Sunday, March 31, 2024

Easter Pre-Dawn: 2024

Easter Sunday:  soon we will go to the car and head over the mountains to Bristol, Tennessee, where I will preach and preside at Faith Lutheran.  I've preached many sermons before, but never the Easter sermon.  We are doing the passage from Mark, the last part of Mark, without the verses tacked on in the second century.  The women run away, amazed and terrified.

But that's O.K.  They are going to Galilee, where they will tell the men what they have heard.  They are going to Galilee, where Jesus will meet them.  Jesus has gone ahead.  Jesus has also gone back to the place where it all began.  From there, the next phase of ministry will launch.

Time is short.  Time to put on my Easter socks to hide my Maundy Thursday feet (such mangled toenails!) and white sandals.  Time to print the sermon.  Time to go, to proclaim the good news that the brutal forces of empire and hate do not have the final word.

Empire is so much more fragile than it seems.  Chaos always lurks at the margins.  But God has a larger vision and invites us to be part of it.

Today and every day, I hope we say yes.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Good Friday at the Mammography Center

I spent the better part of Good Friday morning at the Mission Breast Imaging in Asheville; it sounds like a pornography company, doesn't it?  On February 28, I had what I assumed would be a routine mammogram, and a few weeks later, I was told that I needed follow up, plus they hadn't been able to get my scans from mammograms that I had done in South Florida in 2019 and 2021.

Happily, I no longer live in South Florida.  My GP ordered the follow up scans that same day, and I grabbed the first appointment that worked with my schedule, even though it was Good Friday morning.  It was surreal to enter the medical-industrial complex the morning after Maundy Thursday service.

Unlike South Florida, the medical facilities here are much less industrial.  I realize that a certain amount of my different perception is that I'm only seeing part of it--much like an expectant couple sees the loveliest of birthing rooms when making plans.  Still, there aren't as many people in the waiting rooms, the pace is efficient, and I'm not the youngest one in the waiting room by several decades here in the mountains.

I thought about how much kinder I felt in this setting. We were all there, in our wide variety of bodies. Everyone looked beautiful to me. And even though we were in this medical-industrial setting, I felt that people were more relaxed than they would be if I saw them in the grocery store. Was it the lack of men? No male gaze judging us? Maybe it was the fact that we were existing out of time—our to do lists took a back seat to this task of finding out if we have cancer.

I noticed the strategically placed boxes of tissues.  I thought about how I do not have time for cancer right now.  I thought about all the ways I've been unkind to my body and harsh in judging my physical self.  I thought about how much I haven’t appreciated my health, especially when I’ve been focused on my weight gain or my arthritic feet or all the ways I’m not as strong and capable as I once was.  I felt weepy, and I thought, well, if you can't cry in the waiting room of a mammography center, then where can you?  I dabbed at my eyes, because I am always afraid that if I let myself cry in public, I won't be able to stop.

The mammogram itself was surreal, as it always is to me.  I confess that I dreaded this week's dentist appointment more than the mammogram appointment.  And I am happy to report that both visits sent me away with a clean bill of health.  I didn't even need the follow up ultrasound that was scheduled yesterday.

The radiologist thinks that worrisome image on my February 28 scan was just bunched up tissue.  Part of me wanted yet another follow up, but I reminded myself that I got 4 scans yesterday, two of which were very pinched in on a specific area.  I decided that I deserved a treat, but not alcohol.  Given the amount of cancer in my family, I've decided to stay as abstinent when it comes to alcohol as I can.  Some days that's easier than others.

So yesterday, I rewarded myself with cake and flavored coffee and a bit of chocolate.  Happily, the Fresh Market is on my way home.  I thought about how often the Fresh Market has helped me celebrate.  When I got notice that I had passed my PhD written Comprehensive Exams, I went to the Fresh Market in Columbia, SC and got whatever I wanted, much of which was chocolate and baked goods.  My friend who went with me remembers that trip as one of the most joyous expeditions ever.  I do too.

Yesterday was joy-filled too, but also a tinged with weak-limbed relief.  I walked through the store, dabbing at my still-weepy eyes, saying prayers of gratitude, praying for those that wouldn't be receiving good news on Good Friday (or any other day in a cancer screening center).

I thought about the Good Friday in 2022 when I went out for a pre-dawn walk, tripped, and fell.  I broke my wrist, although it would take me days to fully understand that I broke it.  It would take me even longer to realize what a horrible break I had.  I made this Facebook post:  "Some years on Good Friday, you trip and fall and break your wrist (me in 2022, although it took me days to understand that I had broken my wrist, not just sprained it). Some years on Good Friday, you go back to have a follow up mammogram and ultrasound, and the news is good: not cancer, just bunched up tissue in the first mammogram in February (me, today, feeling grateful and guilty-ish, because so many people don't get good news)."

This morning, I started a poem with these lines, which will have the same title as this blog post:

No one mocks us here.
Here our flesh is treated with the care
it deserves. We are bound,
but tenderly, so that the mammographer can see
beyond the surface.

It will be interesting to see what develops (a bit of imaging punnery, which I couldn't resist).

Friday, March 29, 2024

The Roads Taken

There was a moment last night, looking out across the congregation of Faith Lutheran in Bristol, Tennessee, when I was a tad overwhelmed by all that has happened in the past two years.  Two years ago on Maundy Thursday (which was in mid-April in 2022), I had been severed from my full-time job, and I thought we were headed to D.C. to live in seminary housing.

On Good Friday of 2022, I broke my wrist, although it would take me time to figure out that I had broken it.  By the end of April of 2022, we were in the process of buying our Lutheridge house.  

I was also thinking about a year ago, when I would have been having the conversations that would lead to my current work position, conversations about becoming the Synod Appointed Minister (SAM) for Faith Lutheran and my teaching job at Spartanburg Methodist College.  Last night I was thinking about how situations I thought would be temporary are being extended.  I am trying not to wish it could be permanent.

Of course, it might be more permanent than I've been thinking it could be.  In terms of Faith Lutheran, much of the future isn't up to me; the Bishop will have a say, and the church governing structure will have a say.  Likewise, my lectureship at SMC might be extended, or it might be transformed into something else, and that something else may be more permanent (a tenure track job) or less permanent (back to adjunct work).

Last night at the end of the Maundy Thursday worship service, we stripped the altar.  Almost everyone had a part to play, an item to carry out.  It was much more participatory than anything I've experienced before.  As I watched it happen, again I marveled at the circumstances that brought me to be in this position:  the expectation of closed seminary housing which led me to reach out to Bishop Strickland about a possible internship site that could happen no matter where I was located, which led him to ask about the possibility of me being a SAM, which led me to decide to commit to moving back to my Lutheridge house and finishing my MDiv degree from a distance.

It's a strange place to be in, here for now, the future unknown.  In so many ways, that's our situation much of the time, whether we realize it or not.  I've gotten good at doing my best for the people where I am, where they are.  Being a college teacher at a school that doesn't have degrees in my subject area (English) has trained me to know that we'll only be together for a short time and to be O.K. with that.

As we drove home last night, leaving Bristol as the last streaks of sun drained from the sky, I looked out across pastures and thought about all the different paths one can take in life, how much I am loving being a part-time minister at a small country church.  If someone started out at a small country church and stayed there for their whole career, would that someone wonder about the roads not taken, perhaps yearning to have experienced being part of a ministry team with much larger resources?

Of course, we assume that if we're at a place with more resources, we'll be able to use them.  I know that I've often been happiest in job settings with fewer resources which meant I was left alone to do my own thing.  The same might be true of small congregations from the point of view of church members.  In small churches, more people get to step up and do more--there's not a team of people who will do it, and we can't say, "Well, we pay the church workers to do these things, so I'm not going to."

And now we shift to Good Friday.  Here's the close to my Good Friday sermon, a good grounding for the day:  "For today, let us sit with Good Friday: the sadness, the horror, the wishing that our salvation did not have to look this way. Let us remember how much our societies want to break anyone who offers a different vision of a more just world. Let us stand in solidarity with those who are shattered by our societies. Let us trust in a God who gives us free will to make disastrous decisions, but who will also show us in spectacular ways that the forces of death and destruction will not have the final word."

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Quick Maundy Thursday Post

Another Maundy Thursday, and I am writing later than I usually would.  I was finishing both my Maundy Thursday and Good Friday sermons, trying to connect the printer, getting ready to drive down the mountain to teach at Spartanburg Methodist College.

After I am done teaching, I will drive back up the mountain, stop at my Lutheridge house, and then my spouse and I will drive to Bristol, Tennessee, so that I can lead Maundy Thursday service at Faith Lutheran.  There have been many moments this morning when I wondered why I didn't just move my classes online.  Today will be more driving than many Maundy Thursdays in the past.

I am used to working my way through Holy Week, and I am glad that my seminary doesn't have classes--one of the benefits of a theological education, as opposed to other types of school I could be doing.

Still, my writing time today is short, so let me end with a good quote.  In her book An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor comments on the Last Supper: "With all the conceptual truths in the universe at his disposal, he [Jesus] did not give something to think about together when he was gone. Instead, he gave them concrete things to do--specific ways of being together in their bodies--that would go on teaching them what they needed to know when he was no longer around to teach them himself" (43).  Jesus gave us all "embodied sacraments of bread, wine, water, and feet" (44).

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Where We Are in the World

It is one of those mornings where I'll record some thoughts and see if I observe any connections.  Even if I don't, random thoughts are interesting too.

--This morning in an article in The Washington Post I saw a picture of the four Supreme Court justices who are female.  They are a diverse group, in terms of age, in terms of ethnicity, in terms of race, in terms of religion.  I feel so fortunate to have lived this long to see this diversity, even if I don't always agree with decisions from the Supreme Court.

--I find myself thinking about how hot the oceans are--breaking records for 10 months in a row.  If you want to see some charts, these are the ones that haunt my dreams (and yes, I've been having apocalyptic dreams about storms coming and relentless floods).  

--After apocalyptic dreams, I wake up so happy that we sold our house in South Florida.  My spouse continues to complain about how cold, damp, dark, and windy it is here, but in terms of climate change, it's about as safe a place as we could afford.  In terms of political chaos, I feel the same way.  The passages from the Gospel of Mark (chapter 14), which I've been reading for Holy Week sermon prep, resonate in ways they always have, that warning about seeing cultural collapse and the need to flee to the mountains.

--This line came to me yesterday morning; it's not much of a line, but I want to record it:  Meanwhile, the sea simmers

--I think about the lines I created last week, lines about needles.  I'm thinking about slender things like needles and lines on a graph, things slender enough to disappear, but can stab you when you least expect it.

--I'm also thinking about a conversation I had with a colleague at Spartanburg Methodist College yesterday; we were talking about our frustrations with research papers.  She has students write about a place or location that shaped them, and then they do some research on that place.  I really like that idea.

--I also like the idea of bringing in quilts to knot and having students devise a research project around that process.  They could research quilts or Lutheran World Relief or the places where the quilts are going.

--I've been thinking about what I want students to spend time thinking about, which is what they value, what they want to be as humans, not as parts of the capitalist experience.  

--I've also been thinking about where we are in the life of the planet, who we are in history.  I've been thinking of living history projects.  I've been thinking of journals, like the one that Dorothy Wordsworth kept, that have been important.  Could I devise writing projects that have students record the minutiae of their days and then look at what it all means?

--I love the idea of having them do a creative project and then have them write a process kind of essay, a meta/how I created this kind of paper.  I want to believe that there's less chance of cheating this way, but I could be sadly mistaken.

--It is great to feel inspired about teaching again.  My colleagues have such cool ideas.  But then again, I've been lucky to have always had colleagues with cool ideas.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Bridge Collapses and Modern Life

I had thought about various blog posts to write--and then I heard about the collapse of the Key Bridge in Baltimore.  The video is dramatic, as are the pictures of the bridge in the water.  I suppose it could have been much worse.  The collapse happened at 1:30 in the morning, so there wouldn't have been as many vehicles on it as there would have been 5 hours earlier.

The collapse happened because a freighter crashed into it--many questions there.  I can't decide if I feel better or worse in knowing the cause.  On the one hand, at least it's not an infrastructure collapse.  On the other hand, how could a freighter go off course this way?  It's not like a recreational boater was being an idiot.  

Every time I hear of a bridge collapse, I wonder about the moments of collapse from the perspective of the drivers on the bridge.  At what point do they realize what is happening?  Or do they?  If the car leaves the bridge and falls, is that fall survivable?

I still have a little hammer in my car, a tool designed to break car windows, with a slicer on the other end that could help me get out of the seat belt if need be.  I bought them over 20 years ago, after seeing several news accounts of people going off the road into canals.  Even though my risk of going into a canal is much lower up here in the mountains, I keep one in the car, where I could get to it from the driver's front seat, if necessary.

[edited on 3/27/24:  in the articles in the aftermath of the bridge collapse, I read this one in The Washington Post that recommends not wasting precious moments trying to find any sort of tool to break the windows.  You've got about a minute where your electric windows will go down, and that's what you should do.  Here's the acronym SWOC and what it means:    

  • Seat belts off.
  • Windows open.
  • Out immediately.
  • Children first.  
It's easier to push people out of the sinking car than to pull them out.]

I thought about my route down to Spartanburg.  Do I go across any bridges?  I do, but they're not as dramatic as the Key Bridge.  If one of those collapsed, would it be survivable?

Hopefully, I'll never find out; hopefully the infrastructure will hold.  Every bridge I cross is not a bridge that could be struck by a freighter ship or anything big enough to cause a collapse--I think.

Let me bring these wonderings to a close so that I can get to work on time.

Monday, March 25, 2024

The Feast Day of the Annunciation

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, the feast day which celebrates the appearance of the angel Gabriel, who tells Mary of her opportunity to be part of God's mission of redemption. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and says, in the older wording that I still like best, "Hail, oh blessed one! The Lord is with you!" Mary asks some questions, and Gabriel says, "For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1: 37). And Mary says, ". . . let it be with me according to your word" (Luke 1: 38).

That means only 9 months until Christmas. If I wrote a different kind of blog, I'd fill the rest of this post with witty ways to make your shopping easier. But instead of spending the next nine months strategically getting our gifts bought, maybe we should think about the next nine months in terms of waiting for God, watching for God, incubating the Divine.

I find Mary an interesting model for modern spirituality. Notice what is required of Mary. She must wait.

Mary is not required to enter into a spiritual boot camp to get herself ready for this great honor. No, she must be present to God and be willing to have a daily relationship, an intimacy that most of us would never make time for. She doesn't have to travel or make a pilgrimage to a different land. She doesn't have to go to school to work on a Ph.D. She isn't even required to go to the Temple any extra amount. She must simply slow down and be present. And of course, she must be willing to be pregnant, which requires more of her than most of us will offer up to God. And there's the later part of the story, where she must watch her son die an agonizing death.

But before she is called upon to these greater tasks, first she must slow down enough to hear God. I've often thought that if the angel Gabriel came looking for any one of us, we'd be difficult to find. Gabriel would need to make an appointment months in advance!

In our society, it's interesting to me to wonder what God would have to do to get our attention. I once wrote these lines in a poem:

I don’t want God to have to fling
frogs at me to get my attention. I want
to be so in touch that I hear the still,
small voice crying in this wilderness of American life.
I don’t want God to set fire to the shrubbery to get my notice.

We might think about how we can listen for God's call. Most of us live noisy lives: we're always on our cell phones, we've often got several televisions blaring in the house at once, we're surrounded by traffic (and their loud stereos), we've got people who want to talk, talk, talk. Maybe today would be a good day to take a vow of silence, inasmuch as we can, to listen for God.

If we can't take a vow of silence, we could look for ways to have some silence in our days. We could start with five minutes and build up from there.

Maybe we can't be silent, but there are other ways to tune in to God. Maybe we want to keep a dream journal to see if God tries to break through to us in that way. Maybe we want to keep a prayer journal, so that we have a record of our prayer life--and maybe we want to revisit that journal periodically to see how God answers our prayers.

Let us celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation by thinking about our own lives. What does God call us to do? How will we answer that call?

(And yes, I realize the feast day might be moved because we're in Holy Week, but I'm writing about it today, before heading off to 9 a.m. Mass at Saint Barnabas for a Worship Immersion paper).

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Down from the Mountain

Here's a curious thing I noticed this year:  even though I live at camp, even though I live on the mountain, I still have a coming down from the mountain kind of experience.

For those of you wondering what on earth I'm talking about, it's the coming back from a retreat experience, or some other time out of time experience, the kind where you think, why can't all of life be this way?  For those of you with church experience, you may recognize various mountain top experiences,  like the Transfiguration story, where Jesus takes a few disciples up to the top of a mountain, where he is transfigured and he has discussions with theological greats, Moses and Elijah.  Understandably, the disciples don't want to leave.  

But every mountain top experience ends in leaving the mountain and going back to regular life.  In the past, my mountain top experiences at Lutheridge ended in a 12 hour drive back to the flatlands of South Florida.  It took me some time to get my regular life groove back, in part because of the drive.

I had thought that now that I live at Lutheridge, some of my trouble getting back into regular life rhythms might disappear, and some of them have.  Quilt Camp ended at 11, and I made my way home, a 2 minute drive.  Yesterday afternoon, I was still able to walk around camp, which was a nice change to my 12 hour drive trip home of past years.  But I still felt this sadness that Quilt Camp was over.

Part of my sadness comes from the return to a house that's under construction, with cramped work spaces--so different from the past few days at the Faith Center, with a work station that gave me plenty of room to spread out.

I decided that we needed to do something besides diving deep into our to do list.  So I suggested that we get pizza and watch a movie.  And that's exactly what we did.  I love our local pizza place, Acropolis, and we got two pizzas to go with our movie.  We watched Road House, both the brand new version with Jake Gyllenhaal, and the original with Patrick Swayze.  The original had more nudity, both had lots of people beating each other up with very few broken bones, and lots of explosions.  Neither required much brain power, which was what I wanted.

So here we are, Palm Sunday, the launch into Holy Week.  Let me go to get the day started.  It's another week of schedule disruptions, but that can be a good thing.  It's good to be jolted out of our regular life experiences, good to remember that there's more than what we perceive on a daily basis.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Domestic Arts and Societal Collapse: An Overview

This morning, a line came to me: The sound of scissors slicing through fabric.  

Is it something different than the beginnings of a poem about needles?  Perhaps.  Maybe it's a poem about how we think that sewing is about putting pieces together, but it's really a skill that requires lots of cutting.  We think of piecing as putting together small scraps into a larger whole, but we lose sight of the process that makes the small scraps.

Something apocalyptic lurks in the background of my thinking this morning.  I like the idea of linking hobbies that we see as evoking a cozy domesticity to larger societal collapse--I have always loved that juxtaposition.

I also like the idea of something that most people see as useless--embroidery, for example--to some larger skill that will be needed in the future.  The woman who can embroider will be able to suture your skin together when the emergency room has collapsed when the power grid went down.  Too much?

I only have a few hours left of Quilt Camp, so let me return to fabric arts today--back to art with words tomorrow.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Theologian to the Algorithm: Inspirations from Quilt Camp

On Wednesday morning, I had 15 squares that needed finishing.  This morning, I have 8.  In some ways, I thought I was making more progress.  I thought I might be able to sew the whole top together, but I don't think that will happen this week.  I am fine with that.

I've gotten a chance to connect with old friends.  I've taken a look at their projects and heard about their lives.  That aspect is one of the most important parts of a retreat for me.

I've gotten a lot of sewing done, and a lot of sorting of scraps.  I have an idea for a next project, one that will be easier to pick up and put down as I keep my spouse company while he watches T.V.

I've gotten other work done too, seminary work and teaching work, done with scraps of time here or there.  It's a valuable lesson, and I'm glad that I learned it early--one can accomplish a lot, even if one only has 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there.

I've remembered other truths too, like the calming effect of stitching straight lines by hand.  In our devotional time on Wednesday night, we took a deep breath in and a deep breath out.  We did it a few more times.  I thought, I know the power of deep breathing--why do I always forget to do it?

I've heard from several people who tune in to morning watch, the short devotional that I do each morning.  It's housed on my Florida church's Facebook page, and I link to it on my Facebook page each day.  I started doing it 4 years ago, as various church members were trying to keep our community sane and grounded and connected.  It's good for me, so I keep doing it.  I hear from a few people who leave comments, but there's no way for me to know the ultimate numbers of who views it.  I have never been able to decipher Facebook's metrics, and I'm sure that's by design.  Right now, it's free, so why not continue?

I say free, and I do realize that Facebook gets something out of it, or we wouldn't be able to use the site the way we do.  It's hard for me to imagine that my 12 minutes of devotional time is very useful to the algorithm creators who vacuum up all our data and content, but who knows.

Now I have a vision of generative AI learning by using my morning devotional time, which uses Phyllis Tickle's work in The Divine Hours, which uses an ancient lectionary.  That's me, theologian to AI and the algorithm!

I love retreats for the wide ranging inspirations they provide.  Happily, this one is no different.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Poem Inspirations in Quilt Camp Week

I had begun to wonder if I could still call myself a poet.  I haven't written much in the way of poetry lately.  Not only that, I haven't even gotten many glimmers of potential poems, which is always a state that worries me.

But this week, the poetry muse has come to visit.  On Tuesday, I scheduled a follow up mammogram and ultrasound for Friday, March 29.  I thought, hmm, Good Friday and a mammogram--all sorts of mortification of the flesh interesting juxtapositions there.  Sure, there's the potential for sacrilegious connections, which makes the possible poem even more tempting. 

This morning, I had a line come to me as I tried to thread my needle:  "She tried to starve herself slender, like a needle."  I looked up the Margaret Atwood poem to make sure I wasn't stealing:  "you fit into me / like a hook into an eye  /  a fish hook / an open eye."  Nope, that's not the direction I was heading.  I envy the brevity of Atwood's poem--something to keep in mind for future experiments.

Let me record some ideas.

Other ways of writing that line:

Like a needle, she tried to starve herself--nope.

She tried to starve herself slender as a needle.  I like this version best.

As I sew today, let me be thinking about where this poem wants to go:  

--There's an eye on one end of the needle, a sharp point on the other.

--The needle observes.  From the vantage point of the sewing basket, the needle sees all.

--If you drop a needle, you may not be able to see it.  But it can still jab you, and maybe leave you hobbled.

--I had a favorite needle once.  I used it to make several quilts.  It had a slight bow--and eventually, it broke in two.

--You can get a variety of needles in a pack that costs just a few dollars.  If you're lucky, one will have an eye you can thread without your magnifying glass.

--How can something so slender come in a variety of thicknesses?

--Threading the needle--getting the right balance, especially in a difficult situation.

--If a needle goes dull, it can be sharpened.  Most people don't know that.  Most people don't have a favorite needle that they are desperate to save.

--The needle keeps company with a variety of _____, but it keeps its own counsel.  Colorful fabrics, colorful thread, the needle silver and solitary.

--Even if you sweep the floor, you might miss the needle (miss in the meaning of not finding it, miss in the meaning of longing for it).

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Quilt Camp Begins

 Yesterday, I wrote this Facebook post in the morning before heading to work:

"In olden days, I'd have already been on the road for several hours, driving to get to Quilt Camp at Lutheridge. What a blessing that I can drive an hour down the mountain to teach at Spartanburg Methodist College and still be back in time for Quilt Camp--2 hours in the car instead of 12. On Thursday, my students will have time to write while I am at Quilt Camp, transforming scraps and cast offs into works of art--or something cheerful to help us keep warm. I'll be posting pictures all week--stay tuned!"

Then there was a traffic snarl on the Interstate, which I realized before I got trapped waiting to get on the Interstate, so I turned around and took the long way to an exit further down the road where the traffic wasn't snarled.  It still left me a bit anxious, even though I always give myself plenty of time, just in case there is a traffic snarl.

I taught all day, and my last two classes wasn't the fun kind of teaching--it was formatting the Works Cited page, where I sometimes wonder why we're wasting time on this at all.  And yes, I know why, but it's hard to imagine that in the coming climate crisis combined with political dysfunction, that my students will need to know how to format a Works Cited page.

So, what should I be teaching them?  How to preserve food?  More likely, how to rebuild electrical grids--but of course, I don't know how to rebuild electrical grids.

Finally, my teaching day was over, and I had a much easier drive home.  I stopped by the Faith Center to claim a work station and carried some stuff in.  I went home, changed clothes, and came back.  I opened my laptop and made sure that I had checked in on my online students.  I sat for a bit, just staring at fabric.  Finally, I thought, let me make some progress.  Let me sort fabric and remember what I have.  Finally, I was able to post this picture:

My goal is to finish all the log cabin squares--and to stop making more!

I was surprised by how long it took me to shift gears yesterday.  I didn't get much sewing done.  I felt the same kind of bone weariness as if I had just driven 12 hours.  It was a tiring day, although in a different way.  Adrenaline can only take me so far.

Happily, Quilt Camp lasts until Saturday, so I have plenty of time to sew, to catch up with friends, to catch up on some seminary work and grading, and to sew some more.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Spring Arrives, as Does Quilt Camp!

I only have time for a quick blog post this morning.  But there's more time than a week ago, when I would be heading down to Spartanburg early, to interview for the job that I got.  When I left the house on Thursday to go to campus, I was an adjunct.  When I returned to the house, I had been offered a one year lectureship.  Hurrah for days that go that way.

Today we are back to chillier temperatures, more seasonal for March, which means a grumpier spouse.  But happily, we're at the time of year where it's not chilly like this for long.  He will grumble regardless, and I am under no illusion that I can change the weather, so this is a problem I spend no time wondering how to solve.

Many of the puzzles/problems in my life would probably benefit from this kind of thinking.  I can change very little, and that becomes truer, the further away I get from problems that are mine alone.  I am a believer in the power of groups to change geopolitical situations, but I think that most groups don't have a realistic sense of how long that takes.

I think of the trees and plants that bud and bloom because of the change in light.  They are likely protected from these changes in temperature.  Global warming hasn't changed those patterns.  I think of trees and plants that put out buds and blooms when it's warm enough.  They may suffer damage.

I'm also thinking of the readings about cherry blossoms that I did last year.  The process from bud to bloom had started, and we had some cold nights just before the peak.  But they survived.  They can survive temperatures right at freezing, but when it dips into the 20's, that's when they're at risk, particularly if the temps are in the 20's for several hours.  I remember looking at the hourly forecast, hoping that they might beat the odds.  Last year, they did.

And this year, our flowering trees will probably be fine too.  For all my spouse's grumbling, it's not going to be that cold for that long each night.  

Happy vernal equinox!  Spring arrives tonight, at 11:06 in my Eastern time zone.  

It's also the first day of Quilt Camp.  Will I put a top together?  Will I start a different project?  Tonight I plan to sort through my bags and baskets and try to remember what I had in mind last November, the last time that I was working with fabric on a regular basis.  It's hard to work in a house that's under construction.  

But first, teaching awaits.  I'll go down to Spartanburg Methodist, teach my students, and then drive back, stopping in at the Faith Center to claim my table.  It's going to be a great week!

Monday, March 18, 2024

Looking Ahead to Fall Seminary Classes

When we get to reading week, I start to check to see if the schedule of classes for the following term has been released yet.  Even in the week or two before reading week, I check, although I know that the schedule isn't likely to be released.  Yesterday, I checked to see if the Fall schedule was there, even though it was Sunday.  There it was.

I must have missed the late afternoon posting of the schedule, because when I checked late Friday morning, it wasn't there.  I can't actually register for classes until March 25, so I haven't lost out.  More exciting, there are plenty of classes that will work for me.

In the past year, I haven't had as many classes that I could take.  That's partly a function of having been in the MDiv program for awhile:  a lot of the courses offered are ones I've already taken.  But I've also felt a bit fretful as I've seen fewer classes that are offered for students who have to take classes from a distance.

This fall, I'll be taking a variety of classes:  one is completely online, one meets by way of Zoom Mondays from 6:30 to 9:30, and two meet in person on campus for one week, October 14-18, with the rest of the work online.

If I take one more class, I could be done with the MDiv by December.  But do I want to do that?  Hmm.  One of my favorite professors is teaching a class on the Gospel of Mark, so it's tempting.  That class meets by way of Zoom once a month, and the rest is online.  It could be doable.

You may be saying, "Wait, aren't you about to start a full-time job in the Fall?"  Yes.  Could I handle a heavy teaching load and a heavy seminary class load at the same time?  Yes.  

I will take the four classes regardless, unless something changes radically.  It gets my requirements done, and the classes that I need for the certificate in Theology and the Arts done.  I want to take the classes while they are offered and in a format that works for me.  I can't be sure that it will happen term after term.  Let me seize this opportunity while it's here!

Sunday, March 17, 2024

The Seeds of Saint Patrick's Day

I have never done much celebrating of St. Patrick's Day. I don't drink green beer, and if someone else served me corned beef, I'd eat it, but I don't love it enough to make it for my own homestead. Occasionally I make Irish soda bread, and I wonder why it isn't tastier. I've made a cake with Guinness beer occasionally, and here, too, I wonder why it isn't more delicious. I'm not braving the crowds to go to an Irish pub--I like my pubs deserted.

I may spend some time contemplating Celtic aspects of Christianity, but I might do that any day, whether it's a day that celebrates the life of a famous Irish saint or not.

I am intrigued by the crowds of people who have no connection to Ireland or Christianity or any of the reasons we celebrate today. But I'm not critical. I believe in injecting festivity into daily life in whatever way we can.

Today I will go to church, people may wear green. That's fine.  I am preaching a sermon that thinks about Saint Patrick, the Oscars, the U.S. presidential race, and today's Lectionary text: John 12:  20-33, a text about seeds and the necessity to die so that we may live again.  Many would preach this text as an eternal life text, but I'm encouraging us to look at our current lives.  What bulbs do we need to be planting?  Where are we stuck in the mud of life?

Saint Patrick, before he was a saint, surely felt stuck in the mud, sent to a distant outpost to help solidify Christianity in Ireland in the 500's, when Ireland was a wild and wooly place, when the empire of Rome was in a state of slow collapse.  Yet he used his gifts to transform the community of faith--and one of those gifts was the 6-7 years he spent as a teen enslaved in Ireland before he escaped.

Here's how today's sermon ends:

Our sprouting and blooming will almost surely not look like the success that our larger culture has trained us to value. We’re not likely to win an Oscar or to be a presidential nominee. Even though I’d vote for just about any of you, our system isn’t set up that way. But the life of Saint Patrick reminds us to be of good cheer. Even if we feel like we’re stranded in a distant outpost, we are making a difference just by living our lives in an authentic way, the way that God calls us to live. Even if we feel like we’re stuck in the mud, in truth, we are bulbs in the process of transformation to blooms.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Pioneers Planning Composition Classes

Today I am feeling a bit frazzled.  It's a combination of things:  a jam-packed week, a realization that seminary writing is due at noon today not 5 p.m. like I originally thought, feeling annoyed that I've spent more of my adult life in houses that are under construction than finished, having trouble finding the book I needed in the stack of books that got displaced because of the drywall project, a sermon that I still need to construct.

Let me collect some snippets here.  Let me look for gratitude inspiring nuggets to preserve.

--I have realized that I'm at a school, Spartanburg Methodist College, where I can be more creative.  Before I had that realization, I crafted fairly safe syllabi:  write an evaluation essay, write an argumentative essay, write a research paper.  But my colleagues are doing very cool things in their classrooms, like having students create chain mail (I think it's for a Medieval Lit class, but I'm not sure) or virtual commonplace books in the style of Shakespeare (see this article for more information).

--I am going to spend the summer thinking of ways to be more creative in my classrooms, to have students be more creative.  I'm not teaching Creative Writing, but there's lots I can do in English 101 (English Composition) and English 100 (the pre-college writing class).  

--I have this vision of something that might feel like more of a Return to the Pioneer Life class.  They could knot some quilts that I'd bring in.  We could churn butter (in the pour cream in a jar and shake it kind of way).  Hmmm.  I've been wanting to revisit the Little House books.  Hmm.

--The Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum does have Wilder days Sept. 27 and 28 and a Children's Literature Festival November 7 and 8.  Hmm.  

--I also want to know more about Spartanburg.  It would be cool if there was something similar nearby.

--My students are the Spartanburg Pioneers.  Hmmm.  Yes, that's the mascot.  Maybe we could have a Pioneer Days festival at school.  Maybe everyone would like to knot quilts for Lutheran World Relief.  I hesitate to suggest such a thing for fear I would end up being the one to plan it.

--One of my colleagues is having a Medieval Matters day at campus today.  It's both a festival and a conference, with students presenting papers and research.  She has students coming in from multiple states and schools.  It sounds really cool.  I am so happy to be in a place that has this kind of person pulling together this kind of event.

--Let me hasten to add that almost every school I've been at has had similar opportunities.  Most of us who are drawn to teaching want to have these kinds of cool things for students, and I've been lucky to be places where it's been encouraged.

--I have been talking about how I wish I could have another week off because this past week, while wonderful, has left me wrung out.  Then I realized that this week is Quilt Camp!  It's not a complete week off, but it will rejuvenate me.  And unlike past years, I don't have to drive 12 hours to get to Quilt Camp.

Friday, March 15, 2024

In Which I Accept a One Year Teaching Lectureship

So, now I can be more straight forward than I was yesterday, with my discussion of "dressy" shoes.  This week, I interviewed for a one year full-time teaching lectureship at Spartanburg Methodist College, hence the need for "dressy" shoes (which, again, I stress that most people wouldn't see them as "dressy"--they are flat and black and boring).  Yesterday, they offered me the position, and I said  yes.

Let me say at the outset, I'm still going to be taking seminary classes, so having this job doesn't change that.  If the Faith Lutheran folks want me to continue past June (when the contract extension ends) as their very part-time minister, a full-time teaching job doesn't get in the way of that.

The college had advertised several positions; I originally applied for the tenure track position, which had this language:  

"A PhD in Rhetoric and Composition or related discipline. (ABD with identified completion date will also be considered). We are especially interested in candidates with areas of specialization in professional writing; technical communication; digital and social media studies; visual rhetorics; business, grant, and non-profit writing; or editing and publishing. Additional experience with creative writing and/or journalism is welcome."

I thought that I might fit--I don't have course work in digital and social media studies, but I've been doing writing for digital spaces and social media.  I've taught business and technical writing.  I've done editing and publishing and professional writing of all kinds.  I thought it was worth applying, particularly since I've had success there as an adjunct.

A few weeks ago, I heard from a woman on the search committee, who also happens to be the woman who hired me to be an adjunct.  She said they had decided on a different candidate for the tenure track position, but she asked me to consider applying for the one year lectureship, which is a 5/5 course load (the tenure track position is a 4/4 load).  After asking some questions, I said that I would like to have my materials given to the search committee.

A week before Spring Break, I was told that the committee would be interviewing me, and this week was the week.  On Tuesday, the search committee came to see me teach, and on Wednesday, I had an interview with the Provost (the chief academic officer on the campus), followed by an interview with the search committee.  There was a meet and greet that was open to the whole faculty, and then the search committee took me to lunch.

On Wednesday as I drove home, I thought that the day couldn't have gone much better.  I've had interviews where later I thought, I wish I had answered that question differently.  But on the whole, I don't think that Tuesday or Wednesday could have gone much better.

Yesterday I returned to campus to teach.  When I was in my office, eating my lunch of Greek lentils and barley, the Provost came by.  He offered me the one year lectureship, and I accepted.  It will be all English 100 and 101 classes for fall, which is fine with me.  I'm not creating new courses, which makes it easier to stay on track with my seminary progress.  I've often said that if I had gotten a PhD in Political Science instead of English, I'd have spent lots of time recently rewriting a lot of my curriculum, but the English Composition basics haven't really changed radically during my lifetime.

When I applied for the tenure track position, I didn't know that the school was beginning a BA in Professional Writing and Digital Communications--that announcement came later.  I am guessing that the tenure track person will be doing a lot to support that program:  curriculum creating now, helping students with job searches later.  In many ways, the one year lectureship works better for me.

What happens after a year?  The lectureship might be extended, or it might not.  It might turn into a tenure track position, which might mean that other people could apply.  In a year, I might be finished with my MDiv degree, and I might have all sorts of options--or I might not.

It's good to have a year of stable income, a year when I have a sense of what I'll be teaching well in advance of when the classes start.  It's good to have a chance to be working with these colleagues who have been wonderful so far--an important reason why the tenure track position interested me.

I won't lie--it's also nice to be chosen.  I've worked in places where it's clear that adjuncts rarely get the full-time jobs.  I'm glad that it worked out differently this time.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Our Best Selves

It has been a week of disrupted schedules, with more Zoom calls than usual, more trips to Spartanburg than usual, a morning of uncomfortable "dressy" shoes (even my dress shoes are flats, which would be seen as more frumpy than dressy by many people), a week of midterm projects due, and a fish fry on Friday.  I am weary, and it's only Thursday.  I am weary because the week-end only provides a smidge of down time.

But it is a good kind of weariness, the kind that comes from extra opportunities to catch up with friends, the kind of weariness that comes from the opportunity to get to know colleagues better.

On Tuesday morning, I had a classroom teaching observation, which in some ways, should be no big deal by now.  But it's always a bit unnerving.  Happily, the class went well.  The observation team expressed delighted amazement by how engaged the class was:  "When you had them write, everyone was actually writing."  And I had an idea that I wasn't sure would work, but it did, and the team liked that too; I had students make lists, and then I had them go to one of the 3 white boards and write 1-3 ideas on the white board.  It fostered participation, and we could discuss the ideas as a whole, without singling anyone out or putting anyone on the spot, in either a positive way or a negative way.

Because Tuesday was an observation day, I was in high energy mode for the morning class, which meant I was a bit depleted for my afternoon classes.  I always feel a bit guilty, like I'm shortchanging my students.  But when I think over the history of my teaching, I realize that I'm always feeling guilty about how much more I could be doing, yet my students remember my better days.  I just heard from one of them a few weeks ago who said, "I have never learned and achieved so much knowledge in a class than in a class taught by you!"

Yesterday was a morning in "dressy" shoes, talking about teaching strategies, teaching histories, approaches to life and education.  I’ve been trying to remember the final question I was asked. It was something along the lines of “Describe good teaching.” I said that the purpose of teaching was more than just delivering subject matter, but the real purpose of teaching was to make students know that they are more than their worst day, to remind them again and again that they are better than what advertisers want them to believe, what politicians want them to believe about themselves, so that they’ll buy more, or vote for candidates. The best teaching reminds students of their better selves and what could be.

I felt myself choking up a bit, with tears coming to my eyes, and in my head, I reminded myself that I was not in a preaching moment, and I dialed it down a smidge. I said, “Now subject matter is important, don’t get me wrong. But subject matter can come along for the ride as we turn students into the best versions of themselves.”

So, all day yesterday, and in my teaching in my Tuesday class, people saw me as one of my best selves, the teaching first year students best self.  It's interesting to think about how my best teacher self intersects with my best preaching self and how those selves interact with my best creative self.  Are there other selves at play?  I would think about this further, but time is short.

Now it's time to get cleaned up, to head down the mountain to teach.  I feel like the teaching portion of my week should be over, but it is not.  At least today I can do it in more comfortable shoes!

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

More on Infographics

I don't have much writing time this morning.  I need to leave even earlier than usual for a morning of meetings in Spartanburg.  Let me return to the idea of infographics, which I first wrote about in this blog post.  Now that my baptism infographic has been graded, I can share it:

As I was looking at my pictures, I came across the black and white version, which I took in case I messed up the infographic when I added color.  I wouldn't have had a way to undo the color, but I could have turned in the black and white version.  Happily, I liked the color version better.

I still find this concept of an infographic intriguing.  I'm still looking for ways to incorporate it into my writing classes.  Of course, this is the time of year when I find myself yearning for a different way to do the research paper.  Or wishing that I didn't have to do a research paper at all.  

Let me record this here:  as much as I'm enjoying teaching, I do find myself yearning to do more creative things in class and not having to do some of the traditional stuff, like the research essay.  I find myself wishing I could teach less English writing classes and more creativity class.  Not so much creative writing, but a class exploring creativity.

Maybe I just want to play with art supplies.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Pre-Dawn Cooking

My spouse said that our kitchen smelled earthy this morning, and he thought it was the rice pudding that I had in the oven.  I think it's the small pot of lentils and barley that I also had cooking.  I think of the spices that we dumped when we moved, and then once we got settled, trying to replace them all.  And now, some of them are old again.

You might wonder why I'm making rice pudding in the pre-dawn hours.  I was making the lentils and barley for lunch and remembered that we had some leftover rice.  Did I want to use that instead of the barley?  I decided that we still had enough rice for rice pudding, so I went that route, making it while I still had milk in the fridge.

Yesterday was very strange, speaking of milk.  The store had 2% and full fat milk, no 1% or skim.  These days, I'm not picky as long as the pull date is much further out than a few days away.  We don't consume milk like we once did.

In some ways, no one consumes like we once did.  I read an article that talks about how restaurants that have pivoted to carry out food are doing very well, while sit down dining has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.  Seeing the empty racks where milk once was reminded me of those early days of the pandemic, where many items weren't restocked for weeks.  When I think back to what we were about to go through four years ago.

My experience was so different from most people.  I still went in to an office.  I was still out and about in the world, even as I was seeing fewer people.  I wonder if I'll ever get to a point where mid-March approaches, and I don't think back to 2020.

Today is a getting back on track day, teaching classes with students returning from Spring Break.  I'm also being observed teaching one of those classes.  It should be fine, but I'll be glad when it's done.  They are not a talkative group, but I have a variety of activities planned.

Hopefully, once I get through the next few days of interviews, midterm projects, grading, new online classes that I start teaching--hopefully I'll return to more sustained writing and a poem or two.

Getting back into a seminary rhythm is less hard, since I worked on projects over the break.  There is the worry that I'm forgetting something.  But that's my constant worry.  Whether it's stocking supplies or tending to duties or being on the lookout for the apocalypse, I do worry that I'm forgetting something.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Off Schedule

Between travel and the time change, I am off schedule today, and this is a week where my schedule will be disrupted in different ways.  Let me collect some reflections before turning my attention to seminary work.

--I have several interviews this week, which led me to wonder if women are still expected to wear hose to interviews.  I will be wearing a well-below-the-knees skirt; I am not a sensible pantsuit woman.  I did check to make sure that my dressiest flats were not eaten away by mold from living unworn in my Florida closet for so long.  Later today I'll put on the knee high hose I bought today and make sure they still fit.  I have had a variety of foot complications since I first bought them, complications like arthritis and hammer toe.

--I have a variety of midterm projects due for my seminary classes, and happily, they are almost done.  While travelling last week, I made good use of early morning time when I was awake, and everyone else was sleeping.

--Even though it was windier than I like, I really enjoyed driving through the mountains on my way home yesterday.  The higher elevations in North Carolina have snow (fresh?  remaining?  I don't know).

--I made this Facebook post yesterday:  "I thought I was making great time on my Southern Appalachian driving tour. Was it because I was fueled by the music of my misspent youth and a 3 lb bag of baby carrots? No, I just forgot to change the car clock."

--It's chilly today, with a vicious wind, ahead of pleasant looking temperatures for the rest of the week.  So we're letting the oven self-clean.  When we lived in Florida, I trained myself to only let the oven self-clean during cold snaps because it heated up the house too much.

--My oven in South Florida was rarely spotless--not enough cold snaps.

--As with many years, I did not watch any of the movies up for an Oscar.  Maybe I'll get around to that in the coming months.

--I had planned to get back to a walking schedule today, but this wind cuts right through me.  Maybe I'll wait until tomorrow.  Or I could go up to the fitness center and do a bit of weight work.  

--But first, let me get back to my Systematic Theology midterm.  I had one of those nights where I woke up thinking, this approach is how to finish the paper.  Let me write it, before I forget.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Home Away from Home

A quick note before I pack up the car and head back across the mountains, back down to my part of the Appalachian chain.  I got away for a few days to see my mom, dad, and sister.  We met up in Charlottesville, a town where once we lived as a nuclear family.  Actually, we lived here twice, and we've all continued to circle back to Charlottesville occasionally.

We rented a small AirBnB house not too far from the house we rented when we first moved here so that my dad could do an MPA degree at the University of Virginia.  We've had fun exploring wineries and breweries and driving around this town that has changed so much.

It's been great to have a house for a few days, instead of hotel rooms.  It's wonderful to be able to cook meals and to spread out.  I've gotten a lot of work for classes done--one of the wonders of technology, and of traveling by car, which means I could bring a laptop and lots of books.  I am grateful that my sister and I both have spouses who were willing to see to the responsibilities of homes we left behind for a few days.

I'll state the obvious:  we are all growing older, and it's wonderful to still be able to do this, to get away for a few days, to enjoy being together.  It's a gift, and I'm grateful that I realize what a gift it is while I still have it.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Channeling Harriet Tubman: International Women's Day 2024

March is the month designated to celebrate women's history; March 8 is International Women's Day. We might ask ourselves why we still need to set time apart to pay attention to women. Haven't we enacted laws so that women are equal and now we can just go on with our lives?

Sadly, no, that is not the case. If we look at basic statistics, like how much women earn compared to men in the very same jobs, we see that the U.S. has still not achieved equality. If we look at who is running corporations and institutions large and small, those people are usually male and white.  If we look at violent crime rates across the past 100 years, we discover that most violent crime rates have fallen--except for rape. If we look at representation in local, state, and federal levels, we see that members of government are still mostly white and male.

And that's in a first world country. The picture for women in developing nations is bleak.  And these past few years have reminded us that legal protections can be stripped away, in every country.

Most of us understand why a world where more women have access to equal resources would be a better world for all of us. Many of us have spent years and decades working to make that world a reality.  Many of us are so tired at the thought of work left to do--and worse, work that needs doing again.

As always, my brain shifts to apocalyptic possibilities, the fact that I may think it's bad now, but worse days may be coming.  In times like these, let me channel Harriet Tubman.  

I picture her appearing in the fields where we're enslaved.  I picture her saying, "Wake up. We're going for freedom, and we're going tonight. I've been there, and I can get you there. But we have to leave right now."

Sure, I could channel Winston Churchill or FDR, but I like Harriet Tubman.  I like Sojourner Truth.  I like the vast assortment of female ancestors of all colors, most of whom are nameless, who never gave up, or if they gave up, only allowed themselves to give up for a day or two.

Let us have the courage of Harriet Tubman, who led so many to freedom.  Let us have the spirit of Sojourner Truth, who worked tirelessly for social justice, even when she envisioned a better world that many of her contemporaries couldn't see as possible.  Let us have the fortitude of generations of women who never stopped believing that a better world was possible and who kept working to make the changes in society that opened doors and broke apart barriers.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Open Floor Plans

I sit here in the drywall dust, perched on a barstool, with my computer on a different writing surface this morning, the teak table that used to be on our front porch in Florida.  Is this a metaphor?  Perhaps, but it's also my situation.  I mention the drywall dust because I thought this stage of the drywall install would not generate so much dust.  We haven't gotten to the second part, the mudding and the sanding and more sanding.

It takes a lot to make a wall--did Robert Frost say something similar?  If so, he was talking about some picturesque wall made of stones that had been standing for a century or more.  Once, most people would never have a reason to be so intimately acquainted with drywall dust.

I hold home remodeling shows on TV responsible.  People come in to a perfectly good house and demand an "open concept," which means walls must come down and/or be moved.  I hope to never do this again.  We had an open concept house, but not in the ways that most people mean.  At one point, we had so few interior walls, you could see all the way through our house, from kitchen to bathroom to bedroom.

At least we know the house has good bones.  Another thing about the remodel shows that amuses me--all these flippers buying houses and then being surprised at the old electrical and plumbing infrastructure that must be replaced, all this moaning about how much more it would cost.  Don't tear down walls and you won't make these unpleasant discoveries!

Because of the vaulted ceiling, parts of our house have walls that are so high that we need 3 sheets of drywall.  There are many reasons why we hired a drywall team to do some of the work, and that's one of them.  I'd like to find a team to do the mudding and the sanding, in the hopes that it could be done in a week or less, but those kinds of crews might be harder to find.  We can do the mudding and sanding ourselves, but I wasn't confident in our ability to hoist drywall over our heads and attach it to studs.

I spent some time last night trying to find a camera angle that would capture the progress that's been made, but finally I decided to use my spouse's:

This picture will give you a sense of how the house looked before:

And here's an even older picture, of the paneling which we took down, in favor of the drywall:

We decided to leave the landing, which we're calling the pulpit, for many reasons.  It's not in the way, and it gives us options later.  At some point, we may need to put a staircase back in, when we're elderly and can't climb up that loft ladder.   We're keeping our future floor plans open.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Midway Through Spring Break

While my spouse stays home to supervise the installation of drywall, I am traveling this week, with a brief stop back home tonight.  What have I done so far?

--Visited grad school friends--always a treat.

--Got a rough draft of my Systematic Theology midterm written.  That's a relief.

--Gotten some grading done; no matter the time of year, having grading to do seems constant, unless it's the weeks between December 17 and January 5.

--Gone on a driving tour of favorite places, which includes the campus of LTSS, or as I've more commonly referred to it, Southern Seminary.  On a Monday evening in March, the campus was dark and deserted, which probably means it is a campus on Spring Break, as all the schools I attend are on Spring Break, a strange aligning this year.

--Helped a friend envision a kitchen remodel, which involved driving to Lowe's, which meant we drove past the former Columbia Mall, a place so deserted I didn't even recognize it--and yes, I do see the metaphors.

--Sat by a friend's firepit as the late afternoon light shifted to overcast twilight and her fairy lights twinkled.  Earlier we scavenged wood under the boughs of her grapevines, and we talked about how much we would have loved such an enchanted place when we were children.  Turns out, we love such an enchanted place as grown women too!

--Watched coverage of Super Tuesday elections and remembered Super Tuesdays of past years.

--Read Super Tuesday coverage of ordinary people voting in extraordinary times and felt hope.  This Opinion piece in The Washington Post is my favorite so far.

--Sorted seeds with my friend who has space and sunshine enough to plant them and felt hope.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Hearing "Beth" (Yes, that Song by KISS) in a New Context

It has been a strange week-end, a week-end where I've tried to work ahead on the writing that I do for my minister job at Faith Lutheran in Bristol, Tennessee, while also trying to help my spouse with plumbing and the other tasks that need to happen before the dry wall installing team arrives tomorrow.  Yesterday, I made this Facebook post, which sums up the week-end in so many ways:

"I'm working on a sermon, and my spouse is listening to a KISS album while working on rerouting the plumbing, and I'm hearing the song "Beth" and thinking about how 11 year old Kristin heard this song and imagined a future life which didn't really involve plumbing or sermon writing or feeling nostalgia for men in make up."

When I was young, I saw that song as an achingly beautiful love song.  Now that I am older, I am seeing it as a song that shows how difficult it is to balance the needs of a creative life with the needs of a partner.  And as we listened to the album, it was a much softer kind of album than I remember it being.  Of course, KISS was never one of the bands that held my heart.  I found them scary, probably in the same way that many parents do.

I've been feeling a bit of despair about my lack of coherent poetry writing.  I jot down a line or two, or a stanza or two, but very little comes that feels worth revising and polishing.  Perhaps it's the state of the world we're in.  More likely, it's that my writing energy is being channeled in other ways right now.

Take the past three days for example.  I've written 3300 words for just my church job.  That doesn't count any of the writing that I've done as a student.  It's no wonder that there's not much wonder left for my poetry brain to feed on.

I've been in this writing state before.  Poetry has returned, often in a richer way than before.  I will be patient and keep the garden bed mulched.  At some point, sprouts will emerge.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

News of a Seminary Relocation

Yesterday was a mix:  a wintry mix that turned to rain which lasted all day, lots of cooking (chicken stock and pumpkin bread), sermon research, never as much writing as I hope to do but some.  And then, in the late afternoon, news that the Lutheran seminary in Columbia (LTSS) will be relocating to the Hickory, NC campus of Lenoir-Rhyne.  If you want lots of information, this website is fairly comprehensive.

Of course, that website can't tell me some of what I'd most like to know--it can't predict the future, and it can't give me specific details about professors.  There's no mention of the spiritual direction certificate program, which I imagine will relocate along with the seminary.

The graph that shows enrollment is shocking, but not surprising.  If I'm interpreting the graph correctly, there are 40 MDiv students enrolled right now.  When I attended graduation in May, I was surprised by how few seminary graduates there were; the bulk of graduates were in Occupational Therapy and other programs run out of the Columbia campus.  Each time I've been on campus during the past few years, I've been surprised by how few people are on the campus.  Lenoir-Rhyne is formalizing what has been happening informally for years, if not decades.

I do wonder what will happen to the campus.  If I had several million . . . wait, it would take more than several million.  Even if I could buy the campus for several million, there's still lots of maintenance work that needs to happen, millions in deferred maintenance.  And I can barely manage a small house on a small piece of land; why do I think I can handle a small campus?

I imagine that the departure won't mean much to the larger city of Columbia--there are other schools and universities that are much more integral to the economy of the town and the state.  And I do understand that by being at the larger Lenoir-Rhyne campus, seminarians can take a wider diversity of classes, like language classes, management classes, and a huge array of counseling classes.  Those kinds of classes would have been available at the University of South Carolina, but it's not easy to take classes elsewhere and get them transferred back in, not easy for schools to create transferability.  

I feel most bad for students who will have decisions to make.  A move from Columbia, SC to Hickory, NC is no small thing--it's not a commutable distance.  There's never a good time to endure this kind of upheaval.  Potential seminarians with families to consider have probably already made different decisions.  Other seminaries have done a better job with distance learning that LTSS, and students who needed flexibility probably made different choices along the way; I know that I did.

I feel sadness, too, because of family history.  My grandfather and great uncle went to that seminary, and various friends of mine did too.  I completed my certificate in Spiritual Direction there and loved the campus, even as I wondered where all the people had gone.

I feel more than a quiver of worry about larger aspects of the future and the decline of all sorts of higher ed.  It's not just seminary enrollments that are down.  There's a lack of support for higher ed, and all the other kinds of education, in this country and beyond.  I know that some people are worried about what the decline in seminaries means for the future of the Church, and I do think/hope that people are having those conversations in a larger way, in the groups that do more of the decision making.  I have a sense of the larger scope of history, and I know that times of wrenching change can bring all sorts of positive developments in the aftermath.

Let now be one of those periods (and let the wrenching change give way to positive developments sooner rather than later).

Friday, March 1, 2024

March, Meteorological Spring

A new month--is March coming in like a lion or a lamb?  It depends.  We have a wintry mix forecast for this morning, but tomorrow, the high is supposed to be in the 60's.  Of course, in month we expect this meteorological whiplash.  It is the first day of Spring--meteorological spring.

Earlier this week, I had wondered if my daffodil bulbs would spring into life.  Around the neighborhood, we have lots of daffodils in full bloom.  My yard doesn't have as much sun as the rest of the neighborhood so I haven't been surprised that my daffodils aren't showing signs of life.

And then, on Wednesday, when I took the trash cans to the curb in the late afternoon, I saw the first stalks from my bulbs, the ones that we planted along the fence line.  An hour later, when my spouse noticed stalks along the other fence line.  I would swear that they weren't there when I took my walk in the morning.  If I had camped out by the fence line in the afternoon, would I have seen the stalks poking through the soil and leaf cover?

My brain always turns to metaphors, but I'm aware of the dangers of a tired and worn out metaphor.  But the metaphor of seeds and bulbs sprouting before anyone realizes what's going on--that metaphor always seems relevant to me, even though admittedly, it's not a new metaphor.  

I think of all the parables of Jesus, parables that involve seeds and soil--yes, not a new metaphor at all.

And now, the wintry mix is falling.  It's much more ice/freezing rain than it is snow.  Hang on, little daffodils!