Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spelling bee memories

A long time ago, C and I found the national spelling bee on one of the ESPN channels while we were on vacation and we ended up postponing dinner until it was over because it was just so funny in an endearing way. Since then, we've watched it several times with the kids--all of us do color commentary, choose our favorites, guess the words and laugh ourselves silly.

Well, tonight I not only picked the winner, I could spell the winning word! (It was "Laodicean," by the way, and it was about the only word I could spell.) Most of you know that I'm a spelling nerd and have been all my life. What you may not know is that I was my elementary school's spelling champion in 5th grade. I have absolutely no memories of the spelling bee at my school but I have vivid memories of studying for hours and hours preparing for the city-wide bee sponsored by the local paper. I would stretch out on the floor while my mom called out the words to me from a booklet given to us by the national spelling bee organization. The official rules stated that if there were still contestants standing after every word in the booklet had been asked, the judges would begin to use words from the dictionary. I faithfully studied every single word in that booklet over and over but I refused to study the dictionary.

Anyway, I also vividly remember the city-wide spelling bee and the room it was held in (some public building, maybe the lobby of the newspaper office). There were molded plastic chairs in rows for the contestants and also for the parents and other onlookers and cookies and punch on a long table against one wall. I remember being so nervous but also excited, I remember the exhilaration of being one of only two left standing, I remember winning to a 6th grade Asian boy named Andy, and I remember the word he won on ("chary"). I don't remember the word I missed to give it to him.

Anyway, I was reminiscing about that tonight as we watched the national spelling bee (on network tv now), thinking that my kids will one day say to their kids, "My parents were such dorks, we watched the spelling bee every year," but they'll say it with a smile and have some fond memories.

Friday, May 22, 2009


The first ever South Austin Date Night was officially a success! I had been so worried that no one would come or that it would fall flat. Well, we had 22 couples in the party room of a local Mexican restaurant for enchiladas and marriage enrichment and the "buzz" was terrific.

There was one couple who had been married 56 years and another who got married last month and 20 couples in between. According to the anonymous evaluation forms, everyone had a terrific time and learned a lot and every single person indicated that they would come to the next one and bring friends. This could really happen!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A transformation poem

Passover Remembered

Pack nothing
Bring only
your determinationto serve
andyour willingnessto be free.

Don't wait for the bread to rise.
Take nourishment for the journey,
but eat standing,
be readyto move at a moment's notice.

Do not hesitate to leave
your old ways behind
--fear, silence, submission.

Only surrender to the need
of the time -- to love
justice and walk humbly
with your God.

Do not take timeto explain to the neighbours.
Tell only a few trusted
friends and family members.

Then begin quickly,
before you have time
to sink back into
the old slavery.

Set out in the dark.
I will send fire
to warm and encourage you.
I will be with you in the fire
and I will be with you in the cloud.

You will learn to eat new food
and find refuge in new places.
I will give you dreams in the desert
to guide you safely to that place
you have not yet seen.

The stories you tell
one another around the fires
in the dark will make you
strong and wise.

Outsiders will attack you,
and some follow you,
and at times you will get wearyand turn on each other
from fear and fatigue and
blind forgetfulness.

You have been preparing
for this for hundreds of years.
I am sending you into the wilderness
to make a new way and to learn my ways
more deeply.

Some of you will be so changed
by weathers and wanderings
that even your closest friends
will have to learn your features
as though for the first time.

Some of you will not change at all.
Some will be abandonedby your dearest loves
and misunderstood by those
who have known you since birth
and feel abandoned by you.
Some will find new friendships
in unlikely faces, and old friends
as faithful and true
as the pillar of God's flame.

Sing songs as you go,
and hold close together.
You may at times grow confused
and lose your way.
Continue to call each other
by the names I've given you,
to help remember who you are.
You will get where you are going
by remembering who you are.
Touch each other and keep telling the stories.

Make maps as you go
remembering the way back
from before you were born.

So you will be only the first
of many waves of deliverance on these desert

It is the first of many beginnings --
your Paschaltide.
Remain true to this mystery.

Pass on the whole story.
Do not go back.
I am with you now
and I am waiting for you.

- Alla Bozarth-Campbell

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

I love to preach on Mother's Day but I really try to stay away from Hallmark card sermons about motherhood. It seems to me that "theme worship services" should be used sparingly. I'm really not even crazy about the obligatory God-and-country services we have on either side of the Fourth. Many years ago, a headline on the front page of the Waco paper read, "Worship service to honor Grant Teaff." That always seemed just a bit off to me (and probably made Coach Teaff uncomfortable as well.)

Anyway, that's not what I wanted to write about tonight. I had a sweet day with my kids today. Mowgli came to church and stayed through the whole service because he knew that would mean a lot to me. They gave me a gift card for a massage (YES!) and we had barbecue for lunch so I wouldn't have to cook. Tonight C made pancakes to give me another break. And the kids did all the dishes--both meals--even though our dishwasher is broken and they had to hand wash everything. I love my kids!

I also really love my mom. I don't remember ever giving her a nice gift for Mother's Day when I was a kid. I remember bringing her breakfast in bed at least once--I can only imagine what she had to choke down! I liked to make her things like cards and things made of macaroni and so forth. I remember various coupon books for things like helping around the house or hugs. (She probably would have rather had coupons for not talking back or rolling my eyes but that was more than I could deliver on.) I also went through a stage where I liked to wrap up things she already owned and "surprise" her with them. And guess what? She was always surprised!

Anyway, the point is that I have a great mom. There was never one single moment in my growing up when I didn't know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was deeply and unconditionally loved. That is an incredible gift to give a child. I always believed that she loved being my mom, even when it was hard. She would listen to me talk and talk and talk and never told me (like I told Mowgli once), "My ears are too tired to listen any more." She is warm and kind and has a wonderful laugh.

As a teacher, she always cared most about the kids that struggled. Even in retirement, she gives back in some way every single week--delivering Meals on Wheels or spending the night at the homeless ministry or helping sign in kids for basketball at church. She and my dad taught me (and continue to teach me) that you should always be part of the solution because they live that way. She always taught me to see the other person's side of things (which has turned out to be a marketable skill--who knew?) and to try to remember that I'm not always right (that one was really hard!)

Mom was the first one to see that I was in love with C and the first one to understand why. She has loved my kids so well and they know it. Both have said, "Grandma's awesome" fairly recently--and they're right.

So Happy Mother's Day, Mom--I love you so much.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Home from Michigan

We're back from Michigan! This is a photo of some of the leadership teams we were working with in Holland, MI this week. We coached the pastors first and then their congregational leadership teams arrived on Friday and we worked with the larger groups.

Our trip to Michigan coincided with Tulip Time, the annual tulip festival. Here are some photos that JTH took while we were there. Imagine tulips lining the streets and in flower beds everywhere in every possible color. (JTH and I decided that the burgundy and purple tulips were too dark and serious for such a happy flower.)

This is me in front of our hotel. You can see the beautiful flowering tree behind me as well as the tulips. The flowering trees were also everywhere, in several different colors.