Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Hey, Are They Making Fun of Us?

Wow! Seems the Tulsa newspaper saw fit to print this cartoon. I'll even admit that I laughed. Especially when Rock, Paper, Scissors is added to the mix.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Georgia on My Mind

Cordele is a bigger town than I thought it would be. It is in the midst of a month-long watermelon festival. Of course, it is nice to see Mom and Dad Hodsden again, and they are always such nice hosts. We arrived, and soon left for Lake Blackshear, where we cruised on a pontoon most of the day. I really needed to decompress, and this was a great agent for that. I read, relaxed, enjoyed the breeze on the lake, saw turtles on a log, watched fish jump out of the water, and watched my son captain a boat for the first time ever. I even got a little cat nap.
Heading home to Vernon on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.


Day of Frustration and Grace

We made it to the complimentary breakfast on Tuesday morning. We had to pack up and check out, as we were traveling to Cordele later that day. We caught the shuttle to the convention center and picked up where we left off at the exhibition hall. Got a videotape about the DaVinci code that we can share with a Sunday School class.

I was able to connect with my college friend, Jeff, who was my “weather iguana” on college radio. He is a part of the production team hired by our denomination.

We watched the debate on the Peace, Unity and Purity Report.

Again, don’t believe what you read in the paper. Ask me, not the AP.

My problem with the PUP report is that it wants to take our system and governance, which is connectional on a national level, and make it more congregational--or make local governing bodies more autonomous. I would have joined the UCC if I wanted that! It passed. Of course it passed!

That was the frustration. The grace came from a friend from my presbytery, who hugged me and told me it was going to be OK. Joan is as appalled as I am, but she was able to see beyond what I could see, and I am thankful for that.

Feeling slightly dejected, James and I headed out of Birmingham, but were so physically and emotionally tired we only made it as far as Macon. We stayed there for the night before heading to Mom and Dad Hodsden’s for a break from GA.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


GA: It's Not Just for Commissioners Anymore

Got a late start Monday morning. Missed the free breakfast, and hopped a shuttle to the convention center. Our denomination is meeting at the same time and location of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, so we’re mingling with a sister church. We’re sharing some convention space, and sharing the exhibit hall.

We registered, got our badges saying that we could watch anything open to the public, and entered into the plenary session. We got there just in time to observe the discussion on the Trinity Paper. James is less interested than I in the floor debates, but I made him sit with me anyway. He helps me translate some of what is happening. I’m the polity wonk, and although I do pretty well with theology, James grasps things a little more quickly than I do.

You’ve probably read about the Trinity Paper in the local newspaper.

OK, side rant here. I hate when the secular press reports on what’s going on at GA, because they don’t really understand our denomination. We are a representative system. We don’t have bishops making decisions for us. We, the collective governing bodies, are the Bishop. So when you read something about the PCUSA in the newspaper, write to me and ask me if this or that is true.

I am often shocked at the level of debate on the General Assembly floor. In my dreams, there would be great struggles over the significance of this word or that word. There would be nitpicking in order to make sure whatever is passed is theologically correct. And there is some of that. But there is also a lot of emotional pleading, a lot of gee-the-committee-worked-so-hard-on-that-paper-we-don’t-want-to-hurt-their-feelings-by-not-passing-it type of comments.

The problem with the paper is not necessarily the metaphors. Some of them are biblical, some of them are images collected and thrown together from different places in the Bible. The problem with the paper is that it takes the classic formula, which is NOT metaphorical, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”, and calls it metaphorical. You could even argue that the paper itself elevates new sometimes biblical sometimes not metaphors to the level of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” To some, that analysis is picking nits. To me, great human beings went to their martyrdom defending the formula of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” and we ought not to throw it away as mere metaphor.

Most churches accept Presbyterian baptism because we baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. One pastor on the floor shared the story of a Presbyterian who joined another denomination and had to be re-baptized, because the pastor of that congregation said that he wasn’t sure that the Presbyterians used the classical formula all the time. That is something I fear is going to happen more often.

After the Trinity debate, we walked around the exhibition hall. Because James and I are both very chatty, we took about 2 hours to hit just one half of the booths. Some cool things that happened in the hall.

1. I met a really cool pastor who serves the church, specifically in Appalachia, by providing public service announcements to radio stations. They are looking to move beyond Appalachia, and here I come, with my radio experience. We spoke for a bit about how I could be involved in that ministry. We traded email addresses, and I really hope something comes of that.

2. James and I spoke with the admissions director at Memphis Seminary. They have a Doctor of Ministry program. They are starting a new track in January, 2008, focusing on faith and the arts. James suggested to them that we might come if they do a two-for-one-deal, and they suggested that they would do what they can. D.Min.s are expensive, so any little bit helps. Then, I mentioned my interest in studying faith in the works of Flannery O’Connor, and he actually got excited.

3. We saw Don Dawson, the man who made it possible for James to go to Senegal four years ago. He shared with us the exciting growth taking place in the World Mission Initiative at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

4. I was able to reconnect with my old friend Tom Sawyer. We later went to dinner with him, another pastor I’m acquainted with named John Erthein, and two of Tom’s parishioner. We had a fine time eating barbeque, laughing and talking.

Outside of the exhibit hall, we hopped on a loop bus and saw a bit of Birmingham. We went to the Episcopalian bookstore, which had some really cool stuff for the Anglicanophile in me (I know Anglicanophile is not a real word, but it is an accurate description).
Got back to the hotel, relaxed some, and went to bed too late.

Monday, June 19, 2006


In Birmingham They Love the Guv'nah

We pulled into Birmingham and met James’ parents at the hotel they were staying at. Great to see them again. I last saw them in Myrtle Beach in October, during the days of Hurricane Ophelia (my first hurricane).

Shortly after, James and I headed for the Alta Vista Hotel, one of the hotels recommended by our denomination. When we pulled in, I saw our Executive Presbyter, so we said “Howdy!” I think he was shocked to see us.

The Alta Vista is a hotel that probably had its heyday 20 to 25 years ago. It is built high on a hill, and we have a great, high view (thus an alta vista) of the city of Birmingham. Absolutely gorgeous sight in the night. The city lights look like stars. Saw some familiar faces in the lobby. We ordered some buffalo wings for dinner, and watched Glenn Beck. I took the chance to hop online and look up the next day’s events at the General Assembly. Looked like an interesting day ahead. Then I goofed around for a bit. Went outside to enjoy the beautiful view--love to go outside at night. It was quite late when I hit the hay.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


To Birmingham

We left Minden after a delightful lunch with Gary and his wife, Terri. We traveled through the rest of Louisiana, and I saw my first bayou. Then we entered Mississippi at Vicksburg. They have a wonderful welcome center along I-20 as you enter the state. It overlooks the Mississippi River. Vicksburg is a place I’d like to vacation sometime. Besides the important history that took place in Vicksburg, there are some neat looking little shops, and a lot of southern hospitality.

We saw two things we never see in our part Texas--water and trees.

A funny thing happened in a Wendy’s somewhere in Mississippi. James and I have a theory that if the service at fast food restaurants is bad, then the economy must be pretty good in that area (all the good workers have jobs). We ordered some food. I got a value menu burger with cheese. The conversation with the counter waiter went something like this:

James: I’d like the .99 burger with cheese.
Countergirl: It comes with cheese.
James: I know, I’m just saying what is on the menu.
Countergirl: It comes with cheese.
James: No mayonnaise please.

When the cheeseburger comes back, it has mayo and no cheese.

Meanwhile, a lady comes walking into Wendy’s and the following conversation takes place:

Lady: I’m back because I didn’t get my baked potato.
Countergirl: Yeah, I can’t believe you left without that.
Lady: Well, it was my husband, and he didn’t check the bag before he left.
Countergirl: (Yelling to fellow slacker) Hey, can you make a baked potato?
Slacker in Back: Uh, I’m already making one, so no.

The economy must be great in that part of Mississippi.



I’ve experienced Louisiana for the first time in my life. We left Vernon, went through Dallas/Fort Worth, and traveled along the freeway through a part of Texas I had not seen yet. We stopped for gas shortly before crossing the Texas-Louisiana border, and I could not understand what the people at the gas station were saying. It was a cajunesque drawl. Very interesting to listen to.
We made it to Shreveport fairly late. I was surprised to find Shreveport as a city that never sleeps. It was at least 1:30 when we pulled in, and the neon lights of the casinos were brightly burning. I noted that there were an awful lot of motorcycles. Shreveport is like Vegas for bikers. As I went down to the car after checking in to the hotel, people were still pulling in from the casinos, and leaving for the casinos.
A word about gambling. People are free to do whatever they want with their money. States are free to make casinos legal if they want to. They can also organize lotteries if they wish. However, I think all these things are unwise, especially in states suffering with poverty. Does the extra revenue really outweigh the dangers of the poor gambling away their last cent? How many kids are left outside casinos while mom or dad or grandma or grandpa spends the rent on slot machines, roulette wheels, and blackjack? It’s a dangerous thing. I was pleased to see billboards with phone numbers for gambling addicts, but are any of those who need to call going to call?
OK, enough of that.
The next morning, we decided to attend the Presbyterian Church in Minden, which is where one of my dear friendss in ministry moved from Ohio a few years ago. He was absolutely shocked to see us in the pews and asked me to do the benediction.
Gary is one of my favorite preachers to listen to, and he did not disappoint that Sunday morning. Hearing him preach is like going for a walk with him. He unpacks everything he can in the text. He meanders through, sharing incredible insights and interesting observations. He is at the same time gentle and admonishing. Fortunately for us, we’re going to hear him preach again this Sunday morning.
Gary never knew he was a mentor of mine. I’ve never told him. But his writing, conversations we have had, sermons I have listened to, all helped to shape my theological thinking and pastoring style. So Gary, if you are reading this, thanks. And thanks to you and Terri for the wonderful hospitality.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


15 Years Ago...

I can't believe I was graduated from college 15 years ago this year. This photo to the left was snagged from my parents' bookshelf.

Far left, my brother-in-law, Dan. Chick in the funky cap and gown, me. To my right, baby brother, "Chuck the Weather Duck," (see comments under previous post). To the far right, my late sister, Lora.

Those of you who know me well know that Lora died two years ago of lupus and scleroderma. She was my best friend as an adult, even though we fought like cats and dogs growing up. I think that it's normal for sisters to be that way.

Coming to my parents' home is wonderful in many ways, but it has always been harder since Lora died. She's missing. I'm here.

A lot has changed in 15 years. But one thing remains the same. My mom still thinks I'm a minor. I love her, but I'm older now. I guess just like it being a given that sisters fight growing up, mothers always think kids are still in their diapers.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


My Shirley Temple Phase

I admit it. I wanted to be Shirley Temple. There was a time when I actually thought I could be. I took ballet, jazz, and tap, with the hopes of overwhelming Hollywood with my stunning beauty and great talent.

I never did make it to Hollywood, but a few years after this photo was taken, I discovered radio. And I mean I discovered radio. I would listen to the deejays, and I would be so impressed with the way they spoke, how much they knew about music, the prizes they got to give away--I wanted to be just like them.

When I went to college, I intended on a broadcast television career--that's where the few jobs in the field were, after all. But I fell in love with radio all over again. And, I'm not modest about this, I have an awesome radio voice. I worked everything from Gospel to Heavy Metal, finally settling into jazz for my final radio job. I also recorded several "press 1 for the sales office" type recordings during those years. Yes, I was the lady who told you which button to press for certain country clubs and manufacturers.

I am still in love with radio. I did voice one commercial this fall. Because the announcer for all the other commercials during the football game was the same person, it really made it stand out. I hoped at that time that the owner would hire me on the spot, but he didn't. I might talk to the competing station. I'll take a poll. Who thinks I should do a little bit of radio again? Raise your hand!


Back in the Saddle Again!

My former new best friend Richard never did call me back. But I made new friends from Dell, Nancy and Austin. They were very helpful, and did as I commanded them. I learned a valuable lesson about how to treat the employees at a call center. If you laugh and joke, and make fun of yourself, when you get to the point of saying, "You know, let's skip that take the plug in and out test and just do the hard drive diagnostic," they might just disagree with you.

Turns out my parents' hard drive was defective. Dell sent a technician out the very next day to replace the hard drive. I was impressed.

We had Texas-style thunderstorms here yesterday. That was fun. Tonight, we'll go to my brothers. Friday, we'll go to the Murray Hill art festival. The Murray Hill neighborhood is Cleveland's Little Italy.

Still hoping for a laptop someday soon. Where would I like to be right at this moment? Typing this blog in the Book and Bean, which is a cool coffee shop here in Berea. It's very close to the college, and has free wi-fi. I was jealous of those that had laptops as I browsed the eclectic mix of used books and sipped my coffee. I could hang out there all day. It's just the kind of place I would have loved to have had to go to while in High School. A book-lover's paradise. It had that wonderful smell--the mixture of coffee and well-loved books. I must go back there today!

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