Thursday, January 27, 2011

The 1 John stuff isn't all bad, of course.

For instance, as a result of being in this study, I was able to recognize the scriptural source of this prayer spoken Sunday:
"Almighty Father, the love you offer always exceeds the furthest expression of our human longing, for you are greater than the human heart.1 Direct each thought, each effort of our life, so that the limits of our faults and weaknesses may not obscure the vision of your glory or keep us from the peace you have promised, through Christ our Lord. Amen."

1 1 John 3:20

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The honeymoon may be over.

I had a feeling I wouldn't like this 1 John study and it's turning out just that way. Unfortunately.

The evangelical reading of 1 John, if you don't know, is that the letter includes "tests" for the reader to measure up against. So, for example, if the reader has a sense of love - and "love" means quite literally "charity," not emotion - towards everyone in their religious community, they can enjoy some confidence that they are "alright." Adiuva me, Domine!

It so happened that my study leader engaged me in a discussion about my feelings after the plenary worship time and lecture. I told her that I had been fine with the booklets on the previous epistles (1 & 2 Thess., James) but that I had not been brought up to read 1 John in this self-examining way. And while I might reflect on my conduct at the end of each day and ask forgiveness for offenses and omissions, I don't dabble in those larger concerns of ultimate destiny.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.
But instead of acknowledging that, yes, the booklet questions and commentary dwell upon these "tests" for believers, the study leader denied that the material approached 1 John like that!

So, here we go with direct quotations:
  • [John] is concerned that those in his congregation not be deceived about their Christian standing.

  • John supplies tests to destroy false assurance and to confirm faith that is genuine.

  • [John] asserts that if you believe Jesus is the Son of God who came in the flesh, if you live a righteous life compatible with the nature of God, and if you habitually express love consistent with the character of God, you can be certain that you are a child of God.

  • [John] is careful to give both subjective and objective tests.

  • [John] begins an explanation to clarify the difference between true believers and the unfortunate peole who are self-deceived. ... they have a false sense of security. ... John's intention is to give assurance to those who know God and seek to live in obedience to Him. He intends to remove assurance from those who do not know God or who do, but are presuming on His grace.
And so throughout. But there's more:
Our spirituality is judged not only by our prayer life and Scripture study and meditation, but by the way those prayers and Bible truths are translated into action in our lives.
Note well, it says, "not only."

When we were going over the questions, I wanted the group's opinion on #10C in Lesson 3, on pericope 1 John 3:19-24. The question asks, "How does God grant us assurance and confidence about ourselves?" Look at verse 22: "and receive from him anything we ask." (NIV) So I asked whether a track record of answered prayers was commendation from God and I received a resounding "no" from a couple of people. That's a relief. But isn't that what the text says?

We skipped ahead a couple of questions to #12 which says, "State the conditions given in verse 22 for receiving positive answers to our prayers." I wrote, "obey God's commands and do what pleases him." As if I know what that is. Skipped another couple of questions to #14 in which we were directed to read John 15:1-9, which says in part, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. ... bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. The question asks "What further assurance do we have that Jesus abides in us?" Hands down, answered prayer.

I could say more but that seems to be the gist of the 1 John study. Without results, we are nothing. So I'm back to being in a heap o' trouble again. Just as I was starting to calm down and relax.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

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

My post this week:
As I was letting the color soak into my hair at the salon tonight, I flipped through last week's Newsweek. All the way in the back was a book review. Even though I'm not interested in yoga, I have many acquaintances who are. There was a nice picture of Marilyn Monroe to head off the page, and the word "Christian" in the first few sentences caught my eye. Why shouldn't I read the article? What else am I going to do?

So, I'm reading the article and I see a slight error in the print edition (it has been corrected online):
It’s hard to imagine C. S. Lewis writing about his conversion to Catholicism and making fun of the goofy priests and wacky incense.
I can only wish!

Even in the corrected, online edition, the belittling isn't entirely erased because the phrases "goofy priests" - I don't know any goofy ones - and "wacky incense" - wacky, really? - remain, although without their antecedent. Not every Christian church features priests or incense, wacky or otherwise, so the general reader has a keen sense of who is cited.

The concluding line ought not be missed:
A yoga memoir by a conservative Republican Catholic NRA member? Now that would be a real stretch.
Again, really? The second page of the full article appears below.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I arrived too early and sat in the car for ten minutes. I noticed that one quarter of the parking lot wasn't even plowed. It wasn't needed.

I waited, all the while resisting the temptation to simply return home. With Sunday School occurring before the morning service, most were already inside. Only a few cars trickled in after mine. I couldn't get lost, entering with a stream. There was no stream. And I felt underdressed.

But I grabbed my NIV for balance and walked in with the air of one who does every week. Because I do. I knew the greeter. I saw the Bible study leader and the pastor was quitting his chamber. There was sort of a bottleneck in the hallway. I felt like I was pushing people to get through, embarrassed at being recognized so quickly.

In the Hall, I encountered two other women whom I knew. One was stuffing a couple of small, chocolate cupcakes into her mouth. She acted hungry and rushed. She said she had taught this morning, so maybe she left home without breakfast. As we talked, the Hall lights dimmed aggressively and then remained off. No one budged or even batted an eye. They knew what the signal meant, of course, but they would not be pressed. I was the one who reacted, asking my companions whether they would enter and they agreed. But they took their usual seats and I found one next to another lady I knew, behind a couple of other ladies I knew.

This first lady chatted with me quite a bit about her week. I'm not used to conversing before a church service so I smiled and nodded and said nothing as politely as possible. With the Christmas trees still crowding the raised platform in the sanctuary, the pastor's chair was absent and the man sat in the pews. A choir of eight people, four men and four women, shared the platform with a grand piano. They did not wear robes and sang well for their size. I knew half of them. The woman who played violin played so beautifully for God.

The woman who I intended to visit with arrived a few minutes after the service started. But her seat was available. Late last year, the church dropped from two to one Sunday service. In the past, I might attend the earlier service hoping to catch my friend only to discover she'd waited 'til later. That wasn't going to happen this morning. We sang three songs as projected on the overhead screens. The receipt bulletin has very little in it anymore. But under the date was the line "Walk in the Light," which I recognized immediately as coming from John's first epistle1.
How convenient, a sermon on 1 John 1.
The choir performed a nice song after an elder offered a wonderful prayer but the sound of folks ruffling around for their offering marred the moment. There was supposed to be a double baptism but the children were sick. In general, there was a lot more commotion and unrest in the sanctuary than I remember in the past but no where near approaching the freedom of a Catholic service. When we sang, I was grounded by the voice of the man behind me who sang so well.

The children were dismissed and the 45 minute sermon on a few verses from 1 John 1 began. He quoted C. S. Lewis four times which suited me fine. He even quoted from his collected letters. He related a short story from H. G. Wells2 in great detail. I could have done without that because I was sure the blind people were church folks.

There was no recitation of the Creed, no confession of sin, no intercessory prayer and no holy communion. The lady I intended to visit noticed me as everyone left and talked with me for a good ten or fifteen minutes. She expressed suspicion that I had really intended to visit her. Yes, it's true but I had to hold that hope loosely because I'd been disappointed in that effort before. She updated me on the state of her illness and then she offered to escort me on a tour of the new sanctuary under construction. I had yet to step inside there, not from want of trying. But I was pleased that she took the opportunity.

It's very nice in there but I won't take pictures until it's done. There's a choir loft and mostly clear glass in the many side windows. The rose window is stained glass. I didn't see any overhead screens. My guide pointed out that the pews have cushioned seats and backs which reminded me of St. Mary's in Colts Neck. I visited there for the first time on Friday afternoon and their pews are that way. Very comfortable. These were now covered in plastic tarp but she said they all sat in them for the vision dinner. She wondered whether she'd ever get to sit in them again. She probably isn't the only one to wonder. The laminate floor was buckled in a few places.

Considering how the service has changed over the ten years that I've been visiting, I would like to know how it will be arranged to complement the new worship space. The new sanctuary isn't stuffy-formal but it is more elaborate than the present space. Will they still be singing the inane praise songs after they move in? Today, the hymnal went unused in every pew.

I was invited by the pastor's wife to join their choir. When I declined with the excuse that I don't sing well, she thought I was claiming to be too busy. There are seasons in life, I know. You have young children now. There's that, too. And, in fact, they missed me. Jeff said they were very quiet when I was gone but I discovered that the younger ones had taken every single stuffed animal out of Ella's bedroom closet ... and there are alot of stuffed animals in there. Very upsetting to come home to that. A clear message that they don't like it when I'm out.

1 I'm studying First John at the Community Bible Study on Thursdays and we covered chapter 1 last week.
2 "The Country of the Blind" - Wiki
I finished Cavins's book.

Picking up the narrative from my earlier post, Cavins's choice was between taking a radio show job or attending Franciscan University in Steubenville for an M.Div. He took the latter which resulted in more professional connections and extensive Catholic fellowship.

My brother went to Steubenville briefly in the early 90's. I visited him there at least once.1 Rick's impression was that some well-intentioned students were actually brainwashed. He felt like he was being pressured to join some cult. It was the reason he left for SUNY Brockport. Maybe it's toned down some since. My impression from his stories and from being on campus is that the college is charismatic, a movement that my family has no experience with. But Steubenville's spirituality suited Cavins fine and he found his way into EWTN from FUS.

I was unfamiliar with the story of Mother Angelica's miraculous healing. It's hard to believe but I don't see how it could have been faked. The story might be less mysterious if she would identify the guest who prayed with her. But the good health was short-lived because within a few years she suffered her first stroke.

So the highlight of the book for me was the middle part that took place in southwestern Ohio. Otherwise, the story dragged and was pretty dull.

1 the exterior images in this youtube video look familiar to me.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ella will sit in the shopping cart seat if I put down a warm blanket first. So I used one of those brown ones that we have so many of and placed her in the seat. As we went through the store, she was attracted to a few items that I picked up: small orange juices for Kenny, coffee for Jeff, a jar of peanut butter - so attracted that she had to have them next to her in the seat.

At the checkout, she moved the items from her seat to the belt and I took care of the items in the basket. She swiped my credit card and would have entered most of our phone number if the checker hadn't reached over and put in some other code. Ella selected "Credit" and we checked out rather quickly because we didn't have many things.

Unloading the items into the car, I noticed that the coffee was not in a grocery bag but was loose in the brown blanket in the seat. I talked with Ella about it, asking her whether she'd put the coffee on the belt. I was pretty sure of the answer already. She apologized about it, but she's very quick to apologize even if she isn't guilty. So I looked over my short receipt just to make sure and didn't see coffee listed.

In my younger days, I would have been quite proud to march back into the store and happily announce that I was paying for something that got overlooked. Now, with the cold and other pending things on my "to-do" list, my response to my conscience was more like, "Do I have to?" I even thought about just leaving the coffee in the shopping cart. "Is it stealing if I abandon it?" I don't drink coffee anyway!

But, alright, I took Ella and the item back into the store. She was still eating the bagel that we had bought on our first trip. I muttered, "Oh, they'll think we need to pay for the bagel too, huh?" I went to the seven items and less lane, put the coffee on the belt and didn't say anything about the bagel. The checker asked, "And the bagel too?" and I said it was our second time through, so no, thank you. I didn't really care, actually. A bagel doesn't cost much so if she chose not to believe me, no biggie, I'd pay again.

So it was all kinda painless and, frankly, by the time I'd gotten over to school to pick up the boys, I'd forgotten all about it. But I kept the coffee receipt on my front seat as a reminder. And now that I think about it, I left the jar in the car!

Does coffee freeze?1

1 I told Jeff the story and after he called me nuts for going back into the store, he quipped that coffee is already "freeze-dried!"

This is all because I bought decaf by mistake on Sunday!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Since Christmas, I've been reading Cavins's confessions which my niece bought me in a gift exchange tradition among my husband's side of the family. I was bowled over with his early, consistent success in making impressions on people, being handed opportunities, and getting conversions. This all made sense, however, when I reached the book's center and saw Cavins's personal snapshots. I saw how good-looking he was as a young man. People react positively to good-looking people.

My interest was piqued when I read that we were both in the Dayton, OH area in the early 90's. He writes on pages 101 and 102:
... in January 1990, we parted amicably with Open Arms [in Minneapolis] and moved to Xenia, Ohio, full of fire, and started meetings on how we were going to develop an authentic New Testament church. [...] The church in Xenia was called "New Covenant Fellowship." ... met in a warehouse.
Within a few years, he wanted to move the church to Dayton in hopes of attracting more people. However, instead of relocating, the church split.
There was, in fact, an animosity toward the people from Dayton who were increasingly filling the pews of the church. These new people upset the apple cart and forced the folks from Xenia to begin to think and do things in new ways.
He visits an Episcopal church and picks up Howard's book from the back table. He develops a desire to go to mass and finds a Saturday evening service in Centerville at - he doesn't say.


"C" is where I attended, St. Henry's.

But, with today's map, it could have been St. Francis of Assisi ("B") or Incarnation ("D").1

I wasn't very adventurous in those days, not exploring much. And, hard to believe, there was no internet then. I found information about things in the neighborhood by looking in a phonebook or local newspaper. Without a TV, there was no way to know. I did venture to Holy Trinity downtown a couple of times for what was, in the early 90's something novel, especially to me, the Tridentine Latin Mass. They don't even seem to offer it any longer. They've turned it over to the FSSP which may be more fitting. Pretty church, wish I had visited there.

So far, one other mention Cavins makes of central Ohio is St. Mark's bookstore. It's difficult to tell from the website whether it's still in business. In those days I didn't buy many books, trying to live very simply, and rather made use of the public library. So I wasn't in the market for books and didn't visit any Catholic bookstores,2 just like I didn't visit many churches. I do remember taking a business trip to Columbus in '93 and visiting a bookstore to order some foreign language bibles. Sounds strange now that I get ABS's catalog in the mail. The store had to ship the books to NJ. I bought a German one and a French one which I could read puzzle out then. I haven't tried lately. Now that these and all my other books are out of storage, maybe I'll try, just as soon as I finish Cavin's book!

1 St. Leonard's ("E") seems a little different. The archdiocese doesn't even list it. If Cavins had dropped in there, he might still be an evangelical.

2 I have a bookmark from Books & Co., so I must have gone there once or twice, in Kettering.

Monday, January 10, 2011

On the bus, Chris mentioned that this was his fourth field trip. Of course he's right and I've been on them all. When we got to the State Theater, I recognized it. Kenny had seen The Nutcracker there for Emily's birthday probably when he was in first grade. Jeff had seen Caillou with Timmy there, also when he was in first grade. So, it's a first grade attraction.

We had good seats on stage left and I let Chris sit on the aisle. There were second graders behind me so I had to slouch down the entire performance which wasn't very comfortable. I mean, when the encores began, I tried to move and straighten up and discovered that I was quite stiff and almost stuck! At the moment the curtain went up and the first inflatable appeared on stage, the kids were giggling. I didn't see what was so funny, actually. Maybe it was nervous laughter, not knowing what to expect next or hoping it gets better.

But it was curious how the performers did what they did. I found myself wondering, "How?" It was a good mix of acts that would appeal alternately to girls and boys. That is, alongside the masculine feats of strength like walking on his hands, a ballerina came out en pointe wearing an array of beautiful gowns, waving folding fans and long ribbons. Very complementary. I got a little uncomfortable towards the end when the male performance seemed to get romantic with his female partner, talking about kissing and such. But Chris's reaction was appropriate: he stroked my forearm tenderly. Still, I would guess the performers are involved offstage. At least I would hope so. Anyway, the male performer's ego was insatiable. He begged the audience to clap often. I reminded myself, "Oh, yes, this is why I loathe small-time theater." Done all in the name of training kids how to be a good audience.

On the ride back to school, Chris was tired and mostly looked out the window. Finding it strange to be in a vehicle but not driving, I fumbled through a rosary. This was interrupted a bit by the mother behind me who blurted out, "Shit!" (I kid you not, on a bus with K-2 students) when she realized that she'd left her son's hat in the theater.

She got the theater's number from the kindergarten teacher seated ahead of me and negotiated with the theater on how to retrieve the hat. Then she coordinated with her husband with whom she was supposed to rendezvous for lunch as soon as the bus returned to school. She explained the whole saga to her spouse and I could tell from her reaction that his reaction was, "How does this all concern me exactly?!" I wanted to ask her, "How long you been married?" because she didn't seem to have a clue about men and their principles of "division of labor." The marriage might be "a team" but that doesn't mean the players work together or simultaneously at the same activity. In other words, he wasn't interested in driving back to the theater with her for the hat and grabbing lunch along the way.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

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

My post this week: