Sunday, December 5, 2010

Domestic Goodness

I love all the opportunity I have right now to exercise my inner Domestic Goddess.  Last night for dinner I made venison steaks (courtesy of my sister's BF) with "pan gravy" and potatoes.  It was super-good.  Maybe just a touch gamey, I think doing something with a marinade would probably help that.  And I need to learn how to get everything to be done at the same time!  But other than that, it was awesome.

I totally punted on the post-church lunch - tortilla chips and queso dip out of a jar.  But since I barely slept at all last night (seriously, maybe 2 hours), I didn't want to put too much effort into lunch.  Mostly I was waiting to sleep until the oil guy came to refuel my tank, since apparently last night I ran out....oops...

But then, tonight, I made hard candy for the first time.  I used this recipe for "Stained Glass Candy." Here's how it turned out:

I cracked it already, but then found that the center parts had quite set as well as I would like, so I put it back in the fridge.  I had a lot of fun doing this, and it tastes pretty good.  I chose green food coloring, and then tried to put a little dot of red on each piece, which didn't work out so well.  The red mostly just kind of set and gelled there, and it still kind of wipes off.  I want to get creative about how to get more than one color, to give it an actual "stained glass" look. Also, on the recipe site, it looks like some people used Kool-Aid mix instead of extract flavoring + food coloring, which I also really want to try.  I also took the advice of one person to "score" the candy as it was setting, so it cracks a little more predictably.  It only kind of worked, but I think I needed to be more "sincere" about my scoring efforts, and I think I can improve on the next batch!

In all, a very fun night!!

Why I Support DADT

I support "Don't ask don't tell" because I think that's how all of society should function.  The thing is, I don't care who you are or what your "preferences" are - personal information about sexual activity and associated topics are simply not a part of polite conversation.  I don't care if you're gay or straight, if you are having sex or not, or whatever else.  Frankly, I prefer not to know about it.  I'm not sure when this sort of very personal, private information became fodder for public conversation.  I don't share that sort of information about myself with you; please don't share yours with me.* 

Seriously, I understand DADT, and I think that it is - probably, maybe? - the best of a host of bad options.  But there are plenty of people who oppose it, who think that they have some sort of right to "be open" about "who they are."  Um, okay, I guess.  I suppose they do.  First Amendment and all.  But, what makes anyone think that anyone else wants to know?  I mean, seriously.  Those screaming the loudest in name of "tolerance" are often, it seems, the people doing the most to make themselves eminently intolerable in polite company. Seriously.  You want me to "tolerate" you - sure, I can do that.  But - and I say this with all sincerity - you could have the most chaste, perfect, loving, married, sexual relationship, and if you keep insisting on talking about it to me ad nauseaum, I'm going to find you intolerable. 

Also, and I want this to be totally clear: Heterosexual or homosexual: who you want to have sex with does not define "who you are."  No, indeed.  God defines who we all are.  And it goes so far beyond our "sexual preferences."  Please don't buy into the lie that sex is the most important thing in the world, and that it and it alone should be your primary point of self-reference.  No.  No, no, no.  Who did God make you to be?  What are the gifts He's given you?  What are the dreams He's planted in your heart?  Who are you, really?

Bottom line, I think sex is sacred, and the more we talk about it and turn it into a commodity and treat it with the same level of respect and dignity with which we order a pizza, the more we destroy that sacredness, and end up turning other humans into objects rather than lovers or beloved. 

*Of course, I grant exceptions for doctors' offices and even settings of close friendship.  Intimate friends share stories and information that is not shared elsewhere, and I think that's okay.  Even then, however, there comes a certan line of graphic depiction that need not be crossed, in order to protect the slightly squeamish among us.

Christmas Is...

Getting so busy with decorating and "real life" that you forget to blog.  Or are too tired to do so. 

Either way, I'm back, and excited that I have some fun things to write about. 

Currently, all my decorations - including the live tree - are up and looking bee-yoo-tif-full!  Candles, lights, garland, the whole works. 

The Christmas Tree - successfully manuevered home from The Big City!

There's awesome woodwork around the entry to all the rooms in my house, and put garland up on the big entrance to the living room.  This is the "left half"...

This is the "right half."

Lighted garland up the staircase, and a big red bow (you can barely make out) on the banister (and a vase of fake Christmasy plants)

Garland on the woodwork leading from the dining room into the kitchen.  No lights on this one, because the placement of the outlets is somewhat prohibitive.

I love a house decorated perfectly for Christmas.  There's something about that Victorian (probably) myth of a perfect Christmas, but honestly, I think I would fit into 19th century England quite well.  Back when men were men, women were women, people went to church, and things were okay.  There was honor and dignity to this world.  Things were done right. 

Okay, well, except for all the orphans in the streets, the sheer amount of horrific poverty, and...okay, I'm out.  You know what would be an awesome Christmas?  Being married to one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement and hosting their Christmas party. I'm just fantasizing...

Oooh, look at this!  Ooh, and Christmas in the Dickens household!  Yeah, I was definitely born in the wrong era...

Friday, December 3, 2010

That's Right, Baby!

You are Elizabeth Bennet of Pride & Prejudice! You are intelligent, witty, and tremendously attractive. You have a good head on your shoulders, and oftentimes find yourself the lone beacon of reason in a sea of ridiculousness. You take great pleasure in many things. You are proficient in nearly all of them, though you will never own it. Lest you seem too perfect, you have a tendency toward prejudgement that serves you very ill indeed.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Christmas Is...

Santa Claus at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. 

No matter how early Hallmark starts selling ornaments or WalMart sets up the whole Christmas section, really it's Santa at the end of the parade (even with Katie Couric's annoying voice in the background) that marks the official beginning of the Christmas season. 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Christmas Is...

Travel.  And the strange days of vacation that are relaxing and enjoyable, but tiring because they are so not-normal.

I'm at my grandparents' this weekend, where I can access somebody's unsecured wireless internet only while laying diagonally on the bed in the back bedroom, so if I don't get Christmas Is...up for a few days, that's why.  Don't want to be antisocial.  :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I went to an "ecumenical Thanksgiving service" tonight that was "hosted" by the pastor I co-teach confirmation with.  He asked me if I would read, so I read a text from Deuteronomy, and led the responsorial psalm-paraphrase from ELW. 

Other than that, though, I just got to worship, and it was fabulous.  At first, it was hard, because I kept thinking about what I would have done differently, but once I got past that and just got sing and listen and pray, it was awesome. 

It's been a few years since I went to a Thanksgiving service, and we sung - of course - "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come."

Come, ye thankful people, come;
Raise the song of Harvest-home.
All be safely gathered in
Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied,
Come to God's own temple, come;
Raise the song of Harvest-home.
All the world is God's own field,
Fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown,
Unto joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade and then the ear,
Then the full corn shall appear.
Lord of harverst, grant that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord, our God, shall come
And shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day
All offences purge away;
Give His angels charge at last
In the fire the tares to cast,
But the fruitful ears to store
In His garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come
To Thy final Harvest-home;
Gather Thou Thy people in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified,
In Thy garner to abide.
Come with all Thine angels, come,
Raise the glorious Harvest-home.
I don't think I've ever cried singing this hymn before, but I almost did tonight.  I think part of it was just having been in such a rural area and around all the farmers who have been gathering in the harvest so...faithfully, and who managed to get it all in less than a week before the first snowstorm hit.  And suddenly I was just transported back to an earlier, an easier, a simpler time.  When churches were full on Thanksgiving, or any time there was a service, and when they were all singing this hymn with gusto, and it was so real and poignant and relevant to everyone.  And in a lot of ways, that still is life in this northern town. 

The other thing about the hymn is that it's just so...trusting of God.  Maybe it's just that I loved the opportunity to worship, but I was reveling in singing about turning everything over to Him, about imagining the day when He will "give His angels charge at last."  Ah, even now, I'm getting teary-eyed just remembering it...
Even so, Lord, quickly come
To thy final Harvest-home;
Gather Thou Thy people in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin,
There forever purified,
In Thy garner to abide.
Come with all Thine angels, come,
Raise the glorious Harvest-home.
Yes, please.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christmas Is...

Christmas is the first snow of the year.  It finally snowed here today!  I am a huge fan of winter, and a huge fan of snow.  I love it.  I relish it.  I wait for it with the impatience of a child.  And when it comes, I giggle and rub my hands together and run outside to twirl around and catch snowflakes on my tongue.  There's something about snow - and especially the first snowfall of the year - that's just...magical.

I was starting to feel a little gypped, like maybe it was never going to snow this year.  Maybe that's because it got super-cold and snowed so early last year, that it seemed to take forever this year.  But anyway, it finally showed up.  And no matter when it shows up, it always feels like Christmas to me.  Bust out the hot chocolate and the Christmas music, cuddle up with a warm blanket and a good book, and enjoy.

Of course, now that I'm an adult, with a life, in the real world that doesn't have "snow days", I find that more often than not, I have to drive somewhere in the middle of the first snowstorm.  Which I definitely do not enjoy.  And that reminds me of this classic Calvin and Hobbes strip, which is so completely true:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christmas Is...

Christmas is trying to figure out how I'm going to get a real, live Christmas tree into my car.  I'm always a little nervous, since I drive a Honda Civic, how I'm going to get a 6-foot-tree in the backseat.  Then again, in my past life, I (more than) once got ten barn signs (4'x8') into the backseat, so I don't know why Christmas trees concern me.

I also wonder where people in this tiny little town buy their Christmas trees.  They probably just go out and cut one down somewhere.  I don't know if I'm up for that, though.  I'm going to a reasonably large city for Thanksgiving, and strongly considering buying one there and bringing it home with me.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Christmas Is...

Ok, I promise after tonight I'll take a break from TV stuff for a while...

But Christmas is...catching a Folgers commercial on TV and being reduced to tears.

Yes?  How can this not make you just a tad weepy?

And while we're on the subject, let's have a little entry from Coca-Cola, as well:

So sweet.

More on Death

Wow, I'm just Miss Merry Little Sunshine today, aren't I?

Anyway, this essay on "dying with dignity" by David Mills really hit home for me a couple weeks ago.  It came as I was getting ready for yet another funeral, and basically doing (to be blunt) "Death Watch" for another member.  I wish that I could just cut and paste the entire thing right here, but I think that violates all kinds of "fair use" restrictions.  So I'll put some of the best, and then encourage you to go read it all.

In discussing the current trend toward "Death with Dignity," he writes,
“Death with dignity” offers not only an escape from pain and humiliation, but a rational and apparently noble way to leave this life. All it requires is that you declare yourself God. Make yourself the lord of life and death, and you can do what you want. All you have to do, as a last, definitive act, is to do what you’ve been doing all your life, every time you sin: declare yourself, on the matter at hand, the final authority, the last judge, the one vote that counts.
But you are not God, and, the Christian believes, the decision of when to leave this life is not one he has delegated to you. To put it bluntly, he expects you to suffer if you are given suffering and to put up with indignities if you are given indignities. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord. And that, as far as dying goes, is that.
For the Christian, Mills says, "dying with dignity" means something else altogether:
This is what my father taught me: to die with dignity means to accept what God has given you and deal with it till the end. It means to play the hand God has dealt you, no matter how bad a hand it is, without folding. It means actually to live as if the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, and in either case blessed be the name of the Lord.
And here is why:

It’s what Jesus did: dying with dignity, in obedience to his Father suffering all the pain and humiliation this world could give. That is something to remember, after celebrating the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, of those who have gone before us, if we want some day ourselves to be among the faithful departed.
For some reason, Mills' thoughts here remind me of the Nunc Dimmitis, aka Luke 2:29-32.  The ESV Translation reads:
Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people, Israel.
From years of the LBW, the "translation" in my head is
♪ Lord, now you let your servant go in peace, your word has been fulfilled.
My own eyes have seen the salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of every people.
A light to reveal you to the nations, and the glory of your people, Israel. ♫
Love, love, love this.  Read it at my funeral, mkay?

Tales of a Country Parson, Vol. VI

I've been thinking a lot about death lately, since there's been so much of it around my part of the world.  I myself have conducted 4 funerals in the not-even-three months that I've been here, and there have been 2 others that have taken place in my church building but that I wasn't responsible for leading/preaching.  There were another 4 or 5 over the summer, too, before I got here.  Part of what has made these deaths so hard is that they haven't all been the 90-year-old grandma who's been in the nursing home for 10 years and finally dies peacefully.  No, a lot of them have been younger people dying of cancer or other freak things, and that's harder on people too. 

Frankly, I'm getting sick of it, and so is my congregation.  Last week as I was chewing over the "end-of-the-world" texts in the lectionary, and trying to put together a sermon, it suddenly hit me.  So, so many people in my congregation had been saying to me all week, "There have been way too many funerals lately," or something along those lines.  And on Thursday morning, I made the decision to throw out the lectionary texts and go all-in on what this community is going through - so I preached on Isaiah 40, Galatians 6, and Matthew 11.

I'm fairly certain that I just replicated the 2nd Sunday of Advent in doing that, but oh well, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, I guess.  That and the Sunday School kid who was reading the lessons was not at all pleased that he got stuck with like 20 verses out of Isaiah and another 10 from Galatians, and I read 2 whole verses in Matthew...  :-)

Nonetheless, I think it was the right decision.  It feels to me like preaching on that, like saying, "let's take a moment here and deal with the real crap of life instead of just blindly doing what the Revised Common Lectionary tells us to do" really was a sign to the community that "I'm here, and I get what you're going through, and I'm part of it."  Even just right after the service, it seemed like everyone was kind of breathing a sigh of relief, knowing that the fed-up-with-ness of death around here was out in the open.  Hugs were a little longer, handshakes were a little firmer, smiles were a little more sincere.  And as I said to a friend, it felt good to actually have something pastoral to contribute to the general atmosphere around here. 

Sermon after the jump:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas Is...

Anybody who knows me knows that I ♥ Christmas.  Lights, music, decorations, baking, family, movies, traditions, church, snow, books, everything about Christmas is fabulous. 

So I think that starting today, every day until Christmas, I'm going to post a "Christmas is..." post.  That way, the four of you who read this blog will know what my most favorite-est parts are.

So, for tonight we have: Christmas is drinking a mug of hot cocoa (with a smidge of peppermint schnapps) while watching a cheesy Hallmark Channel movie.

On Being Pushed

I so never thought that I would be writing anything about Dorothy Day, let alone something positive.  But I was intrigued by this post over at First Thoughts, which gives us some samples of Msgr. Charles Pope's (note: I don't actually know who that is) favorite Dorothy Day quotes, and I was intrigued by these:
  • Together with the Works of Mercy, feeding, clothing and sheltering our brothers, we must indoctrinate.
  • I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.
  • You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you. You will know.
So I clicked on the link, which took me over to this site, which comes complete with the totally right-on, but I have never heard it articulated so well statement that,
"I have found that, in order to stretch my boundaries and be truly challenged, I need to trust my teachers and leaders. It’s people I can trust who lead me to stretch my horizons."
This is most certainly true.  I don't know enough about Dorothy Day to know whether I can trust her.  Until I started clicking around on these links, my impression of her was that we disagree on a lot, and that may in fact still be true.  But Msgr. Pope is totally correct in stating that the best people to stretch us are the ones we trust.  When I think about that in my own life, I realize that the people that have pushed and stretched me the most, that have challenged me where I most needed to be challenged, have been people that I trust implicitly. 
It reminds me of this sentiment from one of my all-time favorite professors, Dr. R.R. Reno: 
"We can worry about getting on the wrong train in the foreign train station whose signs we can’t read. But we should also worry about dithering in the station too long and thus failing to get on the right train. We could starve to death in that station if we never leave. This, it seems to me, is the essence of Newman and Pascal’s insight. Sometimes, the dangers of failing to affirm the truth are far greater than the dangers of wrongly affirming falsehood.
If we see this danger—the danger of truths lost, insights missed, convictions never formed—then the complexion of intellectual inquiry changes, and the burdens of proof shift. We begin to cherish books and teachers and friends who push us and romance us with the possibilities of truth."
Of late, I have been absolutely blessed to have those in my life - books and teachers and friends who push me and romance me with possibilities of truth.  I love it.  Dear God, please keep putting those books and teachers and friends in my life.  ♥, Me.

And While We're On the Topic...

This whole TSA thing has gotten ridiculously out of control.  I understand wanting to fly safely, and make sure people aren't bringing bombs on board.  But the fact that we now have government employees literally touching the genitals of innocent Americans strikes me as ridiculous.  It frustrates me that Homeland Security and the higher-ups at TSA keep defending this madness as "it makes good sense."  No, it doesn't.  Stop for just a second and think about this objectively.  There are so many reasons why it doesn't make sense.  A lot of people have already said a lot of other really good things on this topic, so I'm going to post some of them here. 

First and foremost, this issue is about enduring the "Enhanced Pat-Down" if you either
  • a) opt-out of the Nude-o-Scopes, as they are being referred to, or
  • b) "fail" the NoS for some reason.  (A friend of mine "failed" when she accidentally moved her elbow while inside the NoS.)
So, the argument has been made that we should just "go through the scanner."  Well, fine, except for those who accidentally move their elbows, or whatever else.  Also, scientists are not exactly convinced that these things are safe.  I, for one, do not plan on going through the scanner.  I have been exposed to enough radiation in my life.  And we should note that when you have x-rays taken in a doctor's office, they give you the lead to cover up your ovaries, and everybody else gets the hell out of the room.  Doctors do their best to expose you to the least amount of radiation possible.  And yet the TSA just runs around saying, "Oh they're safe, it's like a cell phone."  Not to mention the risks to people who are getting radiation treatment for cancer, are pregnant, or are in any way extra-sensitive to the impact of radiation on their bodies.

So, moving on.  Let's say you've failed the PornoScanner and are now next in line for the Enhanced Patdown.  After you've reminded the TSO to put on clean gloves, you're so busy trying to keep an eye on your MacBook halfway across the checkpoint, that you don't notice until the person is grabbing your crotch.  They literally run their hands up and down the insides of your thighs and then touch you "down there" (and "up there" on the women).  This would be bad enough if it were just outside your clothing, but some people have even noted instances of the officers literally placing their hands between your underwear and your skin and running their hands front to back of a person's (male or female) "junk." 

I personally have made it a point in my life not to let anyone touch me "down there" until I'm married.  Call me an old-fashioned prude, I don't care.  It's a huge deal for me.  Even going to the doctor is a little anxiety-producing.  I don't fly next until the day after Christmas, and I'm already getting a little worked up about this.  I can't imagine what it would be like if I were a rape or sexual assault victim, and the trauma that would be induced by reliving that situation. 

Why I Fly Southwest

Because they "get it."  Look, I'm a capitalist.  I freely defend the right of people to make money, and to run their businesses for the purpose of making money.  But I very much appreciate companies who clearly go out of their way to provide excellent customer service as they go about making money.  It says, "We know you have a choice about who you do business with, and we'd like you to choose us."  And when I receive such excellent customer service, I am likely to return.  I'm biased, but that's Starbucks (95% of the time), and it's also Midas.  And it's Southwest Airlines.

With all this hoo-hah (ahem) over the new Special Bonus Feature Edition "Enhanced Patdowns" and Nude-o-Scopes, I've heard little from the airlines themselves attempting to defend their customers.  The pilots unions are starting to get involved, thank God, but the airlines are strangely silent (at least it seems to me).  But in an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Southwest's senior vice-president of operations, make clear that he's got sympathy for what's going on, and also communicating that there are business impact to this new uh...procedure:
"With people getting partially molested at checkpoints, all that is going to be a real shock for them...TSA will create an issue for us. It's going to slow things down."
But this, this is the best part.  This is customer service.
Southwest will have employees with walkie-talkies at checkpoints to hold airplane departures if passengers are stuck in long lines.
I hate going through the screening procedures at airports already.  It's embarrassing, it's a pain-in-the-rear, it is ridiculously inconsistent across airports, and fliers are rarely treated with common courtesy and respect.  For example, I should be able to watch you open and examine my carry-on items, and they should remain near me at all times, for security's sake.  I may be able to "see" my laptop 10 yards away, but that's not really going to prevent anyone from stealing it.  Further, I should not have to request that you put on clean gloves.  I'm sorry, that's just standard procedure for anyone who wears gloves for any purpose.  If I have to wash my hands just going in and out of a hospital room to visit a patient who I never even touched, you need to change your gloves.  Finally, I am just as deserving of respect as a human being as you are.  I am willing to respect you as the person that has been hired to ensure that my prosthetic leg is not, in fact, a cleverly concealed weapon, if you are willing to respect me as 1) acting in good faith, 2) not deliberately trying to make your job harder or scam the system, and 3) a real human being who is forced into this very personal interaction with a complete stranger. 

Now, going into a screening experience with all-but-certain knowledge that the encounter will be the exact opposite tends to make one a tad nervous and anxious.  Add to that the idea of very long lines during holiday travel, and the very real threat you could miss your flight while standing in that very long line, and now you've got people who are even more nervous and anxious.  What better to give them a small amount of relief than the knowledge that at least the airline they are flying is looking out for them, and won't let them be stranded at a security checkpoint? 

Points to Southwest Airlines.

Dignity in Worship

Christopher Johnson over at Bad Vestments does a good job of reminding us that "Christian worship is not supposed to be about you."  If you haven't checked out his site, take a coffee break and go do it now.  You should be okay just looking at the pictures, but make sure you swallow your coffee and set the mug down before you read the comments - they are always hysterical.

Meanwhile, Fr. Z, who provides "slavishly accurate liturgical translations & Catholic commentary" takes up the cause of dignity in responding to a reader's note:

From a reader:
What do you think about the following announcement at Mass: "At the rear of the church, please pick up a paper leaf and write on it what you are thankful for this year. We will put all of them on a tree and then carry that tree in the entrance procession at Mass on Thanksgiving Day.”
What is this, my old seminary? … er um… kindergarten?
I think that sort of stunt cheapens what Mass is about, erodes what the Eucharist (the Sacrament and Its celebration) is as both Sacrifice and Thanksgiving.  Surely some of you might be saying, “But Father! But Father! Shouldn’t people be bringing their expressions of thanksgiving to Mass? Isn’t that also part of why we go?”
I think that way of expressing thanks is a distraction. It refocuses the attention of the congregation on itself in misdirected sentimentalism. For example, who will pay attention to the processional Cross once that sort of thing is being hauled in, probably by a child. How cute!
I am not against this sort of thing outside of Mass. Maybe they should plan something during the coffee and donuts?
Indeed, Fr. Z.  Indeed.

And Now, a Word From Our Sponsor...


I just want to give a shout-out to my supervisor.  He freaking rocks.  I get the sense that internship supervisors (like pastors in general, I suppose) are all over the map, so to speak.  Some are really helpful, some are fine, some are awful.  Some want you to learn by doing, and trying, and succeeding, and failing, and just generally figuring it out for yourself, with their guidance along the way.  Some will kind of let you do what you want to do - they'll support you at whatever level you take the initiative.  Some want you to learn by watching them do everything.  Some want you to have it all together.  Some get that internship can be rocky and are there to support you.

Now, my supervisor is 90 miles away from me, so I don't see him every day for constant support, advice, and guidance.  But he's very open about being available 24/7; I can call, text, email, or Facebook him; when we meet for supervision once a week, he just says, "So, how's it going?"  And then I talk for the next hour, and he just listens.  And if I say, "I'm sorry I'm talking so much, I just don't have anybody else to talk to during the week," he says, "That's what I'm here for, to give you a chance to process and talk, and if you need to, you can call me anytime just to chat, if you're lonely and just need a conversation."  Bottom line, he is so supportive, and great at giving specific praise and affirmation, which is really helpful for me.  I'm super glad I've got him around. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Happy um, Saint's Day, Elizabeth!

It was brought to my attention this morning (I've been super-busy all day and haven't had time to blog) that today is the Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary.  As with Jerome, I really wasn't sure what I was supposed to do with that.  But I found out about it via a friend who mentioned on Facebook that it was Elizabeth's Memorial (not sure on the capitalization there, anyone know?) and also the world awareness day for the genetic abnormality that her (my friend) little daughter has.  It's interesting for the little girl because Elizabeth of Hungary was (is?) her "baptismal saint", and she was just diagnosed last year with the disease.  Cool (coincidence??) that it all came together on that day.

So I messaged my friend and she shared about some other friends (including a mutual friend of ours from high school) who claim her as their patron saint, and then closed with
That is awesome that St. Elizabeth of Hungary is part of your life too.
It struck me, because even though I claim to "blog under" this woman's name, and I drew St. Jerome for 2010, and I'm really trying to figure out this whole "saints" thing, in a lot of ways I clearly still just don't get it.  I had to stop for a minute and remember: Elizabeth of Hungary is a real person, and the fact that she is "part of my life" totally blows me away. 

Anyway...I'm still waiting for this:
The marriage was in every regard a happy and exemplary one, and the couple were devotedly attached to each other. Ludwig proved himself worthy of his wife. He gave his protection to her acts of charity, penance, and her vigils, and often held Elizabeth's hands as she knelt praying at night beside his bed.
Now, who's the right saint for that request??

Monday, November 8, 2010

Things I Think I Think, Vol.III

  • I think G.K. Chesterton's writing style can best be described as "quirky."
  • I think that the lady I saw cut up a cold, hard-boiled egg and put it in the microwave at the hotel last month goes beyond "quirky."
  • I think I need to visit, in no particular order, Milwaukee, South Bend, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.  I'm still not sold on Berkeley. 
  • I think know that I am tired of October being hijacked by breast cancer awareness crap.  As though there's any person alive who doesn't know that breast cancer exists.  As a childhood cancer survivor, I would like to note that there are 2 classrooms full of kids diagnosed with cancer every day.  You know how childhood cancer research gets funded?  Lemonade stands.  No, for real.
  • I think the commercial with the people doing the macarena in their snuggies is quite disturbing.
  • I've been thinking a lot lately about a patient of mine from CPE this summer who passed away.  His family was with him when it happened, and for the entire week before.  They were a great family, and he was a great person.  The whole thing was beautifully sad, and I've just been missing them recently.
  • I think that "the more things change, the more they stay the same."  Whenever I'm teaching confirmation class and getting a little frustrated with the kids goofing off or not paying attention, I realize that they're doing the exact same stuff my friends and I did when we were in confirmation.  And then I have a lot more grace, I take a deep breath, and dive back in. 
  • I think that I am confused as to how in the world it is almost Advent.  Seriously, where did the time go?
  • I think that Scott Caan is a-freaking-dorable in the new Hawaii Five-O.
  • I think that I wish I had somebody around to talk theology with, just kick stuff around, you know?

Monday, November 1, 2010

I ♥ Books

This is why I read other people's blogs, Tracey's in particular.  Because 1) she's funnier than I am, and 2) just when I'm thinking, I feel like blogging myself, but I don't quite know what to write about, she's got a survey.  And not just any survey, but a survey about books.  Suh-weet.

Here goes.

1. Favorite childhood book?

I'm with Tracey here, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  (I, however, never had an obsession with living in a museum.)  Also, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and The Phantom Tollbooth. 

2. What are you reading right now?

Um, I have several in progress: Jesus of Nazareth, by Pope Benedict XVI; The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis; Evil and the Justice of God, by N.T. Wright; Houses, by Roberta C. Bondi (at the behest of my mother); Theology is for Proclamation, by Gerhard Forde; Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton; and axiom, by Bill Hybels.

Don't judge me.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

None.  Half the ones on my "in progress" list are from the library.

4. Bad book habit?

Well, probably starting so many different books all at once.  That and buying books that I "just have to have" and then, instead of reading those, go trolling at the library for a million others.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?

Like ten books, at least.  Jesus of Nazareth, The Imitation of Christ, Evil and the Justice of God, Facing East, The Case for Christmas, a GRE study guide, and several others.  Hello, my name is Elizabeth, and I have a problem.

6. Do you have an e-reader?

Heck no - it destroys the romance.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time or several at once?

See #2 above.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

I don't think so?  Well, I started blogging back in the spring of 2010, and the uh...genre I read most often shifted somewhat around that time, but I don't think the two are particularly related.

9. Least favorite book you read this year?

Whatever book I had to read for Worship class that advocated developing a church ceremony for divorces.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?

George Weigel's Letters to a Young Catholic, this Jesus of Nazareth I've got going on right now.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

Yeah, I don't know what this means, so I'm just going to go with Tracey's answer because it cracks me up.

“Comfort zone” meaning what? Do I sometimes read wearing tight pants? Do I sometimes read while riding naked on the bus? You use terms but you don’t define them.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

So, yeah.  Theology.  (Not quite systematics, per se, but more like theology + culture, or Biblical commentary).  Cheap, trashy romance novels.  (Leave me alone, we all have our vices.)  Fun, easy-to-read fiction like the Stephanie Plum or Miss Julia series'. 

13. Can you read on the bus?

Well, no, being as I don't live in a town that has a bus, and even when I do, I don't generally take the bus.  But I can read in the car.  Usually.  Unless it's my parents' car.  I get carsick when I drive their car, let alone trying to read in it while riding.

14. Favorite place to read?

Usually in bed.  Sometimes the couch, or a big cushy chair at Starbucks.  But really, anywhere.  Standing at the kitchen counter, if that's where I get involved.

15. What is your policy on book lending?

Don't wreck it, and give it back.  I have a mind like a steel trap.  If you borrow a book and don't give it back, I'm seriously going to remember like 10 years later. 

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?

I try not to.  But it's difficult for me to go more than 5 minutes from home without a reading contingency plan.  Which means that books are frequently crammed into my purse or backpack, "just in case."  And then, things just happen.  It's sad, though.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

Mmm...not too often.  I'm more likely to highlight.  I borrowed a TON of books this summer from a friend, and I was loving them.  I had to literally sit and read them in a place where there were no pens or highlighters within reach, or really even within sight, to keep myself from marking them up.  I had the shakes all summer.

18. Not even with text books?

I used to not, I thought it was practically sacreligious.  Textbooks from my first two years of college are absolutely pristine.  Then I got over it. 

19. What is your favorite language to read in?

I once had to take a class on German literature where we had to actually read stuff in German.  And not little kid's books, like Goodnight, Moon or something.  No, like Karl Marx.  And plays, by people I don't remember.  There was one about a flute, I forget the name.  It was sheer torture.  Reading the New Testament in Greek is kind of fun, though.

20. What makes you love a book?

What can I say?  When you know, you know.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

Um, reading it.  And then really liking it.  And then imagining that others might like it as well.  So, then I tell them.

22. Favorite genre?

We already covered this, I feel like.  Geeky theology stuff, and trashy romance novels.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

I don't get this question.  If there are genres I rarely read, it's usually because I don't think I'll like them.  And who wants to waste all that time reading a book you can't stand?  It's like paying $10 to go see a movie you know you will probably hate. 

24. Favorite biography?

Biographies.  That's a genre I rarely read.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?

I would imagine.

26. Favorite cookbook?

Whichever one has what I'm making for dinner.  Also, my Facebook newsfeed.  I'm friends with some rockin' SuperMoms who post crazy awesome recipes.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or nonfiction)?

Letters to a Young Catholic, by George Weigel.  Hands down.

28. Favorite reading snack?

M&M's, frozen peas, goldfish crackers.  Anything I can eat mindlessly.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

Theology is for Proclamation is seriously letting me down at the moment.  Lots of people I admire are practically disciples of the author, and yeah, it's just not working for me.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?

I don't generally read critical reviews about a book.  Unless you mean what's on the back cover, or the fact that some professor assigned me to read it.  So, um, sometimes I agree. 

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

Um, well, if your book was terrible, how is it going to help anyone for me to pretend otherwise? 

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

Greek, Hebrew, and Latin.  Oh wait...

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

Karl Marx, in German.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

What?  Who gets nervous about reading books?  I do not understand...

35. Favorite poet?

I don't read a whole lot of poetry, actually.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

I've got ten checked out right now.  Sometimes, that's the low end of the scale.

37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?

Um...from time to time...

38. Favorite fictional character?

At the moment?  Stephanie Plum.  But that Huck Finn, he's a loveable little guy, too.  Atticus Finch.

39. Favorite fictional villain?

I don't know...I don't read a lot of books with characters typically described as "villainous."

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?

Far too many.  Also, magazines, so I can get rid of them. 

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.

I was one of those kids that had the side of the cereal box and the back of the shampoo bottle memorized from reading them so much.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  It bores me to tears.  Does this make me a bad Christian?

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

Having dry hands.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

Oh for crying out loud, what is with these questions?  If I loved the book, I tend not to intentionally watch the movie.  Oh, I just thought of one.  Disney's A Christmas Carol that just came out last Christmas.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?

The Great Gatsby.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?

$100, probably.  If it's more than that, I don't want to to think about it.  Unless we're talking about textbooks, then it shoots up to like $500 or something ridiculous.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?


48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?

If it sucked.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?

I would like to.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?

Keep them.  It's kind of a problem, actually.  I have an insane number of books.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

I don't think so.  I mean, maybe if I'm in class or something, but in general, there are very few books that literally call my name from the shelf, demanding that I read them.

52. Name a book that made you angry.

The one that said churches should have a ceremony to "celebrate" divorce, or whatever.  And then went on to imply that anyone who didn't approve was an old stick-in-the-mud conservative who can't get with the modern times.  Guess that's me.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?

The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

Joe Lieberman's In Praise of Public Life

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?

First Things.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."
~Hebrews 10:24

I am absolutely sick unto death of the unloving, uncharitable, unhelpful, and disrespectful manner in which the sexes have come to treat one another of late. 

I haven't the slightest idea where "obviously it's just her time of the month" and "if you want it done right, ask a woman" come from, in the grand scheme of things.  Perhaps Genesis 3.  Is this stuff as old as the hills?  I don't know, but it needs to end.

Single Dad Laughing wrote about this yesterday from the perspective of how men treat women, and what message is communicated.  Check this out:
It is not the impossibly air brushed females on magazine covers who are causing women to hold themselves against a standard of perfection. No, it's not that at all. Holy crap. Why am I just realizing this? Why doesn't anybody seem to realize this?
It is the men that stop and look at those magazines.
It is because of us, guys. It is because we leave them with no other option. We stop. We look. We comment. We joke. We implant those very thoughts into their way of thinking. We make sure they know that we agree with everything the media has brainwashed us to believe beauty to be.
As far as women constantly comparing themselves to other women and feeling worthless, I think he's maybe a little too hard on himself, but it's his confession, so I'll let him have it.  I do want to point out, however, that women can be very, very hard on each other, even when there are no men directly involved. 

Nonetheless, the point I'm making here is about opposite genders.  So, I headed off to a meeting last night just after I'd read the Single Dad Laughing post above, and so maybe it was in my head a bit.  But at the meeting, we got to discussing an entirely different church building that is very poorly designed.  Think about if you had a split level house with the only bathrooms on the bottom level and the only living room-type area on the top level.  It is pretty poorly designed, I'll admit.  But as the group (5 women, 3 men) was lamenting this issue that doesn't even involve any of them, one of the women in the group declared that, "Obviously, it must have been designed by men."  The other women at the table all laughed and agreed (and I'm trying to remember - I think I just sort of awkwardly laughed), and the men shut up, and shut down.  I didn't really evaluate it in the moment; the fact that the whole thing even happened only really hit me after I got home.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Like vs. Lust

Tracey over at palepage wrote about this a couple weeks ago, and I still am struggling with this here Modesty Survey.  (To see the data, click a category on the left, then choose a question on the right, then scroll down for the results.)  The upshot of the survey and its results are that no matter how hard women try, our clothing or makeup or jewelry or the way we sit or stand or walk is always going to constitute some sort of "stumbling block" to our brothers in the faith who (it seems) are constantly battling against the sin of lust.

Now.  I don't in any way want to underestimate or make light of the fact that men are very um...visual.  I get that.  I mean, I don't get it, but I understand the principle.  And I think that men or no men, women have a responsibility to dress modestly.  Our bodies have been given to us by God, and we should therefore treat them with respect.  It also (theoretically) helps protect us against being lusted after, and (theoretically) encourages men to get to know our personalities and characters, and not just our bodies.  And the Bible does indeed say:

...make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.  (Romans 14:13)
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  (1 Corinthians 8:9)
It's also true that regardless of what the sin is, as Christians, we should all be seeking to help our brothers and sisters avoid sin. 

If you look under "Open Questions", you'll see that, at least at some level, the guys taking this survey recognize that ultimately it's their job not to lust, and not to treat their sisters-in-Christ with disrespect.  But it seems like the survey language, crafted as it is with an extreme overuse of the term "stumbling block", is meant to suggest that women have an enormous responsbility to dress modestly not because it is a virtue in and of itself, but solely in order to prevent others from sinning.

I'm just not sure what I think about that.  I feel like Paul's admonishment not to place stumbling blocks in the path of the weak is mostly about people who are weak in the faith and have not yet come to enough spiritual maturity to understand proper exercise of Christian freedom.  I think if you can run around demanding that other people not place stumbling blocks in your way, then Paul's not talking about you. 

But let's look seriously at Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, and Luke 17:2 - all of which give us some variation of

And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.
All you Bible scholars out there: in light of this passage, is there a difference between deliberately dressing and/or acting to incite lust, and attempting to dress and/or act with a reasonable degree of modesty but still becoming an inadvertant object of lust by others who lack self-control?  Common sense seems to suggest that there is, but this verse in the synoptics paints with a pretty broad brush.  Thoughts?

And finally: There seems to be an implicit suggestion that finding a woman attractive is the same thing as lusting after her.  Maybe someone can clarify this for me, but I don't think they're the same thing.  Maybe this is where male and female responses to visuals part ways, but as a woman, I think it's entirely possible to look at a man and say, "He's really very attractive," and leave it at that.  Vis a vis the survey, I resent the implication that dressing in order to look attractive is automatically dressing to incite lust.  I don't think it's true, I don't think it's how most women think when they're getting dressed, and I think that continuing to push this meme that attractive women are naturally responsible for sins of their brothers-in-Christ can actually be very psychologically harmful. 

Maybe it's just me...

In Which I Become Completely Sold On "Traditional" Worship, Part 3

Where was I?  Oh yes, my supervisor wanted me to evaluate Young Adult Worship.  I got there, and immediately engaged my event-planner side, left over from my days in politics.  I was thinking:
Well, let's start by evaluating how many people are here.  The actual number of people here isn't terrible, but the room is "built" way too big.  It is a gigantic room, with too much space between tables and chairs.  The room is obviously used for different purposes during the rest of the week, the remnants (tables, chairs, etc...) are just laying up against the walls.  The stage is...well, I don't know.  The lighting is strange.  No one is singing...I think because they are sitting at tables.  The PowerPoint is...hey wait a second, where is the cross?  Oh look, there it is!  Stuffed over in a corner with some extra sound equipment.  It feels like a comedy club, not a church.
Ok, so, what do we need to do?  Get rid of about 40 or 50 chairs, and set up some pipe and drape to close off the room a little.  Fix the lighting.  Spotlight the preacher, come up with some sort of lighting plan for when the band is playing.  Get the cross up on the stage, over to the side at an angle is fine so you can still run the PowerPoint against the wall.  Get some music going before the service actually starts.  Etc...
And then it occurred to me:
My goodness, this is supposed to be church, not a political event.  I'm trying to figure out what story the media would write if they had pictures of this, when I should be worshipping the Lord God Almighty.
So here's what I'm thinking: Traditional, liturgical worship, particularly when paired with the Lord's Supper/Eucharist/Communion is necessarily focused on Christ (at least for people who confess the Real Presence).  There is a lot, lot, lot of prep work that can and does and should go into awesome "high church" worship.  But my sense is that most of it is related to the dignity of the service itself.  The preparation is about expecting that the Lord is present in this place, engaging the tradition honorably and worthily, and allowing congregants to participate in that to the fullest extent.

Contrast that with my sense about the prep work of contemporary, low-church worship: I feel like we're trying to create an environment that we can convince people to come to.  We want the lights low and the people crammed together, to amp up the energy.  We need well-designed rooms because it's more professional.  We encourage people to bring in coffee and snacks because it's friendly and supposedly proves that "God can fit into your lifestyle" or something.  Bottom line: we have to create the conditions to make this service succeed.

I want to be clear.  Jesus shows up at contemporary worship.  "Where two or three are gathered," and all that.  "Contemporvant worship" has the capacity to reach people for the Lord, it allows people to encounter God, it creates and encourages faith, it comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.  I would never say that it doesn't.

But when you have the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, when you have the liturgy, brimming with the language of the Bible, language that has stood the test of time, that has steeped millions of people across time and space in the faith, then,  It's going to "work" - He always has.  The rest is easy.  Making sure chairs or pews are arranged well becomes about allowing people to best participate in the encounter, not about convincing them to stay or come back.

So, am I anti-contemporary Christian music now?  Am I advocating for an end to all midweek Young Adult Worship that isn't the high-church Divine Service/practically a Roman Catholic Mass celebrated by the pope?  No.  I'm always in favor of everything that God uses to reach people.  Let's keep the music, and let's use it where it's appropriate.  Let's have concerts and clubs and Young Adult Ministry.  But let's stop pretending that the 8:00 "traditional" service and the 10:00 "Contemporvant" service are the same thing, just catering to different preferences.  They aren't. 

**I'm perfectly willing to engage anybody on this topic.  If you think I'm totally off-base, tell me so!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

I'm one of those people who tends to adopt the attitude that birthdays should be celebrated for several days - full of taking care of myself, enjoying life, having fun, and generally being glad to be alive!

So since I had to be in the Big City for Thursday Night Young Adult Worship, and I had an interesting meeting set up for Friday afternoon, I decided to get a nice hotel room Thursday night and just relax.  So, what did I do?  Well, I ordered Italian Cheese Bread at the Little Caesars drive thru - yes, seriously, Little Caesars has a drive-thru here.  Who knew?  Then I partook of the non-sucky internet in the big city and got some emails sent and blogging done.  I took a nice, long, hot bath (with jets!) while reading N.T. Wright's Evil and the Justice of GodI cranked the AC up to simulate actual cold weather, microwaved my rice baby, and then curled up in bed with Jesus of Nazareth and The Imitation of Christ. 

Friday morning I slept in, but got up in time for breakfast at the hotel - waffles with blueberry syrup!  I watched a little Fox News (which I haven't done in ages) to get caught up on the Juan Williams debacle.  Then I went to WalMart to get one of the tires on my car fixed and managed to find 27 Dresses in the $5.00 bin while I was waiting.  I went to the Synod Office to check out a couple videos for the high school youth group, hung out at Starbucks for a while, and then had a very interesting meeting that I hadn't been quite sure how it was going to go, but turned out to be very good.

I went back and spent some more time at Starbucks, just enjoying the chance to read and relax, caught up a little more on some email - including hearing from my fav theology prof evah.  Finally it got to be time to head home, and I needed to run by the grocery store first to pick up some "cold stuff."  As I was driving through the parking lot, thinking about some of the things from my meeting this afternoon, I started talking out loud to myself very passionately about where God's grace can be found, and about people who are very good at talking about God's grace.  And then I stopped.  Because it suddenly occurred to me - right then, as I was turning right into the next aisle to look for a parking space - that not four months ago I had said the exact opposite thing.  As I found myself thinking, "Did I really ever say that?  I can't believe I did!"  there was nothing else to do but laugh, and say, "Ok God, I get it!"

On my way out of town I hit up Taco Bell and cashed in my free birthday drink coupon at Starbucks (venti salted caramel hot chocolate...mmm), and headed for home.  In the car, I talked to an old college friend, who I miss dearly, and desperately needed to catch up with, until I ran out of cell phone service and then I proceeded to rock out to Handel's Messiah the rest of the way home.  At home I unpacked, found the flowers and chocolate that had been delivered courtesy of my sis and her BF, and then crawled into bed with the rice baby and books, blissfully content...

Saturday morning I slept in, and when I awoke, found three marvelous text messages wishing me a happy birthday.  I have no idea what time they arrived, because cell service out here is terrible and sometimes the timestamps get ultra-screwed up, but they were very pleasant wake-up presents.  After laying around in bed reading a while, I finally got up and made orange rolls for brunch, listening to more of Handel's Messiah.  Not sure why I'm in that kind of a mood lately; I just am.  For most of the day I alternated working on my sermon with fielding birthday phone calls from friends and family.

I made a fabulous dinner of angel hair pasta with garlic alfredo sauce, sauteed chicken breast and mushrooms, baked acorn squash, and a tossed salad.  For dessert I had carrot cake, and I also made myself a tequila sunrise with fresh-squeezed orange juice.  I watched my movie that I bought at WalMart Friday morning.  Then I opened my presents from the most awesome Heterosexual Life Partner ever, who knows just what I need in life: books, a DVD, a coffee mug, and of course, dark chocolate. 

I'm now curled up back in bed, snuggled up with the rice baby and one of my birthday books, all set for church tomorrow!  Today was a good day...definitely...happy birthday to me!

Friday, October 22, 2010

In Which I Become Completely Sold On "Traditional" Worship, Part 2

So, after the embarrasing confession in Part 1, below, that I started hanging out around contemporary Christian music because I wanted to hang out with a cute boy, I started to actually like the stuff, egads! 

This is, mostly, I think, because I actually started listening to it.  When I left home to move to seminary, I was ridiculously homesick.  I missed Gigantor Church and my friends like crazy.  It was a struggle not to drive home every weekend.  But as I was getting settled into the new city and scanning the tuner on my car radio to find new presets, I stumbled on the "Christian music" station, which seemed to constantly be playing the songs that I heard so frequently back home.  And so even though I didn't love it, I clung to it, because it reminded me of home.

Eventually, the homesickness faded a bit, but I kept the station.  See, it turns out that contemporary music isn't all terrible.  Some of it's pretty good, actually.  Yeah, some of it has some pretty suspect theology, and some of it is too sappy and sentimental, but some of it's good.  I never really got to the point where it was my preference for Sunday morning, but I gained a much better attitude about it.  For example, if I have a friend who doesn't go to church very often (or at all), but will go with me to the contemporary (but not traditional) service, I can handle it.  And I started to enjoy the midweek or even Sunday night services in my new city.  Again, not so much Sunday morning (it's just not "church" for me), but when MercyMe and Tenth Ave. North came and did a concert at Gigantor Church, you can bet I was there!

Around this time I started struggling with the fact that my own personal preferences still leaned strongly toward the "traditional" liturgy, etc...for Sunday morning, but seeing the power of contemporary, non-traditional services as well.  God reaches and heals and brings unto himself thousands of people through Gigantor Church.  How can I deny that it "works", regardless of what I happen to like most?  And then this video came out and went viral:

It's absolutely hysterical, because it's so true, and honestly, I think that's a little bit sad, too.  So still, I pondered.  Worship prep does not necessarily equal manipulation or lack of sincerity or authenticity.  Really, really good "traditional" worship needs lots of prep too - picking good hymns, having readers and choirs practice, getting everything arranged on the altar and in the sanctuary so that it all goes according to plan, etc...And that's "all the same" too.  Different "same" than "contemporvant" worship services are, but same nonetheless.  Right?

But last night at Contemporvant Young Adult Service at Big Church in Big City, it hit me.  My supervisor had asked me to go and tell him how many people were there, how it went, etc...So I was paying lots of attention, engaging my "event planner" side, which I don't always necessarily enjoy, but I can do it when I have to, and honestly, I think I'm pretty good at it. 

But now, for the cliffhanger:  Come back later for Part 3, in which I come down firmly on the side of the liturgy. 

In Which I Become Completely Sold On "Traditional" Worship, Part 1

Tonight I was up at Big Church in Big City, and it was a good thing.  When my supervisor told me that I could have my pick of what ministries I wanted to be a part of, right away I picked Young Adult Worship on Thursday nights.  For one thing, I don't get to do hardly any worship planning at my churches, because I have a rockstar Worship and Music Committee.  And I love them.  But I would also love to be a little more um...involved.  Picking hymns, touching up the liturgy, that sort of thing.  But I can live with the situation as-is.  The other reason I wanted to be part of Young Adult Worship is because I feel like I never get a chance to worship.  I go to work on Sunday mornings, not church anymore.  And I really miss it.  Wednesday night adult worship at my churches is getting to be a good substitute for me, but it's still kind of a substitute.

Now, way back in the days of my biggest jerkiness as a church-goer and all-around human being, I was staunchly in favor of so-called "traditional" worship.  The liturgy (LBW Setting 2, please), hymns (on a pipe organ), all four readings (OT, Psalm, Epistle, Gospel), candles, crucifer, torch-bearers, the whole deal.  That was how church was supposed to be, gosh-darn-it, and anybody who didn't like it like that just wasn't spiritually mature enough to appreciate it.  Contemporary worship services aren't really worship services, they're just concerts.  Ugh.

Looking back, I think part of my problem was a) I was a jerk, and b) I didn't know most of the contemporary music.  I have absolutely zero musical ability, and when the whole congregation is singing hymns that I have been hearing since I was a baby, accompanied by a booming pipe organ, I can sing along and my crappy voice fades into the background.  (Or so I like to think.  Don't wreck my delusions, ok?)  So, I didn't listen to contemporary Christian music, the Top 40 of which is pretty much what gets played in contemporary services on any given Sunday, a lot of it was too high for me to sing comfortably, and the whole 7-11 thing (7 words repeated 11 times) really gets on my nerves.  Basically, I hated contemporary worship but the reasons I hated it were entirely about me, and not about any practically or theologically substantive argument. 

Then I went through a period where I came to at  In part, because at Gigantor Church at home, 98% of what they do is contemporary music.  If you're willing to show up for church at 8:00 on Sunday morning you can hit the traditional service which has fabulous organ talent, but that's about it.  And the thing of it was, there was a cute boy that I knew at the time who kept asking me to go with him to the Thursday Night Young Adult Service.  Now, I really didn't like this service, at the time.  It was too loud, the room was "built" oddly, I didn't know the music, and the preaching was hit-or-miss.  But darned if lust didn't win out over my taste in music, and I ended up there on more than one occasion.  (For what it's worth, the cute boy is now marrying one of those Perfect Girls, so for all you young kids out there, here's a lesson worth learning: sacrificing musical and theological principles for the sake of sitting next to the "cute boy" or "hot girl" in church is never a good idea, ok?)

Next up: How I came to love contemporary music

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Model of Domesticity

This past weekend was awesome.  A good friend of mine from school drove out to the sticks to visit me, and we had a great time.  We cooked, and read, and hung out, and watched TV, and I wrote my sermon, and we went to the "big city" for dinner and a movie. 

Part of what I loved, though, was the getting-ready for her to come.  On Friday morning (what the heck happened to my week?), I got up and got going.  I did several loads of laundry, cleaned pretty much the whole house, vacuumed, made guacamole, put clean dishes away, took out the garbage, sorted through some mail, etc...

And it felt great.  For a while I was on the phone with my BFF from high school, talking through a rather strange situation I'm in.  But it felt so natural, just cleaning and organizing and making my home look bee-yoo-tif-full, talking about guys and kids and recipes and judge-y mothers who make their own challah bread every week.  It felt natural - in my element, if you will.

I have thought - for a long time - that I could be quite happy staying home with a bunch of kiddos and doing some freelance writing.  Maybe teaching part-time or something. 

Bring on the menfolk and the babies, that's what I have to say. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Thought On Honor

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last." - Jesus
This summer during CPE, a friend referred me on numerous occasions to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) for answers on various doctrinal questions.  One of those questions was on the relationship of non-Catholic Christians to the Roman Catholic Church, and how the RCC viewed non-Catholics, what with salvation not being found outside the church and all...

Looking for this information takes you to Part One, Section Two, Chapter Three, Article Nine, Paragraph Three.  Or just...(thought #??) 838.  It reads as follows:
"The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter."  Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church." With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist."
I bolded the part that I keep coming back to.  At this precise moment, I'm less interested in Rome's ecumenical relations than I am in their use of language here: "the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian."  Stop and think about that for a second.  "...honored by the name of Christian." 

I'm not used to thinking about the name/title/descriptor, whatever you want to call it, "Christian" as being an honor.  An adjective, yes.  Maybe an identity, perhaps.  ("It's not what I am, it's who I am.")  Etc...

But what would happen if we actually treated "the name of Christian" as an honor?  Instead of arrogantly claiming it for ourselves so that we can beat over the head with threats of hellfire and damnation those who don't have it?  Or instead of waving it over the heads of others like a giant banner in a stadium while we cuss out the referees?  Or wearing it like a fish symbol on our car even though we drive like jerks?

What if we stopped for a moment and contemplated the idea that the name of Christian is an honor that has been bestowed upon us by virtue of our baptism and the gift of faith given by the Holy Spirit?  Would it change how we related to God?  to others?  Would it change how we did evangelism? 

I have two images in my head when I think about this.  The first is of someone receiving an honorary Ph.D. - they didn't do the work, they didn't write the dissertation or pass the exams or teach the undergrads.  The university simply decided to confer the degree.  Similarly, we don't earn the name of Christian.  It is God who baptizes, God who gives faith, God who redeems.  You did not choose me, but I chose you...

...and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last.  The other image in my mind is of knighthood, that moment when you kneel before the king, and he places the blade of the sword on your shoulders, and says, "I now dub thee ___________, a Knight of the Round Table."  In the middle ages, knighthood required oaths of loyalty and service to both God and the king.  During the ceremony, the knight would be presented with many gifts, including the shield and sword, and sometimes the full set of armor.  At the end of the ceremony the king would say, "Arise, Sir Knight." 

What if we had an image in our heads of us the baptismal font, the communion rail, the confessional...and being tapped on the shoulders with the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God," and hearing, "I now dub thee Elizabeth, a Knight of Christ.  Arise, Christian." ???  What if we really believed we had sworn an oath of loyalty and service to God?  That we now wear the full armor of God, and that we have been "knighted" for the purpose of going to bear fruit?

Something to wonder about, that's all...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My New Favorite Song

I ♥ this.

Apparently it was released like a year ago, but I just heard it for the first time last night.  It's cute, and it's proof that popular music need not be skanky.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose...

I's feelin' near as faded as my jeans...

Another good song...mmm...

Or, probably better, John 8:36: "He whom the Son sets free, is free indeed."

I've been feeling last few days, and it's all good.  Awesome-huge-o-Church-at-Home has been preaching on dreams and passions, and what we've been "made for."  They keep asking the question, "What is your dream?  What are you passionate about?"  And for a while, I've been having to answer, "I don't know.  I don't have any dreams.  I'm not passionate about anything.  I'm fine.  With whatever."

But I didn't really like that feeling (I was feeling a little left-out, what with all my friends at home getting to have all these big dreams and I'm stuck out here on the prairie feeling...fine), so I started praying about it.  God, give me a dream.  God, show me something I'm passionate about. 

Why am I always so surprised when God comes through for me?  His mercies are new every morning, indeed.  I mean, you'd think over time I'd start to remember and trust that He's got my back.  Or maybe that "forgetfulness" increases the joy level, and keeps me from demanding God's action, keeps the relationship loving rather than contractual.  I don't know.

Anyway...the point is...last week was the first week of our midweek worship services at this little country church.  It's flippin' amazing that a church this size manages to pull off midweek worship year 'round (not just Advent and Lent), and I ♥ it.  There's a little bit of contemporary worship music (guitar and piano type stuff, with some of the younger members of the congregation leading), then I get to teach for a few minutes (10-ish), adults break into groups and discuss while the kids mostly just run around and have fun, and then we close with more music.  It's fabulous.  And so last week, as I was there watching the adults have some great discussions with each other - spouses, friends, relatives - and even engage the kids some, I was just loving it.  It was incredible watching them learn and grow and think and ponder.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

All Hallow's (?) Eve

Where does the apostrophe go?

Anywho...I'm really not a Halloween fan.  Like, not at all.  It's cool, I guess, kind of, when you're a kid.  But I was always a pretty serious child (even before I got sick), and so the dressing up thing never really did it for me. 

Perhaps it will be more fun this year with a) not working, b) not living in a dorm, c) having actual front steps to sit on and give candy to cute little kids from my church.

Nonetheless, there is one good fabulous thing about Halloween.

I give thee,

Halloween Oreos!!

For the last year or two, I hadn't been able to find these at the store, and I was sorely disappointed.  The other day, though, I had to travel into the city to visit a parishoner in the hospital, and I took the opportunity to make a quick WalMart run, where my cart came to a screeching halt when I encountered this:
Yes, friends, it is now officially fall. 

(Side note: I don't even care that much about regular Oreos - whatevs, they're fine.  But Halloween Oreos...they're worth the whole twisting apart and slow-dissection-to-savor-every-bit!  Yum...amazing!)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Let's Do It This Way, Shall We?

Yes, please:
I was confronted by the Baptist minister of the campus church, Warren Carr. He was smarter, tougher, funnier, and more theologically astute than any of the professors on the Wake Forest faculty. He had put his life on the line during the civil rights crisis of the 1960s. His house was bombed and his church defaced in Durham, North Carolina. Yet Carr always made clear that his courageous stance on racial justice was an expression and not a substitute for the Gospel.
Emphasis mine.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Things I Think I Think II

As Smith argues, the Bible is emphatic in condemning divorce. For this reason, you would expect to find evangelical Christians demanding the inclusion of divorce on a list of central concerns and aims. But this seldom happened. Evangelical Christians rightly demanded laws that would defend the sanctity of human life. Not so for marriage. Smith explains that the inclusion of divorce on the agenda of the Christian right would have risked a massive alienation of members. In summary, evangelicals allowed culture to trump Scripture.
           See also:
But divorce harms many more lives than will be touched by homosexual marriage. Children are left without fathers, wives without husbands, and homes are forever broken. Fathers are separated from their children, and marriage is irreparably undermined as divorce becomes routine and accepted. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin, but it is sin, and it is a sin that is condemned in no uncertain terms.
  • Catholic or no, I think Elizabeth Scalia makes a fabulous point in this article. 
Intellectual rigor and loyalty are not mutually exclusive, as some progressives are prone to insist. What Newman models is, perhaps, a willingness to apply one’s own intellect to any question with enough openness as to leave room to be surprised at one’s own conclusions.
Sometimes, the commingling of faith and reason is a neat and natty thing. More often it is a bit messy, but once our intellects have thrashed a matter to its frayed ends, we realize that we have stumbled into mystery and then, if we are open, we (very reasonably) throw our hands up to heaven and submit to it, because we know mystery for a good adventure, and we are loyal to it.
I'm always intrigued by people who say things like, "I could never be Catholic because I don't want anyone to make me believe all those things."  It's always said with kind of a sneer, as though it's obvious that there is no one who does in fact believe all those things, and that all those unthinking Catholics have clearly signed the Catechism at gunpoint (or something) and are to be viewed with disdain.  As though thinking about what you believe, reasoning it out, talking about it, all within a general framework of loyalty is impossible, or totally not allowed in the Catholic Church.  It also makes me ask the question: do other churches - Lutherans, Anglicans, and other less uh... historically tethered protestants - not have lists of "things you have to believe"?  Like, you know, the Creeds or something? 

  • I think I am frustrated here by the general sense I get that not being married or having children completely disqualifies me from having anything to say about marriage or children/children's ministry.  Parents who disagree with me don't say, "Hmm...well, I see your point, but I still think..."  No, they say, "Well, as a parent, I can tell you that..."  At the wedding I was at last week, that I didn't even officiate at, the father of the groom looked quite obviously at my left hand, and then proceeded to say in all seriousness, "Well, you're not married, so of course, you don't know anything about any of this."  Thanks.  Because I don't already feel like a failure at life for being 29 and unmarried, I need you all to point it out and start removing my pastoral authority, all at the same time.  Awesome.  

  • I think that being asked to preside at funerals, particularly the graveside portion of the service, is perhaps the greatest honor I have ever had.  I complain a lot about all of the funerals there have been, and I think that they can really take a toll on a solo pastor.  And while I'm really enjoying my time here, I'm not sure that I'm sold on "I really really wanna be a pastor here for the rest of my life."  But I will miss the funerals.  There's a very real, almost tangible, intersection of life, death, God, humans, love, loss, natural, and supernatural all at once.  I want to say that it's "cool", but that does no justice it to whatsoever.  There just is not the right word. 

  • I think that there are a lot of grocery items where one can get by with using the inexpensive Wal-Mart brand.  Like canned vegetables, or shredded parmesan cheese, or hot cocoa mix.  Ranch dressing is not in this category. 

  • I think that it is way too late in the year for the high temperatures to be in the 70s.  I know that it needs to snow on or before my birthday. 

  • I think that I would move back to Europe, especially Germany, in a heartbeat.  With a good job offer, and hopefully a couple pre-fab friends in the area (connected to a job, or school, or just an expat community), I'd pack my bags and go right now.