Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ariadne is in the front garden

Every day, she gives us a new masterpiece.

She is Gasteracantha cancriformis. She makes huge spiral webs, going from our rose bush, to the roof, to the crape myrtle.

Every day, our first gift of the morning is to run outside, my son and I, to see what her web looks like today.

And just a few minutes ago -- excitement! -- I found a "sister" spinning her web on an azalea that's right by our dining room window. I was 1 foot away from her, watching her spin her web. She was on the 4th interior ring, carefully, but rapidly, going spoke to spoke, making the ring.

That, my friends, is a thrill. May you all be given such a gift.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Weeping for another mother's child

Precious Girl is gone. She died last night, at midnight, in her mother's arms, at home.

Saturday, she celebrated her birthday. She turned 5 years old.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Please consider giving to CureSearch.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Grown Ups Not Doing Their Job

What bothers me about the whole Jena 6 thing is that it is so ... needless.

We'll put the racist DA to the side for the moment.

Mistake 1: When a new black student approached the principal and asked if he could sit under what had traditionally been a "whites only" tree, this was a powerful opportunity for the educator. Imagine a well-organized school assembly, where students are encouraged to talk about traditional assumptions. Where they are challenged to overcome those assumptions. A little bit of discussion about "olden times" wouldn't hurt, either.

Mistake 2: Kids are stupid. Not all of them, but as a group, yeah, I'll stand by this statement. IT IS OUR JOB, as adults, educators, parents, police, to TEACH THEM to face consequences. Notice: I did not say "ruin their lives." Teach them. You haul the offenders down to the jail, make their parents bail them out, then have a judge who gives them a stern talking-to and assigns them to something clever, like writing essays about prominent African-American heroes, and doing community service at an after-school program for underprivileged children (heavily supervised). The judge also calls all the parents forward and questions whether they think this is just a "prank." He/she dresses them down, too. In short, you scare them straight, both kids and parents.

Mistake 3: The community should have responded. I'm sure someone could have thought of something poetic -- how about a line of adults standing in front of the school the following Monday morning, (after the nooses) holding up posters that say, "Jena is Not a Town of Hate"?

Mistake 4: There were so many injustices throughout this, I won't go into them all, other than to mention they arrested the students who took away another student's gun (that he threatened them with), but did nothing to him? REALLY??? Oh, dear God.

Mistake 5: The assault on the white student, for which the Jena 6 were arrested. They should have been arrested, absolutely. See Mistake 2. But the goal should have been to scare them straight, NOT to make an example of them, or ruin their lives, or both.

There were many other mistakes that others can comment on, like the media ignoring it. But a fundamental issue in this is the grownups -- parents, teachers, etc --

They failed them. White students and black, they failed them.

Mychal Bell was denied bail

When he was tried as an adult, his bail was absurdly high, but it was there. Now, perhaps because enough money was raised for a bail bond ... no bail?

This entire thing makes me feel physically ill. Will post more later, once I can type without retching.

Planning for The Halloween Party

This will be our 13th Halloween party. Ooooh! 13!

Planning is already underway, as it must be. If you have any really amazing party recipes, please share. Finger foods preferable.

And here's one for you. It's so pathetically simple, that I've refused to make it, though I've seen the recipe a million times. Well, I recently had it at Elder Stateswoman's home, not knowing what it was. Fabulous. You take mushroom caps, and fill them with -- get this -- Stouffer's spinach souffle. Top with parmesan. Heat in the microwave.

Go figure.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Do You Know Someone Who Will Be At Jena Tomorrow?

If you know of someone who will be there, who would like to "live blog via phone," let me know.

lizardeater at gmail period com

Monday, September 17, 2007

When the minister revealed his pain ...

Ms. Kitty and Making Chutney are talking about ministry and how it affects your life, and what do you choose to share with your congregants.

This past Saturday night, The Husband and I were with the Elder Stateswoman for dinner. Somehow, conversation got around to a minister we had about a decade ago. He was going through an intensely painful time, as his brother was dying from a horrible disease. He shared that pain in a sermon. And he told us this: that the truth about "what happens after we die" was no longer a concern for him. He said that it brings him comfort to believe he will see his brother again. And if that is true, great, and if not, so what.

All of us remembered him saying that, in great detail.

Sometimes, I think sharing your pain is a gift. You allow others to feel compassion, perhaps they can even grow a bit themselves, through your experience.

This scenario isn't exactly what Ms. Kitty and Chutney were talking about. But they got me thinking about it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fantasies of Ministering

1:05 am in my house. Everyone is asleep in my house, even the dog. Except for me.

My reason for wakefulness is not a bad one. No worries eating at me. Fantasies, actually. Two competing fantasies, of a life as a minister.

In one, I am a hospital chaplain. I already know the first rule of medical chaplaincy -- Shut up and listen! -- but I bring more with me. I can't be all things to all people, but I have little bits and pieces that bring comfort. I visit a Jewish family and the mother wants the language from her past, as a student, as a schoolgirl.

Y'varekh'ka ADONAI v'yishmerekha
Ya'er ADONAI panav eleikha vichunekka
Yissa ADONAI panav eleikha v'yasem l'kha shalom

The LORD bless you and keep you.
The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

I speak to another. No, I am not a priest, but I can find one ... Do you know ... ? she asks ... Of course, I soothe ... Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee ...


I have another. I am a pastor and the church I serve, serves all colors, all cultures, all classes.

Black, brown, white, red, yellow. A white father and a black mother attend, and know that their child has others here, with similar backgrounds. Sometimes, being "unique" is not preferable. There are others who understand that even in this world, even now, there are prices to be paid for this richness of culture, this amalgam of ethnicity. They find each other. One can go his way alone, but Oh! To find another!

We are a church of inclusion. Each new culture adds more flavor. We know that we all benefit from the experience of another. Our readings are from the 'Gita. The Koran. The Bible. Many times the Bible, because it is the dominant religious book in our culture. Khalil Gibran. L.M. Alcott. Skinner. Heinlein. W.E.B. DuBois. A.A. Milne.

Shel Silverstein.

We laugh. We cry. We leave fear, self-consciousness, superiority -- all at the door. We leave with a mission to improve the world.

Fantasies ... keeping me awake.

Who knows what my future will be, what path will open up. A chaplaincy at a clinic, ministering to a small congregation such as my home church.

But hopefully, hopefully, I can still take these fantasies with me. And drop a little taste into wherever I land.

It is a million years from year.

And miles to go before I sleep.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Conversation with myself, communion with God

On my walk today, I was quite dispirited. I am watching another mother's child die, through email and her blog. They upload pictures and I see the deterioration. She has a brain stem tumor and it's fatal. Her family is enjoying these last precious moments, living a lifetime in a matter of months. I call her Precious.

After Isaac was spared, did Abraham give any thought to the children who were not spared?

I walk on. Around and around and around the track. I do not feel that God intervenes, so I am not railing at God. I do not feel He saved Little Warrior. I feel that the system is what it is, and the system does what it does. No reason.

My heart hurts.

On my iPod, Cry for Help is playing. It is at that time that God joins me. He slips his hand in mine and we walk on, silently. Around and around the track.

God appears in different ways, as my imagination follows different paths, depending on the day or the circumstance. Today he looks kinda like your regular image of Jesus. Except he's wearing an Indian kurta set today. Hard to run in robes.

What if God Was One of Us comes on. He kind of smiles sideways at me. We've talked about this before. I know that he can be as frustrated with The System that is in place as I can be. But he knows that this is how it has to be. Free will and all.

A song from Next Stop Wonderland comes one. Have you ever been to Brazil? I ask him. He again looks sideways at me, with a look that, if he were not God, would be described as a smirk. Yeah, okay.

I don't speak the language of the song. What does it mean? He doesn't answer, as is his norm. He reaches over and pushes a button on my iPod to go to another track. He does this frequently. It would annoy me, coming from someone else, except he always goes to a good one.

It's Abba. He loves Abba for some reason, and I find Abba songs frequently popping up where I don't expect them.

Why now? Ah. Of course. Abba sang the songs, even when they didn't know English. They sang with emotion, even though they might not have known exactly what the words meant. Sometimes, the words aren't the important part. Just like this, whom I'm walking with. My imagination? The universe? The interdependentwebofexistenceofwhichwearejustonepartbutcanaccesswhennecessary?

"God" works.

I am getting to the end of my walk. The next song comes on. How Soon Is Now comes on. I swing my head around, startled.

I am the son
And the heir

God is ... giggling. After a second, I start laughing, too.

We walk off the track together, arms slung over each other's shoulders.

Stop at the nursery to pick up Little Warrior. God waits outside for me. When we come out, LW jabbering about her day, he stoops and kisses the top of her head. She's too busy trying to get to the water fountain to notice.

He walks with us out to the minivan. I get LW settled in her seat and turn to him.

"But ... Precious."

He wraps his arms completely around me and holds me close, his cheek resting on the top of my head. "I know," he says softly. He lets go and looks at me.

I give a nod into the minivan, asking if he wants to come home with us. He shakes his head no. He half-jogs back across the parking lot, and goes back inside. I think I saw a pick-up game of b-ball starting as we left.

And Little Warrior and I go home.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Back in Seminary

And feels like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Great class, last night. Christian Ethics. Great professor. Great classmates.

I am in the racial minority at this school. I count that as a good thing. It can feel good to not be yoked to unearned privilege.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

"Thank you for a wild Saturday night," he said, bending down ...

... and kissing me on the cheek. "Goodnight, Mom. And are you sure I shouldn't do some more homework?"

"It's 10:30, Boy! Go up to the playroom and sleep in front of a movie!"

A Wild Saturday Night for an 11 year old boy, in case you're wondering, involves watching Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide on Nick, dancing with one's parents and sisters to AME and Pentecostal gospel tunes* and watching old Weird Al Yankovic videos on YouTube.

Of the latter, The Boy and I have a special affinity. Especially when we found Weird Al's "The Night Santa Went Crazy." TRULY twisted. NOT for your younger believer children. PERFECT for a new middle-schooler. We laughed so hard. The Boy wrapped his arms around me, insanely chortling.

A Wild Saturday Night.


* Hey, I've got religion! "Well, you certainly didn't get it here!" (Old UU joke.)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Inclusion, Not Exclusion, The Answer

Buncha different posts on various topics has me thinking about how we should focus on what we include, not what we exclude.

Peacebang recently wrote, "My wish is that someday, even the most angry, Christian-suspicious Unitarian Universalists will be able to hear selections from the Bible, traditional Christian hymns, and the name of Jesus in sermons with just as peaceful a heart and steady blood pressure as they do hearing the poetry of Mary Oliver or segments from the Dhammapada."

She had comments turned off, which I completely understand. Sometimes, you just know what will provoke debate and sometimes, you're not in the mood for one. But had comments been open, I would have written something along the lines of "Amen, Sister," and that I'm going to use her post in my UU 101 class.

Over on Moxie Life, the author wrote about her church's Sunday speaker, who advised that, "we should not devolve into Humanism." Moxie goes on to explain that "We are proud to be Humanists. We do not see that as a de-evolutionary process. Granted, my anti-Christian stance would not be popular in most congregations, but at a UU Church I expect that there is an understanding that we are standing in the presence of Humanists."

I'm going with all of this, I swear.

Over on Philocrites, there were comments responding to a post about classism by talking about water ceremonies -- how classist they are, how bad people feel when others talk about the vacations they've taken, and how they should be abolished.

Which made me remember a post on the subject of Mothers Day, by Biddies in My Brain. I appreciated her post, because it was honest and raw and it affected what I said in the pulpit on Mothers Day. However, the quote from a friend of hers -- "... DON'T even THINK about bringing this celebration into the church. Not on my watch. I've held too many women in coffeehour who have wept and felt the pain of this day" made me say, really? Really? Does that mean that we should also get rid of child dedications?

And don't even get me started on the "we shouldn't have a Thanksgiving service" posts.

I think that the answer is inclusion, not exclusion. Have a Mothers Day service, but mention that you know this is a day of pain for some. The Bible is full of great, marvelous illustrations for your sermon. Don't get huffy because someone uses one. Humanists have given, and continue to give, wonderful contributions to our churches and I for one think that having the "opt-out" clause in the God column is a good choice to have, whether we take it or not. And our water ceremonies ... the time in which we say, "I left you, my friends, and traveled elsewhere. I saw new people and new things and I brought some of it back to share. Let us pool our combined experiences and rejoice that we are all back together." My contributions have usually included, "This is water from my hose where my kids played in the sprinkler" or "This is water from the hospital where our daughter was getting chemotherapy"; rarely have I had a vacation water, and when I did, it was never from someplace exotic.

We are not a selfish people. We Are Not. As such, we will not say, No, don't use Christian imagery, I am not a Christian. No, don't be a humanist, for I am not a humanist. Don't celebrate Mother's Day, I have no mother. Don't tell me about your vacation, I did not go on one.

Inclusion is the answer. To talk about the simple vacations and wide ranges of beliefs and all different kinds of philosophers and pain and sadness. To say, Here's another view of Thanksgiving and Do you know what your neighbor's kids did all summer, since their mother couldn't afford daycare?

To limit ... no. To expand ... yes.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Middle School Really IS Hell

LE has been quiet for a few days because my eldest has begun intermediate school. I am already threatening to pull him out and homeschool him, simply because of the workload. This is a straight A student who loved school, who now does homework from the time he arrives home, takes a break for dinner, goes back to homework, at 10:00 (11 last night), we tell him he has to go to bed, and he then gets up early the next morning to do more homework.

The Husband and I have been coaching him -- "Don't double check your work. Don't even worry about correct answers. Just rush through it as fast as you can." Is this really what we want to be teaching our kids?

I have a friend who says that after about 3 weeks, the workload tapers down. Something about "showing the kids how tough the teachers can be."

Yes. Because transitioning to middle school isn't difficult enough for a boy who could pass for a 5th grader with a locker under a boy who, I'm pretty sure, has begun shaving.