Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dear Diary

This has been a busy week.

I did two interviews, got a job, took a drug test (I passed in case you're wondering!) started choir rehearsals at church, dyed my hair, and lost 1 pound...but I think it was just from dehydration.

Whew....I'm tired! A good tired. A satisfied tired. A sleeping-peacefully-from-exhaustion tired.

I have had more adult interaction in the last week than I have had during the last month. It feels great to finally be doing more than managing my home; a job I love, but am a little weary of at this point.

Choir rehearsal was fun. I think that I am going to like it. There were about 60 people there and a fair number of men, which is great because they are often hard to dig up and help balance out the usually numerous female voices.

I chatted with a few women I hadn't met before. Everyone seemed friendly and I can see this as a jumping off point for feeling more cohesively a part of our church, something I have been struggling with for a while.

My boss at the non-profit is very sweet. So, I see no potential problems on that front. Although part of my job is to do presentations in local elementary schools through a form of puppetry called Bunraku. The puppets themselves are different than those you see on Wikipedia, but the style of puppetry is the same as the Japanese form. I will be dressed in black with black gloves, and a black hood covering my head as I manipulate a puppet. I have several scripts to memorize and polish for performance. It's very serious. My boss has done it for years and is incredibly good at it. Totally professional. I'm usually not afraid of performing in front of people, but I have never done this type of performance before.

Just call me the Puppet Ninja--because that's what I'll look like all dressed in black.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dependable God

YIPPEEE!!!

I have officially been welcomed back into the loving arms of the gainfully employed!

It's really a God thing. About a year ago, when we were trying to figure out how in the world we were going to make it with me still being home, I had inquired about a part-time position with a non-profit organization. It was very appealing and followed the school calender, but was going to be too logistically difficult to make it work with Intuitive Monkey still being at home for part of the day. After speaking with the hiring manager, I intially thought it would work. Thinking more in depth about it, I realized it just wasn't going to work, but maybe it would the next year when both boys were in school. I called back and told her that I was sorry, but that I wouldn't be coming in to apply for the job after all. She said she appreciated the fact that I called her back to let her know as opposed to simply not showing up the next morning as we had discussed.

My much blogged about angst about when and how I would find a job, and whether anybody would ever hire me after being out of the official workforce for so long, had continued to grow and leave me feeling lost. I wanted a part-time job, during school hours, that paid decently, and didn't require me to have to put the boys in day care. That's not asking for much, is it? Obviously, that's what about a bazillion mothers would love to have. Who was I to think that I could manage to pull off such a feat as to have the perfect working/home situation?

Finding such a thing seemed like tossing a bottle into the ocean and returning 1 year later to have it wash up on shore at your feet the instant you approached the water.

Impossible. Preposterous. Wishful Thinking.

Thankfully, I have a Father who knows what I need even before I ever do. He always steps in and reminds me that He hasn't forgotten me. He sets my heart at rest and lets me rely upon Him when I have come to the end of myself.

Two days ago I got a call out of the blue: Do you remember this job? You do? I know we spoke over a year ago, but I saved your information. This position is open again and we are looking for someone. Are you still interested? You are.......well I'd love to see you tomorrow morning and talk with you more.

A couple of interviews, fingerprint screening and one drug test later and I have a job. The perfect job for me. For my family. For this time in my life.

Thanks God!

Matthew 6:31-33

"So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Handwriting On The.....Hand?

I sent The Rationalist into his room to do his homework--writing his spelling words four times each. He kept popping in and out of his room, distracted and not really wanting to focus.
Back and forth, in and out, he went. First, he asked where the pencils were. Two minutes later, did I know where the eraser was? Not long after that, did I remember to look at his fundraising magazines. His mind flitted from one thing to the other as he took his time to do his work

The last time he came out, he noticed something on his hand.

"What's this?" he asked while scrutinizing his palm.

""Who wrote on my hand?!"

"What do you mean?

"There's writing on my hand. I didn't do it!"

I looked at his hand and saw faint pencil marks, making out barely-there letters.

"I think you must have put your hand on your paper. The writing rubbed off on it."

He thought about it for minute while inspecting his hand once more.

"No...I don't think so."......pause....."I think it's a message from God!"

"...a message...from God..."

"Yes!" he giggled and ran back to his room.

Maybe I can get God to tell him to clean up his room and chew with his mouth closed. I think I have a pen around here somewhere.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Tonight my sister-in-law called to tell me that my mother is in the hospital. She had been getting dizzy spells and had fallen a few times. I called and spoke to her. She reassured me that it wasn't her heart and was probably just vertigo, but who really knows. It seems as if it isn't anything serious at this point.

When I hung up the phone, I was somber. I wasn't worried that she was near death. I knew that she was OK , but I realized that one day a call like that would come and she wouldn't be fine. She's getting older. She has some health issues. She lives in another state.

It makes me wish I were closer. It makes me wish I could fix everything in her life.

For now, I pray for her and tell her I love her. It seems like small comfort, but it's all I can do.

Last Call

In the stats aftermath of my posts yesterday(almost 400 hits), I kept returning to this issue of Randy and Paula White, modern Christianity, truth and doubt.

Truth is a tricky thing. It can be a demanding task master, laying bare all the things which we clumsily try to hide.

Trying to figure out exactly what's going through the minds of those who stop by here, isn't really difficult. They want to know what happened. They want to know the details of this story. That may seem like Christian sensationalism and, to be sure, there certainly is that element. But more than anything, people just want to know how to piece things like this together. They want to understand. They want it to make sense. They want to know what to believe.

In some ways, our own Christian principles work against us in these situations. We are not to gossip. We are not to hold grudges. We are to forgive. We are to speak only what is beneficial to others. When a scandal like this occurs, those thoughts rush into our minds and we suppress our urge to understand because it seems impolite and unseemly to probe deeply into someone's personal problems. We put on kid gloves and try to be gracious and compassionate.


We should definitely be gracious, but there is a balance that the church needs to have in dealing with fallen leadership.

What I wish that the Whites and other leaders knew is how desperately people need the truth. So often, in an effort to be diplomatic or not fuel gossip, leaders will make vague statements that don't really lay out what's going on. Sometimes they're being outright manipulative, at others they are simply trying to be cautious. It's the wrong decision to make.

In explanation of their "amicable" divorce, Randy White was quoted as saying that the divorce is 100% his fault. He went on to praise Paula. The article also stated that the divorce was not caused by any third parties, a polite way of saying no one had an affair, but that they their lives had simply started heading in different directions.

That synopsis will not ease the confusion that their congregation and followers will have. Why? Simply, because it doesn't make any sense. There are countless people in America who have divorced because they felt they were no longer in love with each other, or because they drifted apart, but for two Christians who have built an empire trying to lead others, the answer is unsatisfying.

It's unsatisfying because if their statement is true, it shows a very poor understanding of the covenant of marriage before God and the place of honor in which it is held. It's unsatisfying because that excuse just isn't good enough. If nothing dramatic has happened, and no trust violated, then there is no Scripturally valid reason for the divorce.

Their followers will have to make a judgement call about what that means for their pastors, for the teachings they have received, and for how they perceive their relationship with God. Many of them will be overwhelmed by the doubt that they have been duped. It will make them distrust people more easily and be a stumbling block in their faith.

I wish all of you well as you try to piece things together.

(this is my last post on the subject)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Surprised

You wouldn't know it from the lack of comments, but this blog has been visited over 50 times today by people looking for information about Randy and Paula White's divorce because of the post I wrote earlier.

I'm not sure what to make of that. Hits from California to New York continue to roll in from personal networks, University networks, Military networks, Government Networks, and they all are looking for the same thing...information about the Whites.

It saddens me as I realize the impact that one couple's divorce evokes from such a wide swath of people--people who looked to them for guidance and direction. I am sure it is shocking to them, as it is when it happens to a couple you know personally. You are left trying to piece together the perceptions you have had with the reality that exists. It's uncomfortable and unpleasant to gaze onto other people's tragedies.

As I think about all of this, I hope and pray that as people mull over the implications of this scandal that instead of disillusionment, God will speak to them. That He will expose what needs to be exposed, build up what needs to be built up, and teach us how to place our faith and assurance in Him alone.

A Cautionary Tale

The front page of the local paper features an article about Randy and Paula White, pastors of a large, charismatic church in the Tampa Bay area called Without Walls. They announced from their pulpit that they are divorcing "amicably", stating that no third parties are involved on either side, but merely that their lives have begun to take separate paths.

It's troubling on so many levels that I'm not sure where to start. I don't know the Whites, attend Without Walls, or hold to any of their teachings. I can't speak about them personally and don't want to, any more than I would want someone to analyze me from a distance.

What is worrisome is the cause for the split seems to be directly tied to the growth of their separate ministries. Paula White has, over the last several years, built quite a name for herself through websites, speaking engagements, book deals, and other ventures, as has Randy White. They have used the media effectively to gain a wide following and further their private and ministry ventures....and therein lies part of the problem.

The Christian life is not a sound bite. It is not lived for the outer life, but the inner life. There is an intrinsic temptation in media; a temptation to Photoshop personal lives into a glossy 8 x 10 that's been retouched for optimal viewing pleasure. It's a lesson that American culture and American Christianity have yet to learn--TV lies, magazines lie, books lie.

They lie because of money. The truth has never been a best seller. It has to be tweaked, placed in attractive lighting, and given a snappy jingle in order for people to lay out money for it. Behind every spiritual best seller, there is a publisher and an author making a lot of money. That's their job. It's a business to them. They are not motivated by a desire to transform society, but by a desire to earn a paycheck to pay their mortgage.

They lie because we want them to. We want to believe that there is a formula for a successful, fulfilling life that we can apply and implement in order to obtain that perfect life. We buy spiritual snake oil and rub it all over ourselves in an attempt to smooth out the wrinkles, banish the dark spots, and perfume our limbs. But, it's all a lie. We are still just as wrinkly, blemished, and smelly as before...only now, we're greasy too.

They lie because, as Jack Nicholson says in A Few Good Men, "You can't handle the truth!". We are afraid to face the truth about ourselves and the world around us. If there isn't a way to fit everything into a nice little box, how will we cope? How do we persevere in the face of our messy, sometimes unsatisfying lives?

The Whites, and many like them, become popular because of the message they preach; that God wants everyone to be "successful" and to fulfill their "destiny". It's what everyone wants--to be special, to be happy, to be blessed. So now, as these two wealthy, famous (at least in Charismatic circles) people divorce, their lives belie the message they preach. The curtain is pulled back and we see that even they have not realized the dream.

I feel sorry for them. The end of a marriage is always a disheartening, horrible thing.

Yet, in my pity for them personally, I am indignant about them publicly. Each of them plans to continue their ministries. They seem not to grasp the incoherency of the teachings they propagate in the face of their own personal disasters, or the consequences of their actions. If they were "regular" people, with "normal" jobs, they would not be expected to change careers, or bear any fault in that area of their lives, but they are not "regular" people with "normal" jobs. What do they have to offer the throngs who follow them? Their promises have proved empty. Will they continue to hawk those promises? Will Paula continue to be a Life Coach when it is she and her husband who really need one right now? It reminds me of Jesus' quote about the blind leading the blind. A confident leader inspires confident followers; even if the leader is lost, directionless, and headed the wrong way.

Time after time, these scandals occur. They will continue to occur as long as people try to mix the Gospel with money and fame. They don't mix. They never will. They are anti-thetical in nature. To gain money and fame in Christianity, you have to lie. Some do it consciously and with forethought, others do with self-deception and a lack of self-awareness. There is no money in telling people to simply follow Jesus, to store your treasure in Heaven, to rejoice in the face of suffering and persecution for Him. There is no fame in glorifying only God and pointing others to Him, refusing to promote yourself or take credit for His truths.

Jesus is not a salesman. The truth costs nothing. Humility does not linger in the limelight

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Marriage Advice

For all those singles out there:

"If you find a girl you like, ask her to marry you. But she has to like you too. They won't let you marry her if she doesn't like you. You'll have to go with your second choice."

--The Rationalist, age 7

Sad Search Terms

Today someone found my blog through a sad search term: "is alzheimer's a punishment for specific sins".

wow.

I wonder who typed that in. Do they have alzheimer's? Are they regretting portions of their life and trying to assign some meaning to it? Assigning such a terrible fate to themselves as a way to stave off the horror that sometimes bad things happen without a good explanation? How filled with sorrow must they be to ask Google such a question? What lies behind the pleading words of that request? I don't know, but it makes me sad.

If you come back, miscellaneous person that I don't know, here's not just my answer, but THE answer.

NO.

Alzheimer's is not a punishment from God for a specific sin that has been committed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Simple, Complicated, Sometimes Unanswerable

Internet Monk wrote a post about dying with unconfessed sin, what it means to many Christians, and how the typical person answers questions about it. I left a comment, not specifically about the issue, but in response to his reply about salvation being "by simple faith alone in Jesus Christ alone". I don't disagree with that statement. I do think that the further along one goes in their faith journey, the more one tries to fully understand the "simple" answers to the big questions.

People are uncomfortable with the concept of unconfessed sin partly because some denominations teach that faith plus works is what you gets you through Heaven's gates--saying you believe counts for nothing if you live like a heathen. For others it's a question of reconciling the act of God's work through Jesus' death and resurrection, with verses that warn of God's judgment, making our election sure, and warning about not falling away. Those are uncomfortable verses to read. Throw in a parable about goats and sheep or Jesus telling others they never knew Him, and you have yourself some nice little conundrums to work through.

Of course, there are lots of people and preachers who like to give out the canned, pat answers they learned in Seminary or from the church they attended in junior high in response to someone's heartfelt wondering. That can be very frustrating. It's along the lines of the "just pray more" answer, or the "don't think about it" answer. It may work for a few months, but it will inevitably pop up again as you try to make sense of your own life and the experiences you have in the church and in the world.

Truth has to be felt and understood at the core of your being before you'll ever really be comfortable with it. It has to make sense to us. That doesn't mean that we can reshape God's truth to suit us, but it does mean that we can't rely on someone else's confident answer. We have to earn that confidence ourselves by wrestling through what the Scriptures mean, how we incorporate them into our lives, and the impact it has upon our spirits.

Maybe I'll take a crack at elaborating on some of those things sometime this week.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Finish Line

I tossed and turned in the still darkness. 5:30 am, in neon green, glowing in the dark. I closed my eyes and tried for thirty more minutes. 6:00 am. Time to get up.

Shuffling through a drawer in the dark, looking for a pair of shorts and T-shirt, I move quietly. Having found what I'm looking for, I tiptoe out and close the door to the bedroom, dressing in the living room.

The dog squints at me curiously and then lays her head back down on her bed with a snort. It's too early, even for her.

I begin assembling the breakfast I've planned and start the coffee brewing, disturbing the quiet with the gurgling coffee maker. Rinse the blueberries. Combine the pancake mix. Heat the pan. Ponder the importance of the day all the while.

Little feet trip through the house to bathroom. The night light glimmers on a boy who used to be an infant. His tall, slender stature is evidence of the time that has since passed. Countless, diapers changed, fevers nursed, half-eaten meals and hundreds of story books measured and weighed in the growth of a boy...who used to be an infant.

He trips back into his room, closing the door behind him. It's not 6:30 am, yet.

6:30am arrives, heralded by the excited chirping of two boys dressing themselves, making their beds, and leaping from their rooms to the kitchen.

"I knew she was making pancakes!"

"Not just pancakes....blueberry pancakes!"

DH comes out of the bedroom and hugs me, while the boys pile on for good measure.

We eat breakfast, make lunches, chat about what the day will be like, and enjoy the brief morning.

At 7:30 am, we head out to finish the last leg of a seven-year race. We round the bend and reach the finish line. The first day of school for Intuitive Monkey, our youngest.




Saturday, August 18, 2007

Summer TV Stinks

How much longer 'til Lost and Heroes come back?

I so need my sci-fi adventure fix.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Blog Envy

Have you ever visited a blog and wondered why it's so popular? Every post will have dozens of comments, the hit counter will display hundreds of thousands of visits, and there will be hundreds of links to it, yet you scratch your head and wonder...."What's so special about this blog?"

It might not be horrible. It might have good posts from time to time. But, the popularity seems greater than the sum of the blog's parts.

I used to feel bad about that. I would wonder why no one would comment on my posts. Was I doing something wrong? Was I so boring that merely glancing at my blog induced a coma in my potential readership? Was I a legend in my own mind?

Feeling like the high school freshman not invited to the party, I would suck it up and remind myself that I didn't really care about whether or not I was popular. That was fine for a while, though I still wondered about my viability as a blogger. Some bloggers seemed to have a knack for building traffic. They were incredible writers and very skilled at getting their points across and "branding" themselves. I definitely didn't view myself as being on the same plane. But what about those other bloggers?

I realized a few things.

Some blogs with lots of comments are relying on the visits of family and friends. After a few posts, it becomes obvious that many of the comments are back and forth conversations between old friends...not that there's anything wrong with that. It did, however, change my perspective about the numerical count of comments. Take away previous friendships and how many commenters would that particular blog have?

Other blogs rely on the tried and true method of the controversial post. If it's a mommy blog the title will read, "Are Working Mothers The Devil's Spawn?" Political blogs--"Bush's Hot Air Contributes to Global Warming!" Religious blogs--"Why Jesus Hates Those Other People." Crackpots, trolls and anyone with an axe to grind will be sure to show up to comment vociferously on these topics, which in turn will lead others to try and reason with them. Bingo! That post will have at least 50 comments.

Of course, an easy way to get comments is to stay slightly superficial and post things that everybody agrees with. "Hitler Was A Pig!", "Injustice Blows!", "Abusing Animals Is Sick!"; posts like these lead to the inevitable "great post!" comment. Everyone falls all over themselves to say how incredible you are for addressing such a timely topic.

The most valid way to have a prominent blog is to craft a very specialized, focused topic. Post after post about underwater basket weaving, or sumo wrestling, will build your relevant search results transforming your blog into the first stop for many web surfers.

After realizing that 80% of popular blogs fall into these categories, I don't feel quite as bad when my stats are low and my commenters are nonexistent. I know that I haven't stooped to posting articles about Britney Spears just to steer a few wayward surfers my way. I know that I don't want to resort to mud-slinging just to get a conversation going. I know that at least I can count on my husband to comment...he's a captive audience.

Don't feel bad if your blog isn't "successful". I still have a long way to go with mine and am hoping to one day have the time to improve on it and draw commenters who want to stop by.

I've had a few this week, and let me just say--Thank You!

Morality Lesson for the Low, Low Cost of Only $120.50

Sunday, 10:45am, heading home from church, somewhere in Florida

"Oh no! I forgot to go to the bank to deposit this check!"

"That's OK. Turn right at the stoplight; it will take you to Elm Street. That's right where the bank is."

"This light?"

"Yeah."

driving.

"OK...which street is the right one?"

"The next one.....although, I think it might be a right turn only. I'm not sure"

We slowly approach Elm Street and discover that it is, indeed, a right-turn only. We look around. The tiny side street is deserted. Not a car in sight. The bank entrance is only 100 feet away. My husband and I exchange a silent glance.

"I don't see anybody, do you?"

"Nope."

DH turns left, ignoring the Right Turn Only sign, and drives into the bank's parking lot, pulling up to the ATM machine.

"Hey, that sign said Right Turn Only. You can't do that Papa," says the Rationalist.

We mumble over the objection.

As I fumble in the glove box for a deposit envelope, a loudspeaker announces, "PLEASE PULL AHEAD."

There, behind us, is a cop car, blue lights flashing away. DH and I look at each other and groan as DH pulls up to an empty area in the parking lot. The crunching gravel underneath the police officer's boot alerts us to his presence.

"Do you know why I pulled you over?"

"For making a left turn?" asks DH.

"Yep. That's right. License and registration please."

DH hands it over silently and the police officer goes back to his car to fill out a ticket form.

"See, I told you, you can't make a left there!" says The Rationalist.

"Be quiet. We'll talk about this when we get home."

The police officer appears once again.

"OK. This ticket needs to be paid in 30 days. You can contest it or take traffic school. If you do not take traffic school, you will have 3 points on your license...understand?"

"Yes, officer."

"OK....have a nice day.".....um...sure...absolutely great day.

"What's 3 points mean?" asks Intuitive Monkey.

"What do you have to do in thirty days?" asks The Rationalist.

Wide-eyed and full of awe, Intuitive Monkey asks, "How did he know?", sure that the officer must be in direct contact with God.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Anonymity

I blog anonymously.

My husband is the only person, from my personal life, who knows of and/or reads my blog. Initially, I didn't even tell him about it. I didn't try to hide it or pretend I was shopping online for hours on end; I just kept it to myself. However, keeping that type of thing secret requires more time, effort, and emotional investment than I wanted to give. So, I made the big reveal. The only qualification was that he was not allowed to tell anybody else about it. EVER.

Once, about five years ago, I wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper...a very large paper with a wide circulation. It was my first and last letter to the editor. I was pleased that they had deigned to print my words and I even saved a copy of it, though that seems very silly to me now. That was enough self-satisfaction for me, to see my name in the paper....by choice, not because I was arrested, part of a pyramid scheme, or had died from some horribly freakish accident worthy of YouTube.

The day my letter was printed was like any other...that is until my husband came home. He walked through the door, and I showed him my meager newspaper clipping with my name at the bottom of it. He smiled, said he was proud of me--which is funny, because it was a letter to the editor, not the Declaration of Independence, but he's sweet like that---then proceeded to tell me how he had sent an e-mail to everyone in his address book along with the text of my letter.

I think I had a mini-stroke. I distinctly remember my heart stopping and all the blood draining from my face.

"You did WHAT!!" I said calmly, while reaching out to strangle him.

"What? It was a good letter. I was proud of you and wanted everyone to know about it," he said, while I chased him with a butter knife.

"I can't believe you did that! Why didn't you ask me first?!! Oh my gosh, that is so embarrassing! Are you trying to kill me with humiliation?" I asked in a reasonable fashion while throwing shoes in his general direction.

Of course, to someone who doesn't know me, there seems to be some cognitive dissonance here. I willingly sent a letter to a large paper with my full name at the bottom of it, and here I was upset that he had told more people about it. I wanted everybody to know my name, didn't I?

Not really.

The truth is that I wanted to express something that I felt was in need of being pointed out. I had a desire to make a point, not a name for myself. I also knew that despite much of our immediate family living in Florida, they were all far enough away that they would never see the paper in which my letter was printed....and I had no plans to tell them about it. Because that's how I am.

I don't want to have to answer questions posed by relatives who are not really interested in my religious, political, and social ideas. I don't want to have to cringe at a family reunion if I think something I wrote might have upset someone. Upsetting strangers...no problem...upsetting my mother, brothers, or in-laws.....HUGE problem.

So, I set up my little corner here in cyberspace under the strict guidelines that nobody I know, will ever know about it. Even so, I always keep in my mind that there is a 29,855,211 to 1 chance that I could be found out one day.....which is why I don't have gossipy, tell-all stories on my blog. There is a way that someone could find me, but they would have to already know what they were looking for to figure it out.

Part of my anonymity lies in not wanting to rock the boat in my personal life, but the largest portion is due to my behind-the-scenes nature. I am not afraid to speak out or be in front of people. I do, however, hate to be unduly scrutinized. Armchair analyzation is not for me.

We own two cars; one is a shiny, bright blue, convertible Miata, the other a silver/gray Corolla. One is flashy, fun, and zippy; the other is nondescript, cookie-cutter, and completely boring. That's the one I like to drive. I want to blend into traffic, not turn heads and be stared at while waiting for a light to change. Shiny convertibles attract attention; gray Corollas disappear into the background....which is just how I like it. In the background you can be who you are and want to be without having to justify every little thing you do. You can make more U-turns, just barely make it through the yellow light before it turns red, and speed a little faster...all without being noticed. It's great.

Shiny convertibles will get you ticketed every time.

Who needs that?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Book Review of "The Master of Secrets"

I just finished reading, The Master Of Secrets, by D.S. Lliteras. While browsing over the library's new fiction, the title popped out at me and I figured I would give Lliteras a whirl, having never heard of him or his books up to this point.

The Master of Secrets is a coming of age novel that takes place immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus. We follow Addan as he leaves his family to search out his father, a follower of Jesus. In the process of looking for him he encounters a few bandits and ultimately a 1st century healer/salesman, by the name of Jeshua, who entertains and fleeces his willing audiences. Addan is drawn into his schemes and becomes his assistant for a few days.

Overall the book was an enjoyable read. My only criticism is the leap of unbelievability required to get the story moving. It struck me as false that Addan would suddenly, and with such rapidity, be drawn into Jeshua's schemes, abandoning the search for his father and leaving his family behind during such a turbulent time.

There are some moments that Lliteras captures well and with poignant accuracy; such as his description of Addan's thought processes after he embraces faith in Jesus, experiencing the indwelling of God's spirit.

"He was frightened, not because of the strange feeling he was experiencing,
but because he was afraid that the feeling would stop. Or worse--that the
feeling was an illusion." (page 262)

How true to the feelings of a new Christian.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Countdown Begins

More mommy blogging about the kids starting school...I can't help it. It's a big deal to me.

7 days. That's all I have left before the kids start school.

Should I mention the fact that DH and I have bickered a lot this week? It would be nice if I could just say it's because he's unreasonable and purposely persecuting me, but that wouldn't exactly be true. You can believe that if you want to. I have been so caught up in my own mind-- wondering about what to do now, if I should get a job immediately, if anyone will hire me, how will I find childcare, how will we afford childcare, if I do work how will I find time to do everything else, what would happen to the dog, who would let her out during the day, ....on and on it goes--that I have been irritable and off-kilter, leading to more exasperated sighs, eye-rollings, and sarcastic comments than usual. Sorry, DH.

It has been so long since I have really been able to make these kinds of choices that I am feeling lost and uncertain. I am 33 years old and still trying to figure out what to do with my life. I gave the last seven years over to a very important project and now it's coming to completion.

I have decided to take at least 2 months before beginning the Great Job Search. I just need some time to figure out what it is I really want to do with this next phase in my life. I am too old to spend my time working in a nowhere job just to make ends meet. I want my next step forward to be in a purposeful direction.

Now, if someone would just tell which direction I should head towards it would make things a whole lot easier.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Letting Loose The Apron Strings

Marianne Richmond, a contributing editor at BlogHer, just recently posted on the phenomenon of parents researching their college freshman's prospective roommates on Facebook. Displeased with the roommates profile, the helicopter parents are actually contacting the schools, asking for reassignments. For Real.

I shouldn't be too surprised. My husband has worked in the college system for many years and described students coming in with their parents to register and sign up for classes. The parents do all the talking while the student, the one who will actually be attending these classes, just sits silently in a chair. Craziness.

I have a hard time relating. When I turned 18, I packed up my car--bought and paid for with my own money--with all my possessions and traveled hundreds of miles away from anyone I knew, to a college which I had chosen, applied to, and visited on my own. The hands-off, neglectful parenting I had received paid off. It had, at least, taught me to do things for myself.

While I am not sending my kids off to college yet, I have reached an important milestone with them. They will both be in school in less than 10 days.(10 days which can't come fast enough! I've run out of things to keep them busy this summer!)

Part of me is sad that their early childhood has ended, but part of me rejoices in seeing them grow and change, becoming more independent. It has changed our relationship from being simply parent and child, to being people who can relate to each other. I love to hear their opinions about things. I love to see them try things for themselves. I love handing off new responsibilities to them.

We started small. Brushing their own teeth. Wiping their own behinds. Putting their own clothes away. Making their own beds. Bathing themselves.(this is a new one...and can I just say, YAY!) Getting their own snack. Buckling their own seatbelts.

Each time they learn to do something for themselves, they need me less. That gives me a small pang, but it is soon replaced with pride and satisfaction that I am doing my job--because that's the goal of good parenting; to work yourself out of a job that you love.

Hover no more!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Place of Self

What is my worth?

Some Christian preachers teach that I am nothing--sinful, wretched, a black spot upon the earth. Sometimes, I have proven them right.

These same preachers teach that Jesus died....for me. If I were the only person on earth, he would have still borne my sin and penalty. He loves me that much.

On one hand I am nothing; on the other the object of love for the Creator of the vast universe.



On the one hand the existence of my self is an abomination; on the other, supreme motivation.

Some never move from the one hand to the other. Others are tossed from hand to hand like an orange, juggling ball. It makes us dizzy.

We hover in our spiritual lives between the complete denial of self and the reclamation of our True Self. Sometimes they are one and the same. Sometimes they diverge like Robert Frost's path in the woods.

Sometimes, we just sit at the fork in the road, too immobilized to move in either direction, waiting for some fellow traveler to come along and give us directions.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Comment Fast

I think that, for at least a week, I'm not going to visit or comment on other blogs. It is counterproductive to what I really want for my inner life, and just leads me into being sucked into things that really have no bearing on me as an individual.

I will, however, continue to blog here and respond to comments on my blog.

Wishing peace for everyone.

UPDATE: Obviously if you have surfed over here from a blog I have commented on, you can see I'm a big, fat liar! lol :-)

One Of My New Favorite Songs

This song is from Sara Groves' album, All Right Here, released in 2002. I just borrowed it from the library because of several other songs that I already knew and liked, but this song spoke to me both as a mother and as a child of the only Father I really have.

You Cannot Lose My Love

You will lose your baby teeth
At times you'll lose your faith in me
You will lose a lot of things
But you cannot lose my love

You may lose your appetite
Your guiding sense of wrong and right
You may lose your will to fight
But you cannot lose my love

You may lose your confidence
In times of trial, your common sense
You may lose your innocence
But you cannot lose my love

Many things can be misplaced
Your very memories be erased
No matter what the time or space
You cannot lose my love

You cannot lose
You cannot lose
You cannot lose my love

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Caretakers Of The Earth

wherein a stream-of-consciousness conversation with a seven and five-year-old has fresh insights...

The Rationalist: "Why does soda have bubbles in it? The bubbles are a gas, right?"

"Yes, they're made from carbon dioxide."

The Rationalist: "That's the same gas we breathe out!"

"mmmhmmm"

The Rationalist: "We breathe in Oxygen and breathe out Carbon Dioxide. The plants breathe the Carbon Dioxide in and breathe out Oxygen. Why do plants breathe Carbon Dioxide and not Oxygen?"

"Well, what do you think would happen if they didn't breathe carbon dioxide and breathed oxygen like us?"

pause

The Rationalist: "I guess we would all die after a while."

"yep...isn't it cool that God designed plants to provide what we needed? He made things to be self-sustaining, like the water cycle. It rains, helps plants grow, evaporates and eventually re-forms a new rain cloud. It is a cycle. Neat, huh?"

Intuitive Monkey: "Yeah....and there is another cycle. People are always having babies, so that they can be farmers to grow food, so we can grow and breathe out carbon dioxide and keep the plants alive!"




That's how you get from soda to God in less than 30 seconds.

I love these cute boys!

And They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love...Part 2

Well....I cranked the sarcas-o-meter all the way up to 10 last night. It's been a while since I've done that....like, since yesterday morning. No, not really.

Usually, I will try to respond to heated issues with a rational approach. Yesterday, I decided to go with irrational. Well, not exactly irrational so much as poking at someone with a stick. But hey, it's a new day right? I promise not to poke anyone with sticks today....or any other pointy objects.

So, why was I so upset yesterday about the brouhaha over at nakedpastor's? I'll explain.

In life people are always disagreeing about all sorts of things. They will debate about politics, educational systems, whether John or Paul was the coolest Beatle. It doesn't matter what it is, there will always be someone who takes the opposite side in an issue. There will always be heated arguments. No big deal. The issues are not always life or death issues and can eventually be dismissed.

However, within Christianity, when people vehemently disagree, a strange thing begins to happen. Instead of people simply arguing their points and going through the typical motions, some very heavy trump cards begin to be played.

1. The Pharisee/Saducee trump card. This gets used when one group decides that they no longer want to listen to what the other group has to say. It's an ad hominem attack that equates the opposition with the people who actually crucified Jesus. There really is no worse insult in Christianity. It's like calling someone Hitler, in Christian terms.

2. The "It's not me speaking; It's God" trump card. This one is designed to make everyone think twice before countering your argument. After all, who wants to purposely go against God? This is the particular line of reasoning that enables cults and spiritual abuse by leaders. If you get people to feel bad about having questions, doubts or different opinions, they become very easy to manipulate.

3. The "You're-deceived-by-Satan" trump card. This one is a doozy. It can be used effectively against new, immature, open Christians. It implies that even if you find evidence in the Bible that contradicts the argument being presented, you can't trust yourself to understand what it actually means. You are being deceived like the characters in The Matrix, and are incapable of discerning what is true.

4. The "You're-an-agent-of-Satan" trump card. This differs slightly from #3. In number 3 you are a passive agent in Satan's schemes. This trump card means you are actively in bed with him. I mean, really, could you say something worse about someone? It is actually a much worse insult than #1. This is usually the card of last resort. If you refuse to give in to the opposition, and are strong enough not to be manipulated by the other three cards, then this is the one that gets pulled out of the deck.

These are the cards that get played. And that's the point isn't it? They are silly, childish games that are played to win arguments and silence people.

When Jesus ascended into Heaven he gave us The Great Commission; a directive to go out into all the world and preach the gospel...aka...The Good News. The Good News that despite our sinfulness, despite our weaknesses, despite the accusations of our Adversary, we are freely offered love and forgiveness....without merit.

That is our mission and calling. That is what the gospel is.

Spending our time hunting down other believers and whacking them with sticks was not on Christ's agenda. While so much time and energy is wasted in useless arguments and vitriol, there are people who still haven't been offered a cool cup of water in Jesus' name. There are those in prison who haven't been visited. There are the sick who haven't been prayed for. And, there are many who have yet to even hear of the love God has to offer them.

So, I am laying down my stick for right now and will crank down the sarcas-o-meter to a 0.

(....ok more like a 3...I mean, who am I kidding here?)

Monday, August 06, 2007

And They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love

blogging while mad.....maybe not be a great idea

One of the links in my sidebar is to nakedpastor. He is a little unconventional and probably a little more free with certain things than me personally, but that's cool. I can handle people who don't agree with everything I think.

Apparently, a certain Christian website, which has nothing better to do than look for people to dissect and tear apart, decided to review his blog and his personal life. That's what it has come to nowadays:

'Let me read your blog, look for ammunition, twist your words and create a nice little "review" that decimates you and at the same time has the added benefit of making me look superior and spiritual. Then, as my commenters slander you and call you a pervert, I won't correct them, ask them to keep it clean, or allow comments from people who might actually defend you in an intelligent manner. I couldn't allow that....because then I wouldn't be in control....People might actually see that my words are spurred on by hate and anger, not love and righteousness.

Then when things get a little shaky and I can't really defend what I have done, I'll play the trump card. Ah yes.....the "It's not me who disapproves and is condemning you, it's really God. I am just a vessel being used to speak the "truth." I hope you listen to what He's saying through me, because if you don't...well, let's just say you might want to invest in an asbestos suit.'

Don't you love being a Christian? Isn't it fun to sort through all the garbage that people, who supposedly love God, throw at at other people who supposedly love God too...just in a slightly different tradition?

It's sad and pitiful.

God, help me to let the anger go.

Love? Thy Neighbor

God, were you really serious about that whole "love your neighbor" thing?

I mean, really, have you met my neighbors?

You know, the ones whose son used to smoke pot with his friends in the front yard, during the day, while my kids ate lunch in the kitchen looking out the window to the front yard, wondering what all that smoke was from.

You know...the son who had the cops banging on the front door shouting, "We know you're in there! OPEN THE DOOR....NOW!"

The same neighbors who mow two feet over into our yard. Every. Single. Time. They. Mow.

The same neighbors who can't seem to tell by the fence and the fact that their lawn mower is literally two inches from the walls of our home, that they are on our property.

The same neighbors who decided that having a real, live rooster in their backyard in a crowded subdivision would be a great idea.

You didn't literally mean neighbors, did you? Can I just love my grocer and dentist instead?

Another Eternal Question

Actual question posed to me not even five minutes ago by The Rationalist

"If your eye gets poked out and ants start carrying it away, can you feel it and see where they are taking it?"

Friday, August 03, 2007

Empty Nest

I can never seem to have my emotions at the right time.

When The Rationalist started Kindergarten a couple of years ago, nary a teardrop was found in my eye. He gave us a hug, went into his class and we all walked home. Instead, two weeks before his first day of school, I went through two days of regret, worry and sadness. I wondered if I had prepared him enough for being part of a large group for six hours a day. I felt badly that I had always looked forward to his starting school, easing the work for me at home. I mourned the loss of his personality throughout the day. Mother guilt overwhelmed me.

After those couple of days, I was fine. We cheerily bought school supplies and uniforms for his big day. When it finally arrived, we smiled and congratulated him on becoming such a big boy while weeping parents ambled away from the school, red-faced and and sorrowful.

School starts in 17 days. Intuitive Monkey will finally be in Kindergarten and my nest will be empty. I am a wreck. Have I been a good enough mother? Could I have been better? Now that I am handing both of my children over to other people for a huge chunk of the day, will our relationship stay the same? What the heck am I supposed to do with my life now?

I'll be OK. We'll shop for school supplies and uniforms. We'll tell him he is such a big boy and congratulate him. We'll cheerily drop him off while first-time mothers are gulping down their silent sobs. We'll move into a new phase of life.

I'll be OK.

ouch

Boogie boarding for fifteen minutes with your kids is a good way to find out how completely out-of-shape you are.......my arms are so sore!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Back From Vacation

Thanks to my lovely in-laws, we enjoyed a three-night, four-day beach vacation with them.

An all-time, world record for changing into swimsuits, in less than 1.613 seconds, was set by the boys as they hurriedly raced to get to the beach. We spent the late evening floating on the waves in the Gulf, lulled by the gentle rocking as we lay on neon colored inner tubes. Eventually this turned into a game in which we were trapped by the Legion of Doom in the ocean. We were to frantically call for Superman to come rescue us from our evil captors. Meanwhile, we had to battle it out, ramming into each other and splashing one another with our salt-water death rays. Yes. With boys everything becomes a battle of immense proportions between the powers of good and evil.

In all the fun, I forgot to bring the camera and missed capturing a stunning sunset.

The next morning I crept into the boys bedroom at 7:00 am. They were already awake, of course, ready for the next adventure. I suggested we sneak down to the beach, before everyone else was up, and go for a walk. In our pajamas. The Rationalist replied,"That's crazy!" After much wrangling he decided to humor me and he accompanied me down to the almost empty beach. We watched the tiny coquinas being swept here and there by the waves, digging themselves back into their sandy habitats when the water receded.


The Rationalist, fascinated by the tiny animals, put a kabosh on the walking part of the adventure. Instead, he tried to save stranded coquinas by picking them up and tossing them into the water, or poking them down into the sand with his finger. I had to tell him to stop helping them, or their tiny shells might be crushed. "I didn't know that," he said matter-of-factly.

Once again I had left my camera behind and missed the opportunity to photograph an enormous rainbow over the Gulf.

The most exciting part of the trip was the mastery of the boogie board and wave surfing. Intuitive Monkey seemed to grasp the intricacies of finding the perfect wave, at just the right time, to obtain maximum force and longevity of ride. With his blond hair, he looked like the quintessential surfer. He was a natural.


Surfers in action