Of Blogs and Bibles

January 16, 2008

Today I had a grumpy morning with the children. They were just being children – fussing about how much cinnamon and sugar goes on toast, clothing options, etc.

Sometimes we’re all, children and adult, just contrary. Well. To a degree. I guess none of us adults has thrown a complete crying, screaming fit because we couldn’t wear a striped shirt. Then again, probably very few adults have their wardrobe choices curtailed by an unimaginative dress code, either.

But I wasn’t feeling resilient this morning. I hadn’t had my tea. I just wanted to wake up and have normal conversations with everyone. No “discussions.” So, after a few minutes of testy discussions, I took my tea and went to my google reader to see what the blogs were up to. I was so happy, because my favorite blogger had a new post, and she hasn’t been posting much lately. I read it. It was nice. I read a few other posts here and there. Then, my google reader was empty.

I closed the browser and sighed. I said to my blank screen, “can’t you satisfy me?” I actually laughed out loud after I said that. I realized I was using blogs to distract me from how I was feeling. I knew I needed input from somewhere. I intuitively knew that I wanted some satisfaction from words. But I was looking to the wrong words. My little daisy Bible was sitting on the desk next to my monitor. I picked it up and read this week’s lectionary readings.

The Gospel reading is from the first chapter of John. John the Baptist says (v.29), “Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Right there I was hooked again. The Bible for me is like a dynamic, strange, endlessly fascinating, illuminating conversation with the most interesting person I’ve ever known. Today, when I read that, my mind went immediately to that oft-repeated phrase – that Jesus somehow takes away sins. I find that thought so interesting and so strange. What does it mean exactly? I know the traditional, orthodox answer, which I hold as a gift from the past. But how can I deepen that understanding, know what it means for real, for me, for my friends? He takes away sin in general? From me? Where does he take it? How? And, what then? And why a Lamb, a reference to sacrifice and dependence, first? He’s a shepherd, too, right?

And then I read the Old Testament reading, which was from Isaiah 49. In verse 4, Isaiah has the Messiah say, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”

Isn’t that outrageous? The Bible is incredible. It is full of this kind of despair and “FORGET IT!” kind of sentiment. When combined with an equally outrageous trust in God, it is a potent mix.

When I read the Bible, I know I will never be done plunging all of its mysteries. There will always be more for me to see, to learn and be amazed and baffled by in it. Already I feel pulled to spend more time researching and praying over those passages.

No one can rock it like God. No one has so much to say to me that is so encouraging, bizarre and wise. That is His job, to be loving and mysterious. The Bible kicks ass.

That said, let me affirm that I love reading good blogs. They can be a great blessing. Sometimes the rawest, most honest thing I “hear” all day is from a blogger – like this one from Melissa in Ohio. Sometimes the silliness of my fellow Christians just gives me a great laugh.

But nobody rocks it like God. Love you, God.


Christmas with the kids is over

December 24, 2007

Today was the day we celebrated Christmas with the kids.

We had low expectations.  Or at least I did.  My only hopes were that:

1. Nobody would have a meltdown.

2. We would talk about the birth of Jesus in a meaningful way at some point during the week.

3. Nobody would sulk.

We managed to accomplish #2 and #3.  The meltdown(s) of course, starred Bee (6).  They were small.  But they reveal the emotional underbelly of a kid who has so many issues I don’t even know where to begin to help her sometimes.  From the time she was born, according to my husband, she was born into a home of discord.  Since her mother has become a lesbian and is now living with her girlfriend, and I’ve married her dad and I’m living with them . . . she has even more to negotiate.  I feel for her.

She experiences so much shame when she is corrected.  Even when she is lovingly corrected, like this:

Parent: Bee, honey, you know, you might want to try cutting your crepe with . . .

Bee: I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW . . .waaaaahhhhh. <sobs>

Parent: ?

Or it could go like this:

Parent: Bee . . .

Bee: WHAT? WHAT? (in this tone of voice that is like she’s been accused of grand theft auto)

Parent: We asked you not to climb on the back of the couch, right?

Bee: <from the back of the couch> I DON’T CARE! I KNOW! LEAVE ME ALONE!

Parent: Seriously, ,you’re going to fall and crush the . . .

<the thing gets crushed>

Parent: Bee! Dang it!

Bee: WHAAAAAT??? Waaaaaahhhhhh. . ..

Etc.

The other day I was with my friend who has a three year old daughter.  She was more able to communicate her feelings and receive correction than Bee.  It was sobering to see a three year old explain to her mother why she didn’t want to do something.  She explained very carefully and slowly, like her mother was a recalcitrant, stupid employee.  It was funny and inspiring at the same time.

Having a kid who is unable to control herself or her reactions is draining in the same way that having an asshole boss is draining.  You know you aren’t going to influence the boss all that much in one or two conversations.  You know the boss isn’t going anywere.  You know that any change, if it comes, will be slow.  You know that you are all in the same company and somehow have to find a way to work together.  But you go home at the end of the day worn OUT.

I know that other parents have children with similar issues.  I know this is not some special, unheard of disorder.  But this is my shout out to all the parents and step-parents out there who feel slightly inadequate to the challenges laid before them.

Set low goals, people.  And have a three year calendar on the wall.


Baseball, drugs, parenting, presents and giving it away

December 14, 2007

I love baseball. My best friend loves baseball. My husband loves baseball. My step-son loves baseball. Baseball is a beautiful sport.

Yesterday, Senator Mitchell’s report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball came out. The Mitchell report tells a story in detail, the broad strokes of which most of us already knew. Men in baseball use drugs to make themselves, as Kanye would say, “harder, better, stronger, faster.” The ever witty (and bitter) Dodger Blues has lots of funny things to say, as usual.

It bums me out that my very own culture and my favorite sport have created an environment where this kind of accepted cheating goes on. There is something in our culture that tells us “whatever the cost, get what you want.” I’m not saying we’re the first or the only culture to roll like this. Caligula and Nero didn’t live in a vacuum. But still. It’s a crappy and TOTALLY ungodly way to do life. I know, I know, a lot of those players who did that stuff probably have no relationship or knowledge of God.

The Mitchell report had its list, and my husband and I have ours:img_3137.jpg

Yes, those are the Christmas lists for Bee and the boy. And yes, the boy’s has a KEY to understand the priorities of the listed items. Good God. I know that kids are kids and that they angle for what they can get, not just at Christmas but every day. That’s the nature of kids. But I have to say, I started to feel kind of dirty that in my home live two more beings who are this into STUFF. Uh, cause I like STUFF too.

Slowly, slowly, Jesus is turning my heart into a heart that wants to give away a little more than it wants to get. Or that “gets to give to get to give” as John Wimber used to say. I know that I’ve only been in a position of any real influence on the kids’ lives for about six months, so they are just reflecting what their parents, freinds and culture have taught them. I’m hoping that Jesus rubs off on me more so that he can rub off on them some too.

When I read what Eugene Cho’s kid wanted to do with $100,000 (all of it altruistic, for those of you who don’t click through), it gave me a glimmer of hope. It is possible to raise kids that won’t keep writing lists like this, kids who could grow up to have the backbone to say “no, thanks” in a clubhouse where drugs were being offered. Maybe my step-kids can turn into adults who want to give away more than they want to get.

Maybe I can turn more into that adult too. Help me Jesus!


Dancing in the bedroom

December 13, 2007

Today I got home from tutoring in need of a bit of a release. (People! Get your minds out of the gutter! The children were still up!)

Bee and I went in the bedroom, turned on some crazy loud music and danced around like maniacs. It was awesome. There was some crazy heavy metal stuff, a little rap (“I got my drink and my two-step”. . .how can you resist that!), some Neo Encendio mixing, even a little classic rock. I love LA radio, I really do. We danced in our limited space, sometimes on our own and sometimes holding hands. It was great to have someone with whom to just go crazy. Her daddy is more of a contemplative, peaceful sort, and he doesn’t quite know what to do with her exuberance sometimes. I feel like God especially blessed Bee and me with each other.

At one point we were dancing to “Your momma don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock and roll” and she yelled to me over the music, “Well, MY momma dances like CRAZY!” It was a good party, y’all.

Don’t worry. She went to bed like an angel. I’ve gotten enough kids wound up in my day to know enough to PLAN a slow song at the end.


Follow-up to Golden Compass Post

December 12, 2007

Earlier this month, I did a post about the Golden Compass and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.  I saw the movie this past weekend.  It was visually very pleasing – lots of good special effects for all the talking animals, great color palettes for all the different locations.  The film did seem to stick quite closely to the book.  I know that comparing films and books is notoriously unfair, as they are grossly different mediums, but. . . it did feel like something was missing in the movie.  The sense of urgency is there, but there was something a little stilted about it.  Some of the dialogue was so explanatory that it felt like you were getting a lecture in dialogue form.

Nevertheless, it was exponentially better than many kid movies I’ve seen in past years.  Because the main character is a little girl who bends the truth at times, it can invite discussions about what it means to tell the truth.  The actress who played Lyra was quite good, too.  She isn’t one of those cutesy kids, which is nice.

I only have one other thing to say.  It’s addressed to another actress in the film.  Uh, Nicole Kidman? I know we’ve never met, so I can’t imagine you’d take advice from me, but dang, sister.  Have a sandwich!  Your legs were so thin they looked like itty bitty twigs!

Wait, I lied.  There is one other thing I wanted to say.  I want to thank the commenters on the original post.  So often, as I troll around blogs, I am shocked at the stuff I read in the comments of other blogs. (Especially Christian blogs!)  But you, my fabulous commenters, were balanced and polite, even when you may have disagreed.  Thanks for being civilized.


Christmas on the wrong day

December 7, 2007

This year, it looks like because of scheduling issues, we’re going to have to have Christmas with the kids on the 23rd. I realize that I am an adult and that in the scope of things this is not that big of a deal, but I had this whole picture in my head about how things would go. . .and none of that picture involved the 23rd of December. Especially for the kid’s sake, it seems significant that things take place on the 25th and 24th. Sigh. I’m starting to feel like I’m one of those parents who has given into the North American Fetishization of Childhood & Parenting Disorder. But I will not succumb!!

I feel like I have a choice. I can stay pissed off about this, or I can grow up, set it down, and have a NICE TIME on the 23rd, The Eve of Christmas Eve. I’m working on it, people, I’m working on it.

I celebrate Christmas with relish each year. I love seeing all my ornaments that my parents bequeathed to me when I moved out. Some of them are over 30 years old. I love thinking about past Christmases, even Christmases that involve people I don’t know anymore. I couldn’t tell you WHY I love the whole THING of Christmas so much, I just do. Even before I was a person who followed Jesus I loved it.

In the past, Christmas was a time for enjoying family, friends, traditions and excessive amounts of baked goods, but it’s not that anymore. Or, rather, I should say, it’s not JUST that anymore (excessive amounts of baked goods are still crucial).

Now, Christmas is a time for me and my family to ponder what on earth God was doing having Jesus be born the way he was. The enormity of that event can surely outweigh the fact that Christmas will be on the 23rd this year.

Sigh.

Stay tuned for my next post: Toxic Ornaments. You’re gonna love it. Really. It involves me smashing things.


If only we had a Golden Compass for being unafraid believers

December 4, 2007

I read Phillip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials last year. I bought it because I read a review in The New Yorker that made it sound very compelling. As a seminary graduate with a stinkload of debt and not much income, a review has to be pretty compelling to get me to buy a hardcover book.

But I was not disappointed. The trilogy, which includes The Golden Compass, was a great read. The main characters, especially Lyra, are written with depth. The central characters pursue “the good,” but they are not pastel portraits. They are flawed, real characters with quirks and fears. Because Pullman creates an entire alternate reality, not dissimilar to what Tolkien did with Middle Earth, there are lots of strangely fascinating events in all of the books. The Subtle Knife, the second book of the trilogy, is one of the coolest narrative treatments of alternate realities I’ve ever read.

The books deal directly with Pullman’s bete noir – theocracy. There is an very good interview with Pullman online where he discusses the book with a Christian film reviewer. Mr. Pullman is a materialist. He is terribly sharp. He does not understand or believe in “spirituality.” I love Jesus like a fool. I consider myself Evangelical. For the Love of Heaven, I went to Fuller Seminary. That does not mean I can’t read his book, and enjoy it for what it is, a very thoughtful and well written piece of literature. As my husband pointed out yesterday, Jesus was kind of critical of theocracies himself.

Because The Golden Compass was made into a film (largely geared towards kids), the book and its author have been discussed quite a bit in the public arena of late. I feel some of the stuff I’ve heard on Christian radio and seen on the Internet is the modern equivalent of book burning.

Why do this? What if the whole book really is an indictment of religion, a blueprint for materialists? Are we not capable of reading literature and hearing what it has to say about us without having to tear down the author and the work? If you believe in God and in the risen, glorified Jesus, I think your faith should be resilient enough to withstand and even HEAR frank commentary or criticism. If I could, I would invite Mr. Pullman over for dinner to get to know him, and let him get to know us.

I read the trilogy and enjoyed it. My faith was not shaken by it. Indeed, it was not even stirred by this book. The book had nothing to do with my walk with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. That’s what I read the BIBLE for, people. Or Annie Dillard. Or Henri Nouwen. Or Dallas Willard. Or Larry Crabb. I’m not sure what people who want Christians to stay away from literature and films that portray the church in a negative light are trying to accomplish. But it wears me out.

We serve a savior who died in humiliation on a cross, who washed his disciples’ feet and cried out for justice. Not a savior who asked us to build intellectual walls against those who see things differently than we do, or who asked us not to read certain books. I’d like to remind my brothers and sisters who are “boycotting” this book/film of one teeny, tiny injunction that the Bible mentions once or twice. Don’t be afraid.