Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Youth of Christ UMC, Plano, TX are awesome!

The seniors rolled into town on Saturday and worshiped with us on Sunday and every one of those wonderful youth hugged this pastor on their way out of church -- 50+ hugs! There are 172 kids and sponsors in total, so I have a few more hugs to come -- bring it on!

The kids are working on 20 homes through out the city of Vinton and building wheelchair ramps, roofing, siding, painting, doing whatever needs to be done. What a great ministry, what a wonderful witness! Thanks!

A few more pics of day one ...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Service of Ordination

It was wonderful to be back at First Church, Shreveport for our Ordination service. What a beautiful sanctuary!

The Service of Ordination

Bishop Hutchinson guiding us through the liturgy in the Service of Ordination. The front two rows are those of us being ordained.

"Take thou authority ..."

With those words, Bishop Hutchinson ordained me at this session of the Louisiana Annual Conference. What a journey this is! The others in my class have become friends, partners in ministry, comrades, and I look forward to seeing what God does in and through and with us all in the years to come.

After Ordination we have a reception to give us a chance to meet and greet our colleagues. Gee, do I look a bit happy here? This journey has been 20 years from Call to Ordination. Twenty years of joy and wonder, question and answer, presence of God.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Louisiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

That is a big, long name that really just means a gathering of the clergy and lay delegates of all of the United Methodist churches in the state of Louisiana. I suspect the roads are full right now of folk making their annual pilgrimage to Shreveport.

We begin tonight in the Gold Dome with the Memorial Service where we will remember all of those clergy and clergy spouses who have passed away during the year. My friend, Rev. Bill Rowell will be remembered.

Tomorrow, we have our clergy session at Brown Chapel, while the laity have their session in the Gold Dome. Then, we come together as an Annual Conference, consecrate our space, and begin the work of the Annual Conference.

Tomorrow night, Monday, is when we gather at First Church, Shreveport, for ordination -- My Ordination. To say that I am on high-emotion right now does not begin to describe what is going on inside. This is the culmination of 20 years of education, prayer, exploration, inquiry, examination, study, writing, testing ... how do I put all that into words? I am not sure, but I am expected to do that tomorrow afternoon as I speak before the Annual Conference.

At my ordination, Darryl Tate and George Duerson will be with me to lay their hands on me as the bishop says, "Take thou authority ...". Darryl was my first UMC pastor and George is my friend, mentor and guide. I will be wearing Bill Rowell's clergy robe and no doubt will surely feel his hands resting on my shoulders also. Just writing this brings tears to my eyes -- tears of joy, grief at Bill's passing, hope for the future, thankfulness for the journey ...

Oklahoma trip, final thoughts and pics

My trip got diverted by the need to return to Vinton to officiate at the funeral of a special lady, Mildred. Mildred was 91 years young and a woman who has poured her life into so many children and youth in our community. While I am sad at her passing, I am so happy that her discomfort is over and her well-earned rest is begun.

I condensed several days' plans into one long day and hit the road at high speed. I have just a couple remaining photos to share.

While in Ponca City, I visited the Standing Bear Memorial and Museum, went to the property of my former home, and walked the outdoor labyrinth at the Ponca Pow Wow Grounds -- all on the greenspace created by Conoco, Inc when they purchased 400 homes in Ponca City in 1990. Since most of the streets have been filled in now, it is very hard to tell that this was once developed land, but I still was able to locate where my dream home once stood. It was a bittersweet moment. Here is a photo of the outdoor labyrinth -- the circle in the forefront of the picture is the heart stone, a place that you can leave something -- either tangible, or a place to unload your burdens -- as you walk toward and experience the Center. Walking the labyrinth is for me a truly sacred experience, and each time I walk, I come away with a renewed presence of having been in the presence of God.

Chief Standing Bear is the Ponca Indian chief who sued the federal government in the late 1800s to have Indians declared human. He won his lawsuit and slowly life changed for the native people of our country. However, before that happened, the Ponca Tribe was forced to move from their homelands in North Dakota to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) near the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River, south of Ponca City in the community of White Eagle.

Then it was off to lunch with my friend Gayle at Chick and Millie's Blue Moon Restaurant -- ribs, baby!

When I first moved to town, I thought the Blue Moon was a bar. Then, I thought it was "Chicken Millie's" Finally, I got it! I have spent many a Friday evening waiting in a line out the door for a seat at this great place. Even for lunch we often had to wait in line. However, it was here that I saw the greatest change that the Conoco/Phillips merger has brought to Ponca City. Few new people are coming to town, people who never left Ponca for other Conoco sites have been forced to move, Conoco is now basically just a refining business in Ponca. All of this was evidenced in the lunch "crowd" at the Blue Moon where there were only about 25 diners between 12 noon and 1:30 pm. I sure hope that Friday nights look like they did in the past.

Since so much of my trip has surrounded favorite food haunts in Oklahoma, the Ponca City experience was no different. Those who know me well, know that I love Sonic. How can you not love Sonic when your home of 22,000 people has three Sonics? The north Sonic, the south Sonic and my favorite ... the sit-down Sonic! My friend Treva and I made a stop and it was as wonderful as I remembered it to be. You order at your booth from a phone and then your order is brought to you. Love it! The wall decor is all sonic stuff!

Then, it was time to leave my beloved Ponca City ... hopefully to return soon for a longer visit.

My last night in Tulsa, I went to my mother's favorite hamburger stand -- Brownie's.

Nothing has changed at Brownie's, including the sign on the building and the building itself ... and the menu ... and the prices. For $5.00 I got a 6 oz hamburger steak, fries, cole slaw and Texas toast. I would swear that was the price that last time I was there with my mother 15 years ago! Amazing! The drinks are still served without ice in frosty mugs, and the preferred drink is root beer -- as you can tell from the sign.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Oklahoma Pilgrimage as day 2 closes ...

After dinner, I headed to Woodward Park where my sister and I played many a day. It is so beautiful every season of the year.

Waterfalls and caves, stonesteps and plants of every kind are all around.

The statue of the Great Spirit is now at the park and used to be in my high school.

Oklahoma, Day 2 continued

I checked out old haunts, wandered over town, ate my way through Tulsa, and generally relaxed today.

Lunch was at Jim's Coney Island -- Talk about a family tradition. We have been eating at Jim's since he was downtown in a little dive with those half-desk school chairs as his only tables. The dogs are on a grill and they are small, with small buns, but they are the best dogs around. I rarely eat Fritos, but I have to have my Fritos to go with this meal. The business has passed from Jim, who passed several years ago, to Jim's son, to Jim's daughter, to Jim's grandson. Not much has changed. The old 12" black and white TV has been replaced by a flat screen -- but still small. I do believe that the plastic table cloths were last changed by Jim. In the picture they look sort of gray -- they are actually black, but most of the color has been worn off from years of use. Hey, that is a minor thing.

Here is the sign -- original to the downtown store. This photo is looking north on Harvard. By the way, walking into a Coney shop that also serves Greek food, really good Greek food, is sort of an assault on one's olfactory nerves. The two don't seem to go together, but they make it work.

The next phase took me to the Fairgrounds to visit my driller buddy. The original Golden Driller was at the Fairgrounds in 1953. In the mid 60s at the opening of the Petroleum Exposition Building he made a seemingly permanent return. He is quite a guy. By the way, that is my car parked behind him. In my teen/young adult years, we lived only a few blocks south of him, so directions to my home were always easy for my friends.

After a bit of sight-seeing, visits with friends, and shopping it was time for a snack. So, off to Braum's Ice Cream Store we went. Oh, how I wish Braum's would move into Louisiana. The closest one to us is Mt. Pleasant, TX and that just isn't close enough! Think of cool, creamy peppermint ice cream on the hottest day of the year and then imagine the crunch of the red and green peppermint pieces in your mouth. Yummy!

Oklahoma Pilgrimage, day 2

Let me just be honest here and tell you that the reason that I stay at LaQuinta has to do with waffles for breakfast. This LaQuinta did not disappoint. I am staying at a LQ at a very strange place at the intersection of the Broken Arrow Expressway and the Mingo Valley Expressway and not far from I-44. There is basically nothing much here but warehouse types of industry.

Well, nothing much here but me and a couple of Oklahoma Methodists in town for their Annual Conference at Boston Avenue UMC downtown. Refer to yesterday's photos to see how a whole Annual Conference can fit in one church. They probably fit in with room to spare -- did I mention that this is a BIG church? By the way, their pastor's last name is Biggs! How appropriate. Mouzon Biggs has been the pastor there since my Tulsa days and that has been a while.

After finishing my waffle, I offered up my Tulsa World to the couple sitting at the table next to mine. We struck up a conversation and that is how I learned that they are lay pastors in town for Annual Conference. They shared with me that they had been leaders in their churches for years (another denomination), but they each had divorced and were no longer allowed to lead in the way they believe God called them to lead. The United Methodist Church found them and they became lay speakers and then lay ministers and they now serve a small church. They are so happy it glows from their faces.

So now, I am armed with the schedule for the Oklahoma Annual Conference and I think I may go to their ordination service this evening. It is amazing how God brings us connections with others.

The world is so small and our God is so big and I am so glad!