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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 21, 2007

Adopt a Granny or a Grampa

Are there elderly parishoners in your church that you know little about?

I'm sending out a message to single adults, couples, families, empty nesters..... why not invite one of the pillars of your congregation out to 'coffee' or breakfast after church some Sunday? This comes to mind because two seasons of the year the elderly singles in congregations (especially those whose children live quite a distance away) are often left to their own devices and become a bit blue: winter and summer.

Winter because it's hard to get around and even those seniors who still drive are very anxious about coming out after dark or in inclement weather. Bring some sunshine to them by offering a ride to or from church and maybe throw in an activity after church.

Summertime is often too hot and the phone doesn't ring because people are on vacation. Well, you still have to shop and probably they do too. Go shopping and grab a snack.

Old age isn't for sissies, it's true. It's easier to face when you have a bright spot here or there to look forward to.

Also, if THEY invite YOU to come for lunch, by all means, go. See their apartments, let them tell you the stories behind the sepia colored pictures on their walls. Exchange phone numbers. Get the kids involved by helping to carry groceries or return bottles or take out the recycling.

Some of us are blessed with families. Others of us make our families. When family members die or leave, there is a gap. Risk - if you dare - falling into the GAP. It is in giving that we receive......

Friday, July 20, 2007

Let's think about it: Soul of the Earth- Justice, Ecology, Contemplation

If you go to the home page for The Geranium Farm you will see that the Trinity Institute Summer Retreat this year is entitled: Soul of the Earth - Justice, Ecology, Contemplation.

Majora Carter, a life long resident of the South Bronx, is the founder of Sustainable South Bronx. She is a social justice environmentalist. To those who live outside of New York it may still be difficult for anyone to convince you that 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn'. The fact of the matter is, many trees grow in Brooklyn, but not without some resistance - city planning, air quality, utility infringement.

Because of media fixation with all things dark, fatal, wrong and/or tragic and its perverted investment in perpetuating images in substandard housing, dilapidated, crumbling buildings, boarded up businesses and litter strewn streets it may also be difficult bringing to the attention of a greater public that things are looking up the South Bronx- in part to the efforts of Sustainable South Bronx and other groups whose mission it is to break stereotypical barriers.

Contemplate, if you will, streets with trees that not only tolerate the conditions of an urban setting but give back by supplying clean oxygen. Imagine large thoroughfares beautified with meridians of grass, bushes and plants. Envision a clean bike and jogging paths along the waterfront of the upper East River. What about transforming long vacant lots into flower and vegetable gardens?

Is it just accidental or haphazard that waste treatment plants spring up in neighborshoods with minority populations? Pioneers, visionaries and prophets like Majora Carter are helping us to open our eyes to a real picture of an endangered environment multiplied over and over again in major cities throughout the world. Were you aware that more pollution - about 70% of the total - eminates from BUILDINGS in New York city.... not the cabs or cars!

The environment is everyones responsibility. Global warming, noise, water and air pollution is everyone's responsibility. We are only loaned this earth for a time - the earthly time we spend here. As stewards of this 'our island home', what can we do??? It will take muscle power and legislative power and prayer power and money power...... and, by all means, the power of God to help us keep focused on the true picture, not one printed in newspapers for shock value.

If you have the time, consider attending this retreat at Trinity's beautiful conference center in Cornwall, CT. The speakers will be Majora Carter and the Farm's inimitable Rev. Barbara C. Crafton. I will be there too pitching in with the liturgies and(with Barbara) available for one-on-ones during free time.

For more information, go to the graphic on the home page of the Farm at I hope to see you there for prayer, thought, education and celebration.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pentecost 11(RCL): What Goes Around Comes Around

Teachers and preachers, feel free to borrow or excerpt any of the meditation below with a simple attribution. No further permission required.

Amos 8:1-12 and Psalm 52orGenesis 18:1-10a and Psalm 15, Luke 10:38-42

I read both lectionaries before preparing something to post here on MOLC.... and, shock of shocks, for the first time the Old Testament readings for both RCL and BCP lectionary are similar, which is rather nice. It underlines the theme. My Martha and Mary interpretation fits in as well.

The readings from Amos and Genesis deal with... how we deal with others. Each spell out very plainly that our behavior speaks loudly indeed in our relationship with God. In Amos God 'shows' Amos a basket of summer fruit - the summer fruit of that region. It can't hurt us to picture for ourselves how beautiful a basket of summer fruit: late peaches and strawberries, dark black cherries, tomatoes in many shapes and sizes, mouthwatering ripe pears, bananas.....mmmmmmmmmmm,good.

Yet the purpose of showing Amos this baskets of delights was in essence to say 'Take a good look because, like these good gifts, my favor and blessing will be taken away from my chosen people, Israel'. You will reap what you have sewn. You have taken my favor, kindness and love lightly, for granted. You have not kept your side of the covenants I made with you.

You've been greedy, neglecting the poor and needy, buying slaves for the cheapest price, shortchanging those in the marketplace by fixing the scales and selling the byproducts of your crops to others. For these sins against your brothers and sisters, I will make myself scarce as well. You will hunger for my words and wisdom, longing for the vitality that I alone can give you. You will be treated the way you have treated others.
Psalm 52 bolsters God's argument: you relied on your own riches and weath, derived underhandedly. You have abandoned evil for good.

This is contrasted by the story of the appearance of the 3 strange men to Abraham. He and his wife Sarah went out of their way to be hospitable to these strangers. Abraham gave them the best he had, was trying to follow the narrow path of righteousness. In turn, one of the strangers promised what seemed the impossible: that Abraham and Sarah would have their own child - despite the obvious age barrier. Psalm 15 gives us examples of the ways of behavior and life that glorify God: honesty, integrity, going good to the less fortunate, avoiding evil, embracing truth and rejecting slander, keeping promises, not taking bribes.

So far we are being given a refresher course on what - and what not - to do in order to have a good, open relationship with God.

Let's now head to Martha and Mary. This has always been a tricky one. Somehow, after going through the above readings it didn't seem so complex a situation - and Jesus' response seems far less cryptic.

First: who invited Jesus into the home??? Martha did. She had to have known if things were in order or not. There is clearly an established family dynamic in play here. However, instead of excusing Mary for a minute and asking for some help (which she had probably done in the past with little success) she tries to pull out the big guns - asking (quite inappropriately) the guest of honor to "tell her then to help me".

Martha, a real type "A" personality wanted things done, done right and done now. You can almost picture her, can't you...... a first century Martha Stewart, expecting only the best, which would be 'a good thing'. Mary, less worried about the state of the house or the place settings, sat listening to Jesus. It's an age old story of personality differences -- and you don't get them resolved by some outsider coming in and cracking the whip. You don't encourage someone else to do what you want by belittling them in front of guests.

Jesus makes a quick assessment of the situation. "Martha, you are so worried about the domestic minutia that you are missing out on some great conversation and we are missing out on the pleasure of your company. Mary joined in with us. Relax a little - rather than taking Mary away, come and join the party".

There are times when we just can't see the forest for the trees.... when we can't see the bigger picture. Martha with some self-righteous indignation, thought she would teach Mary the lesson of her life through the great Rabbi. Instead, Martha got the lesson.

With any luck and a great deal of grace, we have learned some lessons as well. With God's help, we will slowly learn to apply these lessons to the way we treat others. It takes some time and a great Teacher. Thanks be to God we have the benefit of both! Now, THAT'S a good thing! Amen.

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Letters, anecdotes, prayers, photos, songs: we welcome one and all!

During my last 2 years in High School I had a drama teacher, Mr. Kutchner. He wrote, taught, directed.... but in his heart of hearts he was "an AC - T O R"... and a pretty good one at that.

One of his oft' used lines was:...'unaccustomed as I am to public speaking.....' and he would launch into something poetic while others moaned, rolled their eyes or chuckled discreetly.

More or Less Church is here - not solely as a vehicle for my musings, descriptions, opinions, sermons, prayers or songs, but ALSO for you to send in things that would be of interest and use to the thousands of farmers who utilize the resources of the farm on a daily or near daily basis. Most of you check in here for one of Barbara's e-Mos, or the serendipitous mixed bag that is Debbie S. Loeb's HODGEPODGE or Carol Stones insightful revelations on the complex (and often convoluted) language of finance-ese in WAYS OF THE WORLD, making it possible for us non-CPA types to understand important aspects of personal and global financial planning.

When it comes to More or Less Church, 'though, I am sending out the invitation for you to write to me if you have either a question regarding liturgics or ways to modify your parish liturgy; if you have a pastoral question or situation - personal or parish wise; if you are dealing with a long-term illness or the illness of a loved one. This is a place to come with questions or struggles or joys or celebrations.

Mail sent to me here: will be treated with the utmost of care and confidentiality. If I don't have the answers (and I DON'T have them all) I will seek out one of my spiritual direction colleagues who may give me pointers in how you might approach the task/duty/obligation/obstacle before you.

The Geranium Farm bills itself as "down-to-earth support for living" and we want to provide that in any number of ways in any number of forums.

Dusting off an old AT&T (when 'she' was still referred to as Ma Bell) ad, "Reach out and Touch Someone" we want you to know that this is a place where compassion and empathy are grown and nurtured. That our own faith has bolstered each one of us for the individual challenges, defeats, triumphs and obstacles we have had and will have to face. You can reach out to us here. This is a growing community and it would help if, in many ways, we could know each other better. Those who write/post here hang part of our lives or expertise out there for all of you to see and share. We'd like some input from you as well - feedback on things that inspired, annoyed, provoked, consoled you. We'd also like to hear from you by way of you sending things here to share with us and the rest of the Farm's ever expanding virtual community.

No Christian, by definition, functions alone. We live to help, assist, support and be supported by others within the context of community. With God's grace, we will do our level best to address those issues - public and private - you bring to our attention. Your anonymity will be preserved, unless you expressly allow the topic you bring up to be a matter for discussion.

I've always wanted to put out in print... that you have comrades in prayer here. This is simply to state plainly what I have believed to be true all along, in every aspect of the mission statement of the Farm.

So........ without further fanfare, PLEASE feel welcomed to share your talents here with us - and to turn here as a resourse in growth and living - even when you hit a speed bump or two (and we ALL have). We're open for business 24/7. If I can't get back to you right away, I'll let you know. ALL ARE WELCOME HERE !!!

p.s. a couple of people posted lovely comments on "..... make their life together....." entry I wrote just over a week ago. You either put your name or your initials and I would be more than happy to send you a personal note for your lovely compliments..... if could you kindly send your e-mails directly to me: and I will gladly write to you directly. With thanks and affection, DJ.

..the poor will be with you always.......

I am, of course, taking this section of a saying of Jesus out of context...... and with good reason.

During the summer months, when we are away vacationing here or there, when we are not necessarily attending our own parish church regularly and most of the programs that are run by or through the church are suspended temporarily, it is important to remember.....'the poor will be with you always'.

We may have the inclination, time and money to visit the Grand Canyon, Martha's Vineyard or Disney World. The poor - those who depend on the generosity of others through food pantries and feeding programs - do not have that luxury. Despite their food stamps and jobs they can find to do, there more often than not is more month left over at the end of their money.

If your parish, village or county has a food program, remember them during the summer months. Call up a pantry or a feeding program to see if they need supplies or food stuffs: cleaning supplies, diapers, paper products, salt and pepper, mustard, ketchup, tuna fish, peanut butter and jelly, franks and beans - what ever you can get together. Think about dropping them off in person or - perhaps in the cooler part of a sultry Saturday afternoon - after the pool or the park or the BBQ, see if someone can use your extras or whether you can form an assembly line with some neighbors to make some sandwiches and get some bottled water from a local 'warehouse' store to deliver to the soup kitchen or consider volunteering after the early service by handing out food or busing tables or cleaning up afterward.

The vitality of our prayerlife will show through in these acts of mercy to people with fewer choices and far fewer luxuries.


For that matter, your parish may continue to participate through the summer months not only in contributions toward soup kitchens and pantries, but - like any household - the bills for lights, phone, electricity, regular or supply clergy keep rolling on in. Consider sending in your pledge for the summer months early or just make a little extra donation to the church to keep the books in the black!.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Yes, Virginia, there is....

Virginia Woof (the pun was intended and came with the puppy) came to stay with me this past Friday evening and she is due back home today.

I gleaned from her owner that she's about 17. While she can and does still prance with some grace and elegance when she is on a roll, she shows her arthritic age when she moves slowly about. My Emmy Lou cannot quite understand who this larger grayish being in the house is.

Poor Virginia is hard of hearing and is not aware of standard hand commands for a deaf dog.... so she is often betwixt and between wondering where she is and where her territory begins and ends.

This must be what a parent goes through when they have two types of children..... one more boisterous and the other laid banck anddd subdued. One ready to play at any moment, the other that is more discriminating on the expenditure of energy.

The major difference between Virginia and Emmy Lou is in their eating habits. It is Virginia's habit, in her laid back smaller environment to graze during the day. The dry food sits in a bowl and waits in expectancy for a visit from her. No such thing for Emmy's bowl which is(on its own inanimate level, of course) fully aware of the fact that once it has touched the floor, it will eagerly set upon, emptied, and its contents probably 1/2 way to Em's digestive system - like Elvis - has left the building. Emmy eats, goes to the back door and immediately eliminates whatever came before the last deposit in her stomach.

Virginia crunches a few bits and wanders into another room to relax. She may settle down for a long nap before giving any indication it's time to go out..... and it's not quite as obvious as Emmy's move and stare. Virginia will instead yawn or give a kind of a whimper.

Today Virginia goes back home. I will have the pleasure of seeing her again soon - and with some familiar sights and sounds in her memory, it won't be as disorienting next time. Yes, Virginia, there is your Mommy and she will be very happy to see you once again, no worse for wear.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pente.Proper 10(RCL) Hi there, neighbor!

As usual, teachers and preachers can 'borrow' any of this material with an accreditation. No further permission needed.

Amos 7:7-17 and Psalm 82, Colossians 1:1-14, Luke 10:25-37

This Sunday is occasionally referred to as "Good Samaritan" Sunday. The reason for the title may be very obvious to some, but it has always confused me.

First off, we don't start off with the parable in the first place. We start off with an exchange between Jesus and 'a lawyer' (did he specialize in civil law? Roman law? Jewish LAW?). One may be led to believe he was and adept student of Jewish LAW - and, in Luke's telling of the tale, stood up to test Jesus. It wasn't much of a test. The lawyer asked a question and Jesus referred the question back. Of course, the lawyer knew the answer and he, with pride, recited the Law. Jesus commended him on his knowledge of the Law and said by doing this he would live (spiritually). Now, as if either to draw more attention to himself or to pudh Jesus into a corner he asks a technically loaded question: And who is my neighbor? Even in those days, everyone had neighbors. In hamlet, village and bustling Jerusalem, everyone had neighbors. Like it or not, a Jew may have lived near where a Roman blacksmith, assigned to the army, had a shop. However, in Jewish law there were people who lived next to you, but due to their non-compliance with the man-made minutia in Leviticus were unclean and not to be associated with in any way.

The Lawyer was setting up a question of Leviticus's Laws (unspoken, of course): Were those - other than my own kind, Jews - or those living under the roof of a Jew, my neighbor? Were lepers my neighbors? Romans? Were Samaritans.... the lowest of the low, a people who - if any observant Jew came in contact with them - made them unclean for days and days and then subject to prescribed cleansing rituals.

So this could be the story of the sly lawyer. If we examine the parable that Jesus relays, who is the main character? The character upon whom the robbers descend, the observant Jews pass up and the Samaritan takes pity is..... the poor soul who gets robbed, beaten and left for dead. Is it called the parable of the guy who got mugged?

No, it is the parable of the "good" (as opposed to all the bad ones??? why not compassionate) Samaritan. These people's center of worship was not in Jerusalem. Make no mistake about it... the Samaritans shunned the Jews as much as the Jews avoided the Samaritans. What makes this story broader, more inclusive and - in the strictest sense - more Christian is the fact that the heart of this man was filled with pity and compassion on someone who was defenseless, helpless, crushed and rejected. With the deep kindness shown by one ostracized stranger to another, the definition of neighbor was blown wide open. Anyone is my neighbor.

Jesus has taught the lawyer a thing or two. And then turned the question back to the lawyer: In this story, WHO acted like the neighbor- who showed kindness this human being? The lawyer, ever vigilant and mindful that if he was testing Jesus someone else was also there to report the exchange by to those in the Temple's administration could not even utter the word Samaritan. Politically savy, he used non prejudicial language by replying: 'The one who showed him mercy'. The lawyer was right once again and is challenged a second time by Jesus to go and do likewise.

Our neighbors are everywhere - be they Democrat or Republican, Jew or Muslim, imprisoned or impaired in any way. They are across the fence and across the world. They are family because they too are children of the living God.

Whether by good words or deeds this week, seek the face of Christ in all people and the will of Christ in your life. Learn the name of the guy that sits 5 rows in back of you. Strike up a correspondence with someone in the armed services, pray for the peace of Jerusalem and Darfur and Lebanon and Iraq and Ireland and Liberia and the Sudan and the Hatfields and the McCoys. Pray for peace in your own extended families, community, nation, the church universal, all faiths and creeds. Make it a point of including them in your life. After all, it's just one big neighborhood separated by a few big ponds. During the Peace today, say Hi to your neighbors, both here and everywhere that God is present. The Peace of the Lord be with us all the world over!

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

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