Tuesday, January 29, 2008

So we're giving up on the Better Christian Woman . . .

. . . referred to from here on out as tBCW. Erin, Happy, and others have proved to my satisfaction that if tBCW really does exist out there, she shouldn't. tBCM either. Okay, so maybe there are a few females out there who actually do enjoy having this box to fit into, and it's comfortable, and they're good at it, and all that. Whenever there's an unreachable standard, there are always a few exceptional people who can reach that standard and enjoy congratulating themselves on how much better they're doing than everyone else. But don't we all have better things to be doing than checking off boxes about how we're doing? Spending time tracking our progress takes time away from our making progress. Don't we all know that we have enough to be working on without piling more on top of each other? Anyways.

So what I want to know is, what does a church of that look like? And how do we avoid this:

When do we recognize that if it fits in a box, it's too small for God? How do we keep our theology big enough for God, and how can we grow into our theology? How can we do it together, as a people, as a *community* of faith? Without worshipping at the altar of our rampant American over-individulism? For surely, while God calls us as individuals, he also calls us as a body . . .
I want a community that *doesn't* want me to be tBCW. I want to walk this road with other women and tell them that they don't have to be either. That they can be something better than that. I want to raise my daughters with this understanding. I want to be the best me that I can be. Which might actually involve doing some of the things on the BCW list . . . I can only hope that I'm too focused on loving God to remember to check off the boxes.

Deep thoughts with Bucky Katt

Bucky would have fit in just fine in my expository writing classes in college. We had a two week project in one of them during which we were each given a plant and had to daily chronicle our thoughts and feelings on the thing as it died. I really hated that weed by the end of that particular assignment.

The last couple of weeks I have felt too glutted with thoughts and feelings to be able to write about it. I've been reading some incredible thoughts and journeys in the blogosphere the last couple of weeks, and the conversations have been galloping along ahead of me while I'm still wrestling with entry one. The nature of the church. Coffee. Denominationalism. Individuality. Our feminimity and masculinity. Grief. Maps. Characters and writing. More coffee. Sometimes a little reminder not to take our own writing and ideas too seriously is a good thing. And the gentle assurance that God holds us in the palm of his hand and that all of those ideas, words, creative impulses, etc. are one of the ways that we reflect the image of Creator God, and that even in those times when we escape ourselves, we do not escape him.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I hate bureaucracy

Me on the phone today, with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, 11:45 a.m.:

Me: I need to get my license transferred. I need to take the test. Can I still come in and do that this morning?
Them: No. All tests have to be started an hour before closing.
Me: Why?
Them: Because we close at 12:30 today, and so all tests have to be started by 11:30.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Apocryphal Writings

Heather over at A Deconstructed Christian has been posting bits from the various apocryphal writings the last week or so. That in turn was sparked off by a comic over at ASBO Jesus. Both have me thinking about the canon, but I haven't waded into the discussions there for a variety of reasons. I don't want to pick a fight. I don't want to just sound like I'm parroting the orthodox position. I haven't actually read the apocryphal writings. But I haven't been able to quite shake it, so I'm posting a few thoughts.

1. As someone over at ASBO pointed out, some of the writings, including the Gospel of Thomas, portray Jesus and God in a problematic light. Vengeful. Capricious. Using his divine power simply for his own convenience or amusement. I am firmly commited to the belief that scripture gives us a consistent picture of the nature of God. If there are things that seems contradictory to us, well, that indicates areas where our understanding needs to grow. But I am glad not to be trying to wrestle together more puzzle pieces than scripture has already given me. If the wisdom of the church says that I don't need to worry about the Gospel of Thomas, well--good.

2. Many of the apocryphal writings are understood to be Gnostic in nature. And Gnosticism, believe it or not, is one of those heresies that has kept cropping up throughout the history of the church. The writings of the Gnostics were put forth to serve their own purposes. They were meant to seem reasonable, seductive, etc. But if we don't read them with an understanding of their agenda, we read them at our own peril.

3. Believe me. I understand the appeal of mysticism. We are called believe in a reality that is bigger than us. More than we can see, more than we can touch. One that has battling angels and demons. One in which we are being remade. I love fantasy literature. One of the reasons for that is that I believe that it echos the truth back to us that this world is stranger, deeper, more perilous than the safe, flat, American culture that we are stuck living in. But . . .

4. The best fantasy literature has a coherence to it that is wonderful but it doesn't answer all the questions. The worlds of Tolkien, Bujold, McKillip, Donaldson, Gaiman, introduce us into worlds that just get weirder the deeper that you get into them. The give you glimpses of things that are not fully explained, or indeed, explainable. You get the sense that the author does not themselves know all the answers nor care to go looking for them, and in that these worlds mirror scripture. In hack fantasy, we get too many answers. The readers pester the authors for explanations and the authors manufacture them, inadvertantly shrinking their worlds, because the answers that are concocted can't match the questions for inspiring magic and awe. (Which then indicates a good rule of thumb for secondary world building--don't answer a question unless you have to and unless the answers produces more questions than the original question did.)

5. Except, sometimes, authors "answer" questions with a lot of mumbo-jumbo and hand waving. And this is what those quotes I've seen from the apocryphal texts remind me of--things that are worded in such a ways as to make it impossible to actually pin them down for meaning. Things that are so vague that one could legitimately read just about anything into them. The bit that Heather posted today from the Apocryphon of James reminded me of nothing so much as the raving madmen's "prophecies" in David Eddings's supreme hack work, "The Belgarion."

6. Compare this to real scripture. It is never intentionally vague. I may not understand it, but I always have that sense that the writers know exactly what they are talking about it. And that they're not trying to hide or disguise anything. Quite the contrary. They are trying to help me understand. There's just something interfering with my putting all the pieces together. (Usually my own sin.)

7. Jesus likewise. Okay, so there was that time that he quoted Isaiah, "though seeing, they may not see, thought hearing, they may not understand." (Lk 8:10) That's after the parable of the Sower. But then what does he do? He goes on to *explain* the parable to his disciples. In the gospels, Jesus brings us clarity and healing. Not confusion or mumbo-jumbo. He gives us the respect of giving us real answers, even when we might not understand them.

8. I quote myself, from a discussion on ASBO Jesus about the passage in which Jesus says that there will be no marriage in the new kingdom: " The whole incarnation was and is a complete anti-scorn. Drawing near to us. In that passage I think we get a glimpse rather of utter respect. There are times, as a parent, when my children ask a question and I *know* that they’re not going to understand the answer. But I will not lie to them, nor will I tell them that their question is not worth answering, and so I find myself explaining molecular chemistry to my first grader. Or the sacrament of communion. Or malapropisms. And I know that she’s mostly not going to get it, but I can at least show her, in all seriousness, that the answer is bigger than the questions that she knows to ask. And it has the effect, among other things, of somewhat deflating her oversized seven-year-old ego. Because as the brightest seven-year old in her first grade class, she’s *sure* some days that she’s got the whole world figured out. And I think that’s Jesus and the Saducees. They’re *so* sure of themselves and Jesus tells them, “You don’t even know the right questions and you wouldn’t understand the answers if you did. But I’m going to show you the respect of giving you a bigger answer than you can handle, because what you need is be yanked out of your own self-righteous self-assurance.”

8. And when something reeks not of being an answer that wouldn't perfectly clear if only we knew how to understand, not of being an answer that gives rise to bigger, more wonderful questions than the little questions that we know how to ask, but rather smells to high heaven of being a lot of pseudo-spiritual *&*@!%^ primarily worded to obfuscate the fact that they don't know what the hell they're talking about, then that's not something that I need in my canon.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Why I don't tag on memes

Someone may have noted that I didn't tag on the meme. Several reasons. Mostly, because it feels the same as forwarding email. Or participating in chain letters. I received a chain letter or two in grade school and was immediately and thoroughly inculcated by my mother about why not to participate in them. It was drilled into my psyche, and I now *cannot* do anything that feels like that. Forward emails. Tag people on memes. Participate basically at all in anything that spreads "virally."

Okay. So there's also the fact that I'm pretty new to the blogosphere and don't know that many people on it. But here are my internal rules. I will never forward *anything* whether I like it or not that has something like "forward this to at least five people" at the bottom of it. I don't care if it promises me that I'll feel the love or make someone's day or that I'll end up as demon-possessed if I don't. I do not forward for the sake of forward. If I ever forward something to you it's because it's something that *I* want to share with *you.* That made me think of you. That I think you'll get a kick out of. Likewise, if I ever tag someone on a meme, it'll be because I really want to know your answer to that particular meme. I'll choose you personally. But I promise that I'll never tag someone as filler because I need six names and could only come up with two. Because anyone I would have tagged was already caught earlier in the process and one of those people was the one who tagged me.

But here's the inconsistent bit. I really don't mind being tagged. I rather enjoy it. It gives me some things to think about. I don't mind getting forwards. Well, at least if they're not completely sacharrine. I do mind getting chain mail.

Welcome back to January in the Midwest

This is me. The sky is a roiling mass of dirty laundry gray out there, spitting rain turning to snow. Humidity's high, so the cold just seeps through however many layers of anything you want to put on and gets straight to your skin. I swore when I moved away from the midwest 10 1/2 years ago that I didn't care if I ever came back. Those comments were primarily aimed at the weather, and my beef with the weather is primarily the weeks and months of the year when the amount of actual sunlight can be measured in hours. I have no doubt that God has called us here, and that if he's called us he has work for us to do, and that that will be good work. And that he'll give us all the tools we need to accomplish his purposes. Perhaps God's provision for his kingdom work for us here is going to have to include a sun lamp.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"Six Things" meme

Happy has tagged me again--this time for a meme with the following rules:

1. Link to the person that tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.
4. Tag six people and at the end of your post, link to their blogs.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog

Let me say first off that there ought to have been six rules. Not five. Second off, this meme gives me yet more reasons that Hap is one of my bestest friends ever--I could just about lift her six *quirks* and post them and be done with this. Quite aside from our shared history, or her steady presence, prayerful support, wisdom and the fact that she introduced me to my husband . . . I will confess to being list-obsessed, telephone-phobic, door-closing-impaired, horrified of needles (dulled only somewhat by the appalling number of shots, blood draws and tests that three pregnancies and c-sections have necessitated). I have to laugh that God has blessed me with such a sister. I admit that I can only mostly carry a tune in a bucket and that the entirety of my musical instincts could fit in a thimble with room left over. As such, I don't share inborn need to make it to the end of the musical phrase before shutting off the car.

But my own:

1. I get cold. If I happen to be in the shade at 80 degrees, let alone when it happens to be below freezing out. If I'm overtired. If I'm very overtired I start shaking uncontrollably until I can get some sleep. I think my hands are always cold unless they're in hot dishwater or wrapped around a coffee cup. Neither socks or slippers cut it to keep my feet warm. I need both. It's the fact that my circulation doesn't reach my extremities that's at least partially responsible for my extreme coffee addiction. The combination of physical heat with stimulants to combat the constant sleep deprivation of parenting is irresistable.

2. I'm a game junkie. Solitaire, Freecell, Minesweeper, Pinball, DX-ball, Hearts . . . they've all had their turns as my time-wasters du jour. My current favorites are Sherlock and Text Twist. I'll say this about Text Twist--if you like it, go get yourself Quiddler and find yourself a few people to play it with you. (Oh, great. In linking to the page about Quiddler, I found that there's an online version of it. Another time sink. :) )

3. Anything worth reading is worth rereading. And rereading. And rereading. And . . . There are a handful of my favorite novels that I have to have read over a dozen times by now. Countless other that I go back to my favorite parts. There's nothing better than spending time with old friends and if those old friends happen to be characters . . . But this is fortunate because--

4. I'm hooked on picture books. Which is also fortunate because the two together allow me to read to my daughters--well, not nearly *enough*, but at least an adequate amount. Any parent knows that the kids don't just want that book once. Better find the best ones. But I'll tell you--there's nothing better than introducing your kids to an old friend and watching them fall in love.

5. Backlinking through this thing, I'm discovering all sorts of blogs out there! Thank you, Jim, for reminding me that I too am one of those adults who have never really internalized right and left. Drove my driver's ed instructor crazy. Ended me up on the interstate when I had no business being there. My husband simply says, "Other left."

6. I love the comics. Most of my time online, most of the time, is reading the comics. As such, I recommend not only the usual big clearing house sites: http://www.comics.com/ and http://www.gocomics.com/, but also the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for posting the dailies for a number of my favorite King Features comics which King Features is to self-absorbed to let people follow online on their own site, and some independents: Sluggy Freelance, ASBO Jesus, xkcd, and User Friendly. (How's that for a convoluted run-on sentence?)

Thanks to all the people who've posted on this meme! What a riot following the back links through this one. What a wonderful, strange crew humanity is.

Monday, January 7, 2008

My coffee cup is my security bunny

Today is one of those days that has me wondering how much we look like the screaming toddler to God's loving father. The coffee is still brewing and we're already into the second or third meltdown of the day. The toddler does not want to finish her banana. Or get cleaned up from it. Or stay in her high chair. Or get down. By sheer force I manage to get the banana slime wiped from her hands and wrestle her out of her high chair. And what does she do? Lift her arms to be picked up and held. She doesn't know what she wants. She doesn't like what Mommy's doing. But it will all be okay if she can just sit in Mommy's lap . . . at least, until it's time to get dressed and everything repeats.

I'm thankful that God holds us. I'm thankful that God doesn't ever say, "Wait--I need a cup of coffee before I can deal with this." It makes me wonder how much my coffee cup resembles my daughter's grubby security bunny in the eyes of God. And there must be days, I'm sure, that God's reactions to my meltdowns is much closer to my reactions to my older daughters--"You're four / seven years old! You don't need to throw a tantrum like this. " But as a parent, I know that my "big girls" are still little children too, and if they get pushed too far, they melt.

That's what I feel like right now. There are days that, as a family, we have to do things that I know are going to push my kids too far. When I have to delay dinner two hours, or keep them up until eleven at night. It gets ugly, but I go into it expecting it, and I try to plan recovery time in afterwards--a quiet day at home, a morning when we don't have to get up for anything. I feel like I've been kept up past my bedtime and fed too late. I know I've been overreacting and just can't help it. I pray that God has built recovery time into our schedule.