30 June 2006

Independence Day - Friday Five

The RevGalBlogPals have a Friday Five Meme ... I decided to participate today. So with little more ado ...

In the U.S., we're heading into a holiday weekend as we prepare to celebrate Independence Day. Although the topic of this meme may be inevitable, independence never is, so it couldn't hurt to stop and think for a minute about independence in a general way and holidays in a more trivial way.

1) Do you celebrate 4th of July (or some other holiday representing independence?)
I/We celebrate Independence Day. LightHusband and I used to sweat it out on a parade route somewhere in a fife and drum corps. Now it's good to stay cool and dry or perhaps swim in our Canadian friends' swimming pool.

2) When was the first time you felt independent, if ever?
When I got my first studio apartment in Washington DC. when I was 23 years old. But now I'm married with kids, not so much.

3) If you're hosting a cookout, what's on the grill?
Not hosting ... going to a cookout hosted by our Canadian friends of all people!! I'm not sure what I'll take yet. Probably Strawberry Shortcake now that you mention it.

4) Strawberry Shortcake -- biscuit or sponge cake? Discuss.
Biscuit ... always. In fact, I'd never even heard of having sponge cake until I moved out of New England. And ... it must have homemade whipped cream on top with lots of yummy strawberry juice. I've been known, on occasion, to make strawberry shortcake for dinner. Just because.

5) Fireworks -- best and worst experience
Hmmm ... best would be on The Mall in DC back in about 1984 or 1985 with a bunch of friends. We hung out all day on a blanket and ate food and laughed. Then we watched the fireworks explode over the Washington Monument. This was back in the days when people would buy real livingroom furniture from Salvation Army and leave it on the Mall for the Park Police to clean up the next day. So there were all kinds of people around us sitting in and on all kinds of furniture.

Worst ... Was on the shore of the Potomac a couple of years later to watch the fireworks, but I had a migraine all day. And being in the hot sun was horrible. The fireworks were probably fine, but I was miserable.

World's Meanest Mommy

It's official. I am now the world's meanest mommy. I just thought I should tell all you other mommies and let you off the hook. I have claimed the brass ring.

My garden has become a metaphor for my life. It is choked and full of weeds. Everytime I leave or return to the house, those weeds laugh at me. They chortle with glee and claim victory over me. They try to tell me that I cannot decide which plants will grow in my garden. That my hydrangea must die, my nandia must wither, my lily of the valley must wilt and my peonies fall away. The only plant that is thriving is the yarrow, but really that is a weed that we have decided is a plant. So what is the dividing line between plant and weed?

Two of the weeds were HUGE. They had large broad leaves. They were tall. Much taller than I and I am tall for a woman. I had to stretch up tall with my arms above my head to cut off the top leaves yesterday evening. But I got those two. And many other smaller more garden variety (pardon the pun) weeds in 10 minutes. I have been grinning ever since to know that those two will no longer laugh at me. That I can take back my garden and slowly my life. This metaphor is good and gives me space to think whilst I dig in the dirt.

On the other hand, this morning, LightBoy was crushed. I have killed his favorite plant. He played with is Lego people in it. It was a fort, a spaceship, a playhouse and who knows what else. He wants to find a seed for this weed and plant a new one. I may help him.

One mommy's metaphor is one son's castle in the air. Motherhood is hard.

29 June 2006


Terror was opening a box and finding that the quilt I've been working on for nine years (on and off ... it's all done by hand) for LightGirl had become a home to some very disrespectful mice.

Relief was discovering that all they did was relieve one tiny bladder on the quilt itself.

Anger was finding that they used the stash of antique fabric below the quilt for food and nesting.

I can wash the quilt. The box of fabric will go in my fabric closet to be salvaged when my blood pressure returns to normal. The tiny rodents had already been removed from the premises before their perfidy had been known.

Update: Peace is living in a place and time where terror is finding that a possession has been destroyed by rodents. My cup indeed runs over.

28 June 2006

Another Glimpse

Some of you may recall the glimpse I had of the Kingdom a few weeks ago. It peeked out again and left me breathless.

I've always loved the story of Ruth. Several years ago I got to lead a women's Sunday School class through the book. I bought a commentary to help prepare. It was tough reading, but I enjoyed it. Last summer our church did a service based on Ruth. I made a costume and told her story in the first person. It is a story that encapsulates so much theology in simple, yet beautiful language. All the great themes of both Testaments are in four chapters. Beautiful, clean, graceful.

This past Sunday we moved our Muslim refugee family from one apartment to another. It is not their last move. We hope to make it their next to last move. We managed to pack the truck before the torrential rains came. We were not nearly so lucky with the unpacking.

In every move there are little mis-steps that leave everyone standing around waiting. For the efficient, time-managers among the crowd this causes stress. But I think those waiting times are necessary, it gives people time to rest, to pause and breath. It gives the people who's home is being moved a chance to regroup and make more decisions.

It was during one of those waiting times that I came upon the husband of the family and LightHusband having a conversation. The husband was talking about how grateful the family was to have had our help. The other husband talked about how different culture is here, that in his home country, family helps with things like a move. If one doesn't have family one is ... well ... out of luck. LightHusband told him that many of us don't have family in the area and that our church has become like our family. He went on to tell the other husband that they are part of our church now, regardless of their faith. And then he expressed his thankfulness that they had been able to secure an apartment that was not terribly far away and that we would be able to maintain our relationship with them. And then the other husband said (in his beautiful lilting accent), "Oh, you will not be able to get rid of us. We will sleep in a tent to be near to you."

With those words, I heard the modern echo of "Wither thou goest, I will go and wither thou stayest, I will stay." And I knew then that we are following Jesus into the hard places. That this was bringing hesed, the Kingdom, into being, on earth as it is in Heaven. Despite the weather, I was at peace.

Wider Circles

Those of you who know me in the so-called "brick and mortar" world of our church and of my family, may have noticed that some new friends are stopping by this blog in the last few days. They are the RevGalBlogPals. They are women involved in ministry either directly (as pastors, reverends, etc. depending on their denomination) or indirectly (like me, Dee, Liz, and Maggie - in our church). They all have blogs. They all support one another. They are very welcoming and you've seen how they have welcomed me. Take some time to visit them and read their excellent writing. Check out the blogring, you'll find the link on the left and down a little ways. In the meantime, enjoy the comments from my new wider circle of friends.

40 Days

I'm beginning to get a glimmer of what it must have been like during the time of Noah. It's been raining here for three days and three nights and more is to come. The ground is squishy when you walk on it.

I wonder what it must have been like for those people when it began raining and raining and didn't stop. It was the first time anyone had ever experienced rain according to the story. In ancient Hebrew it is written that prior to the flood, the earth was watered from springs that welled up from the ground and mists that came down at night. But the first rains happened when Noah finished the ark, and got all the animals on board. He closed the doors and the first drops began to fall.

This morning the sun is shining again and I can see blue sky with no clouds. But the rivers, ponds, lakes and streams are all at flood levels. My much loved Lake Champlain in Vermont is more than 10 feet above it's normal level for this time of year. I feel we have escaped with only three days and breath a sigh of relief at the sunshine.

For some reason, this little fellow makes me think of that first rain. I wonder how the humans perceived it? Some may have thought it miraculous. Some suspicious. Some may have danced. Some may have hid. All until the waters started rising. But the animals just got wet. They still do.

27 June 2006


I started to comment on Brother Maynard's blogpost pointing to Sally Morgenthaler's article in Leadership Journal. Both are very good. But I realized that my comment was a post of its own and I shouldn't be hogging the good Brother's space.

You'll need to read Sally Morgenthaler's article, or give it a good skim, before this makes sense. But I've been thinking about this whole idea of professional pastorate for some time now. I'm not sure that having professional pastors is necessarily wrong, but I am sure that how churches treat those pastors in some cases is. I am certain that for too long we have used a few key Scripture references to force pastors, and folks who are in paid ministry positions, and their families to live up to impossible levels of sin free behavior. (I also think we do this to Presidents and politicians, but that's another story.)

I have good friends for whom Sally's story would resonate. With a key difference being that their marriage has managed to stay whole. I have other friends who have left ministry positions simply because the pressure to perform outweighed their calling. We have, in many perverse manners, managed to take the simple heart of a shepherd and twist it, mangle it, stretch it, and turn it until the position is no longer recognizable. Those who are in ministry, more than any other, need friends in their local faith community with whom they can be vulnerable without fear of retribution. Without fear of losing face, or God, or love, or community. Without fear ... period. But we humans have removed that safety net from them.

What's that verse in John 15? We'll be known by our love? Or something like that.

25 June 2006

Random Thoughts on Sunday Morning

We went out to dinner last night with a rag tag group of friends. By this I mean that it was a bunch of friends that one wouldn't always picture being together. It was a group that came together sort of at the last minute. We went to our local Indian buffet where the head waiter and waitress know us and love to give us cooking tips. They also bring us baskets of piping hot naan so that we don't have to rely on the stale naan in the buffet line. Everytime we go there we get a lesson in Indian culture and cooking.

For some reason the conversation drifted at one point to vegetarian eating. I recalled what had to be the very funniest thing I'd ever read about some vegetarians. It was in an article I read some years back (maybe 4) about raw cooking. The term alone is an oxymoron, but I'll leave it there. In any case, the article focused on a particular restaurant in California which specialized in raw cookery. This restaurant also refused to use honey as a sweetner. This was considered odd in vegan circles because honey is a raw sweetner. However, this chef would not use honey because s/he believed that use of honey promoted, condoned, and continued the oppression of bees. S/He did not want to have any part in the ongoing trade in bee slavery. I have to say that the term raised all sorts of pictures in my mind of tiny bees rising up and yelling in tiny bee voices, "Help, help I'm being oppressed." I wondered what sort of chains were used for bees? How does one whip a bee? How exactly does one keep a bee under oppression? Slavery, you see, implies that a creature is being forced to do something for which it was not intended by someone larger and more powerful. However, bees will make honey no matter what humans do or don't do. I expect they might cease if we somehow managed to remove all the flowers from their territory.

I am the last person to suggest that creatures be used inhumanely. But I have a problem with all of the folks who protest against hunters. I wonder if the protesters have seen what happens when a deer population goes unchecked by hunting. The weak and young die cruel deaths by starvation and water depravation during the winter months. Which is worse, a quick shot or a long drawn out starvation? I do not condone hunting for the rack, that is killing for the antlers and leaving the corpse to rot, but using the whole deer for meat is not such a horrible way to control the herd.

The same goes for eggs and chickens or milk and cows. Chickens will lay eggs. It's what they do. Anyone who thinks that milking a cow is cruel has never attended milking time at a farm. The cows are desperate to relieve themselves.

Let's imagine for a moment what might happen if we were to all become vegans. What would happen to all those eggs? They'd all become chickens. They would produce more chickens. Have you been to a chicken coop? Even a small one in the summer time? Peee-uuuuuu. It stinketh greatly and cannot be abided.

On the other hand, I hate condoning the industrial farming methods that have become deriguer on most corporate farms. They are inhumane and treat animals as if they are mechanical products. In the end, I believe, they mistreat the people those animals feed. I wonder if it is really the farming methods that many vegans are opposed to and not the food itself? As in so many areas, we have taken this to such an extreme that I wonder if we'll ever be able to see our way back to balance again?

24 June 2006


As a mother, one of my hats is as etiquette doyenne of the home. It is up to me to ensure that my children enter the world with manners and decorum. This usually takes place at the table and involves conversations such as this, "Elbows off the table." or "Hands to your mouth; you're not a pig slurping out of the trough." or the much favored "Hannah, Hannah, strong and able, get your elbows off the table." I don't say these comments nearly as often as I actually see the offenses. I would become exceedingly bored under those circumstances.

The other day LightGirl and I went out to lunch. We were having a lovely conversation over bruschetta (me) and meat calzone (her). All of a sudden she burst out with, "MOM! Where have your manners gone??!! Please take your elbows off the table." She was correct. I was sitting at the table, with my elbow firmly planted. My reply? A breezy, "Oh, I must have lost them last week." And we both giggled.

She's having a lot of fun telling on me to anyone who will listen.

23 June 2006

Time Machine

I have a time machine in my home. It will only go backwards. This is still saying something. It's in my basement. I found it this week.

Earlier this week, I became the custodian of my guild's community service fabric. This is all the fabric that has been donated to the guild for our community service projects. We make quilts for babies at our local hospital who's mothers have (literally) nothing, for the local impoverished nursing home, for our county's CASA (court-appointed special advocates for young people), and for the soldiers in Walter Reed's amputee unit. There is a lot of this fabric. My friend and I are putting together kits for a sewing day this coming Monday. We had to sort this fabric. Then we went through my "stash."

Every quilter has a stash. It is the bounty of fabric she (or he) uses to pull together quilts. It is the rare quilt that is made entirely from fabrics purchased outside the stash. That is where creativity lies: taking the pattern and using one's own stash to make it sing.

So we went through my stash. The fabrics that I have been collecting for 12 or so years. The original sort of the community service fabric was interesting because it was a walk through quilting fabrics from the 1970's to the 2000's. I enjoyed that for it's own sake. But when we got to my fabric, it got personal. I was able to identify so many of those fabrics and remember when and how I came to have them.

"This was a dress I made for LightGirl."
"This was the matching outfits I made for LightGirl and I for her first Easter."
"I remember when I got that ... I was in a fabric exchange on-line."
"Oh ... ugh ... I've never liked that."
"What was I thinking??!!"
"Here is some fabric I just loved and was going to make an outfit for LightGirl ... but never did." There was more than one of those. Yeesh!
"I used to have a whole yard of this and I loved it," now holding a scant 3" square in my hand, "I used it in everything I could. But I can't get rid of this and I can't find it anywhere anymore."

In the end, I was able to release most of my old fabric to the community fabric stash. I know it's going to good use. And I have room now to store fabrics that I'll really use. I'm not running out to purchase more ... although I did do a little of that yesterday. I went to my favorite quilt store, purchased some of my favorite designer's fabric and a book, and signed up for a class (while the LightChildren are visiting grandparents). But I have quite a bit of fabric that doesn't have an official home and now it will. I've had my trip in the time machine, but now it's time to be in the present.

20 June 2006

Chance Encounter?

We went out for dinner this evening and then ran some errands. One of those involved paying some rather (ahem) overdue fines at the library. Once our cards were clear, we turned around and checked out some more books. We were a little more circumspect with our borrowing this time.

I remembered an old friend from my childhood and looked it up in the electronic card catalog on a whim. Lo and behold, they had a copy in that branch of the library. So I checked it out. When I found it on the shelves, I discovered that a new introduction has been included. I read part of it and thought this was interesting:

The twentieth century has produced a world of conflicting visions, intense emotions, and unpredictable events, and the opportunities for grasping the substance of life have faded as the pace of activity has increased. Electronic media shuffle us through a myriad of experiences which would have baffled earlier generations and seem to produce in us a strange isolation from the reality of human history. Our heroes fade into mere personality, are consumed and forgotten, and we avidly seek more avenues to express our humanity. Reflection is the most difficult of all our activities because we are no longer able to establish relative priorities from the multitude of sensations that engulf us. --Vine Deloria, Jr. (1979) in the Introduction to the 1979 edition of Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux as told through John G. Neihardt (originally pub. in 1932)
Electronic media shuffle us through a myriad of experiences ... in 1979? That was the year I graduated from high school and began college. If my memory serves me correctly, life moved at a slower pace then. I had more time to reflect and connect with "the reality of human history." Heroes stuck around longer. Now it would seem the wheels are turning ever faster and faster. What was true when Mr. Deloria penned it in 1979 is truer ten times over now.

I'm anticipating a reread of my old friend with great joy. I haven't turned these pages since I was LightGirl's age. I wonder how much more I will understand now. How will the intervening years change my perceptions? This will be interesting.

19 June 2006


Most of you know that LightGirl is obsessed with hockey. Those of you who talk to her at church or on the phone know that she speaks of little else these days. One morning recently she asked her father, "Dad, what do you dream of?" His reply, "That today you'll talk about something other than hockey." Tonight is the last (I'm breathing a sigh of relief) game of the Stanley Cup finals. The hockey obsession will not be over as she is going to hockey camp next week, but the games in the evening will be over.

There is another obsession on the horizon. We didn't see this one coming. It began innocently enough. We even gave it unknowing encouragement. LightBoy picked up a book, War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. He read it in two days. As he read it he told us every detail. Then he began drawing pictures of the Martians. There are pictures of Martians, UFOs, and other assorted space vehicles scattered throughout the house. Today he assembled a Martian Attractor 2000 and ran around outside with it. It involved a coat hangar, a belt, and some other paraphanalia. He came back inside disgruntled that it "hadn't worked." He refused to accept the fact that Martians are fantasy creatures for an answer.

When we sit at dinner LightGirl talks hockey, Lightboy responds with Martians. It's very confusing. On the other hand, I see the potential for a research project for LightBoy looming ... Mars makes a good topic I think.

The Kingdom

I got a brief glimpse of the Kingdom of God this weekend. It was fleeting to be sure, but solid nonetheless.

My church is helping a Muslim refugee family. They have many needs and among those is stable housing. We have gone about the process of securing that for them. The wife in this family was a doctor in her home country and she is going through the slow process of learning English and studying to take the tests necessary to become a doctor here. She told us on Saturday that she is, "... writing all of our deeds in a book ..." so that when she becomes a doctor she will rely upon our church to find needy patients that she can treat, pro bono.

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.

16 June 2006

A Great Fall

In a comment on my earlier post, entitled "Influence," my friend, Scott wrote:
As to the bible and the story of the Garden of Eden. Perhaps it was God's plan all along to have his children leave the garden. All was peace and beauty in the garden; frightenly boring if you ask me. How else is the soul/person to learn if not through being presented with challenges, with decisions, with different paths to choose from? Perhaps the fabled Tree of Knowledge, that Eve took an apple from was indeed a test that god had placed in the garden as a sign....as a sign that indeed his children had grown up enough, and with a tear in his eye, God would be able to send his children out of the nest and into the world at last.
I've been pondering this in odd moments over the past few days. It keeps popping into my mind. It is certainly unorthodox scholarship ;-) at best. I find that I want to reject it and then not reject it all at once.

Here is some of my thinking. First of all, I suspect my reasoning will be at cross purposes because I'm a "believer." I take it on faith that these stories are true. So it's difficult for me to separate my faith from my reason. I'm not blindly faithful, but these are stories that I hold dear. On the other hand, I also like to unpack my faith and look at it from all dimensions; question my stories, find their holes and peer at God anyway.

I have always loved myths. I've read them since I discovered my mother's highschool Greek mythology textbook when I was nine years old. I read that book cover to cover many times over. The Greek pantheon of gods and all the humans that interacted with them sprang to life that summer. Next I discovered Native American creation stories, Norse, Egyptian, Australian, etc. I read them all as I found them. They fascinate me.

So, just what is a myth? What must a story contain to make it a myth? I looked that up and found several pages of definitions here on the internet. The definition that resonated most with me was this: "a traditional story accepted as history; serves to explain the world view of a people." It is broad enough to be inclusive and yet definitive enough to exclude just any old story. There were many other definitions that also helped define the term for me, and you can read them all here and see which resonates most with you.

As I have read myths over time, I have discovered they all contain similar threads. (And as I wrote the last sentence, LightGirl walked into the room saying, "Mom, why do myths have to be so predictable?" She is reading Tristan and Iseult by Rosemary Sutcliff of her own volition. Perhaps I have passed one of my great loves onto my children.) Those similar threads have to do with the great similarities of human nature on one hand. On the other hand, the creation stories or myths, are also all very similar across continents, oceans, and cultures. So are the stories which account for how evil came into the world.

It has always been interesting to me that in every culture there was a time before time. During that time all was dark and chaotic, formless and void (as it is written in the Bible) or tohu va bohu in ancient Hebrew. Most creation myths involve the earth (or water) and the sky coming together to create the rest of the world and humans are created either last among the animals, or last after the gods. They also involve an early shadowy being which creates the earth (or water) and sky. This being is not always well-storied. The next interesting similarity is that the original creation has a level of perfection, goodness, or beauty that is desireable to the humans. The humans must be obedient to some stated rule of the god(s) in order to maintain that level of perfection, goodness or beauty. Inevitably, tho, the humans are disobedient. They break the rules and thus, allow all manner of evil, malady, pestilence and a level of chaos back into the world. Or they are removed from the perfect place and put into a world where there is evil, malady, pestilence and a level of chaos that did not exist in the perfect place. Here's a website where there are links to several different creation stories from all over the world and the resulting entrance of evil into the world stories as well.

I circle back to the Garden of Eden again in my thoughts. I know that most anthropologists will posit that myths are the efforts of a primitive culture to explain the nature of humans and the natural phenomena around them. Therefore it is to be expected that most myths will contain common threads in them. There is a certain level on which I find that valid. And then there are the bits which that cannot explain. There is the shadowy pre-creator who is sometimes not well-storied. There is the common thread of a pre-existence of a better place. Then, too, there is this idea that across continents, oceans and cultures we humans share a code of morality which cannot be explained. We know what is inherently "wrong" and what is "right" at base. There are some cultural differences, but we know that killing and torturing others is wrong, we know that it is right to respect our elders and our parents, stealing is wrong, caring for those who have less than us is right, etc. Those are written into our cultures, religions, communities, myths, and our DNA. How to explain that? That is where I turn to my faith.

I don't need to believe that the Bible is literally true for it to hold great truths. There are many Christians who believe that the Bible is the literal truth, the Inerrant Word of God; that every word written there is so true and real it can leap off the page and hurt one. That each story is literally and virtually true. There are many Christians and others who believe that the Bible is just another nice story book, filled with advice about how to be a better person. As you may see, there is a spectrum of belief and I probably fall somewhere in the middle. I don't believe the words in the Bible can do anything any more than the words in any other book can. Any work that is done in my life or in the life of my soul is done through the activity of the Holy Spirit (but that's another story).

So, what do I think about the Garden of Eden? What did happen there between Adam, Eve, the serpent, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and God? Can we know God's motives? Taking the last question first. Hmmm ... the omniscient, all-powerful, Alpha-Omega, Beginning and End ... can we know His motives? I rather doubt it. Or, I doubt we'll ever know all of them. We'll only know those He chooses to reveal to us. Now, even by my own standards I'm starting to sound like a looney. But the motives He revealed in the story were that His desire was to remain in a relationship with Adam and the woman (she wasn't yet named). If they ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, He'd have to break it off with them, kick them out of the Garden and kill them. None of that sounds particularly good. It doesn't sound like a testing ground. Read the whole story for yourself here. When God cursed or punished Adam, the woman and serpent, he was not tearfully but joyfully sending them out into the world as a parent does a grown child. He was an angry God, disappointed that His creation had been marred by evil and thoughtlessness. There is that part of me that agrees with Scott; the Garden does sound kind of boring. If everything is perfect, what would one do all day? After he named the animals, what did he do? I've often wondered that. Now, we'll never know. We'll never know what it would be like to not have the knowledge of good and evil simply because we all have that. We all know what is good and what is evil; they are to a certain extent universal.

I'm still toying around with Scott's version of the story. There are parts of it that are much more approachable and appealing. But there are also parts that just don't conform to the myth that has been told by Hebrew story-tellers for eons. Those are the important bits for me. They are the bits which inform my faith. They help me to know who my God is and how to have a relationship with Him. This is the first instance in the Bible where God sets a standard for obedience. He tells the humans He has created that obedience is important to Him. We are almost completely and utterly incapable of meeting that standard. That fact is played out over and over again through out story after story in the Bible. The goodness of God and the inability of humans to meet His standards. These are the themes of all the great stories whether they are in the Bible or written by other authors. We humans love to hear about redemption and grace. And ultimately that is the story told over and over again in the Bible, even in Genesis. God's initial description of His punishment for eating the fruit was death, but when the time came, He redeemed His creation, and merely sent them away from Him. Grace.

I like the fact that Scott has gotten me thinking about this and that I'm unsettled by it. I like that I don't have any answers, just more questions. For me, this is the place where I'm willing to stand precariously on my faith; that place of being sure of what I hope for and certain of what I cannot see. I'm still approaching the cliff of unknowing, looking over the edge, seeing what's below and wondering what is on the other side.

15 June 2006

Something For Nothing ...

... and my kicks for free!

Well, actually I'm getting a book for free. I'm getting a $17.00 book for free. Paraclete Press was (note the tense on that verb) giving away 50 copies of this book and I snuck in under the wire. I'm excited because just about the time we get to this period in history again, LightGirl will be old enough to read it. On the other hand, she might be old enough to read it now depending on how Tony Jones has edited it! Or it may come in handy for a co-op class in the fall. Ohhh ... the possibilities are piling up. I'm really looking forward to it.

13 June 2006


It is one of the great failures of the modern mind that people are products. We have all been taught from the cradle that if we follow a certain "recipe" (and the recipes vary) we will become "good." Or maybe it's that we will retain the goodness that we had from infancy (depending upon your perspective). In any case, we all have this idea that we have control over children and how they will grow up. The further I get into the process of parenting (and LightGirl is now 12 and a half) and having spent 6 years in youth ministry, the less I am convinced of this.

Society, culture, advertising, parenting magazines, all tell us that if we just choose the "right" products, the "right" pre-school, the "right" after school program, the "right" summer camp, the "right" school. Have all the "right" parties at just the "right" age. Amass the perfect collection of toys to influence the growing mind at just the "right" time. Make sure the friends are just so. In short, control the child's environment in every manner possible.

We are told from all angles that if we find the magic recipe for doing this, our children will be kept safe. They will not experience any trials. They will waft into the Ivy League college of their choice on a magic carpet of woven of grades, character, and beauty.

Yet ... I look around me and see that this is not the stuff of real life. This is marketing. This is parents desparate to find a panacea for all the fear that is poured into their ears every night from media of all sorts. How to protect my children from all the evil in the world? I cannot.

Whether or not you believe in God, or the Bible ... even if you see the story of Genesis as just a nice myth. It remains a myth that is instructive. In the world of the ancient Hebrews they believed it important to tell and write that even an omnipotent, all powerful God created humans who turned their backs and walked away. Those humans were in the most perfect controlled environment that ever existed and yet, they still exerted their own will.

I'm coming to a place where I don't think we can keep our children safe from evil. The very best thing we can do is tell them what it is, and how to keep themselves safe. Like God in the story of Genesis, the only thing we can do is point out the pitfalls, and consequences of bad decisions, and continue to love our children when they do stumble and fall. I'm coming to a place where I don't want to teach my children how to be safe, I want to teach them how to be discerning and wise. I don't think my children are a product of any recipe, but developing humans who change moment by moment and I must be willing to change with them. I must also be willing to let them stumble, for it is that very stumbling which will build their character. In the end, I can only influence them. I cannot control their character at all.

11 June 2006


As they say, "It ain't over til the fat lady sings." and she's not singing in Edmonton Alberta Canada. Not yet anyway.

The Edmonton Oilers finally won a game last night. It was game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Carolina Hurricanes. We are rooting for the Oilers and they lost the first two games. But they pulled it off last night and won one. It was great to see the crowd in the arena singing O Canada.

We'll be watching again on Monday night. LightGirl wants to send them tips on how to beat the 'Canes ... but she hasn't come up with anything very original yet; other than take out Brindamour (the Canes team captain). This is not very legal or ethical, so we are not encouraging her.

Casual Conversation

Among the many reasons I like going to the Homeschool Convention is that I often run into friends there. Sometimes I see people there that I never see anywhere else. I've made friends there at the vendor booths amongst the curriculum vendors. I like to support the people who write the curriculum I use, so I try to purchase directly from the authors or publishers when I can. It keeps them in business and I feel a certain brand loyalty. I don't do this anywhere else. But here I know my business makes a difference. I had to say good-bye to one vendor this year. She's moving on. She's been the right hand woman with Peace Hill Press (our history curriculum) from the beginning, but her youngest child has graduated and now she herself has gone back to college. I'm very happy for her and it gave me great encouragement to hear her story. To know that this is not the end and I have another life to live.

I also ran into a long ago friend from our old church. I'll call her Julie (which is not her real name). Julie left our old church a long time ago. She and her husband knew us before we had our children. They left our church when they had about 4 children and went on to have a total of 9 children. I'd always had a lot of respect for Julie when she was at our church. She'd gotten a masters in engineering before getting married, so I know she's smart. I know she's smart from talking to her too. When the babies started, she stayed home to raise her family and when the oldest was in 2nd or 3rd grade they decided to begin homeschooling. She'd only been homeschooling 3 or so years when they left our old church. I've run into her a couple of times in the intervening years, just enough to say, "Hello. How are you?" Then run along. I think LightGirl was an infant the last time we had a real conversation.

We'd just finished lunch. LightHusband and LightBoy had gone back to the car with the first load of books and curriculum. LightGirl had gone off with a friend she'd run into to chat. I'd stayed at the table for a few extra moments alone to gather my thoughts, look over my list, and think about where I needed to go next. When I stood up to go, I looked over and there was Julie. So, I called out to her. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and then I asked her how things were going for her. She replied, "Well, I'd like to go in there," and she gestured toward the Vendor Hall, "and tell them that they're all selling lies. None of it works." She went on to tell me that her oldest child and son (who is now 21) had had a child of his own out of wedlock. He'd gotten married a month after the baby was born, but it was a Justice-of-the-Peace wedding; she just got a phone call after the fact. She said that the worst part of the whole thing was not the fact of the out-of-wedlock baby, or the JOP wedding, or even the phone call afterwards. It was grieving her dreams for her oldest son. It was all the people at her church who didn't know what to say to her, so they said nothing. Julie never cries, but her eyes were shiny as she spoke.

I knew what she meant. So many of the vendors in the hall and so many churches are selling answers. So many people are coming to them with huge questions, with enormous hurts and they are responding with simple get-rich, get-healed, raise-perfect-children, quick schemes. They make unspoken promises that if you just follow their recipe, God will honor some sort of deal with you. That they have the plan for growing perfect children. People flock to those boothes, certain that they have found the answer. Certain that this is the place, the book, the curriculum that will work for them. But after several years of doing this, and observing children for many more years than that, I'm beginning to wonder just how those plans are God honoring? Children are independent beings, with free wills, just as I am independent with a free will. If I try to enforce something like faith onto my children, I'm fairly certain it's just going to bounce back into my face. I think it's something they have to decide for themselves. They are either going to take it themselves or not. But I can't force it, I can't make any kind of deal with God to make it happen, there's really not much of me in it at all, afterall. Which took me back to Julie's original point ... some of them really were selling lies.

10 June 2006

Where In the World?

We just came back from the annual homeschooling convention in Richmond. We did things a little differently this year. Usually, we farm the LightChildren out and make it an adults only weekend. We attend workshops and shop the vendor hall. Then we go out to dinner with friends who also homeschool and stay in a hotel and enjoy being adults. We have some favorite restaurants in Richmond. For instance, the Capital Ale House (at 7th and Main) is not to be missed. They have at least a zillion beers and the best burgers anywhere ever! If you think I'm exaggerating, the beer and the burgers alone are worth the drive.

This year, we took the LightChildren and bought a "shopping only" pass to the convention. We shopped til we dropped. The LC had a great time. They got to pick out some of the stuff they'll study next year. They got to meet some of the people who wrote their curriculum. And talk to some people who were unsure about curriculum they love. For instance, we use a writing curriculum that LightGirl loves and she was able to express that to a woman who was interested in it for her children. They both got to pick out some science kits. LightGirl got a solar powered K'Nex kit and LightBoy got an electronics circuit board kit. We got a field microscope. Most of all we got rejuvenated. We got a lot of books!!

I got to overhear a lot of conversations at the vendor booths as I was shopping. Some of them astonished me. After homeschooling for five years and 2 children, I guess I'm now a veteran. I have a lot to share with these up and coming moms. So I do when I'm asked. People ask questions of each other as they're standing looking at books. It's fun. But this conversation left me with my mouth agape, and thinking that perhaps these two needed some remedial help themselves before they schooled their children. I overheard this at a booth selling timeline aids.

Mom A: "You know ... I was just in a workshop and the leader said that the Second Temple and the First Olympics happened within a couple of years of one another, and I didn't even know they were in the same world."

Mom B: "WOW! I didn't know that either."

Vendor: "Look on the timeline at Stonehenge. Can you believe that Stonehenge was built before the Bible was written??!!!!"

Moms A&B: "NO WAY!!!"

Now, I know I'm somewhat of a history buff so perhaps I'm a little biased. But I just don't think it should come as such a shock to intelligent, educated people that these things are true. Maybe they didn't know it before (because, honestly, I didn't know the bit about Stonehenge), but it shouldn't be such an eyeopener. It should be more of an "oh, well, yes, that makes sense." It should just be another piece of the puzzle, not a grand epiphany. Especially not if you've undertaken the education of someone else. It scared me.

Then I started to realize just why so many people are critical of home education.

09 June 2006

There's No Place Like Home

I had an odd experience the other evening. I was having dinner at a restaurant that served seafood. On the menu was an item described as "whole belly clams, New England style." Some friends dining with me, asked what that meant. And I couldn't answer. I grew up knowing the answer from summers spent on Cape Cod and in Maine and from generations of just being in New England. I know that answer in the marrow of my bones and it's coded in my DNA. And yet ... I couldn't answer. I've been gone too long. The answer eluded me.

We could move back. We consider it frequently. There would be hurdles to overcome. LightGirl overhears the conversations and interjects a horrified, "But ALL my friends are heerrreeee!!" As if she would never make any other friends anywhere else.

On the other hand, she makes the central point of our lives. All of our friends are here too. Not just our friends, our support network. Our family is in New England. But our support network is here.

So I don't know where home is anymore.

08 June 2006

An Open Letter ...

... to Michael Farris, members of HSLDA, and other Christians afraid of the United Nations, the international community, and the big bad wolf in general.

Here is a news flash for all of you. The United Nations is NOT a governing agency. It is not one world government. There are several reasons for this. Primarily, it is not a governing agency because it was never intended to be such. If you read its charter (especially Ch. 1 Art. 2) you will see that. Secondarily, it cannot be a governing agency because it has no enforcement agent. There is no UN police force to enforce the so-called "laws" that the UN passes. Except that the UN doesn't pass laws. Both the General Assembly and the Security Council pass Resolutions. The Security Council has the ability to back its Resolutions up with a peacekeeping force. But those peacekeeping forces must be multi-national and cannot engage in offensive manuvers. They operate under extremely strict rules of engagement.

It is up to the individual nations whether or not they will abide under the Resolutions passed by United Nations or any other multi-national assemblage. The United States does not have a very good track record of playing well with others in this regard when you consider recent history (Kyoto, Iraq, Guantanamo, etc.).

When Mike Farris writes and/or contributes to articles like this all he is doing is inflaming the emotions of those too busy and worn down by fear to do their own homework and learn what really goes on in New York and Brussels and around the world.

07 June 2006

Summer Camp

Summer is now firmly upon us. The heat is beginning to set in and the humidity is not far behind. This summer will be a first for the LightFamily ... the LightChildren are going to camp. LightGirl is going to hockey camp and LightBoy is going to nature camp. They are both very, very excited about this.

LightGirl has been taking skating lessons all year and has some sense of what she is getting into. She has also been watching hockey. Reading hockey books. Engaging in some hockey training. Dreaming hockey dreams. Talking to her hockey posters. Memorizing hockey statistics (thus putting an end to the notion that she is incapable of memorization). So she is, in some sense, prepared for what will be happening to her at hockey camp. She will also be attending with a friend.

LightBoy will be attending nature camp through our county's parks and recreation system. It is the first such camp ever such offered by our county. The week he attends will be the first week. So yesterday evening he and LightHusband attended an Open House to introduce the counselors and camp attendees to one another. LightBoy came back full of enthusiasm. So full of enthusiasm that he introduced LightHusband to his latest solution for two large global problems, global warming and global hunger: potatoes.

Yep. Potatoes are the solution to global warming and starvation. You see, if we grow lots and lots of potatoes that will provide jobs for poor people. Then we peel all the potatoes (more jobs). The potato peels can be turned into hydro-energy for cars (we just need to sell converter kits - more jobs). Then we package the peeled potatoes into ziploc baggies (8 potatoes per bag) and send them to all the starving people in the world. In his world, it's a perfect solution. Of course, we don't want to dampen his enthusiasm with details about distribution, and how hydro-electricity is so grossly inefficient. He's definitely a creative problem solver.

04 June 2006

Bill-Yuns and Bill-Yuns

I've been doing some thinking about consumerism lately. I've never been much of a mall rat, but the last two Saturdays I've found myself indulging in the great American pasttime - shopping at local malls. I don't think I'll do that again for a long time. It's quite overwhelming.

Last night we actually ate dinner at a mall. We had faux outdoor seating. This meant we were seated outside the restaurant, but inside the mall. So we could see all the mall people walking by. It has long been my habit on such occasions to watch people and think about what they might be thinking. To imagine their lives. I've spent lots of time in bus stations watching people walk by and conjuring up lives for them. I listen to bits of conversation and make up the rest. None of this ever stays in my head for very long, but it's entertainment for the moment. LightHusband observed, "There's an awful lot of money walking around this mall tonight." To which I responded, "Yes, a lot of heedless money."

I've been seeing heedless money in many places lately. It was mentioned on one of my favorite television programs. In searching for a missing person, detectives mentioned that authentic Hermes bags sell for $10,000.00! That's half a car for a pocketbook. There's nothing in a pocketbook that's worth that amount of money. I felt guilty for spending $60.00 earlier this year on one. That was the most I'd ever spent on a pocketbook. I still feel guilty.

Then there is this ... on eBay. In between fits of laughing I feel like crying. People are willing to bid almost $10,000.00 on this because the money will go to a bird preserve, and children are dying in Africa because they don't have access to the many inexpensive AIDS drugs that are available. When did birds become more valuable than children?

How heedless will we become?

01 June 2006

Book Review

I haven't read a book. Well, I have read a lot of books. But I haven't read this book. Not yet. I'm going to tho, based on this review. And based on a couple of others I've read. But I'm also intrigued. This is a book written by the son of an author who was fairly influential in LightHusband's and my lives during our youth ministry years. This author died relatively young, but it's clear that he lived a life of integrity with his family, such that his son is now writing influential books too. But read the review and see for yourself. It's not so much a review, as it is a conversation with the author. At the end is a list of other reviews. And the book is going on my reading list.

Here's a bit of a quote to get you thinking ... it's part of the conversation with the author, but not part of the book:

It's difficult to work in the church. There are so many egos and insecurities. So many ways that the church has absorbed the values and mores of the culture (sigh). I don't know what the specific "resistance" is that you experienced. Most churches are simply secular institutions with a religious veneer. There's a driveness to succeed, to produce results, to grow numbers, to be productive and efficient--just like any American profit-making institution. Unfortunately, this is all in contrast to the Spirit, message, and life of Jesus. Jesus, to be truthful, is unproductive (in the world's terms), inefficient and the "results" of his ministry are ambiguous (the disciples flee, misunderstand his identity and intentions, etc.).

"Success is not a name for God" Martin Buber once said, nor is it a name for Jesus. And yet most churches and pastors want to succeed. If not success, then what is it we're after? Faithfulness. Transparency to God. Obedience (which etymologically means "to listen"). Our job is to be faithful, Mother Teresa once said, not successful. We don't need churches speaking spiritual truth we need churches that know how to embody the spirit.

Now click here and go read the rest for yourself.

Coffee, anyone?

This was too fun to pass up ... HT to Brother Maynard

You are a Black Coffee

At your best, you are: low maintenance, friendly, and adaptable

At your worst, you are: cheap and angsty

You drink coffee when: you can get your hands on it

Your caffeine addiction level: high