Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Middle of the Night Miscellaneous

~ One more quiz (tomorrow) and a final on Thursday and a full quarter of Hebrew will be behind me. I am SO grateful that one of my last summer CPE buddies who goes to a different seminary has shown up for this summer Hebrew here. We make an excellent study team.

~ The Lovely Daughter has a job interview tomorrow. Let's hope. As far as I can tell, approximately half of her friends are employed and half are not. Movement from the latter group into the former would be a good thing.

~ I have become addicted to The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which I can watch here but probably not at home. The tv switch from whatever to whatever has left us a one-tv family. No one seems interested enough in tv to do whatever needs to be done to change that situation. I suppose that if it interfered with my other addiction ~ early morning re-runs of The West Wing ~ I might drum up some motivation.

~ Michael Jackson's death has demonstrated to me that I am a complete moron when it comes to contemporary pop culture. What can I say? I think I just always thought that all his songs sound the same (which the Lovely Daughter says is true), so I never learned any of them. I was quite surprised when the Lovely Daughter filled me in on the Billie Jean lyrics. I did hear an interview on NPR to the effect that he was a dazzlingly innovative musician and performer. What do I know? Very little, apparently. Well, that's nothing new.

~ I can't think of a single interesting thing to convey. Silence is such a useful option sometimes!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Music of Our Lives (Friday Five)

A very ! fun Friday Five from Mary Beth at Rev Gals!

The sad news of Michael Jackson's untimely death has me thinking about music and its effects on us - individually, as cultures, as generations. Let's think about the soundtracks of our lives...

1) What sort of music did you listen to as a child - this would likely have been determined or influenced by your parents? Or perhaps your family wasn't musical...was the news the background? the radio? Singing around the piano?

Perry Como, Lawrence Welk . . . my plan was to become a beautiful singer named Peggy with short curly hair and full skirts on the Lawrence Welk show.

2) Going ahead to teenage years, is there a song that says "high school" (or whatever it might've been called where you lived") to you?

Junior high: Yesterday, Satisfaction, California Girls, California Dreamin'.

High School: Revolution, Fire and Rain, It's Too Late, Both Sides Now, the entire Crosby, Stills and Nash Album, anything by Laura Nyro.

College: Layla, Maggie.

Law School: Hotel California.

3) What is your favorite music for a lift on a down day? (hint: go to www.pandora.com and type in a performer/composer...see what you come up with!)


4) Who is your favorite performer of all time?

The Beatles, the Stones, James Taylor, Joni Michell, Paul McCartney.

5) What is your favorite style of music for worship?

Traditional choral music, preferably as arranged (and sung, if I could get there) by the choirs of places like Kings' College or St. Paul's Cathedral.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sarah's List

This post is not exactly about Hebrew.

As a small group of us were winding up our tutoring session with our professor in the library this afternoon, I flipped idly through the new issue of America magazine and found
this poem by Benedictine Kilian MacDonnell.

As it happens, I am also finishing up a paper on
a book on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises as experienced by women, and so I am giving some thought to feminist critique of Scripture, of the Exercises, of the Christian tradition in general.

I have read Scripture and church history and tradition through a feminist lens for as much of my adult life as I have read such things, and so I am always translating, in my head at least, narratives and essays and such into perspectives other than those which appear explicitly on the page. However, I am no poet, and this man's (!) interpretation of Sarah's experience, at least as it is presented in Genesis, is far more evocative than anything I could write:

. . . And who consulted me
when you bid him burn my son
on Mount Moriah? Still I exaggerate?

. . .

Why did I not see light in your light?
Why did your truth not set me free?

As a mother who has recently lost a son and is now studying Hebrew via the story of the binding of Issac, I have had much occasion over the past two-plus weeks to consider Sarah and her plight.

Of course, we do not know, really, do we? The writers of Genesis 22 did not elect to present the story from her vantage point. Perhaps she did see light and truth, albeit differently from their presentation in the narrative of the journey to Mount Moriah.

Did her husband's decision to follow God's instructions kill her? Silence her? Or did she have some things to say? My experience of the last ten months leads me to believe that she had a great deal to say.

We will never know.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I guess I will stop talking about Hebrew until it and the next six weeks are over. I'm sure that my whining is intolerable, especially to those who have found a deeply spiritual experience in their study of such a beautiful language of God's, a language of such cadence and elegance.

Here's my final (until after July 30, if ever) comment:

I just took a look at the first word of Genesis 22. ("And it happened . . .".) I've probably looked at, dissected, tried to absorb it and all of its three parts maybe 200 times in the last couple of weeks.

I looked at it for maybe the 201st time, and I didn't have the faintest idea what it was.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Moments at the Hairdresser's

I pretty much hate going to salons. If I get my hair trimmed twice a year, I've really made an effort, and the thought of a manicure or pedicure makes my skin crawl. So when I say that I just went to a new place and had several inches of hair cut off, that represents a big deal for me.

The stylist asked me if I were going out tonight. I chuckled and said "No," going out not being something I do these days. But then, thinking that he might have plans, I said that I hoped that the dreary weather would clear up and asked if he were going anywhere.

He's going to the Gay Pride Parade, so he, too, hopes it clears up.

For the first time in the past two years, I found myself hoping I wouldn't be asked what I do. For the first time ever, I felt a strong desire to distance myself from a public role in connection with my faith, because I did not want the young man cutting my hair to associate me with anti-gay rhetoric or views.

As it turned out he did ask me, and then told me a little about his religious upbringing by his Catholic and Baptist parents, and so we had a bit of an interesting conversation.

I did discover, however, that there is one area of unbridgeable distance between us.

I asked him whether he had always wanted to do hair. "Oh, yes," he said. "My mother used to take me to the salon with her all the time, and I thought it was so wonderful and glittery and glamorous!"


The Lovely Daughter and a friend are headed out for the evening and tell us that they're going to Pride. I mention my morning conversation. "Half the groups in the Pride Parade are church groups," offers her friend.

I Stand Corrected

2:15 Arrived

2:20 Appointment

2:30 Changing

2:45 Outta There

Momentary Humor: A woman stopping by the desk for, apparently, something else:

A mammogram? Girl, I'm 80 years old and they've been all dried up for a l-o-n-g time!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

In the Some Nerve Department

Just picked up a voice mail reminding me of my mammogram scheduled for tomorrow.

Please try to arrive a few minutes early.

If you are late, we may have to reschedule your appointment.

Anyone wanna lay claim to EVER having waited less than half an hour past the appointed time for a medical appointment?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jerusalem, We Have a Problem

I think I've written about his before: I got an A in Calculus, long, long ago, by memorizing the textbook.

I never had the faintest idea what Calculus was about.

Do you think that I could memorize every single letter and syllable in Genesis 22 and get through Hebrew that way?

I keep thinking of that scene in Apollo 13 where they dump the stuff on the table and say, "This is what you have to work with to get them back to earth."

I have to get through 6 weeks and 1 day more.

Of course, the main thing the astronauts had was people who wanted them to survive.

I have that.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Today's Hebrew Moment

So. (You might need to know a little Hebrew, or at least a little about Hebrew, to get the humor.)

We are learning Hebrew by dissecting Genesis 22 (the story of the binding of Issac) syllable by syllable. Twelve hours of class thus far; 1.5 verses.

I finally realized that I need to work ahead in the workbook as much as I can before class, so that I do not have to sit there in abject dismay as everything flies right by me. This way, I've gotten about half the material beforehand and I mostly know what I don't understand. (Not, as it turns out, always.)

This morning I made it through class and then spent a couple of hours with Long Suffering Professor. At first there was a small group of us, The Lost The Baffled and The Utterly Confused, but eventually our numbers dwindled to just me.

I had a few more questions, and I pulled out the copy of the passage that I had photocopied and enlarged on 8.5"x14" paper so that I could see all the little dots and dashes, and placed it on the table.

"You've got it upside down," said LSP.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Yesterday's Hebrew Moment

I went out for a very long walk, Hebrew flash cards with me. At one point, I realized that I had made a mistake with either the spelling or the pronunciation of a word ~ either one side or the other of the card made no sense.

As I walked through the park on the far side of the Little Lakes where many families were having picnics, I noticed a woman wearing a long skirt and long-sleeved t-shirt chasing after a preschooler. Ha! "Are you Jewish?" I asked her. (Obviously; it was 80 degrees out.) "Yes," she said. "Oh, could you help me with this?"

She was very gracious and assured me that I was right about being wrong.

Good thing I live here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Summer Hebrew

So here's the thing:

The professor, who could not possibly exhibit more patience, explains the material slowly and clearly.

"So now you know [whatever it is]," he says calmly.

And some people, perhaps most people in the class, actually do.

I spend two hours with him later in the day; he basically re-teaches the entire morning's class to me.

I spend two more hours with the tutor and a couple of my classmates. She re-teaches most of the class -- my third time through in one day.

I spend hours with the workbook, reading and re-reading and slowly, slowly, slowly making sense out of the material, enough that I can understand it when I read it and practice it for the zillionth time, but not enough to have knowledge independent of the text. Not enough to be able to reconstruct or explain any of it.

I try the practice review in the text. I cannot answer a single question.

You know, I get it. I understand the value in being able to read, if only for a brief few months in time, some of the Scriptural text in the original.

But there are so many other things I want to learn that would be of so much more value to me in ministry ~

And all the time that would go to them is being devoted instead to a language that, if my experience with Greek is any indication, I will have completely forgotten a year from now.

If I were not so close to the finish line, I would seriously think about giving up.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Next Little Hill

A year ago I would have viewed what lies ahead as an insurmountable mountain but, you know, one's perspective changes.

I'm back at seminary and about to start summer Hebrew ~ two quarters of classes crammed into eight weeks. People frequently offer the opinion that it will be easier than doing it the usual way, since presumably the language is one's sole focus. Perhaps, if one is 23. And that view discounts the reality that I spent about 35 hours a week on Greek when that language was the bane of my existence. (My three other courses got occasional nods.) I would have to triple the time to accomplish the same thing this summer, and I'm not sure that there are 105 hours in a week available for study!

This morning I prayed with last Tuesday's Pray-As-You-Go, because I like the music. The meditation suggests attentiveness and appreciation toward the gifts of others, as opposed to arrogance about one's own. I think that I will have ample opportunity to engage in that particular spiritual practice today!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

God Our Mother and Father

God our Mother
birthing new life
through chaos

God our Father
building hope from
the dark night

God our Sister
comfort us in
times of sorrow

God our Brother
guide us through the
storms, calm water

God of the Night
brighten our dark
days, warm light

God of the Day
show us the way,
love as you

God, mystery
One in Three and
Three in One

Parent, child, friend
Comforter, Grace
Spirit, Love

Lover, One, All
Infinite One

Sun, Moon, and Stars
Earth, Wind, and Fire
Water, Life.

In Your Image
Abide in us
We in You

In your Image
In Your image


This prayer is up on the RevGals site this morning, thanks to Mompriest.

The first verse completely captivated me.

Advent before last, one of my friends preached a sermon in the seminary chapel in which she reflected upon that period in life when she had been able to sit and watch little bumps in her belly as the new life forming within her stretched and pounded away. I remember leaning over to whisper to another friend how grateful I am that we live in a time in which an Advent sermon might reference the experience of impending motherhood with the authority of someone who has lived it.

(I am feeling a little sensitive about that issue right now as many of the Catholic blogs I read are posting photographs of ordinations of deacons and priests, it being that time of year. It is so ~ um, would disconcerting be a polite choice of words? ~ to see line after line of exclusively male ordinands.)

Anyway, away from women and men and human motherhood and fatherhood and back to God.

I love the words and imagery of the creation stories in Genesis and the Gospel of John. I am entranced by idea of God speaking creation into existence. I love to contemplate breath and sound forming physical, see-able, touchable, taste-able things. (I would say smell-able but, as some of you know, I have no sense of smell and therefore that particular aspect of creation is lost on me.) Think of the imagery: God spoke hummingbirds into existence, and the ocean, and roses, and us. Also, of course, mosquitos, which only goes to show that there is something to the arguments about the inscrutability of the Creator.


at this time of my life, when chaos and sadness and disappointment and rage and bewilderment predominate, when I am trying so hard to envision how new life and creativity and energy emerge from devastation,

God our Mother birthing new life through chaos

is a far more satisfactory image.

If you've given birth, then you probably remember how messy and chaotic and frightening and powerful it is.

The birth of a child and the death of a child seem to be about the same in some ways.

How wonderful to have this prayer this morning.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Ten Things

1. The beginning of the third week, and I finally feel pretty much better after getting really, really sick in Oregon.

2. Going to spend the next three days plowing through my last paper (on which, thankfully, I had had the foresight to request an extension) so that I can maybe enjoy at least one long week-end (instead of the 10 days originally planned) before . . .

3. Summer Hebrew starts a week from today. Two quarters worth jammed into 8 weeks, and we all know how gifted (far from it) I am in ancient languages. Kiss this summer good-bye, until . . .

4. Two months from today I will be on an 8-day silent retreat, back at Guelph. I am torn between apprehension in memory of having been on retreat when Chicago Son died and a longing for the silence, the river, the sunrises, the labyrinth, the wide open spaces, the prayer, and ~ did I mention the silence?

5. Gregarious Son is taking the LSAT next week. Too late for law school this fall, which is a very good thing in a life ~ all our lives ~ which will be filled with tumultuous memories at the end of the summer, but who knows what it may lead to later?

6. The Lovely Daughter is at home and has begun her job search in earnest. It's beyond wonderful to have her around.

7. The yard is looking nice. All cleaned up and some flowers in ~ quite a change from last year, when I rushed from seminary to Chicago to CPE and then was too steadily exhausted from those overnight on-calls to think beyond the occasional lawn-mowing job.

8. The house is a disaster. I'm hoping that we will get the guest room re-plastered and painted this summer. So far it has taken about two months to pull down a couple of lengths of wallpaper and clean up the plaster dust, so the re-do plan might be a bit too ambitious. I have no idea how people like Quotidian Grace actually build an entire house.

9. Also ahead this summer: movement toward candidacy status in the ordination process. I have about finished the six essays (thanks to help from a RevGal!) and meet with my Session in two weeks, my CPM at the beginning of July, and the Presbytery at the end of July. All Presby-speak for The Process.

10. I think a great deal about a comment my friend Julia left over on Desert Year some time ago: about how sometimes things happen that you think you cannot possibly survive, and yet somehow you endure and move forward. Apparently that is the case, at least most of the time for most of us. I wish it were true for all of us but, for those of us who are left, there is increasing energy and laughter and ~ each other.