Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Last night I hit a deer while driving west along route 524 between routes 9 and 537. I was bringing the boys home from their weekly swim lesson at the YMCA. It was very nearly a non-incident but significant as "a first". Sitting in the second row, Kenny had just turned off his interior light at my request, but Tim, in the third row, still had his light on as he looked at an alphabet coloring book. I don't think that the interior light impaired my vision, at least not as much as the high beams of an oncoming car at that moment.

I felt blinded by the high beams and flashed mine back. Since moving to a rural area several years ago, I have abandoned the technique of flashing my high beams at other drivers for a few reasons. For starters, I'm never quite sure that they are using their high beams. Newer cars seem to have very bright "low beams," maybe those xenon headlights. Or maybe my night vision is just getting worse. Secondly, I know my way around even with little visibility and can usually get past a car despite their high beams. And, lastly, many drivers seem to be "just passing through." They don't know the area, they aren't comfortable driving in the country, and every little bit of light helps them find their way. This explains why, in my experience, most drivers no longer practice the courtesy of dropping their high beams: in the country, they are nervous about not seeing where they are going. Maybe the driver last night was on the lookout for deer. Maybe he saw them before I did. And maybe that's why he dropped his headlights.

But, for whatever reason, the driver dropped the lights just in time for me to see the lead deer, a mature one, get across the highway. The second, younger deer was smaller and slower, probably due to its immaturity. It was unable to get across in time. I stopped pretty short - that's something that I like about my car. Actually I was going 5 m.p.h. under the speed limit, so that helped us stop as well. I usually drive with my cruise control set all of the time to the speed limit so the dial is one less thing to watch. However, last night, I failed to creep up when the zone increased from 45 m.p.h. to 50 m.p.h. just on the borders of the residential part of west Freehold.

I bumped the second deer while checking for more behind her and she limped off the roadway. I am very upset and troubled by that and imagine the worst has befallen her since the accident. The boys were fine (are fine), didn't really see anything and actually fell asleep shortly thereafter and slept all night. Before leaving the Y, Kenny had noticed that the baby's car restraint strap had come unbuckled - a chronic problem but less frequent since using the built-in booster seat next to him instead of a clunky Graco booster. So, before leaving the Y, I made sure that his car seat was securely strapped in and after hitting the deer, I made a point to thank Kenny again for noticing something that I can't see from my side of the car. All these things made it possible to simply drive away home afterwards.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Over the MLK, Jr. holiday weekend, I traveled to Rochester, NY with two of the boys for a visit with a friend from high school who has spent some time in India as an independent missionary but who is presently stateside for another year finishing up a MSSE degree.

Michelle and I had been out of touch for roughly fifteen years. She is a year younger than I but graduated high school a year ahead. We both ran track** and cross-country for our undergraduate schools and saw each other annually at her school's invitational. Michelle dropped out of college with a year to go and moved to Oklahoma, getting a head start on Christian ministry work.

I was looking up old acquaintances by various means online: searching names in Amazon's Wish Lists and alumni notes at high schools and colleges. I thought of Michelle and knew her mother was a faculty member at Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf, so I found her mom's email address at RIT's website and sent her a message asking about Michelle. She forwarded my message to Michelle and we were back in touch. As I check RIT's faculty directory now, I see that such success would be impossible today because the directory is password protected.

During our brief visit, the boys enjoyed swimming at the hotel pool and eating in the hotel restaurant. Her mother's apartment was having some repair work done, so we spent only one afternoon there. Michelle was preparing for a presentation at her church because she is raising money for her husband's school and orphanage in India. Their home's blog is here

I had jotted down some church services information before making the trip to see whether I could squeeze two services in, hers and mine. The preferred service at Asbury First UMC would be the 11 o'clock service. masstimes.org listed a half-dozen churches offering services around that time. I accidentally left my notes at home but probably could have asked at the hotel. It was just as well. Michelle used the time before the service and after to make contact with people associated with her missionary ministry.

I am accustomed to being insulted or offended at some point during a sermon at a Protestant worship service but the head pastor at Asbury First made a concerted effort to put down or find fault with every other branch of Christendom, east and west. Beginning with Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, he progressed through the upcoming year in the life of the church, taking the good from the Calvinists (Ash Wednesday), Jesuits (Spiritual Exercises, Lent), Lutherans (Good Friday), Baptists (Easter), Pentecostals (Pentecost), Orthodox (Trinity Sunday), Anglicans (All Saints' Day), Catholics (Advent), Methodists (Christmas - Wesley's carols) on their appropriate days and rejecting the bad. But we Catholics got a "double portion" (Rev. 18:6), as befitting the whore of Babylon, because he railed against the Jesuits (and St. Ignatius Loyola in particular) as well as at Catholicism in general. My friend was quite embarrassed and apologized a few times during the sermon whenever I threw her a mournful glance. I am glad that my children are not old enough to understand. My friend claimed that the pastor was pandering to "conservative elements" in his congregation. Ideally, pastors ought to operate independent of such sentiment but I understand that no one is perfect. I can appreciate that the "open doors, open minds, open hearts" campaign of the UMC may be moving too quickly for some. But the very last place I expected to encounter sectarianism, especially in relation to other Protestant denominations, was in a United Methodist Church. I'll see whether his sermon becomes available online or on tape cassette because it's a keeper.

** I linked to the article about the breaking of the 1000-meter record because I aspired to that during my senior year but missed by a second or two. I ran the race alone with no one to challenge me. The time to beat in those days was 3:05 set by, I think, All-American Lynda Glinski. I remember the sports writer for the student newspaper interviewing me before the race; I was so sure that I would get it. All my pre-race bravado was printed along with the result. I qualified for the ECAC Championships at Annapolis anyway, placed third in the 1000 there - the weekend my father died - and earned Student-Athlete recognition for having a gpa above 3.6. About the same time, a sprint medley relay team that I anchored set a school record at a Univ. of Rochester invitational but the record was broken within a few years. And I had a wicked split in that race! So, there was some satisfying success. I am surprised to see a record from my era - Margaret's in the indoor 1500 still standing.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Whenever a Catholic wants to raise the eyebrows of his coreligionists, he mentions that he's been studying the Book of Revelation, or "Revelations" as it is often mistakenly called.

I haven't been long at it, only off and on for seven years, so I'm no expert. However, Revelation is the biblical book that I have studied the most frequently, in the most varied of settings, usually academic settings, especially graduate school. On occasion, I have worked diligently at understanding the book and have read a few commentaries, several times through. I have had the privilege of hearing Fr. LaVerdiere, SSS, lecture on the book and also a local priest from the Benedictine Abbey in Morristown give a close reading of the Apocalypse. Further, I have participated in periodic study of apocalyptic literature with Dr. Jim Bridges.

So, forgive me for being skeptical when the guy said to me that it's a real easy book to figure out, just plug in the real world thing for each symbolic reference and you're good to go. But I didn't burst his bubble; I tried to hear him out. And when he said that, while reading, God told him that Jesus' return is delayed so that the man has more time to evangelize people, I had trouble discerning the precise passage in Revelation that inspired this notion in him.

I'm not saying his insight is foreign to ideas found elsewhere in the New Testament. I just had trouble recalling a particular verse from John's Apocalypse. But, a book nearby in the canonical order is Second Peter with its insistence that God "is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Pet. 3:9b NIV) So, I shared this with him, and he was sure that Revelation also stressed God's forbearance. Maybe it's just me, but I would suspect that Revelation is the LAST place people go, expecting to find a message about God's patience.

Monday, January 23, 2006

This past Saturday I attended the first of nine training sessions on developing skills for Christian evangelization, a 45 hour program sponsored by the diocese. I made the acquaintance of some nice people and some weird people. I'll talk about the weird people later.

Of course I was late because I didn't trust my Google map but, when I finally found the place, someone was nice enough to get me a chair and squish me to an already full table. There were ice-breakers right from the start and I am so nervous one-on-one that I could barely muster the courage to maintain eye contact. We had to share with our one-on-one partner our name and home parish and most joyful day of our lives. So I said my wedding day, thinking of my darling husband home watching the three young boys. And my conversation partner said the day her grandchild was born. Oh, but you don't look old enough to have grandchildren, I naturally flattered back and it seemed true. Later I learned, during another ice-breaker of "two truths and a lie" that my partner was divorced for 25 years already! Oh, that's a long, LONG time, I said, putting my foot in my mouth, not once but twice because, you remember, I had already said that my wedding day was the most joyful day of my life. And I remember that she said, well, that's great, for some people it is. This is why I'm no good at conversation because I always say something hurtful to a wounded soul.

I was thrilled that I not only stumped my entire group with my two truths and a lie but I also guessed everyone else's lie exactly. So, my husband said that, by rights, I should have been expelled because they don't want my kind in there. One guy said "I love Scripture. I love baseball and I have three children and four cats." Well, no one would LIE about loving Scripture. And, the longer the statement, the more likely it's true (test taking tip #43). And with the Super Bowl coming up, like most men, he's got football on his mind and even if he loves baseball in the early spring, all summer and into fall, he LOVES football now. Men live in the NOW. Besides, he was a big, husky guy, so he probably played. Later, during a break, I tried to break the ice with him a little more and asked him, since he loved Scripture, what his favorite passage was. He didn't take long to reply but he could barely quote it - Romans 8:38-39.

During lunch, I fell in with the charismatics unwittingly. Well, they are everywhere, aren't they? I entered the conversation, not knowing that they were charismatics because they were saying unapproving things about Protestant worship and having just attended a Methodist service with my Pentecostal friend, I thought I could offer my two cents (had to get the blog name in). The man who did most of the talking mentioned Wisdom 4 about the untimely death of a young man. It had been a couple of years since I had meditated on Wisdom 4 but I was familiar with it and I affirmed to him that it is a beautiful passage. And he said something polemical about it being torn from Protestant Bibles and I should have known what I was in for but failed to assess matters quickly enough. The canon question is just more complicated than the average Christian realizes. I let it go because I don't understand it well enough myself to share it with someone else. I did ask them to explain - because they were talking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit - the line from the Creed which says that we believe in one baptism. I take that to mean, not only "one" as in one time, once, but also "one" in form, uniform, one mode, one shape, one rite. So, I understand the Creed to be speaking of baptism by water and the Spirit. I'm not saying that the Spirit can't "fall afresh" but is it proper to call it a baptism? Well, they tried to answer my question with patient charity, asking me whether I remember my infant baptism or not (what difference does that make?) but I felt written off as a neophyte or something worse just for asking a question. I did tell them the story that I heard about an American charismatic delegation going to the Vatican in the late 60's / early 70's and the only cardinal who received them was Joseph Ratzinger, so, I said that they had a great friend in Pope Benedict. They were not flattered. For all I know, they are SSPX members, too! Actually, the woman sitting next to me might be Opus Dei. If I remember, I'll ask her next month. Anyway, by the end of the meal, they were all denying that they were charismatics, only that they attend charismatic prayer meetings or their spouses are charismatics or whatever. I was happy to return to my small group after lunch and I noted where they sat together near the middle of the room.

In the afternoon, we shared how we grew in our understanding of the person of Jesus Christ and I rattled mine off quickly because I know that people aren't really interested. Others seemed to start their stories from time immemorial, "Well, my parents attended church regularly and THEIR parents attended church regularly, so I've just grown up in the church." Our instructor was quick to point out the average person's 30 second attention span and the tedium of including so much of our life story. His testimony was alright; it was interesting, actually.

Well, we'll see if I get through this training. The boys were very happy to see me, especially the baby, when I got home. I don't have any problem being away all day, but they miss me and the housework piles up.