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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, June 29, 2007


Not really being able to sing these days, my audio has somehow intensified. I hear things more keenly, pay attention to nuance, inflection, speed, volume, tone, timbre.

I heard a bell ringing yesterday... I was @ my GP's office and their fire alarm went off unexpectedly. When all had calmed down I was downright giddy letting my mind go through free associations..... because the bell there sounded identical to my recollection of the bell in high school that signalled the end of one subject and the mass exodus to the next... or to after school activities.

Growing up Roman Catholic, the automatic memory was the sanctus bells... still used in some anglo-catholic parishes to this day. From there it went (oh, what the heck, let me date myself) to the "Miss Francis' Ding-Dong School Bells" that my Aunt Betty gave my sister and I one Christmas. Letting a 6 and 4 year-old wave these things around the apartment that Christmas day lasted about 1 hour.... at which time my Mom confiscated the bells and they were returned sans clapper. Ah... the clarion bells on the United Methodist Church chiming out 'A Mighty Fortress is Our God'; the tiny bell with an ornate handle that was used for Easter dinner at a friend's family home by the head of the house to quiet the crowded jovial table for grace; the Jingle Bell strap that served as a doorbell at the home of another friend. Last, but not least, the sound of the approaching Good Humor truck during the summer months in our neighborhood. Like Pavlov's dogs, those bells would ring and I would begin to salivate, longing for a Creamsicle or a Brown Cow. The small truck would approach slowly, with it's inimitable beckoning cadance of a ring, like the Pied Piper, drawing all manner of child from each 3 to 1 family home streaming forth to the source of few - but prized - frozen delights. Those old trucks only had one little door in the back and the driver wore a very impressive change dispenser that chingled and jangled when he moved.

What things come to mind when you hear bells, or chimes? Send in your recollections to and I'll get them posted..... or add them to the comments below.

I was not there when all the bells across the country rang at the end of WWII. Were you? Share that with the rest of us Farmers, won't you? Thank you, Lord, for cymbals, bells, chimes and gongs! Let everything on earth bless the Lord!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"What a piece of work is Man.........."

“What a piece of work is Man!
How noble in reason!
How infinite in faculty.
In form, in moving how express and
In action how like an angel,
In apprehension how like a god;
The beauty of the world, the paragon of
---Shakespeare, Hamlet, speech of Hamlet to Horatio in the graveyard.

More often than not these days, we may hear part of the first line of this sweeping poetry in a rather derogatory or sarcastic sense; i.e. 'What a piece of work!" or "That one is a piece of work!", neither of which Shaespeare had in mind.

Our bodies, our capabilities, talents, gifts, humor, honor, confientiality, fidelity, love: each can be expressive, each can be admirable....

In action, how like an angel: we can deliver a message of hope and peace, we can do God's bidding, we can set ourselves at the disposal and leading of our Lord....

In apprehension how like a god: we can have the amazing ability to perceive and understand....

The beauty of the world, the Paragon of animals: as animals go, we can comprehend a great deal; we can develop our bodies as well as our minds through specific training and unfailing dedication.

We can live into this amazing description. Do we? Do you? I, alas, do not. Certainly in my younger days was called 'a piece of work', yet the focus of my work was not noble. With some social deficits, my actions were self-serving rather than noble. Even until recently I was unaware how detrimental my daily actions could be to the rest of the food chain and the other creatures I share (and pray to God future generations will share) this planet with.

A soliloquy for a friend. And oh, if we were only as noble as Horatio once was - going down Hamlet's list of attributes would be an easy thing.

Whether it is to a definition of a lost friend or our understanding of the beneficence of God, we fall short. Or we simply fall.

Yet falling is not failing - it is attempting without getting the most excellent results. So we can get up again. Try again, attempt again, head toward the goal again.

Each of us, as children of a loving God are TRULY pieces of of remarkable work.... and from time to time we forget that reality, bogged down in the one we slosh through on a bad day. These poetic words may help us recall an image of our best selves - and with the grace of God, we may embody them fully.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ah, compromise!

The advent of summertime in many churches is marked with a flourish: A ceremony of thanksgiving for graduates, the completion (or benchmark made) of a capital campaign, thanks to the sexon, musicians, sacristans, acolytes, LEVs, lectors, etc who have labored throughout the year. Sometimes it involves a Eucharistic feast al fresco followed by a BBQ.

Then, as quickly as the pot of tribute has boiled over, a hush falls over the sanctuary. Families make their vacation trips, some parishioners take the summer as a liturgical buffet, sampling the way neighboring churches hold their worship and finding out how so-and-so preaches ('though during the month of August you may well get a pinch hitter for that one). Some folks simply need a break from the grind and decide to commune with the NY Times over a cup of tea or coffee. Some are out on our beautiful lakes, rivers and oceans, sailing and letting their cares melt into the element that supports them. Some will be saying their prayers on the golf courses (not totally for altruistic reasons).

Whatever the pastime, there is a decided drop in attendance. Behind the scenes and during a vestry meeting in April there has been a small debate about what time to have THE service on Sunday. The early bird folks are accustomed to the transcendent, esquisite language of Rite I and have no need for singing. The 'family service' folks want things to be a bit more loose and child friendly....and short. Someone will suggest singing a maximum of' 3 verses of any given hymn. Someone might have suggested instituting a suggestion box so that the chestnut of a hymn they 'never' hear anymore might be used.

Whatever the circumstances, more than a few people have agreed to compromise. Mind you, for the most part this doesn't come too easily... unless you are a one-service parish. Then still there will be the compromise of whether to have it an hour or an half-hour earlier.

By now you are on your summer schedules.... and I encourage you to make the most of this time - whether you attend your own parish or another, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness strolling down the 8th fairway or on the deack of a sea-worthy vessel on the ever changing tides. Relax, rejoice, pray and remember...... 'cause come January and the furnace is gasping to give off some heat you will have this time to smile upon God's goodness and bounty....without slipping on the ice!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tests, tests and more tests

The idea about this approach was to have all of my medical stuff taken care of and covered under my 'employee' medical benefits, rather than retiree medical benefits which are liable to be about 2mo. from the date of my departure before kicking in. Today was an upper endoscopy- why am I coughing and burping and having a constant sour stomach and on the verge of losing what is in my stoach every time I cough.

I was not familiar w/the procedure. You lay down and gargle with a substance that has the consistency, but not the taste of Karo syrup..... oh yes..... then you swallow it. it numbs out your mouth, tongue, throat, etc. Then you get a considerable dose of muscle relaxants intravenously and then a long metal snake is sent down as far as it needs to go.... having a little snipper and camera attached.

I closed my eyes for the whole thing. I am not interested in what any of my organs look like internally. Sissy of me.

Turns out that yes, I have GERD, which my GP was treating me for. As it turns out, all the horrid coughing I had done of late had pushed the upper part of my stomach through the hole for my diaphragm - creating a pocket - a hernia - that was extremely enflamed and rather large. So I will take one medication 2x a day and another before retiring. No eating 3hrs before laying down, and I'm to put 2-3" blocks under the upper(headboard) legs of the bed. Well, at least I know where I stand there. When the gernia has reduced in size somewhat (3mo he says) I go back for a different medication for the hernia..... well, I don't need an ulcer on top of this. The rest of the week will be taken up w/the dentist, periodontist, ENT dr (in case of another sleep study or need for a C PAP machine temporarily - in an attempt to diminish my snoring to tolerable levels. Then there's the bone density test and mammogram - oh, the bliss!

I am grateful these wonderful professionals are around to be of assistance.... and I want to pass all the tests with flying colors so that it will not postpone my retirement any longer...... send any prayers you can muster in this direction.... and thanks in advance for the support!

p.s. to the above-added the 26th: my gums and teeth are OK and the breathing and stomach are doing much better..... keep up the good's working!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pentecost proper 7 (RCL): Tell them how much mercy He has shown you

If teachers or preachers care to use any of material contained in this essay, please feel free to do so with an attribution. No other permission is necessary.

I Kings 19:1-4,(5-7),8-15a) or Isaiah 65:1-9

Ps 42,43 or 22:18-27

Galatians 3:23-39

Luke 8:26-39

With the Revised Common Lectionary we have two different combinations of texts available t o use as a framework for teaching - I have chosen to use the Isaiah selection. However, I encourage you to read both Old Testament selections because there is a thread - well - a rope of similarity between the two.

The way of a prophet, regardless of the era, is a dangerous, bumpy road at best. Your chances of living a lonely, solitary life are fairly good. The chances of your message being taken seriously (depending on the person in power) are about 50/50. The chance that there will be threats to your life if they don't like the message you bring:100%. Most prophets know best to begin delivering the message with some version of 'Thus says the Lord:'. In todays text Isaiah conveys God's fatigue over keeping open and invitation to relationship and dialogue that was ignored or turned down. Yet even then, God hold out hope that if there is - in this case - one good grape in the bunch, it is worth saving the bunch. He could punish but chooses a path of mercy for those who thirst for Him.

David's psalm mentions that the things that turn others away will not turn God away. Our merciful God will not discard or neglect the poor, does not shrink from those who are downcast or outcast.

Galatians brings up - once again - the LAW. The law of Moses had a place to keep peace when there was no other law. With the arrival of Jesus, there is a new law: we are to love and be merciful to one another because we are related to one another through Christ, heirs of Christ.

I have always listened to the story of the man possessed with some amount of compassion. Today - two millenia later - there are still stigmas regarding mental illness. Noone in his family knew how to deal with him. Villagers and those from neighboring towns knew him, too - yet only by reputation. They had no relations with him because he was inhabited by demons, extremely strong and ran around naked, living in tombs.

Our rational minds live on a fine edge: one side may be a form of madness and the other a form of genius. This 'demonic' knew full well, without prompting from anyone, the heart of the man that was approaching him - and that genius, ultra sensitive part of him blurted out a truth that was rarely spoken by the 'sane' people who walked with Jesus: "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?" Perhaps some were aghast at his action, falling at Jesus' feet; others scandalized he called Jesus the Son of God. To a Jew this man was 'unclean' and shackled by more of the Laws of Moses than I can name..... to top it off, he lived among the corpses near a pig farm.

As shocking as it was that the man approached Jesus, it may have been more shocking to Jesus' disciples that Jesus would have anything at all to do with this stranger, an unbeliever. Yet Jesus didn't back off. He told the demons to leave this man- and God's merciful love, he was healed. Whether demons entered the pigs I have my doubts.... they could have been spooked by the man' s behavior and headed to the waterhole of their own accord. For sure and certain, the swineherds - whose livelihood depended on the non-Jews liking pork - could not have been thrilled. A Jew walks into town, cures an incurable outcast and demolishes a herd of pigs. Naturally they were afraid and wanted him to get out of town. Pronto.

Only the man who came to his senses, healed, wanted to follow Jesus. This is one of the rare times when Jesus turns someone away from discipleship --- to become, instead, an evangelist. He is given a directive: "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you and how much mercy He has shown you". Mercy indeed. Mercy and peace the likes of which he had not known or been shown before.

It was part of the disturbed man's recovery to embrace his humanity again and to tell out of the ineffable mercy of God. Our goal, as children of God on earth, is to embrace God's healing and to be Christlike, giving dignity to those who struggle with demons of any sort. Like the man who became of one mind, we too are obliged to tell others how much mercy God has shown us. Amen and Amen.

Copyright © 2007 K.L.Joanna Depue and DJ on

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