Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday Morning Fog, or A Cloud of Sick Complaining

A thick blanket of fog is sitting over our house. We're all (except Matt) lined up on the couch breathing laboriously from our mouths, stuffy, eyes running, noses running, complaint filled and moaning.
A: Tell him not to talk to me!
R: Noooooooooooo.
A: I don't want him to touch my knights.
R: Noooooooooooo.
A: Tell her not to come here!
Me: If you can't be down here nicely and share your knights, then you need to play alone in your room.
A: It makes me sad when you say things like that.
Me: I'm sorry, but you need to be kind to your brother and share with him.
A: It makes me feel like you don't like me when you say that.
Me: You're welcome to come over and sit with me, but you have to be kind to your bother.
A: He might touch me if I sit over there.
R: Nooooooooooooooo.
A: I really love her (G) but I don't want her to touch me.
e: Please come sit with me and stop whining.

Its going to be a long day.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My sermon for this morning: Proper 20 Year A

Turn with me to Jonah, chapter 4.
You may remember that Jonah was a prophet of the Old Testament, called upon by God at a particular moment in time to go to the great city of Nineveh to preach the impending judgment of God because, says God, ‘their evil has come up before me’. ‘Repent’ Jonah was supposed to say, ‘because otherwise God will destroy you.’ Upon hearing the word of the Lord, hearing that he was supposed to go to a foreign city, an enemy city, a city full of people who had gone out against Israel on various occasions in horrifying, stomach wrenching violence, Jonah rebelled against God and went away in the opposite direction from Nineveh, taking a ship to Tarshish. Jonah heard God’s voice, knew the character and nature of God—that he is gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love and that if the people of Nineveh repented, God would spare them—and so he ran away. He did not want the gracious mercy of God to spread over his enemies.

But God, being sovereign and merciful, sent a storm against the ship. The pagan sailors were afraid and cast lots, a kind of drawing straws, to discover the cause of the storm. The lot fell to Jonah and he, at his own request, was cast into the stormy sea so that the ship could be saved. You should all know the next bit. A large fish swallowed him, saving his life. Prefiguring Christ himself in the grave, Jonah is in the belly of the fish for three days and nights wherein he cries out to God. You can read his moving prayer in chapter two, again, describing accurately the character of God as merciful and gracious, ‘You brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you’.

The Lord appoints the fish to mercifully spit him, or rather vomit him on dry ground where he is given a second chance to go to Nineveh to warn of God’s looming judgment. This time, sensibly, Jonah goes, but still not with a desire to see God’s forgiveness and mercy at work. Jonah ran in the first place not from laziness or ignorance. He ran because he knew God, he knew what God was like, look at chapter 4 verse 1, ‘but it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Do you do well to be angry?’

It is very easy to look at Jonah from the comfort of a pew, in church, indeed in a church that is becoming known for its evangelistic efforts, a church that welcomes everyone and goes out to bring people in, to sit back and say, quietly of course, ‘Oh how awful. Can you believe how unloving he was? Thank heavens I’m not like Jonah.’ I have this reaction almost every time I read Jonah. I think, quietly to God, ‘well, I really want everyone to come to you, even and especially my enemies, because, of course, Jesus has told me to love my enemies so please, let everyone come to church.’ And in so doing I, and perhaps you, stand in judgment over the text, over Jonah himself and pass on easily by.
Instead of doing that, then, let us do the hard thing, let us zero in on chapter 4, and begin with God’s question to Jonah.
And the Lord said, ‘Do you do well to be angry?’
Jonah did not answer the Lord but instead went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth or a tent for himself there. He sat under it till he should see what would become of the city, hoping, ostensibly, that God would go ahead and destroy the people of Nineveh for their sin instead of having mercy on them.

Do you do well to be angry? This is a very interesting question of God’s, to Jonah. The right answer to this question, obviously, is ‘no’, Jonah had no business being angry, no business being angry after disobeying God, no business being angry after disobeying God and then being shown mercy. But even though Jonah is not justified, this is not a righteous and holy anger, God, in his mercy and grace, continues to work with and discipline his wayward child, and the process of discipline here is very helpful for us.

I want, as you look at your text, to consider Jonah’s anger. ‘Do you do well to be angry’. What on earth did he have to be angry about? Anger against God is a normal, albeit totally unjustified state, in which almost every believer sometimes finds him or herself. I spent many hours trying to think of some light funny examples of how I have been angry at God to show you how this is not a good thing. But this part of my sinful nature I was unable to find in anyway funny. The times that I have been angry, angry enough to die, God had to rend me open, had to break me open to deal with it and it wasn’t fun, or pleasant, or funny.

It is easier, I think, to look for a minute, very briefly at the gospel reading, Matthew 20. You don’t have to turn there, we just heard it read. The master of the vineyard goes out and calls people to come work, that’s any of us who have been called by God, justified and saved, we have eternal life, we believe, we are workers in the vineyard. After a while the master finds that he wants more people, there’s still enough work to do, he goes out and gets more but promises the same wage. And so on through the day, until at the end of the day, those who worked a very little, and those who worked a great deal are all paid the same, they all receive eternal life with God, the blessing of the Father. It’s easy to be fine with God’s mercy when we’re talking about eternal life. But our anger comes from our expectation of how God should operate, how he should manage his kingdom in keeping with our agenda. Jesus ran into this constantly with his disciples. They planned for him to do one thing, he did another. They wanted him to give them power, he gave them humility. They wanted him to be a king and he died a criminal. God does not meet our expectations, does not deliver on our own agenda in a thousand small ways, and numerous big ones. And anytime we find our expectations, our plans unmet, indeed thwarted by God, it is very easy to go build a little tent, or carve out a little emotional space, and plunk ourselves down, entrench ourselves and be angry, sometimes even angry enough to die. Not many of us would be angry about someone repenting and coming to the Lord, but I’ve been angry that more people don’t come to church. Not many of us are angry that God hasn’t rained down fire on the wicked of the world, but I’ve been angry that Jesus hasn’t saved the people on my list. Or perhaps you’ve faced an illness, or a trial or something that wasn’t in your plans, wasn’t on your agenda, and when God didn’t do something about it on your schedule you retreated to your booth to be angry.

Do you do well to be angry? God’ asks. Well, no. God is not obligated to save anyone or do anything. Everything thing we have is grace—food, clothing, breath, a clean house, family, any friends at all. God does not owe us the vine.

God is gracious, and merciful, abounding in steadfast love, and so when you are angry, or in sin, or have a bad attitude, God works with you, he disciplines those he loves. In this case he makes a vine grow up over Jonah’s booth to give him some extra shade. And Jonah is happy about the vine. Which, again, let us not pass over. The weather itself is a cause of friction between us and God. I have been hot enough, sometimes in Africa, to wish I could just lie in my own grave. And the snow here, in New York, has made me plenty angry on occasion. Shoving my hoard of children in and out of their coats and boots for months when the weather in Oregon is so reasonably cool without being hot All Year. Do I do right to be angry about the weather? But why am I? Because I’m the center of my own universe. I want God to cater to me. It’s the small things that lets the anger creep in. Left to our own devices that anger would grow enough to maybe hurt someone.

But we are not left to our own devices. After growing the beautiful vine over Jonah’s head, God appoints a worm to eat the vine and leave Jonah scorching in the sun, angry enough to die. Do you do well to be angry about the vine, Jonah?

No. Jonah didn’t make the plant grow. He didn’t do anything to deserve the shade. It was a gift, the grace of God. He did not have a right to be angry. He didn’t build the city of Nineveh and fill it with people and much cattle. God did.
God will have mercy on whom he has mercy. God will do what he is planning to do.
He is gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love. That means that if you belong to God but are sitting in a booth, a cacoon of anger or rebellion or disobedience, this morning, out of sorts with God, out of fellowship with your neighbor, part of God’s plan is teaching me, and you, and Jonah that its All Grace. That we have nothing to hold over God’s head. God is God and we are not.

This is really a sweet truth, though sometimes a hard thing. A life lived with anger and discontentment is not all that pleasant, I can testify myself. Once God has pried our selfish limited expectations out of our angry balled up fists and knocked down our carefully built anger insulated booths, life in his vineyard, serving him freely, living every day with his mercy and grace and abounding steadfast love is better than a thousand days in a hot lonely anger infested booth. In a world that calls out for ‘justice’ and ‘fairness’ and ‘rights’, life in the vineyard is all about mercy and truth and never ending love—you cannot come to the end of God’s love. You cannot come to the end of his grace. You do well to seek him, this morning, and let go of what was never yours. Amen.

Friday, September 19, 2008

We Have a Winner

I've put your names in a bowl, I've blind folded Matt, and the winner is...hang on...
Louise Moody

If you could just email (see the side bar) me an address, I will begin baking almost immediately (after I finish this sermon).

Thank you all so much for posting. I was in much need of some new blogs to read and I appreciate you're taking time to post and for reading here in the first place. Of course, I'm feeling terrible that I only drew one name and that you didn't all win, so I'll probably do this again soon. I didn't think about that on the front end of this. Alright, I've got to go plunk all those kids in bed so that I can think.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thank You! and a Contest

It appears, having bothered to click on my site meter report today for the first time in weeks, that I have passed the 100,000 hits milestone by several hundred hits. THANK YOU to all you fabulous readers who stop by and read, perhaps even on days I was too lazy to post.

I'm not going to do a site redesign, as I did at 50, mostly because I still like the way this looks. And I'm sorry I wasn't paying attention and offer up a present to the person who hit that 100,000 mark. I will, however, because I have So Much Free Time, offer up a little contest.

Here's What to Do

Post a Comment here telling me 1. Who you are, 2. What your Three Favorite Blogs are (this one doesn't have to be on your list, heh), and 3. how you came to read this blog.

I'll let comments continue on for 24 Hours. Let me see, that means until, let's say, Friday morning. At which time I will print all the comments, put them in a hat, pick one out, and that will be the winner. To the winner I will mail 2 loaves of fancy bread.

Monday, September 15, 2008


It seems a long time ago now (because it was) but I'm gradually sorting through this summer's pictures. One afternoon, during our two weeks in Texas, we dressed the two baby girl cousins up in fluffy dresses in order to photograph them. They were so cute. R watched in fascination and, halfway through, inserted himself into the picture. You can see that he was not dressed for this activity. And you can also see that he was Very pleased with himself.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

At the Closing of the Day

I've essentially lost my voice.
After shouting 'Creation, Fall in the Garden, Cain and Able, The Flood...the Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt by Pharaoh Menes...Hagar and Ishmael...What are the Four Types of Connective Tissue...Please Sit Down' well, I didn't shout Please Sit Down. But it was a herculean effort to wake the little guys up.

And then going to choir and singing very high and very low...
I've essentially lost my voice. So Wednesdays are going to be a serious marathon-CC in the morning, Choir in the evening, pretending in between.

E: 'Mommy, pretend you don't know me. Pretend we're just children on vacation and we're looking for a family. You can call me E'.
Me: 'Ok, that sounds fun. I'll be Dehlia.'
E: 'Why? Why don't you want to be called Anne?'
Me: 'Because really, I prefer Dehlia.'
R: 'Pimpess!!!!!' (He's holding up a small plastic Disney Princess) 'Pimpess!!'
E: 'We live behind the couch, but we'll come out for meals, for school, to do our chores, and to play.'
Me: 'That's very helpful.'
E: 'We're going to be very polite strange children, but I don't think my bed is very comfortable, I only have a box and a small blanket.'
Matt: 'Well, it just so happens that we very recently lost our two children. You may have their beds if you like.'
E: 'I like to wear fancy dresses. Did your daughter like fancy dresses?'
Matt: 'Indeed she did.'
E: 'Well, that will be nice. But later I'll just be your child again.'
Me: 'Ok.'

Monday, September 08, 2008

Half of a post

For those of you who are getting tired of all the homeschooling chitchat, I'm sorry, as things settle out I'm sure I'll be able to think about many other things. Its just been on my mind for the last few weeks to comment on the strange juxtaposition or intersection (its Monday morning, I don't know what word I'm casting about for) between something like the Trivium and something like Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

Catechesis is essentially Montessori based. Sophia Cavaletti, is inventor and founder, was friends with Maria Montessori and set out to fill out and provide the spiritual/religious element that Montessori herself never had time to. In other words, its all about 'Experience' and 'Prepared Environment' (I'm not being snarky with the scare quotes). The environment is key to the experience of the child as they meet God. The underlying most basic assumption of Catechsis is that the child already has an understanding of God, that God has already revealed himself to the child in creation, in love, in care. And that the child, especially at age 3 to 6, responds naturally and openly to God in prayer, thanksgiving and worship. Obviously, many things can happen before the age of three to interrupt or destroy a child's vision and experience of God, not least of them not being brought to church.

The prepared environment, or Atrium (entry way into full life in the church), sets the stage for the child to experience God and begin to gain vocabulary and meat and potatoes knowledge around that information. This is where it's so interesting, for me. There's no memorizing. There's no coloring of worksheets. There's no 'teaching' per say. The Catechists tells the stories of scripture (all carefully chosen) and uses various handmade materials to tell and retell the story and talk about, particularly 'wonder' about what God is doing, how the people in the story feel etc. The repetition naturally produces real knowledge of the scripture, and the use of the materials makes the connection between hands, heart, mind, and body. There's nothing more restful than watching a child speaking quietly to herself, moving little wooden sheep in and out of a green pasture, moving the Good Shepherd, opening and closing the gate.

Then I flip over to Classical Education, where I am not at all concerned (well, not too concerned) about the Religious Potential of the Child or their Experience of anything, my Main Concern is knowledge. So we are memorizing Everything-the Catechism, the times tables, the systems of the body, the Time Line, history dates and facts, Latin, language arts. They Are like Sponges. In three days of minimal repetition, they basically have the first week down.

About a year ago I mentioned to someone that we were thinking about Classical Education. The person I was talking to was a Montessori teacher, in a Montessori school. She was appalled, practically sick to her stomach. 'How can you do that? What about the Child? You're going to wreck the three year cycle!'

Well, we are on the three year cycle, the CC three year cycle.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Show Time

The Baby and the Flower
by A Kennedy
Once there was a baby in a flower and the baby fairy was inside of it and it was finking of her friend so she flew away to her friend's house and a big monster came but the knight came and killed it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

what does the Lord require of thee

I'm supposed to be working up sign up sheets for tomorrow's Mission and Ministry Fair. So, naturally, I thought a little blogging would be in order.

Well, I don't actually have anything interesting to write about, but I did find This very interesting and am curious about what you all think.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Now in the Fading Light of Day

Remarkably, the kids are quiet in bed, the house is clean, the cats were miraculously corralled inside. We Managed to do school for a Whole Day, and it went fine. The little kiddos were interested, attentive, obedient, funny, intelligent. We did everything on my list. I'm totally surprised. It helped that R went away for the whole day for quality play time with his favorite person. But actually, even if he had been here, I think it would have been fine.

I was about to say that 'I don't know what I was so afraid of' but that's not true. I have plenty to be afraid of-failure, disobedience, interruptions, not Getting it Done...
But perfect love casts out fear. So, having put aside the fear and done it, there was love instead, and grace, and a calm pleasant day. It helped, of course, that my expectations were unnecessarily low.

So there we are. We're a homeschooling family. And we go to church. And we embrace the culture of life over death. And every time McCain 'plays to his base' we are tickled pink. I'm going to gather up Calvin and Hobbes, my knitting, and go watch that speech in bed.


I stayed up and watched the speech, and the spin...So we're starting school a little late this morning. For school E is wearing her Christmas dress, and A is dressed as Spider man.

As for the speech-Ouch!, I'd hate to be a member of the media. They're not used to meeting Ladies Who Can Dish It Back. What a glorious day.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

So Many Things

I'm trying to decide how late to stay up. I REALLY want to see the Palin Speech. But its also been an extremely long day. Hmmmmmmm.

This post will be in Two Parts. Part One: the Palin Pick. Part Two: the First Day of School. And it will be scattered and badly written.

Part One: The Palin Pick

When John McCain announced his choice of Sarah Palin to be his running mate, I astonished my children by dancing ridiculously around the kitchen. I am positively delighted. I Might just vote now. In the days following I have tried to think carefully about why this choice is so interesting and delightful. These are in no particular order.
A. She can wear a skirt and does (see my long lost post, KJS in pants).
B. She didn't set out to be a politician. She joined the PTA, probably got mad about something, ran for local office, was successful and moved on up. She hasn't been sitting in the Senate for the last 30 years arguing with Bush's judicial nominees and otherwise being unhelpful (that would be Biden, if you're not getting who I'm talking about).
C. And this is really the most important, She is Pro Life. And not just politically, she's put her money where her mouth is.
D. I've been trying to understand the media frenzy over the last few days and why it Didn't bother me that she, as the mother of five children, is seeking high office. It is, as Matt pointed out, so interesting that liberals who generally think All women should go to work and leave their children in the hands of strangers for education and care (think Hillary Clinton), suddenly do not think that This woman should do This job, because she has children some of whom have issues. Presumably they believe she should stay home. And honestly, this is probably the most compelling part of the whole Pick, for me. This is where I am constantly struggling in my own professional/family life. I'm an ordained minister of the gospel. I do A Lot of work in the church, of every kind-pastoral care, preching, admin, healing prayer, bible study, christian ed, vestry, the list could go on and on-and I haven't really stopped doing any of that. But my kids are a Priority. They need to be educated, they need to be fed, they need to be read to every day, they need to be taught to clean the house (heh), and I'm not going to let someone else do it for me (although I get plenty of help). In this way I really do have the feminist legacy to thank. The fact that I can do both is because so many before me have. But that very legacy is now angry with me, and Sarah Palin, and every other woman who works in the world but refuses to Buy into that world-the so called 'culture of death', universal preschool, universal health care (God preserve us from such a wretched idea), secular relativism, government schools, I could go on and on. I'm not saying very well what I mean. I just think that Conservative Women are launching A New Age-the Age of Skirts, Babies and Awesome Coolness. Maybe I'll be able to write more coherently about this tomorrow.

Part Two: The First Day of School

I popped awake at 5:30 this morning and was So Prepared I was ready to go a whole half an hour early (I know this will never happen again). I was as nervous as the day I preached my Chapel Sermon in Seminary. We were so early we had time to stop for coffee (well, I did, the children did Not drink coffee, they didn't need it). And we didn't get lost, even though I'd planned for that eventuality. We arrived wildly early and had to dance in the parking lot until other people arrived. We found a series of big glorious school rooms with enormous windows and more toys than you could hope for.

For those of you who aren't caught up, we've joined the local Classical Conversations Group and I am tutoring the Fours and Fives or Abecedarians as they say in CC. A is in my class along with five other 4 and 5 year old little boys. E is in the First/Second grade class with a Fabulous tutor. E was deeply in love at the end of the morning and cried half the way home.

Spending the morning with six little boys proved to be as challenging as I imagined it would be. My expectations were completely met. But, I had a thoroughly good time. They are interesting little guys, and I'm going to enjoy every Wednesday with them. I'm also going to crash into the ground every Wednesday afternoon, Guaranteed, after waving my arms, marching around the room, jumping up and down, clapping, singing, and "teaching" drawing.

Tomorrow we start our time at home-Reading/Phonics, Math, Piano, a little French, Bible, CC Review and Little House on the Prairie. I'm going to use Math U See because Saxon (just even looking at the cover) makes me want to weep and moan. I think we're going to have a jolly good time.

This afternoon, while I slept blissfully on the couch (first time I've been able to sleep in weeks, that's how nervous I've been), E went next door and had her second loose tooth dislodged. So now I have to collect some change and go pry the tooth out of her little hand.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Plunge

I have distracted myself with many things over the last few days-the Palin Pick (Thank You Sweet Sweet Baby Jesus), the laundry, my camera, baking four batches of bread in one evening-all in the effort to avert my eyes from the ever encroaching first hour of School. I feel like I'm standing on the high dive looking down at a placid sea and everything's fine, except that I'm afraid of heights (in this case my children and their education) and so jumping off the board is going to be unpleasant. I know I have to do it. I know its probably going to be better than I expect in many ways and possibly worse and that we'll be fine. But none of that knowledge has any bearing on the state of my nerves. I remember a long lost high school boyfriend insisting to me that if I just Understood what he was trying to say, I would Feel better about it. I told him 'Malarchy' at the time, and I stick by it.

I think perhaps, the root of my discontentious anxiety is the fact that my oldest child is beginning to be rational. This has never happened to me before. The cozy cacoon of me and my husband and a lot of little children who are lovingly put to bed before quiet dinner time is shattered by one (and now two really) insisting on staying up to eat it with us, and Talk and Relate. This Talking and Relating has interfered itself in my preparations for school, offering unasked-for advice about how the school room should be arranged, whether we should have desks or a table, whether we should have a chalk board or a white board (the fact that we are having a board at all, in fact; we Are having one, even though I had not at all planned on it), at what hour we will color and do paste and when lunch will be served.

And, to my chagrin, this little person has inserted herself into my kitchen. Her job, every morning, is to unload and reload the dishwasher while her brother clears the table, wipes it down, and then cleans up the bathroom.
'I'll do it like this, Mom' (note the tone of the word 'Mom'). 'I'll put all these dishes here and then I'll call you and you'll come and tell me its fine and then I'll mop the floor and feed the birds.'
'Are you trying to be Cinderella?' I asked, 'Because you're not.'
'I know,' she said, 'but I'm still going to do all the work in the whole house.'
At which point I realized that I am now sharing My Kitchen with another female, and that I'm going to have to go on sharing this kitchen until she meets some poor unsuspecting guy and goes off to organize her own kitchen.
'If you don't do it exactly the way I tell you,' I said, 'and disobey me on Purpose, then you will have to do your own work and your brother's work tomorrow.'
'Oh' she said with her nose turned up, 'Alright.'
'Its my kitchen,' I said.
'I know.'

So, we will take the plunge, maybe tomorrow just to get our feet wet (skipping the high dive, as it were), but for sure on Wednesday-all the way, no holding back. Ack.