Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Blogging practice

Two items today: Visiting family at Christmas and the nature of blogging

We returned yesterday from visiting my husband's family out of state, about four hours away by interstate. It went better than I expected due to the large number of people getting together and the generally bad experiences we have had in the past. My husband's family, like many, can be a cantankerous bunch, and it's exacerbated by chronic unemployment, drinking problems, failed marriages, deaths, children out of wedlock, illnesses and disabilities, and enabling. Humph. Is there a family in America that doesn't have one, several, or all of these?

The interim pastor at our church said a couple of weeks ago, "My favorite lights at Christmas are the taillights on the cars of my relatives leaving after Christmas visits." And as the old saying goes, After three days, fish and house guests . . . So we stayed exactly 72 hours (73 maybe) and three nights. And we were probably as happy to leave as they were to see us go. As Dorothy says, There's no place like home.

Anyway, I can blog here, which brings us to the second point. I heard a radio speaker (Moody network) talk about using one's blog for ministry purposes. How I would love to do so, but I don't think in bullet points. That is, I find it very difficult to condense the advice, what little I would give, into three or four bullets. But as I want this blog to be entertaining and edifying, here goes: In terms of family at Christmas:
1. If possible, no more than one family of houseguests at a time. Spread the wealth to nearby relatives, or use a hotel.
2. If you are a guest, get off your rear and help. Your relatives are not running a spa resort.
3. Take the hosts out to dinner at least once.
4. Plan activities with kids (even if they are 19).
5. Accept the fact that not everyone is like you. They don't like your TV shows, your movies, your smoke. We are not our behaviors and TV shows and perfumes, so keep opinions to yourself. You're a short-term guest and short-term host.
6. For goodness sake, get out of your me-box and look for the good in people, even if they are a relative. Have fun, play Jenga. Look at old pictures. Sing karaoke together (without the liquor stimulation).
7. The hardest time is with relatives of different faiths, or no faiths. That's a book that needs to be written!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


This is perhaps not the most profound post of Christmas, but it seems people often ask, Why was Mary picked to be the mother of Jesus? Could it be she was picked because she was engaged (betrothed) to Joseph? Maybe Joseph was the target. Considering the male-centeredness of culture at that time, it makes sense. Joseph was a descendant of David as much or maybe more than Mary. Joseph would be the one under whose protection Mary and Jesus would be. Joseph could have easily divorced Mary but didn't, because he was a "just" man, a adjective that puts him in the category of many other OT saints. Joseph was shamed, too. Joseph had to flee to Egypt and live away from home, finding work in a different country for a few years. In fact, in the Matthew narrative, Joseph is the main character.

The other night at church a woman in the choir program did a monologue about (spoken by) Mary, and in it she says, "Joseph was the only one there and delivered the baby." I am perplexed by this assertion (also portrayed in the move The Nativity Story that came out last year.) I seriously doubt that Jesus was born at the last minute and delivered by Joseph, as if it were a sitcom or a taxi-cab delivery. It makes much more sense to see them as getting there with plenty of time to spare (read the text, for goodness sake) and a midwife as delivering the baby; it just wasn't done by the husband, and they were around people, not in the middle of the woods. So I don't know why that idea is perpetuated. However, if I'm wrong, that makes Joseph even more a saint, because he did something never done by the men and also risked ritual uncleanness.

Protestants and Catholics and Orthodox Christians differ on how they view the place of Mary in theology, but all of them respect her greatly. Why isn't Joseph offered this same respect? It's time he stop being relegated to the figure of an old man in the Renaissance and Baroque paintings, a man too old to want his wife. The text clearly said they had a normal married life and more children afterward. But before that, he did what few could be expected to do but what God knew he would do--faithfully obey when none of it made any sense.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Shame and Guilt

Shame is public; guilt is private.
Shame is subjective; guilt is objective.
Shame comes from our perception of how others perceive us; guilt comes from how we measure up against a standard.
A court pronounces one guilty; society pronounces us worthy of shame.
Adam felt shame; he was already guilty.
We can choose to feel shame and be enslaved by it; we choose to be guilty by violating a legal or moral or theoligcal standard.

The fall narrative has psychological and cultural and psychic significance, even if one doesn't believe its historicity. The reason I think it stays with us is because it is true at many levels.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Teaching Genesis

Since I have made myself a slave to the Southern Baptist Sunday Bible Study Literature, I will be teaching Genesis for the next six months. HMMMMMM. This is causing me a lot of cognitive dissonance, because I am having to walk the line between being too literal and too liberal, between getting caught in an actual six-day creation and giving the impression that we can just make the text mean anything we want it to mean. My first job is to minister to the class, the second is to stay true to the text--and those aren't as mutually exclusive as they sound. If anyone else reads this blog, this could be a good discussion.

This week we study the fall (at least following the literature means we move fast through everything). Again, there is a fine line between overinterpreting every action of Adam and Eve and God into some sort of dramatic allegory and missing the point of what's going on. And the scholars don't always help. One I read, which seemed sound otherwise, said that Adam and Eve were the true race of men as distinct from the Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons, who weren't real humans and had just come about as some part of God's earlier creation and God let them die off. I'm appalled at that line of argument. I prefer to give a much earlier date to the first humans (50,00-100,00 years), see Genesis 3 as a picture of something more than one couple did, see Neanderthals and other earlier humans as descendants (in chronology as well as ability) from the first humans created directly and specially by God, than I do to make up some alternate creation that God had to dispose of. Job talks about the ancients; he as an ancient had a sense that many generations had lived before him, and Job is believed to be contemporaneous with Abraham. Thus, there were many more years before Abraham than literalists want to admit. I don't think we benefit from trying to make the text say things it doesn't say.

This is, of course, heresy to some. But back to the fall. The fall is about the difference between shame and guilt. More on that tomorrow. However, I've always said I will err on the side of conservatism if I have to err. I would rather believe in a special creation I can't fully grasp and that may seem mythical to me than to believe in a random universe.

Public Speaking Online, Part IV

During the Web Speech             One of the helpful suggestions from the business writers used for this appendix ...