Moth bites!

October 31, 2007

I don’t know how this happened to me. But I have a moth infestation. Dozens of moths appear every day in the kitchen. It is icky. This is the second time it has happened. The first time was in my last house. So I assume it is me.

Moths don’t sound so bad, do they? But. . .what about moth LARVAE?? Now, that, my friends, is gross. I won’t tell you where I’ve found them, but found them I have. Obviously, I throw out anything that I ever find that has evidence of moths or moth potential, but they are still here. It troubles me. It troubles me greatly. What does it all mean, all the moths? Where is Mothra?

This morning my husband and I were laying in bed talking. He said something funny and I laughed, which was dumb, because as soon as the kids hear me laugh, they come on in. (I am incapable of laughing quietly. Ask anyone.) First Bee came in, “Good morning!” How one person can be that cute in the morning is beyond me. Then, “Can I get in the bed with you?” Really, how could you say no to that. Then, the cat gets on the bed. A few minutes later, C finally comes in and sits on the bed. We are now five beings on one bed. C says, “I think I have a moth bite!” Look! And holds up his arm and shows an invisible (to the rest of us) “moth bite.”

“OH GOD!” I say. “THE MOTHS ARE BITING THE CHILDREN! WE MUST EVACUATE!”

“Mothra must be commanding them!” says my husband.

C is laughing now, but still trying to garner sympathy for the “moth bite.” “Look! Really!”

Bee asks, “Can moths really bite you?”

I guess this is how kids get confused about life. Too much ridiculousness too early in the morning.

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I thank you Lord, that I am like other people.

October 28, 2007

Earlier this week I was reading Luke 18:9-14 and thinking about the point of Jesus’ story about the tax collector and the Pharisee. Whenever Pharisees crop up in the Bible, I try to listen hard to what Jesus is telling my self-righteous religious self.*

In the story, the tax-collector, the guy working for the Roman occupying forces, is the one who knows who he is. Because of this, he can admit to God that he is a sinner, and he is therefore able to beg God for forgiveness. The Pharisee, Mr. Religious pants, does not know himself. This makes him think that he is not like other people. I notice this in myself. I find myself having interior conversations that are dangerously close to how this Pharisee talks out loud.

I like the way Luke describes those of us who think like this. We are called those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous.” Ouch. This hits pretty close to home. There are many times when I find myself saying, “I can’t BELIEVE so-and-so did THAT! I would NEVER do THAT.” Sometimes, the thought itself is actually quite true. That is not where the lie is.

The lie is that there is a dirty satisfaction in thinking like this. I feel righteous when I say things like this to myself. The thing that I would “never do” becomes a foundation, a base for me to stand on and tell myself that I am not like other people. The Pharisee in us looks out at “theives, rogues, adulterers,” mean people, fibbing politicians, fair-weather friends and whoever else and sees sinners. This inner Pharisee sees the sins of others with perfect clarity, and can see that what “those people” do is against God’s will. But eyes that can only see the sins of others have a hard time looking inward.

Jesus, in his great mercy and goodness, wants to set the Pharisee free. He gives him and me (and you!) a way out of this pattern of pretending, of false self-satisfaction. He gives us an example of how to be before God. Like a rotten old tax-collector. Jesus gives us permission to bring our whole selves to the Father and confess that we suck, out loud, that we make rotten decisions in life and then live them out. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” is what our model cries out. That is not a sentence that we utter in shame and in self-disgust. It is a sentence we can utter in freedom and out of hope that God prefers our honesty over our self-righteous bullshit.

I’ve had a rough week over here in the burbs. Ex-wife stuff has been keeping me up at nights and my work has been taking me away from time with the kids and my husband. I am sick to death of not being in ministry, of not having a bigger circle of concern. The tiny-ness of my circle makes me crazy. The day-to-day stress of being a step-family has led me to have some fantastically dark thoughts about others and about myself. This scripture is my comfort this week.

I can come to the Father without shame or self-disgust and tell Him the truth about my thoughts and my life. I can say, God, I thank you that I am like other people – with my sin and dark thoughts. And I thank you, God, that you treat me like you treat other people – with ridiculous amounts of mercy and forgiveness.

Because what does Jesus tell the people “who trusted in themselves” about the tax collector? The tax collector “went home justified.” And then, just to drive the point home, he says, “for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

——- — —– ——- —-

*In my old Bible study, we were going to have T-shirts made that said, “Pharisaic Bitches From Hell.” We realized that as much as we wanted to be good and follow Jesus, we kept acting like Pharisees at least half of the time. The “from hell” part wasn’t maybe the best theology, but we thought it was funny. Actually, I still think it’s funny. But I also still laugh when someone farts.


The New Yorker, me and Christianity

October 25, 2007

My two favorite magazines are The Economist Magazine and The New Yorker. The writing in both publications is usually thoughtful, clear, clean and un-boring. Even when I lived in the middle of the African rainforest, I still got my Economist. At times, there are articles about religion, Christianity and faith in these magazines.

There have been times when I’ve read New Yorker pieces dealing with Christianity and I just wanted to cry. Sometimes the people they picked from my brothers and sisters in Christ to write about were so theologically wacko. At other times, they were disparaging about anyone who was not a secular humanist. Like, oh, that sweet/obnoxious/dull-witted Christian. Sigh. Whatever will we do with them?

But aha! In a recent issue of The New Yorker! Behold! A thoughtful and very non-disparaging book review of Robert Alter’s new translation of the psalms (The Book of Psalms). Yay New Yorker! Yay James Wood! Wanna come over for dinner? I’ll make something that doesn’t involve the Trader Joe’s freezer!

This article was such a pleasure to read. If you’ve never read any of Robert Alter’s Biblical translations, get your hands on some and do so. He has an amazing ear, taking the poetry of Hebrew and bringing it to English. His Pentateuch translation can change the way you hear and understand Genesis, Exodus and the other three less perused books (but no less awesome) of the Pentateuch. The excerpts of the Psalms that Woods includes in the article are sublime. First of all, the psalmists were geniuses. Secondly, in Alter’s skilled hand, they come even more alive.

Now, I can’t tell for sure, but I think that the reviewer (James Wood is a big ol smarty pants) might be a confessing Christian. Even if he isn’t, though, it appears that The New Yorker had a reverant reviewer write a review of a Biblical translation.

Dang. That is all I am saying. Thank you James Wood. Thank you New Yorker. Now I don’t feel so punked by my love for you.


“I’m about to bless you with this next song”

October 24, 2007

Doesn’t that sound like something a worship leader might say when she or he is getting ready to teach the church a new song? Or maybe even a line in a worship song?

Yes, it does sound like it could be those things. But it was not! No, no. I heard about this blessing last night, as I was watching Sucker Free Latino. One L. Boogs (el host) told me he was going to bless me with the next song. Well, Mr. Boogs. I almost fell off my couch, because, although I’m sure you don’t know about it, I just wrote recently about Sucker Free Countdown being a blessing to me. And there you are, using the same word! Blessing! Me!

Now, Mr. Boogs, I’m sure you will never, ever read this, and definetely your bosses won’t read it either. But seriously. Gente. If you are going to call something Sucker Free Latino, por favor. Could it please be sucker free? The songs kind of sucked. Y dios mio! Los commerciales! I think there was on average one commercial break (with three minutes or more) for each song. This is precisely how to make someone feel like a sucker for watching your show. Gracias a Dios for TiVo, because otherwise, olvidalo.

And some of the songs. Seriously. I’m a girl who loves, loves, loves Latino music, of all stripes. There is a LOT of good stuff out there. And the Tego Calderon you played was dope. But really. Most of the rest was muy, muy aburrido, bro.

Nevertheless. For a few minutes I got to dance around the living room while the children were all tucked in bed, so I guess you did end up blessing me. Even if I did have to dance with the remote in my hand to fast-forward through all the crap. Que Sucker.


Dry, dry SoCal is burning

October 23, 2007

When I wrote this past weekend about how dry California is, I forgot to mention that this year it is drier than ever, since we’ve been experiencing a drought.

Now, huge swaths of the state are burning, and I feel so sad and helpless as I hear the news of fires growing because of the Santa Ana winds. I know that some fires are a natural part of this kind of ecosystem’s self-regulation, but this is craziness.

I know that prayer does something, even if it can’t physically stop the fires, so that’s what I’ll be doing today – praying for the winds to calm, for the safety of the firefighters, and for people whose homes and communities are threatened by fire. God be with all of you.


The changing of the mind

October 21, 2007

When I first moved to Southern California, in 1999, it was because I had to choose between Los Angeles and New York City. I couldn’t fathom living somewhere where most shadows you see are cast by buildings. I couldn’t hack it as a New Yorker*, I knew that.

Los Angeles seemed like the strangest kind of city when I first moved here. I didn’t get it, and I liked that. I lived on four continents before I settled in L.A.: Europe, Africa, North and South America. I was used to places that I didn’t understand, places that it took some time to get to know. L.A. is so not predictable if you are newcomer. I loved that. And the food ROCKED.

However. I had an attitude problem about the local “nature” when I got here. I grew up in the most beautiful (to me!) corner of the world: Western Washington state. It is, as everyone knows, rainy and wet, and therefore green, green, green. There are wild corners where you can be alone with a mountain or a river or a hundred acres of trees. If I could be anywhere, I would be there. Uh, where hikes don’t look like this:

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Los Angeles County just looked thirsty. No. Not just thirsty. Parched! Dried out, scrubby trees! Nature at its most desperate! I went on hikes and I nearly wept. They were not like the hiking at home or in the African rainforest. I was not rejeuvenated by the beauty and the awesomeness of God’s creation. I was dusty and hot and could ALWAYS see buildings! After a few of these hikes, I quit. I figured I would hike and get my creation fix when I was home in the summer and at Christmas. I wrote Southern California off in the flora and fauna department. Ugly. That was all I had to say about it. Well. Ugly and DRY.

In 1999, I went out the Claremont School of Theology to meet with a professor there who had agreed to meet me because the awesome Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann (love you Rabbi Patricia! Please move to L.A.!) had set up the connection for me. While I was there, several people pointed out Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens and told me it was “beautiful” and that I should visit it. I took one look at the scrubby, brown entrance and wrote it off. Please. Spare me. The pain. Of more. Ugly Souhern California “nature.” I drove back to the westside and forgot all about it. Fast forward eight years, and I’m driving back with my husband and step-daughter.

And look what was there:

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Beauty! (Albeit dry beauty.)

Sometimes it takes a long time for a person to change her mind. Especially if that person is stubborn. I was amazed when I found out the word in the Bible that gets translated “repentance” has within it the idea of “changing the mind” in Greek. Because changing your thinking can be hard! So can admitting you were wrong about something, if you don’t know about the freedom of truth, but that’s another story. For a long time, I thought people who believed in God were freaks, full stop. I wrote the whole thing off. I got my mind changed on that one (I take no credit for it, for real, it was all God). And now I can see that SoCal nature has beautiful parts to it.

And oddly enough, while I was visiting the not-ugly (if dry) Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens, would you believe that God brought something to my mind that I needed to repent about regarding my husband’s ex-wife? He’s a funny guy, God. Very into the big metaphor, I guess.

*Even though NY rocks. Love you, New York! Miss you! Come visit anytime!


Pumpkins and authenticity

October 17, 2007

We bought pumpkins the other day. The idea was to make jack o’ lanterns* and, you know, celebrate fall.

I know that there are people, and by people I mean adults, who are freakishly in to Halloween. Apparently, many of these people live in my corner of the burbs. There is lawn after lawn covered in plastic Halloween decorations.

At our house, we just have these pumpkins:

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You will note that only one pumpkin is carved, and there are four of us in the house. That is because we only bought three for decorating, as Dad wasn’t that into it. My pumpkin, stage left, is uncarved because I want to do something like this to it:

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This is from Martha, of course. I wanted to do a spider or something. Not a monogram. But you get the idea.

However, I don’t have the right tools and I haven’t come up with any decent tool substitutes (potato peeler? too flat). This is so me, to overreach on a project and then leave it half done for a while. (See also, laundry.) I don’t know if I’ll figure out a way to make the pumpkin the way I want, or if I’ll just compromise and carve it the regular way, or if I won’t do anything at all.

Not do anything at all, you say? Well, that would be the pumpkin stage right. That is my step-son’s pumpkin. We were all on the porch working on digging out seeds, and when he came out, he said that pumpkin innards were sticky and gross and he wasn’t going to touch it. He’s eleven. That’s how eleven-year-olds roll sometimes. He’s well within his rights, in my opinion. He doesn’t want to make a jack o’ lantern, that is totally fine. A pumpkin in and of itself is still nice to look at. Ahem.

I know there are parents who would have been either a) pissed or b) disappointed that this kid didn’t want to carve a pumpkin. I think this has more to do with the North American Fetishization of Childhood Disorder (NAFCD) than anything else. I will write more about this disorder another day.

Please note the awesomeness of Bee’s pumpkin. She drew the design and Dad carved it. It really does look kind of freaky and scary, just like it should.

So, on our porch, we have a pumpkin representation of our family as it really is:

One motivated six-year old with an artistic bent and the ability to finish projects,

One slacker step-mom with overreaching tendencies,

One fastidious eleven year old,

One dad who feels no need to carve a pumpkin unless it’s for a kid.

———-

*just as an etymological geek aside – does that o’ stand for “of”? jack of lanterns? Time to bust out the OED.