Tuesday’s Child

Our daughter-in-law, Sarah, is in labor even as I type this. She’s about to bring a baby boy into the world. A baby boy to carry on the name, which shouldn’t matter really, as we have a granddaughter who certainly seems to be carrying on the Irish stubbornness just fine. But all new babies are assurance that life continues, that we won’t be forgotten soon, anyway, that our name will be remembered.

We can’t be there because work is here, the trip expensive, and another trip back to Texas later this year already planned. It hurts, not being there for Sean and Sarah. Prayer will have to suffice.

PDR1 on sofa
Paul Sr., probably asking someone if he is really that full of crap.

I know Paul is thinking of his own dad, Paul Sr., gone several years now. I never knew him, but I love the sparkle in Paul’s eyes when he talks about his dad. A big man, first generation Irish-American, a tough Southie boyo who grew into a devoted husband and father, and made a success of his life. He taught his sons sarcasm, faith, fidelity, work ethic, and to maintain a sense of humor.

Hopefully up in heaven, Paul and Mary are looking down, two tough-but-loving angels watching over the new boyo and his mum.

Together Paul and his late first wife, Jackie, raised her two children and added two boys. Paul is as good a father, as devoted a husband as one can find in the world; it’s his youngest, Sean, who waits to meet his son today.

Paul & Baby Boyos
Yup, that little bald baby boy is about to become a daddy.

It’s in Sean I see the child who inherited the most from Paul. His is the quieter nature, the deeper thinker, the gentler heart beneath an outer shell. It’s interesting (to me) that both Sean and Paul are Friday’s Child, loving and giving, which is a form of grace, too.

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace;
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go;
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for its living;
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

Welcome, Tuesday’s Child. My wish for you is the inheritance of Tuesday grace, the grace of your father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, and that you will come to know the grace of the Father of all. I can’t wait to meet you!

 

 

 

Friday Five: Animal Edition

Oh, those RevGals don’t realize what a can of worms they might have opened. This is the Friday Five, courtesy of Cindi Knox:

So my challenge for us this week is to write about animals.

  1. Tell us about an animal you know: perhaps one of your pets, or the pet of a friend or family member, or the cat that hangs around the church.
  2. What’s your favorite real animal? Walking stick bug? Penguin? T-Rex? Echidna?
  3. What’s your favorite fantasy/mythological animal? Unicorns? Hippogryphs?
  4. What’s your favorite fictional animal – Scooby Doo? Garfield the Cat? Grape Ape?
  5. What animal best represents who you are today, and why? Is it an animal that exhibits fierceness? Or one that’s loyal?

Ivan B & W

An animal I’ve come to know extremely well, so well that when he gets up from his sphinx-like perch on the arm of the couch in the mornings, I know he’s headed to sit on the keyboard in order to tell me it’s Breakfast Time, is my evil cat, Ivan the (recently) Terrible. He’s a whole blogpost of his own. He’s complicated. He had a tough kittenhood. But if he loves anyone in this world, it’s me. He is also quite a handsome chap, and his tolerance for our puppy, Blanca, has shown he has hidden depths we never guessed existed.

My favorite real animal…. probably dogs. They’re intelligent and unlike cats they can be trained, though Blanca is proving… shall we say, challenging in that regard. They love us beyond all reason and are always happy when we come home, regardless if we were gone 20 minutes or 20 days. My late, great dog Tasha saw me through some tough times. She saved my life, really.

Tasha 2011
The late, great Tasha

And now we have Blanca. She’s a handful. Unlike Tasha, who was quite a lady, actually, Blanca is a Dog. She digs. She eats leaves, rocks, pine straw, grubs, and things too disgusting to talk about. She’s proving challenging to potty train. She lives to chase balls, but is a destroyer of soft toys. She is adorable and charming and desperately wants to be friends with Ivan. I keep explaining that frankly, his tolerance of her is more than we ever expected, but she persists attempting to win him over.

Christmas Blanca
Blanca the Christmas Pup

So far all her dancing and prancing, winsome paws extended and gifts of her precious balls have yielded bupkis, but I can’t help admiring her determination. There’s a lesson there, I believe.

My favorite mythological animal would be the Phoenix, because they rise from the ashephoenixs to live again. I think we’ve all felt reborn after a bad time, when we start to live again. Perhaps the myth of the phoenix was the ancient Greeks way of telling us that life continues, and so must we.

Favorite fictional animal: Bugs Bunny. Because there is nothing funnier than this:

Bugs as Brunhilde
Bugs Bunny as Brunhilde

The animal I would be today, were I an animal? Maybe that momma cat who went back into the burning house five times to rescue her litter of kittens, or my late Tasha who patrolled the yard one last time the hour before she died, to make sure I was safe. Right now I’m probably more like Blanca, stubborn, goofy, only partially trained and full of bad manners (though I am completely house broken) but occasionally charming enough to keep my family from killing me. But I aspire to become like the best of dogs, like Tasha was: loyal, companionable, intelligent, protective, and composed almost entirely of goodwill, meeting all people and creatures as potential friends. To possess all those characteristics all the time, well, it’s an aspirational goal.

 

 

Anglicans and The Three-Legged Stool

I am no biblical scholar; however, I admit to being an expert on falling down, both metaphorically and actually. The concept of the “three-legged stool” always made sense to me because I understand what happens when one rests too much weight on one leg of a chair – boom, crash, another two weeks of watching my bruises darken, then fade into memory.

three-legged stool 1It is this concept – the three-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, on which the Anglican Communion (of which the Episcopal Church is part) rests. It appealed to me particularly that I wasn’t required to check my brain at the door and blindly follow, or accept black and white answers in a thoroughly gray world. Reason allows the church to change and adapt as a living, breathing organism, to view Scripture and Tradition afresh as new information is discovered; the three legs together distributes the weight of our faith, knowledge, and humanity, preventing us containing Holy Spirit in a prison constructed from any one of the three.

Leaning heavily on the Tradition leg of the stool, the larger Anglican Communion has chastised The Episcopal Church, put us in the corner and sent us to bed without our supper for the next three years, citing a majority view as any mob does when stones are thrown. And to all of that, now my anger has cooled, I say, fine. Go ahead. Because in my continuing growth into adulthood and maturity, I have learned to make unpopular decisions, to stand alone for what I believe to be right. Every decent parent learns this, that sometimes we risk our child not liking us in order to do the right thing. While I must hope those on the other side of the fence believe they are doing the right thing, I must also ask again: from what part of the Gospels do they take their authority? Because if we’re all following the way of Christ, I remain unable to find the passage where Jesus says, Except for those people over there. They’re icky, and I’m not dying for them.

stickley 3 legged stool
A beautiful Stickley version

The Communion has found over the centuries that it is a good and reasonable thing to allow divorced persons to remarry within the church. That it is a good, reasonable, and blessed thing to allow women to be full participants as ordained clergy. Yet it remains intractable on this one point: full inclusion in the life of the church, granting all Rites and blessings upon our LGBT brothers and sisters, despite empirical evidence (reason) telling us that being gay is not a choice; those who are gay are born that way. And for me it follows that if they are so born it must be their God-given destiny requires it be so, and it’s not for me or the Communion to treat any human being, any of God’s children, as less-than.

I am so proud of and thankful for our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, who put into eloquent words what many of us feel, “Many of us have committed ourselves and our church to being ‘a house of prayer for all people,’ as the Bible says, when all are truly welcome”.

So sit us in the corner, Anglican Communion. We’ll be sitting here on all three legs of our stool, still loving you, and will be here to help you up when you topple off having rested all your weight on one leg of the stool.

*edited to add this link to Presiding Bishop Curry’s on-point response. What an amazing man!

Foundation/The Village/Sunday School

There we were: my partner-in-Sunday School-teaching-crime, Arthur, our solitary student, and me. As we peppered him with questions about the text of the day, this not shy middle school boy said the only logical thing there was to say, “Argh…..! Don’t quiz me!” And we weren’t really quizzing, but I’m sure it feels like a quiz when you’re the sole focus of two enthusiastic Sunday School teachers.

It saddens me that we had only the one student because there are several Middle and High school aged children in our congregation, but they’re not coming to Sunday School. Ever paranoid, I wonder, is it me? But numbers are low even when it’s not me teaching, so that’s not it. It’s just parents are not carving out the extra hour on Sunday mornings to bring them. It’s not a priority.

I’ve raised a child, and I worked at two different, very large High school campuses and saw up close things that pull at kids, big things, unimaginably scary things, adult things, cultural things that can wreak havoc in their lives, maybe forever. I also saw that kids involved in their churches were generally successful students with healthy peer groups holding them accountable. They had better senses of self-worth and stronger moral compasses. It’s not a vaccination against poor decisions, but it certainly contributes to a solid personal foundation. Hang onto that word, “foundation”.

My parish priest, Fr. Mark, didn’t much care for this next analogy but it’s my blog, so I get to say what I want and scarily enough, you’re getting the edited version, but the old saying, “it takes a village to raise a child” is true, (here comes the part he doesn’t like) because (it’s my belief) if we raised our children all by ourselves we’d eventually kill and eat them. Anyone who has been cooped up with his or her children over multiple ice days knows this to be true. This is why we feel such relief when school reopens and the buses start running again, just as we’re starting to wonder: white meat, or dark? Because the Village is there for us, we don’t kill and eat our children. If you’re showing up to Church more Sundays than not, you already know it is the most important part of the Village. Hang onto the concept of the “village”.

Let’s consider the concept of “foundation”: In formerly Soviet Armenia, 1988, an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter Scale caused massive damage and resulted in at least 25,000 deaths. By contrast, the Loma Prieta earthquake in Northern California the following year measuring 6.9 resulted in 63 deaths. Shoddy construction standards were blamed for the high mortality of the Armenian quake, while the solid building techniques and materials used in earthquake-prone California saved lives. Anything built is only as stout as its foundation and the materials used to construct it, and this is as true of human beings as it is of structures.

Now let’s look at the Village:  from the time we were cave dwellers until the Industrial Revolution, we raised our children in community. We tended to live in the same village as our parents and aunties and grannies and cousins. The men might go off to hunt bison while the women worked together gathering grain, fruits, and vegetables, and helped each other look after the children. As time passed and life became more “civilized,” children might go off to a school in the village or an apprenticeship, but likely they were cared for and learning from a variety of adults.

The modern age we live in has a different concept of Village, and we often live far from our extended families, our personal Villages. Now, we have our sweet healthy babies, the hospital staff waves us off with a heart-felt “Congratulations!” but offers no instruction manual. We take our babies to our hermetically-sealed, suburban homes and hope for the best, often performing the singularly important task of raising a healthy, functioning human far away from our personal Village, with absolutely no idea what we’re doing. The only instruction manual we’re likely to have is the one we got by default, by whoever raised us and because we are raised by humans, even in the best of circumstances it is likely to be a flawed book, with pages missing, numerous typos, and at least some seriously wrong information.

If we were lucky, we had other people in our lives filling in the gaps, offering alternative views to the missing or errant things we got from our families of origin. It’s especially important if we’re removed from our Village of origin to form a new one, built from strong materials, for our children. Teachers, coaches, friends, pastors and priests, and even Sunday school teachers can become parts of the Village. Sunday school lessons delivered in age-appropriate ways help children to unpack the kernels of Truth, the cosmic two-by-fours if you will, with which they will build their spiritual houses.  It’s additional trusted adults who share your beliefs handing your child solid foundation stones.

And yes, I get that there are a lot of things pulling you and your kids in many directions. Soccer practices and band competitions and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To which I say, it’s about priorities. Those things will always be there; you get one shot at raising your child.

I’ve quoted it before but here is is again, from my Developmental Psychology instructor, Dr. Scott Delys: “Your job as parents is to prepare your children for life…. Without YOU in it.” Sunday school, lighting the path to God through Jesus Christ, is part of that. It’s a safe place where children can ask any philosophical question and not be laughed at, poked fun at, ridiculed. It’s where they will build the faith and form the community – the Village, that will sustain them long after their parents are gone.

The Rector at my first Episcopal church, Fr. David Holland, occasionally went all Jewish Mother on the congregation regarding Sunday school, and I sat out in the pews rolling my eyes but now…. those eight years spent with teenagers, so many living on the edge with shoddy foundations under desolate villages, has shown me the wisdom of his words. Seeing again in them the times when I felt unloved and unlovable, when I allowed momentary temptation to override common sense and moral code, when knowing there was a Father who loved me, a la Bridget Jones, just as I am, might have made a difference, yes, it’s shown me the wisdom of his words. Bring your kids to Sunday School.

Bring your kids to Sunday School.

 

 

My STAR Word… Oh Myyyyy….

What a great Epiphany at St. Simon & St. Jude! It began, as all fun things should, with a feast, specifically, a “Feast from the East,” the East being taken a bit tongue in cheek. I’m not sure from what part of the East Party Potatoes come but, in the words of Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there…”.

Our Wise Kiddos leading the way,  candles in hand we followed the Kings into the sanctuary, soon glowing with our combined light. The choir was in fine form and three members donned “eastern” attire, strongly reminiscent of Steve Martin’s King Tut routine, and had us in stitches performing a skit with crabby, saddle-sore Caspar complaining the entire road trip to find the Christ child. Because every road trip has someone complaining, right?

three kings 2
photo courtesy of Rindy Bishop Abdelnour / Friends of St. Simon & St. Jude Episcopal Church, Irmo, South Carolina

Fr. Mark indulged my desire to introduce STAR Words. Warmly embraced by the congregation the only worry was would there be enough left over for those not present. Thanks to Marci Auld Glass’s file (thank you, thank you, thank you Marci!) extras will be available as needed.

Our STAR words, in an appropriately star-shaped basket Meesh found in the Youth Room closet, were placed to one side of the Altar and we drew our words as we left the communion rail. In his introduction, Fr. Mark assured us that should we pull a word we felt positively “allergic” to, it was ok to pull again; however, one might consider the possibility that a strong reaction indicates Holy Spirit has hit a nerve (paraphrasing hugely).

I watched to see if anyone displayed a particularly visceral reaction to his or her word but, except for one woman who put hers back and drew another in the manner of reaching for candy and finding a Brussels sprout, most faces remained composed.

Except mine.

I pulled the STAR word, “Authority,” and immediately heard Eric Cartman demanding “… respect my AUTHORITAH!” and judging from the amused smile I got from a woman in the front pew, my face said it all.

All my problems with authority.

All the times I bucked the system, whining but that’s not faaaiiiiirrrrr….

All those fights with my mother.

All those broken rules.

Daring to speak Truth to Authority on the job, and working every day after expecting to be fired.

And above all, how I too often forget Who actually has authority, or should anyway, while I’m trying to control Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Authority Star
This should prove an interesting year of reflection, meditation, and prayer for me and my Authority-shaped star.

Star Fruit and Shopping Carts

We had a nice Christmas, able to fly Charlotte out from Chicago, give each other a couple of nice gifts, send some cash out to the kids and grand-kids in Texas. But like about everyone I know, come January we’re feeling the pinch.

So I was comparison shopping with greater care and squelching the impulsive buying that generally typifies any expedition to the grocery store.

With the whole week to go grocery shopping, Heaven only knows why I procrastinated until Saturday. Kroger’s was packed, from the line I waited in to buy my Powerball tickets to every single grocery aisle. It was hard to pass through without waiting for clearance and everyone seemed in a bad mood. Maybe they’re all broke, too. But even amidst all the grumpiness, one woman stood out: a young mother with two children and a sour, dissatisfied expression on her face. She just looked angry, and no matter what aisle I was on, they were, too.

The elder of the two kids, a girl, looked about 12 and she pushed the grocery cart while mom snapped at little brother to stay with them and scanned the grocery shelves. “They sure don’t seem to carry a lot of family-sized things here,” she opined, scowling.

Encountering them again on the pasta aisle where they impeded all progress, she was filling one of the half-empty cardboard boxes holding ramen noodle packages, making a full case. They were on sale for $.20 ea. I waited to move past them, thinking judgy thoughts. “Give me five more,” she commanded her daughter, who swiftly complied. Letting my inner Judge run wild I thought, bet they don’t gainsay Momma if they know what’s good for them.

With other shoppers behind me I had nowhere else to go and something about her furrowed brow, the dark eyes counting plastic packages of noodles and darting about her shopping cart, made me look closer at its contents: several 1-pound chubs of the cheapest hamburger; family-sized boxes of cereal; cans of beans and bags of rice; store-brand loaves of bread; boxes of macaroni and cheese and all those ramen noodles. And my inner Judge shut up and slunk back to the darker recesses of my brain as I realized where her seemingly churlish attitude came from.

From the look of the cart, she was doing a monthly stocking-up shopping, the kind one does when one squeezes every penny earned. She wasn’t intentionally scowling, she was worried, the deep-seated, gnawing-at-the-bones worry of a mother wondering if somehow, she could make it all stretch until the end of the month. I will go out on a limb and say she didn’t spend $5 on Powerball tickets.

What is her life like? A delicate web of multiple jobs, or one, not-great-paying job that barely covers the bills? God forbid the car blows a tire, or needs a new battery; any unanticipated expense might throw her whole carefully budgeted world into disarray.

Never in my life have I wanted to buy someone’s groceries as much as I did right then.

I couldn’t do that, but I did the one thing I could,  went back to the pasta aisle and bought four cans of ready-to-eat Spaghetti O’s, which were on sale 4 for $5, for the Snack-Pack ministry at my parish. We provide take-home snacks for local schools to distribute, confidentially, to children facing “food insecurity”, the latest politically correct way of saying, “hunger”.

All weekend I’ve thought about the woman’s grocery cart, piled high with packaged, boxed, highly-processed, cheap food. Virtually no fresh fruits or vegetables, which are perishable and can be expensive. I thought about how when Charlotte was elementary-school aged and we were at the store together, I’d let her find the weirdest looking or most exotic fruit or vegetable in the produce section and we’d try it. Star fruit, Ugly fruit, kumquats, Asian pears, and parsnips were some of the oddities that made it into our shopping cart and onto the table, a few of them becoming regular players in our diet. I never counted the cost because I was more interested in her growing up to be an adventurous eater, open to trying new things and you know, it worked. But now I realize what a luxury such thinking can be, here in the richest country in the world.

And I just think that being able to try star fruit shouldn’t be a luxury.

“Food insecurity, [ … ] is a situation of “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways”, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).” – From Wikipedia.org

Friday Five: Needing an Epiphany

Michelle at RevGals asks, what do you do when you’re spiritually stuck, and in need of an Epiphany? In no particular order:

Clean. Yes, I use the trick of cleaning for lots of stress-inducing things and one would think I had an immaculate house but no, my house is clean in the fits and starts of worry in my life. But I can’t think clearly in clutter and mess, so it serves a dual purpose, the mindlessness of vacuum, mop, and dust-cloth doing their work while letting my brain float free. Along with in the shower, many epiphanies are found while making tidy.

Thumb through the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. I might not find exactly what I’m needing, but it will fuel enough thought, enough of my own prayer, to eventually lead me to Pray.

Read a familiar book or watch a familiar movie; due to its familiarity, whatever I am drawn to in the moment allows my mind to wander free, yet contains some kernel which often unlocks the door I need to step through. And Mansfield Park or The Godfather are always worth another viewing, yes?

Pray, specifically for acceptance. I’d like to say I do this first, but I’d be lying. Eventually I come to it, after I’ve exhausted myself trying to control the situation and impose my own will. You know, generally how I got myself stuck in the first place. Must remember to start here in future…

Do something for someone else. It gets me out of my own head, makes me feel good, and gives my brain a rest.

Thanks, Michelle! Now I have a list of what I do and clarity on which should come first to save bother. Can I look forward to next Friday’s Five being, “How to Quickly Recognize When One Needs an Epiphany”?

 

 

 

Star Words Sunday School

I was so taken with Marci Glass’s essay on Star Words that I suggested it to my new parish here in South Carolina, where the idea has been warmly received.

Our Vestryperson in charge of Youth Education graciously allowed me to co-opt the Family Sunday school scheduled for this morning and many hands making light work, we have 150 wordstars cut out and ready to go on Epiphany, with a few blanks for those who already know what they want to work on this year.

Even without sugary bribery the kids were willing to spend an hour cutting out stars and we gave them the first insight into the plan. They were totally on board and as ever, I find myself impressed by how self-aware kids are, given that we big people often seem to think they’re completely clueless. Why is that? Meesh asked them what words they would choose for themselves to work on and there was some silliness involving the words Ice Cream and Brownies. Tiny Amy settled us down with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and then they generally gave the same words they did when Meesh asked them, “If your parent were to assign you a word for the coming year, something you need to work on, what would it be?”

“Focus. I have trouble focusing on my homework.” (Me too, Sweetie.)

“Kindness. I’m sort of not kind to my brother…” (This one featured prominently among those with siblings, along with Irritate, as in Quit Irritating your sibling.)

“Determination.”

“Follow-through.”

Yeah, I could pull any of those and more on Wednesday night and they’d be completely appropriate, even if I don’t have any siblings and am supposed to be a Grown Up, whatever that is.

Wednesday night we’ll have a covered-dish supper of things from the East, be it Middle East or East South Carolina, our Epiphany service, and the Star Words. I’m eager to see how we all respond to and use our words, the feedback in a month, six months, a year, and I’m dead curious about the word Holy Spirit will guide into my hand. Patience? Tolerance? Kindness? Forgiveness? Good candidates all. Or will it be something like Animate, Esteem, or Music, that makes me shake my head and say, Whaaaa….?

Guess I’ll find out Wednesday night.
mystery star