Luke 11:1-13 NRSV

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.” So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

_______________________________

Audio MP3: saintpaulsumc.org

My dad worked as a manager at Kmart until I was in middle school.  There is a sweet story that my family tells about a time when my mom took me to see him at the store.  They were having a family festival and were giving out balloons.  My favorite color was brown when I was in preschool, so I’m sure that I had to settle for a red one.  Well sometime after leaving the store and saying goodbye to my dad, my balloon popped.  I’m sure the tears flowed.  Well my mom called my dad at work and asked him to bring home a new balloon for me.  When my dad came home, I saw the balloon in his hand (a red one of course).  I ran up to him and exclaimed, “Daddy, you fixed it!”  To me, he just knew what I needed and he took care of it without me even asking.  I think that God does that for use more times than we can count.  But today’s lesson is about how we ask our heavenly father.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

I want to be a writer

January 31, 2010

Really I do.  I want to be cleaver and witty.  I want to write stuff that people will want to read.  So I tried to make myself a writer.  I started blogging daily when I was out of school and out of work, I wanted to create discipline in my life.  I would write 500 words every other day.  And I hoped that writing funny, personal little things would convince me that I could write long and scary things… like dissertations.  It didn’t work.  Writing still seems like a chore.  I was sitting here at work with literally nothing to do for hours before I said to myself, I guess I’ll go write something. 

For me, writing is laborious. I have little to say and I always feel like I’m saying it badly.  And today I am even less inspired to go back to school and all the writing that entails.  And I have thought about writing a theatrical adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s “Under the Greenwood Tree” for like 3 years, just as something interesting to try.  Well guess what just opened in London? (not that I was going to get a London opening… it’s just the principle.)

I did one of my lectures in my Teaching seminar on emotions and I did an activity to illustrate that making yourself smile actually make you feel happier.  And CS Lewis says that doing good things will make you into a better person.  Dr. Wagner (my major professor) said “it’s not that you are a bad writer, you just need to work at it more.”

I’m working on it… less now that I had been.  But it’s the kind of person that I want to be. So please bear with me while I try.  I have a feeling I won’t ever be Steinbeck, but I just want to be Erin.  Whether that includes dissertations, 500 words or 200.

And I believe that actions can change your attitudes… eventually.

More is on the way.

John 6:51-58 NRSV

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’
——————
I love to cook. I don’t even really remember when I started. It just seems like something that I always did. From mixing up kool-aid to cutting boiled eggs with a safety knife. In middle school I had this signature dish that I got from watching an Italian cooking show on PBS on Saturday mornings. It was called black olive pasta, and was basically black olives tomatoes and garlic sautéed together and served over bowtie pasta. It got rave reviews from my family. And we ate it enough, until we all eventually got sick of it. But you can still find the recipe in the back of one of my mom’s cookbooks, even though I can’t remember the last time we ate it. Read the rest of this entry »

To do works of justice, Lord grant us courage.

To see hurt in the world and respond from love and disappointment, Lord grant us open eyes and soft hearts.

To accomplish small tasks that seem unnoticed and large tasks that earn acclaim, Lord grant us patience.

To earn the trust and respect of our communities, Lord grant us wisdom.

To recognize the vision of youth and the experience of age, Lord grant us humility.

To hear your voice of guidance, Lord grant us quiet.

And in the quiet we will gather strength for the work to come.

We will know that you have equipped us to serve your world, to love your people.

Father , you have given us big dreams; help us rise to meet them…

To lead passionately, to challenge boldly, to give deeply, to work tirelessly, and to love unconditionally

Love like you, Jesus.

Amen.

This is old news I know, but I was bummed that Adam Lambert did not win American Idol.  I could be influence by my love of tenors and or the fact that he was a professional theatre actor before coming on the show.  But the weeks that have followed have got me thinking.  Kris is completely my type of artist… my taste, you know? Singer, acoustic guitar the whole bit… and he did the song from “Once”, great stuff.  So why did I find him so boring, never bad just dull?

This and I’ve been using my iPod as intended lately (for music, as opposed to just podcasts) and so I decided I’d listen to the whole Tyrone Wells (singer songwriter, former “Christian” artist) CD on my car trip home for memorial day weekend.  And I have to say that it moved down a few pegs in my esteem.  I bought the CD in iTunes late one night about a year ago after hearing some songs (“Wondering Where You Are” rocks my socks)… and “Dream Like New York” and “Sea Breeze” and “What are We Fighting For” are awesome.  That first listen through the whole thing, I thought “this is going to be one of those CD’s that I love every song.” I was lying in bed smiling the whole time.  But this time I found myself scoffing at some of the lyrics’ predictable metaphors and slant rhyme.  It bummed me out.  When did I get so hypercritical?

Could be the hipster music on TBTL, my newest podcast/ something to do at work.  And I would not even know what a slant rhyme was had in not been for Musicaltalk… my first podcast/ still something to do at work, (besides write blog posts.)  My iPod is at war… the podcasts against the music.  The music is holding ground, no Sondhiem or She & Him yet. But who knows what tonight will bring.

You’d think that I’d learn my lesson, but I managed to overdraft my checking account for the second time in a month.  It makes me mad at myself because I prided myself on being in tight control over my finacial life (maybe one of the only areas really.)  The problem is that the job I have now literally pulled me back onto the finacial cliff.  I did not have enough money to pay my November rent.  But it also marked the first time in 3 years that I was back to living on a paycheck basis.  I lived two years being paid in big chunks and then I lived off the savings of the big chunks.  And about 3 years ago I stopped using my checking account.  I’d pay my bills out of the chunk, I’d make purchases on my credit card, then pay it off in full at the end of the month from the chunk.  While I was working I alway had the big chunk and it was plenty and more.  In fact I managed to save about a third of what I made that got me through the year.  But as that chunk started running out I started to carry a balance on my credit card.  Which I don’t like at all.  So now that I’m working again and living literally paycheck to paycheck (which are luckily enough) my chunk mentality is still getting me in trouble.  My expenses have gone up at least as much as my salary from the last time I was on the tight biweekly pay. Stupid grocery costs plus internet plus about $1000 more per year in rent.  So that control  I need it back.  But some things are hard to learn and when you make money mistakes you literally pay.

A little more Jane

October 31, 2008

There’s this scene in Becoming Jane, when the neighborhood rich lady strongly suggests that Jane marry her uptight nephew.  She tells Jane that she doesn’t have children and it has caused her a lonely existence and she didn’t want Jane to suffer the same pain.  The directors point out of course that’s just what happened to Jane.  She never married.  That she did suffer the pain of not having children… but also the freedom; the freedom to write her books and not be burdened by children.

So I was thinking about that… the relationship between pain and freedom.  I think that you can’t have freedom without pain of regret.  Because when you can choose to go down one road and not another there’s always the thought about what could have been.  And you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself.  You don’t generally regret the things that you are forced to do because you didn’t have the choice, you weren’t free.  And maybe that’s why we are sometimes reluctant to make choices. We’re afraid to miss something good.

My weekend at the church

October 26, 2008

I spent more time at church this weekend than I did at home or at least that’s what it feels like.  On Friday and Saturday I was pedaling my wares at the craft fair.  I did about as much business as I did last year.  But besides just the bracelets I sold one scarf, the tutu I made, and one of the ribbon necklaces, and two pairs of the watermelon earrings.  I decided I was going to reduce my prices from last year hoping to be more attractive so I did, by about 33 percent on everything that I had there last year.  But I think that the plan did not work.  I guess there’s like this tipping point where you are willing to buy something just because it’s a good deal, but beyond that if your price is reasonable people just decide if they want it or not. I have this magnet that I got which is cute but that I got mainly because it was a dollar fifty. But I also got this wall hanging for my mom that was no deal for sure but it was so perfect that I could not let it go.

This morning was Laity Sunday again so I got to help lead worship again this year.  I was much less nervous.  And I also got to do the children’s sermon.  That was too much fun; I loved it. I had a couple of laugh lines even.  And the preschool choir sang so we had a bunch of takers.  I think next time I am going to pay more attention to my tone of voice because I found myself talking in that “I’m talking to a kid voice.”  I also think that I needed to engage with the kids a little more.  I was a little over eager about getting the word out that I neglected to look and see if I was getting a reaction and that the kids were understanding.  But over all good and practice makes perfect, right?  Luckily I remembered to do all my parts this year.  And I got lots of compliments on the prayer that I wrote.  So I thought I’d give you all an excerpt.

“…and we also give thanks on this special Sunday for the ministry of the laity.  Those who respond to God’s call on all Christians’ lives, who choose to take time to offer God’s love in action through teaching and speaking and singing and witnessing and serving. Today we ask you to renew us all, to give us a clearer vision of the ways we can give sacrificially.  Help us to leave what is comfortable to meet you challenge.  Let us be the voice of peace in a warring world.  Let us be the ones who are generous even in difficulty.  Let us be a welcoming face to the stranger.  We ask this all in true sincerity and with the confidence of children of the Lord of the universe. Our God who created all things from the tiniest bacteria to the greatest mountain.  Who continues to do great works even in our own lives and will still be comforting and protecting our great-great-great grandchildren….”

My favorite story… apparently one of our medical doctors appreciated the fact that bacteria got a shout out in church.  Happy to oblige.

Pieces of her story

October 18, 2008

I had two errands today.  To go get some jalapenos and to mail a few things that I didn’t put out in time for the mail carrier to come get.  I planned to drive through Sonic after the post office for a vanilla coke with a side of jalapenos (homemade salsa is addictive.)

So I got to the post office a couple minutes after it closed and had to go through that drive through too.  That of course meant that that I missed the last pickup too so my mail run was for naught.  But there was this woman standing on the curb by the post office exit. She’d been standing there the whole time I was in the parking lot and had a carry-on size piece of luggage.

I pulled up to turn on to the street and she looked at me and held up the sign she had in here hand.  It was written on ballpoint on a sheet of loose leaf.  The wind was strong enough that the paper was flapping so that the only thing that I could read was “for food.”  It’s getting cooler but I’m still wearing shorts and she had on a winter coat.  She looked like she could be someones grandma.

So I decided I’d go to CVS instead of Sonic and pick-up some trail mix for her along with my jalapenos.  When I pulled back around she was gone from the post office.  And then I looked around and she was sitting on the window sill at the convenience store next door, with her coat on her bag, smoking a cigarette. I didn’t stop.

Thing is, I don’t know what she really needs, or what the right thing is to do. Maybe I’ll hold on to the cranberry trail mix so I’ll have a better plan next time.  And I don’t mean that “dang, I was dooped and now I’m stuck with the cranberries.”  But she is a person, with a life, and a family, and a story and obviously a difficult one at that.  And I can’t do anything that will make a real difference, or not be patronizing.  Or maybe it is that I’m unwilling to.  All I have is the fragments that I gleaned from observation of this women, nothing that tells me anything about who she really is.

—————-

Stephanie had the youth do an exercise a few weeks ago.  They all started by making bags to give to the homeless with a granola bar and a Vienna sausage and an apple sauce.  They then had a scavenger hunt to look for their dinner.  Everywhere they went they were turned away until they found the homeless bags that they had made waiting for them in the sanctuary.  And man did they not like that twist.  Apparently not everyone like Vienna sausages like I do.  But it’s obviously no grand gesture to give away the food you’re not willing to eat.  It humbles you a little, and makes you think about person-hood apart from status and possessions.  So even though I got to be the one denying my spaghetti to the youth, I think I learned a lesson too.  Because today I felt a little something extra. And it wasn’t good.  I think that’s called empathy. And praise God for that.

Under fire

September 30, 2008

The following is based on a comment that I left on Shaun’s post and his was based on Ted’s post.  I supposed it should be said that neither Shaun nor I have seen the movie, Fireproof, that we are critiquing.

Shaun said, if I may take the liberty of summarizing, Fireproof does a lot of telling (sermonizing) instead of showing.

The first time I heard the dictum “show, don’t tell” was in my eleventh grade English class.  In that context what our teacher meant was “don’t overuse your omniscient narrator.”  Describe characters by their actions and words, comment on situations by showing their consequences.

I’ve not seen the movie but what I’m assuming Shaun means is that the characters portrayed in the film are given to over-analysis and sermonizing that is unrealistic for who they have been shown to be.  To me that’s less of a problem because it is not a fundamental flaw of the story telling but rather of characterization (like if a pastor gave a sermon we wouldn’t have a problem with it.)  I feel like one can be preachy without messing up their storytelling effort, if the circumstances are right… you have to forgive my over-analysis but I’m a sometimes playwright and amateur dramaturg so I have spent some time thinking about things like this.

Shaun says “Have you ever seen the movie gang member or the mafia guy or the serial killer go to his son and explain his philosophical and moral position on violence in a long chunk of dialogue? Again, heck no.”  But I say that is more a matter of the character’s motivation… if the plot of the story is serial killer dad wants to convince reluctant serial killer son that killing is good I’ll bet there would be some dialogue about it.  Or how about just in real life, my parents do a lot of telling to me.

There is also in my view a difference in saying, “violence is acceptable” versus “violence is good.”  A bunch of movies say, “violence is acceptable.”  It’s a lot harder and uncommon to get a “violence is good” message across.  I think this movie is saying “unconditional love of your wife is good,” a more difficult proposition than say “unconditional love for your wife is sweet when it happens.”   The dad is saying “Please Kirk Cameron(‘s character and also the rest of the world) start acting this certain way all the time.”  That’s his character’s motivation.  I find a movie like The Notebook to be more of the “isn’t it sweet” variety; no one is trying to convince or change each other.  Shaun talked about the filmmakers’ motivation was to motivate the audience to act Jesus-y.  I think there’s the rub… few other movies are trying to motivate anyone to do anything.  Can it be done with more finesse? Definitely, but I think that you’d be hard pressed to find something motivational that isn’t at least a little bit preachy.

So who does write with the “doing this thing is good” message in mind?  Commercial writers.  So in a way I see this movie as a big commercial.  I guess it also could be called propaganda.  And what do I know about commercials? First, some are better than others with better dialog and characterization.  But also… commercials work, they sell things and convince people “candidate X is good.”  Luckily there are more Budweiser purchasers than serial killers.

From the reviews I have read I think most would agree that the insufficiencies of “art” makes the movie a less successful commercial.  But is it bad just for being a commercial? For being Christian propaganda?

Shaun replied to me “A movie is not a commercial.  or at least the audience doesn’t expect it to be.  And so if they get one when what they thought they were getting was a movie, well…”

Yes, most movies are not commercials, they don’t want to make you do anything.  Some do, say Michael Moore documentaries;  I think everyone’s clear they are getting a commercial there.  Most people who go already agree with his slant on things, but I know at least one republican who rethought her gun control postion because of seeing  Bowling for Columbine. …if we only reach one…  Or take Crash, on the other side of the “good art” question, it could be considered an motivational piece don’t you think?  Saying “not being racist is good.”  It’s a bit preachy, but in a good way.

My point is just that if you are making something preachy or telly you probably do have to be twice as good as your commetition who’s offering a take it or leave it message.  But I think that Superbowl commercials prove it’s not impossible to make something both directly motivational and entertaining.