Sunday, December 26, 2010

I arrived thirty minutes early to hear the wonderful choir and instruments. The chatterboxes seated around me were a bit of a distraction. I couldn't help but overhear the young man behind me give instructions to his date on how to receive communion. And she, in turn, explained to him the difference between Easter and Christmas, historically-speaking. I almost turned 'round and suggested that neither of them receive communion. But I decided to mind my own business. I wish I hadn't heard. A woman who arrived after I, in fact, made an effort to quiet them down, which they resented.

It's been a long time since I've turned towards the main celebrant as he enters. Just about everyone around me did. Were they curious about his getup? What's Father wearing tonight? Not the least interested. Apart from the beautiful music, I'm fairly low-church1 but I've made my peace with an increased use of incense, even though I can no longer smell it, and with processions of a sacred text or Holy Communion. So "clothes that make the man" don't turn my head. There was some business about bringing in the infant statue for the creche which was also lost on me.

His homilies are almost always the same, about the sacraments. He went through each one, except matrimony, concluding - like some climax? - with holy orders. I don't know whether his omission of holy matrimony was accidental or intentional.

He also talked about the nativity set in the vestibule. How it had been in storage since 1985 needing repair. How it had been sent to the artisans in Italy several months ago and arrived back just in time for Christmas. I looked it over on the way out. It was very beautiful. Worth the expense? Hard to say. As I was admiring the set, a woman snuck up next to me and withdrew a couple of pieces of straw from the bedding. Our eyes met - I looked bewildered, I'm sure - but she made no explanation.

The very curious thing during the Roman Canon was that the presbyter omitted the variant Communicantes for Christmas:
In union with the whole Church
we celebrate that night
when Mary without loss of her virginity
gave this world its savior.
We honor Mary, the ever-virgin mother of Jesus Christ, our Lord and God,
I don't know whether this omission is a big deal but I know he said it last year.

The 2011 calendars available at the back of the church were devoted to the "15 promises of Mary" with which I was wholly unfamiliar. I took a calendar out of curiosity.

Is it ok to pray the rosary without being mindful of these promises? I suppose I'm afraid of these things affecting my motivation.

1 and a cappella is fine, too.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I went to the Bible study at the Presbyterian church in town again today. The same people were there as last time. The pastor remembered my name. He said they left off in chapter 5 last time but I couldn't recall which letter to the Corinthians it was. I opened to the first letter but the pastor mentioned verses 11 to 21, so I flipped over to Second Corinthians as discreetly as possible.

I brought an NRSV this time because that's what he and his denomination use. The guy next to me still had his TNIV and another lady read from the NIV. We covered only those eleven verses in the 90 minutes. A great deal of time was spent trying to puzzle out verse 11, especially the final word in most of our translations, "conscience."1 Then, in verse 14, we considered what could be meant by "therefore all died." We considered what it meant to no longer see anyone from a worldly point of view (verse 16). Someone described her practice of conditioning herself to acknowledge, at least mentally, Christ in everyone she meets. The pastor said that he tries to remind himself that Jesus loves everyone he meets. No one had any concerns about the "new creation" language in verse 17!

My eyes skipped ahead to the next chunk of text and fell upon the red-letter word "reconciliation" ... in my black-letter edition. I braced myself. A lady knew, as did the pastor, that the "Romans" now refer to the sacrament of confession as "reconciliation." The discussion quickly turned to a treatment of the Catholic "Old Testament" model of priest interceding for the people before God, and a lament that Catholics aren't allowed to go right to God, etc. I thought to say, "Well, no, because God comes to us," but didn't. The guy next to me said that he was invited to a Bible study at Nativity on Applegarth before he learned of this study:
"Catholics have their little Bible studies."
But his friend had to check with the priest at Nativity first on whether it would be ok to let in a non-Catholic2 and the priest hadn't gotten back to them yet.

And then the lady next to me who used to be a Catholic said that Catholics aren't allowed to think for themselves, they can't have an open discussion about the text, they can't have a Bible study without a priest there to tell them how to understand the Scriptures. So I considered what she said because I had just completed an Advent study at St. Joseph's on the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke on Friday. No priest joined our little sessions. The deacon was there but not to monitor our interactions, only to see how things were going. However, each session concluded with a video lecture from Fr. Stephen J. Binz3 telling us how to understand the Scriptures. But any biblical scholar will do, it doesn't have to be a priest.

I really wanted to tell them about the Advent Bible study at the Catholic church across town and the Matthew study planned for January. Maybe if I get a flyer, I'll just share that with them. I mean, why not get things firsthand rather than rely upon outdated memories and rumors. There were some non-Catholic Christians at the Advent study, I remember. When the guy plopped down next to me with his New King James, I thought to myself, "Here's another Catholic who doesn't know what Bible to choose!" Even when he mentioned having been born-again, I mistook him for a Catholic. But then he said that he tries to live "by the Bible" and was a deacon in a Baptist church before dropping out of "organized religion" altogether. Boy, did I have some verses for him! But he gave me Isaiah 11 which I read on the spot and couldn't see any specific point. And that Sunday, we read the first part of Isaiah 11 at mass and I was struck by how John the Baptist is described as having a leather belt but the Lord has justice and faithfulness around his waist (verse 5).

At one point, the pastor checked himself and acknowledged that he didn't want to go on "bashing the Roman church," but the former Catholic next to me urging him, "Please, bash away!" After he had his say, she recalled how the teachers at her grammar school all thought she had a vocation to religious life.
"I got out of that one, boy!"
She recently became reacquainted with a former teacher who's now at Georgian Court and, "the first thing she brought up was, 'We really all thought you had a vocation!'" The lady next to her quietly admitted that she'd always wanted to be a nun but, "I wasn't Catholic."

A couple of things happened just before we wrapped things up. First, the pastor admitted that after the 11 pm service on Christmas Eve, he's too keyed up to sleep so for the past several years he's flipped on the pope's midnight mass service from earlier in the evening and watched that. He said he never expected to actually look forward to that service but he now does. Secondly, one of the ladies on the interfaith council, a "Roman Catholic," was praised for her prowess with sheep4.
"And she's a very nice person, too."
I can return to this Presbyterian study on the 4th. They are certainly entitled to their opinions.

1 The NAB follows a more basic rendering (συνείδησις ), as usual.
2 I would think it would be alright.
3 Except he seems to be married now.
4 One of the Presbyterian services includes live sheep on Christmas Eve. A "treat" for the kids.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by Rann at "This That and the Other Thing."

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The youth group took a day trip to New York. I'm not involved with the youth group but wanted a trip to New York. I contacted the youth group leader about chaperoning and she agreed.

We met at church and drove to the Princeton Junction train station. We bought round trip tickets on the 9:44 train to NY Penn, arriving at 10:53. The tickets cost about $30. When we boarded, I sat with the youth group leader and got acquainted. First off, we exchanged cell phone numbers. As I entered her given name into my directory, I said, "'Karis' ... is that short for anything? I suppose it's Greek for 'grace.'"

And she was like, "That's right, but how could you know that?"

I can't remember all we talked about. Our kids, our husbands. We managed to talk the entire ride in.

When we got to Penn, it's easy to just follow the crowd. And yet she hesitated. I thought she wanted to exit the station immediately so I suggested the 7th Ave. side. But instead we walked up for the restrooms which had a line at least 20' long. The line moved fast and, of course, by the time our party got out, there was no line.

We weren't in any hurry to walk up to St. Pat's. We made our way over to 5th so we could see the windows at Macy's and Lord & Taylor. I couldn't get a decent picture of the public library because it was surrounded by scaffolding and plastic tarps. I got so giddy at Rockefeller Center that I temporarily got separated from the group. I was surprised that the teens were so uninterested in sightseeing.

We crossed over to St. Pat's and found seats up on the right. Our party was too large to sit together so I moved back a number of pews and sat next to a serene man, maybe my age or a little older. A man from our party also chose to move back and sat next to me. The service was really very wonderful. I'd never attended a service there before. The last time I was in St. Pat's was, I remember clearly, '97, sightseeing with my in-laws. The pope had just declared Therese of Lisieux a doctor of the church. It was the 100th anniversary of her death and her relics were touring the country.

But, as crazy as the vestibule is with tourists, once you're past that and take a seat, it's another world. I didn't expect that. Oh, it's still a big church, no doubt. One is always aware of that. It doesn't cease to be big, neither does it become intimate, even though the presider certainly tried to convey an hospitable warmth. I felt welcome and not out of place.

I tried not to disturb the experience of the man next to me. He seemed to be deeply involved in the proceedings, even though he didn't sing, recite prayers or kneel. He was engaging the service in a different way. The Agnus Dei was sung in Latin and I confidently participated in that prayer with pleasure. For communion, I just got into the aisle when everyone else did and walked forward, hoping that a minister would be available at the other end of the line when I got there!

After mass, the streets were noticeably more crowded. During that hour we sat in church, more and more trains had arrived at Penn Station! We were supposed to go ice skating at Bryant Park. Jeff had told me that the park is behind the public library, but I forgot that. Someone in the group knew where it was, so we walked there together. I suggested that we go down 6th because 5th was too crowded and we'd already seen the shop windows anyway.

We wanted to eat at Bryant Park but someone in our group warned that there aren't any restaurants nearby1. It was so very cold outside that it was nice just to sit down in a warm place. It was going on 2:30 and I hadn't eaten all day. Out of the blue, I saw another family from my daughter's preschool. They were in town to see Spiderman which was playing just down the street2.

After lunch, we walked back to Bryant Park. The Zamboni was just cleaning the ice. The line was very long because I think they kick everyone out. But the line moved very quickly. Within 20 minutes we were on the ice. I was the only adult who opted to skate. The teens seemed a little amused by the idea. The rented skates were really very good. No laces, a ski boot design. No excuses of "weak ankles." I got pretty comfortable on the ice after a few laps.

The difficulty was the wide range of abilities of the other skaters. Some were passing at great speed, weaving in and out, doing turns and whatnot. Others were always on the verge of falling down and taking you with them. I came close to falling several times, especially when the ice got rutted again. The only time that I fell was when posing for a picture. So, yeah, I had to brush the snow off my knees to make a good picture!

At one point, I noticed some young men talking to two girls from our group. And my responsibility occurred to me as the only adult on the ice. But I was already by them because they were standing still on the side of the rink and I was skating. So I decided that I'd stop on my next pass but they had broken up by then. It's a different set of dangers with teens vs. the age group I'm used to. The whole day I was worried about someone getting separated from the group. But I should have been worried about the girls getting hit on. The youth group leader discussed it with the girl on the way home. She could see the whole thing from where she was sitting inside.

The only frustrating thing was when it was time to leave. We walked back to Penn Station and the youth group leader paused at the corner and did a 360 because she couldn't locate the station. But it was right in front of her. So I told her to head for MSG. The man in our group started to walk up the stairs to MSG but I instinctively headed downstairs. Trains are always down, you know. I haven't been to New York in 13 years but we always took the train, so that route is sort of ingrained in my memory.

And they never post the track number until just before boarding. The youth group leader wanted to head downstairs before the track assignment was posted but I cautioned her that you can't hear the assignment down there and can't move from quay to quay without coming back upstairs ... or crossing the tracks. Once the track number was announced, it's always a mad dash to the gate. Our party got separated into three. My group walked forward and found seats. The other two groups got stuck behind people who refused to walk forward and stood for most of the ride home.

1 This warning was, in fact, incorrect. On the southwest-ish corner of the park is a franchise of the same chain we ate at, Pax. We walked to the Pax location at 42nd, between 7th and 8th but later, I noticed the location at 40th and 6th. I don't understand why the website says the shops are closed on Sundays.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

They started in on the Italians from the very start. The pastor was asked about his Thanksgiving plans and he said that he was cooking for extended family, including some relatives who are Italian. He'd heard that Italians eat pasta for every holiday, including Thanksgiving.
"I won't be serving any pasta, 'though, so I hope they like the food!"

I'm new to the group which started gathering last week or the week before. Everyone introduced themselves in an orderly sequence and stated how long they'd been church members. Most had joined within the last year which surprised me. Was this a sort of "new members" class? Do the participants expect to get connected to the church through this group? But everyone else is also new and unconnected.

By way of introduction, one lady said that she grew up in Jamesburg, you know with the Italian Catholics - as if it's common knowledge - and she used to scratch her head that they'd go to confession on Saturday night for the things they did on Friday night, get a clean slate and then go out the next weekend and repeat the pattern.
"But the penance was always the same, ten Hail Marys. It ought to have increased because they were committing those same sins over again."
I had a flurry of questions that I didn't ask: Does God forgive your sins? Do you recommit those sins? Aren't prayers better than not praying? Given human nature, isn't penance a sort of deterrent? Hers is a common criticism, stemming from the unspoken assumption that the sacrament itself is ineffectual.

At the previous meeting(s), they had covered the first two chapters of Second Corinthians. The approach was for someone to read a few verses and discuss. The pastor had a commentary from a familiar series, along with a leather-bound edition of the Access Bible and another book that I tried to make a mental note of but forgot it. He referred to the commentary a couple of times, mentioning the author's name, saying he was a contributor to the NRSV and the RSV. I just checked the list of contributors for the fourth edition and don't see his name (Ernest Best). That's not to say that he didn't contribute to earlier editions but it's just as likely that he contributed to the RSV only. I know that I have the Revelation commentary in that series and I may have one other, too, an epistle, perhaps.

I had my thin, blue-bonded imitation leather, silver-edged, personalized "classic" NIV because I forgot they are NRSV readers. The guy next to me had a TNIV and everyone else had the church's preferred version. When he read his verses, I followed along alright in mine. When I read my verses, the pastor re-read the verses from his translation as if he hadn't understood what I had read.

I said very little. For the most part I agreed with everyone else's take on the text. The first few verses of the chapter explain how the Corinthians serve as Paul's recommendation letter. The pastor related that when people come into his congregation they may bring letters of recommendation from their previous church. He said it is a common practice among Protestants, Methodists, Presbyterians, Reformed, Church of Christ.

He said it is possible to handle the transfer "within the session" without a public declaration of faith, but in the case of recent joiners, he had them get up in front of the congregation and make a profession of faith so everyone could see how friendly they are. I was familiar with all this already and considered bringing a letter with me from St. Dorothea when I moved out here. Msgr. Flynn had told me that if I ever needed a recommendation ... but the Catholic Church doesn't work that way 'round here.

I remember pointing out that in Moses' day the glory didn't spread to anyone else but in Paul's day they were all being transformed into his glory (v. 18). I thought to myself about the lady at St. Veronica's on Monday who wore a mantilla but who also could have veiled her face because it was radiant. I was certainly stunned and couldn't take my eyes off her. Haven't they also seen such things?

I thought that the pastor had figured out my background but when he said something about Catholics having "the best toys," liturgically speaking - robes, incense, etc., which he intended as a backhanded compliment, I realized he had no clue. At least, I hope he wouldn't say that if he knew. And I got sick to my stomach thinking about the ecumenical prayer service a couple of nights ago in his church. He stumbled to come up with the word "tabernacle" and I didn't dare help him but he knew communion is called "eucharist." Another participant said that Presbyterians have so little and nothing, and another came up with "tabernacle" to which the pastor conceded, "Oh, well, that's an Old Testament word."

As I departed, I informed him that I'm committed to attending another Bible study in Princeton on Tuesday mornings but I would come to his whenever they don't meet. He said, "Sure, come here and maybe, over time, you'll dump them." Well, I might.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jeff took the boys to see Harry Potter this morning, so I took Ella with me to the white church in town, with the intention of "breaking the ice" in advance of this evening's ecumenical prayer service. Immediately upon entering, I identified myself as "a visitor" and asked about the nursery. The greeter told me that the girl who runs it may show up, in which case she'd introduce me.

I let Ella pick our seat and she chose a side pew with no cushion. An unfortunate choice because the pews were so close that the seat pressed into my calves when I stood, which - truthfully - wasn't often. The morning service - very like this one - was a wonderful preview of the evening service to follow. Rev. P. welcomed everyone to what's now called in the PCUSA "Reign of Christ Sunday," but he confessed to being partial to the old "Christ the King" designation.

While the organ played, a young acolyte entered from the vestibule in the back and walked along the center aisle carrying a lighted candlelighter/snuffer. He lit the two candles on either side of the pulpit, then recessed to the vestibule. His action was the extent of formality or ceremony during the service.

The "call to worship" was Jer. 23:5-6 and was followed by a hymn. There was an opening prayer and a prayer of confession said in unison, not confession as in a creed1 but an admission of guilt which was followed by the pastor's assurance of pardon. The congregation sang the "Gloria Patri" with everyone, including the pastor, facing the front wall of the sanctuary, i.e., north. The passing of peace totally upset the atmosphere which went from this pensive, soothing, mental exercise to physically walking around, bumping into people and greeting and chatting and ... such a complete change!

The children's message was delivered by a PTS seminarian/intern. I was very impressed with her. She'll make a great pastor someday. Ella went up front to sit with all the other kids. She was slow getting up there, though, because she lost her shoes just as the children were called forward. Then she struggled to get them back on the correct feet and one went far under the pew and the seats were so close together that I couldn't help her go faster! But, she's very brave and found her way up there.

The adults grew instinctively restless during the children's sermon, mostly filling out their offering envelopes. One man had a printed text that he was looking over. Turned out that, after the children disappeared into the room behind the front sanctuary wall, this man went up to the pulpit to read from his papers. Part of it was called a "prayer of illumination" and then he read Col. 1:11-20, nearly identical to last night's second reading.

But, before all this, the handbell choir played "Give Thanks." One woman, only one, was very good. One lady lost her place and her neighbor tried to help her recover it. The two youngest players messed up the middle pretty good.

After the First Lesson, we sang "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" which I don't really know. But I'd noticed something strange: two rather large people, a husband and wife team, sat in the front pew and seemed to be informal worship leaders for the congregation. Now, it's typical for Catholics to stand as soon as the hymn music begins to play but these two waited through the musical introduction and stood just as they were about to sing!2 And the rest of the congregation followed their lead!

Before reading from the Gospel Lesson, Rev. P. told the congregation about a party he'd been to the night before. Several people expressed sounds of mock disapproval but he let it be known that it was a rare and special event, the centennial of the town's synagogue, at the Excelsior. I'd forgotten all about it. Not that I was invited. But how nice that it was scheduled just before the ecumenical prayer service.

Again, the Gospel reading was about the same portion as we heard last night. He observed that readings about Jesus' crucifixion usually come up on Good Friday or during Lent but here's this odd - his word - Scripture reading on the last Sunday of the church year. The only point I remember of the sermon was that it's as if the cross is Jesus' throne, the seat of his power, the place where he speaks to his people. He said that the Gospel reading is filled with irony.

The offering was announced as our "worship" of God with our gifts and tithes. In the pews were envelopes towards poinsettias for the sanctuary at Christmas. I took one with the intention of returning it that evening, either with money if I could get some or without. I guess, then, the offertory, which is listed in the bulletin immediately after, is when the plates are brought forward to the pastor. We sang the doxology which I know by heart. The seminarian read the prayers of the people and led us in the Lord's Prayer. We sang "Crown Him with Many Crowns" and received the benediction and rather than simply dispersing, the acolyte came again with his snuffer and took the flame from the candles.

Fortunately, Ella came running out from the back room just in time! She came out carrying a reindeer. I asked her whether someone gave it to her or whether she just took it. She said that she just took it and that she wanted the penguin instead. She's such a crook.

1 strangely, no creed was recited.
2 when I told Jeff later, he surmised they were conserving their energy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On the fan page of a nearby church plant I follow, the pastor posted a request for a complete Thanksgiving dinner. I got everything except the gift card because I doubt it would be used. I always feel that way about gift cards. I had trouble finding a large enough basket and ended up parting with one I'd had for a number of years and occasionally used. Maybe I'll get around to replacing it because I liked it.

So I made a special trip there today with the stuff because I wasn't able to swing by yesterday when I was over that way. Then, since I had some time afterwards, I popped into QoM, for olde tyme's sake. I had to rummage around in my car's armrest compartment for a rosary and found only my least favorite one, from Medjugorje, given to me by an acquaintance who had been there. The beads aren't spaced properly for me but I made do.

I thought the sanctuary was empty and was lamenting that fact. Such a quiet, peaceful space. But, in fact, as my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw a woman at the feet of a statue of Mary. The third row is close enough for me! But sometimes I'll venture to the prie-dieu situated just in front of the tabernacle. I doubt I disturbed her.

That reminds me, the place I'm going to tomorrow morning is collecting coats. I'd better see what I have to spare.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by Rann at "This That and the Other Thing."

My submission this week:

Saturday, November 06, 2010

I remembered where the Little Theater is from the spring and was the first to enter and grab a seat. Immediately, I went out again, though, hoping the campus book store was open. Ella needs a new college shirt. But, no. I'll have to order online.

As others filed in, Fr. Rich inquired about the book in my hands, thinking I'd purchased it on site. I explained that I'd taken it from a church library in the process of being purged and had it autographed. As I opened the book to show the author's signature, my right hand trembled uncontrollably. I had no idea how nervous I was to talk with him. He noticed and moved on rather quickly.

He explained to us that he named his lecture long before he developed its contents because that's marketing's timetable. Here's the blurb (click to enlarge):
We began with a hymn by Bernadette Farrell which I didn't really know (lyrics). He cited the contrasts between ourselves and Abram: he had no Bible, no catechism; he barely knew God but obeyed. He walked everywhere; we drive down the street. He started in Genesis 12 and pointed out that God always takes the initiative.

He quoted 1 John 4:10 to demonstrate God's initiative:
"In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us ..."
I had a Bible but he said that his Powerpoint slides contained all the verses cited in his lecture. Besides, the mini pull-up desktop wasn't large enough for my notebook and a Bible.

He moved on to Genesis 18, the promise of Isaac and he gave an informally dramatic reading of the exchange between Sarah and God over whether she laughed at the promise or not. Later in the same chapter, he read the exchange between Abraham and God as Abraham pleads for Sodom and Gomorrah. He said that he grew up liking Noah, probably because the story had lots of cute animals. But now he sees that Noah sold everyone out and should have pleaded for people's lives like Abraham did!

He admitted that Genesis 22 is one of the more difficult chapters in the Bible to take. He displayed several instances of famous paintings and shared that Caravaggio's is his favorite because the artist "gets it right" in terms of emotion. He said it's an instance of Abraham finding out that God is different from the Canaanites' gods and he referred us to Micah 6:8 for what God expects of us:
You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.
He quoted Lewis which I knew well:
"Remember, I had always wanted, above all things, not to be 'interfered with.' I had wanted (mad wish) 'to call my soul my own.' I had been far more anxious to avoid suffering than to achieve delight. I had always aimed at limited liabilities."
He said we need to be more open to God's calling.

Here are workshop descriptions of the other options for the morning session (click to enlarge):

Of course, Dr. Schubert (#6) was a close second choice. All these presenters are well-known in the diocese and I believe Fr. Bausch's reputation extends beyond the diocesan borders because he's published books which have not always garnered favorable reviews.

To my best recollection, I've never met Fr. Bausch. I've never heard him lecture. I know people from St. Mary's in Colts Neck who are his devotees. I give him the benefit of the doubt and respect his professional accomplishments, but I've never myself consciously been a fan of his.

Monday, November 01, 2010

I would like to forget today. Maybe if I put it all down here, I'll forget it.

I took the boys to school, then took Ella with me to church because Jeff couldn't take her to school. So she went to school late without her sleeping bag because it wasn't washed from the weekend. She reminded me on the way over to school that she didn't have her sleeping bag, which I appreciated, but I already knew.

Instead of going swimming, I went back over to the boys' school to "work" the Scholastic Book Fair. I detest Scholastic. I don't understand the relationship/appeal/deal that goes on between that company and public (& private) schools. I hadn't been in the foyer ten minutes before seeing all three of my sons. Timmy really seemed to be loitering. I had to chase him and Kenny back to their rooms. "Aren't you supposed to be in class?!"

From 10 AM until 12 noon, there was a steady stream of students "previewing" the book fair materials. Tim's class was first. I know those kids the best having been on several field trips with them already this year. They needed some help finding prices. The second group was more challenging, preschool. Even with a teacher, two aides and two volunteers, the kids still had to take turns. It really made no sense to me that preschoolers would be shopping for books without their parents' help. Especially because Scholastic offers more than books available for sale. Kenny's teacher from last year was slow to bring her class down, so under orders of the PTA secretary, I went to her room to get her. She had gotten the time wrong so she quickly brought her class. Good thing, because two classes were due simultaneously in the next slot!

After her, sixth grade came down with the kindergarteners. I thought they were working in "buddy" fashion but they were all on their own. So I helped about four kindergarteners fill out their wish lists. One girl had money and bought the book she wanted. The others were supposed to take their wish lists home and bring money in the next day. Then Chris's class came with 2nd grade too. That was alot of kids and they all needed help. Finally, Kenny's fifth grade came and Kenny actually bought the book that he wanted.

The books got very messed up on the tables with so many kids looking at them. So even though we straightened up each chance we got, there was still a need at the end to give everything a once-over again. By then it was close to noon, so I got out of there because I'd forgotten all about lunch ... and I hadn't eaten anything before going to church!

But since the kids had a half day, I was due back to the school at 12:30 for early dismissal. I managed to get only something to drink and nothing to eat. Then they wanted to play on the playground, so I foolishly let them. I was supposed to pick up Ella at 12:30, especially because she didn't have her sleeping bag. I actually don't know what time her "rest" period is. But I called over there and delayed her pick-up until 1:30.

We left the playground around 1:10 and drove over to Ella's school and got her just as she was about to go outside to play on the playground! About 1:20. I felt so bad! But it was cold today anyway. We dashed home for a few minutes and I got those guys some crackers and then we were back at school for parent-teacher conferences at 1:50 and 2:10. Chris's conference was first and since he's doing so well, it was over in five minutes. Then I had to wait around for Kenny's conference. And the parents in there ahead of me talked over by fifteen minutes. So, it was difficult to keep those guys behaved in the school hall for 25 minutes!

Last year, Kenny was scoring well above grade level. This year, not so much anymore. So that private school foundation that he has hasn't lasted.

We got out of there by 2:30 but it's good that I had picked up Ella already because 2:30 is her dismissal time. I would have never made it over there by then. Besides, we had to leave for fencing practice 45 minutes away in Tinton Falls by 4! So, again, a quick trip home for a nibble of food - the boys hadn't had any lunch and I hadn't eaten anything all day but crackers. We left the house around 3 and got to fencing quite early, 3:45. Last week there was construction on 520 in Lincroft that made us late, so I allowed myself enough time for that - and it was already completed. My boys didn't know what to do with the extra time.

But class started soon enough and was over by 5. I had to swing by the bank to get money for the babysitter. We were home a little after 6 and Jeff was already home. I started dinner even though I knew I wouldn't get it completed. I fed the kids. The babysitter arrived on time and we went out to our conference with Tim's teacher. We were done with that by 7:30 and back home. I got dinner on the table by 8:15.

Tomorrow promises to be better. I am still working the book fair and the kids have another half day. But without conferences and the drive to Tinton Falls, we'll have more time at home. Oh, wait, I have to go grocery shopping!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by Rann at "This That and the Other Thing."

My submission this week:

Friday, October 29, 2010

I was asked to participate in a spiritual mentoring program at a church using a book that draws upon the biblical mandate in Titus 2:3-5 --
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Biblical mandate. I know, right?

I'm put off by the intentionality of this because relationships ought to form naturally. For instance, when I first volunteered to teach, I was friended socially by another who became an informal mentor, most memorably recommending the prayer of the rosary to me, and otherwise setting a fine example.

Was I just lucky then? True, I haven't experienced a similar relationship since.

This isn't at a Catholic church.

Particulars aside, the proposal, as well as my other reading, has made me aware that I'm not in the habit of putting into practice specific scriptural advice, like mentoring. The tendency can't be found in the popular Catholic ethos and that concerns me.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

To complement our trip to Hershey last weekend, I bought the family tickets at Allaire Historic Village for their haunted hayride on Friday evening. I bought the tickets in advance over the telephone two full weeks ago. For a family of six, it was expensive. Jeff noted that the charge went through on the credit card. But when we went to pick up the tickets, they had no record of the pre-purchase. So they took our contact information and kindly let us in anyway.

The village isn't big and we're familiar enough in the daytime, so we found our way to the hayride queue. The moon was full but didn't offer much light. Propane lanterns lit the paths adequately. The blurb on the website does not describe the hayride accurately at all. The subjects were horrors from literature: Jekyll and Hyde, sirens, Robin Hood, Frankenstein's monster, Harry Potter's nemesis, the giant squid from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. And others. I can't remember them. And really I could have done without them. It was pleasant enough to ride through the woods on a crisp, autumn evening without things jumping at our wagon.

After the ride, we were let off outside the carriage house where some witches had a cauldron on a fire. We were invited inside the carriage house to hear scary stories but the kids wanted to go to the bakery tout de suit. So we did and they got their $2 cookies.

I had also purchased haunted express train tickets on site. Those were significantly less expensive but were for a particular "departure" time. In other words, we had time to kill. After the bakery, we went into a row house which is set up as a museum. At least we could get warm. The older two kids have some experience with NJ museums so they learned from the displays. In fact, Tim recognized mention of bog iron from his fossil-finding field trip to Poricy Park earlier in the school year. We were literally the only ones in the museum besides an "historian" of sorts, whose repeated offers to give us some information we declined.

We waited at the train station for about 30 minutes. But the time flew. Really. We saw some characters from the haunted express train milling about. Took the edge off, I guess. We could see the train moving very slowly along the circuit and then it stopped for a bit before resuming again and pulling into the station. Kenny speculated that someone boarded the train and then had to get off. I just replied that whatever they did for the previous ride, they'd do for us, so we'll see what it is.

Our turn came and we took our seats in the open-sided passenger car. Jeff had Ella. Facing them was Tim with Kenny. I sat with Chris across the aisle. I thought it was a good idea to have Chris on the inside, away from the open train car sides. A lady asked whether she could sit facing us and I said, "That's fine." She said she didn't want to ride alone. She freaked me out during the ride because she seemed to be staring just over my shoulder with a frightened look on her face. I thought to myself, "C'mon, lady, this is for kids!"

The train pulled out from the station heading clockwise around the loop. Every other time I've been on that train it's gone counterclockwise. The first encounter along the tracks was with another engine, set up near the tracks to simulate a head-on collision. The smoke makers were a nice effect too. But we dodged the collision and passed a graveyard in which people stood up from behind the grave markers and started to walk towards the train. Jeff Goldblum's "Must go faster" from Jurassic Park always comes to mind in those instances.

Along the center of the track route were stakes with ghosts and other creatures affixed to them. Jeff was riding backwards so he brushed up against these things before seeing them. They were positioned closer to the train on his side anyway. I could see them in the light of the train but once I reached them they were in darkness. They really needed to have lights on the side of the train or something.

We went around a second time and encountered the engine threatening another head-on collision. This time in passing the cemetery, the train stopped and those things from behind the headstones boarded. I had Chris cover his eyes and put his head down. I held him tight. Sitting on the inside didn't seem like such a bright idea anymore. Tim put up his dukes and was going to punch anyone who went for him. He is a tough customer. I found myself warning the actors: "He will punch you, seriously. And leave a mark."

The train resumed course and these things menaced us. We stopped again at the last turn before the station and they were going to get off. But they said they needed to take someone with them. They settled on the lady facing me. She tugged at my coat and begged, "No, take her instead!" I wasn't too impressed with her selflessness. When they succeeded in pulling her from her seat, I put my feet up for the remainder of the ride. Chris found her boarding ticket on the floor - she'd dropped it in the struggle. We passed her after we got off the train. She'd be needed again for the next trip.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'd be ready for a normal week next week.

We drove out to Hershey on Saturday after tennis lessons. We didn't tell the kids where we were going. They don't like surprises. Neither do I. Just before we exited the PA Turnpike, Kenny figured it out. Well, there's a huge sign, how could he not?

We stayed at the new Country Inn & Suites that just opened up on 39. It's so much closer to the park than the other one. And new translates into "clean" when speaking of hotels. We arrived at the park at 4 and got a two-day pass. We stayed until 10 and did the usual things.

The one difference is that Tim moved into a taller ride category over the summer and could ride with Kenny on all the roller coasters. That alone made the trip worthwhile. But also, Ella got on the merry-go-round first. Her asking for the ride was the primary reason we made the trip!

Something different for Halloween is trick-or-treating near Fahrenheit. There's a cute village set up in some catering pavilion. Oh, and all the rides have specifically seasonal names. We've only ever been there right after school lets out in June so this was new to us. But not confusing - we caught on quickly.

People were bundled up on Saturday night. We had two layers of clothes, but other people had winter coats, hats and gloves! It wasn't going to get that cold! Pulling into the hotel parking lot just before 10:30, my car reported a major transmission problem. I had trouble in late summer with the transmission fluid and, of course, two years ago had the transmission replaced. But they didn't do it right and axle grease go into the transmission fluid and ruined the transmission.

Nothing to be done about it. We didn't change our plans. Swam in the hotel pool for a couple of hours on Sunday morning, visited Chocolate World and then got into the park when it opened in the afternoon. We stayed until after 6 and I was dreading the ride home. Jeff agreed to drive the car for me. Ella fell asleep within ten minutes of getting in the car. She woke up after an hour but went back to sleep again for good.

Once the car got into high, it drove fine. There is construction on the NJTP Extension near exit 6 where the turnpike is being widened to three lanes. Traffic was backed up for a couple of miles. We lost about twenty minutes there and moving at low speeds was so painful with the bad transmission. But Jeff got us through it and we were home between 9:30 and 10. The kids went straight to bed and had something interesting to say at school in the morning!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Enough time was allotted to meals to get into some interesting discussions. At dinner on Friday night, I sat down at table with a woman from New York City, so said her name tag. Underneath, her church was listed, "Redeemer Presbyterian Church."
Oh, you attend Tim Keller's church. What's that like?
She was surprised to learn how popular Keller is with this gathering. She seemed rather blasé about Keller being her pastor. After she left the table, someone speculated that she probably never sees him.

At lunch yesterday, my friend spoke freely about her non-religious upbringing, her conversion to Catholicism in college and then her adoption of Reformed theology. I didn't press her for specifics, even though I was curious. I just let her say what she felt led to say.

I met her at the Reformed church years ago and she recognized my NCPL conference tote. She said she was living with the man who became her husband while she was very active in church ministry, teaching religious education.
And no one said anything to us about it, even though they all knew.
I do wonder what she expected. Did she mean to say that she didn't know it was wrong? Would she have respected the recommendation that she withdraw from active ministry? She attends an Arminian church now, for her husband's sake, and she's frustrated by the fact that she can't teach the Bible there. The fact that nobody said anything to her about her sin isn't the reason she left Catholicism - there were many other reasons - but it's something negative that she remembers of her Catholic experience. She asked me whether I'm in the Catholic church for the sake of my husband and I said, no, that I want to be there. She seemed surprised and a little sad. I think she thought I was a prisoner of male headship or something, like herself.

Another lady joined us from New Life Church in Glenside. I was able to share with her that last summer our Bible study relied on the Psalm material on their website. Someone was trying to name the man most associated with Ligionier Ministries and I was able to supply that. Someone expressed concern about the plenary sessions and what's the difference between teaching and preaching. I'd have to agree that the exhortations with which Connie concluded her third plenary bordered on preaching. When about the only thing a pastor does is preach - and not offer a sacrifice like a priest - it's very difficult to distinguish gender roles in ministry and very hard to say "men only." Yes, I was thankful to be affirmed in the Catholic notion of priesthood.

My study guide leader took me aside and inquired so gently, "How did you become a believer?" I told her my story of reading Mere Christianity in college and realizing that I'd never heard a description of Christ's work on my behalf before, despite being in church my whole life. But that, if it's is true, and I think it is, I want to believe it. Then, at church, I had "new ears" and could hear what had been said all along. I'm not sure whether my story convinced her.
I heard the "c" word quite often at the women's Bible conference this weekend.

No, not "church," nor "Christ," nor that other word, not even "coffee," but "caffeine." Maybe I'm just more sensitive since I've given it up. But even when I had an addiction, I don't recall myself being so open about needing my fix. I felt a bit like a recovering alcoholic because cans of Pepsi and Coke were readily available on ice for nothing. But I stuck to my Seagram's ginger ale and thought it a shame there wasn't any rum.

The final small group session had us study Ps. 73, looking for the central idea. I had plenty of prior experience with this psalm because I presented it at a Bible study last summer. We broke out into a smaller group of only three and went to an area with a library. Frankly, there were books strewn about all over the church hall, like most church halls. But this spot held a concentration of volumes and so, was referred to as "the library."

Earlier I had looked at the spines of the books. The one that caught my eye was a very old hardcover called The Secrets of Romanism. I flipped to the opening page and read that this book - or any other - is unnecessary because the best book against Catholicism is THE BIBLE. Then Zacchello should have left it at that. I was tempted to "misplace" the book somewhere on the shelves, but instead I reasoned that none would be inclined to read such a book.

I tried to explain the narrative of Ps. 73 to my two partners but they weren't interested in listening to me, at least at first until they saw that I had a decent handle on it. Still, we weren't the only small group in the library so the conversations of others interfered with my partners' concentration. Somewhat uncharacteristically I was able to tune out the others perhaps because they sat to my "deaf" side, i.e., my right.

We returned to "present" to the rest of our small group who also worked Ps. 73. They grasped the flow of the narrative quite well also. The central idea that I saw was something like "the psalmist's belief in retribution theology is reaffirmed by what he hears in the Lord's sanctuary," presumably the preaching of the Old Testament. But the other group came up with "God is good when he is near" or, something like that, and allusion was made to Christ's incarnation, his "tabernacling" with us, as John 1:14 puts it. I think our respective approaches reflect our religious sensibilities, Catholic and Protestant.
I was assigned Psalm 8. From the public library I picked up Alter's book. I didn't look at any other book, except the NAB notes. I overheard someone mention the Jewish Study Bible and kicked myself for not even glancing at it!

I decided to work from Alter's translation because his verse numbers follow those in the NAB, i.e., according to the Hebrew. I prepared a handout that reproduced the psalm. The worksheet came in the text of an email, not as a document. So I pasted the text into a Pages document and replicated the formatting as best as possible. In fact, the font size is larger than the original which seemed necessary.

The first question on the worksheet asked for a short sentence relating the central idea of the psalm. So I studied the passage and noticed that the middle of the psalm seems to carry the punchline:
What is man that You should note him, and the human creature, that You pay him heed?
The psalmist is astonished that the LORD regards him. Someone in the study group bristled at the word "astonished," as if the word had a negative connotation, expressing doubt. I thought of the idea in terms of "blown away" or "bowled over."

The next question requested two or three verses to back up my identification of the central idea. The heart of the psalm, verse 4-6, carry that. I didn't neglect the refrain repeated at the beginning and the end, forming an envelope or inclusio, but it was secondary.

The question that tripped everyone up asked to provide an illustration. I dreamed up a sketch about an out-of-our-league suitor who calls upon little-old-us. Then we were to connect this passage to the rest of Scripture. Obviously the original readers would "hear in all this a beautiful poetic reprise of Genesis 1"1 and the New Testament authors associate Christ with the one made a little lower than the angels, with all things subjected to him [Heb. 2:6-9; 1 Cor. 15:27].

I delivered my presentation fairly late in the program, by which time the tone was already more or less set by the previous presenters. We got into this horrible habit of interrupting each other quite freely, to the point that one woman was cut off with one full page to go! The thing is that, when people aren't confident, it's too easy to jump in, even out of empathy.

The curious thing is that I was (1) challenged on my selection of the central idea: someone thought the opening and closing refrain ought to serve. And (2) asked about the meaning of verse 2. Alter said that no satisfactory interpretation had been found so I took his word for that. But someone's Bible cross-referenced Matthew 21:16 and I was astonished that I missed that!

The study leader said that when the New Testament interprets the old, we're on very sure ground. Yes, but, of course, Jesus quotes the LXX which has emended the unintelligible Hebrew! And it's amazing to me that a translation like the NIV imposes Jesus' words from Matthew 21:16 - itself a quotation from the LXX - upon their English translation of Ps. 8:2, merely footnoting the Hebrew!

I sensed that both my view of man and Alter's view of man were just a little too esteemed for this group. However, to my surprise, just about everyone copied down the ISBN to Alter's book!

1 Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co., 2007) p. 24.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

An original thought came to me as I planned an overnight in Willow Grove: seek out a nearby Catholic church with some liturgical events scheduled.

The thought was likely prompted not so much by an awareness of First Friday / First Saturday but rather by the feasts of St. Thérèse and Guardian Angels. On the former, I found nothing and decided to attend locally in the morning before heading out. Not even an evening holy hour in the vicinity. But on the latter, turned up a service at OLHC in Abington, about one mile away, an hour before the workshop's Saturday morning start time.

Still, I arrived early enough on Friday to locate the church. Funny, I drove by St. David's in Willow Grove on the way - even the hotel directory listed St. David's. But, as far as I could tell, the first weekend service there was Saturday evening about when I'd be leaving town.

Nothing was doing at OLHC mid-morning Friday but I slipped in for a rosary, I think, even though the devotion would mean forgoing lunch. I was too nervous to be hungry. Then, the next morning, I arrived just before 7:30 and said another rosary. The 8 AM liturgy was well-attended and I hung around afterwards expecting another - this time corporate - rosary.

There were three others, plus the acolyte joined us more than halfway through. Not quite a minyan. The members took turns with the decades and I wondered whether, I, a newcomer, would receive a part and how I would know. So, the acting leader nodded to me for the third Glorious mystery and I counted very carefully on my beads because there's no greater offense than saying too few ... or too many! Aw, we've all been there.

I was so uneasy, at first, at the sound of my solitary voice in the large church that I caught my breath during the second half of the Aves. Soon I got comfortable with it and was able to utter the full Marian prayer.

Now, the acting leader was curious because he took no decades for himself. "What's he waiting for?" I wondered. Something big, no doubt. Turns out, it was one of those rosary recitations that never seems to end! More and more, tacking on a dozen or so incidental prayers, one of which I couldn't understand,1 much less say. Pray for the pope's intentions, fine. Pray the Memorae, ok. Pray for Right-to-Life, yes. Pray for our intentions, naturally. Pray to St. Michael, alright. But I had my eye on my watch!

Finally, oh, finally, the lovely praying came to an end and the acting leader nodded to me again, a "thank you," and I returned the gesture and quickly left for Calvary.

1 maybe this was one.
Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by Rann at "This That and the Other Thing."

My submissions this week pertain to a recent Bible workshop:
We took to our groups in the dining room for what the schedule called "Tea." In years past, I had "missed" the Tea, arriving too late, but I never actually "missed" it, as I detest informal social situations.

The ice-breaking exercise, I reckon modeled on speed-dating, instructed us to find at least two things in common before switching partners. The Baptist and I made short work of it, both hailing originally from NY and having attended the workshop previously.

I turned to the next partner whom I'd asked perfunctorily whether she'd ever been overseas. She said she'd spent about four months at L'Abri in Switzerland under Dr. Schaeffer. Since I am vaguely aware that Dr. Schaeffer died some time ago (but I wasn't exactly certain - it seems more than 25 yrs. ago) and my new acquaintance didn't look terribly old to me, I asked whether she was there while he was still alive. A silly question, I suppose, but I think it was an awkward attempt at flattery. After some sarcasm, she said that she visited just after the film "How Should We Then Live?" came out.

In trying to find a "connection" with this, I blurted out that I'd read Crazy For God. Well, most of it.
You mean Frankie's book in which he smears Os Guinness and everyone?!
I responded that Frank's a fine writer but maybe next time I'll try his fiction! Had I recalled sooner Dr. Schaeffer's reputation for accepting "girls in trouble," I might have had another question for her!

Fortunately, I seemed to hit it off with everyone else, especially the study group leader who's been to Israel many times. I discussed many of the sites there with her during our "turn" together.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chris's pumpkin-picking field trip was rescheduled to next Thursday. But I was tempted to still use the excuse as cover and rather just stay home this morning. That would buy me little, though, as I knew I'd actually miss next Thursday for his trip: I'm one of the volunteer parent drivers.

I just wasn't in the mood to go this morning. That's very unusual for me. I guess I'm a little run down. But my conviction trumps my moods often, so I forced myself to go. Still, I was five or so minutes late. They were singing something by Wesley that was new to me but I heard only the final verse. Never mind, I liked only the refrain.

The pastor addressed us about not neglecting the fellowship of gathering together. Our numbers were down today. Typical, especially with Nicole.

I had done the entire week's work yesterday afternoon in 90 minutes. The amount of time is right but it's supposed to be spread out over the whole week. But I found my answers were fresh in my mind so I had more confidence in offering them to the group. If too much time has passed, I can't be so sure of my state of mind. So, in other words, I spoke too much.

We are in 1 Thess. 4 and 5. One question took us to Amos 9:9-15. I can't turn to the Minor Prophets without thinking of Fr. Boadt, but that's a good thing. :-) Fond memories. In answering the question, someone quoted verse 10, "All the sinners will die by the sword," but she left out a key clause, in my opinion - "among my people". Now, if they are into dispensationalism, maybe that phrase doesn't matter. Or it speaks only of physical death, not spiritual death. Another question took us to Amos 5:18-27 and, in answering, one lady said the people were caught up in "religion" and "tradition."1

There was no lecture so we got out early. Arriving late and leaving early was just what I needed today. It felt right.

1 and music? Verse 23.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Not being late today made me realize how much I missed last week.1 A tamed version of "Shout to the Lord" is still in my head. I was the only one with my eyes open, who needed them open. During the announcements, I continued to read a pamphlet I'd picked up from the back table answering "Which Bible?" It's a pitch for the ESV, and a pretty lame one because I recognized immediately the cut & paste job from - this page with HCSB omitted and this page of endorsements, reordered with "favorites" near the top (R.C. Sproul heads it up).

My attention returned to the address when the director of the children's program got up. She explained the "process" of meaningful crafts and coloring sheets:
"The coloring hangs on the fridge using the magnet your child made that first week ..."
"Then it goes into the folder."
She said that the children's program is different this year because they need two adults in the child care rooms at all times. So CBS participants, like me, will be volunteered up to twice a term. Somehow they have it worked out so I won't miss any of my program but I think that involves me arriving early and leaving late. I just might not.

I keep forgetting how little I have in common with these ladies theologically. I was reminded with a jolt when one of the questions asked why Paul refers to Timothy as "God's fellow worker" but to his other companions as "my fellow worker" (e.g., Romans 16:3, Philippians 2:25, Philemon 1,24). The answer was that Paul's companions truly followed Paul, not God - these latter weren't (yet?) genuine believers.2 Appeal was made to 1 Cor. 1:12! But Timothy was a believer, even before he met Paul.

Then again, it could just be an insignificant difference that's been blown out of proportion by a verbal plenary mindset.

The talk after our bookwork mentioned the devil alot. Alot. The lecturer's delivery had the cadence of a sermon. That was fine. I took a better look at the sanctuary, spending more time in it this week. I expected the architecture to imitate or show dependence upon Presbyterian forms but not in this case anyway. There's a raised platform or stage with chairs for the choir. But there's space behind that and a curtain ... which hides the baptistry? It just seems a throwback to "mystery" that I supposed all Protestants were leery of. Maybe they're just leery of "the other guy's," and theirs is alright because they know it/understand it.

Eh, I'm getting tired. Just one more thing: the director of the children's program came up again and told us that the children created paper arks and learned about Noah.
"But their arks don't have any animals because they ate them for snack, animal crackers."
And I thought to myself, "That's in the Bible, too!"

When I walked in to pick Ella up, they were all gathered around a laptop looking at this Elfred Lee drawing. And when we got to the car, Ella told me that she held "the Bible" above her head. Sounds like they had a book parade or something. She mentioned alot of water flowing all around.

Maybe volunteering in the child care program once or twice wouldn't be a bad idea.

1 When I went the opposite direction first to pay for the book for a study I'm not going to do.

2 I think Philippians 4:3 blows that idea out of the water because "my fellow workers' ... names are in the book of life." Not to mention Romans 16:21 in which Timothy is merely called "my fellow worker" by Paul.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Precepts facilitator is taking a sabbatical this fall and, instead, the Thursday morning group plans to work through this book until Thanksgiving. The regular leader may be back by then.

I'm in the mood for a change of pace so I searched on Community Bible Study and found one in Allenwood. I registered a few weeks ago. The core leader called last week to remind me of the first class. Turns out the kids were off school (and we went to the Philadelphia Zoo) so I was unable to make the first class. I'm surprised they held it. Maybe not many participants have school-aged kids. I was invited to pick up my workbook this weekend from someone's front porch.

Allenwood isn't near my home but it's near where the kids take tennis lessons on Saturday mornings. So, this morning I dropped them off at their lesson in Manasquan and went over to Brielle to the house. I'm only vaguely familiar with the area from having taken my car to the service place on St. Rt. 35 several times years ago. And passing through to Pt. Pleasant. My GPS showed a circle for the intersections of 34, 35 and 70 but it's been upgraded to a cloverleaf several years ago. So I tried my best to follow the "directions." Thank goodness TomTom doesn't yell at me for driving on what it thinks is grass!

It just so happened that today was Brielle Day or something and there was a 10k foot race along the roads I traveled. I had to go real slow and watch for runners passing. Then, pulling into the driveway, I wondered how I would back out without hitting anyone, as runners were on both sides of the road. Fortunately, by the time I retrieved my workbook from a bag on the front porch and programmed my GPS to take me back to the kids' tennis place, a race official was at the end of the driveway ready to assist me in backing out. I appreciated that very much.

Really beautiful area down there in Brielle. The golf course was super-packed with work hard, play hard types.

The workbook contains six lessons on 1 & 2 Thessalonians. The commentary material was written by a man with degrees from Princeton, Dallas, SMU and Fuller. The materials profess to be "mainstream Christian" and with that background, there's a good chance of that. At least the author didn't spend all his time at WTS. Of course, I'd feel really great if the commentator didn't think Paul wrote 2nd Thess. (cf. Support for Authenticity - Wiki, Jerome Murphy-O'Connor). Or make a big deal about Paul being "in the lead" despite co-authoring with Silas and Timothy. Why insist on Paul's leadership?

I finished lesson 1 in short order today. I probably have to do lesson 2 before Thursday. I absentmindedly requested a copy of the Prophets & Kings book (above) so I'll pay for/pick that up before excusing myself and heading over to Allenwood later this week.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

With the boys back to school and Ella's preschool program not yet started, she's been coming to church with me in the mornings this week. She's been good and quiet and still. Except this morning, she inadvertently bumped me in the nose and immediately sang out "Sorry" before she could check herself.

I usually favor the "long reading" when given a choice, but this morning I was struggling to hold Ella along with her Build-A-Bear bunny and Thomas the Tank Engine blanket. But the lead-in to his sermon depended on the long reading and, besides, the length of the Gospel reading off-set the brief, three verses from Romans.

On Sunday, the lector had bobbled pronouncing "Philemon" so much that she didn't recover in time to pronounce "Onesimus" correctly either. So it was very pleasant to hear the priest properly pronounce ten or so "tricky" names. And what I was really grateful for was that, of those listed before the Exile, I knew pretty much something about them and was pretty sure I could find their "stories" in the Scripture. It takes time but, with repetition, some stuff sticks.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by Rann at "This That and the Other Thing."

My submission this week:

Saturday, September 04, 2010

It's a man's world.

The first time we went seining, the fuse in my cigarette lighter blew. The battery in my (nearly) four year old GPS no longer holds a charge, so I lost that device immediately. Plugging into the secondary cigarette lighter offered no alternative as both outlets are on the same fuse. I navigated home "blind" but it was alright because I remembered the area - eastern Monmouth county - from my professional days.

In asking to borrow Jeff's GPS for our second seining trip that week, I was indirectly informing him that my car needed a fuse. He had changed this particular fuse for me once before and maybe he remembered that there were no longer any spares of this type.1 His got me there but I ran into the same trouble as before on the way home. It seems his (two-year younger) GPS doesn't hold a charge either. On the third and final trip seining, I had no option but to navigate unassisted and missed only one turn which I quickly recognized and corrected.

I might be taking the kids to the Philadelphia Zoo for their days off school this week and, so, would really need my GPS. How to find an auto supply store without a working GPS? I knew of one down 130 in Robbinsville but when I drove by there on Monday, it was closed up rather permanent-looking. I had bought floor mats for my new car there about five years ago. The floor mats are long gone but I still have the car.

So the online Yellow Pages turned up Paris's near H&H Gas in Windsor. We had toured H&H's showroom more than three years ago looking at ranges and dishwashers. But since Jeff had driven us there on a blustery winter day with little visibility, I needed to click the directory listing's map to find the place on my own. So the Robbinsville store had moved to Windsor, a bit closer.

I went over there first thing this morning before I was really awake. Jeff asked me to pick up a case of 10W30 motor oil for his lawn tractor. It's a small store so I wasn't as overwhelmed as usual and I spotted the fuse kiosk immediately. I pick out the right amperage and purchased it.
That was quick.
A little too quick for, as soon as I stepped out of the shop, I recalled the motor oil. Actually, cases of motor oil caught my eye as I walked out. So, I turned 'round and bought a case, after admitting somewhat casually that I'd forgotten something.

When I got home, Jeff was eager to insert the new fuse ... and just as eager to tell me I'd bought the wrong size.
Is the oil OK, as I'm going back anyway?
I walked back in with the receipt and the unopened package and told the checker that I wanted to exchange it for the right one.
Oh, did you buy the wrong one?
Such a patronizing tone. But I fully expected it. I just left the receipt and small package at the counter and walked to the kiosk for the correct size.
Oh, you needed a mini. That's actually 81¢ more.
And whether or not that included the mandatory restocking fee, I don't know. Then and there, then, I opened the fuse panel and inserted one of the new ones, plugged in the GPS and selected "HOME."

1 I noticed that none of the fuses in use had the needed amperage, so I couldn't "borrow."

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I must have been complaining about the meager pickin's of upcoming Bible study programs this fall, because Mary suggested I check out what her church is offering. I attended the informational meeting last night even though I was pretty sure the time slot wouldn't work for me.

The church music director had assumed coordinator responsibility when the associate pastor got her own church down south. He probably has enough to do and doesn't seem interested in facilitating the group. He's gotten two former participants to cover for him.

The group meets for 34 weeks, for 2.5 hours. There's homework every day and it promises to cover either 70% or 90% of the Bible, I can't remember which. I would think 70%.

The materials are available at Cokesbury, a workbook and a recommended but bland-sounding study edition of the Bible. I've seen that version in bookstores and was never once inclined to peruse it.

I begged off and gave my sincere intention to consider "Disciple" again in 2011. However, I might order the materials just to have them. Maybe I'll have time to look them over. But, you know, I'm getting a little sick and tired of these introductory programs and I would probably only participate for the fellowship.

On the way home, I passed St. Greg's in Hamilton Square. The lights were on so I went inside maybe to pray. The choir was practicing. A very intimate group of five or six. Their voices filled the huge church. They were practicing the responsorial psalm. And then I'm pretty sure they practiced this song with such a haunting melody, "Camberwell." I'm not sure how focused my prayer was ... I seemed to be doing more listening than mumbling intentions.
It's been a month since I stopped drinking caffeine. I asked Jeff whether he thought I was any better without it and he said, "Yes, of course." It was his idea in the first place so he's somewhat obligated to think/say that.

Am I better? I don't know. I'm not as tired as I was. The numbness in my hands and feet has subsided a bit. The joints hurt a little less. The mind has cleared up somewhat. I had a dizzy spell last night and feel mildly dizzy today. So that's not good considering I've quit everything long time. Otherwise, I won't really know for sure how I am until I get back to the fall schedule. The dead of winter is usually my worst time physically because the house is so cold.

Perhaps providentially, my favorite caffeinated drink has redesigned its label. Thankfully, it doesn't even catch my eye anymore. I have no cravings for caffeine but still like carbonated drinks. So I have several bottles of Perrier on hand. And this week I picked up some of this, but it was so refreshing that I've already drank too many. I just figured it was a good substitute to this which I had been drinking even though it upsets my stomach.
I heard something rather disturbing on family radio last night. I know, right?

I was driving back from, well, that bit doesn't matter and tuned in to the Open Forum. In response to a previous question, a caller asked about the supposed dangers of the King James Study Bible. It seems that Camping had taken a stand against study Bibles with notes at the bottom of the page because a reader could mistakenly recall someone's opinion about the text as "something read in the Bible."

He's got nothing against commentaries, as some Bible readers might, so long as the notes are contained in a distinct book and not on the sacred page. Cross-references - linking God's word to God's word - are alright, despite the fact that any such connections are the result of someone's insight.

Usually, editors take effort to distinguish the biblical text from study helps with headings, text boxes, font size and boundary lines. Getting familiar and comfortable with the layout of a study Bible's page doesn't take much.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I don't take the time to prepare myself beforehand with the Sunday readings. Usually I'm familiar enough with the context to understand alright.

This week's first reading and the Gospel are clearly in the wisdom tradition but my skeptical side always ponders just how wise the advice really is.

Take Sirach 3:18 -
Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.
If I must ask myself whether I'm great then I'm obviously not and, so, am off the hook!

Certainly the next verse resonates with me, loud and clear -
What is too sublime for you, seek not,
into things beyond your strength search not.
But the next verse appears to be some sort of built in protection against criticism -
The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs,
I don't always appreciate proverbs, therefore I'm not a sage? Who'd be happy with that assessment? Better to pretend to appreciate proverbs?

The Gospel reading applies Sirach's advice in a real-life setting, dinner with one of the leading Pharisees. Kenny recognized the Scripture from the handful of parables covered in VBS this summer. Good for him.
Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
On the other hand, if you're like me and habitually arrive late (and last), just take whatever seat is available, if any.

But is the proper motivation for humbling oneself the hope of promotion? I mean, come on. Does this passage actually encourage ulterior motives? And so, if I reject the ethic of this passage - refuse to affix hope of promotion on the virtue of debasing myself in social settings, am I not living according to biblical teaching?

I prefer Sirach whose focus is on finding favor with God because there's no mention of pleasing God in the passage from Luke until, perhaps, the final verse -
Blessed indeed will you be ... For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
The part about feeding people who can't repay you reminded me of the scene from the original Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) after the desperate farmer tries to shoot Deeds and Deeds gives him a meal.

The second reading gives a compelling contrast between Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion which may be only vaguely related to (Christian) wisdom literature, in the idea that there are "two paths" (Deut. 30:19; Prov. 9). I was reminded that Pilgrim's Progress makes use of those symbols, Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion, for law and grace.1

1 Pilgrim's Progress - Wiki

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by Rann at "This That and the Other Thing."

My submission this week:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The kids used their birthday money to buy scooters on Sunday afternoon. I had them bring their wallets, pay the checker, save the receipt and put away their change. Tim left his wallet in my car. That's so Tim. Later on Sunday, Jeff took my car to pick up a 5' piece of counter top for my desk. He found my sole credit card in the driver's cup holder and placed it in my "wallet." At least that's what he told me afterwards.

I went out Monday but paid cash everywhere. I didn't go out yesterday. This morning we had plans to drive to the shore and I needed to fill up the gas tank. I couldn't find my credit card and, by this time, I had conscientiously returned Tim's wallet to its proper place for safekeeping. So I got $20 worth and, when I got home, asked Jeff to remind me again where he had placed my credit card.
"In your wallet."
Now, 'round here, people use different terms than we did growing up for purse, wallet, pocketbook. And I knew that my wallet wasn't in the car. I'd forgotten that Tim's had been. But I had enough cash to get through a few hours at the shore, so I didn't sweat it. Much. In the back of my mind, I still worried where my credit card could be.

When we got home from the shore, I checked all my pants pockets, clean and soiled clothes. I checked under seat cushions of favorite chairs. I checked the floor of my car. I asked the baby sitter whether it was in the folded cash I'd given her Monday. I returned to the restaurant we'd eaten at Monday. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Not until Jeff got home tonight and we had a chance to compare notes:
"I put it in your wallet. The strange thing about your wallet is that there were so many empty slots. Did you have someone else's wallet in your car?"
Then we walked together to where Tim keeps his wallet and Jeff pulled out my credit card.
"I couldn't figure out why you had one of my old, expired ACM membership cards in there, either!"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

To bigger and better things, one hopes ...

Just ahead of me, a woman entered the church carrying a dog like someone would carry a child. At nine in the morning, it was already hot so I was sympathetic but also wondered whether today wasn't the feast of St. Francis.

She waited outside the secretary's office. Sure I hadn't succeeded in wiping away my puzzled look, I gave her an as-generous-as-possible, "Good morning" and headed up the stairs.

I can never remember what week it is, but Father came out in white so I turned to the back of my missal where the feasts and memorials are arranged according to the calendar. Father opted for the European pronunciation of St. Bernard1. Having seen a dog in church only moments before, this tasteful touch wasn't lost on me. Lest anyone think we're invoking the intercession of a dog, however conscientious the breed about helping people. 'Though the pronunciation sounded strained.

He said that the vision in Ezekiel 37 isn't about resurrection but about the people returning from exile. And I was glad that he said that. I don't think it's necessary to stop there, with the original audience's interpretation. But too often it's a step that is skipped altogether. The vision is a little more beautiful when taken figuratively, in a way. But then could anything be more beautiful than resurrection?

The twentieth week, the twentieth day. Yes, I like that sort of thing.

1 bur-NAHRD (US), BER-nəd (UK) - Wiki
I totally agree with Seth's comments:

Dr. Laura and Leviticus, Fr. James Martin, S.J., America, 8/18/10.

via Abbey-Roads

Monday, August 23, 2010

The tone in the diocesan newspaper has perceptively tightened up as of this week but, for now, Fr. Dietzen's column still appears. This week, the question was about how books of the Bible, like the Gospels, disagree on objective facts, like Jesus' ancestors. Fr. Dietzen quotes something from the PBC:
"The truth of the story is not at all affected by the fact that the evangelists relate the words and deeds of the Lord in a different order and express his sayings not literally but differently, while preserving (their) sense."
And I just wondered that if it doesn't matter in the Scripture, why should it matter so much in the liturgy1.

1 "the need to be as true as possible to the original languages in which the prayers were first written"

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I took my car in for regular service, 120,000 miles, early Thursday morning. A few hours later I was in Pt. Pleasant playing rooftop golf with Ella. The shop called to say the car's transmission fluid is black. I nearly fainted. How does this happen, especially when I'm so faithful about maintaining the car? But the line is always the same, I really can't let you drive this car out of here when it's like this ... Very suspicious. They've used that line with tires and brakes. I'd like to believe them.

I was assured that all the needed parts were in stock and the car would be ready later that day. Then when I was about to leave to pick it up, the shop called to say the car would be ready early Friday. Not everything was in stock. Inventory showed more than the parts people could locate on the shelves. I thought to myself that if a repair shop is going to push superfluous repairs, at least have the parts available.

The next day I went to pick up the car. And as I walked into the garage area, I overheard the guy, Andy, who handled my car, on the phone explaining to another customer that their transmission fluid is black. Oh, sounds like a special on black transmission fluid this week.

Jeff's told me I gotta find another place to take the car. I don't think he'd buy me another of the same brand if I can't get it serviced reliably. And I want to call the Better Business Bureau about these guys. When I dropped off the car, I remember now, Andy was expressing concern to a co-worker about still having a job and the service shop still being in business. He sounded desperate but shady deals aren't the solution.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

You should have seen it ...

I took Chris to the birthday party at the house of twins from his group at summer camp. Chatting with the mother, she asked about the upcoming parents' BBQ and the forecasted threat of rain:
"What do they do if it rains?"
It's never happened.
"But they are predicting a terrible thunderstorm during the time of the picnic"
The camp owner has it all worked out with the Guy who arranges the weather. Graduations, picnics, field days - never rained. I also told her that I present the counselors' tips to them at the picnic. Whether it rains or not, I'm going for that reason, at least.
"Do you follow the tipping guidelines?"
Yes (and then some).
"Well, I have it times two!
And I have it times three.1 I bet mothers of twins trot out that line often among their friends.

I'd gone to the bank in Monroe for the tip money. The sky was dark and even light sprinkles hit the windshield. But when I got home, only a distance of a few miles, the sky to the south was sunny. I had nothing to lose by taking the kids over there but I made sure they wore sneakers instead of flip-flops, in case a thunderstorm necessitated a mad dash for the car! As we parked and got our things together, we heard thunder. Still parents' cars kept pouring in. Jeff called for status on the picnic because he had just driven through hail in North Jersey. I told him:
"I'm standing on the basketball courts and there's a line in the sky: to the north, dark clouds, to the south, sunshine. Come over, it's 'game on!'"
Lots of times the warnings of severe weather are for the City and stay just north of us. Only in hindsight does one realize that the projections were more or less accurate. Despite being spared rain, or maybe due to being spared, it was incredibly humid but the kids had fun. Chris climbed the rock wall to the zip line across the lake.

From their website

I wish I'd gotten that on video. He said he was shivering when he got to the top because he was scared. But he did it anyway!2

1 Except this year, Tim has a main counselor, two assistant counselors and one "Counselor In Training (CIT)." I was one envelop short last night because the CIT's existence, much less his name, was never communicated to me. The kid always wears a golden rosary necklace, how can I not tip him?

2 He did zipline again tonight during the upper camp picnic but I didn't see him. Jeff rode the parallel line with him simultaneously.