Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Advent 2, 2016

John 1:5:  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The gospel writers are not overly optimistic about how the world would greet the Coming One.  This is an interesting image, peculiar to John to use light and darkness, not in the Greek idea of wisdom and ignorance, but of the revelation and brightness of the Christ compared to the world into which He comes.  Wisdom and ignorance are relevant, but only a part of it:  love vs. apathy; attention vs. dismissal; faith vs. disbelief; acceptance vs. rejection;  righteousness vs. rebellion.   The darkness does not comprehend light.  Why would it?  Even from a physics standpoint (of which I know little), light would confound darkness.  So we shouldn't be overly surprised that people just don't get us sometimes when we worship Christ. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent 1, 2016

"The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us: and we beheld his glory … and of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace" (John 1:14, 16).

I am down with a cold or something worse today and yesterday and hope to be able to go to work tomorrow. This is the worst time of the year for college teachers.  All the Christmas events collide with the end of the semester, which collide with illness and other aspects of life.  I am not a good sick person and become depressed at the very thought of not being able to do what I want, which today was attending church on the first day of Advent. Our new pastor is going to preach on it, something I looked forward to. Baptists don't usually pay much attention to the ecclesiastical calendar.

Christianity Today has some good articles right now on Protestantism and Advent.  It strikes me that the church is so deeply embedded in history but no one today seems to realize it.  We can't dismiss 2,000 years of church practice just because we don't like or are too lazy to delve into history.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Time for Some Random Observations and ARRIVAL

Amazon ad:  Give the gift of permanent hair removal this Christmas.  Seriously?  I want that under my tree?

The only thing worse than a self-righteous conservative is a self-righteous liberal.  Sheesh.  Even worse are the self-righteous liberals who used to be self-righteous conservatives, but someone in their family converted them and they can't just agree to disagree--they have to make the whole world listen to them.

I have totally gone off Facebook.  I only checked it today for a message, but I hope to train my friends to contact me another way. It is bad for my relationships bad for my blood pressure, bad for my time management.  Of course, I am still blogging. 

I went to see the movie Arrival on Sunday.  Quite good, although any ambitious film like that is going to leave some questions.  My first one:  how could those beings manage to create those spaceships without opposable thumbs (or much else in terms of anatomy)?  Second:  if your language doesn't allow you to think without reference to time, wouldn't it also limit you from thinking in terms of linear time, in which case 3,000 years from now is meaningless?  My third:  I love how we need aliens to bring us together. 

Fourth:  I am still confused as to when the little girl died.  Louise says at one point when they are getting into a truck that her ex-husband used to tell her that she had some characteristic (don't remember exactly) and Ian says, "I didn't know you were married. " Later in the movie he becomes her husband.  His comment would have to come prior, in real time, to their marriage, to be logical.  How many husbands does she have?  Is Ian the father of the little girl? sDoes she not know the past from the future from the present because she learned the language? And this is supposed to be a gift?

I submitted a playscript to a content in a local theatre company.  Playwriting format is a royal pain in the neck.  Took me way too long to get it right.  The title of my play is The Foark River Tanning Salon and Bait Shop.  People laugh when they hear the title.  It is a comedy.  (duh).  I hope I win at least second place. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Little Update

If James were writing today, instead of "Be not many teachers" he would write in addition, "be not many bloggers."

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Epiphany of the day

I admit to being slow on the uptake.

I see now that anxiety, fear, or worry are  products of the illusion of Control.  (I capitalize it.)  If I think I am in control of other people (and therefore responsible for their behavior) and they are not doing what I want, I worry about how I am going to get their compliance.  All based on faulty logic.  I am not in control of them.  I am not responsible for their behavior.  Therefore, worry is futile.

Now, I am responsible for me, for sometimes meting out punishments, for dealing with outcomes, and for trying to make good conditions.  But people choose and I can't change that.

What a relief.   

Friday, November 11, 2016

Post Election Part I

Although I should write a long treatise on the election results, I will probably take a shotgun approach.  Ambivalence reigns.

First, let me be clear (as someone likes to say), I did not vote for Trump or Clinton or Johnson or Stein.  I wrote in a candidate, which is meaningless but my conscience is clear.  Some would say I am a wuss and noncommital; I was committed to not falling prey to binaries or voting for people I believed were bad for the country.  (Nor was I voting for a geographically challenged weedsmoker whose running mate should have been the Libertarian candidate.)

Second, some of the reaction has been so over the top I am embarrassed.  By both sides.  Trump is not "GOD'S MAN."  Please.  That level of naivete and faith in a human being is downright scary coming from an alleged Christian.  Shame on you.  And he isn't going to hurt gay people (what does he care who they sleep with, considering his own background?).  Now, immigrants, I can understand some of their concerns and sort of share them (I don't pretend to have more knowledge and empathy of their lives than I do.)  Legal citizens of color, well, yes, some of his supporters are rednecks, but those people would have written ugly graffiti if Clinton had won.  Neither candidate is going to keep that from happening, any more than he/she is going to affect the oceans rising (although Democrats like to think they can.) Perhaps some of the racist yahoos were emboldened by his election.  These are some of the reasons I didn't vote for him, despite usually voting Republican (usually, not always).

The saddest thing is the number of supposed Christians who said character didn't matter in a leader.

To women I say, be realistic.  Come on.  He's not going to hurt you or make your life miserable.  If you are sitting on a plane (in first class) and the old fart next to you touches you inappropriately, why in the world don't you scream bloody murder and kick him where it hurts, rather than waiting 30 years to report it.  I think that is why those reports didn't go anywhere, whether true or not (and probably were).  On the other hand, he employs lots of women and gives them opportunities.  I think he knows talent when he sees it; Kellyanne Conway is the proof.  Say what you will, he knows how to run a business; he is crazy like a fox.  He is still despicable, he's a conman, but he's not incompetent.

Illogical abounded in this election.  How many times I was told to vote for Hillary because we need a woman president.  What?  Non sequitur alert.  How many times were we faced with false dichotomies and slippery slopes?  For the logical, the only argument was the Supreme Court.  As one writer on Breakpoint said, we can breathe a sigh of relief on that, but we should not think the country is going to go back to some idyllic time.  I don't know when that was, and I am getting up there in age.  Weed got more legalized everywhere and physican assisted suicide got passed in Colorado.

I ask the church, the real church, to search its soul and repent.  I pray that we do not get a backlash and blame for electing him when things go south (as they always do in someone's eyes).  I stand as the loyal opposition and still blame the Republican party for letting this happen, but at the same time I rejoice that Billary is going away and we don't have to deal with them any more. 





Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hangover

I want to write about the election results, but I'm still processing.  I never saw that coming. I assumed Hillary would win, whether I liked it or not, because of the conventional wisdom on demographics.  Wow. 

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Presidential Race Finals

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I have not posted about the presidential race, which thankfully is coming to an end, for a while.  I voted early Friday, which was the last day, so it really wasn’t that early.  I wrote in a name, which was meaningless because even though Georgia allows it, the write-ins have to have gone through a petition process with a certain number of names.  But there was no way I was tapping the screen beside either of those names. 
One of my students came up behind me in line at the polling station.  This was her first time voting.  I wanted to say “I am sorry, then, that you couldn’t have had better choices,” but I didn’t want to seem like I was electioneering!  They take that seriously.  The place was packed.  I am pretty sure 90% of the people there were voting for Trump, whether they were enthusiastic or not.  This is a deeply Republican county, but not always in a good way.  All but one of the other races involved unopposed incumbent Republicans.  The Senate race had three choices.  There were four ballot initiatives:  one on charter schools, involving failing schools being taken over by the state; one about the judicial review commission of the state, which I had heard about on a This American Life podcast; and two about using revenue from bad behavior to allay the effects of the bad behavior. 
I fear friendships have suffered due to this election; I fear the church has; I know the country has.  I won’t predict, but I have a strong sense of who will win, and it will a long four years. 
I blame the Republican party for not pressuring all those candidates to get out of the race faster so that Trump would not get 25 and 35% of primary votes; I blame the media who made him their darling and then turned on him, since I am pretty sure they wanted him to oppose Hillary because it would mean a sure win for her; I blame crooked Democrats who voted as Republicans in the primaries to gum up the works; I blame some of the candidates for not standing up to a bully and fighting him in his own way and allowing Trump to be the Republican standard-bearer. I blame people who have never voted who are voting this time because they like this demagogue. 

NaNoWriMo 2016


I wrote over 15,000 words in the last five days.
Why in the world would I do that?  Because I am participating for the third tme in National Novel Writing Month.
This is an annual event that, in general, is supporting literacy.  The idea is to not create a great novel but to get a draft on paper.  The folks at NaNoWriMo know that writing is rewriting.  They aren’t saying that producing the 50,000 words to “win” NaNoWriMo (you really don’t win anything) is going to get you a publishing contract.  Fifty thousand words is a nice, round, doable number. 
I did it the first time in 2011, then in 2014 (but I cheated that time, because I just uploaded something I’d already written; uploaded novels are immediately removed from their server.)  This time I am really writing but also taking the dialogue of a play I wrote and refashioning it.  Yesterday I dug in and wrote over 10,000 words.  It was neat for a couple of reasons.
That morning I had read the opening passage of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  I paid a penny for it on Amazon and had just received it in the mail.  The 4.00 total for the book (the notorious 3.99 shipping and handling) I spent was the best writing investment in my life.  Something clicked.  I saw that my writing is—was-- jaundiced.  By that I mean that the tone was always negative.  There was a little bit of a smirk going on; I was criticizing, not exploring or revealing my characters.  Somehow I had gotten the idea that superior, arrogant point of view and tone is literary.  Those first few pages of The Goldfinch cured me of that.  (I don’t know how long it will take me to read the rest of it, though.  It’s something like 800 pages, which is excessive.)
Secondly, I used first person point of view for the first time for any length in a novel.  There is a character I have wanted to develop and first person totally worked, in this case because the writer is fairly educated and capable of articulate self-expression.  The words just flowed out.  I am not saying it’s good; I’m just saying it came, and I saw why first person works. 
Last weekend I read two books:  Grendel by John Gardner, and one of Sue Grafton’s alphabet books, as  I call them.  I was emulating Grafton’s use of first person for the “detective” and third person for the others.  It words.  But yesterday I saw I was emulating her tone, which is critical of characters.  For her it works—she’s made enough money at it—but I don’t want to do that.  It’s not consistent with my world view, anyway. 
There is some bad to be said about NaNoWriMo (they want donations and November Is a terrible month to try to write—January makes more sense) but I am a believer in the momentum it creates. 

Grendel by John Gardner


A friend of mine required this book in her dual enrollment English class at the College.  I read it last weekend.  It grabbed me from the beginning and I didn’t want to put it down.  It is mercifully short, though.  I did get tired of the details of eating people.  It is a good companion to Beowulf from a literary perspective and would allow the students to think about Beowulf from a different stance.  As a stand alone book, however, I sort of saw it as an experiment.  I loved Gardner’s The Art of Fiction and need to read it again, so he clearly knows what he is doing in literature.  Some reviewers on Amazon criticized the teenage whininess of Grendel and that the mother is portrayed as powerless and mindless.  The prose is remarkable.  I was transported in that regard. 

Friday, November 04, 2016

Jeremiah chapter 1


What and who was he?  He wasn’t a bullfrog.  

·      A prophet living at the end of the kingdom in Judah and into the Babylonian captivity
·      A contemporary of Daniel, although they do not acknowledge each other much.  In Daniel 9:2 Daniel refers to one of his prophecies about the length of the captivity. 
·      In the priestly line by family inheritance, so he had connections to the temple and spoke about it a lot. But he wasn’t a priest. 
·      A resident of Anathoth, near the desert and in an area where almond trees grew. 
·      An emotional person.  Weeping prophet
·      A prophet in a bad situation.  He had to deliver a message that went totally against Jewish patriotism and nationalism and desire to rebel against their captors. 
·      The man responsible for two books
·      A kidnap victim
·      A prophet mentioned in the book of Matthew three times, all with emphasis on judgment or sorrow  
·      A user of drama—kind of weird

Think what it would be like if Russia held us in captivity for 70 years, but during the time another country, such as China, conquered Russia.  The only difference is that we had been told for hundreds of years that this was going to happen if we didn’t change our ways and make God Lord of our lives rather than false idols, self, pleasure, and pride.

This is foreign to us because we live in a big, powerful nation.  In Yoka’s family’s historical memory, they would have a stronger sense of it, being held by another nation of conquerors. 

The book of Jeremiah is interesting but complex.  It is not in chronological order, for example.  In two weeks I am going to try to give you a sense of who Jeremiah was, his main ministry, and what it means for us. 

1:1:  Why land of Benjamin? Wasn’t Judah the only one left?  Anathoth was on the edge of the desert. 
He started his ministry in the 13th year of the reign of Josiah, which allows us historical accuracy.  It is interesting that the more we learn, the more the Bible is confirmed.  That would be about 626 BC and his ministry went on until well past 586 B.C.

1:4-8  You can’t argue with God.  Much like Moses, he puts up reasons; I am too young to take on the mantle of prophet.  We don’t know how old he is.  God’s answer:  I know you better than you know yourself, and always have.  “Know” and “chose” is the same Hebrew word. 
Notice he is to be a prophet to the nations, not just Judah.
When Jeremiah says “I am a youth,” God does not respond to that.  He doesn’t say, “No, you are 25, grow up.”  He gets to the root of it, fear.  The job is bigger than you, Jeremiah.  No, you aren’t capable of what I am going to ask of you, not on your own.  That’s not the point.  No one is really capable of spiritual work. 

1:9-ff.  What is Jeremiah’s commission? 
·      To destroy, and build up—delivery a message of judgment and redemption.  This is very much what our pastor is preaching on in Zephaniah.
·      To use metaphors and pictures to communicate. 
·      To stand up against the powerful and not be prevailed upon.  It will be hard. 

Take aways so far: 
1.     Many take this as about abortion.  I don’t think it really is directly; I am pretty sure Jeremiah didn’t say when he heard this, “Oh, this is about abortion.”  The fact that the Bible teaches about abortion is all the way through the Word, not just in a couple of proof texts.  If you understand the Bible as a whole, it is clearly pro-life. 
a.     we are made in the image of God; our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made.
b.     Intentional killing of innocent life outside of warfare is murder and greatly punishable
c.      There is no distinction between life in the womb and out of it, any stages; all stages are valuable.  All lives matter.  The Old Testament law had a strong penalty for a someone who caused a woman to miscarriage, whether intentional or not.  The idea of ending a pregnancy by choice doesn’t appear in the Old Testament with the Jewish people; they wanted to have large families.  That was a sign of blessing.
d.     The sovereignty of God doctrine works against the argument of an unwanted child (rhetoric of pro-choice movement.)  A Christian doesn’t get to say a child was a mistake.  A surprise maybe, but never a mistake. 
e.     The history of the Jewish people and the early church argue against abortion.  It was common to kill babies in Rome and Greece if they were sickly or female, mostly by abandonment. The Greeks wanted to control population and the Romans wanted strong men for war.  All the records of Jewish history and the early church say that they tried to save babies and honor childbirth.  That was one thing the early church was known for.   

2.     God loved the Jews and treated them as his special people, but not as an end in themselves.  They were also supposed to be a conduit to portray God’s law, power, one-ness, love, mercy to the world.  The church is the same way.  We have an inward, upward, and outward mission.

3.     We get to do unpopular tasks.   Jeremiah’s ministry was uphill.  From the very beginning he was admonishing the people for their shallowness.  During the reign of Josiah, Josiah found the Law in the Temple and had it brought back before the people.  He was a good king and led reforms to get rid of the idolatry.  But Jeremiah saw it was superficial, which was shown in the fact that the people went right back to it after Josiah died in battle (rather dramatic ending) with Egypt.  Even during Jeremiah’s time, he was saying “Don’t let these superficial reforms fool you into thinking your heart is right.”  I am going to get into this aspect of Jeremiah next week.  It is complex because he is essentially saying to the people, you are mistaking past blessings for future and present confirmation that you are ok when you are not.  This is so true of the U.S. right now that I’m stunned.  We fall for the “Make America Great Again” rhetoric that blames politicians and elites without looking at our own sin.

4.   Our emotions matter.    God does not dismiss or ignore our emotions.  I really think one of the reasons Jeremiah is in the Bible is because of his heart for what his people were going through.  He is called the weeping prophet for a reason.


5.     Ultimately, our ability to do a spiritual work is not about our abilities.  Working in a secular job, I have to deal with people who are more focused on their innate abilities.  And we do have those and they are important and useful.  Our students take a test called StrengthQuest.  It is from the Gallup poll organization, and it is pretty neat and very valid from a scientific point of view.  But it doesn’t tell students what their life work should be, only the kind of things they would be good at. 

But, work for God is beyond our abilities and can’t be done by our abilities alone.  One of these days I am going to get this.  I see so many examples in my own life that it scares me, but I won’t get into that.  Basically, I don’t want to get out of my comfort zone.  I know what I am good at, so I will stick with that, despite what God commands me to do, which might be beyond my “skill set.”  Example, working with the English as Second Language ministry. 

In Jeremiah’s case, he considered his youth to be the problem in his “Skill set.”  We might be the opposite; our seniority might be an impediment.  I admit to this, especially since I was having so much fatigue and neuralgia for a couple of months, which is better now but of course, might return.  Paul told Timothy, Let no one despise your youth, and to the older people he gave instructions that would say, You don’t get to give up on ministry because of your age.  For example, he writes in Titus 2:2, Let the older women teach the younger.”  Let no one, especially yourselves, despise your age at any stage.

Two versions of reality

Wednesday night on Fox:  New Alert:  Hillary Clinton's email shows new levels of corruption in State Department and DOJ.  Trump's lack of knowledge and experience?  Crickets.

NPR on Thursday morning.  What kind of (horrible) people vote for Trump?  Hillary and corruption? Crickets.


Thursday, November 03, 2016

A Reflection on Life with Kallman's Syndrome

A reader emailed me this morning with the following articulate, moving message about her life with Kallman's.  I asked her if I could post it and she consented, which I greatly appreciate.  For those new to this blog, I had written about it in the past; you can find it if you google Kallman's and the name of this blog. 
 
 
I don't know exactly what it is I wanted to say to you, but felt compelled to reach out as I have never read of Kallmann's from a personal and female perspective. I feel like most information on Kallmann's is so medical that I need to google 75% of the articles and still don't have the answers I am looking for. My doctors and nurses, while wonderful, are not always the best at translating the syndrome into real life. The nurses are kind and sympathetic but often don't fully understand the condition, given how rare it is. My doctors are factual, scientific and strangely excitable. Over the years whenever I meet a new OBGYN or endocrinologist I become the source of many questions- to them I am a medical enigma, a short chapter in their med school text book, certainly not a case they'd ever thought they'd ever get to treat. 

I was diagnosed when I was 16 and put on low dosages of premarin and prometrium. I had very few side effects, my mood, skin/hair and sex drive were all great. I stayed on these medications for 4-5 years before stopping them all together (foolishly, I felt like they were making me gain weight...if only I could go back in time). After a few years of no HRT, I realized the adverse affect this was having on my body (again, the dangers of not arming a young woman with the information to make better decisions) and went through the next 7 years of trying to find the right combination of hormones to make me feel okay again. Unfortunately, at 30, I have yet to regain the balance I had in my teens and early twenties. My once beautiful hair is now dull and coarse, I have a constant spattering of hormonal acne, and have gained about 60lbs, all of which pales in comparison to my constant mood swings and chronic fatigue. Most recently, visiting a new doctor I broke down in tears and told her "I have felt terrible for so long now, I don't know if it's me or the hormones anymore." We have yet to sort that out, and I am exhausted.  

That struggle aside, I also felt compelled to contact you because about a week ago my husband and I began the process of trying to have a baby. I have been a patient of an endocrinologist's office since I was diagnosed (to find a silver lining, it is kind of beautiful to sit in the same office where I was diagnosed as a child and discuss having a child of my own)! I began my first round of Menopur injections, and have been carefully monitored every 3 days with blood work and ultrasounds (to avoid a multiple pregnancy). Like you, twins sound exciting and convenient, especially after reading that having multiple children is not a given, but my doctors are focused on one. 

I am not sure if it's the hormones coursing through my body, or if I am finally realizing the reality of my condition, but I am terrified. I have wondered a lot in the last week what it must feel like to be one of those women (many of my friends) that can go off of their birth control or "just see what happens," without having to plan every aspect of your pregnancy. I wonder what the feeling would be like to surprise my husband with the news, instead of jamming needles into my stomach wondering if any of this is possible (while he has to turn away because needles make him nauseous). Will my child be born with kidney issues, or deformities because of my condition, will my child be born at all? Every woman much have anxiety surrounding this stage of their life, but with Kallmann's tacked on, it all seems so scary. 

I've always been a driven, intense personality. I don't like to lose, and I enjoy the satisfaction of working hard to get the results I want. I feel like I don't have control of my own future- what if I can't be a mother to my own child because of my Kallmann's and not because of anything else? I feel wildly unprepared to take this on. 

Just sitting down to write this made me realize how emotional i actually am. I appreciate your blog post so much because it helped me process some of the feelings I have had for a long time but have never really translated into coherent thoughts. If nothing else, just having the opportunity to vent to someone who can actually relate is a privilege that I did not know existed and I am very grateful. 

Thank you for sharing your story and allowing me to share mine.

What I Learned about Empathy Last Night

Last night in the English as Second Language that another teacher and I conduct at church, we had a class of six.  One Chinese young woman w...