Sunday, October 30, 2011

Several Quick Things, remote log-in edition

1) I've been plagued with electronic issues lately. My laptop, which died a near-fiery death a year or so ago (I forget now) and was brought back from the brink by a generous friend, still has some quirks. Think Steven King's Pet Semetary. You know, it lived, but there's something a little different about it, and it's kind of... mean? Aw, Fluffy! What happened? Ouch!
Anyway, it mostly manifests this way- the wifi works beautifully, everywhere, except at home. Which really wouldn't be much of an issue, except that the laptop can't feel the presence of an ethernet cord either. SURE, you say, google and get help from the brains online. Well, I did, at work, and after doing what they told me, it has sort of returned to a semi-life, with each page taking about 4 minutes to load, mostly text-only, and sometimes not at all. But it's... better than nothing?
1.5) Also, my Satellite Radio receiver is acting up. About 5 minutes after powering on, it just goes silent, and stays silent. The display taunts me with the name of whatever show I can't hear. Sat. radio is frustrating enough for a talk-radio listener, viscously blanking out whenever there's an important point or punchline.
1.7) So I'm relying a lot on my wonderful, blessed IPhone. I can play my podcasts on the car radio through the doohicky I have, and have constant access to google, IMDB, and facebook. Thank you God, and I guess, Steve Jobs.
2) it truly did snow here last night, we got about an inch I guess, although it's hard to know with all the rain and slush what really counts as snow. I'm looking out the kitchen window right now, at our lovely summer furniture and my garden covered with slushy grossness. We had all day on Friday to get it covered up or brought in, and the shovels out, and whatnot, but instead we lazed around. Mother nature now mocks us, and I continue to sit on my butt. So, HA Mother nature.
3) this week's This American Life is about middle school- as a Youth Ministry couple, we listened intently... and it was really good. It reminded us how thoughtful and deep middle schoolers really are, and what a great age it is to do some great communicating with kids, before their mouths officially clamp shut. But it also affirmed how scary, treacherous, and anxiety-ridden middle school can be. One person talked about how little he thinks middle schoolers are even able to learn, school-wise, because they're so full of all that's going on inside and around them, and I have to admit, I don't worry much about how much material middle schoolers learn (in religious ed) but I do think it's invaluable time in which to form and strengthen connections with caring adults, faithful peers, and God. Middle schoolers, they are awesome. I think a lot of people see kids in middle school as a lost cause, but it's the exact opposite. It's just about appreciating them for who they are and where they are. The Church that does that for a kid, at a time when no one else is doing it, is able to make a difference.
4) Along these lines, I visited the youth group at their annual Laser Tag Lock-In. No head injuries this year! One girl did ask for ointment for a scrape she'd gotten on her arm, but by the time I got back from the first-aid kit with it, she was already off playing Guitar Hero so I assumed she'd recovered okay. I stayed a lot longer than I'd expected to, because the kids were SO fun, so great. They were kind to each other, said the funniest things (Scott won one round and was bragging about being number O-N-E and a kid came up to him for a high-five and said "oh yeah? Well I came in last, L-A-S-T-E!" Also, there was "you don't play video games? Why not?" " Because I have a life?") It was grade 8-12 and the range in sizes and movements and humor was massive, and fascinating. There was a big scene when someone got mad because people kept shooting him... in laser tag... and a family dispute, and everything turned out all right. I had a blast, just watching everything and having conversations with the kids. Well worth the sleep lost.
5) Last night, in the midst of our groggy post-overnight sleep, the carbon monoxide detector started to chirp. I swear they are set to lose battery power at night. Anyway, my natural response was to try and sleep through the chirping, and my second natural response was to rip the detector from the wall and pull out the battery. and stuff the whole thing under a nearby blanket. Scott, with a cooler head, got up and reset the detector and we are no worse for the mid-night wear.
6) My cats are getting old- 16 and 17, by our best guesses, and although they are still healthy the older one is continuing to get... well... crazier. It's coming out as a deep, obsessive love for me. She follows me around, must be near me or if possible in my arms, like a baby. She has double paws, and claws, and love from her is painful. But to deny her affection feels so mean. I wake up at night to her trying to take the same space as my head, imposing herself on my pillow or sometimes, licking my forehead in a fit of mid-night passion. It's... sweet, but so annoying. But I can hardly deny her. It is a lot of work to be the object of someone's obsession.
Okay, the roads seem clear, and the sun is out, so I'm off to work. Wonder where the shovel is?

Friday, October 14, 2011

7 Quick Takes, Rainy Friday Edition

1) It's Friday, but a GOF Friday which means we should probably be getting ready to go in to work. I should also be putting the final touches on my teaching (it's Baptism tonight!) and of course... reading Fundamental Moral Theology. Are you sick of hearing about how I should be reading for this class? I'm sick of saying it. Sorry. I am going against every instinct to really read our stuff and not skim it, not read only the subtitles, not only read the last paragraph of every section or the last sentence of every paragraph. I'm really trying to be an actual student because it's my last class and I feel like the professor really expects us to read it all, and... I do want to say something reasonably intelligent in class, but I have to tell you it is miserable stuff. I have new respect for philosophy majors, and a new hatred of philosophy.

2) I teach the parents of younger kids at GOF, and love it. They are a wonderful group and are so good to work with. They respond back to me, they speak to each other when prompted, they nod their heads. I tell them how much I love and respect them (because I DO) and how wonderful they are to even give a little bit of a crap enough to go to a thing like GOF with their kids. I always try to hi-hosey this group (there are enough teachers around that we could switch often and take turns) but I always grab them. This summer our DRE asked for feedback from a few of the parents who had been there throughout our 8 year history of GOF (not just about my teaching but overall opinions about the programs) and one person said "She is great! She must be getting sick of us after all this time though!" which makes me think, hmmm... maybe they're hearing a little too much of me. Maybe THEY are sick of ME. It's possible. This would be a great semester to hand off this responsibility to another capable teacher, and I'm gonna. But I'm going to miss them, and I hope secretly that they miss me...

3) yesterday was Graduate Project Orientation and I was one of the near-graduates there. I don't want to jinx myself by saying how doable it seems. There is a much harder option, where you write a 50-75 page thesis, but why on earth would anyone pick that? The PhD students there said that sometimes people choose it if they "have their eye" on a PhD program (oh God no) but that by the way, their PhD program did not want a 50-75 page writing sample upon admission. So, you'd have to be nuts to choose this. There is also an artistic option. You can make a piece of art, or do a performance! I won't choose this, which I'm sure would be a shock to my undergrad self. In freshman year of college we all had to do some kind of project/production for a freshman intro class that was required of all of us. I wrote a poem about how everyone reads into poems too much, put it on a big white board, and called it a day. Got an A. I am gifted, I guess, at finding the minimum requirement and then doing that impressively-enough well. But not this semester. I'm looking forward to my paper. First Draft is due January 5!

4) I had a conversation with a fellow red sox fan last night and understood everything that was said, and knew what to say back. It wasn't a super deep statistical kind of stuff but I totally sounded like I knew something about the sox, and I did! How cool is that?

5) My parents have bequeathed us their bird feeder, which is called a "Yankee Flipper" but should be called a "Squirrel Hurler" or a "Hurl-A-Squirrel." It has a MOTOR on the bottom that will fling anything heavy that tries to get on it, thusly:

What you can see at about 1:35 is that although the squirrel can't hang on, the spinning does shoot out a ton of birdseed, which the little bugger can eat off the ground once he's done feeling woozy. We have not yet seen a squirrel give it a spin, but we have come home just about every day to a half-pound of bird seed on the ground under the feeder, and a menagerie of birds and critters literally stuffing their cheeks, happily.

6) I've got nothing for number six, let's just move on.

7) So I wrote this whole thing on here about my new understanding of how God works, and it took me a month to even get up the gumption to write it, and I tingled when I posted it, and outside of one (good) comment (thanks Cate), I've gotten no response. I kind of thought this was the thing that would make me a theological rock star, and was ready to entertain (and then reject) offers from PhD programs, but... no. Ah well. Still, I hope it makes sense to people, or doesn't, enough to make them want to send me a note. I'm more than willing to hear that it's CRAP, even.

OKAY, time to get showered and ready for work. Baptism excitement here we come! Hope you have a wonderful weekend! Check out for more 7-Quick-Takers.

Monday, October 10, 2011

God as Perfect Parent

There's a thing that I can't get off my mind. It came to me on 9/11, at Mass in Maine, near my hometown. It's not exactly 9/11 related, but I got to thinking when the priest, during the homily, asked "where was God that day?"
You know, too, that this has been a year full of bad news, for people that I know and love. It's been the kind of year that makes a person wrestle with her faith. I never did lose faith but all along, since almost exactly a year ago, I have had a vague understanding that I was coming to know God in a whole new way.
Anyway, I was in Mass that day, thinking about how God works, and this is what came to me:

I am not a parent but I have seen this happen, so maybe you have too. Picture a young child, a toddler, who's pinched his finger. When little kids pinch their fingers, they cry like their heart is permanently broken. Their pain is REAL! I know, because I've had my finger pinched too. This child's mother responds by holding her child and soothing him. She knows that the child's pain is real, because she's experienced it too. She doesn't do much to fix the pain though, and she doesn't remove every possible pinching thing from her child's existence. She has the perspective of many years. She has a whole lifetime of experience to know that, although the pain is real, it's temporary. Seen in terms of a lifetime, that pain is practically nothing!

Here's another thing I've seen. Teenagers get their hearts broken, and feel like it's the end of the world. I remember so many teenage girls over my years in ministry, who were absolutely crushed by some rejection, some hurtful thing that a boy did. I know that their pain is REAL, because I've experienced that pain myself. There is nothing you can do for a heart-broken teenage girl but listen to her and love her through it. I know things will get better and that the world is not better because I have the perspective of time. I almost wouldn't even want a teenage girl to go through her teenage years without having this experience, however truly painful it is.

So, it occurred to me, if the experience of a lifetime helps me have perspective about the pain that we all feel in youth, then how must the experience of ETERNITY give God perspective about the pain we all feel in life? Maybe this explains, in a way, why God doesn't intervene the way we would want Him to, when we're in trouble. Like the toddler, or the teenager, we turn to our parent and beg them to take the pain away and never let us be hurt again. But the parent, even if He could, doesn't. He knows that however real our pain is, it's temporary. Not just temporary, but God knows that in terms of a eternity, our life-time pain is practically nothing.
We can't believe it because the pain is so REAL. It's hard to imagine in the moment, or the lifetime, that this amount of pure and real pain will ever be dwarfed by anything.

God knows our pain is real, because God has experienced pain. And God knows that we can't see beyond our very real pain enough to say "aw heck, this pain is really insignificant, compared to eternity!" It's not our job to have that perspective, but it is God's.

So if this is true, then I know it has implications for my prayer life, and my relationship with God. I can stop asking God to fix things because I know God doesn't do that. It's not a question of whether God could fix things, and whether God won't fix things, but that God doesn't have to fix things for me, any more than a parent would splint a pinched finger or home-school their teenager so as to avoid her having any romantic relationships. God simply loves me through my very real pain and knows that I'll figure it out when I have more perspective.

How, then, do I pray? I think... we can look at our young people again. The toddler runs to his mother and cries, accepts her comforting. The teenage girl does a lot of crying too, and turns to someone who will love her through it (this is where Youth Ministers earn their stars!). When we are hurt in this lifetime, we run to the arms of our God, who almost wouldn't even want us not to have this experience... who knows that in terms of eternity, this is so temporary... who loves us through.

(I'm not totally settled on this new theology, I'm still mulling it over. But it's giving me a new way of thinking about God that I'm kind of liking. It's probably heresy. I dunno. Don't call the pope just yet, let's work this through a little more.)

No-day Panorama of Goodness

Today is what my friend Nancy calls a "no-day." No-where to go, no-thing to do, no-body to see. This morning I did my only errand, which was to go pick up bacon (couldn't skip that one). Then I made breakfast, and Scott and I ate on the porch. It's in the upper 70's! After breakfast I was drawn like a magnet to the new (inherited) rope swing in our yard. I settled in without an ipod, without a book, without even my iphone, and listened to the birds, watched them eat at our feeder, saw the little planes buzzing over our neighbor airport.I sat there for a while, pulled my feet up and let the swing turn me around.
I got a panoramic view of our little neighborhood and it was like a sweet version of my life passing before me. There was my garden, so productive this year. There were the sunflowers I planted by the light pole on the corner. There was the sweet apartment we live in and love, and then the car that's paid off and only makes a little bit of a concerning noise. There, there was the porch on which we've dozed and played and laughed and cooked and relaxed. And there on the porch was Scott, lazing in the sun with his feet up.
We have free tickets to the fair, but I bet it's already crowded there... and I'm a little worried about being tempted by corn dogs in the midst of my latest first week of low-carb eating. (PS, have you seen all the wheat belly stuff? As if it isn't hard enough to cut out carbs! I wish I had the guts to cut out wheat though! Yuk yuk! "The guts!")