Thursday, July 31, 2008

They jumped in the boat and the boat tipped over...

It was an adventure which cost us a six pack of beer and some of our blueberry muffins, which is more costly than we expected, but far less than it might have been. I am writing this atop a mountain in Vermont. And I am dry! Finally. And I am wiser, for instance I now know it is difficult to swim while wearing jeans, a life jacket, and holding a three year old.

Me and my cabin mates, which include the aforementioned three year old, decided it would be great fun to canoe on the nearby lake. I, for the record, wanted to take the row boat instead. It was a nice day, and the troops were happy as we set sail (set paddle?). Various groupings of people went out, usually with all the kids in the canoe. In hindsight, that may have been a mistake. As a final trip, I took the front, with the three year old at my feet, and two kids in the back of me, in front of the helmsman.

Our trip was going well, as we paddled by the swamps, and headed back to enjoy a day of possibly swimming. Along the way some friendly insect life came on board. Of course the rear child gleefully reported to her mate in front which of the friendly insects were on her back. Convincing the bug victim to stop wriggling took some time, and the canoe began to take on water. At that point the three year old demanded I give him the paddle. The helmsman decided to shift positions slightly, and even more water began to splash over the side.

At a certain point one realizes that one is doomed. That no amount of skill and hard work will do a bit of good. The time is usually when one wonders what one has in her pocket (it's amazing what goes through one's mind when one is under stress - one is afraid this proves that one is very shallow and petty). So there I was, in the middle of a Vermont lake with one child clutching my back while I clutch the small one, hoping their mother isn't gonna kill me, should we all survive... And my copilot rips off his life jacket and announces he is gonna tow us all to the shore. The bug informer appears for all the world to be enjoying herself!

It is a good thing all in all that this lake is not an isolated one, though I do wonder if my copilot would have made it. But our rescue came in the form of some nice locals with a power boat. We uploaded the children, including the unrepentant bug informer, and tied the canoe to the line, leaving us poor adults to hoof (fin?) it on our own (though a passing kayak gave me a pull for a time). It was quite the rescue operation!

Now was death a real possibility? Maybe, but I suspect not. Still it was funny floating there, almost completely helpless. What is worse, is to be obliged to be the help and support of the children, when all you can do is hang onto them, and make them think you are in complete control and not helpless in the middle of the lake. It is our inherent belief that everything will be all right. But that is not true. Things may go very horribly wrong. Sometimes all you can hope for is that you will not be abandoned in the middle of the lake, and that someone who appears to know what they are doing is holding you up. But for now, I must deliver our muffins to the crew of the powerboat.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

theological naval contemplation

Well, the great experiment is going well! Well, well, well. Okay, maybe not completely as wholly well as all that. Actually, it isn't going anyway at all.

Patience, Jen, we must have patience. Patience is a virtue after all.... We will sit quietly here and listen to the voice of God, and.... Ah heck it. Who am I kidding? I wouldn't know the voice of God at this point if God knocked me off a horse and shouted at me. Don't worry, I am well enough trained in theology to know whose fault that is. That's right it is my parents' fault (or at the very least the government's!).

Luckily though I have been thus far protected from dealing seriously with a religious vocation by a school loan debt approximately the size of the annual gross domestic product of a small nation. Therefore my current crisis of faith is merely an inconveniently uncomfortable bit of trivia. No doubt the good Lord put irresponsible loan officers in my naive path so that I would be saved from doing anything too rash. (Exactly what sort of income was she thinking an art major was going to pull in right out of college? It seemed so much easier back then. Just one of my stupider moves!) Obviously I was not a business major. However, I am certain that with an MDiv, the money will soon start rolling in.

Right now I am feeling rather like the field of weeds from two Sundays ago. The seed was planted, and grew up, and was choked by the cares and circumstances of actual day to day living and breathing. Eventually you must leave your mountain top and find some loaves and fishes to eat, and at least so far, Jesus has not been by to bring me my dinner. The thing is, weediness is a feature of everyone's field. How is it that the seed manages to grow in some of these weedy fields?

"It's not a cry you can hear at night, it's not somebody who's seen the light, it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah."

Its a strange and wondrous thing, is it not? This beautiful vision before us, more real and more beautiful to us than even our own selves. This other, this Lover, the Hound of Heaven. And yet the moment I reach out to touch this person, this very real person, suddenly there is nothing! God will not be mastered, and will never be possessed - certainly not by the likes of us. But sometimes I need to hold something of the mystery, even as this mystery holds us.

Ah well, must go and do something useful now.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A breeze for the sails

It is past midnight, and I can't sleep. I think the problem is the skin I'm in is rather uncomfortable at the moment! I need to escape from it all, not the least from myself! This living moment by moment in uncertainty is beginning to get to me I think. So much for my great vocational voyage of discovery. Stalled in a windless sea after a whole two months! I think that might be a new record.

Isaiah in today's reading promised that the way of the just was smooth, and judging by the glass like water my boat is sitting in, I can't really disagree. I need the good Lord to stir up the waters a bit, make my way a little less smooth, I am sick of this placid calm. (all the while I am aware of the maxim be careful what you wish for....)

Tonight's psalm comes to us from the prophet Clash: Should I stay or should I go? If you say that you are mine, I'll be here until the end of time. But you got to let me know. Should I stay or should I go?

All those listening and inclined to do so, should pray for this poor stranded mariner. Until then I await further instruction....

Sunday, July 13, 2008

This place is crawling with 'em!

This weekend one of my favorite walking destination has been taken over by thousands of teenagers in color coded tshirts. Really was an impressive site. Especially today, when they all went home! The parking lot was full of bus coaches, and the groups of color coded teens and their threateners/chaperons frolicked in the sun burnt asphalt between the buses. And suddenly it happened. I felt old.

And a bit envious. There really needs to be summer camp for "grown-ups"! Summer camp is wasted on the young. We need an opportunity to be ordered about by benevolent overlords who press us into service producing vaguely animal shaped beaded key chains. Or those God's eye things (never understood why those were God's eye - but they are fun to make). Or archery - there just isn't enough excuse these days for most self-respecting adults to shoot arrows at things!

Or how about the mess hall experience. Sitting in forced groups of not-your-friends peer groups as our benevolent overlords command us to sing for our supper. Suddenly a rumor breaks out that dessert is ice cream! The milk and the oranges are frozen, but the ice cream, when you finally get it is melted. Ah - those were the days!

And of course the evening prayer service would feature graham crackers and grape juice (hey, I grew up in the 70's and 80's - in some ways it was as bad as THEY say...).

So who's in?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Confusing the people of God

I am getting a little bit tired of people looking at me with their heads tilted and eyes narrowed, as they say, and I quote: "huh?"

Now I have recognized the irony of my particular position. I am preparing for a life of ministry, a career where, one might think, a difficulty in communicating might be seen as a detriment. I had one prof. last semester comment that he thought that I was "on the shyer side of things" a comment made funny by its understatement-ness. (one of the side effects of the study of theology is the awful habit of making up words without regard for tradition or grammar). That same prof. said he thought I was a little less incomprehensible than when he first met me, so perhaps there is hope for the vocationally minded wall flowers.

I've complained before about not knowing what is meant by "God's call" - this objection made worse by the painful fact that when looking at the ideal candidate for a career in ministry I am perhaps the perfect photo negative! Now I have told God that this was the case, that God had the wrong number, and that I was going home - and then I would have one of those moments that made me a hopeless devotee of this arcane theological enterprise. So despite the probable harm I shall inflict one day upon the helpless faithful, here I still am. May God have mercy on me!

No important point being made here, just my way of relieving my own angst. Though it would be interesting to know if there are out there other shy ministers - or are they all extroverts out there?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

wasted time and space

It is 2pm, and I haven't quite made it to the dressed and ready part of the day - ah, summer! Actually I haven't been up long, just got back from Philly, driving all night because me and my crew are mad. I did none of the driving, but stayed up from an implicit belief that if I fell asleep the car would immediately crash. I don't have that problem in trains, I frequently fell asleep over my homework spread hopelessly across my lap. Hopefully I don't snore!

As you see, I am not a trusting soul. This makes some aspects of my education incredibly difficult. It is one of my fantasies, to be able to know what varied professors and fellow students really thought about me (not only is this silly, it is incredibly self centered!). Oh what a tangled weave we web! Not to mention the problem that graduate school in general, and ministry in particular slips into the grand art of naval contemplation so easily. We spend so much time trying to hear God's "still small voice" within us, we miss all the screaming outside our walls.

It does seem at times that the most Christian thing to do would be to stop all this education, and go and "do good" in the world. This is despite the profound effect in my own life people who have dedicated their lives to theological study have had. In a strange sort of way it isn't as glamorous as the grunt work. The results of your work, good or bad, are hidden from you, there is no immediate gratification!

Or perhaps this is just my way of justifying a basically cowardly spirit and an unwillingness to engage in actual ministry.....

It's time to get dressed for church now.