Wednesday, March 30, 2011

mmmmmm...

I just finished melting 6 cups of cheese and 1 stick of butter...along with various seasonings and milk....to make homemade macaroni and cheese.

It's the first time I've ever made real mac and cheese. I'm testing it out on my family before I make it again tomorrow for my sick father-in-law.

I'm not sure what message bringing a sick person food that could spontaneously induce a heart attack conveys.

Maybe something like this:

"If you manage to actually survive this meal, I hope that you'll get better!"

The Power of Titles

Somehow or another I let myself get finagled into "coaching" the Spring Soccer season.

My total experience with soccer consists of watching The Rationalist and The Intuitive play this past season. Frequent refrains upon my lips were "What just happened?", "Why do they have a penalty kick?", "What does offsides mean?", and towards the end of the season,"OH...that's what that circle in the middle of the field is for!"

Basically the soccer organization was desperate. The coach for my sons' team had a family emergency and had to back out and the director kept sending out e-mails looking for someone to "step up" and provide adult supervision and encouragement.

I wrote a reluctant, hesitant e-mail saying that if absolutely nobody else came forward that I could do it...but that he should definitely pick anybody else besides me if he had other options.

"You're the one!" was his reply.

His exuberant confidence in my coaching abilities was actually frustrating to me. It reminded me of the semester that I helped teach English as a second language at my university. It was a temporary gig. I was supposed to be assisting the professor who had a group from Brazil that was specifically at our college for this crash course in English.

I thought that I was a "helper". He decided that I was a "teacher". When I asked him what we were supposed to do for the classes, he said, "Just talk to them."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I don't believe in curriculum. They'll learn more if you just converse with them."

".....OK...but talk with them about what?"

"Oh, I'm sure you'll figure it out."

He refused to give me and the other student teachers any guidance. He had no plan. He had no formula. He had no specific method. His idea was that he could throw us into a class of 15 Brazilians who spoke minimal English and we would "just figure it out".

That was a disaster. An hour every day for a month is a long amount of time to fill up with unscripted, unguided, unfocused conversation. I was there when the "teacher" evaluations came back. It wasn't pretty.

Apparently, the Brazilian group expected much more for the money and time they had dedicated to coming to our school.....like actual teachers who would actually teach.

That was one of the most depressing semesters I had. There's nothing like failing miserably when you don't want to, and while those in charge of you simultaneously refuse to help you succeed in any way.

It was one of those lessons that I have learned many times. Just because someone has a specific title doesn't mean they know jack about what they are doing.

Now, I am being called Coach in the e-mails I keep trading back and forth with the director....which cracks me up.

Coach.

How about Adult who Stands Around and Makes Sure Everyone Stays Alive?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Bargains

Borders is shutting down many of its local bookstores. Hoping to score some good buys we traipsed in to see what was left in their Everything-Must-Go-Sale.

Eventually, I settled on these:

Thank God for Evolution, by Michael Dowd. I bought this mainly because I have seen many people refer to it or engage with it on blogs, so I thought it might be worth it to actually read it for myself . Whether or not I will ultimately agree with it, I think it will be an interesting read.

The second book The Bible, by Karen Armstrong, I bought mainly because it was only a few dollars and I have read a little bit of Armstrong before and thought spending $3.00 on an unknown book was an acceptable risk.

The third book The Bhagavad Gita, translated by Eknath Easwaran, is a part of Hindu Scripture. A blogger referred to it in one of my recent blog conversations elsewhere, in a completely non-Hindu context, and I had recently caught the tail end of an episode about it on PBS in their World Literature series. It piqued my interest.

I had weened down my pile of books to just these three. Initially I had wanted to get a paperback copy of The Koran and a book called God is Everything: The Radical Path of Non-dual Judaism; The Koran simply so that I could familiarize myself with Islam in more depth rather than depending on things that are communicated third-hand and God is Everything because one of the things that set me on the path that I have taken in the last few years was the realization that Old Testament Judaism was quite non-dualistic. I was curious to see what a modern take from a Jewish writer might look like.

Alas....I couldn't justify spending that much even though the prices were steeply discounted. I had to set some limits for myself..

I'll post on each of these once I have a chance to read through them.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Afterlife

One of the consequences of becoming an annihilationist, or a believer in conditional immortality, is that my sense of the certainty of eternal life has been diminished. By that I mean to say that as I gave up the idea of hell and the idea that our true selves are inherently immortal apart from our physical bodies, I eventually lost the certainty of Heaven. Heaven became replaced in my mind with a future physical resurrection of some sort, at which point I would be fully "alive" or conscious.

Now even that has faded somewhat and what I am left with is uncertainty. What does it mean for a person to die? What really happens to them?

Amidst all of the hell controversy spurred on by Rob Bell, who as a typical, high-profile, emergent refuses to be clear about where he stands, or to lay out with any certainty the path that he is on, I have revisited the idea of annihilation and universalism.

The chief flaw in universalism is the problem it has with evil within a "Christian/biblical" framework. Christian Scripture is clear that that there are people who choose evil and refuse to turn from evil to good. What happens to these people after death in universalism? Most Christian universalists consign them to a temporary hell in which they eventually see the error of their ways and repent and join the Kingdom of God.

Lately everyone is referring to C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, which portrays a hell whose gates are "locked from the inside" and populated by willing people. Evangelicals have latched onto Lewis' idea and it is frequently postulated as an alternative to the fiery versions of hell put forth by others. It's an improvement on the traditional doctrine of hell...but still not very satisfying.

In The Great Divorce those who are in hell remain mostly unconvinced by the inhabitants of Heaven despite the great lengths that the inhabitants take to persuade them. Though Lewis portrays the possibility that they can all choose Heaven, almost none of them do. This isn't very "universalist" in scope. The hell-dwellers don't seem to have any more access to the reality of God than they did in their earthly lives, which eliminates the idea that after death an encounter with the divine would be more tangible and easily understood than it is in ordinary, physical life.

Lewis writes a new story that is only slightly different than the old one....that those who are in hell want to be there and have chosen to be there on some level.

What are the options before us? Eternal torment, extinction, no extinction but the possibility of choosing to remain ignorant of God and live in hell...which is ultimately unsatisfying but also not fiery.

In my more evangelical days, I remember longing for Heaven/Resurrection as an event that would make me perfect and holy. I imagined how wonderful it would be to not be tempted to make bad choices, to always be loving and kind, to always know the truth in any given situation. It was a soothing idea.

However, even when I thought about this future me, I wondered how much of "me" would be left. In my mind, so much of what constitutes "me" and my personality are inseparable from the likes and dislikes and all-too-human tendencies, many of which would seem to melt away in this other-worldy perfection I was imagining. How "me-like" would I be?

Lewis plays with this theme a little in The Great Divorce when a painter is aghast at the idea that he won't be known by his painting, because there are many great painters in Heaven and all of them are there only to serve and not to worry about their own contributions or uniqueness. The painter doesn't like this at all and rushes back to hell.

Lewis' point is that concern for individual recognition is selfish and ungodly.

Yet...isn't that what the hope for an after-life is all about...that we will continue on in some way as individual beings recognized and reunited with those who are particular to our own lives and stories? We would be happy to see anyone in Heaven, but we most want to see our departed family members and friends. We want individual redemption and recognition, not universal, general salvation.

Lately, when I ponder what will happen to me when I die, I am left with much uncertainty. Unraveling how Scripture truly portrays the afterlife, and losing the sense of inerrancy of Scripture, has made me unsure of just about everything.

How can I know what happens when Scripture argues with itself? How can I speak of things for which I have no experience or evidence?

Honestly, I don't know anymore. All I have is a vague hope that God will remember me. That when my breath returns to God that there will be something worthy enough of me to be retained in His mind.

This is not a very "Christian" concept but one that makes sense to me.

At this point I hope that the good in me will be remembered while the evil in me is forgotten. Maybe those who cultivate evil in their hearts will be wholly forgotten. Maybe feeding our dark side ultimately erases the part of us that is worthy of remembrance.

Death, annihilation, being forgotten....isn't this what we want to have happen to evil?

Perhaps the idea of sanctification is a metaphor for making more and more of ourselves worth remembrance in God's eyes, keeping what is good in us and discarding that which isn't.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

War and Peace

One of the reasons I voted for Obama in 2008 wasn't because I loved him as a candidate. No. The deciding factor in my decision was the saber rattling in Iran's general direction that McCain started towards the tail end of his campaign. I thought even contemplating another front for our military forces to fight on was incredibly stupid and reckless, no matter how much we might dislike Iran and what they are doing.

Here we are, almost three years later, and we have stepped into another conflict in the Middle East while we are still heavily involved in Afghanistan and Iraq...wars that have dragged on for almost 10 years and 8 years respectively with no clear end in sight.

What are we to do?

Should the U.S. be responsible for enacting global "peace" through war? Should we assume the responsibility of always being available to stomp out fires?

I don't see how we can. We simply don't have the manpower or the money. This is one of those things that strikes me as odd amidst all of the talks of budget cuts by Republicans. No one ever seems to mention the fact that these wars, and the resources we need to fight them, are incredibly expensive. At some point we will simply have to acknowledge that we can't enter any more conflicts because we don't have the wealth to do it.

Going into debt to protect the world, and then having to pay the world(mostly China) back for our efforts seems like an illogical operation.

I was encouraged that France chose to intervene first in Libya. So often we are jumping off cliffs headlong into war and we have to drag our allies in through persuasion and arm-twisting. It's nice to see someone else diving in, taking on the role of enforcer, and intervening in a bloody conflict.

What do you think?

What are your feelings about our ongoing military conflicts and our role in Libya?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Persona Fail

Paul was apparently the earliest "blogger" to be called out for his writing persona not matching up with his "real" persona:

For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” *



*2nd Corinthians 10:10

Monday, March 14, 2011

Donating to Japan

You can make donations through the Red Cross to help the Japanese people affected by this past week's earthquake and tsunami here.

Although there are always worries about how much money actually makes it to people affected by disasters, even if only part of it gets there it is a help.

When disasters hit poor countries, like Haiti, the world responds quickly and generously with donations. When industrialized nations are hit by massive disasters they frequently are not seen as being in need.

Giving is a good way to help remind yourself that if these people lived down the street from you and you could see and experience what they had to deal with, you would be moved to help them, regardless of their income level.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Feeling Better

I may be ready to blog again. It's been almost a month since I have blogged regularly and I have enjoyed not thinking about anything too heavily.

I tend to live so much within my head, that when I begin to blog and comment with regularity my mind becomes too crowded and furiously moving to give my inner self the peace that it needs.

I can care too much. I can become obsessed with a particular idea too easily.

I have to rely on the other part of me to pull in the reins and cut myself off from my neurotic tendencies.

Japan's Disaster

Watching this disaster unfold is mind-boggling. I cannot imagine seeing my home washed away and the buildings around me crushed and the nuclear power plant in my town exploding and possibly poisoning everything I have ever known with radiation.

May God, and we, help the Japanese people.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

When Words Reveal Too Much

I stood in the bathroom, hair tied back, scrub brush in my hand, sweaty from cleaning all day and I cried. Looking out at my husband, in the middle of a conversation, I cried.

He had tried to be positive and encouraging as we talked about the next year and our plans as I contemplated returning to full-time work and finally finding a career path. He offered ideas, found positions he was sure I could succeed in, and all I could do was try to disabuse him of his optimism and his attempt to help.

"J--, I'm 37. I have spent the last ten years primarily being a mother. I have spotty work history, no "real" experience and graduated from college 14 years ago. We are in dire economic times and I will be competing with 22 year old kids with no responsibilities. No one will hire me for the types of positions you are suggesting to me."

"But I believe in you. I believe that you can do these jobs."

"I believe that I can do them too...but it doesn't matter what I believe....it matters what other people, whom I have no control over, believe...other people who look at me and sum me up as a stay-at-home mom with unrelated work experience who has never really utilized her degree, which is now 14 years old, in any concrete way. That is all that I am to them."

"I think you're being too pessimistic."

"Pessimistic? It's not pessimism...it's reality. I have sacrificed a large portion of my life to raise our kids and make a home and be available. I don't regret it. I chose this life and I wouldn't change it.....but there are very real consequences for my choices. If something ever happened to you, I don't know that I could earn enough money on my own to take care of our kids. If you died in a horrible accident, how could I afford to provide for them? An entry-level job would never pay enough."

And then it came, a wave of sorrow and worry and recognition that threatened to overtake me. Speaking reality in cold, harsh words was too much for me to take. I had let the nervous words break free from my mind and enter into the world, filling the room with one of those secret worries that you try to crush when it first whispers to your consciousness because to let it grow and flourish would be too much to bear.

The words and thoughts were not new. They lingered in my mind occasionally as I lay in bed imagining what-ifs and what-would-I-do's, but now they had escaped and exposed my weakness.

Words are like that. I often don't know how strongly I feel about something until I have to articulate it, and once articulated, I face the effects of knowing what is truly within me.

For now, my words have become too much of a reality to me. They have created a world very different from the one in which I thought that I lived in, conceptually-speaking, and I feel caught between these two conceptual worlds, able to see into each of them, but not fully belonging to either.

I am going to keep my nervous words inside my head for a while, until I have decided whether I want to free them from their captivity.

If I decide to free them, I'll blog, though I may create a new blog.

Or I may stay in my self-imposed silence for a while.

I'm OK. There's nothing awful going on in my life. I just need to take a break from blogging and commenting and hopping from conceptual world to conceptual world for a while.