Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Publication and Preservation

Even though I can get all the resources I need electronically, I occasionally cross the campus to the library.  I feel sorry for all those books, so neatly shelved, almost never checked out.  I do wonder how long the school (and schools across the country) will continue to dedicate themselves to the task of tending books that are never used.

I'm not talking about the censorship campaigns happening in parts of the country.  Those libraries that are being decimated have been in use.  I go to the physical library at my seminary, and I am almost always the only one in there who is not library staff.

A few weeks ago, I made this Facebook post:  "When I'm in the seminary library, I have to resist the temptation to check out the books that haven't been checked out in awhile (that is to say, most of them)--in part to make the books feel loved, in part so that they won't be culled, if the library is called upon to do such things."

I love the smell of the library, even though I know I'm smelling the slow, slow crumbling of books turning to dust.  I remember going to the library in my spare time in undergraduate school, sitting in the stacks, often on the floor, soaking in all sorts of wisdom.  I loved reading periodicals.  I thought I would do something similar in seminary, but so far, I don't.

Right now the books are protected because the space isn't needed for something else.  Teachers aren't fighting over classroom space.  We have an empty dorm that can be used for faculty offices.  There's no need to uproot the books.

I'm guessing that there are accreditation issues that also safeguard the books.  I know that it's not as simple as I'm sketching it here.

I've been sending out poetry submissions this morning, thinking about their passage in the world.  Will they find a place between covers in an old-fashioned book or periodical?  Why do I do this anyway?

In part, force of habit.  In part, because I'm still happy when a poem gets accepted.  In part because I still want to believe that poems that are published have some chance of preservation.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Interior and Exterior Castles

Yesterday was one of those days when I was in a strange mood, not necessarily bad or good, but just strange.  The day was book-ended by e-mails that I wrote, the old-fashioned kind that are more like letters, the kind that brings friends up to date with the pivots of the last month.  I had a video chat with a friend--sobering to realize that she came into my life when she took one of the best classes I've ever taught, the early Victorian Brit Lit class at Florida Atlantic University, a class of only English majors, who did all the reading and had riveting conversations about it.  It's sobering to realize because that was over 20 years ago.

In the afternoon, I had a video chat with my spouse.  In some ways, it was about the purpose of church, the purpose of preaching, social justice and charity.  We've been having this conversation for 40 years, and I'm happy to say we've finally resolved it all.  HA!  We will never resolve these issues, and there are days when I don't fully understand why we care at all.

My spouse was in one of those "the only kind of preaching that should come from the pulpit is THIS kind of preaching."  I was in a mood to remind him that the world is full of damaged souls who can't respond to that kind of preaching, that go out and transform society kind of preaching, because they need to know and hear and believe that God loves them, that they are valuable.  We weren't disagreeing, exactly, but I do feel we were exhausting each other.

Part of me felt snarly, because neither one of us is out there transforming society, doing justice, breaking the bonds of oppression.  I don't feel like I'm in a position to criticize others who are similarly sitting on the sofa, working on other projects, yet taking care in smaller ways.

And then I watched a lecture for World Religions class about Buddhism, which further scrambled my mood.  To clear my mind a bit, I went for a walk.  It was just at sunset, and I was happy to be reminded of how beautiful the light can be.  I watched the lights come on in houses that cost more than I will ever be able to afford.  I checked the moon; I know that Jupiter and Venus are about to be closer in the night sky than they will be again all year, but they weren't visible yet.  I kept walking, and as the sky got a smidge darker, I saw them, old friends of a different sort.

And just to make my mood even stranger, I came home and read this NYT Magazine piece about the COVID oral history project.  I ate some of my baguette, ate pricy cheese and olives, and thought about what a topsy-turvy time we're living in. 

Today I need to sit myself down and focus on some writing tasks.  I've done the fun ones, and now I need to get the Teresa of Avila paper done.  She's not my favorite, but we had a choice of 3 works, and I like the others even less; I am not spending one more minute of my life engaging with Jonathan Edwards, thank you very much.  It's this angry god theology that's got us in so much trouble--and I know if I write that kind of paper, my Church History professor will slam me for it.

So, onward to interior castles and beyond!

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Reviving History

I stayed up later than I meant to last night.  I started watching The Chosen a week ago, and I thought I'd just watch another episode last night before turning in--yep, three episodes later, I was still up.  I'm fascinated by this show:  by its approach to the familiar story of Jesus, by its production values, by the ways it leaves the Gospels yet stays true to them, by the way it shows us the larger context of Roman Palestine in a way that seems unique, by the way we see the differences among the followers.  What I'm trying to say is that the men look dirty when they would have been dirty in real life, that their clothes are raggedy, that they come from a variety of ethnicities, that the show feels real to me.  The background music is starting to annoy me, however, that mystical keening whenever there's a long shot of people on the move or a single person musing.

It's interesting to watch this show in the context of a religious revival that may or may not stay localized to a small school in Kentucky, Asbury University.  Two weeks ago, a friend wrote to tell me that she hoped that the revival happening at Asbury would spread to my campus, and that was the first that I had heard of it.  That small undergraduate school is very different from my seminary.  I'm pretty sure we would not be met with leniency by our professors if we decided to stay in chapel for two weeks instead of going to class and turning in work.  But perhaps I am jaded.

One of my fellow students went to Asbury.  I don't know her well enough to have a deep conversation about what she experienced.  By the time she went, thousands of others were there too, which would have changed the dynamic.

In the past week, I've noticed that more people are writing about the revival.  Nadia Bolz-Weber kept tuning into the live stream from the assembly:  

"But there is something in my soul which longs for what I am seeing on these live-streams. Or what I feel I am seeing.

So rather than make big stroke proclamations about what the Asbury Revival is or is not, I’m trying to just pay attention to what longing inside of me is being drawn up in buckets each time I tune in."

In an Opinion piece in The New York Times, Ross Douthat writes about revivals throughout the history of Christianity and concludes:  "And if you’re imagining a renewal for American Christianity, all the best laid plans — the pastoral strategies, theological debates and long-term trendlines — may matter less than something happening in some obscure place or to some obscure individual, in whose visions an entirely unexpected future might be taking shape."

Much like what happened to that original band of people who followed Jesus, the experience that The Chosen captures in such a captivating way.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Ancient Texts, Dry Bones

Yesterday was a wonderful day.  I did seminary writing of all sorts:  a more formal paper finished for my Queer Theology class, responding to classmates' discussion posts for World Religions class, and a less formal response to the week's material for Church History class.  I watched videos for class and did a bit of reading.  I did some piecing together of scraps of cloth into squares for my quilt.  I made dough for homemade pizza, and then I made homemade pizza.  I took a walk.

Today will be more of the same--hurrah!  There's a chance of snow throughout the day, but right now, the skies are clear.  I should probably go for today's walk sooner, rather than later.

I've already written a poem this morning, so I feel like I've won, even before I've started.  I was feeling a bit blah before the writing, devoid of ideas and directions.  So I turned to my file of abandoned lines and chose these two that were in the file just as you see them below:

She collects silk ribbons in a sea of colors

Ancient texts, vast deserts, ash, dry bones and wombs

I used the first line as the first line.  I didn't use the second line overtly in the poem that emerged, although it did shape my ideas.  I've written three stanzas, which may mean that the poem is done, or it may mean that more will come.

Today's seminary writing is not as much writing I look forward to:  a short paper on Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle for Church History.  I want to have a rough draft done by tomorrow.  I also want to start on both exegesis assignments this week-end:  one for the Luke class and one for the Women and the Preaching Life class.

But first, let me get that walk done, before the snow comes.  You might say, "Wait and go for a walk in the snow."  I am actually anticipating rain, not snow.  So let me get some exercise while the weather is decent, cold but clear.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Queer Theology, Quilting Theology, Theology of Aging

I have a Queer Theology paper due at 5 p.m. today.  I thought I was going to write something that explored the ways we perform gender/race/class, and how aging can impact that.  But then I thought that maybe I was writing two different papers.  They could be one paper, if it was a different kind of requirement.  But the paper is only supposed to be 600-700 words, and I was at 1,160 words yesterday afternoon, and I was far from finished.

I decided to create a new draft, one that excised the aging bits.  Late yesterday, I had created a quilting metaphor that I liked.  It asked what would happen if a quilt square rearranged itself--how would the quilter Creator respond? So I started a new draft to expand the quilting metaphor.

Now I may have 3 papers wrapped up into one.  I like the quilting metaphor, but I don't think it does what is required for this part of the paper (quoting the assignment here):   "With the remaining space in your paper, make your own argument that builds on the argument of the text.  What does the text allow you newly to say, or say anew?  What does it make you curious about, and what hypothesis might you venture in relation to that curiosity?  What’s the next frontier for the line of argument in the text, in your judgment?"

I've got about 400 words in which to do that.  I don't think the quilting argument says something new or goes to the next frontier, although it is intriguing.  It is an essay that is more in line with Queer Apologetics*, which is not what this class is exploring.

Let me excise a bit again.  Perhaps I can do more with economics and aging and the ways that our system is rigged and how theology offers an escape.  Hmm.

On to draft #3--but have no fear.  I'm not going to throw away the quilt paragraphs.  I may not use them in this Queer Theology paper, but I had too much fun writing them to toss them away.  Plus, there are future blog posts to write--they may show up here!

*I am using Apologetics in its classic sense, which is a justification or defense of, not apology for existence.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Ash Wednesday 2023

Sound travels in odd ways in this seminary apartment building.  Somewhere, someone has ambient music playing, the kind you might play if you were trying to block out other noise so that you could sleep.  I hear about every third note, and I find it oddly soothing, so much so that I haven't shifted to my usual morning routine of listening to episodes of various NPR shows that I've missed or the few podcasts that I follow.  I've heard the ambient music before, usually in the middle of the night, and it has lulled me back to sleep then.

Another odd fact of life in this apartment building this term:  we have had weekly water outages.  We get announcements in advance, and it's only for a few hours.  Yesterday was one of those outages, and so I took my shower very early, so I could go to the 7 a.m.  Ash Wednesday service at nearby St. Columba's Episcopal church.

I had planned to go to the grocery store after the service, but it occurred to me that I could go before the service if I left right after I finished the morning watch session that I do every morning for my Florida church.  And so, I did.  I was on foot, and I felt perfectly safe, walking to Wegmans just before 6 a.m.  Lots of folks were walking, but almost all of them were construction workers, walking with their hard hats in hand.  As I left Wegmans and walked up the hill to St. Columba's, I stopped to take some pictures of the sunrise:

I got to St. Columba's early, about 6:43 a.m. for the 7 a.m. service, but the church was open.  I went in and took a few pictures before the service started as people were getting ready:

I was happy that a female priest presided.  As we went up for ashes, I tried to determine who filled the pews:  mostly white-skinned women like me, at the far side of midlife or the early part of their older years, most with sensible hair cuts, most in natural shades of gray.  There was one woman who presented as African-American, one younger woman with pink and green hair pulled back in a ponytail, another even younger woman in an American Ballet Theatre sweatshirt who was there with an older man (they seemed to be father-daughter, but who can be sure?).  There were a few men, but mostly females.

The website said it would be a brief service with imposition of ashes and eucharist.  I was a little surprised to see a bulletin:

The service was brief in that we didn't have music, but otherwise, we covered everything that I want in an Ash Wednesday service.  In fact, I found Isaiah 58: 1-12 so moving that I've decided to do my first sermon for Women and the Preaching Life class on the last verses of the text.

After the service, I took some pictures.  Some of the parishioners looked at me as they passed by me, and I wondered if they thought I was strange for taking pictures or if they thought they knew me but couldn't place me.

I returned to my seminary apartment full of purpose and made this Facebook post:  "As many of you know, I'm an early bird, so this morning, I headed off to Saint Columba's Episcopal Church for their first Ash Wednesday service at 7 a.m., and on my way, I stopped by Wegman's to get a few things. I did grocery shopping, got a longish walk done, and got a visceral reminder of my mortality, all before 8 in the morning!"

I had planned to spend the day doing lots of writing for seminary classes, but I did none of it.  I did some of the work that needs to be done before writing:  thinking about the assignment for my Queer Theology class, reading the books that I'll respond to in a discussion post for World Religions class.  I doublechecked my calendars to make sure I wasn't missing anything.

I got other work done.  I called my former employer, the one who severed me from my last full-time job, and asked them to provide me my W2.  It wasn't as awkward as I thought it might be, and I did get the document.  Let me remember how much time it took, the better part of an hour:  I did internet searching, made a phone call, waited on hold, got transferred, waited on hold, got transferred back, took down info about e-mail addresses, sent an e-mail, got a phone call, took down info, got re-registered for Viventium (the site that securely stores all this paperwork), and finally, I got my W2.

I got other writing done, primarily writing in my journal.  I made a casserole that has leftovers that means I won't have to cook later.  I went for a late afternoon walk.  I had a video call with my spouse who is in North Carolina.

I thought about trying to get seminary writing done in the early evening, but I decided that I would do a better job if I waited.  It was too early to go to bed, so I watched a few episodes of The Chosen, which was a much better show than I thought it would be.  I felt slightly less guilty about taking the night off because the show is about Jesus.  I did a lot of sewing on what I'm calling my small pieces collection:

These are the pieces in progress--the double bed in the guest room is covered with finished pieces.  I'm taking advantage of this time of living by myself, keeping supplies close by and every surface draped with fabric:

I won't always have this luxury:  time to write, time to study, time to sew.  I am profoundly grateful.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Ash Wednesday Arrives

 After the pancakes, the ashes.  Yesterday, many of us had pancake dinners, Mardi Gras beverages, all types of festivities:

Yesterday I did not have pancakes, but I did have good lunch with seminary colleagues and later, I went to a pizza place, where I did not eat or drink.  It wasn't an early Lenten fast.  Our Queer Theology class was invited to go for pizza with the Ethical Self and Witness class.  My first thought was dismay about having an evening class.  I decided that I could join them, that I had enough time to walk there and back and to socialize a bit in between.  But I didn't want to drink, because I don't drink when I need to be alert later.  And I wasn't sure I had enough time to order food.  So in the end, I drank water and chatted, which was more a Lent vibe than a Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras vibe.

I was happy to be invited to the kind of event that I thought would be more frequent if I lived on campus--which was both a Mardi Gras and Lent vibe, the happiness of being together with only water to drink.  Many of my fellow seminary students also work at churches, so they were feeling the stress of an Ash Wednesday service to plan and/or needed to head back for Shrove Tuesday events.

I've decided to mix up my usual Ash Wednesday routine--usually I've had to work during the day, so I've gone to evening services.  This year, I'll go to the 7 am service at nearby St. Columba's.  I'm not sure what to expect.  Perhaps it will be drive up ashes, which I've never experienced.  The website does say that there's a short eucharistic service.

Will I go to the National Cathedral for the evening service?  Perhaps.  Let me see how the day unfolds.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Lenten Enrichments

Yesterday I drove back from my parents' place in Williamsburg after a great week-end with them and my sister.   It was a holiday week-end, so I was not expecting the level of traffic I encountered.  In some ways, I prefer the kind of aggravating traffic I had on Friday--a total stop on the interstate because of a torn apart 18 wheeler and a burned up car--instead of traffic yesterday that zoomed above the speed limit and then 2 minutes later, we were back to stop and go, again and again this cycle.

Eventually I made it back, unloaded the car, and went for a short walk.  I did some school work while I ate, and then I went to my 6:30 class on Luke, taught by way of Zoom.  After class, I was both hyped up but very tired; it's strange how those two states can co-exist.  Deciding that I really needed sleep, I closed the computer.

I had a random thought float across my brain as I was spreading a quilt over the bed:  I wish that Kathleen Norris had a new book out.  And then I wondered if maybe she did--but instead of turning the computer back on, I went to my bookshelf and pulled out Dakota:  A Spiritual Geography, the first book of hers that I read and loved. 

I wish I had been keeping a blog back in the earliest years of this century when I first found this book.  It was published in 1993, which startled me last night when I opened it up for my bedtime reading.  That's 30 years ago!  I flipped to the back, where she gives credit to the publications that first published these essays, places like Gettysburg Review, North Dakota Quarterly, and Massachusetts Review.  I was happy to realize that those magazines are still publishing.

I thought back to when I first read this book, which expanded my view of what an essay could be.  I started trying to write something similar.  I started thinking about how essays could create a book length work.

When I pulled the book off my shelf, I wasn't thinking about the fact that the season of Lent is upon us.  This morning, I thought, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday which means today is Mardi Gras and Shrove Tuesday--if I'm going to adopt a Lenten discipline, the time is now.  And then I turned my attention to this book.  I think I will use this book as part of an increased spiritual study/devotion time--what will that look like?  Stay tuned.

Here is a quote from the book, which talks about the Dakotas both as a physical location and something larger:  "Dakota is a painful reminder of human limits, just as cities and shopping malls are attempts to deny them" (p. 2).  As I write these words, I'm thinking that the season of Lent can also be a painful reminder of human limits.  Our Lenten disciplines can be a way of helping us think about the ways that we want to avoid thinking about these limits and perhaps a way of helping us embrace these limits.

As we eat our Shrove Tuesday pancakes or our Mardi Gras King Cakes, as we indulge and/or plan for how we will avoid indulging, let us plan for our Lenten disciplines.  Or maybe discipline is not the word for our current time--we've had an awful lot of discipline imposed on us for the past few years.  Maybe heightened attention would be better--or here's something I like even better:  enrichment.

Let us plan our Lenten enrichments!

For a more traditional blog post about Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras, this post on my theology blog might be what you wanted.  Or maybe you wanted a recipe for a festive cake/bread that's easy; in this blog post, I give you a recipe and photos.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Publication and Its Predators

Twitter tells me that I have a Twitter anniversary today, which I verified by looking up my blog post about joining Twitter back in 2020.  Joining Twitter has not enriched my life the way that blogging has.  I started both activities thinking I was doing so in service to some sort of poetry "career" that I thought that I had and wanted to enlarge.  Blogging may have done a bit of that, but I am almost certain that Twitter has not, even before all the changes that Elon Musk enacted when he bought a social media platform that he no longer wanted.

In some ways, I'm very lucky.  If my poetry career never enlarges further, I'll be fine.  I don't have tenure decisions riding on my poetry publications.  I haven't signed a book deal with publishers who are hoping I'll write the same thing which brought fame and fortune before.  Trust me, if I knew what to write to bring fame and fortune, I'd have written it already, and I'd be working on that follow up.

I'm also lucky in that I'm not desperate, which means I'm less likely to fall victim to predators that are out there.  I read this piece which made me think about my younger years, and how I might have taken the bait offered by certain types of scammers.  Apparently there are people out there who buy small publishers and then use that platform to prey on writers.  I feel lucky to have avoided that mess.  It also seems like a strange kind of con.  Of course, I used to say the same thing about the real estate market.

I still do--these are cons and scams that seem like more work than just doing honest labor to earn money.  But what do I know?

Decades ago, my approach to publication was different than it is today.  Decades ago, I submitted almost endlessly to journals that may or may not have been a good match, to journals where my odds may or may not have been good.  Back then, submission was the cost of some stamps.  Even today's $3 submission fee is higher than the cost of some stamps, so I tend not to submit much.  But I also try to stay open to possibilities.  I still have that dream of being plucked from obscurity, as yesterday's e-mail to a professor demonstrates (we were discussing future papers, and I am interested in the variety of call stories that the Gospel of Luke gives us:  Mary's, Jesus', Peter's, Zacchaeus', Martha's, on and on I could go):

"I'll continue thinking about calls and responses, and I'll plan to do my exegesis on Mary and see what develops.

I love the idea of a Master's thesis (or a dissertation for a PhD that I have yet to start!), but I'm also intrigued by the idea of writing something (at some later point) with a more general audience in mind, a surprise best seller that prompts book reviewers to say, "Who knew that the population was so hungry for a book that describes different ways to answer the call of God?" Should I ever write a surprise best seller that is rooted in our class discussions, you can be sure I'll give you a giant thank you in the credits and invite you to go with me to all the talk shows and giant conventions to speak to everyone who wants to hear more about it."

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Returning to the Movie Theater

Yesterday I went to see a movie in a movie theatre for the first time since January of 2020, when I went to see the latest version of Little Women.  I said, "If I want Hollywood to make more movies like this one, I need to go and spend money on a ticket."  I was astonished at how much money I spent on a ticket in 2020, even though I avoided spending the prime time prices of $17.00 a ticket.  Yikes!  I expect popcorn to be grossly overpriced, but not ticket prices.

Yesterday, we had a pleasant surprise.  My mom had some kind of valued customer card, and we got tickets for $5.00 each.  Hurrah!  We did not buy popcorn, which seems to be priced similarly to 2020 prices.  I was a bit baffled by having to choose seats--I go to a movie to avoid having to make those kinds of decisions.  It's not the symphony, we're seeing, and we went to the 1:55 movie, so most seats were open.

We saw 80 for Brady, which was as entertaining as I thought it would be.  It was great to see a movie where it looked like everyone was having a great time.  I love the women in the main roles--I would go to see them read the phone book (there I am, referring to phone books again!  at some point, I'll choose a more culturally relevant metaphor for something dull).  I was not in the mood for anything serious and gloomy--if I want that, I'll watch the news or read some reports on climate.

I went with my mom and dad, and I was also happy that there are still movies we can watch together.  We have often had similar tastes in movies, so my happiness is rooted that there are still a few movies released for those of us who don't want a super hero movie, who can't keep up with all those Marvel storylines.

My only quibble:  why does Jane Fonda always play the female who is most irresistible to men?  I realize she's spent her whole life playing that role, but it would have been a more interesting movie if Lily Tomlin got to play that role--and make her irresistible to all genders which would have made an even more interesting role for me to watch.  I did appreciate that we got to see these women in all stages of glammed up and natural.  We see Lily Tomlin recovering from chemo, looking like she had been caught without stage make up.  We see the wigs that Jane Fonda uses to achieve that irresistible look.  We see a man in his 30's move to kiss the Sally Field character when she's looking at her most mousy and frumpy.

What I'm acknowledging is that the movie did take some risks, even as it played it safe for the most part.  But what I'm really saying is that I appreciated this movie for what it did do and what it didn't try to do.  It's a movie that knew what we needed, and it delivered.

What we needed:  to laugh, to see all sorts of people take on a variety of roles, to feel happy about hijinks that were fairly low stakes, to be reassured that the high stakes issues the characters face will not blow them into bits, and to leave the movie theater content that we got to see a movie together, a movie that left us feeling affirmed, not dejected.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Power and Paper Towels

In my Chapel Visuals class last week, we did an exercise which I haven't had a chance to record here yet.  So, let me do that today.

We arrived to class to see a table, a chair, and 6 rolls of paper towels in front of the classroom windows.  We were told to arrange the objects in a way that said "Power."  One person would make an arrangement, we'd ponder it in silence, and then another person would get up and do the same.  We went in no particular order; we got up as we were moved to do so.

The first arrangement was a stack of paper towels on the table followed by a variation or two.  When it was my turn, I decided to do something different, using the window ledge and latches:

With each turn, we did more and more to think about what we could do.  For example, one person put the chair on the table.  We were deep into the exercise when someone unrolled part of a paper towel roll.  Then I created the following tableau:

What you may not be able to see:  the roll of paper towels that looks like it's suspended in midair is being held by the sheet of paper towels tucked into and around the two upright rolls of paper towels.

I didn't want to take too many pictures--I thought my picture taking might change the dynamic, and I didn't want to risk that.  Also, some of what we did would have been hard to capture.  For example, at one point, I made a tower of paper towels, which I knocked over by holding a roll of paper towels like a bat and whacking the bottom of the tower. 

We then tried to process what we experienced by using "I see ____" "I feel ____" and "I think ____" statements.

I wanted to record this exercise because it seems like one that could lead to some interesting insights with a variety of groups.  Is it a team building exercise?  Perhaps, depending on the dynamics of the team.  Could it lead to interesting writing?  Perhaps.

I also like it because it uses fairly cheap supplies, and it could be tweaked in a variety of ways.  Perhaps we could explore something other than "power."  Perhaps we could work larger or smaller.  Perhaps we could use scraps of cloth and threads and a pine cone.  The possibilities seems endless!

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Snippets from Seminary Classes

Let me record a few snippets from seminary classes so that I'll have them in the future.  I like these small snippets; often at the time, I hardly think they're worth preserving, and later I'm so glad that I've captured them.

--I am trying to keep my long term projects in mind as I work my way through the weekly assignments.  In an after-class consult, I said to my New Testament professor:  "My English major brain is in conflict with my Theology student brain.  My English major brain already has a thesis that she's hoping to prove, while my Theology student brain knows the importance of waiting to see what the text reveals to us."  After talking to her, I feel like I'm on a good track and that my two brains can work together.

--In Queer Theology, I am trying so hard not to yammer on and on about what life was like in the days before they were born.  In class, I said that I had seen Paris Is Burning when it first came out, and then amended my statement to acknowledge that I was in the Charleston, SC area so it would have taken awhile to get there.  Later a student talked about having it on as background noise on Netflix, maybe for some sort of Queer History month kind of programming.  Later, I talked about how it's important to remember that this film was made in a time when we didn't all have quality cameras in our pockets by way of our phones.  Camera equipment was expensive and film itself was expensive.  Not just anyone could make a documentary of their own lives, which is why it often took an outsider with access to resources to get it done.

--Last night's Women and the Preaching Life contained a great conversation about the need to help people's imaginations, to help them envision the better life that God calls us to create.  We also talked about calls in general.  So many of my professors are so open about their own call processes, about the twists and turns, and I am grateful for that information.

--In Church History, we've gotten to the Protestant Reformation in England.  I often forget/overlook how the motivations of both Mary and Elizabeth were impacted by the succession question. If the country was not Catholic, Mary was illegitimate; similarly, if the country became Catholic, Elizabeth’s right to the throne was imperiled.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Traveling through the Winter Weather Safely to Seminary

If you came to this blog hoping for a post that considers the theology and the practicality of Valentine's Day, head to this post on my theology blog. Today on this blog, I want to capture the details of yesterday's drive back to Wesley from my North Carolina house.

I usually get started on long drives before the sun rises, but yesterday I left a bit later.  A storm system had moved across my travel path from Saturday night to Sunday night, and I didn't want to be one of the first ones on the roads after they had had a chance to re-freeze.  So, I left at 7:30, after there had been plenty of traffic.  Some of the roads had been treated with some sort of de-icer; I could tell because of the white shadows on the pavement, along with the water.

There were a few places, however, where the water had started to re-freeze yet again.  As I drove through Tennessee, I could see fog descend, but I was still able to see--and glad that I had left after daylight and that I didn't have to worry about frozen roads too.  But then, as I drove through southwest Virginia, the scenes out of my window turned wintry.  They had gotten 1-2 inches, judging by what was on the windshields of cars parked in the driveways and side yards.  There were a few icy patches on the sides of the road, but no one seemed to be slipping.  Still, I tried not to get too close to the side or too close to other vehicles.  The snowy vistas were beautiful.  I had expected something similar at our North Carolina house, but we just got rain and a bit of sleet.

And then, just like that, I drove a few more miles with no change in altitude, and no traces of snow at all.  I thought I might have driven out of all the winter weather.

Hours on up the road, the view changed again.  The grass was clear, with no accumulation on vehicles.  But all the trees looked like they'd gotten a snowfall.  As I watched some dripping, I realized there had been an ice storm.  When I exited to get gas, I found out that a tree had fallen and cut off electricity; I found out because the first gas station I tried had no power.  The second one had very slow pumps--it took me 15 minutes to pump half a gallon of gas.  Yes, half a gallon.  Luckily the maintenance person reset the tanks so that they pumped normally.  There had been a power outage and the pumps tripped and a safety device kept them from pumping faster.  Hurrah for safety devices and hurrah for maintenance people who know how to reset them.

As I drove away from the ice covered Shenandoah Valley, the sky turned a dusky violet, and I wondered if I might actually see snow falling from the sky.  But I did not.  I made it back to seminary, unloaded my car, unpacked, went for a short walk, and settled in for my 6:30 class on Luke.  We had a great discussion of calls and discipleship and Luke's version of the Beatitudes.

I feel very lucky to have had this time to live on campus and devote myself to my studies this way.  As I wrote to one of my friends who responded to my Facebook post:   "I feel lucky, in that I know how lucky I am to be able to take these classes. I will look back and miss this time, which makes me savor it even more."

Sunday, February 12, 2023

A February Wedding

I was expecting something a bit more wintry when I woke up this morning, but so far we have rain.  Actually, we have a break in the rain, although the radar shows unsettled weather all around us.  There was talk in the winter weather warning/advisory of gusty winds, but so far, they have not arrived.  The upside:  we still have power, heat, and internet.  The downside:  still none of the winter weather that warms my heart (the kind that doesn't linger but looks pretty as it drifts by the window).

Because I knew of the threat of wintry weather and potential outages, I finished my seminary work that is due over the next few days, and I've done the weekly reminder e-mail to my online students.  Whether or not we go to church may depend on what kind of wintry mix arrives in the next few hours.  I don't want to risk icy roads, and I can't really tell what's happened overnight.

Happily, we were able to get to the wedding of a dear Create in Me friend yesterday.  Her wedding was at 4, which is a perfect time.  The reception was a delicious meal of tacos, followed with cupcakes.  We had a variety of wines from Michigan, where the bride and groom lived originally.

Long ago, they went to high school together, although they weren't together then.  They reconnected at a 45 year high school reunion, and relationship has deepened in the last 5+ years.  I didn't know the bride, my Create in Me friend, when she was married to her first husband, but I do remember a conversation before she reconnected with the man who is now her husband, a conversation where she despaired of ever finding love.

As I watched them make their vows, I thought about what a different station in life I'm in now.  Once, I went to several weddings a year, but now it's a much more rare occasion.  In some ways, that made yesterday even more joyous.

I will say that this wedding is the first where we have celebrated communion, and the bride and groom did the pouring of the wine from the chalice into each person's tiny up.  I was impressed with their compusure.

In fact, one reason, apart from the weather, that I'm not as worried about going to church this morning is that the wedding service yesterday had the important parts of worship, along with joining of two lives together.  In some ways, it seems a fitting metaphor for what worship should do every time we participate:  join lives together in a larger, deeper mystery.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

A Quick Trip back to North Carolina

Yesterday I got up at my usual early morning hour and brewed a pot of coffee.  But unlike other mornings, I poured the coffee in a thermos, put my contacts in, and headed down the road.  I am making a quick trip to North Carolina this week-end for the wedding of one of my Create in Me friends.

Happily, her wedding is at 4 today.  We're under a winter weather advisory, but it doesn't start until 7 p.m.  The church is less than a mile from our house, so we'll be O.K.  We probably won't leave the house tomorrow though:  I'm expecting a wintry mix, and given the state of automobile related purchases and repairs in the country right now, I don't want to risk having an accident.

Because there is a winter weather advisory, I've packed more books than I usually would.  Because the high on Monday is forecast to be in the 50's, I don't really expect to be snowed in here for very long.  But if I am, I'm ready to work on projects that don't require internet access.  

I may leave later than usual on Monday, just in case there are icy patches--again, I don't want to risk car repairs/replacements.  Happily, my class on Monday is at 6:30 p.m, and it's by way of Zoom, so I have flexibility.

It was strange, reflecting on the possibility of wintry weather; when I put my suitcase in the car yesterday morning at 4:45 a.m., the temperature was in the 60's.  It was perfect traveling weather:  overcast but no rain or fog.  I drove, alternating between NPR and various radio stations playing various songs.  I was thinking about "Should I Stay or Should I Go," by the Clash, wondering whether I will ever get to a time when I hear the lyrics and don't think about that indecision as a perfect summary of my current life circumstances.  In the past, it's been about a job more than any other circumstance.  As I drove to my North Carolina house, I had seminary housing on the brain, wondering when we'll lose that building, what the course schedule for fall will look like, and how the North Carolina house renovations are proceeding.

When we moved into the house, we were intrigued by the fact that it has no front door.  And now, it does:

My spouse also built a small deck, so that it's easier to get in and out--here's a view from the side:

And here's the original view of the house before it had a front door:

Now let me get some of my seminary homework done, just in case we lose power and/or internet with this winter storm.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Returning to Paris, Which Was Burning

This week-end, I will be in North Carolina for the wedding of a dear Create in Me friend.  Yesterday, I tried to work ahead a bit, so I watched Paris Is Burning, a film that we'll discuss in Queer Theology on Tuesday.  It will be interesting to see the connections we will make.

You may or may not remember the film which was released in 1990 or so.  It explores the world of NYC drag shows, the ball culture scene.  Is it documenting the lives of transgender people in the 80's?  Sort of.  Some of the people who talk clearly feel they are living in the wrong gender body.  Others seem to just like creating interesting garments--it felt more like we were watching fashion designers frustrated by their lack of options.  And there was a whisper of people participating or watching because it was the only community they could find.  

If they had had a wide range of options, the way they do today (sort of), would they have cared about/participated in the ball culture?

Watching the film again yesterday made me feel unsettled, and I'm not sure why.  So I went on a bit of an internet search, and realized why I was feeling unsettled.  The film sort of celebrates its subjects, yet it is clear that these stories begin and end in tears.  If we look at the interviewees and look beyond the human talking, it's clear that they are living in very shabby surroundings--there's more than a suggestion of extreme poverty.

And after doing some internet searching, I felt even more unsettled.  Almost all of the people in the film have died, and they were almost all very young in the film, in their late teens and early twenties.  The film barely mentions AIDS.  The film barely mentions the poverty and the risks that the people interviewed take to get money.  When I did some internet wandering to see how many people were still alive, there was discussion of their drug use, but the film itself didn't mention it.

I would have sworn that I saw the film at some point in the 90's, and I still think that I did, but none of it felt familiar.  The Kristin that I was in the 90's probably would not have glommed onto this film as a touchstone kind of experience/encounter with art.  I'm sure I would have been puzzled.  Drag culture, the traditional kind that emulates fashion models and haute couture fashion shows, has always puzzled me, and for that matter, high fashion has also puzzled me.   It's an approach to gender that I don't aspire to, in part because I would have absolutely no chance of success.  I have not met any males who do aspire to that aspect of gender, although I realize I might not have known it if they did.

If I had watched this film, I'd have been watching through a different lens, not a "we're watching trans history being recorded" kind of lens.  I'd have wondered why we had to document such extreme examples of gay culture.  It was a different time, the early-to-mid 1990's, and while I was more well educated/read than many, there was still much to learn.

I will be interested to see how my classmates react, since they are significantly younger than I am.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

On Campus Joys

Yesterday was the kind of day where I was happy to be on campus, the kind of day I couldn't have had if I hadn't been able to be on campus.  Let me record the ways:

--Last week, at a lunch and learn panel, I found out that one of my favorite professors is on the ordination path, in addition to her work as a seminary professor, a job she doesn't plan to leave.  I went up afterwards to say that I'd like to hear more about that path, and she suggested we go for coffee the following week.  Yesterday we followed up and went for coffee, and it was every bit as delightful as I thought it would be.  We talked about a variety of teaching possibilities and other types of ministry possibilities.  The coffee was delicious; we went to Compass Coffee, which was new to me.

--We got back from our coffee and went to the MLK Lecture.  Rev. Dr. Teresa Fry Brown gave an amazing speech entitled "The Power of Dreaming Out Loud."  She talked about Martin Luther King's dreams, both those in the famous speech and earlier and later versions.  He went to wide awake engagement, dreaming out loud.  She asked us to think about what we have envisioned lately and what are we doing about it.  Near the end of her speech, she said, "Use the words that you have and do the work God has given you to do." 

Here's a photo taken by Lisa Helfert (and all photos are taken by her):

The University of DC Chorale sang three times, and they were amazing:

After her speech, we went to the refectory for a Lunch and Learn.  Even though she had given a rousing speech, she was still energized when she talked to us.  It was revelatory, hearing about her career, about how doors didn't open, and she just kept doing what she knew God had called her to do.

I had to leave to go to class, but I wrote down the last things she said.  She told us about her work as a historiographer and told us to write everything down.  And she said we should be able to do more than one thing; she's 71 years old, and she's in law school, even though she has other career options at this point.

--The rest of my day was delightful too, but they are the delights I get to have every week:  Queer Theology class and Women and the Preaching Life class last night.  In the evening class, we broke into small groups.  We were each given the chapter of a book that we were discussing.  We had to write a 4-5 sentence summary and a marketing slogan.  It was an interesting way of thinking about the material, and it was a good way to get to know my classmates a bit better.  I always feel a bit of dismay when a class splits into small groups, and I was happy to have my fears allayed.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Incarnation and Other Rules of the Universe

Once I am done with today's seminary classes, I will have completed my third week of the semester.  It feels like I've been enrolled in Spring 2023 semester much longer.  Let me record a few thoughts.

--As always, I do wonder if I could get almost the same intellectual growth if I just read the books on my own.  But I also have weekly writing assignments in most classes that force me to engage with the books in a different way than just reading.  Sure, I could do that on my own.  But I'm happy to report that interacting with my classmates, whether in class or on discussion boards, also helps me learn.  I have insights that I'm convinced I would not have had without that interaction.

--Could I have found that interaction outside of graduate classes?  Theoretically yes.  In practical terms, no.  In the non-seminary world, it's hard to find people with similar interests, with reading time, who will make time for deep discussion of books on a weekly basis.

--I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about incarnation, God taking on human flesh, which is not a common trait across religions.  I had been reading Queer Theory and Queer Theology, and the texts we have been reading want to celebrate bodies and sex and carnal pleasure and fluidity.  We've come across startling ideas, like God as Divine Orgy (a metaphor used to describe both the Trinity and the relationships that this Trinitarian God has with creation).

--But so far, we haven't read any Queer Theory or Queer Theology that wrestles with the ways that aging impacts our theory, thoughts, and theology.  Does it exist?  Perhaps we haven't read it because everyone in the class is much younger.  Perhaps we haven't read it because it doesn't exist.

--What if we've gotten incarnation all wrong?  What if God didn't take on human flesh to show us how to be a human or to redeem us, but for some other reason that has been lost to us through the ages?

--And now I'm wondering if there's a theology of aging (regardless of gender, sexual desire, relationship status) that I don't know about.

On to other subjects:

--I went back and looked at the birth narratives of both Luke and Matthew.  I'm struck by the fact that Matthew has the Divine plan revealed in dreams, while Luke has angels, both individual appearances by Gabriel and the angel choir that appears to shepherds.

--In last night's Luke class, we talked about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.  Our professor pointed us to a text for class that I had read, but I had missed the importance of a nugget as I read quickly to get ready for class.  Jesus is on earth, not all powerful, but hemmed in by rules established by God--and here I am back at Trinitarian theory, wondering how/if that conversation happened.  And then I thought about that eternal question;  why does God allow bad stuff to happen?  Maybe there are rules that God has to obey.  And if there are rules that God must obey, for whatever reasons, can we really say that God is all powerful? 

--I have become comfortable with the idea that God is not all powerful, for whatever reason.  But I know that I will meet people who are not comfortable with that idea, and I wonder if presenting it as a rules-based universe that limits what God is allowed to do--would that idea be easier?

--During our visit to the mosque, one of the leaders of the mosque talked about the separate worship space for women.  It's a space without walls, but it is behind the men.  The leader explained that the placement was out of respect.  They don't want men looking at the women as they bend and kneel.  They don't want women to feel exposed.  My younger self might have been outraged by this approach.  My older self wishes I had more space where I didn't feel exposed as a woman or as a human.

--In our Women in the Preaching Life, we began with a ceremony.  Our teacher made an altar out of a table:  with a cloth, a statue, some candles, and a bowl of small rocks.  We went around the room describing a woman (or two or three or more) who had been important in helping us discern our call to the preaching life.  Many of us talked about our mothers.  But we also talked about teachers.  And a few of us talked about a fellow worshipper who made time to listen.  It reminded me never to doubt that there are many ways to be a force for good in the world.  We took a rock to remind us of the people who have believed in us.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Fibers and Fragments as February Begins

I am feeling anxious about all that I need to do today, even though I have plenty of time before my first commitment, my class on Luke that starts at 6:30.  In part the anxiety blossoms because of all that I didn't do yesterday--although I did write a short paper from start to finish to submission and did some reading and attended a mandatory student housing meeting.  I did not achieve my usual level of productivity because I spent much of the week-end in class, but my anxiety is taking no notice of that.

So, let me just collect a series of brief observations and captured Facebook posts and get on with the work of the day.

--Yesterday I was on The Chronicle of Higher Education website scrolling through job postings for English faculty, and I came across this posting for someone to teach quilting and fiber arts.  Why was this posting in the English section?  I have no idea.  But I did spend the rest of yesterday thinking about it.  There are all sorts of reasons why I'm not qualified.  The ideal candidate would have "Knowledge of African American, Latinx, or other quilting traditions outside of European and European-American traditions."  That's not me.  I don't have "Professional experience in fiber arts," although I have done more than just quilting, another wish of the department.  The ideal candidate needs to do hand sewing and machine sewing.  For most people, the hand sewing would be a deal breaker, but for me, the machine sewing is something I don't do.

--I am surprised by how many full-time jobs there are at Virginia community colleges.  Several of them are still within an easy drive of DC.  I am in the process of applying to them for a variety of reasons that I may blog about later.  I don't need additional part-time work, but a full-time job is attractive for many reasons.  I'd be willing to take fewer seminary classes if I had the stability and joy of a full-time faculty job.

--It's been the kind of week where I've had reminders of the joys of teaching.  On Tuesday, I made this Facebook post:  "We had a great Queer Theology class today. Even more interesting to me, I'm seeing works of Queer Theory referenced, and I'm thinking about reading some of them, like works by Judith Butler, when they first were published back in the 90's. But even more interesting, during that same decade, I was teaching David Henry Hwang's "\'M. Butterfly' in my first year Intro to Lit classes at a community college near Charleston, SC, and we were having fascinating discussions about gender fluidity, long ago and far away."

--I also saw a photo of some colleagues from that community college, colleagues who are still meeting for meals even though many of them have retired.  I left this comment:  "Some of the best colleagues and friends I've ever had."  In fact, many of the best friends I've ever had come from schools where I've been teaching and before that, from schools where I've been taking classes.

--I am not interested in any sort of academic administrator job.  Too much stress.

--Last week, I did some of my writing in the library.  I needed the page numbers for my Luther assignment, and the online version of the book didn't have them.  So I went to the library to use the reserve copy of the paper version of the Luther text.

--While there, I made this Facebook post:  "My seminary's library is small compared to the libraries at large research universities. There's a smell that's comforting and familiar, a smell I remember from undergraduate days in the library at Newberry College, the smell of old paper and the knowledge of the ages held in precious containers. Back to finishing my paper on Martin Luther's view of sacraments and the 'Pagan Servitude of the Church' (what a title! My paper will not have that kind of zinger of a title)."

--I wonder why John Dillenberger, the editor of the Luther text, didn't use the more common title of the essay:  "On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church."

--Our seminary apartment building has had the water turned off once a week for the last few weeks.  It's only for a few hours at a time, but it makes me conscious of needing to plan.  I fill up the empty gallon pitcher with water, and later, I use it to rinse.  So far, I've never needed it for a cup of tea or a drink or to flush.  Today is another outage, so let me go take a shower.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Seminarians at a Mosque

Yesterday was a 9-5 day for my World Religions class.  This hybrid model works well:  2 week-ends during the semester with a Friday night class and an all-day Saturday class, with online modules in between, including discussion boards to keep us connected.  I'm glad we met for one of our week-ends before doing discussion boards.  I've never had hostile encounters in a class discussion board setting, but I know it's possible.

Each Saturday, we meet for a morning of instruction and discussion, followed by lunch, and then a field trip.  Yesterday's field trip was to a mosque.

Come to find out, it's the oldest mosque built by US born people--there are older mosques in the US that were built by immigrants.  This mosque is the oldest mosque in the U.S. built by descendants of enslaved people.

The mosque was once a Nation of Islam mosque, but it has since become a Sunni mosque.  The building has a community center or a reclaimed gym kind of feeling, but that's probably because of the curved ceiling:


Here's a longer view:

The mosque is open for prayers during 5 times a day, with an extra prayer time on Friday.  We were there to observe the prayers at 3:11 yesterday afternoon.  The leader asked each man where he was from:  Ghana (3 people), Ethiopia (5 people), Turkey (1), another East European country I didn't quite catch the name of (1), Pakistan (1), and 3 from the District of Columbia. The 5 leaders were also from DC. They do have women members, but none were there for 3:11 prayers.  The men prayed shoulder to shoulder on these rugs:

My class is half women, and we had been told in advance that we would need to cover our hair, so we did with scarves that we brought.  I thought we looked lovely.  I didn't feel oppressed particularly; the men who gathered for prayer also wore headcoverings.  Plus, I had a Muslim friend in grad school who explained why she covered her hair.  The idea that she reserved part of herself just for her husband to see made sense to me and felt less oppressive than the other explanations that had been offered by non-Muslim media that I had read.

We were all asked to wear masks, which makes sense to me, and everyone did.  People who arrived without a mask were offered the box of masks to take one, and no one protested.  On Friday, the synagogue had a section of seating reserved for those who wanted to wear masks and not sit next to unmasked people.  Two people sat there, clearly together, and one woman removed her mask part the way through the service.

At the mosque, we were offered bottles of water and a snack, which came in a globed container (see above).

The snack was some sort of bean cake, which was slightly sweet, with the moist texture of a very firm pudding.

At the end, we took group pictures, but no one has sent those to me.  When they do, I'll circle back here to post one.  I was touched by the men in charge of the mosque who wanted pictures and wanted to assure us that we're always welcome to return, either as a group or individually, for any reason.

In short, it was a great afternoon, and just the kind of opportunity I hoped I would have if I was able to take classes at the seminary, instead of only from a great distance.  I feel very lucky.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Seminarians at a Synagogue

I am taking a World Religions class this term.  It's experiential, meaning that we go places and interact with people of different faiths, in addition to reading about the different faiths.  It's the kind of opportunity that might not always be mine to seize:  the professors might not always teach it, the hospitality from other faiths might not always be extended, and I live on campus, which makes it easy in a way that it might not be in the future, if the class is offered again.

Last night, our class went to the nearby Washington Hebrew Congregation, which we learned is one of the largest ones in the U.S. and the world.  We celebrated Shabbat in the smaller worship space, which is larger than many movie theatres in terms of seating.

Before we did that, we went to a Torah study that happens for a half hour before worship every Friday.  What a treat.  Here is the passage we studied, Exodus 13:  17-18:   "17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.[a] The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle."  There was a larger portion on the handout, but that's all we had time for.

We talked about how the people's hearts needed to change, otherwise they would go back to what was safe and familiar, even if it was a state of slavery.  We talked about how we are not unlike those ancient people.

Then we filed into the worship space and I did my best to follow along.  I did not try to sing, even though I had a sense of what we were doing in the prayer book.  I couldn't make sense of the Hebrew words on the page and the sung words.  I enjoyed it, and spent perhaps too much time wondering if the musicians were paid professionals and if this music would be the music I would hear at a Shabbat service at a different synagogue.  The service had familiar elements:  a sermon, readings, music, time with children, praying for those who needed prayers, offering up our joys.

There was food before and after the service, and not just food, but several tables full of serving stations of hot food, a table of non-hot food (crackers, cheese, fruits, veggies), and a tureen of soup (last night's soup was carrot ginger, and it was delicious).  There was also a full bar, including hard alcohol, with lots of choices.  It felt amazing to me, and I asked the rabbi if they eat like this every week.  He said, "We try to."  

After the service, my seminary group met with the rabbi for a bit of conversation about the differences between Jews and Christians.  We focused on the order of the books of the Scripture.  The highlight of the night, though, is when the rabbi took us to the much larger worship space and showed us the Torah scroll.  Here's where they are kept.

And here's one of the scrolls rolled out.

The glowing aspect above is because of the lighting and my older cell phone camera--but I kind of like the effect.

And here's the tool used to help read the Torah:

The rabbi said that Moses went up to the mountain, talked to God, and what did he come down from the mountain with?  I said, "A sunburn," an answer which surprised everyone.  The correct answer was the stone tablets.  It was such a correct answer that I thought it was too obvious and went with my sunburn reply, which I just blurted out without really thinking about it.

We asked a few questions, and then we adjourned for the night.  It was so fascinating I could have stayed and talked for several hours, despite the fact that it was past my preferred bed time.

Today we have time in the classroom this morning, and this afternoon we go to a mosque.  Tomorrow, I'll report back.

Friday, February 3, 2023

The Art of Losing

If you came to this blog hoping for a meditation on the feast days of Anna and Simeon, I'll redirect you to this post on my theology blog.

Today is the 1 year anniversary of the date when I was severed from my last full-time job as a college administrator.  I have continued to teach college English classes online, so I am only underemployed, not unemployed.  I tried to claim unemployment, and the state of Florida still owes me over $2,000.00.  I am not holding out any hope that I will ever see that money.

But it could be worse.  We had just closed on our house so we have cash reserves we wouldn't have had otherwise. We got out of that house before the next hurricane.  The next hurricane hasn't happened yet, but it will.  I began my morning reading with this story in The Washington Post about people who weren't so lucky as they continue to try to recover from Hurricane Ian.

Today, I'm looking at very different weather.  I went out for a pre-dawn walk, so that I could get a walk in before the temperatures start dropping.  It was 39 degrees at 6:30, and I had hoped I might see snow.  I did not.

But I did see this door; yes, that's a holiday wreath with berries and pine cones on the door:

It made me think of a first line for a poem:  God lives in the burned out house.  Perhaps God crochets mittens to leave on the branches (too much like Emily Dickinson?), or maybe God just finds lost things to collect:

I am thinking of Elizabeth Bishop's poem, "One Art" with these stanzas that I love:  

"I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster."

I haven't mastered the art of losing yet.  I still dream of a day when all the lost mittens find their mates.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

First Snow and Old Controversies

Yesterday I took a break from relentless bad news, the kind of news that feels familiar because we've been here before:  books banned, authors removed from curriculum, the New College of Florida being eviscerated by the governor.  I knew lots of Florida people who taught in the humanities, and we were always in awe and envious of the New College--a liberal arts college that is somehow also a state university?  Where can we sign up?  Now I'm glad that I never got a job there; it would be heartbreaking to witness the changes up close.  Yesterday's news was of the school's president being forced out.

I turned away from my computer to take a walk in the snow before it disappeared.  It was really just a light dusting, but it was pretty:

It was the best kind of snow, the kind that doesn't destroy morning commutes, the kind that will melt before it mingles with dirt and dog poo.

I walked through neighborhood streets, and I heard more than one squeal of delight from a child waiting to get into the car to be taken to school.  I saw one child lick the side of the car; I'm not criticizing, since I was tempted to do the same thing to my own car, which has never sat under this much snow:

As I was getting back from my walk, some of my fellow students were coming outside to take pictures.  I made this Facebook post:  "One of my fellow seminarians is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and this morning's light dusting of snow is the first he's ever seen. He said, "How long will it last?" I said, "This will be gone by noon." He was so enchanted by the snow and so sad to hear that it won't be here with us for very long."

I stayed inside, working on my Luther paper.  We had a water outage from 9 to noon, so I didn't bake, but I did vacuum.  One of the benefits of living alone is realizing how much even just one person tracks through the house, even if that person is careful.  Vacuuming is a site of resentment for me, and the one chore I hate the most.  I do love a freshly vacuumed floor.

In the late afternoon, I had a face to face meeting with the communications committee of Wesley's student council; it's a committee of three.  We got the business done, and then we lingered in the fading light of the afternoon, in the empty Refectory which is not used the way it once was.  We talked about seminary stuff, future of the church stuff, all the topics I love.

After supper, I had a Zoom call to help plan the Create in Me retreat.  It was good to be with old friends in that virtual space.

This morning I'm still seeing all the people getting all worked up on social media about the AP kerfuffle over the new African American history class and which authors have been removed.  I am old enough to remember when K-12 curriculum was shaped overtly by the state of Texas, who bought the lion's share of textbooks and thus could force changes.  I remember reading banned books, like Gone with the Wind, and wondering what all the fuss was about.  These things go in cycles.  Once it tired me more than it does.  Not for the first time do I think about Hegel and dialectics and marvel at Hegel's analytical skills.

But now I must return to an even older controversy:  Luther's idea of sacraments.  It's a controversy so old that it has ceased to affect anyone.  There's a lesson here beyond the one of sacraments.