31 August 2006

An IMperfect storm

We had a member of the congregation pass away on Wednesday in the early morning hours. He had struggled mightily for a long, long time tended by a very weary wife. We are all thankful he is Home and no longer in pain.
Having said that, I will now become an insensitive cretin and say that this did not exactly come at a convenient time for me. (FYI, lest you think me a real creep, there's a wedding in his family the day of his funeral and his family and I were all laughing about how this guy seemed to know when the most difficult time for everyone was and always got sick or fell or something right when everyone else needed to put attention elsewhere.)
ANYWAY, things have gotten incredibly busy here. Dennis started a hellish class schedule last week and had his first paper, worth 20% of his grade, due today. I hired a new secretary at church last month and so this is her first time doing the newsletter and since she was trying to be fancy, the whole thing got all messed up. I've had meetings all week and have been trying to do fall planning and don't have a sermon yet for Sunday and now have a newsletter, bulletin, sermon and funeral all to get to done by Saturday evening.
So. I've been feeling pretty sorry for myself and whining about how this was The Perfect Storm -- all things converging to make this week extremely unliveable.
HOWEVER, perhaps only a pastor can appreciate this, but I realized that The Perfect Storm, is not, in fact this week, but would be if all of this happened the week before Christmas when Dennis has finals AND papers due and there are TWO services and three bulletins and a newsletter to get out as well as sermons for the most crucial days of the year, a choir cantata to pull off, presents to wrap and cookies to bake. THAT would be The PERFECT Storm.
In comparison, this is a little rain shower.

30 August 2006

Overheard tonight

Speaking of Queen Elizabeth I...
....England's power was never greater and British actresses always had a role to play when they got to a certain age. ~Marge Simpson

28 August 2006

Does What Would Jesus Do apply to you, too?

I've got a question for those of you who are in the more conservative camp? When you read scripture, especially in the epistles, do you apply it against the actions and words of Jesus? I guess I'm asking, do you ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?" or does it matter?
I'm wondering this because I think there is a tendency in the liberal mainline tradition to do this, at least where I come from, especially when thinking critically about passages of contention or contrary messages, i.e. passages on the authority of women to teach.
I think my people tend to look to Jesus as the big authority and sometimes disregard Paul as lesser spokesperson, whereas I see a lot of conservative church practice and policy based pretty strongly on Paul and less so on Jesus in these points of contention.
I know it's more complex than this, but am I misreading this? Or is this the way it really is?

Ooooph... that hurts...

From an interesting and very personally resonant article in the New York Times...
For the most part, congregations want a young married man with children, according to research Ms. Lummis conducted in 2001. “The whole demographic image of a pastor had not changed much since the 1950’s,” she said.

Smaller, poorer congregations will hire a woman, but often, only grudgingly, clergy members said.

“When we met with the search committee in Louisville, people on it said to me, ‘We really didn’t want a woman, because we know that we’re dying when we get a woman,’” the Rev. Lucia Oerter said of her experience at John Knox Presbyterian in Louisville three and half years ago.

Ugh. Not sure if anyone would admit it here, but I'd say this feeling is probably pretty close to the surface in Rock Falls, IL, too...

26 August 2006

What God calls a girl to be

Recently, we've been having an interesting conversation at the Choosing Home Forums about the role of women in the church, which is complimentary to a conversation carried on that the CH Blog a month ago or so.
What I think is really interesting in these discussions is the idea that seemed to be simmering beneath the surface that God creates women to be wives and/ or mothers and that one of the primary reasons women should not be in church leadership is because women with families are not fulfilling or are compromising their primary role to their families.
This is interesting to me because I think I have always assumed that what God has created us to be first and foremost is servants of Him, not our families, regardless of how noble that idea actually is. The idea that women should only be wives and mothers, is to me, as ridiculous as saying that women should only be attorneys and police detectives.
It is true that the calling to ordained leadership is one of sacrifice and often one of sacrifice borne by the family of the one called. But the calling of helpmeet and mother is one of sacrifice, too, and the family of the one called bears the sacrifices therein, regardless of whether the sacrifices are as obvious as Daddy having to put the Bug to bed because Momma's at a meeting. I would love to stay home with my kids, but I also know that if I get that chance, my poor husband and children are going to have to deal with a wife learning to handle restlessness, seeking ways to engage her brain, and longing for friendship and adult human interaction. And I know that if that's where God wants me to be, we'll figure out a way to deal with it, just like we figure out ways to deal with meetings and hospital calls and funerals.
Isn't all calling, when it comes down to it, about dying to self? Yes, being a pastor means that I have to balance the time I spend online blogging, with the time I spend on the floor playing, with the time I spend researching a sermon, with the time I spend calling my peeps. I often fail at dying to self, but I'm fairly certain that I'll always struggle with it. Because if I am following my God-chosen path whether in motherhood or ministry, won't that always mean I am giving up something ?
Edit to add: Molly actually JUST posted on an aspect of being a faithful woman at her blog. Check it out.

My varied reading material

A couple of months ago, I subscribed to three journals using my book and journal allowance (one of the true perks of being a pastor!) -- Christian Century, Sojourners, and Christianity Today. I got Christian Century because I need to read it, not only to keep up with my colleagues, but also to hear the voice of my religious tradition in a thoughtful, well-edited format. I got Sojourners because I thought it would cause me to think and I got Christianity Today, expecting to agree with hardly any of it, but again, knowing that I need to hear/ read the stuff therein.
What has surprised me is that while I enjoy Christian Century, and Sojourners just ticks me off with its earnestness (is that a word?) the thing I really look forward to reading is Christianity Today.
I don't know if it's because Christianity Today is a voice I don't usually hear so it's interesting to be exposed to it, or whether it's becuase Christianity Today is really, really good at writing engaging articles, or whether it's because the format is really very similar to the news magazines I have always loved, but I have really enjoyed this magazine!
I am also surprised at how much I actually agree with what is said/ written. Perhaps this is because I hang out with the evangelicals online or because I'm learning to read for what I can learn from something, rather than what I can prove to something. Whatever it is, I like it.
I have some colleagues who have been shocked/ borderline- disgusted that I have considered fraternizing with "the others" in this regard (i.e. reading and paying for! their publications). These are the same colleagues who generally launch into loud rants about what "they" do or do not believe/ practice as contrasted with whatever "we" do or do not believe/ practice, which is, of course, far superior. Interestingly, these same colleagues apparently refuse to expose themselves to "their" writings, so I'm not quite sure how these folks have figured out what "they" believe, but y'know... I'm sure they're justified somehow... or not.
ANYWAY, it has been a JOY, an absolute and complete JOY to become informed. I feel like the world is much bigger now and I'm really quite enthralled by how much I don't know. Perhaps I'm getting ready to shake the dust off of Fowler's Fourth. Or perhaps I've still a long way to go...

24 August 2006

Intentional consciousness

Please click here to read about this wonderful idea.

Dennis and I are seriously considering taking part, though we're not sure we'll do all 30 days. I think Tonia's come up with a brilliant way to stand in solidarity with those whom we affluent Christians are all too eager to ignore. This has been on my heart for a while. I'm pleased to begin thinking about doing something constructive with these concerns.

Unpublished symptom of motherhood: Increased sensitivity to darkness

I remember being about five months pregnant with Annalivia when the sensitivity to darkness hit me hard. We had gotten a subscription to Time Magazine with an order of maternity clothes, of all things, and as one who actually enjoys knowing what is going on in the world, I read the first issue pretty voraciously. Skip ahead five hours and you would have found me huddled in bed, sobbing, trying not to let Dennis hear my tears for the child of a murdered mother, the story of whom was detailed in the issue.
I thought it was just hormonal surges for the next three months that had me asking Dennis as he began a tale of current events, "Does this story end well?" before he was allowed to continue, turning off the radio at the sound of any report from the middle East, and avoiding the television after 8 p.m. just in case I stumbled into one of those forensic science or special victims unit shows.
What truly surprised me was that post-partum motherhood, if anything, only made the sensitivity greater. Having actually nurtured another body and shielded another little spirit within my own, it was difficult to hear tales of any human suffering. I remember telling my mother in the first weeks after Annalivia's birth that I didn't understand how women could become mothers and not believe in God; surely if anything turns one to prayer, it is facing the prospect of raising one's children in this broken world.
Since then I've decided that motherhood is not only a breaking apart of one's body to bear another into this world, it is a breaking apart of one's heart to allow others into one's own world. As mothers our lives are not our own and, for the most part, that's a good thing. But it is also difficult. Part of our hearts are always walking around about six feet or six hours or six days from us in the children we love. One can't guard one's heart as well, when one has given it to another. And it is much harder to see others' hearts as expendible when one recognizes another as someone's child and therefore a keeper of someone else's heart.
So as the unavoidable info about the Jon Benet case is published amidst stories of burials for six-month olds in Lebanon and news of the struggles of dear friends dealing with the loss of their little one, I find my heart full and often breaking with this news of darkness. Sometimes it is a struggle to fill the cracks with luminescence again. But then I find myself clinging to my daughter, pressing kisses into her temple, breathing in her scent and letting the sound of her fill my ears. And I pray for the Light to surround us all ... and soon.
"I saw Eternity the other night
Like a great Ring of pure and endless light,
All calm as it was bright ;"
~ from The World by Henry Vaughn

23 August 2006

Hilarious Homer

"The Rapture is nigh, Marge, and these books will help me figure out just how nigh. Let's see here, I just need to do some calculations...
404 verses in Revelation
times the number of people at the Last Supper....
....minus the number of Filipinos in the Bible..."

22 August 2006

Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree

Today on our way back from Peoria, with a very punky daughter in tow, I stopped at Tanners' Apple Orchard. We were not there to get apples or even peaches. We just needed a place to stop and I remembered that they have goats and Annalivia would be excited by that.
Turns out that the apple orchard has apples! Go figure. They apparently ship them in from someplace that is already harvesting apples. (Where would that be?) One of the other great things about Tanners', aside from the goats, is that they have samples of their wares out for general consumption, so Annalivia and I ate some very crisp, very tart apples slices.
In the process of seeing goats and wandering around the orchard, we happened to get a really good look at an apple tree coming into fruition. I don't actually think I've been near a gorgeous orchard apple for a long time -- since I was a kid, probably. I looked up into these branches, absolutely laden with beautiful fruit, fecund with its offering that is on the precipice of ripeness and I thought about this lovely early American hymn...

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Edit to add: Listen to a setting by Elizabeth Poston here. This is performed by Nova Singers, an amazing group of professional singers in Galesburg, IL with whom I was priveleged to sing for two seasons!

21 August 2006

One of the million reasons I love my husband

Last weekend the three of us went for a little drive on Sunday evening. My husband works for Woods Equipment Company and designs and engineers industrial cutters (read "big lawn mowers" for fellow laypeople.) He is also, essentially, a farm boy with a love of tractors and combines and planters and all sorts of things with names I don't really understand.
All of this means that whenever we go someplace where there is an implement dealer, we take a detour through their lots. We drive around and Dennis says things like, "Oh, they've got a Kabutosan R2D2C3PO!" And I nod.
One of our local implement dealers just happens to be next door to the local Super Walmart, so when we go out there Dennis asks, "Mind if I drive through Peabudy's?" So we do. This particular day, we went through Peabudy's and suddenly Dennis stopped the car. They happened to have a competitor's version of something that he is working on and so he jumped out and started fiddling with things on this massive cutter, then came back and asked for a piece of paper and wrote down a bunch of chicken scratches that meant nothing to me.
The whole time I watched him and my heart was just so full of love for him. I love that Dennis knows how to do stuff that I just completely and totally don't understand. I really wish I did because the poor man is never able to talk about his work or his interests with me. I can try to understand, but even if I went to school for a hundred years, I wouldn't be able to comprehend what he can comprehend. He sees the world differently than I do. He sees cause and effect, pieces and parts that fit together to make a whole. And because of that he can understand literally everything.
He's also able to do everything. There's nothing I do that he can't do. Well, except childbearing and breastfeeding, but only because he's not anatomically equipped. Otherwise, I'm sure he'd do a fine job. He doesn't cook, but he could and does when he has instructions to follow and then he does it far better than I. He doesn't like to write, but he certainly could. He could preach every Sunday, if he wanted to do so. He parents with more patience and attention than I. He's just remarkable.
The thing is, I'm not jealous about this. If anything, I love him more for it. I can do what I can do. Not so with Dennis. He can do whatever he wants to do. It's neat to know someone with infinite possibilities -- even neater to be married to and loved by them. If left solely to my own devices, I never would have chosen to be this man's partner for the rest of our lives. He's so much better than me and I've never really appreciated a challenge! But, thankfully, God is much bigger than this girl's imagination.
And so here we are -- me nodding, him figuring out calculus in his head. And I love it.

19 August 2006


Today I am at my parent's house in Eureka. I came in last night, actually, to participate in a wedding rehearsal. One of the girls who was in my youth group back in Kentucky is getting married today and I'm reading I Corinthians 13 in her wedding. It's neat to be a part of it.
What's not so neat is that I have left my daughter at home. She's with Daddy today and they are getting along great, of course. They love to be together and Dennis is such a good father.
But, I've realized that it is counter to every instinct as a mother to get into a car and leave your child two hours behind you. I know that it probably gets easier over time, but I'd imagine that it's always a process of leaving behind a little part of you when you leave your child. I mean, jeez, going to the grocery store is sometimes hard enough. Overnight... well, it's just not natural.
What this time does afford is a chance to gain a little perspective. I am incredibly blessed to be able to be with Annalivia so much of the time. It is not a blessing that has come without sacrifices, but goodness, are those sacrifices ever worth it! I have friends who send their children to daycare every day. They wake up at 7 and take their children to daycare by 9 and pick them up at 4 and put them to bed by 8. They get to parent their children for about 6 hours a day, if they're really lucky. And for the most part, this pleases them.
Not me. I knew when I was carrying Annalivia that THAT would not work for me. I love that I get multi-hour interruptions to sermon work, that I get to take crayon breaks, that I know when she is mad or frustrated or bored, that I can help change all those moods by playing with her or reading to her or tickling her.
But I don't always remember this. And I need to. I am one incredibly blessed woman. And I'm thankful.

17 August 2006

Some crazy videos

Wanna hear possibly the most catchy, and hence, annoying!! song in the world. Click here.
*muttering* stupid song was going through my head literally EVERYTIME I woke up last night... hmph.

Wanna see some folks who are more coordinated that I could ever dream? Click here.

16 August 2006

The gap

Between the probable and proved there yawns
A gap. Afraid to jump, we stand absurd,
Then see behind us sink the ground and, worse,
Our very standpoint crumbling. Desperate dawns
Our only hope: to leap into the Word
That opens up the shuttered universe.

~ from A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

Liturgical liberals de l'heure

Yeah, that was the only way I could get in the alliteration.
ANYWAY, liturgical friends, rejoice! I know most of us have known about Phyllis Tickle for a while, but did you know that you can get the Divine Hours on the computer?
I have set it up as my homepage, as per a recommendation from Ann V. of Holy Experience of Listening at Tonia's site.
These great links were introduced at brilliant Molly's blog. Poor Molly is enduring a bit of a scraping of her outer skin because of this recommendation. If you don't agree with the philosophy/ theology present in the rest of the site, please don't disregard the value of praying the Hours. This discipline has been practiced for centuries. Personally, I think there's a bit of wisdom in the tested and true. See what you think.

15 August 2006

The nakey everything bandit

Annalivia learned how to take her diaper off today. It was pretty hilarious -- she'd disappear and I'd hear a thunk and she'd reappear completely naked. This happened three times before I finally put on clothes she couldn't remove.
The thunk was from her throwing it down the basement stairs. Our basement doesn't have a door, just a safety gate. Tonight she has been throwing other things down the stairs. Crayons, canned goods, books, pillows. Fun times at Casa McStew.

As parsonages go...

ours is really quite nice. We live about a mile from the church in a different neighborhood in town and we really do have a lovely backyard complete with two apple trees (though one got split by the last big storm). My mother brought the first improvement after I moved in-- she put in flowers the first spring I was here and bulbs that first autumn. The summer after our first anniversary, my beloved husband built a lovely deck onto the existing cement slab that has made all the difference to our enjoyment of the space. We've added inexpensive patio furniture and a grill over the years (and a whole bunch of weeds in mom's garden, sadly).
Here's the view from our deck.
Today was beautiful and Annalivia and I spent the afternoon in the backyard. Dennis brought in a slide from his mom's house in the country. At first, Annalivia was befuddled by it, but she figured it out and spent almost an hour sliding down and clapping, then running around to slide down again. This photo is of a very pleased little girl.
With the wonders of wireless broadband, I spent the time on my laptop working on church planning.
This weather is such an incredible blessing! Is anyone else just wanting to loll about soaking up every moment of it?

13 August 2006

Mid-day munching dilemma

For some reason, I am not good at making lunch. I don't know why. It's not that I can't make a good lunch. I can and VERY occasionally, I do. But most of the time when mid-day arrives and a hungry Little Bug starts squirming for something to eat we do one of three things: go get something someone else has made at some restaurant/ fast food place, heat up leftovers from the night before, or scavenge around eating little snippets of cheese and crackers and fruit and whatever salads we have on hand until we aren't hungry any more.
Hence, I am looking forward to all the great ideas people will post this week at the Choosing Home blog. And to help myself to feel a little better about stealing all the ideas I will find therein, I'm contributing some recipes we use on any given more-organized week around here. Since it is fresh produce time, I have been hungry for salads. These I can make a couple nights before and have on hand. Some require some chopping, or using a mini food processor, but most are pretty easy. So... here are some favorite salad recipes.

Three Bean Salad
1 can kidney beans
1 can great northern beans
1 small package frozen green beans, thawed
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar (I use raw apple cider vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 onion, very finely chopped, optional

Drain and rinse beans and combine in large bowl. In small bowl, combine vinegar and oil and salt and pepper. Pour over bean mix and combine with onion, if using. Let sit for at least 1/2 hour.
This is an incredibly easy and incredibly cheap salad and you can use any different mix of beans
-- lima, black, butter, in addition to fresh green beans that have been steamed a little.

Panzanella (Tomato and Bread Salad)
1 loaf stale or toasted Italian bread
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T red wine or balsamic vinegar
4 cups ripe tomatoes, cut into pieces
2/3 cup red or vidalia onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into long thin strips (roll up leaves stacked up to cut easier)
fresh mozzarella, cut into slices
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Soak the onions in a small bowl with cold water and 1 teaspoon salt for an hour, then drain on paper towel.
Cover bread with cold water and soak for about ten minutes. Squeeze out as much water as possible. Crumble the bread into large pieces into a large serving bowl.
Add the tomatoes, onion and basil.
Drizzle on the olive oil and the vinegar. Add more olive oil and vinegar, to taste, if you'd like.
Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper.
Toss well. Add the mozzarella, if using, around the edge of the bowl.
Garnish with more whole basil leaves.

Spinach Salad
about 1 quart fresh spinach, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped very fine
2 hardboiled eggs, chopped
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
8 slices cooked, crumbled bacon

1/4 c. vinegar
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
2 t. cornstarch
grease from bacon

Heat dressing, stirring frequently.
Pour over greens and add remaining ingredients. Serve warm.

Layered Salad
Shredded lettuce
5-6 hard boiled eggs
1 bag frozen peas, thawed and drained
1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 cups mayo mixed with 1/4 cup sugar
2 cups cheddar cheese
Layer in a nice glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight.

Note: The following salads all use my grandmother's mayo mix, which is 2 parts mayo to a 1 part of miracle whip. If you are not a friend of miracle whip, try using another part of mayo mixed with a teaspoon or two of apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon or two of sugar.

Grammy's Tuna Salad
2 cans tuna, drained
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 hardboiled eggs, diced
1 1/2 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
2 stalks celery, chopped, optional
mayo mix (see above)

Combine all the ingredients. Chill. Eat.
I don't have specifics for the dressing mix because every family likes their tuna a little less or more wet than others. Also, even if you hate sweet pickles, try the sweet pickle relish. I detest sweet pickles, but the sweet pickle relish gives this a great flavor.

Easy Peasy Tuna Pea Salad
1 small box small pasta shell
1 can tuna, drained
1 package frozen green peas, thawed (or use fresh)
1 small onion chopped
mayo mix (see above)
salt and fresh pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to directions and drain. Add drained tuna, frozen peas, and onion. Add enough mayo to make it slightly dry and then add apple cider vinegar to start (start with less than a tablespoon and add a teaspoon of sugar -- you just want a hint of sweetness).

Crab and Cabbage Salad
1 package frozen imitation crab legs, thawed and cut into pieces
1 package prepared coleslaw mix (OR one head cabbage, shredded)
1 small onion, chopped, finely
mayo mix (see above)
salt and fresh pepper to taste

Mix. Eat.

12 August 2006

Blessed restoration

Doesn't my title sound like some sort of early 18th century hymn?
Actually it refers to the fact that FINALLY in week 13 some of my energy/ interest in anything other than lounging about is returning to me!
I think I've been helped considerably by the weather which is GORGEOUS!! It has just enough foretaste of autumn to be truly, tantalizingly invigorating in some basic ways.
Today I actually thought about making dinner, but not in the oh-my-Lord-why-do-we-have-to-eat-daily? sort of way I've been thinking about it the last 3 months, but instead in the I-think-I'll-make-dinner sort of way! And sitting out on our deck this evening, I realized that we need to do some work out there so that we can enjoy this late summer/ early fall outside in fresh air as opposed to on the couch as per the last 12 weeks. So Dennis and I have made plans to actually do a little physical labor as opposed to just him doing the physical labor as I recline on the aforementioned couch.
Thank GOD for this restoration, no matter how brief!! I was beginning to think slugdom was going to be a semi-permanent way of life. Glad to see that's not the case!

11 August 2006

More thoughts on motherhood

"If you aspire to be a mother, you aspire to a job without pay that is harder than any job you'll be paid for. It's a job with no time off, only time away. [D0] not have children to derive anything from them—not love or joy or fun or a legacy. It is possible that any or all of these may come, but there will be long stretches when little fulfillment is in sight."

"I did not know when we started our family... that each birth would deliver into my arms an immeasurable weight of vulnerability and terror, but I guessed that parenting would bring a profligate, extravagant, others-centered life. As it has. But there has been a kind of death involved, make no mistake. 'Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed,' Jesus taught. 'But if it dies, it produces many seeds.' My ambitious dying life is far from over."
From the article The Case For Kids by Leslie Leland Fields in Christianity Today.

To me, this is the crux of the problem with our modern understanding of motherhood. There seems to be an expectation that one need not give up anything. That children exist to reward us. That we can remain self-focused and self-interested and still be good parents.
I am ashamed to admit that I still struggle to die to self. Through prayer and the mighty acts of God on my heart, I occasionally see glimpses of the seed bearing fruit that nourishes and sustains others. It is SO hard, but even those brief snippets I've seen -- oh my goodness, is it ever GOOD!!

The way a family might be

My friends from "that" side of the religious spectrum will probably have already seen this link at Molly's place, but for those who haven't, here is a great article. I personally, radical crazy fool that I am, think that it's especially important for people on "this" side of the religious spectrum to consider these ideas. No conversion necessary, but read with an open mind, and I guarantee you'll find this article at least pretty provocative.
Reading it and thinking about the way the family is portrayed in our media nowadays reminded me of why I loved Madeline L'Engle growing up. The families of her heroes and heroines were 4-8 children families where siblings respected each other and also made mistakes, argued, and hurt each other. Parents were a team, an imperfect team sometimes, but a team. The table was always a central setting in her stories. Even recognizing that she wrote fiction, I remember wanting all that then. I still want that now.
But, jeez, try to explain this to some of my friends and you'd think I've suggested the possibility of moving to Lebanon. (Actually, that might be more accepted, especially if I went with a peace banner!) The idea of foresaking a brand new minivan and the possiblity of family vacations at Disneyworld and embracing the likelihood of a creaky house, worn furniture and a very used car all of which will serve a happy family of people who love each other more than status or achievement is delusional and most certainly a waste of my extensive and expensive education. That or it's somehow something we are "lucky" to be able to consider because they simply "can't" sacrifice income or comfort.
Well, now I'm just ranting away. Anyway, don't let this deter you. Read the article. Let me know what you think, ok?

10 August 2006

Inane but fun quiz

Your French Name is:

Hortense Tremblay

Don't like the first name you get? Play again.

A brief rant

Dear fellow mainline "liberals" -- can we please, please, PLEASE quit implying that those on the "conservative" or "fundamental" side of Christianity are simple-minded, unintelligent, uninformed morons?
And dear evangelical "conservatives" -- can we please, please, PLEASE quit inferring that those on the "liberal" or "progressive" side of Christianity are weak-faithed, untested, unsaved relativists?
Faith is too important, too personal, too essential to keep doing this to each other! Enough already, ok?

05 August 2006

Too large a helping of Grace?

I know it's possible to have too much of a good thing. In fact, I think I could be a case study for said principle. But I've been wondering lately about the theology of Grace thanks to marvelous Molly's Grace vs. Law discussion over at her blog. Then brilliant Dawn began dissecting an article about homeschooling, part of which deals with legalism. And I've been reading some other articles and blogs, mostly written by evangelicals/ conservatives which deal with the prevalence of legalism in the evangelical mindset. Through all of these articles, I've realized that (warning: generalization to follow!) tending towards legalism is a problem the mainline church simply doesn't have. In fact, any wrestling with legalism that occurs in our churches is generally from marginalized voices from within who are calling for, well, laws to govern us and our behavior. We manage to squash this dissent, or at least talk louder, by pointing to the love of Jesus and the grace of God and the necessity for Spirit-led living.
But before we pat ourselves on the back and recline in smug self-satisfaction, I think we should examine the possibility that perhaps we have erred on the side of grace. Perhaps too much grace is also not a great thing.
Now I can already hear the roar of my liturgical-dance clad sisters and perhaps, brothers, as they wave their dowel-mounted ribbons and shake their heads in wounded indignation. Too much grace? How could such a thing be possible?
Well, I think however it is possible, we've managed to do it.
Here's how I came to this realization -- Dawn in her blog post mentioned the parable of The Prodigal Son and her past tendency to teach it from the perspective of it being about the wages of sin.
I ashamedly admit that I was shocked! I have never heard that parable taught or preached from that perspective. Literally every time I have heard it, read it, preached it, it has been from the perspective of the father who offers an unconditional and in fact, abundant, pardon. And though, I believe, that is the point of the parable, having skipped over the wages-o-sin aspect of it, I think I have had a much less full understanding of that parable.
Now you may think that I'm the only moron who has ever single-sidedly read this passage of scripture, but I would say in imagined defense of myself that I have studied this parable a lot. I have read it, prayed it, written on it, preached it. I know the offense brought by the son against the father in a historical context. I know the father's right to refuse the son. I know the bones of this parable, but I have to admit, before the last few days, I did not understand the spirit. I had not ever considered the utter failure of this son. I hadn't ever considered the wanton and brazen disregard and disrespect offered by the offending son. I hadn't, in short, ever truly considered the sin.
And, I would guess, there are lots of folks like me in the mainline church. I could be wrong. I am a lot of the time, after all. But my guess is that there are many of us who prefer to skip over sin and get right to grace. We prefer to skip over our fallibility and get to the part about pardon from God. We prefer to skip over our mortality and get to the part about immortality promised by Christ.
But, in doing so, I think we're doing ourselves a big disservice.
Don't get me wrong -- I don't think we need to go full-fledged into wallowing in our sinfulness, especially because our shortcomings can and do become a source of pride. There are plenty of enormous Calvary Fill-in-the-Blank Churches in the world.
No, I don't think God creates us to remain in the pig pen even a short while. But I think we do ourselves a disservice if we don't recognize that that is where we ought to be. We're the ones who have chosen a path other than what God creates us to be. The pigpen is what we deserve.
And here's the crux of the matter -- without realizing and really contemplating what we deserve, we can't fully understand what a gift it is to be elsewhere, namely safe in the arms of our Father.
And that's what Grace is really all about, right? Being safely at Home even though we should still be wandering.

03 August 2006


83 years young and a blessing to us all everyday. We're proud to be your progeny.

(Gramps is the handsome gray-haired gent in the middle!)

When hemmed in...

From The Message:
By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us - set us right with him, make us fit for him - we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand - out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary - we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! ~Romans 5:1-5

02 August 2006

Selfish worry of other shoes

I am so ashamed to admit it, but I am in a nervous funk lately.
I've been hearing about little ones who were born early and mothers and fathers learning to cope with grief rather than joy.
I feel like I'm holding my breath.
I don't know if it's because we had a close call with Annalivia. When I was 14 weeks pregnant with her, I had a hemorrhagea on the placenta. One moment I was fine. The next I was bleeding. The next sobbing. Three days later it stopped and after three weeks of bedrest, I was cleared for activity. And the rest of the pregnancy was relatively unremarkable except that we took nothing for granted.
I am now 12 weeks pregnant and perhaps it's just that looming mark of 14 weeks or perhaps the sympathy for others, but I am not breathing freely these days.
And I do know it is very selfish in the midst of others' pain to focus on hypotheticals.
Yet still I cower, half-waiting for the shoe to drop.