Saturday, August 29, 2009

The MotherShip

Sorry to be absent for so long, kiddos.  I was in Cleveland at the MotherShip for a few days this week, utterly swamped with meetings.  Actually, it was just one long meeting, with nine other Presidential Fellows - part of a pilot fellowship within our denomination.  

Let me just say this has been an exercise in taking it to the next level in a serious way.  I was in a room with conference staff, senior pastors, other fantastic clergy doing all manner of amazing things - all age 40 or younger.  I had a hard time remembering that the work I do as a missionary - spreading the good news of progressive Christianity in rural areas - is just as impressive and amazing.  Some people seriously went to bat to make sure I was at that table, and I intend to honor their belief in me by taking myself a great deal more seriously from now on.  

This meeting was probably one of the most intense and rewarding experiences I have ever had in my profession.  And it was exhausting!  In the best sort of way.  I can't wait to see everyone in January.  In Savannah!

So, pray for us as we go forward in faith in this new adventure, and pray with thanksgiving for those who have invested so heavily in all of us.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Tornado is God's Message to the ELCA to Repent? Really? That's What You're Going With? Interesting....

So, I don't know how it is for other people in seminary, but while I was there I made a ton of great friends, and two extremely close friends.  So close, in fact, that I've become life-long friends with their families as well, and thanks to the wonders of the internet, we all still stay in fairly close touch.  The younger sister of my friend, let's call the sister K, messaged me on Facebook today to ask for a firm rebuttal to this article.

I was only too happy to help.  Now, I should start by saying that in these kinds of cases, I seldom find it productive in any way to argue that homosexuality is not a sin (at least, not at first).  I find that that argument gets really intractable, really quickly.  They aren't going to change my mind, and I am not going to change their minds.  But if you want to act like homosexuality, mentioned at the most 9 or so times in the Bible, is more important to God than hunger, failure to show hospitality, and the oppression of God's people ... well, I'll play *that* game.

Here's what I said:

Oooh, let me rebut those ridiculous points, also one by one:

1. We all have sins we practice daily and unrepentantly. Yours may not be a "sexual sin," but if you are going to say "all sin excludes you from the Kingdom of God," well....maybe you should examine self-righteousness, pride, and lack of hospitality within yourselves, 'cause it seems like you might be guilty of at least those three sins. You may say that you repent of these, but if so, why do you keep practicing them?
Oh, and my passage for this: "For while we were sinners, at the right time Jesus died for the ungodly." Romans 5:6

2. You seem awfully concerned with dealing with "homosexual sexual sin." Even if GLBT persons make up 10% of the population, that leaves 90% of them heterosexual. Why aren't you up in arms about all the heterosexual people having sex before or outside of marriage? Why aren't you proposing resolutions that censure or defrock straight clergy who engage in such behaviors? Since that affects a far greater number of people, I should think you'd want to be proportionally concerned about that. Also, Jesus explicitly preached against divorce, though he never spoke about homosexuality. Why aren't you focusing your attention on THAT sin?*

3. What's evil is discouraging loving and holy relationships among consenting adults, and expending so much energy lambasting gays and lesbians. Didn't Jesus also say to feed the hungry, and proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners? To clothe those who are naked and to bind up those who are broken in body and spirit? Maybe you need to refocus your priorities to the things Jesus actually condemned - injustice, hunger, illness and oppression.
In fact, do you want to know what the real sin of Sodom was? Check out Ezekiel 16:49 - "This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy." Nothing there about same-sex love.

4-5 - Considering how the vote turned out, perhaps a more appropriate passage to use is, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him." IOW that tornado was an opportunity to see God's works revealed in the gathered assembly.

6. Sensuality is very much a part of the Gospel, and is not antithetical to salvation. Or do you not put much stock in the Incarnation? 

Oh, and one other thing, if this was a sign to the ELCA, to whom was the tsunami in Asia in 2006 a sign, and for what? It must be nice to know for certainty the mind of God - something the prophets and even Jesus didn't always know! (Just look at him in the Garden of Gethsemane....)

FWIW, the Bible never explicitly condemns the sort of loving same-sex relationships we see today. Most of the condemnation of homosexual behavior has to do with temple prostitution, lack of hospitality, or some really misogynistic understandings of sexual behavior.

Later, I commented to K that it never fails to amaze/shock/horrify me that people seem to think that proclaiming God's so-called "justice" is far more important than demonstrating God's mercy and compassion.  How does that passage go again... "Judge not, lest ye be judged"?  I am sure I read that in the Bible somewhere..... 

* Heh heh heh, I got a perverse little joy out of that, given that I myself was divorced from my first husband.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bread and Wisdom

This is the sermon I preached on August 16, 2009, using John 6:51-58 as my text.

Just as Jesus can’t seem to stop telling us that he is “the bread of life,” so it seems that we cannot escape this metaphor. We’ve been here for a few weeks already…And this week, it gets personal. Fleshy, even, as Jesus tells the Jewish leaders that “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man drink his blood, you have no life in you.” This is, for so many of us, dangerous language, even bordering on assault. It certainly offends our modern sensibilities that tell us the Gospel should be sweet and safe and not conflict at all with our mainstream, middle-class and largely Anglo ideals about “goodness.”

“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” It’s about this place in the Gospel reading that I start thinking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Twilight series – about a young woman who falls in love with a vampire. Mostly as a defense mechanism, I’ll admit, against having to deal with the powerful and uncomfortable images of this text.

Protestants generally eschew the Roman Catholic belief of “transubstantiation,” whereby the elements of the Eucharist (or Communion) are literally transformed into Christ’s actual body and blood in the sacrament. But beyond that, there’s a whole lot of different beliefs among different Protestant Churches about what Communion is or is not. At some point in our collective history, Communion became a celebration of Jesus’ sacrificial death, often couched in terms of “dying for our sins,” but in the beginning, the early church celebrated this meal as a feast of the resurrection, of Jesus’ conquering of death and of our sharing in the “shalom” life, the “kingdom life” the “basiliea” of God in the here-and-now.

Certainly, even within any one congregation, you’d be hard-pressed to find a unified theology of the Table. Some of us believe that Christ is spiritually present in the meal, somehow. Some believe that the community sharing in the meal is what sanctifies the elements and the people who share them. Some of us believe that this is a memorial meal, done to commemorate what Jesus did in the Gospels and to obey his call to “do this in remembrance of” Him. Some of us, it must be fairly said, just like getting to eat a little something at church. Some of us have no idea what goes on here.

For some of us, nothing “happens,” but the rite is simply what is done periodically in the life of the church. Some of us – and this is especially true of newcomers to most churches, I’ve learned over the years – care deeply about respecting the views of the community in this sacrament and want to make sure their beliefs are either in line with the prevailing wisdom or that there is room for divergent views. Some of us believe that you must be “right with God” in order to come to the table, and some of us believe that you come to this table precisely so that you may have the opportunity to deepen your relationship with God. I am certain that others of us have different views – views which may vary on the day, the person presiding at the table, and what has happened in the morning before church. Almost all of us, I daresay, take the ritual very seriously.

Certainly there is no condemnation here for any of the ways that you understand what happens at this table. However, the repetition of Jesus’ insistence that he is “the bread of life” has been rattling around in my brain for the past few weeks, and it’s been an occasion for me to reflect on what I see happening in this ritual.

We very celebrate with a single loaf that is not cut, and some grape juice. We use juice partly out of tradition, and partly out of respect for those who cannot or choose not to consume even the tiniest bit of alcohol. We do have gluten-free wafers for those who don’t eat gluten products. These are two ways we can lower barriers that may prevent people from coming to the table. We also are clear in our bulletin that we practice Open Communion, meaning that all are welcome to share in the feast. We don’t require that you pass a test or belong to a church, or even that you’ve been baptized. We believe, in short, that it is God in Christ who invites all people to this meal – so who are we to deny anyone an occasion of grace to which God has specifically invited us all?

And people typically come up to the front and tear a piece of bread from the loaf and dip it into the cup. For me, this is really where it gets interesting. For in the tearing of the bread, we are quite literally enacting the breaking apart of Christ’s body. The obvious symbolism – that we are all participants in Christ’s death, sacrificial atonement, and so forth – is less interesting to me in that moment than the less-overt symbol. By tearing this bread apart, we embody at this altar what we often do in life: tearing apart the Body of Christ by our failure to love our enemies, our comfort with our own privilege in the face of others’ oppression, and all the other ways that we sin against each other. We tear apart Christ’s body in much the same way we tear each other apart – like greedy wolves anxious for more, desperate to ensure we get at least our share (if not more!).

And, sometimes we tear the loaf carefully, tenderly, knowing we are causing some pain but unable to stop ourselves. We hope the small tears will hurt less; we think we don’t deserve anything more than just a little bit, or we want to make sure there’s enough for all, and we are willing to sacrifice our part for others. And all this for what? A broken piece of Christ’s body and a leftover carcass on the plate for others.

And then there is the blood, the life force of all creatures. How do we even begin to talk about that?

If this were all we did here, you’d be right to be disgusted and never want to share in the meal again. But the amazing thing to me about the Eucharist is how much more is going on than just the tearing apart of bread and the sharing of juice. The pieces that we tear off, whether greedily or tenderly, huge chunks or tiny crumbs, yet somehow remain part of one, unified and unbroken whole – Christ’s body. As we take a part of that whole into ourselves, even as it becomes a part of us by nourishing us and being digested by our bodies, we become a part of IT. We who are many become one in the sharing of this meal. That bread, though it is torn apart, yet makes us whole and one with each other. We may try to tear it into small pieces, but instead it knits us together as One, binding us one of another, parts of one piece, members of one Body – Christ’s Body – the Church!

In addition to making us One all together, this ritual makes us whole within our very selves, for we are sharing in the feast of the life of the One who came to heal and restore us to our human glory. We are becoming one within ourselves and one in the mystical body of Christ. What a great mystery this is!

And as we come to appreciate the paradox that is the Eucharist, a ritual of breaking apart and of making one, we come to know other deep truths – that we are called to be a witness for peace in a world of war; that we are called to be bearers of Shalom – God’s holy and equitable peace – even to our enemies; and that God is within us and strengthening us when we challenge the systems of oppression in our world.

This is the mystery Jesus was getting at when he challenged the religious leaders of his day with those words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Remember that these leaders themselves lived a tenuous existence under Rome’s empire, that whatever religious freedom they had came at the pleasure of an emperor who was not known for consistency or generosity of spirit or tolerance of diversity. These leaders, quite simply, were terrified that Jesus, in empowering and challenging the people, would incite riots that would destabilize the only world they knew.

But Jesus did not come to earth to give us surety or to banish ambiguity from our lives, however much we may desire certainty and answers. He wanted us to wrestle with meaning – he wanted us to explore the mystery of our earthly, fleshly lives, and what it meant that God Most High was willing to share in that earthly, fleshy existence. Too often for our tastes, Jesus does not comfort us. (In fact, in this particular exchange, he does not suggest that Communion is meant to be comforting, however comforting and renewing some of us may find it.)

Instead, he invites us to lean into the unknown, to trust ourselves in the presence of the Unknown, to trust our own flesh and bones to an unknown future – just as Jesus himself trusted his flesh and blood to a future he did not always understand or like terribly well. This is the peace Christ promises. In the uncertainty of Communion, Jesus invites us to find true life, a life that endures, a life that never ends – even if, at some point, our own flesh is torn and our bodies broken by the slings and arrows of this life.

So I think it appropriate that we share this meal together now. It is not our “normal Sunday” for Communion, but then again, we have never been people who worried terribly hard about doing things differently than “normal.” And I invite us to share in this meal in a new way. Normally, we come forward to meet God – or ourselves – or the Spirit – or whatever – in this ritual. But today it is important that you know that God also wishes to come to you, that the point of the Gospel is not the world coming to God, but God coming to the world, and so today this meal will be brought to you. Receive it as you will, by communing with the elements, by asking me for a blessing, or both. And may you receive Christ’s mysterious presence and the Spirit’s most gracious wisdom in these moments.

I will ask our musician to play our next hymn, #421 We Gather Together, and for you to remain seated and sing it together. (Do note that the tune for this hymn can be found on the previous page)

Then we celebrated Communion together, with me serving each member. Following this, I offered the following prayer:

Solomon, on the occasion of his ascension to the throne of Israel, prayed to God for wisdom instead of gold, holy knowledge instead of worldly power. May we who share in the feast of God’s presence also seek – and find – that same wisdom. Amen.

Parents and Children

This is the sermon I preached on August 9, using the text from 2 Samuel 18
The lament is one of the most famous, immortalized in novels and movies: “Oh, Absalom! My son, my son, Absalom! Would that I have died instead of you!” King David’s grief for his son and how he ended up belies a larger story, of how cross-wise parents and children see the world!
It is one of the oldest stories in the book – figuratively and literally. How children so often disappoint their parents, frustrate the plans parents have for them – and yet how parents persist in their love of those same children! Poor David was cursed with not just one son, but two, who end up breaking his heart. First there is Amnon, firstborn of all David’s children. First-born sons have special importance in the Biblical narrative, and in the cultures from which it emerged. They are inheritors of the largest share of the family’s fortune, and they were the ones who were expected to carry on the family business, whether it was tending sheep or leading a nation.
Amnon, beloved of his father, becomes obsessively infatuated with his half-sister Tamar. Enlisting his father’s unwitting help, he contrives a plan by which he takes by force what has been forbidden to him by custom. Having satiated his base desire, he has no further use for her. He sends Tamar away, compounding the shame of the rape with his casting her off like so much old clothing.
David, hearing the scandal, refuses to punish Amnon, because after all, he loves his son and he is the first-born. Who would not want to protect their child, even in the face of such a hideous crime? The relative worth of sons and daughters in the Old Testament, and even, it must be said, the New Testament and much of the past two thousand years of church history, is so taken for granted that it is not even mentioned in the text. When the victim and the child are both one’s children, well, David has chosen his allegiance.
And in choosing Amnon, David loses not only his daughter Tamar but also his son Absalom, who contrives a plan not only to kill his half-brother but also to usurp the throne. Can you not see Absalom’s point of view? From Absalom’s perspective, David is allowing his own daughter’s rape to go unavenged, and worse yet, actually protecting the rapist! Absalom cannot understand why a father – his father – would not respond with all the power and authority of one’s position if that father learned the identity of his daughter’s rapist. While King David can only see his legacy potentially destroyed, Absalom can only see the pain of his sister. Ah, how cross-wise parents and children see the world!
They cannot find a way to each other. And yet, when Absalom the usurper is killed, David is ripped apart with grief: “Oh Absalom, Absalom – my son Absalom!” All could be forgiven, if only Absalom were not dead.
Marilynne Robinson describes this grief and the sorrow of parents so well in her novel Gilead, as one elderly man speaks of his best friend love for his wayward son: “And old Boughton, if he could stand up out of his chair, out of his decrepitude and crankiness and sorrow and limitation, would abandon all those handsome children of his, mild and confident as they are, and follow after that one son whom he has never known, whom he has favored as one does a wound, and he would protect him as a father cannot, defend him with a strength he does not have, sustain him with a bounty beyond any resource he could ever dream of having. If Boughton could be himself, he would utter pardon ever transgression, past, present and to come, whether or not it was a transgression in fact or his to pardon” (p. 238).
This son, this utter mystery and disappointment to his father, source of his greatest sorrow, this Jack, fails at his every attempt to succeed in his father’s eyes. This novel, and its companion Home, tell the story that if only these two men could know each other as each wishes to know and to be known, what reconciliation and what life could come. But of course, one of the great mysteries of life is that we do not always know each other as we wish we could, and we are not always known by each other in the deepest and truest ways.
Jack cannot stay, though his father is dying and his family needs him, because he has another
family who needs him. It is the early 1950s and his wife and son are black. In rural Iowa, then more so than know, such a match would be scandalous. In Jack’s eyes, the scandal would be too much for his family to bear, and in his day and age, it is sad to say that he is probably right. Even if the family welcomed this wife and son, the community could not.
So in order for him to do right by the family he has made, the family who has healed him and matured him and made him into a man – in other words, to live up to the responsibilities as his father raised him to do, Jack must betray the family who has loved him and nurtured him through all his prodigal years. In order to stop being a prodigal to this wife and son, he must remain a prodigal in the eyes of his brothers and sisters and father.
Oh, how cross-wise parents and children see the world!
Last week, I met with a newcomer to our town, who wanted to know where the “gay community” was here. I had to tell him something he had recently figured out on his own: that such a thing does not exist here. Yes, there are gay people in this community. Yes, there are same-sex couples in this community. Yes, our church is an oasis of welcome and hospitality for many who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. But no, there is no gay community to speak of here. Or, not one that I know about, anyway.
He related to me that he had heard of many gay and lesbian children of Red Oak, sons and daughters of prominent and average families, who have left this place because they had no welcome here, no place to be who they truly were. It is a story I have heard many times. The truth is, this community is not as welcoming as we could be of different people and their gifts, as accepting of the different ways our sons and daughters see the world and their place in it, nor as open as we sometimes profess. It is not always about sexual identity, either, but about all the ways that our children become so different from their parents.
Though we see ourselves as a community that is “a shade better,” though we try to make this place as idyllic as possible for our children, though we want to believe that this is a great place to live, raise children, and to have our grandchildren grow up, the truth is that this community can be intolerant of “outsiders,” that it can be challenging to feel safe if one thinks differently, loves differently, or lives differently than a narrow view of what is considered acceptable. Our children see this, and for their own emotional or physical safety, or in their desire to live openly and with integrity, they do often leave. And we wonder why.
And though we may ask why, we seldom do the work necessary to change the answers. We know why – our children tell us. They fear for their safety, often for good reason. They are teased and bullied, often mercilessly. They decide that putting some distance between themselves and their hometown is better than remaining hidden within a closet. They simply do not think they can change a community’s attitudes. And often, the parent’s response is not to help create a new future safe for all children, but to try to protect one’s own. One’s own heritage, one’s own story, one’s own reputation.
Diana Butler Bass, in the book we’ll be studying together this fall, Christianity for the Rest of Us, related a story about how the community in which she grew up has literally vanished. The buildings are still there, but the people who made up her childhood are no longer there. She does not, however, waste a lot of time pondering why this is so. She knows that for some of us, that question is never-ending and ultimately, never-answerable. We cannot always know why our world changes; but we know that it always is.
The questions we must be asking ourselves, Butler Bass suggests, are not questions that ask us to look back, or to become mired in a past that once was (or maybe only exists in our memory), but to ask how we might create a new future. We must do what David did not, and listen to our sons and daughters as they tell us how they see the world. We must empower them and ourselves to work for the justice and the hope made known to our children in the Gospel, and, speaking the truth in love, we must be more than an oasis of welcome, but rather a beacon of God’s liberation for all of God’s children. We must rise up out of ourselves and our pasts to become who God has called us to be – loving, forgiving and forgiven, blessed by God to be a blessing to the world.
Then it may be said that while parents and children often see the world cross-wise, still we work side-by-side to heal old wounds and make new the hopes of God’s people. Thanks be to God for different visions that lead us to God’s promises, fulfilled for all. Amen.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Man on Fire

Does anyone out there really understand the movie Man on Fire with Denzel Washington?  I've seen it all the way through once, and found it incomprehensible but compelling.  

Now I've seen it several more times in parts, and it is equally baffling.  Tonight it is on Telemundo, and curiously enough, it is no more baffling than in English.  Perhaps it's because the story takes place largely in and around Mexico City, so there is already a lot of Spanish in the film (though on Telemundo, there are no subtitles and the English parts are dubbed into Spanish).  

I really want to like the film - who doesn't like Denzel?  who doesn't like Dakota?  But I'm finding it really hard to figure the whole thing out.  Is it just a bad film?  Am I just not getting something about it?  Please, do let me know your impressions of the movie.

Holy Church Service, Batman!

A year ago at this time, I was planning Sunday School lessons for two fourth-graders.  This year, I am shaping a curriculum for two classes of students who range in age from 3-12.  Up until this morning, I was expecting that between the classes, we might have 8-10 students on a fairly consistent basis.

After today, it is entirely possible that we will have 15 in the classes.  Fifteen.  Regularly.  We had nine visitors in church today - including five fantastic kids!  Since our worship attendance is normally about 25-35, the addition of nine people is significant and marvelous.  There were 46 of us today.  And I do think our visitors will be back.  (I sure hope so!)  

It's also fabulous in that there was a diverse group of folk who joined us for the first time - a mom with a toddler daughter, a mom with four kids, an older couple, and a gentleman who is planning to run for U.S. Congress in our district.  Plus a larger-than usual group of "regulars," who are themselves a heady mix of families, widowers, widows, older couples, and same-sex couples of a variety of ages.

Conventional wisdom seems to be that church growth happens when that new and exciting minister comes to town, and I expect there are places where that happens.  But in smaller communities, or at least in this one, even dynamic ministers really have to build trust in order to impact a community - and that comes with time.  I think it also helps that over the past few years, I have built real friendships with a number of the people who've ended up coming to church in the past year.  They have seen that I am their friend and that my relationship with them has nothing to do with church.  They know that I will be their friend if they never come to church; and they know that if this church community is not for them, we will still be friends.  

Of course, I will happily navigate the challenges of friends joining the church I serve, and if this is a good fit, nothing would make me happier than friends finding a home in the church I love so well.  In fact, I rather like the way we've rather unconventionally grown and the ways that this growth is emerging and taking shape in the life of our church community.  

This is a big of rambly post, I know - but I'm still riding the "high" from worship and fellowship time today - and I can't wait to start my work week!  Thank you, visitors, friends and members!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Adventures in Bathroom Redecoration

This week I went to an unnamed and terrible, terrible store to do a little research for my educator job and ended up killing a little time there.  And, of course, giving money to the terrible empire.  But this is not a self-flagellating post about giving money to terrible multi-national corporations who pay crap wages to their workers, resist union organizing, and destroy local industries.

This is a post about the marvelous shower curtain I bought there.

We have not done much to redecorate the house we own.  That includes the cloth shower curtain in the upstairs bathroom.  It was a deep maroon and lovely enough, so I kept it.  But recently I noticed that it was in desperate need of replacing.  Not cleaning, mind you - replacing.  As some of you know, I'm kind of lackadaisical about housekeeping and don't enjoy shopping all that much.  So it hadn't really been on my list, but hanging around in my head.  

When I went to the terrible store this week, I cruised past the bathroom wares and saw a rather nice cloth curtain at a reasonable price.  It doesn't really match the rest of the "decor" in the room - it was striped in a variety of shades of blue - but I liked it.  So I bought it, and this morning I installed it.

Oh.My.God.  All of a sudden I realize how terrible and dark the shower has been for the past six years.  This morning I had the most delightful shower, because the curtain was light and airy and beautiful and actually let in light!  Backbencher, who got the first shower today, is in for a BIG surprise tomorrow.  Shhh!

So now, we redecorate the bathroom to fit the curtain.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

World Friend Collision Events

This is my new expression for those times when friends from your different "worlds" come together in one event.  So, if my sex educator friends, a couple of clergy colleagues, a few parishioners and my drinking friends get together for a party celebrating the release of a CD by a friend from college (whether he's there or not), that would be a World Friend Collision Event.  Or, if while visiting NYC with Backbencher, we dine with folk from Marble Church, Broadway UCC and NYU, that would also count.  You get the idea.

Like many folk, I used to get worked up about these kinds of events, hoping people would connect and trying to find some of those points of contact in advance so that I could have some ways to direct conversation.  And, I don't know, sometimes that worked.  But more often, people found other cool stuff in common and bonded over that, without my help, or I learned all sorts of new things about all kinds of friends....or it just didn't work out.  My friends didn't bond.  In which case, Apples to Apples seldom lets me down.

But part of being a recovering perfectionist means I try letting go of outcomes around these sorts of things.  If I think people would mesh well together, I try to bring them together and let stuff happen.  If I don't think they mesh well together ... well, that's why we have different circles of friends.  I guess.  I kind of like it when my worlds collide, overall.  I think it has something to do with wholeness and integrity of self.  Naturally, I don't expect all my friends to be friends with each other, but I like when points of contact and relationship between mutual friends (that don't put me at the center of the relationship) emerge.

Weddings and funerals don't count as WFCE's - but lunch at India Star in Des Moines this Friday does!  If you're in the area, come join us at 12:30ish.  I have a board meeting in the morning for the Iowa Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies, so I'll be all fancily dressed, but you can wear your casual clothes.
See you at WFCE '09!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Oh, Absalom

I'm reflecting on Absalom this week.  His death is the lectionary text for this week, and I am pondering the complicated journey of his life.  His first real appearance is when he avenges the rape of his sister Tamar by his half-brother Amnon.  And I've been wondering, how does one go from being what we may legitimately call a hero to a usurper of the throne, killed ignominiously by his father's friend and general Joab as Absalom's head is caught in an oak tree?  

This story is about David, too - about his love of his firstborn son Amnon and his excusal of even the most hideous of crimes, about how his love of Amnon and the memory of this son (a crass and callous man)  blinds him notions of justice, and to the political intrigue brewing right under his nose.  David, too, bears some responsibility for how Absalom turns out, as any parent does.  And yet his grief for his traitorous son is no less than that of his first-born.  Curious, the relationship between parents and children.

Anyway, these are the thoughts rattling around in my head today.  I will probably be more coherent tomorrow at church, when I preach on parents and children.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Once Again, Iowa Is on the Forefront

Only this time, it's about texting to 911.  Cool, huh?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

This One is For Sleazy Nate

Ah, Sleazy Nate.  Where would I be without the endless stories and laughter he has provided over the years?  I dated Sleazy Nate for a few months in college, until the utter disregard with which he treated me (which can be summarized by the phrase "three other girls in three other states") finally reached a tipping point with my self-esteem.  I suppose I *could* have dumped him earlier .... but we know that sad story.  The good news is, eventually I did get my act together and break up with him, and it made for some hilarious moments later on down the line.  Plus, he has the BEST nickname of all my exes.

Now he's a rather famous "artist," and I only use the quotes because he's an artist who makes things out of Legos.  Yes, Legos.  He took the fantasy of an eight-year-old and turned it into a career.  He gave up a law career to become a master builder at Legoland, and now makes ungodly sums of money creating life-size "sculptures" of various things.  He's not bad, actually.  But, God, he's (still) pretentious - bless his heart.   The weirdest thing was seeing him on Letterman with my then-father-in-law Si.  How do you say to your FIL, "Oh, I used to [ahem] go out with* that guy?"  (You don't.  You tell him you knew him in college and leave it at that.)

Once, at a bar (I wasn't drinking, Ma, I swear!), I found myself at one end of a table full of girls Sleazy Nate had either dated or hooked up with.  SN was at the other end of the table.  I called out to him, let my eyes gaze along the length of the table, and looked back.  He almost walked out with his then-girlfriend.  Apparently he's not so sleazy not to be shamed by some things, anyway.

I swear, though, no matter how sleazy Nate was, I never, ever, ever even considered this kind of plan.  Ladies, ladies, ladies - the best revenge is living well, not Krazy glue + genitals.  

* I was going to say "schtup" but apparently, one person does not schtup another.  Two (or presumably more than two) people schtup together.  Thank you, Urban Dictionary!  Plus, I'm pretty sure my in-laws read this blog....