Month: November 2012

  • Passing Along

    Good things other people are saying:

    Catholics, Costco, and Walmart

    Dr. Holly Taylor Coolman’s suggestions for blog/facebook/internet commenting (hereafter known as The HTC Doctrine):

    1. Ask questions to which you do not know the answer.
    2. Ask more questions, in general.
    3. When you deliver information, assume that many of us already know it. Rather than educating us, you’re more likely performing the service simply of reminding us of relevant information at a particularly helpful moment.
    4. When possible, contextualize your questions and your answers. Share with us something of why you’re asking or perhaps a bit about where you’re headed.
    5. When relevant, don’t hesitate to allude briefly to hesitation or uncertainty you feel.
    6. Eschew sarcasm.
    7. Hesitate to correct. Correct others, if you must, as you would have them correct you—with humility and graciousness.
    8. Ask yourself occasionally whether your goal is a shared goal of seeking insight, or whether you’ve moved closer to something like defending a position at all costs. In case of the latter, back away from the keyboard for a healthy interval.
    9. Ask yourself occasionally who’s not commenting. Or who was commenting, but has now stopped.
    10. Fail to get in the last word.

  • #Theosays

    Recent Theoisms, for general amusement:

    “Iron Chef Theo is making you an omelet.  You’re lucky to have an Iron Chef cooking for you.”

    Watching Cowboy cheerleaders on Thanksgiving: “Ew, did they just show their butts??”

    “Mommy, in God’s heaven, nobody will shush anybody else.  Especially not brothers.”

    [All of my cooking equipment is piled on the bed in the playroom.  It's time to start dinner.]  “Theo, I need my stuff.  I have to make dinner.”  [wailing]: “Nooooooo!!!  The judges haven’t tasted Iron Chef Theo’s food yet!!!!”

    “Good bye, Isaac! Have a good day! Get good grades! You look very handsome! Mommy, I love encouraging my brother, even if he doesn’t say thank you.”

    [At the grocery store]:
    “MOMMY!! We should get ICE CREAM to celebrate!”
    “Celebrate what?”
    “Ice cream! Let’s celebrate ice cream! I mean . . . uh, Jesus.”

  • Confessions

    Okay, true story:

    After lamenting the fact that Starbucks was pulling an all-nighter between Thanksgiving and Black Friday, guess what I did.

    No, really, guess.

    It’s true.  I went to Starbucks at 5:30 on Black Friday morning.

    I am so embarrassed.

    Amos was teething (or something) and woke up at 3:30.  He would. not. sleep. at all, no matter what I did (or didn’t do).

    So at about 5:30, I decided to let everyone else go back to sleep.  I took him to Starbucks, and we had a lovely breakfast, and smiled at all the shoppers.

    He was not the only member of the under-thirteen crowd out and about.

    So, officially, all you retailers out there: not a fan of the whole encroachment of Black Friday into what should be a proper holiday for non-essential personnel.

    But, you know, thanks for being open at 5:30 when I needed it.


  • Stop the Madness!

    So, apparently, the Starbucks in my little town will be open from 6:30am Thanksgiving day until 11pm Black Friday night.

    Not only do the employees not get a Thanksgiving holiday, they have to pull an all-nighter.

    So that Black Friday shoppers can be well-caffeinated for their 3am madness.

    Srsly, America?

    We have to do this?

  • Eavesdropping

    I’ve been spending a lot of time in Starbucks lately.  (It’s fifteen minutes between my door and a table at Stbx.  It’s at least forty-five from my door to my office.  Don’t judge.)

    I’ve spent a lot of time unwillingly eavesdropping on conversations that really should be happening in private. 

    And I’ve learned a lot about the state of modern “dating” “relationships.”  (I already love, respect, and feel grateful for my husband, but today I’m feeling particularly happy to be married at all, and especially to him.)  The conversation currently happening next to me about the participants’ “relationships” keeps making me want to lean over and say, “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    Dating–or at least the version one gleans from the aggregated comments, observations, and descriptions of the denizens of Starbucks–reminds me a great deal of the Toddler Play Date years.

    Back when I had time for those, I would take Isaac or, more rarely, Theo somewhere to play “with” another kid his age.

    Toddlers don’t really ever play with each other.  They play next to each other.  (The kids’ pediatrician and all the parenting books call it “parallel play.”)  Each is usually entirely self-absorbed in a game of his own making, understandable to none but himself, and with entirely idiosyncratic rules, goals, and standards of excellence.  Hero of his own story, dictator of his own sovereign realm, creator of his own universe–whatever metaphor you choose, the reality is that a toddler is a seething mass of self-contained hedonism.

    If they play “with” each other at all, it is only for a short time and only because each coincidentally chooses that moment to view the other as his toy.

    But for the most part, they only interact to express annoyance when one trespasses on the other’s autonomous pursuits.  (“MINE!”)

    There is much to lament about “old-fashioned” relationships.  There is much about so-called traditional understandings of marriage that is worth leaving behind.

    But I really fear that the “new-fashioned” replacements are, at the very least, deficient in some important respects.

  • Favorite Hymns

    When I first came to my current parish, someone made the off-hand comment, “Oh, can we get some new hymns?  The last pastor just did the same ten hymns over and over and over.”

    I didn’t know how seriously to take that comment, but hymns are my thing.

    And I thought, Okay, you want variety?  I’ll give it to you.

    So I’ve been keeping track.  I keep track of what passages and hymns we’ve done, ordered by liturgical year. Two weeks from now, I’ll close out my first full liturgical year in the parish.  (The church year begins with Advent.)

    I’ve avoided using any one hymn more than twice in the whole year, except for my summer Great Hymns series, where we sang the same four hymns the whole month.  (Pedagogical, you know. We’re going to learn these hymns, and we’re going to learn about these hymns.)
    I’ve used a whole lot of Wesley and Watts hymns.  A good many Fanny Crosby hymns, although there aren’t quite so many of those in the current UMH.
    I’ve tried to use a good sampling of historical periods, although I confess that I shortchanged the 1880s-1920s, and I studiously avoided most things written after 1950.

    I was looking through the hymnal for this month’s hymns, and I kept finding old favorites we haven’t even gotten to yet.
    And yet, every week, I schedule at least one of my favorites.

    Apparently, I have a lot of favorites.

    I was thinking the other day about what hymns I’d like to be sung at my funeral.  (Stephen and I have officiated at twelve funerals between us in the past year.  I promise, I’m not maudlin.)  And I was having a hard time picking just, you know, . . . ten.  Marching to Zion, O God Our Help In Ages Past, All The Way My Savior Leads Me, I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath, Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah, Arise My Soul Arise, Come Let Us Join Our Friends Above–gosh, how can you pick??

    Advent is just around the corner, and those are some of my favorite favorites.  Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending, Wake Awake For Night Is Flying, People Look East, Creator Of The Stars Of Night, I Want To Walk As A Child Of The Light (one of my few post-1950 favorites), and possibly my favorite hymn of all time (except for the dozen others that are in the top slot) O Come O Come Emmanuel.

    I’m really, really bad at picking hymns.  I just want to sing them all.  Every week.  (Except Silence Frenzied Unclean Spirit.  Because, . . . dayum.)

    Do you have favorites?

    Do you have a favorite “season” of hymns?

  • On The Other Side

    I woke up this morning to discover that nothing happened last night while I slept.

    “Lord willing and Jesus tarry”–and, so far, he has.  We are still on this side of the eschaton.

    The world has not yet ended in fire.  Nor has it yet been remade in gold and diamond and pearl.  Neither Armageddon nor the Wedding Feast of the Lamb has come.

    We are still called to work and pray and suffer and relieve suffering and worship and wait, until the day we appear before the One whose judgment is eternal.

    We are still called to serve the poor, the weak, and the oppressed, and to live lives of perfect holiness, self-control, and peaceableness, and to testify to the love of Christ wherever we are, until the day we are permitted to rest from our labors.

    We are still called to resist evil in whatever form it presents itself, to do all the good we can, and to receive joyfully all the grace God offers us, until the day nothing remains but perfect union with God.

    Nothing of consequence happened last night, except that God inscrutably knit together some quarter of a million precious children in the secrecy of their mothers’ wombs, and inexplicably brought home some hundred thousand souls to their eternal rest.

    Nothing of consequence happened last night, except that men and women and children all around the world were given one more night to follow Jesus a little better than the night before.  Some of them took that opportunity, and some of them ignored it, and membership in either group has little to do with one’s preferred partners in the quadrennial dance we Americans set our feet to.

    Nothing of consequence happened last night, except that one set of well-meaning people got their way with regard to certain political offices, and another set of well-meaning people were denied their wishes with respect to the same offices.  No nation was toppled, nor set any more firmly on its foundations.  All nations will die, and the one I live in is no exception.  Whether the day it will die has been moved forward or back or remains entirely unaffected by yesterday’s civic ritual, I cannot–I dare not–say.

    The political decisions of a nation are not entirely nothing.  Real lives will be affected by what choices were made last night: some people will get richer, some will get poorer; some will become more vulnerable to violence, murder, hatred, and dumb luck, while others will be more protected, even from their own stupidity; some people will be freer, some will be more enslaved than ever; some will have their suffering relieved, some will suffer all the more, and some will even suffer the indignity of learning that their suffering was all in their head.

    When Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” he did not disclaim politics, if by that we mean cooperative effort to achieve what is good.  Rather, he emancipated his followers from political systems, from political parties, from the necessitousness with which our political leaders would bind us to themselves and for their own ends.  He freed his followers recklessly to pursue the Living God and the good of all God’s beloved children, whoever the ruling power, whatever the condition of society, whatever justice they must discipline themselves to or injustice they must endure.

    He freed them to work with political parties without working for them.  And he gave them to know the difference.

    And so I woke up this morning with the same pile of papers to grade, the same blank pages to fill in my dissertation, the same bulletins to print, the same three sons still asleep in their beds, the same faithful and gentle husband by my side, the same knot in my stomach and hope in my heart as when I went to bed.

    And with the same prayer on my lips: “Lord, help me to get it right today.  Or at least to do a little better than yesterday.”

    For there is much to do.  The president and the congressmen and women and the state and local officials elected yesterday may help some and will certainly hinder some of that work.  It’s not entirely their fault.  We ourselves only sometimes do the work we are called to do, and even less often do it as well as we should.

    Let us all get about the business of doing it, whatever our feelings about what happened last night.  Because, truly, what happened last night has only a little to do with the Kingdom which is our true home, toward which we must always be striving. 

    Our purpose is not realized when our fondest political desires are established, nor is our hope destroyed with a election-night loss.  The leader on whom all of our hopes depend has already come, and it is he who has elected us, not the reverse.  His purpose is not thwarted when we choose the wrong leaders, or even, God help us, when we choose the right ones.

  • Birthday Treats

    No matter how much I try, I can never quite get cakes and frosting to turn out right.  So I don’t tend to enjoy baking cakes.

    And I’m not actually fond of pie, but it turns out that I’m much better at making pie than I am at making cake.  Plus, when you’re trying to cut back on sugar, it’s a lot easier to make something edible and treat-like in the pie range low-sugar than just about anything else out there.  So, for these and various and sundry other reasons, birthday cakes around here tend to be birthday pies.

    Stephen’s birthday is the day before Epiphany, and the traditional Epiphany treat in Paris is a Galette des Rois.  It’s more of a pastry than a cake–puff pastry dough with a frangipane center.  So that’s been Stephen’s birthday cake for many, many years now.

    I just discovered my birthday pie.  I made it this year for the first time and wondered why I’d been messing around with other stupid stuff for so long.  I made a caramelized nut tart, and drizzled a simple chocolate ganache over it.  Wow.  It was like a Snickers bar, all grown up.  And none of the y-chromes in this house like nuts very much, so there was lots, lots more for me. 

    Theo was born in July, and his grandparents have huge blueberry bushes at their house, which usually produce a delicious crop just in time for Theo’s birthday.  So his birthday pie is blueberry pie.

    (He thinks this is perfect.)

    Isaac hasn’t really settled on “his” birthday pie/cake/whatever yet.  We’ve tried several things, all of which he likes, but none of which he likes so much that it feels like “his” birthday thing.  Maybe we’ll do a cheesecake this year.  Or lemon meringue.  I don’t know.

    And Amos needs a pie, too.  Not this year–I’ll probably do an apple or blueberry tart, because we avoid sugar entirely the first few years, and those are easy to make without sugar.  But after that.  It’s going to be hard, trying to come up with Just The Thing for the day after Christmas.  It’s got to be special enough to feel special even the day after all the Special you just ate for Christmas.  But not so decadent that nobody wants to eat it, the day after all the Special they just ate for Christmas.

    These are very complex problems.  Any assistance you could render would be appreciated.

  • I’ve Got the Power!

    The Parsonage on the Mountain now has power.

    Thank God, and PP&L.