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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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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Pent.,Proper 9(RCL) Warning: Power has adverse side effects

Teachers and Preachers, feel free to use what you find here with a simple attribution; no further permission is necessary.

2 Kings 5:1-14 and Psalm 30 ; Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Power is a heady intoxicant. For some it can be addictive.... they need more and more to feel good - even to feel at all.

Poor Naaman! He was a great warrior, the commander of the army of the king of Aram..... but he had leprosy. In today's medical terminology, it could have been psoriasis or eczema. By any standards, he had a skin problem so he must as looked as fierce as he fought. A powerful man, but he had no power over his skin condition. A servant mentioned to Naaman's wife that there was a prophet in the land of Israel who could cure Naaman. Instead of dealing with a prophet - for which he had no respect - the king of Aram sent a letter to the then king of Israel - along with many precious gifts - telling the king to relieve Naaman of his leprosy.

The king of Israel, knowing he could not possibly cure Naaman felt this was a power trip by a foreign king to pick a fight and felt he had been painted into a corner.

Luckily, Elisha heard of the predicament and told the king of Israel to send Naaman down to him. Namaan came in full regalia, pomp and circumstance and was insulted when the prophet himself did not come out of the tent to meet them, but instead sent a messenger to tell Namaan to dunk himself in the Jordan river 7 times.

Namaan, the self important, the hero in battle, was offended. Pardon me, sniveling prophet - but here I am, Naaman the great! I came all this way, far inferior to anything we have back home, and you can't even come yourself to see me??? If it weren't for his loyal servants, Namaan would have returned home angry, self defeated...... and still a leper.

Instead, he followed the simple instructions from a simple man of God... nothing flashy... and was healed.

Jesus, in Luke's account for today, sends out 70 disciples in pairs to town with little to weigh them down and a few ground rules: greet people in peace, eat what people offer you, if they reject you, dust it off and keep on moving. If you're invited to one house stay there, instead of trying to make a big splash by accepting every invitation. Do good, speak well, cure the sick.

Those who came back felt like celebrities:' In your name, even the demons submit to us!" Jesus gave them a warning not to gloat on what they had accomplished - through Him, but be joyful because God would remember what they had done in heaven'.

Power can and does have adverse side effects: It is destructive to believe that it emanates from us and that somehow we not only deserve recognition of it but also thanks for relinquishing it to others.

Jesus then - and now - tries to give us an antedote by helping us understand that power runs through us and has its Source elsewhere. Let us take this prescription well to avoid self-delusion and false importance. Power CAN have adverse side effects - unless we are humbly aware of its true source and give credit, glory and praise where it is due.

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

Friday, July 06, 2007

Humility on 15 acres

My intention - at some point this weekend - is to finally go play golf.... something I haven't gotten to yet this year. It gives me pause to think that spring is gone, summer is in full swing and autumn can be iffy when the course you normally play has a fair number of trees and the balls that go astray can be lost in the fallen leaves.

I started to play golf in 1999 - went bravely to Costco and, after an absurd interaction with the poor woman who was attempting to teach me to play golf, plunked down $125.00 plus tax in the hopes that this would be an activity I could actually participate in until well into my 80's. In hindsight, it is one of the best investments I have made on many, many levels.

Golf is not, by nature, a team sport.... it is your equipment, the weather, the course and you. This particular games is set apart from other sports... you can play competitively, or NOT. There is another major difference: bowling (another solo game) takes place in a bowling alley. All alleys are the same length and width and indoors. Even tennis - when you play with only one other person - the surface may be different.... but whether indoors or outdoors, the dimensions are exactly the same. All baseball diamonds are identical, as are most of the stadiums they are in. In contrast, each golf course (while often having similar obstacles (hazards) - ridges, sand traps, bodies of water, banks of trees) is different. Each and every one.

Walking the course you see wildlife, feel the breeze (or wind, rain, snow), go up and down hills. Some courses are absolutely beautiful - in Hawaii, Thailand, California, Arizona - the natural setting plays a part in the design of the course and the natural hazards available.

You may tee the ball off and it may head for a nearby fairway or right down the middle of the one you are on. Just a little adjustment in grip, angle, wind, humidity, makes a great difference to how high, long, straight, accurately the ball will take flight. You may have a good round, or the kind that can infuriate. You can start out confident and watch the elements bring your pride to its knees.

All this set up is to agree with other golfer/writer folks before me. Golf is an analogy for life. It's a challenge. We can barge through it stage by stage by brute strength (with obvious ugly results) or... despite how well we may be playing that particular day, notice the sky above, the grass below, the changing landscape. We can make a mistake and let that be the dead weight that leads to more mistakes OR dust off, make a few adjustments and try something else.

Humility is a by product lesson in golf. If we can learn it there it may be easier to take under other circumstances. We can learn to appreciate the skill of others and compliment them readily when they do well with a "great shot" or a pat on the back. We can empathize then another player's ball inexplicably circles the hole but never drops in with a corporate moan or "nice try" or "Geez, you were robbed!". "Good sportsmanship" has its parallel in praciticing our Christianity daily.

So.. to those who play golf and to those who do not, I sent out this hearty wish: Have a great round today, regardless of the conditions!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Takin' some good advice

I have been listening a great deal to Nancy LaMott lately. Nancy was cabaret singer, born in Midland, Michigan. Gifted with a remarkable, expressive voice she managed to became well known on both the San Francisco and New York cabaret scenes despite several chronic life-long diseases. She died, tragically, in December 1995 at age 43 of uterine cancer just 45 minutes after marrying the man she had met and fell in love with in March of that same year. Her legacy to us is a voice -thankfully captured on several recordings - that stays in your head - and touches your imagination and heart. I was very pleased to read recently that after years of litigation, more recordings of her vocal stylings will be released in the future for even more to appreciate.

If you haven't checked out any of her material, please do so. If you love the 'standards' you will find Nancy's interpretations marvelous.

At this point I move from the wonderful Nancy to another favorite of mine - because he wrote what we now consider standards: Johnny Mercer. On one of Nancy LaMott's albums, she does a rendition of a Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen song: Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive. If you haven't heard of it before, or if you don't recall all the lyrics, let me share them with you now.... for a purpose. It is easy, perhaps far too easy, to find fault, see the 'downside', knit pick, become someone who sees only the problematic side of things, not the lighter, upside. Trying to spread the Good News with the corners of your mouth headed southward is counter productive. Sit back, relax, take the high road and lighten the load. Here's the essence of a theme to adopt:


You've got to ac-cen-tuate the positive, E-lim-inate the negative;

Latch on to the affirmative. Don't mess with Mister In-Between!

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum; Bring gloom down to the minimum,

Have faith or pandemonium's Liable to walk upon the scene.

(To illustrate this last remark, Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark. What did they do

Just when everything looked so dark?)

Man, they said we better Ac-cen-tuate the positive, E-lim-inate the negative;

Latch on to the the Affirmative. Don't mess with Mister In-Between.

Don't mess with Mister In-Between!


There's the theme...... now run with it and add your own style. That's the way we spread the GOOD News!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Day to Remember, a day to reflect upon

This past Sunday I attended Grace Church, Nyack. My intention is to make this church my 'home' parish - as a parishioner - when not on the road on Geranium Farm work.

I went to the 8 am service - just to get a feel for it. Experience has taught me that this service is often attended by either older parishioners, by those who feel at home with a traditional, formal liturgical style or those who have to dash off to work elsewhere of a Sunday morning. I was amazed at how quickly the liturgy went; how attentive and immediate the congregation responses came forth.

What struck me most - and most poignantly - was the Prayers of the People. The traditional, stylized language was used. I had both responded to and led (as one of the normal duties of an acting deacon) these prayers before. What astonished me - brought the reality of our nations activities abroad - almost as concrete as a blow to the belly was the reading of a lengthy list of those killed in recent miliary service.

I am not a mother, not the parent of a child sent into harms way by our government. Yet there I stood on Sunday, July 1 2007, with tears streaming down my face listening to the list of staff sergeants, lieutenants, specialists, privates first class, who have all died. I was so moved that I could not bear to ask someone whether this was a partial list or a complete list of the native daughters and sons in the local area who had paid the ultimate price in wartime activities from the armed forces of the United States since 2001.

Freedom, however defined, does not come without a price. It did not at the birth of this nation, during the Spanish American war, our own Civil War, the First or Second World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq or our participation in other overt or covert activities. Sacrifice is costly.

I invite you - wherever you may be - to recall the freedoms that we have almost taken for granted, remember those who have died believing they have helped preserve the freedoms of others and the families and loved ones who are left to grieve the loss of the precious lives given in selfless service. May those, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Step a bit closer to the microphone, please....

Rev. Barbara Crafton, with her impressive and diverse resume decided to plant the seed that has grown into a remarkable ministry to tens of thousands throughout the world. Beginning as a parish project during her tenure at St. Clement's Church in New York City, she sent out daily meditations via e-mail. Her ability to write from a personal perspective with broad applications to everyday life have made her a popular author to many. An accomplished speaker and spiritual director, The Geranium Farm sprang unto existance after her retirement from regular parish ministry.

A few years into this ministry, Barbara called Debbie S.Loeb and I together for a meeting one frosty mid-day in February 2005 with her idea was to open up the Farm by adding more voices and resouces. The meeting ended up with the seedlings of Hodgepodge and More or Less Church.

Debbie has certainly done a yeoman's job, letting us know about new products, recipe's, charitable causes, a spectrum of handicrafts, touching anecdotes with sweet David, photos from trips, natural remedies.... the list goes on.

Branching from being a story-telling preach to writer has expanded my horizons. In August 2006 I was assigned by Bishop Sisk as Deacon of the Geranium Farm. On occasion I now accompany Barbara on her retreats, driving for local engagements and assisting with liturgy, counseling and the practice of healing touch. I now have some spiritual directees, and occasionally take on assignments of preaching engagements and upcoming retreats.

Fr. Buddy leaves his indisputably delightful interpretations of Barbara's written e-Mo's which, while a pleasure for those of us with decent hearing, is a Godsend for the hearing impaired. Listening to his lyrical, sometimes lilting southern gentleman's voice is an experience unto itself.

Carol Stone opens the world of investments, retirement plans, stocks, etc. for those of us (including myself) who are impaired when understanding the complicated area of global and local finance. Lately her writings have been of specific help for those of us considering looking into that murky crystal ball of our own financial preparedness for retirement and beyond.

Fr. Matt helps us tap into the 'next generation' of evangelists with humor, exhuberance and wit. U Tube is an new tool in the world of internet computer communication, entertainment and education.

If you have never visited other pages/sections of the Farm, give them a gander. Under the banner for News and Events there are entries by impressive writers under the sub-session It's News to Me. Anyone who was able to attend the Farm luncheon at General Convention last June was treated to a marvelous presentation by the remarkable Fr. Lane Denison. He makes a regular contributions with 'Out of Nowhere'. Different authors also make contributions. The current page contains pieces by Rev. Martha Macgill, Alexander MacPhail and Fr. David Wood.

On the Road contains Barbara's engagement schedule and, from time to time, when I'm on the road solo preaching or giving a retreat. Give it a glance from time to time - we might be in your neighborhood and it would be wonderful to meet you face to face!

While there is much here for you to sample or decide to make part of your regular diet, we all encourage you to send in contributions. We know that you have stories, testimonies, sermons, liturgical drama, prayers, and music to share with our growing Farm community. Perhaps you can suggest a link that may be added to our pages as yet another resource for spiritual growth.

We are here for you, that is absolutely truth. It is also true that we are here for each other. To that end, don't hesitate to send in your pieces through me at One of us will have a look at what comes in and find a way for your voice to be heard. The Farm is known as a support of everyday living - and we all need that support.... so if you have some good seeds to sew, toss them our way! Get past your fear of public speaking (or sharing) and step right up and share! Let us hear from you. Feedback, give and take, compliments, contributions from your faith journey have the potential of helping us all grow. God will give you the grace to make this a place of conversation as well as offering. We look forward to hearing from you! All the best to you - DJ

Monday, July 02, 2007

Music: God's philanthropic gesture of love

Do you have favorite hymns? Are they your favorites because of their melodies(and/or harmonies) or the lyrics? Do they bring vividly back into your mind a particular time, season, setting, circumstance? It may well be a combination of many factors. Some melodies make our very souls soar, some lyrics bring us to tears of joy or sorrow. Music , it's existance, our ability to create it and interpret it - to me - is one of God's greatest gifts.

I was purchasing some medium-sized wooden CD racks to file recent acquisitions as well as consolidate smaller overflowing containers. I dusted each case off and finally decided to group the CD's in alphabetical order within categories (, I don't have OCD). Here is a sample of the B's: Brahms, Bach, Beethoven, Black Eyed Peas, Basia, Britten, Rob Beckley, Clint Black, Art Blakey, Beatles, Beach Boys, Barnum, Bjork, Jim Brickman, Bartok, David Benoit, Claude Bolling, Boys on the Side & The Bodyguard, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Beck, George Benson, Tony Bennett, Byrd, Bishop, Alison Brown, Julian Bream, Blind Boys of Alabama. In just the "B"s there's pop, rock, bluegrass, country/western, blues, cool and old school jazz, classical, adult contemporary, R & B, Gospel, contemporary Christian praise, Broadway, movie soundtracks. I am a fanatic about music and my taste runs the gamut of musical expression. With or without words, the essence of music quenches a spiritual thirst within me - being at once both evident and intimate.

Isn't music fascinating, invigorating, expressive, emotional, eventful, evocative? What a priceless and plentiful blessing! With that in mind, what would the world be without music? What would the world's faiths be without music?

The Gospel - the good news - was spread by word of mouth, and versions from Greek onward certainly..... yet what if that word had never been paired with music??? What if there were no chant, no psalms, no "Messiah", none of the various requiems or jubilates?

What part does music play in your life and spirituality? Please drop a line either to me here at or add a comment to this post. Write of your recollections, favorite artists, musicians, hymn numbers (and from what source). If you write music, consider sharing a piece of your gift here with us. We will certainly be the richer for it and the blessing will be for each of us! With a song in my heart, DJ

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Pente.Proper 8(RCL): Yes,but..... = no

Teachers and preachers, feel free to use any of the reflection below without written permission, simply give an attribution.

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 and Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20 , Galatians 5:1, 13-25, Luke 9:51-62

Yes, but....... = NO

Going through training for ordination, one must do a component of study called CPE (clinical pastoral education). There you endeavor to learn what it takes to become a pastoral presence and take on - even temporarily - the responsibilities of a chaplain in a hospital. The experience is humbling, to say the least and a real eye opener. Before going through this formation process you may have considered yourself a very good listener; after taking some lessons from your supervisor and experienced a few exchanges with the patients under your care you learn quickly that your listening skills are not half as adequate as you imagined they were and that occasionally people will contradict you in very subtle ways.

Going into a hospital room you are meeting someone for the first time under unusual circumstances. The dynamics are peculiar to the situation. There you are, in your loaned white hospital jacket brandishing a photo ID with the title CHAPLAIN. Looking this way, one may mistake you for an expert, while they are in a bed in some state of distress.... it's awkward. You want them to feel better. It is on the tip of your tongue to let slip...."..everything is going to be fine; you'll be feeling better..." but you learn never to make that statement because that is one thing that you cannot guarantee.

If the patient is there for a period of time, they may begin to open up and you have conversations with them. You will be taught by your supervisor that - if after you have made a statement, the patient replies "...yes, but....." they, in effect, are disagreeing with you. They are saying no, or I don't agree with you, or not in my experience, or that doesn't apply to me, or there are extenuating circumstances here.

Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem -- i.e. He knows the end of his ministry, his teaching and his life is very near and He is determined to go into His destiny. Going along the road, someone blurts out they will follow Him wherever He goes. Jesus delivers the equivalent of a 'yes, but..'. While his reply deals with the fact that he has no earthly home, He is basically saying this is the end of the earthly line....yes, but you don't want to go there.

The tables then turn. To two others on the road, Jesus offers the invitation (which almost sounds like a demand) 'Follow me'. In each case, He receives a 'yes, but.... (yes with a condition)': yes, but first let me bury my father; yes, but first let me say goodbye to my loved ones. Jesus, facing his death, does not have time to wait for the luxuries of farewell parties or lengthy funeral rituals which other family and community members could take care of. Yes, but... would not do.

Jesus, loving those in the world, loved them to the end. Jesus to this day and beyond, loves and will love us unconditionally. Even in these days, in places where following Christ will lead to death, there are those who will not deny Christ or fail to follow him - without condition, without qualification. Theirs is NOT a '..yes, but..'.

Most of us are not in peril of our lives for following Jesus. We have are not facing death or mutilation to practice our faith. If we are called to be Christians living into our baptismal vows, let us live into them with an emphatic YES, no "but"s about it, through the power of the Spirit.

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

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