Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Confirm or Question ?

I've been thinking a good deal lately about how young people appropriate their faith. "Appropriate" in the Jesuit sense, meaning to lay claim to, to absorb as one's one, to make a part of one's being. Not in the more usual sense of to steal, or to attain exclusive possession of.

The subject has come up for a number of reasons. Some of them have to do with thoughts about my own stumbling entry into the mainline church as an adult and to discussions, such as part of the one over here, about how the church does or doesn't speak to contemporary young adults. Some of them have to do with the pervasiveness of springtime confirmation services and their attendant celebrations, and some with discussions I've had with my Orthodox Jewish students. Some have to do with questions about indoctrination versus invitation.

I think I'll approach my thoughts in reverse order to what I've laid out.

The question of indoctrination comes up because of the environment in which I teach. Most of our students have little contact with the world outside their Orthodox Jewish one. As a senior girl said to me a couple of years ago, after affirming that she has no friends who are not Jewish, "Where would I find them? I live in a Jewish neighborhood, go to a Jewish school, a shul, a Jewish summer camp, Jewish youth trips to Israel, participate in Jewish service work." At the same time, she and her friends were entirely in favor of the school retaining its nonJewish teachers, arguing emphatically that they needed the exposure to views and experiences other than their own.

Most of my own circle of friends made different choices with respect to the education and experiences of our children, choices having to do with diversity and pluralism. I can remember saying at one point, "If I hear the word 'diversity' one more time, I'm going to scream!" But it has been, despite my occasional frustration and disillusionment, one of my core values with respect to human interaction and engagement.

Is one approach superior to the other? Is either more or less doctrinaire? Is doctrinaire necessarily a bad thing? The answers are not so simple.

A couple of weeks ago I canvassed my eighth grade American History students about their knowledge of Judaic culture. They all know the stories of Genesis well, and the basics of the requirements of Jewish law. They all know when their celebrations (and they are numerous!) are, as well as the stories and mandates connected to them. They know about the Holocaust. They all speak, read, and write Hebrew. Three-quarters of them have been to Israel, most of them multiple times.

My own church's eighth graders are perhaps not so knowledgeable about Christian history and practice.

I think, I said to my student eighth graders, that you learn that your numbers are so small and your faith so at risk that, if you do not learn it and carry and pass it on, you risk the complete loss of something precious. That's exactly what we learn, said one of the girls. And I think, I went on, that mainline Christians do not have such a sense of potential loss; that we take for granted that what we call religion will always be there -- which, if you take a look at secular society and the current worshipping population in mainline churches, reflects something akin to oblivion.

Our lives, said the same girl, would be completely, 100%, different in every way if we were not Jewish.

I wonder, I mused later, if any Presbyterian eighth graders would make a parallel point. Would their lives be 100% different if they were not Presbyterian? Not Christian?

The discussions about young adults and the church have also caught my attention. My own three children, ages 22, 22, and 19, have had nothing to do with church for years, although not for want of trying on my part. Many of my close friends have young adult children whose last church stops were their own confirmation services. Many of my close friends, for that matter, are not church-connected. It's not important, it's not of interest, it's kind of a pain, it's not even real. And so I wonder whether there is anything in the emergent and postmodern church movements that might speak to any of them. As I begin to explore those movements, I don't find anything that isn't already alive in my own church, or that hasn't been articulated at some time in the past, perhaps by Benedict in the 500s in Italy or Julian in the 1300s in England or Ignatius in the 1500s in Rome or even some Protestants of the past few centuries. But I realize that my own children and many of their contemporaries would not know that, because they have cut themselves off from any exposure to worlds not immediately accessible to them.

I don't claim to know what, in a practical sense, changes people. My students are saturated by Judaism day in and day out; they don't change so much as grow. For my own children, a life of faith would require a big change although perhaps, probably, like me, they would go at it slowly. My entry into the church hasn't followed any path that you would read about in a book on church growth. No one invited my husband and me to church; we just decided to go. We didn't know that churches were supposed to have "programming." We just lucked into one that did because it was Methodist and looked like a French cathedral, which meant that it had 1500 members and a lot of said "programming." No one cross-examined us about our beliefs or imposed any kind of rigor upon us in the membership queue -- a process that I have subsequently been known to criticize as worse than lukewarm, but that was surely the only kind that might have enticed us beyond the front door. When my husband abandoned his participation in the church, I didn't feel beholden to any sense that family involvement was a requisite for my continued presence; I just concluded that if God called me to continue my journey, then that was the way it was. There was never any road to Damascus in my life; there was just always the next question, and then the next one.

I can only conclude that the same Mystery is at work in all the young people I know. God calls some of them through the day-in-day-out intensity of life in a religious school, where Hebrew is spoken in the hallway and nothing escapes the scrutiny of the Torah. Others hear the voice of God through a mainline Protestant process that seems to take itself, although surely not them, for granted, and perhaps it is in the reassurance of their own belovedness that the Spirit moves as an undercurrent. And for others, that same Spirit moves in ways that remain as yet completely unrecognizeable. There is no single path, no sole mandate, widening or narrowing toward encounter with God. For each of us there is simply the one that God provides. It is, in the end, always an invitation.

Still on Visual and Still in Glasgow

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More Visual: More Glass

Glasgow Cathedral.

How appropriate for this time of year.

And what a compelling thought: A palette of beauty and order from earth and sun and water as the first expression of human creativity.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Still On Visual

I should have posted this a couple of weeks ago. It's a portion of the Jamestown Window at the National Cathedral.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Spring Evening

Great Lakes Sunset

I have been writing yet another call-to-ministry essay. I don't feel much like writing anything else for awhile. I'm making a retreat (or an advance) to the solely visual.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Everything is Connected

Readers of my blog will recognize today's title as the phrase that I try to drum into the brains of my ninth grade world history students. Readers of Cynthia's blog may recognize that today's entry is inspired by her.

To start with, yesterday Cynthia wrote about a fall that left her stumbling around in pain and grateful for her phenomenal weight loss. I responded in kind by falling up some concrete steps (those damn flip flops!) at work later in the day. I was en route to proctor an AP exam for a student who had been ill last week, so I made a detour to the school nurse and spent most of the exam sitting with my legs stretched in front of me, ice packs on my right knee and left shin. I came home late in the afternoon and proceded to exchange my thunderstorm-precluded walk for laundry, dishes, and various other chores until about 6:00, when I collapsed in a shaking heap at the top of the basement stairs, my left upper shin suddenly swollen into a tight but rather expansive circle of burning misery. So much for going out to the movies with the Lovely Daughter, who spent rest of the evening bringing me large ice packs.

I then spent most of this morning lying around, surfing old blog entries and talking things over with the Lovely Daughter. As I looked back through the past three Mays of blogs, I was struck by how much of my life is intertwined with hers. Three years ago we were spending the night with a longtime and dear online friend in Rochester, visiting the University of Same, in preparation for the college application process. Two years ago I was photographing her activities at the Animal Protective League to help her out with the Powerpoint she was producing as her senior project presentation. A year ago we were down in the cemetery, looking for the Fox Family. And this year we stretched out on my bed, talking over her year and her plans for Prague next spring. She was disappointed to learn that my plans for seminary will prevent us from visiting her there, a reminder to me that Big Life Changes have unanticipated ripple effects. I have been required to note, many times over in the past few weeks, that a "yes" to one choice means an inevitable "no" to others. One obsession pushes others away.

And then she bounced back and brought in her laptop to show me the various websites she has located in the course of her research on the topic of summer jobs in England. I moaned and said, "I won't see you for six months!" She kept clicking and then she looked up and said, "Mom, are you really going to be one of those moms who objects to me staying abroad for the summer?"

"No," I said."

"That's my mom!" she grinned. "The mom who always says, 'Go!' "

And so we talked about parenting philosophies, and the importance of exploring the world, and spending time in other states and countries, and what a pleasure it would be to have her best friend from Oregon spend a few days here before they leave for Prague, and how she could connect with her North Carolina camp counselor friends in England, and whether I could find a really, really cheap ticket to somewhere in the Czech Republic, and whether she could find a Czech class or tutor somewhere around here this summer.

And I did not mind at all that I had banged up my leg and that it was raining outside and that I did not have the slightest desire to move from the bed.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Five, i.e. Procrastination

Today's Friday Five from the RevGalBlogPals:

1. Have you ever successfully quit a bad habit, or gotten a good habit established? Tell us about how you did it.

I quit smoking twice. Both times, I just stopped, and the second was at least 25 years ago.

2. "If only there were a 12-step program for book purchasing addicts!"

3. Share one of your healthy "obsessions" with us.

Walking. I walk at least three miles most days and I am restless and unhappy when I can't fit it in.

4. Share the habit of a spouse, friend or loved one that drives you C-R-A-Z-Y.

My husband and I have been married a very very very long time, and we have never had any set concept about who does what. The person who cares about it ~ whether it's window washing or getting the taxes to the accountant or making a meal or cleaning up the kitchen ~ does it. As a consequence, the Husband of many many many years usually does the vacuuming, and I usually put the vacuum-and-tangled-up-cord-lying-in-wait-at-the-foot-of-the-stairs away, after glaring at it for a few days. Right now I am fuming over the tangled-garden-hose-lying-in-wait-at-the-foot-of-the-back-porch-stairs, since I was not the one who cleaned up and mowed the back yard last week-end.

5. "I'd love to get into the habit of eating something healthy in lieu of chocolate."

Bonus: What is one small action you might take immediately to make #5 a reality?

That might just be too overwhelming for early morning contemplation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Who ARE You?

I have taken this quiz a zillion times, and I always find myself labeled Emergent/Postmodern, which for the life of me I cannot figure out. I guess it's all pretty accurate, except for the (poorly punctuated) sentence that reads, "You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well."

The fact that it literally pains me to see that comma in the place of the semicolon in the above sentence -- an anguish-inducing problem on a par with the repeated misuse of "apostrophe s" on the internet -- should be a clue. I am hopelessly in love with older forms of church, and I think that we in the postmodern world would do well to educate ourselves on the their significance and timeless relevance before we lose something precious. I do not eschew contemporary innovations (except for some of what is, oddly enough, identified as music), but there seems to be a bad case of either-or going around today, no doubt fueled by a media that seems incapable of nuance and educates us accordingly.

Now that I think of it, the implications that spirituality is somehow a function and/or progenitor of the emergent/postmodern movement and that relationship and dialogue are more contemporary than crusades and altar calls are also rather baffling. Spirituality, relationship, dialogue -- all have been honed in the ancient practices of lectio divina and spiritual direction, practices which constitute major elements of my own religious life. The tent revival crusade and altar call, rather than the practices of dialogue and relationship, constitute modern developments; postmodern practices have leapfrogged back over them to recover rather than to create anew.

Hmmm. Maybe I am emergent/postmodern after all ~ in the third century sense.


You scored as Emergent/Postmodern, You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Neo orthodox


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Roman Catholic


Classical Liberal




Modern Liberal


Reformed Evangelical




Try this link.
created with

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Church Music

There's been some online discussion recently of church music; specifically, pipe organ music.

Having spent six years in religious (Catholic and then Protestant) schools where music permeated our lives and choral instruction was mandated, I am an unrepentant fan of the classical choral and organ repetoire, as well as of most other kinds of music. (We can delete from the list the twang of country and western -- although, hey, some of that is on my Brokeback Mountain soundtrack and it's fine -- and the contemporary praise music that is apparently seeping into our churches, but otherwise I'm good to go).

It seems that many churches feel compelled to go all out one way or the other insofar as the traditional/contemporary spectrum is concerned, and I am coming to understand how fortunate we are in our church to benefit from a music director who is a brilliant and well-trained organist full of enthusiasm for learning and teaching music representing all eras, cultures, and instruments (and a gifted educator of children and young people as well -- my daughter's years of participation in school, college, and Famous Orchestra children's choruses are entirely her doing).

Herewith, this morning's music, all selected with an eye toward its having been Confirmation Sunday for the eighth graders:

Uyai Mose/Come All You People
-- a Zimbabwean/John Bell combination (I can't find a good link but here are some of the lyrics)(and here is a link which credits the arrangement to a Roger Wesby, so who knows?),

a traditional (perhaps pre-Christian?) Kyrie and a traditional (early early early Christian) Gloria,

The Summons
~ a 1987 John Bell/Iona song,

a traditional 16th and 17th century Doxology (with inclusive language printed in the bulletin but used by few in the congregation),

Lord of the Dance, written in 1963, sung to the 19th century Shaker Simple Gifts tune, and one of our favorites.

The accompaniment this morning was all pipe organ, with the exception of piano for The Summons.

And further, on the subject of music: this morning we wrapped up our year of Adult Education on the theme of Practices of Faith, in the context of which we devoted three Sunday mornings this spring to The Practice of Singing Our Lives. Our own music director presented a class on her (expansive) philosophy of church music, and we welcomed a speaker on African-American sprituals and another on Gregorian chant. Musical expression is so integral to our congregational life that we couldn't imagine a year-long series on religious practice without addressing its power and vitality and variety.

And this from someone who can't string two notes together!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Icy Feet

I am getting cold feet about going to seminary. Not just cold feet. Icy feet. Ice CUBE feet.

This past week I looked up some material about the stage of confirmation in the discernment process as articulated by Ignatius. Not surprisingly, what I read indicates that recognizing the obstacles and challenges ahead is a sign of balance and good health, and is probably a sign of confirmation in itself.

I am changing my Whole Life. I am going to live somewhere else a lot of the time, with people I haven't met yet. There will be Major Money Issues. There will be transportation issues. My children are grown, but I am always Their Mom. The gutter is still hanging dizzily from the front corner of the house.

As I watch people come into school to interview for my job, I know that I have lost my mind. All of these people want these hard-to-get teaching jobs, and I have resigned mine. My students, since I am leaving, are full of affection and warmth. And I feel irrationally protective of them. I watch some of the tryout teachers and I think, No. I did not bring them this far for that.

I am going to a Presbyterian seminary in the Reformed tradition and to a training program in spiritual direction in the Catholic tradition. My entire religious life has been like that, always balancing the tensions and promises of difference. I recognize it as one of God's greatest gifts to me, but it's not the easiest one to embrace. I imagine it's going to become more difficult for awhile.

And then it comes. There's always a metaphor lurking out there, if you wait long enough.

I spent the summer I turned twelve at a camp on Torch Lake in the northern reaches of Michigan, up by Traverse City and Charlevoix. Torch Lake is one of the coldest lakes EVER. It is probably about 33 degrees. (OK, so I exaggerate. But it's really cold.) And when you are a camper, you go swimming twice a day -- a lesson in the morning and a free swim in the afternoon.

One of our favorite things to do was to swim out to the raft, some ways out from the main dock, so that we could jump into the fourteen feet of water out there. Once you reached the raft and sat in the sun for awhile, you didn't really want to jump back into that icy water, but you did want to, too, because you could force yourself down to the sandy bottom of the lake and see that the water was absolutely clear. Even at fourteeen feet, it was like being in a chlorinated swimming pool -- blue and clear.

I haven't thought about those afternoons in Torch Lake for a long, long time. But there they are, just when I need to know that you have to withstand the cold to reach the clarity of vision. Cold feet are just what you need.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Valhalla! (Just for Fun)

I was wandering around the internet tonight and re-discovered this on Cynthia's blog. It was a hit last spring when I was studying Viking legends in a medieval history class, and I still love it.

It's the perfect blend for the history-obsessed cat lover who can be transported instantly back in time by Stairway to Heaven.

The hammer of the gods as wielded by helmeted kitties will get you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

You Never Know

Ten years ago this summer, our family and one other -- one of my best friends, her husband, and their son, who was best friends with one of our boys -- headed west for a joint trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. We had one of those Best Times Ever -- rafting and horseback riding and long hikes away from the summer crowds and fancy evenings in Old Faithful and Grand Teton Lodges and late nights walking the geyser boardwalks under a full moon. Kids and adults all thoroughly enjoyed each other and every day that we had. Both families have been through some rough, rough times in the years since, and I think that we all hold fast to the memory of that trip.

One of our Very Best Discoveries was a little lake with a family of nesting trumpeter swans. I don't know how many times our family had listened to E.B. White read The Trumpet of the Swan as we made long distance drives, and to have found a lonely pond in Montana with swans and cygnets just as he describes it was a dream come true.

And then one of the Very Best Things happened: our friends' son asked about the birding guide jammed into the back of my jeans. I pulled it out and showed him how a bird guide works: how the birds are portrayed in evolutionary order so that closely related families appear together, and how the paintings are created to highlight identifying features, so that birds that look much alike can be distinguished from one another. He was immediately captivated, so much so that I bought him a bird book of his own and listed 20 birds on the inside front cover as a challenge for his future travels.

What did I know?

He turns 22 and graduates from Cornell University this month, no doubt with many honors and with more ornithological field work behind him than most graduate students experience in several years of further education. Earlier tonight he emailed me an article from the Ithaca paper about some of his latest exploits, an article which includes this paragraph:

"Many birders start young, BW said. He had his first birding experience at 12 on a vacation in Wyoming, when a family friend handed him a field guide and he identified a Clark's Nutcracker when it flew across the trail. He was hooked. He chose Cornell because it has one of the top ornithology programs in the world."

His email relays the following:

" for that list of birds you wrote in the front of the field guide, I have only one left to see--Greater Flamingo (although I've never seen Swallow-tailed Kite in the U.S.--"just" in Ecuador). I'll let you know when I spot a wild flamingo."

I am almost speechless with pride. Way to go and Happy Graduation, BW!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Things To Do, Small and Large

1. Buy new stamps.

2. Order Lovely Daughter's college transcript to prove that she is in fact insured for the removal of her wisdom teeth later this summer.

3. Teach senior (Orthodox Jewish) girls' class on Christianity tomorrow.

4. Help son find reputable training program so that he can teach English in Europe. Or somewhere.

5. Buy more Pedialite and Gatorade. (Husband got it. Daughter probably will. Guess it wasn't psychosomatic after all.)

6. Attack mound of paperwork piled between seminary and me: Never mind, you don't want to know.

7. Think about making a doctor's appointment.

8. Make an 8-day retreat
here ~ yippee! ~ in August.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day Prayer

I began a long and rambling entry early this morning about my inadequacies as a mother. And then I ran into a friend at church and we laughed and commiserated over our mutual and apparently profound deficiencies in that particular arena of our lives. And then I went into a class where I was verbally reminded of God as Mother. And then I went for my first walk as my restored and mostly healthy self and was visually reminded of God as Mother. And then words like "inadequate" and "deficient" no longer seemed appropriate at all.

It's called a Red Buckeye Tree.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Flattened Again

OK, I give in. I am going to have to go and see an actual real live doctor in person. Probably more than one of them, and none of them will be Christina or McDreamy. I am just emerging from another 36 hour bout of the let-me-die-soon-and-get-this-over-with intestinal scourges. I cannot for the life of me figure out what is going on, but this makes three times in the last eight months that my usually ridiculously energetic self has been completely flattened and limited in its travels to the fifteen feet or so between bed and toilet.

On the plus side, I learned that the intricacies of AP testing can be managed entirely without me (well, almost -- there were only four or five carefully timed phone calls: the answer sheets go there, the pink and green sheets go there, the sealed test booklets go there, the little white booklets go there, and NO THEY MAY NOT LEAVE THE ROOM), and that the Lovely Daughter is utterly calm and competent (Sweetie, I am reaching a stage of complete dehydration-induced loopiness and I think you'd better go get some Pedialite, and while you're at it, you need to find my insurance card because I might have to go to the ER again).

On the negative side, I watched part of the 20/20 show last night on The Power of Faith, which served to remind me why I watch such shows only when I am too sick for other options. Will someone tell me why Diane Sawyer, who seems like a perfectly intelligent person, becomes so breathlessly incredulous and utterly loopy herself when asking questions about life choices outside her own realm of experience? The only explanation I can come up with is that she, too, was suffering post-intestinal flu dehydration and, therefore, should not have attempted anything requiring normal brain function.

My plans for today involve something highly ambitious, like taking a shower. And staying away from the television.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


We picked her up at the airport at midnight, that girl we hadn't seen since she went back to college in January.

Today I ran home for lunch after FOUR POINT FIVE HOURS of AP exam proctoring and there she was, blonde hair and fluffy white skirt and bright pink t-shirt, here, home, in our house.

Made my day. My week. My life.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Spiritual Direction, Jesuit Style

There are some things, he said, some things that you need to start thinking about as you prepare to go to seminary.

And he set out a few of them, which is one of the very best things he does, providing a simple and yet sturdy scaffold for the endless meanderings of my cluttered and disorderly thought processes.

The last one is, What are you going to read? What are you going to take with you? In a year filled with church history and Biblical texts and an ancient language that will prove troublesome for you, what are you going to read for yourself?


Poetry, I have finally realized. Poetry is what I am going to need. Maybe I will read the entire English and American canon of poetry over the next three years and carry it all into the pulpit with me when the time comes.

I went to the bookstore and looked at the paltry few shelves dedicated to poetry. Old friends whom I have not considered in years and years, Auden and Yeats and Williams and centuries of others. Old friends, Berryman and Plath, with whom I feel no affinity at the moment, but who had something to say to that college girl I once was. New names, Mary Oliver from my daughter's English teacher and Wendell Berry from my father and Billy Collins from this Jesuit, who has pushed novel after play after poem at me over the past few years.

Poetry it is. George Herbert and Emily Dickinson and I are going to seminary.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Images of Spring

Neighbor's Tulip

Lakefront Ferns

Saturday, May 05, 2007

On the Waterfront

It was lovely at sunrise and it's clear and sunny now that I have to clean house, but naturally it was cloudy, gray, windy, and COLD for the two-hour period I spent down on the Great Lakefront this morning. I decided on the spur of the moment to take part in an organized bird walk though an area usually closed to the public, an old landfill gradually being reclaimed for Mother Nature. A number of people showed up without binoculars; not sure why they were there. But, for those of us who could see, a May morning is a wonderful thing:

Palm and yellow and
chestnut-sided warblers

White-throated and white-crowned and song and savannah sparrows

Veery and hermit thrush

Rose-breasted grosbeaks

Great egrets and red-breasted mergansers and cormorants and lesser scaup

And the guide said he could hear orchard and northern orioles -- not a skill I share.

The dogwood in our front yard is in bloom. There are a lot of sad-looking azaleas and magnolias around, victims of that Easter blizzard, but the survivors among the flowering trees are making themselves known.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Same Day, Another View

When I open my eyes in the middle of the night, which I do because restless wakefulness is the rule rather than the exception at this point in life, the full and silver moon beams through the bedroom window.

And when I go for a walk late in the day, the brilliance of the yellow warbler's feathers against the gray twigs of the still-barren woods brings the world to life.

Is anything else so yellow?

Coming Through!


The best two weeks of the year: the birds are heading north.

Last night it was pretty late by the time I got outside and the only sightings of note were a couple of hen blue-winged teal.

But one of the advantages of working where I do is an early Friday afternoon dismissal, which means that I was able to spend two hours at the Little Lakes as afternoon turned into evening.

Ruby-crowned kinglets and blue-gray gnatcatchers.

A green heron flew overhead. A great blue waded into the lake up to his neck, so that for a few moments he looked like a bizarrely awkward and strangely long-necked goose floating on the water.

Yellow and black and white and yellow-rumped and palm warblers.

Downy and red-bellied woodpeckers.

One remaining teal.

Song sparrows and chipping sparrows and a lone swamp sparrow busily feeding along the creek.

And the ubiquitous Canada geese and mallards and
wood ducks. They're all here to stay. I haven't seen any ducklings yet, but several families of geese are wandering around -- includng one pair with four young parading around the mall near Wal-Mart yesterday.

They would probably be happier at the Little Lakes.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Just Saying

Today the 10th graders burst into American History and told me that, "Mrs. K (one of their Judaics teachers) says we should ask you about this because you love to answer these questions!"

"And what's this one?" I asked.

Oh, it turned out to be about the Trinity. An easy one. Not.

"What, exactly?"


"We have had this discussion a million times. And Mrs. K knows that we are not polytheists. I know that sometimes you guys think we are, but we aren't."

Well, no, that wasn't it exactly. It was more, well, they had been discussing the rationale behind the refusal of many Jews to enter a Christian place of worship. I had always thought it was the crucifix, central to most Christian sanctuary design, that was such a problem. But no, they said, it's that Christian churches often have pictures or statues of Jesus and, since the Trinity smacks of polytheism and idol worship to them, and they can't worship idols, they can't step inside a place where idols might be found.

Please don't be offended, they said.

"I'm not offended. I keep telling you how important it is for us to discuss these things. How else will we understand each other?"

So, they persisted, what does it mean, three-in-one?

And we talked about the Trinity. And they told me about the Jewish concept of the 13 aspects of the Mercy of God. And I told them about the 99 names for God in Islam. And we agreed that maybe there are some similarities in the ways that the monotheistic religions try to understand God.

And having exhausted that topic for the time being, we moved on to the subject of women in ministry. And Catholicism and the sacraments and the Christian concept of redemption and the entire idea of forgiveness and what Christians really think about Israel.

We never did get to pre-World War I American imperialism.

There are some things I am really going to miss. I'm just saying.

The Trail

Our library, where the computer lives and breathes on an old Workbench dining table, is next to our bedroom. The library would be a wonderful room if it were picked up for a home decorating magazine photograph: original mahogany bookcases with glass doors surround the fireplace, the newer bookshelves installed by the previous owner are oak stained dark to match the mahogany, the windows overlook the front, and there is a pocket door between the library and our bedroom. However, as a well-used room, it is NOT suitable for a magazine photograph.

I am going to clean it up over the next couple of days, now that the dreaded paper on the Muslim hajj is complete. For posterity, however, a litany on the trail leading from computer to bedroom:

A stack of books on the hajj, a J Jill catalog, a camera, hand lotion, two colors of nail polish, an empty glass, a stack of papers and printouts from, the local paper's editorial page from April 7, and the same from last Sunday, which argues that Hip-hop feminism is not an oxymoron. I have only just noticed the presence of "moron" within the latter word.

A hugely thick notebook containing all the materials from the art history course I took on the Renaissance two years ago -- out because one of my students just did a PowerPoint on Michelangelo -- and one of the notebooks from one of my Ignatian spirituality classes -- out because there's always something.

Hairdryer, curling iron, scrapbook from family trip to Italy which we should have taken AFTER the Renaissance art history course. Guess I will have to go back.

Rebels of Ireland: The Dublin Saga
, which I am finally going to get to read; a magazine from the organization assisting with our church's sort of reverse-mission trip (learn together as opposed to impose religious faith) to Nicaragua this summer, on which my decidedly non-religious husband will be a participant due to his interest in fair trade issues (I got Iona last summer; he gets Nicaragua next month); Yiddish Civilization: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation; and the ever-scintillating State Academic Content Standards for Social Studies.

A couple of other books on (generic) pilgrimmage, the Oprah magazine (how did THAT get here ?!), running shoes, clogs, Tevas, and the blanket lying in a heap on the floor because -- guess what ?! -- someone in this house can no longer sleep under a blanket.

We have made it all around the bed to: Time, Harper's, Qur'an, Bible, more novels, more Ignatian stuff, and an orange highlighter.

One of the more daunting aspects of the Gannet-Goes-to-Seminary Project involves the sale of this house and the downsizing we so desperately need. There is enough stuff in these two rooms alone to completely fill any of the condos and townhouses we looked at last week-end.

Well, I wasn't planning on a kitchen anyway.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Two Years

In a week, the Lovely Daughter will be home from college. I CAN'T WAIT.

Every once in awhile I look back at previous blog entries. Especially on mornings like this, when I am completely written out (that paper on the Muslim hajj? -- DONE! A day early!) Two years ago today, the Lovely Daughter was a senior in high school. Now she's almost halfway through college, hanging out in west coast airports and doing spring break service projects in San Francisco. Life can be so good at 19: