Monday, October 30, 2006

What I'm Doing

After this summer's CPE experience, I've really started examining all of my actions. I suppose it is a natural result of the method used in CPE in an effort to become more self aware. So when I begin acting in a different manner, or doing things that are a departure from the normal schedule, I start wonder what's going on. I really believe that we work out things that hare working in and on us emotionally and spiritually in our physical environment. That's the first thing.

Second is my husband's and my ongoing dealing with "stuff." When my grandparents died or downsized or went into nursing homes, my parents took in all their "stuff." China and furniture and pictures and placemats and linens and shoes and vases and papers and books and ... They gave much of it away to myself and my sister, to cousins and relative and large amounts to Goodwill. But they kept quite a large amount. When my mother moved after my father's death, she began to unload even more of the stuff and when she died, my sister absorbed quite a bit into our households. (Actually, I still have garage and storage unit full of "stuff.")

When my husband's mother died and his grandfather, he became the executor of his grandfather's estate. And his grandfather had a incrediable mountian of "stuff." We have been dedicating every other Saturday to going through that stuff. My parents and grandparents and his as well had what I call the "depression mentality." It's a result of doing without for so long in the 1930's and then having things rationed out in the 1940's. It shaped their thinking and their way of being. I heard so many times "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." They never threw anything away because, hey, you never knew when you might need it again.


The husband's grandfather's attic was ... overwhelming. It was full. There were boxes of stuff that had been packed up in 1938 when his grandparents moved to New Orleans. The newspapers are dated 1938. There are boxes of stuff that had been packed up in 1948 when they moved back to Atlanta. So many of these boxes were obviously never ever touched. There were toys from his mother's and his uncles' childhood that were played with and then placed back into the original packaging. There is clothing, shoes, hats -- all in boxes and just packed away. There are entire boxes of household goods that were packed away when his uncles died in 1971. Opening these boxes is like entering into time warps. There are boxes of "good stuff" -- linen, china, silver and the like, packed away for a "special occasion."


The attic was hot then cold for years and years. The roof leaked. Racoons chewed holes in the eaves and nested in the boxes. Squirrels lived in the attic. Mice made themselves a home. Most of the stuff in the attic is just ruined. And it makes me so very very sad. It was all packed away "just in case" and "for a special occasion" that never came. It was never used much or appreciated. The shoes and clothing was not given to people who could have used it. The special occasions never came. Is it better to have a ballgown ripped while dancing joyously or to have it rot on a hanger and then used as nesting material for mice? And now my husband and I are spending so much time and energy clean it all up.

I have been bringing home a few items -- trying to salvage them. I've brought home some hand painted china things that were broken and I am trying to mend them. I've recently washed some of the evening wear (even if it was not meant to be washed) and I've washed some of the quilts. I found a green tole tray that was really nasty. I washed it up, sanded out some of the rust and sealed it with poly. I found an old mirror that the mice had really made nasty and cleaned it up. I found a relatively cheap silver bowl that someone tried to polish more than 50 years ago and left the paste on to dry. I tried to salvage it. I'm trying to salvage something out of this mess.

We are given blessing/money/resources to use and not to hoard. We aren't supposed to dig a hole in the ground and put our stuff in it -- we are to use our stuff. John Wesley would say we are to earn all that we can, save all that we can and give away all that we possibly can. The stuff in the attic was not "saved stuff" -- in a way it was totally wasted stuff.

I am making myself a quiet place in the house -- in the only place that I can and that would be our bedroom. I'm placing some of the things that I am salvaging in my new space. I'm combining my stuff -- that came from my parents and grandparents and my husband's stuff that came from his family along with our stuff that we purchased together to make my space. And I am giving away huge bags and boxes of stuff to those who can use it. I've sent a lot of kid's stuff and books to Slidell -- and some of my clothing. I've given away stuff to the church and Family Promise.

And I am gluing broken things together to see if something of value can come of it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Age Old Questions

1) Dare I eat after the cat?
2) Will Kiwi/Orange yogert upset her stomach?
3) Why do I leave my yogert laying around?
4) How much yogert CAN she eat?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Amazing Grace -- for Jen

as it would be sung in 1840 is found here. This is the New Britain version.

It's the melody in the tenor and the soaring harmony in the sopranos that are so very different here. This group doesn't do as good a job as some in the accenting of the first beat of the measure.

Sounds different, doesn't it? But there is another that's really different -- a different melody.

A Reflection

I've been thinking today about candies and chocolate: starting with light and fluffy candy; Divinity, as my grandmother made it in her 1940’s kitchen. She was one of those souls who would have something “nice to say about the Devil,” as my mother often teased her. She would wait for a clear day in December with absolute no humidity; there could be no grease on any of the cooking implements. Divinity is delicate and grease or humidity will ruin it. Yet she could not conceive of Christmas without Divinity. My mother on the other hand, never could make Divinity; she stuck with Nouget, a sort of cocoa-less fudge. It too was a light and fluffy candy -- bowing to the realities of humidity and grease, but had none of the bitterness that comes with cocoa.

My father, however, was a fan of dark chocolate. What would be marketed today as bittersweet chocoate, it is dark and rich, but leaves a bitter aftertaste. It is a drug; modern research shows that it can actually change the chemical makeup of the brain. My grandfather was much less stable and would take great and heaping spoonfuls of cocoa right from the can, leaving the dank smell of a sugarless existence in his wake.

In my latest hospital setting, I saw all these types. I saw the Divinities that could not stand up to the humidity of the tears of true grief and we just left with a sticky mess. I saw the Nougets whose cocoaless existence became cloying. I saw the Dark Godivas and Lindts; some of which were such pure cocoa that they could not melt; their bitterness and pain and agony made them rigid and frozen.

Where is there unity to be found? It seems that most of us are in that huge variety of Milk Chocolates; the gritty to the teeth cheap chocolates that satisify for a while; the Hershey’s, the ubiquitous and blandness of most people’s ordinary lives; the sublime quality of a Godiva Milk Chocolate truffle. These are to be found in a unity, forged in the smithy of the soul, of the Divinities and Nougets along with the dark and liquid pure and bittersweet cocoas.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Small Rant

One of my classes (Evangelism) uses a lot of film. Contextualization, you know.

Anyway, I'm supposed to watch the rest of Malcolm X today -- I just finished Amistad.

What a wonderful film (painful, but wonderful.) One small gripe, that I am sure is a sign of a true geekette.

When the drab and morose group of Christians went around, they were singing. That's probably accurate. They were singing "Amazing Grace." That's OK, because it was written around 1799 and its history is all tied up in slavery. Good choice. But they were not using the 1840 harmonizations. AARRGGHH!!! No!!! That arrangement is SO late 20th century. Not good.

See? I'm a geek. (Or is that a Nerd?? I never remember.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Oh My

"During those moments I was not in my faith. I seemed to stand completely naked -- a soul without body, raiment, relationships or roles. A soul alone with -- with what? With whom?

"Faith is a coat against this nakedness. For most of us, most of the time, faith functions so as to screen off the abyss of mystery that surrounds us. But we all at certain times call upon faith to provide nerve to stand in the presence of the abyss -- naked, stripped of life supports, trusting only in the being, the mercy and the power of the Other in the darkness. Faith helps us form a dependable 'life space,' an ultimate environment. At a deeper level, faith undergirds us when our life space is punctured and collapses, when the felt reality of our ultimate environment proves to be less than ultimate."

-- Stages of Faith, James Fowler, p. xi-xii

The To-do List

1) Sit, pray, think for an hour without thinking about the readings I need to do, the laundry, etc. Turn off the phones, too.
2) Read James Fowler's "Stages of Faith" and write a two page reflection paper as a dialogue between Fowler and William James. (Ugh) (Due Wednesday)
3) Read my Systematic Theology readings (after finding out what they are supposed to be....) (Due Friday)
4) Read my Evangelism readings (after finding out what they are supposed to be....) (Due Tuesday)
5) Prepare an hour long lecture/powerpoint for Evangelism (I'm including a history of the RevGals) (Due Thursday)
6) Make a pan of Baklava.
7) Take the kids shoe shopping (and dinner while we are at it)
-- Karate (maybe), bug them to practice piano, guitar, homework, chores (sometimes easier for me to do it than to get them to do it!)
8) Collect up at least one bag of stuff to give away and one bag of stuff to throw away
9) Watch the rest of "Malcolm X" and write a reflection paper (due Wednesday)
10) RevGal's meet and greet.

Sounds like a lot, but it really isn't. I don't put much effort into reflection papers. Pity, that.

The Unexpected

It started out a small, slightly yellow plant
In my well ordered garden.
Marshaled into strict geometries
Even the flowing vines of the clematis
Were reined into submission

All in order, all planned, all serene and peaceful.
My hand hovered over the small little volunteer
Ready to weed it out as I had weeded others.
But for some reason, I hesitated. I decided
To wait and see what it could be.

The leaves soon became a delicious shade of
Chartreuse – deep yellow green, sharply indented and fuzzy.
I realized that a tomato seed must have survived the
Compost heap and germinated against all the odds,
Became vigorous and thrived.

Soon it sprawled all over the bed and I decided
Not to stake it up – choosing instead to let it express
Its self and its nature.
Soon it had over-run the bed, pushing out of the way
The sedum, clematis and lamb’s ears.

Again I debated taking an axe to the trunk,
Ripping it out by the roots
Smothering it in the cradle
And yet
There were little yellow flowers and the possibility
Of life.

Tonight I had tomatoes on my salad
Unexpected fruit from a plant I didn’t plant
Life I didn’t anticipate
A garden I didn’t intend
Which yielded a harvest plentiful and generous.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

More About a Blue Funk

I have, in the past, experienced physical exhaustion as well as academic exhaustion. I've had post-partum depression. The Blue Funk last week was ... different.

I've had time to look at the events leading up to and around my Blue Funk and I've decided it was spiritual exhaustion. Must be, almost.

I was pretty regular about the Morning Prayer thing all last year; taking time three and four times a week to sit, drink my coffee, think and pray. CPE caused a change in my routine -- but I still had the time to sit and think and pray; it was just at the hospital in the chapel most of the time, but it was still there. I got out of the habit of doing it at home in the morning.

This week, I've taken some of that time, and I am feeling better. I am a pretty extreme extrovert at times, but that doesn't mean that I don't need solitude. This week end, I've started making a 'space' for it even, in our bedroom. An oasis of calm and order in a world that is pretty chaotic and noisy. I've set up the sound system in there, cleaned up some of the clutter, placed out a bunch of candles. I want to re-arrange a couple of pieces of big furniture and maybe even paint the walls, even get a few pieces of new bedding. I think back to Jung and his castles at Bollingen and his little fantasy castles he made of stones he picked up on his walks. He did it in solitude and wrote "At Bollingen I am in the midst of my true life, I am most deeply myself." By creating a space for his physical self to dwell in, he could better dwell within himself to discover his authentic self.

Jesus often tried to go off to a different space and be. I had forgotten how essential that solitude is.

So here are a few quotes about solitude:

The monastic hermit realizes that he owes his solitude to his community and owes it in more ways than one. First of all, the community has bestowed it upon him in an act of love and trust. Second, the community helps him to stay there and make a go of it, by prayers and by material aid. Finally, the hermit ‘owes this solitude’ to the community in the sense that his solitary life with its depth of prayer and awareness is his contribution to the community, something that he gives back to his ‘monastic Church’ in return for what he has been given.
-- Thomas Merton

Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.
-- Thomas Merton

It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them…. Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.
-- Thomas Merton

One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude.
-- Carl Sandburg

Language... has created the word "loneliness" to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word "solitude" to express the glory of being alone.
-- Paul Tillich

Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away.
-- Barbara de Angelis

The mark of solitude is silence, as speech is the mark of community. Silence and speech have the same inner correspondence and difference as do solitude and community. One does not exist without the other. Right speech comes out of silence, and right silence comes out of speech.
-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers.
-- Henry David Thoreau, "Solitude," Walden, 1854

When they are alone they want to be with others, and when they are with others they want to be alone. After all, human beings are like that.
-- Gertrude Stein

Converse with men makes sharp the glittering wit, But God to man doth speak in solitude.
-- John Stuart Blackie, Sonnet--Highland Solitude

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell, Let it not be among the jumbled heap Of murky buildings: climb with me the steep,-- Nature's observatory--whence the dell, In flowery slopes, its river's crystal swell, May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep 'Mongst boughs pavilion'd, where the deer's swift leap Startles the wild bee from the foxglove bell.
-- John Keats, Sonnet--O Solitude! If I must With Thee Dwell

Friday, October 20, 2006

Morning Prayer

New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness kindly brought,
Restored to life and pow'r and thought.

New mercies, each returning day,
Come down around us while we pray;
Old fears are gone, old sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God, new grace from heaven.

Hear us, O God, in your dear love,
Let our prayers rise to you above,
And help us, this and every day,
To live as truly as we pray.

-- Words: John Keble, (19thC) adapted

1 All wisdom is from the Lord,
and with him it remains forever.
2 The sand of the sea, the drops of rain,
and the days of eternity-who can count them?
3 The height of heaven, the breadth of the earth,
the abyss, and wisdom Ý-who can search them out?
4 Wisdom was created before all other things,
and prudent understanding from eternity.
6 The root of wisdom-to whom has it been revealed?
Her subtleties-who knows them?
8 There is but one who is wise, greatly to be feared,
seated upon his throne-the Lord.
9 It is he who created her;
he saw her and took her measure;
he poured her out upon all his works,
10 upon all the living according to his gift;
he lavished her upon those who love him.
Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10

Come, Holy Spirit, come
Come into my heart; draw close to me through you power,
O my God, and pour into me your love.
I await with trembling.

Preserve me, O Spirit,
From every Evil in this world,
Warm me, inflame me with your love,
And every pain will seem light to me.
My Creator, my sweet Lord, help me in all my actions.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Child

Who is now taller than me. We noticed yesterday. She's maybe an eighth of an inch or a fourth of an inch taller than me. Taller. Than I am. Taller.

An Exercise

I was going to buy him a cat. He had been in the nursing home for years; too many one might say, but the medical care he received made him healthier and stronger. It was hard to give him the proper care anywhere else.

Papa had made for himself an “office” in the gathering room on “A” wing. He would pull his wheelchair up to a lowboy dresser that someone had donated and diddle with his papers. He and I had filled the top drawer with office supplies: a box of cards, a handful of pens, stamps, scissors and his address book. He would spend hours writing cards to the people he had known in his lifetime. He liked to be busy and as long as I knew him, I knew of his work ethic. He wrote to people from the hospital where he had been a purchasing agent for 30 years, people from his old community, people from church, relatives. In that book though, there were a lot of scratched out names. He would sit and look at those names and tell me stories; “I remember when Billy Rae was just a kid in dungarees. He passed last year.” He was aware of his own mortality. He would hold my hand as he cried.

He had lost so much, really. He lost his autonomy; he had lost his home. He couldn’t even maintain personal dignity, as his bladder would betray him. He was ashamed of having to wear an adult diaper. In the end he had lost his identity, as he couldn’t remember his full name. He eventually gave up writing his cards, but couldn’t give up shuffling them around. He actually wore them out moving them around and trimming off the corners. He lost his purpose. He would cry out that he didn’t even know why he was alive anymore. But only at times. Most of the time he reverted to what I realized was his essential self; a sunny-souled man who loved people and knew he was loved. When I entered the room, his face would brighten up, he’d reach out and he’d say, “Come over here and give me some sugar!”

I was going to buy him a cat the week he died. The nursing home had adopted a new policy of allowing pets – a couple of cats and dogs per hall and birds in cages, goldfish and hamsters. It was a cheap substitute for human touch (without which we really will wither and die.) He had refused to leave his bed for a couple of days and he hadn’t eaten. I cajoled him into eating a Dairy Queen strawberry shake earlier in the week, but he didn’t want any on this particular day. It wasn’t that he wasn’t aware but he just was somehow beyond me. He lay prone in his bed. I was used to him tucking me in bed at night and it was strange to see him there. I sat with him a while that day and then on the next. We didn’t say much. There was no need or compulsion to talk. I would hold his hand and stroke his shiny bald head and sing a bit. He wanted me to read from the book of John.

We got the call around 6:00 in the morning a week after he took to his bed. He had died between the 5:00 and 6:00 rounds. The next days were a blur. I don’t even remember getting his possessions from the nursing home or the funeral. I know that I saved a handful of worn-out greeting cards with all their corners trimmed off and a pair of brass handled office scissors. I keep them in my own office.

I have watched so many of those I love age and die. So many funerals; maybe 12 or 15 in the last 10 years. Each showed their essential nature before they died; Leslie’s generosity, my Dad’s passion and fire, my mother’s compassion and gentleness, Aunt Mary’s greed, Lou’s vanity. What will my essential nature be?


This was written as an exercise to create a dialogue between William James' concept of the healthy-soul and the sick-soul and Joan Erikson's Ninth Stage of Life (the Dystonic Stage).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Evening Prayer

O Savior Christ, you too as we;
You have been troubled, tempted, tried;
Your kind but searching glance can see
The very wounds that shame would hide.

Your touch has still its ancient power.
No word from you can fruitless fall;
Hear, in this solemn evening hour,
And in your mercy heal us all.

Words: Henry Twells, 1868

Psalm 10:1-10
Why do you stand so far off, O LORD, *
and hide yourself in time of trouble?

The wicked arrogantly persecute the poor, *
but they are trapped in the schemes they have devised.

The wicked boast of their heart's desire; *
the covetous curse and revile the LORD.

The wicked are so proud that they care not for God; *
their only thought is, "God does not matter."

Their ways are devious at all times;
your judgments are far above out of their sight; *
they defy all their enemies.

They say in their heart, "I shall not be shaken; *
no harm shall happen to me ever."

Their mouth is full of cursing, deceit, and oppression; *
under their tongue are mischief and wrong.

They lurk in ambush in public squares
and in secret places they murder the innocent; *
they spy out the helpless.

They lie in wait, like a lion in a covert;
they lie in wait to seize upon the lowly; *
they seize the lowly and drag them away in their net.

The innocent are broken and humbled before them; *
the helpless fall before their power.

Luke 8:47-48
When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in thepresence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.'

God of peace,
You teach us that in returning and rest we will be saved,
Resting in quietness and confidence, you will be our strength:
By the might of your Spirit lift me, I pray, to your presence,
Where I may be still and know that you are God;

I pray that your grace may always precede me and follow me.
I pray that your light cut the clouds of darkness,
I pray that your presence be made know to me.
Be my light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend me from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Blue Funk

Is deepening. I've had bouts of depression -- postpartum, after both kids, but never "out of the blue" like this. Maybe if I call it what it is, it will help: Depression. I'm depressed. (And yet there is still a part of me that goes "Yeah, but it will be over soon. Just grin and bear it." Can it be a real depression if I'm still thinking that?)

Headache, lethargy, task avoidance, lack of sleep. I couldn't think of a compelling reason to put my shoes on today. I stared at them for a while and tried to think of one. I finally did it when my daughter reminded me she was going to be late to school.

I think a part of it is the weather; a part of it is the heavy academic load; a part of it is never catching up with the housework; a part of it is missing my parents this time of year. The days are becoming shorter and the skies are grey. I don't take time to really worship anymore; it all becomes a task that I have to do, that I'm compelled to do.

We went to Wallyworld yesterday and the mere thought of buying more stuff to take care of wore me out.

Just Blue.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Losing My Jesus

A couple of times a year, I get tired/overwhelmed/burned out to the point that I "lose my Jesus."

Madeline L'Engle called it a sort of "spiritual flu" that all who minister get occasionally -- and if you just get rest and take care of yourself, you get better. She also occasionally said she "came down with a case of atheism" on occasion and prescribed the same cure.

What's surprising to me is that I'm NOT as busy/overwhelmed/whatever as I have been in the rather recent past -- CPE was all that and I didn't come down with this spiritual flu. But I wonder if I've been running on spiritual adrenaline for so long that it was bound to happen.

I suppose it's part of the "pastor never taking sabbath" thing, too. I'm going to have to start doing the Morning Prayer discipline again and start going to Evensong on occasion. I get so TIRED of the happy happy joy joy type of worship.

So there you go. That's where I am right now.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Comfort stuff

(see following recipies)

Beverage: Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, Merlot at night.
Chair: the horrible looking brown thing in the living room (think brown velveteen with duct tape (the kids call it the Lazy Butt chair)) or my big fluffy chair in my office.
Comfort Read: NOT Karl Barth. Or Billy Jimbo. Or any other theology dude. Or anything published by Alban or Orbis or... actually anything that is a murder mystery with a woman clergyperson.
Comfort TV: Law and Order. SOMEONE must have Law and Order in their life, right? Or ST: Enterprise. I heart Captain Archer. Or House or Gray's Anatomy.
Comfort Companions: I was craving snuggling my kids earlier -- they are fighting now. What WAS I thinking?? Top of the list? the Loving Husband.

Comfort to me is food. So, I am passing onto you my comfort recipies. Enjoy.

You start with Cheese

1 pound soft Kasseri (beat me where to get it where YOU live; I go to Whole Foods)
about half a stick of butter
Brandy (about a jigger full)

Cut cheese into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Place on fireproof broiler pan and brush with melted butter. Broil for 4 to 6 minutes until chees is bubbly and light broun.
Immediately take it to the table. Pour Brandy over the cheese and ignite. Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve with warm toasted buttered pita (grilled is good.)


Comfort Spanakopita

about 3 pounds of fresh baby spinach
1 pound feta cheese, crumbled
16 oz. of ricotta or cottage cheese
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 of REAL grated Parmesan
6 eggs
4 small scallions chopped
dash of nutmeg
dash of cinnamon
dash of pepper
1 pound of melted butter
1 pound of filo

Blanch and drain the spinach. Pat it dry with a towel. It really needs to be pretty dry.
Thaw filo. Beat cream cheese and eggs until fluffy. Add other cheese and other seasonings and mix until blended. The filling can sit overnight in the refrigerator and let the flavors intermingle...
In a largish baking pan layer about 8 or 10 sheets of filo with butter, letting the excess filo make like a pie crust. Spread filling on top, add another layer of 8 or 10 sheets of filo and seal by overlapping the edges. Cut into diamonds BEFORE you bake it. Drizzle leftover butter on top. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. (If there is any filo leftover, make Baklava.)

Southern Comfort Baklava

5 pounds Pecans (said pee'-cans)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbs. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 lbs. filo pastry, thawed
1 lb. butter, melted

Grind or chop the nuts coarsely. Mix with the sugar and spices. Line two baking pans with a sheet of filo and brush with butter. Place another sheet on top and so on until you have about 6 sheets. Sprinkle with nut mixture generously. Add sheets of filo and nut mixture layered until all the nuts are gone. Place the remaining filo sheets on top -- about 8 sheets is good. Brush generously with butter. Cut Baklava into desired shapes and then place in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Cut heat to 250 degrees and continue to bake for another hour. In the mean time, make the syrup.

3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 lemon, juice of
at least one stick of connamon
1 cup honey

In medium saucepan, bring all ingredients except the honey to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. (SIMMER). Add honey as it cools and (if desired) 1 cup of either Kentucky Bourbon or Southen Comfort (Captain Morgans might be good, too). Spoon cooled syrup over hot pastry.

Makes about 72 pieces (for normal people) or 36 for me.

THIS is comfort food.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sitting in Evangelism

and thinking.

I've finished up with most of my academic tasks for the week and with the majority of the MediaShout for Sunday. I've only to read and reread "Dogmatics in Outline" for my exam in the morning.

I've been thinking about Evangelism, specifically how this medium can fulfill the Missio Dei. There are a few of us thinking about a conference called "The Internet is My Parish" -- how can we really do evangelism with this internet stuff?

I suppose you have to start with what Evangelism really is: what is a good working definition that would work with a medium that does not allow spreading the message in incarnational ways? On the web I found this definition for internet evangelism:

Any use of Internet technology to spread the Christian Gospel; through websites, chat rooms, news groups or via e-mail.

Huh. How can it really be Evangelism without being F2F?


I've been thinking a lot about the sex-scandals in Congress and children being killed in school. I have too much to say -- but none of it that hasn't already been said. I hear these things and then listen to happy-clappy music on the very same radio station and I ask myself why there seems to be such a disconnect? Where are the laments? The Psalms are half lament -- how come we are so stuck on the happy-clappy? Where has the lament in our music gone to? and Why?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I have a headache

I've not gotten enough sleep in several days -- today I got to sleep until almost 8:00 am. Yeah!
But now I have a headache. Maybe coffee will help....
Left to do on the list:
Evangelism Reading Reaction
Read this week's Billy Jimbo and write the reflection paper
Systematics Midterm Friday

The presentation was FAB if I do say so myself. Just enough material for the time allotted, just enough cartoons to make a nice light mood, just enough questions/answers and group participation.

I've been reading "Open Secrets" by Richard Licher and "Leaving Church" in between all my required readings. It's interesting how all the stuff I read just stews together in my brain and creates some interesting synthesis.

Monday, October 09, 2006

15 minutes

before I leave to do an hour long presentation on a subject I know very little. (I know, "so what's different about that?" Sigh) At least seminary has taught me how to go on and on and on for a very long time on very little material.

I have chosen a hermenutic of cartoon strips, so at least it should be interesting (or amusing.)


This amuses me. Hattip to Tony.
To quote: The astonishing story of the incomparable Rex Libris, Head Librarian at Middleton Public Library, and his unending struggle against the forces of ignorance and darkness. With the aid of an acient god who lives beneath the library branch, Rex travels to the farthest reaches of the galaxy in search of overdue books. Wearing his super thick bottle glasses, and armed with an arsenal of high technology weapons, he strikes fear into recalcitran borrowers, and can take on virtually any foe from zombies to renegade public-domain literary characters with aplomb.

If these go over well, maybe it means that my concept stories (The Vicar Wore Leather)* might actually be marketable.

*The first in a series: The Pastor Wore Pastels, The Preacher Wore Denim, The Parson Wore Wool and so on.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

What I've Finished So Far

*Write an hour long presentation about how the Bowen Family Systems Analysis can be used in a local congregation (with handouts and media) (Monday) (Ok, half done, but definitely on the downhill slide)
*Do the Confirmation Class on Sunday morning (presentation and handouts already written, yeah!) completed
*Do the Media for Worship (Sunday) Completed except for the final run-through
*Read and study for Systematics Midterm (Wednesday)
*Write a Proposal for Evangalism (Tuesday) all done except for the formatting and printing out
*Read some more Billy Jimbo (William James) and write a paper (Wednesday)
*Attend an all day long Worship Seminar on Saturday DONE
*Get my Emissions Inspection -- oops. But I did get my driver's license renewed
*Oh, yeah, clean the house and entertain my in-laws WHILE my LH is out of town on Friday and Saturday. As done as it's gonna get.

I also
Bought food and put a pot roast in the crock pot
Purchased ingredients for Baklava
Remembered to get FIL a B'day cake
Got some sleep

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Why I Should Not Cook While Reading William James

So, I'm reading the next chapters in the Varieties and cooking at the same time. I reach into the cabinet and get all the "chili stuff" out of the cabinet; red beans, black beans, tomato paste, tomatoes, little green chilis. An entire constellation of canned goods. I'm still reading. I begin to open the cans and dump them into the pot with the ground beef. The tomato paste doesn't come out with out a spoon and I stir it in. Then I look at the can -- it's canned pumpkin. Huh.

I add a can of tomato paste and taste it -- I can't taste the pumpkin. Maybe THIS is how I get the kids to eat more veggies. I stir in more spices and put the pot on high to come to a boil. I'm still reading. I forget about the pot until I hear it bubbling -- I've scorched it. I now have scorched pumpkin chili.

I decant the chili into another pot making sure I don't get the burnt bits. The chili now tastes decidedly "smoky." I've now added MORE spices, including some curry powder because I've run out of everthing else.

We are having curried pumpkin chili for dinner. I wonder if anyone will notice the difference?

The conclusion: William James has inspired me to new heights in cooking.

Mid-Term Crunch

has begun early -- in all of my classes the instructors have said "hey, let's get the midterms out of the way early so that you can concentrate on your other class." This would work IF they ALL hadn't done it.

So this weekend I have to:
Write an hour long presentation about how the Bowen Family Systems Analysis can be used in a local congregation (with handouts and media) (Monday)
Do the Confirmation Class on Sunday morning (presentation and handouts already written, yeah!)
Do the Media for Worship (Sunday)
Read and study for Systematics Midterm (Wednesday)
Write a Proposal for Evangalism (Tuesday)
Read some more Billy Jimbo (William James) and write a paper (Wednesday)
Attend an all day long Worship Seminar on Saturday
Get my Emissions Inspection
Oh, yeah, clean the house and entertain my in-laws WHILE my LH is out of town on Friday and Saturday.

I'm telling myself "Breathe. One thing at a time. You can get sleep in Novemember."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

And now for an extraordinarily boring post

on the Varieties of Religious Experience by William James. Are you ready?

Religion and Neurology
After some introductory remarks, James begins his book with a discussion with the manner in which he delivers his lectures: by examination psychologically of “subjective phenomena recorded in literature produced by articulate and fully self-conscious men, in works of piety and autobiography.” (p.3) He arrogantly declares his lack of theological training. He distinguishes between two types of inquiry into religious experience: What is its nature (essence)? And what does it mean? Science can help with the first, and he will not really look at the second. He compares this type of inquiry with methods of historical interpretation and exegesis of the scriptures, one is an existential judgment; the other a value judgment. He acknowledges that the existential facts are not enough to make that value judgment for one is purely existential and the other is spiritual. His intent is then to examine subjective religious experience via scientific and rigorous methods. He makes distinctions between first order and second order religious experience and will only examine closely first order experiences which burn within those who experience them. The pathology of the person having these experiences can be included in the discussion, but do not invalidate the experience; i.e. art should be examined for its own merits rather than the mental stability of the artist. When examining these experience he tells us that the intellect will first class it among those things that we understand and then secondly look at from whence it comes, its point of origin. He also discusses the origin of religious experience: medically – is there a medical reason? but rejects medical materialism because it avoids a judgment of value. Or can the roots ever be known? Perhaps then the fruit of the experience should be examined; are they useful for the long run? He suggests a new criterion: immediate luminousness, philosophical reasonableness and moral helpfulness.
The Circumscription of the Topic
James begins an attempt to define “religion” noting that it is a complex subject that can tend to oversimplification which then can lead to absolutism and dogmatism. Religion should not stand for one single concept but a collection of concepts. Similarly is considered the term “religious sentient.” Religious experience is not a separate emotion, but consists of the full range of human emotion. For his purposes, James will examine only personal religious experience and eschew the institutional because the institution (i.e. the church) consists almost entirely of second-hand experiences. “Religion, therefore, as I shall ask you arbitrarily to take it, shall mean for us the feelings, acts and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they consider the divine." (p. 31) In James opinion, what distinguishes religion from humanism is the passion with which is it embraced and yet the passivity it accepts suffering.
The Reality of the Unseen
James intends to explore “some of the psychological peculiarities of such an attitude as this, or belief in an object which we cannot see.” (p. 53) He states that religion seems to be the ordering of a reality that is unseen and placing ourselves in subjugation to that order. The actual objects of worship are known to us only in idea (bringing to mind his discussions of percepts and concepts). God, the soul, design of freedom and eternal life are some of these concrete ideas – that in turn are full of abstract properties or objects (along with religion itself); abstractions like God’s holiness, his justice, his mercy, his absoluteness, and so on. He reflects that Kant said that these concrete objects are not objects at all because they cannot be known by human senses – that they have no sense content and thus are void of significance. Yet we can act as if – we can act as if there is a God, we can acts as if we possess a soul, we can act as if we there is an after life and our actions can lend meaning to our lives – they can make a difference in our moral life. This is not a new idea – “Plato gave so brilliant and impressive a defense of this common human feeling, that the doctrine of the reality of abstract objects has been known as the platonic theory of ideas ever since.”
James looks at case studies of “hallucinations” – an awareness of a “presence” in a room localized and seemingly real, but cannot be sense by any of the ordinary human senses, recounting experiences of his acquaintances and in books. In one, a hallucination communicated to his acquaintance a sense of “horribleness” – he states that his friend did not interpret this as the presence of God, but it would have not been unnatural to do so. He recounts other experiences like this; first recounting some that do not have religious overtones, then some that do. He notes that these experiences have a “sense of reality”; some negative, some positive and he actually uses the word “haunted” on page 63. They are utterly real to the person having the experience. He sums up these cases by saying, “Such is the human ontological imagination, and such is the convincingness of what it brings to birth.” (p. 72) He then concludes the lecture stating that reason and rationalism are limited: the rational only begin to describe these experiences that are not explainable by sensory data.
The Religion of Healthy-Mindedness
In this lecture, James starts to look at religious optimism. He notes two types of religious optimism: simple and complex. Simple religious optimism comes from those who are naturally that way, complex religious optimism is obtained by effort. For simple people, “happiness is congenital and irreclaimable.” (p. 79) In simple once-born people, regeneration is not necessary for they do not understand sin, but this can be taken to near pathological extemes. He speaks of Walt Whitman as incapable of feeling or understanding evil. He then turns to complex optimism – the deliberate adoption of an optimistic mind, calling it a voluntary healthy mindedness. Here, the person deliberately turns a blind eye to evil, in fact, the only true evil is calling things evil. (p. 89) Simple optimism seems pagan and full of bravado; complex is akin to denial “so that the world we recognize officially in literature and in society is a poetic fiction far handsomer and cleaner and better than the world that really is.” (p. 90) He examines the “mind cure” – a deliberately optimistic scheme of life that has a speculative and practical applications. James cites several cases. He calls the movement “moonstruck optimism” but notes it has had practical fruit. He compares Methodism and Lutheranism to this mind-cure religion, without the conviction of sin, just free grace. He looks at primitive thought – where a savage will personalize forces of nature which are really impersonal for personal ends and compares this to the “mind cure” which it is diametrically opposed, that personal thoughts are forces that one can control. All that can be said, truly, is that “The experiences which we have been studying … plainly show the universe to be a more many-sided affair than any sect, even the scientific sect, allows for.” (p. 122)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Instead of Reading William James

(and in between reading) the Varieties of Religious Experience today, I have:

*washed several loads of laundry -- I've actually run out of bleach

*washed many items by hand -- esp. the vintage eveningwear from the 1950's and 1960's that's been in the garage for quite a while

*hung to dry three vintage quilts in the sunshine

*cleaned the bathroom

*washed three loads of dishes -- including the crystal that looked a little "greasy"

*polished two silver candlesticks and one silver bowl

*made great inroads to cleaning the Dining Room

*played around with the guitar

*read BBT's "Leaving Church"

*cleaned out the electronics drawer next to the sofa that has all the misc "electronics" stuff

*folded all the clothing and put it up

After all that (and in between all that ) I did indeed manage to read all my assigned readings but I have a conclusion:

William James is very good for the housework motivation factor.

Where does time go?

I get up, I do a few things and then before I know it, it's mid to late afternoon.
Where does time go? Is there a time monster that eats up minutes, like Cookie Monster eats up cookies? Is there a "time black hole" that sucks up all spare time? Where are some "free minutes" that I can get? Does anyone really have some left over at the end of the month?

More papers due tomorrow and Wednesday, more reading to be done. Where does time go?