it in years. But then we bought this material at church for Vacation Bible School, and the theme is the Circle G Ranch: "Where God is at the center and the love never ends." I admit it was a while before I made the connection between the Circle G and my old Circle D, but there it is. The Circle G Ranch, like mine, has its own theme song, something about "There's a place for you at the Circle G ranch." Much more inclusive than my song, which I have to admit was somewhat more grandiose in its theme.

As I write this, I am not sure what is going to happen to our Vacation Bible School. We haven't had a lot of registrations come in so far -- the opening session is two weeks from today -- and I don't know if we will have to cancel it or not. (More on that in another blog.) If push comes to shove, we will have "Vacation Bible School" in the worship service that Sunday (it's my one chance every year to sneak in a little contemporary worship) and use the material that way. I hope we get to do the whole program we have planned. It looks like so much fun.

Circle D. My musical uncle recorded the Bat Masterson theme for me off the television, circa 1958, on a reel-to-reel tape recorder and had a 78 rpm record made of it. I still have it. In fact, I sent my old turntable to a company on Long Island for repairs some years ago just so I could play the 78s I still have (they don't make many turntables any more, and the ones they do make only have 33 and 45 speeds). I should hook up the turntable and play my Bat Masterson theme song, just for old time's sake. This in an era of MP3s and iPods and all-digital music. Yeah, yeah. In this age, it's as big a challenge to get the old technology to work as it is to get the new technology to work. And that, too, is a subject for another blog.

Pastor Kathy

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wait a minute...

My denomination is struggling, as are many mainline Protestant churches. Somewhere along the way, probably back in the 1960s, we lost touch with the people in the pews. The ones who are still there are dying out, and the young ones just aren't coming in the way we wish they would. There are all sorts of theories about how-come-we're-declining, but the bottom line is, we are. Some individual churches in my denomination are growing, particularly in areas of the country that are growing. But the sad truth is, many of them are small and getting smaller every year as the older members die. They struggle and they seek ways to grow, but it's an uphill battle. Meantime, new churches start up -- many of them not in denominations at all. And we mainliners watch them (with envy) and try to figure out what they are doing right and try to copy them. (Sorry, for some reason the program is not letting me make paragraph indents today, so this blog is going to be one long paragraph.) I serve on a committee of my regional body that is trying to "re-form" in light of new realities, and we have been reading, reading, reading. One of the church consultants (yes, the church has management consultants just like secular businesses do) we read insisted that the purpose of the church is to grow numerically. Period. He cites Matthew 28:18-20, "Go therefore and make disciples" -- it's known in church circles as the Great Commission. Yes, grow. Growth is good. But then this consultant goes on to trash ministers who do anything else but work at growing their churches numerically, and I have a problem with that. He refers to ministers who like to visit people in hospitals and nursing homes, etc., as "enablers." He quotes one of the ministers who read his advice as saying, "Oh, thank God! I no longer have to feel guilty because I don't like to do those nursing home visits." Whoa! Wait a minute! This consultant needs to keep reading his Bible to see what Jesus had to say about feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and those in prison, clothing the naked and so on. Growth is good, but growth without a purpose isn't. Termites and cockroaches grow numerically, too. OK, I am sure God has a purpose for them, but he has yet to reveal it to me. Anyway, if that consultant is going to call the ministers who are pastors "enablers," then I have a name for his idea of "evangelists," too: sales managers. Sorry. Just a rant.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The end, again?

I got into this blogging business last year after a conversation with my friend Michael Robertson in San Francisco. I had dinner with him and his wonderful wife while I was out there on vacation, and he told me about this blog he had started as part of a project he was working on while on sabbatical from his teaching position at the University of San Francisco. I started reading his blog and decided to give it a try myself. And here I am.

Michael's blog went through about three iterations, if I recall, changing its name and its focus (the identity-crisis thing). Finally it emerged under the title of "Darwin's Cat," which sort of echoes Pavlov's Dog, but I am not sure the blog ever had anything to do with cats, and as a cat person, I can tell you that cats do not salivate unless they are about to throw up. But I digress.

At any rate, after a year of writing his blog, Michael has given it up. I guess it was a project with a finite life and that life is now complete (I think it was originally intended to be research for a book on writing newspaper columns, but Michael quickly learned that a blog is not a newspaper column but its own animal entirely.)

But doggone it, what poor timing! Look at all the endings I have had to deal with in the space of one month!

May 13: Star Trek ends, after a 17-year continuous run on television
May 19: Star Wars ends, after a 28-year run since the first movie came out
May 30: Darwin's Cat ends, after a year's run.

Now what am I supposed to do for entertainment???

It is going to be a long, long summer...

So I guess I will have to start writing more often in this blog, for my own entertainment if nothing else. Sheesh.

As we say in the church, I am sure God's hand is in this somewhere.

Pastor Kathy

Friday, June 03, 2005

Are you still here?

That's a line from the television series Babylon 5. The Centauri ambassador, Londo Mollari, asks his aide Vir, "Are you still here?" It's more in the sense of "Haven't you left yet?" although, if I recall, he asks him this in more than one episode, and later in the series it's more like "So you haven't deserted me like everyone else has." At least it seemed so to me.

At any rate...I notice I haven't posted here since, gulp, April 4. Any readers of this blog would think I had abandoned it. Frankly, I was starting to wonder myself. Maybe I need to re-think what I am writing and how and when. My posts were turning into sermons. It's tough enough to write one sermon a week, but one a day is way too much.

So, maybe this blog will take a turn and be more about life on the other side of the hill rather than pontifications from a preacher who sometimes takes this whole business of ministry way too seriously. And maybe the entries will be more frequent and a little bit shorter. Maybe.

Life on the other side of the hill: I notice that sometimes I will mis-read something and on a second reading discover that I was only a letter or two off the mark, but what a difference a letter or two makes. Yes, thank you, I do wear glasses, and yes, I have had my eyes checked recently. Chalk it up to reading without paying particularly close attention. Or being on the other side of the hill.

Anyway, yesterday as I was sitting at a traffic light, I noticed that the car in front of me had something written on the license plate holder. "Born broken," it said. Wow, what a powerful theological statement. In the Christian understanding of original sin, we are all born broken. We're not perfect coming out of the womb, only to screw up our lives as we grow up. At least not in my Calvinist upbringing. No, we are born broken and sinful and in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, because we are never going to be perfect in God's eyes, but through Christ we are forgiven.

Born broken. What a wonderful confession to put on the back of one's car. Truly this must be a humble person, someone who acknowledges God as the ultimate healer of our brokenness.

And then I looked again and realized that the B was really an H. "Horn broken," it said, and added below, "Watch for finger."

As Roseanne Rosanna-Danna would have said, "NEV-er mind."