Saturday, September 30, 2006

Another Elijah-logue

Him: That waitress, I sure hope he* can sleep at night.
Me: (wondering what lapses of morality he imagines the nice waitress capable of, that would render her insomniac) What are you talking about, honey?
Him: (with duh in his voice) There's no BEDS in the RESTAURANT.
Me: Oh sweetie, being a waitress is a job - like daddy works at the office and mommy works at church? SSShhhe** gets to go home at night to sleep.
Him: (with a huge sigh of relief) Oh, NOW I get it!

*When Teacher Amelia praised his grasp of the alphabet, giving as an example the way he kneels in the playground and writes his letters in the sand and Jeff said, "he wants to be a graphic designer" and I said "no, dear, he is imitating Christ" we were both however in agreement (as you must be also, reader!) on this practice as being yet another mark of his genius. However, as he is only four, he does not have a complete grasp of all the intricacies of English grammar, and he does still struggle with the third person pronoun, in that he refers to all persons of any gender by the "he." We trust this is something that he will outgrow, and does not any way indicate a tendency to lean toward the Thomas Aquinas-ish girls-are-just-broken-boys-with-no-johnsons worldview.

**Based on my modeling, when he finally DOES get that whole pronoun thing worked out, he's going to think that "she" is a three syllable word.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The examen

You know that practice where you review the day and lift up the good and the bad, and ask God to bless them both (my extremely loose description of what is actually a profound and ancient Jesuit practice)?

Well, tonight I was lifting up the bad, with Jeff as my witness.

Today I was: a fender bender. Not my fault for once, and no damage to me and just a scratch on the car, but it happened at a place where I actually could not stop the car at all, so I did not get out and Obtain The Other Driver's Insurance Information, which I surely should have tried harder to do.

...ineffectual at my work. A dear, old soul takes her final breaths tonight and my prayers were like straw. Another soul struggled and my words fell on rocky ground.

...witness to neighbor uncomfortableness, and possibly party to it, when one of the Yard Apes (Jeff's name for the tiny gang of tweeners that hangs out on our street all summer) knocked another one off his bike, leaving him crying that his leg was broken in front of our house. I'm no paramedic, but I brought him ice and a blanket while we waited for his dad to come, and assured him that I was pretty sure that his leg wasn't broken, which it wasn't. When the parents of the knocker and the knockee arrived, it all got really tense - no open hostility but none of the "hey, boys will be boys" banter I was kind of expecting either. So I tried to lighten the whole scene with some jocularity that did not go over at all.

As I reviewing this day, Jeff reminded me, "Yeah, but you got a really great Halloween costume for your son." Which is true - the shiny, red fireman's coat and hat (and fire extinquisher! that does not, as promised, squirt real water but is still cool!) that we picked out together today is so much better for our straightforward little macho man than that Batman outfit he's been asking for. Before we could even buy it, he took it out of the package and wore it to the cash register, where he announced to the Joanne's cashier that he "look just great in my new fire fighter costume," and she, bless her heart, agreed without any of the syrupy goo strangers sometimes pour on kids when they're being precosiouly (yikes, spelling?) cute.

Besides a just-right Halloween costume, I remembered the day's other blessings:

I made this and although I'm usually not all that great a baker (just cannot be bothered with all that exact measuring and am known to throw in a handful or two when a cup is called for), these turned out incredibly kick ass. Of course, it's hard to go wrong with a recipe that contains the line "we reduced the butter to 7 tablespoons, but still managed to retain the delicious...." (Almost a whole stick of butter! Oh, just throw the extra tablespoon in there while you're at it.)

I got to go walking at night. This is probably another post, really, but I'm actually scared of the dark, so now that I have a dog, getting to walk around at night under the stars is just awesome, in the original sense of that word, as well as the 80's sense.

Very high on the list of things I thought I'd never do

I found this on ebay this morning, looking for Batman costumes for the boy. OMG! So cute! This opens up a whole new, and hitherto unexplored, territory in the world of photo ops. Can one really put one's DOG in a costume? Will he stand for it, or will he chew it shreds in three minutes flat?
If only this model did not look so deeply offended and unhappy, I would be very tempted indeed.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

How much have I changed?

You've Changed 48% in 10 Years

You've done a good job changing with the times, but deep down, you're still the same person.
You're clothes, job, and friends may have changed some - but it hasn't changed you.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Boo boos

Friday Five as per the Rev Gals

1) Are you a baby about small injuries? I'll let you be the judge of the that.

2) What's the silliest way you have ever hurt yourself? I'm SO GLAD YOU ASKED. I just burned the tip off my finger with a hot melt glue gun earlier this week and it was real ouchy.

But the silliest and longest term way I ever hurt myself was by trying to keep up with the rest of the student workers (all boys) in my college work study job which was in the theater scene shop. I lifted a couple dozen too many wooden platforms that day, and even though it was fifteen years ago, the muscles I pulled in my neck still act up when I'm Trying Too Hard.

I have to go to the chiropractor to help it, which I just hate so much. I had the only bona fide panic attack I've ever had on the the way to my first appointment. But I keep going because it's the only thing that helps. I usually cancel about three appointments for every one I make. I wondered aloud with dear Dr. Mark just yesterday: "Do you think other people feel about church the way that I feel about the chiropractor? Like they can hardly make it here, and when they do it's torment the whole time, but they just keep coming because afterwards they feel so much better?"

3) Who took care of your boo-boos when you were a child?
Thanks mom!

4) Are you a good nurse when others have boo-boos? I tend to be alarmingly laissez faire about others owies. When Eli was small and would fall down, I would congratulate him instead of cuddling him. It worked out ok, but sometimes I think I could be a little nicer. Worst moment in my marriage so far: When DH broke his toe and swore a mighty oath and said "Ow! I broke my toe!" I said, "Oh, stop being such a baby!" Sorry, honey.

5) What's the worst accidental injury you've suffered? Did it require a trip to the Emergency Room? Well, there was that time I broke my toe (lots of broken toes at Casa Juniper, I guess) at the high school graduation party. But we just took the whole party to the ER, so it was kind of fun, actually. Lucky....

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Cutting back

We have gotten to our usual end-of-the-summer surprise - the visa bill that has our annual trip to visit relatives in Minnesota on it has been paid, and we are flat broke. I dont know why this shocks so every autumn. When you fly across country with a guy in a wheelchair - so you have to rent the big van with the lift from Good Old Jim who is midwestern nice, but still running something of a racket and when you can't exactly crash on people's floors so you have to get a hotel room, the cost of travel just kind of adds up. (And this is not even counting our regular post-airplane-travel trip to the ER and then Children's Hospital for athsma treatments for the youngster in the house).

This year, the usual panic is compounded by Eli's preschool fees which are...well, let's just say that they're about what we'd thought pay to send him to a college prep school, if we were going to do that, which we are emphatically NOT going to do, now that we know what it costs.

So there's going to be a lot of rice and lentils around here in the next couple of months and we're trying hard to figure out what else we can cut back. Anyway, just in time, there's a whole lotta energy out there in blogworld to live more simply. And I'm trying to get behind it, because even though it doesnt SEEM like we spend that much money, obviously something is not working.

(I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Hey Juniper - don't you work PART TIME?? If your finances are such a mess, why don't you go get a REAL JOB like the rest of us??" At least, that's what I'd be thinking if I were you. But processing my issues about working full time is not the focus of our time together today. So just keep moving, buster. Not like I'm defensive or anything.)

AS I WAS SAYING before I was so rudely interrupted by my own train of thought, there was this email I got yesterday recommending the book Not Buying It: My Year of Not Spending, and then via Heather, found this suggestion from a guy who recommends giving away one thing that you really value, and then reflecting on how that feels. I also saw this link on the RevGals site about the woman (the movement really) to go 30 days with less. I started to write something really snarky here about how I could never ascend to the level of simplicity that could be acheived by the kind of person who can homeschool four children and harvest her own chestnuts, for goodness sake. And then I realized that this isn't a contest, luckily, it's about changing our lives and in a good way, and isn't that what God wants for us after all?

And that thought led to the next one - that there's a certain kind of simple living (as practiced by several people in my experience past and present) that seems unnecessarily smug and self righteous and competetive to me, and that's what was making me feel snarky - not the Intent site itself which is as sweet and authentic as anything you've read lately. So I'm trying to enter this time remembering the joy and gratitude for what we have already, the clarity that comes from clearing away clutter, and the creativity involved in making do.

Anyway, we're starting. This week, we got a load of free firewood from a neighbor who didn't want it (!!) and so we had a fire instead of the furnace for our heat these first chilly days of autumn. And my credit card is out of my wallet and in (Whew, I almost told you! But this IS the internet after all, so let's just say) a safe place.

And I'm hatching my plans now for Buy Nothing Day. Anyone want to go down to the mall and pray with me instead of shopping the day after Thanksgiving? Let me know.

Gender Studies 101

The scene: Son and Goddaughter are practicing a new skill that they have learned in preschool, "raise your hand."

Goddaugher: Raise your hand if you like beautiful flowers!
Goddaugther: Raise your hand if you like taking care of babies!
Son: Raise your hand if you like buildings made of wood!

I am not making this up.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More thinking out loud about Satan, part two

Thanks to all for your thoughtful comments to the previous post. (Warning, you have to read through a lot of dog blog to get to the real deal) Along with several long conversations, they really help me so much to clarify my own thinking about this whole Satan business. My apologies for the following to those of you who grew up in an environment where this topic was talked to death - it's all new to me...

I was talking about this with a friend who asked me, "How can you believe in Satan and still believe in God? Does that mean that God made evil?" I dont believe that God made evil, but I DO believe that God creates potentiality, that there are infinate possibilities in every situation and every moment and some of that potential results in evil.

And I think it's helpful for me personally to have an understanding of the Devil, but after the comments (particularly from Heather, for whom this so scary that is was sort of damaging as a kid) I AM left wondering if it's actually helpful in a congregational context. I'm not sure that it's going to help the average person in my congregation, many of whom are still getting their heads around if they belive in GOD or not.

Does Satan have to be anthorpomorphical, as in Sue's comment? I dont think so - my husband just says Empire, but for him, that image is just as powerful. I dont necessarily picture a GUY myself, but I do have definate sense that there is a force that is more intentional than just saying "evil" might imply.

I know that I believe that we live in a broken world. You kind of have to have a "God is great but something is wrong" world view in order for this concept of the Evil One to be helpful, I think. If basically everything is fine for you, I'm not sure it will resonate. I've always had a heightened sensitivity to suffering and grief and, well, brokenness, and this really helps me as I try to put all that in perspective. Yes, there is sadness and sometimes horror, and it's part of something bigger than just me and therefore I dont have to take it all onto myself.

So,(as fundamentalist as this sounds from a person as progressive as me) it's like there's this cosmic battle going on between good and evil and I think it's important for me to have a metaphorical image of evil, so that evil isnt just an amporphous, everywhere problem, but an entity who can be driven back by continuing to walk in the light, (or working for shalom as Rachelle might say) by loving Jesus and creation as ardently as I can.

God created a world in which every moment, every situation, is alive with potential, and some of those potential outcomes may be ones that increase the power of the Evil One. I was thinking about all this as I was listening on the radio to the 9-11 converage on NPR yesterday. Evil’s purpose is not for one side to win, but to create more evil - more anger, more fear, more violence.

I really thought alot about Songbird's comment in which (paraphrasing here) she said that believing in Satan lets people off the hook for their own behavior because the bad that happens is his fault. I think for me, the response is the opposite. Allowing myself to be open to the possibility that we are all engaged in a cosmic battle between good and evil actually makes me want to try harder to make sure that all my actions are for done from love, since the stakes seem higher.

All of this is still new thinking for me, so none of this is set in stone, but it's getting a lot closer. Keep walking in the Light!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Really should be two posts

When we got this dog (Hank, his pound name, has stuck) a month or so ago, my mom expressed surprise. "I just never thought of you as a dog person," were, I'm pretty sure, her exact words. Up to that point, it was my hope that we could just GET a dog without becoming, you know, dog people. I think this hope came from always having cats before. Except for the hairs on your polar fleece and the mug on your desk that says "I live to cat" or whatever, you can pretty much go through life as an anonymous cat person. But a dog sort of catapaults you into dog personhood whether you plan it or not.

When most every day includes walking the dog, talking about the dog with people you see who have dogs with them and who therefore might be assumed to have interest in dogs, talking about the dog with people who have no interest in dogs whatsoever, picking up the dog poop, going to the pet store for a few toys and a bag of organic dog food, in which, if you look closely you can see the chunks of carrot and rice that prove its naturalness, throwing balls for the dog which he may or may not return to you, hiring ridiculously priced dog personal trainers to come to your house and humiliate you about how unlikely you are to ever be able to manage your dog, calling and talking to alot of other people about the bad experience you had with the dog trainer, going to the pet store and getting something to chew on, finding a new dog trainer and spending even more money, saying 427 times a day to your son "Dont do that to the dog," going to the library to pick up that book everyone says you should read that the monks wrote about dog training, going to the pet store for a new collar to replace the one that got bitten in half, sitting on a bench at the dog park watching your dog exercise, and luring the dog into his crate for a good night's sleep, you have officially become a dog person and I can testify that, as a dog person, THERE IS NOT MUCH TIME LEFT FOR BLOGGING, or really for much else. I know some of you do it, but you also knit and belong to soft ball leagues and watch TV and other distractions I cannot imagine time for.

All this is a long way of saying that I havent been here, or much of anywhere on the blogosphere for weeks and weeks, and I miss you all and I'm trying to come back.

So, gird your loins for a radical topic change because I DO have something specific to ask, and it's a little heavy duty after being off the blog for three weeks. I have a question about evil. Sheesh, is anyone still even reading after that ridiculous dog paragraph? Probably not. But if you are, and if you're feeling theological, read on. It can't possibly be worse than what you've endured already, right?

The senior pastor was talking in a worship planning meeting last night about the book of Job, on which she'll be preaching next month and she was making some comment about Satan "not being REAL of course" and I foolishly chimed up that I believe in Satan, and I would be glad to have a dialogue sermon with her about it, and I think she took me up on it, so now I'm in a pickle.

Here's the thing. Recognizing that there is an evil force at work - whose joy (if I may use that good word for this bad thing) it is to misarrange and break those things that God has made good and perfect (which is to say everything), and who sometimes uses us humans for that purpose - has been very helpful for me in my own personal prayer life and theological development. But that's about all I have to say about it, and it's been a pretty personal thing for me until now. My super progressive denomination doesn't have much to say about evil, even, let alone Satan. And these progressive theology websites (here and here) that are so helpful to me these days aren't really helping either.

So, of course, I'm turning to the blogosphere, source of all real wisdom. What do you believe about Satan - a helpful metaphor? a silly guy with a red face and horns? a real presence? just another way to keep us obsessed with our personal so-called sinfulness and therefore not of use to modern Christians? And, if you're a pastor, extra credit for sharing how you talk about Satan (if you do) in pastoral care or preaching contexts.

Comments from both churchy and unaffiliated types are welcome.