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Friday, September 30, 2016

Why Christian? A Conference

I need to process all I have heard today at the Why Christian? conference held at 4th PresbyterianChurch in Chicago.

The day didn't start out smoothly.  I tried three doors before I found the obvious one into the church.  There seemed to be no record of my registration and my search on my iphone didn't bring it up.  The rather androgynous person helping me asked if he (she) could look on my phone and it was found--under EventBrite--the internet presence.  So I was registered.  I thought the conference started at 9 but it was 9:30 so I had a rather long wait.  But the church was already full and people were saving seats for others.

I had read Nadia Bolz-Weber's book Pastrix in preparation for coming.  The book jacket shows a very fierce looking tatooed woman glaring at the camera.  Nadia was chatting with folks in the row ahead of me so I got a good look at her and noted that, yes, she is heavily tatooed, but she is very pretty--strikingly so.  While waiting, I continued to read Rachel Held Evan's book on A Year of Biblical Womanhood on my iphone.  Rachel was the other convener of the conference.

I had heard of this book but had never wanted to read it, thinking of it as a stunt book.  When our pastor Chris Rea said that she had laughed out loud reading it and as a result her husband read it and invited Rachel to Notre Dame, I decided I should shake my prejudice and give it a try.  Rachel was very transparent about getting a publisher who wanted to support her crazy idea--and so far, the book is very funny and yet informative.  I too laughed out loud several times!

Nadia was the first speaker.  She introduced the conference by saying that we need the faith of others to support us.  She talked a lot about us as smelly and disobedient sheep.  She distinguished between our ideal selves and our actual selves and God loving us with our jagged edges--our actual selves. When we share our failures, we allow God to be God.  She was once a stand-up comedienne and this was obvious in her expressions and timing.  She threw in a few obscenities but I was prepared for more.   Her book had far more!  I appreciated what she said but didn't find it particularly related to me.  My "actual self" is not what I would like it to be but I don't struggle to be perfect and I have no sense of God rejecting me for that.

Next Rachel Held Evans spoke.  She said only in Christ could people like she and Nadia come together beause Nadia was the kind of person she was afraid of in high school!  She talked about being a Christian because of her parents and her youth pastor--all who were very conservative evangelicals.  She seemed to have made peace with her background in a way that so many I know cannot seem to do.  She said it was because of this background, not in spite of it, that she was a Christian.  Granted, she now loves the liturgy of the Episcopal church and has rejected the patriarhal structure of the church of her youth as well as its rejection of LGBT people.   Why did she stay a Christian?   She admitted to habit, security, maybe fear, but also said that the story of Jesus is worth the risk to be wrong about.

Neichelle Guidry compared her own story of a suffocating marriage and Jesus' speaking to her through her separation and divorce to Jesus' treatment of the woman taken in adultery.  Neichelle was a powerful black preacher but I kept wondering about her husband's side of the story.

Onleilove Alston was also a powerful black preacher who said she knows God loves the poor and homeless because that's what she was.  The Holy Spirit was working in her as she read her grandmother's Psalms--well before she was converted at age 14 in an AME church.  Her beliefs are centered in the Jewish tradition and she celebrates the Jewish holidays and uses the terms Yah and Jeshua but she insists that she is a Christian.  She researches her African people--the Ibo and the Hausas as the lost tribes of Israel. She thought Augustine and his mother were black as was the disciple Mark.  Not all would agree.

Rachel Held Evans moderated an afternoon session with Julie Rodgers and Deborah Jian Lee, both of whom had been hurt by conservative traditions in the church because of being gay.  When asked if they had found good churches to belong to now, one of them said that the churches that accepted her lacked the passion of seriously following Jesus that she was looked for and needed.  The comment was made that what was the church for if not to accept those on the margins.

 Julie had been hired by Wheaton College to counsel their LBGT students with the understanding that she would abide by their covenant about sex only in marriage.  This did not go well.  She ended up resigning and said she understood the pressure donors put on a college.  She talked about life being messy and that was one of those chapters.  She was thankful for those who stepped out to suppport her.  There was no rancor expresssed.  Now she is free to say that she can be happy as a gay woman.  She said Jesus took on flesh because he believes our bodies are beautiful.  And that the Bible is full of sex!

I am thinking about our own church and its latest synodical decision.  I am sad to think that a same sex couple might not be officially welcomed even in our local church.  The issue has not presented itself yet, but it will at some point.

Anna Keating is a Catholic mother of two little ones.  She was a less forceful speaker and in some ways, more genuine that some of the others today.  She said that her church oppressed women, but also canonized them.  Why am I a Christian?  She asked what was the alternative?  She found community there with a diverse group of people.  It was a place to ask for mercy and express gratitude for her life.

The last speaker of the day, Jenny McBride, spoke about her relationship with Kelly Gissendanner, a woman who was executed in Georgia after a torturous series of appeals and requests for clemency.  She had been Jenny's theology student in prison and had received the attention of Jurgen Moltmann, the German theologian whose books she had studied.  Our session ended with us all singing Amazing Grace which Kelly sang on her gurney before her lethal injection.  It's pretty moving to hear 800 voices singing without accompaniment.

I have more to think about and hope to read more of what the speakers have written.  It is a support to one's belief to know that others treasure their faith even in the midst of their doubts and in the midst of an imperfect church.  And there's more to come tomorrow.

A Room of My Own

My sister and I always shared a room.  I left that childhood room with its twin beds to get married and share a double bed with Jim.  So when I have a room all by myself in a hotel--a room of my own-I enjoy it.

I usually treat myself to a nice hotel when I travel alone-sometimes a very nice hotel.  Tonight I am in the historic Millenium Knickerbocker in Chicago, just off the Magnificent Mile and two blocks from the 4th Presbyterian Church where I will attend a conference tomorrow.  The room is not large, but it is pretty luxurious.

Across the street from 4th Pres
I took the South Shore train to Millenium Station and then walked over a mile up Michigan Avenue.  After a short rest in my room, I walked back to Trader Joe's for a salad for supper and yogurt for breakfast--plus a bottle of wine and of course, my favorite candy bars.  I did stop at Nordstrom Rack and bought a skirt.  I told myself I would get it if it was under $25 and it was--$24.95.  Some of their "bargains" of designer clothes were just hanging on ordinary racks and priced at over $150--or even one or two for over $400.

Now I am enjoying the Cubs on TV.  I'm not totally alone because I've talked to Jim twice and texted a few times also.  We will talk again at least once tonight.  He has practiced "find my friend" on his iphone just in case I would have another TGA episode--which is pretty unlikely.

I'll blog about the Why Christian? conference later.  For now, it was another good day.  I am enjoying being on my own--making my own decisions about what to eat, when to eat, when to go back to the room, what to watch on TV if any, etc.   But I know Jim is there at home and we can talk and that is great.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Week on the East Coast

We left South Bend on September 17 at 5:40 pm with a view of maybe 100 private planes at the airport because of the ND football game.  Our flight was a United non-stop to Newark.  With a shuttle ride to the airport Hilton, we were at the bar for pizza and drinks around 8:30 pm.  We have good memories of this Hilton because it is where we were stranded last Christmas.

Sunday: We took a $50 Uber ride to 250 Ashland Place in Brooklyn, Dan's new home.  He showed us around the neighborhood with a good walk to Ft. Greene Park.  We stopped for brunch on the way back to his place--and then took another Uber ride to the Brooklyn Museum.  I loved seeing Judy Chicago's iconic feminist Dinner Party installation and Dan and Jim enjoyed the sports photography exhibit.  It was another easy Uber ride back to the apartment and then still another to Penn Station.  That was a long ride in heavy traffic partially due to the bombing in Chelsea the night before.  From there we took Amtrak (just 1 1/4 hours)  to Philly's 30th Street Station where Michael picked us up and a busy evening with four little ones.

Monday:  We met Gabrielle, the new nanny who stays from 8 am to 8 pm Monday through Thursday.  She was wonderful--pleasant, firm, organized, cheerful. I spent the morning sorting boys' clothes from one of the closets, coming up with plenty of size 2 fall and winter wardrobe hand-me-downs for Alex.  Gabrielle and J went for a good walk to get acquainted while we took the other kids.

 Gabrielle  had the kids and Jim making their own pizzas for supper and she and I enjoyed a Caesar salad with shrimp.  She put Alex to bed and then left us on our own for 12 hours.  Laura and Michael flew to Paris in the late afternoon where Michael had McKinsey meetings and festivities.

Tuesday:  Alex was awake at 5 am.  We kept him in bed with us until 5:38 when I went downstairs and fed him.  At 6:30, I called Jim on his iphone and asked for relief.  He came down shortly and I went back to sleep for a full hour!   J and S were on the bus at 8:40 and Gabrielle took R to school at 9.  She and Alex met another nanny and child for a play date.  I drove to Ardmore to visit a friend from our church who had moved there last summer.  It was good to see her and her little ones doing well.  I stopped at Trader Joe's for my favorite candy bars.  Later in the afternnoon Jim and I picked up R in Bryn Mawr where she had a play date with a friend.  Gabrielle took J to play practice while I put mac and cheese and Gabrielle's chicken salad  on the table.  We gave everyone baths and showers and she put A to bed again.  He sang and talked in his bedroom until 8:30 and then went to sleep in front of his bedroom door.  Jim picked him up and put him where he belonged in his bed.

Each night we  had a prayer time with the older three in our bedroom.  We took turns holding a battery-operated candle I bought at a dollar store--which worked beautifully.  I had done this with the kids in July and they remembered and asked for it again.  J does not need much sleep so each night he spent some time with Jim going over one of his encyclopedia style books.  At that point, Jim and I indulged in a little more wine.

Wednesday:  Jim and I walked to town for a few groceries and a cup of coffee.  We left for Princeton around 2 pm and checked in at a Holiday Inn north on Route 1.  It was one of the few places in town for less than $150.  We met Jeff and Susan and J and M for supper at Ruby Tuesday's and then went to their place to see all the changes they had made since K left for college.  We spent an hour afterwards with the Moorheads chatting with them and Olivia, their daughter, now a public defender in Trenton.  I do the after dark driving these days--and we did make it safely back to the hotel.

Thursday:  We had coffee and a scone in the hotel room, followed by a real breakfast at a McDonald's hidden in a Wal-Mart along Route 1.  We were back in Gladwyne by 10:30.  Gabrielle had been with the kids overnight so we encouraged her to leave by 4:30.  Supper was scrambled eggs and bacon.  Jim took S and a neighbor boy to Cub Scouts for an hour from 6 to 7.  I gave baths to the little ones and put Alex to bed.  He went right to sleep and then woke up every hour from then on until midnight--very congested with a new cold and crying hard.  We took turns holding him and rocking him.  At 12:15 am I left him for the last time and we all slept until 6 am!  Not bad after all.

Friday:  The other Gabrielle came at 8 and took charge of kids.  Jim and I walked to town again for coffee. I took J to swim practice from 5 to 6.  Laura came home and fixed supper amidst the needs of two little ones who wanted her attention.  Jim tried to help but it was their mommy that they wanted! R and I had made brownies for S's birthday treat and we gave him our gifts--including a large bubble maker.  We wrapped gifts for S's birthday and Laura went to bed early.  Michael came home around midnight and was greeted by J and Jim, both of whom were still awake.
Saturday:  The three older ones had  swim, football and soccer practice  in the morning so Jim and I took Uber to the airport via a Ram truck!   We had good flights with a three hour layover at O'Hare and were  home around 6:45-just in time to see ND lose to Duke.

The week was a blur of activity and yet we had plenty of time to ourselves with the nannies there during the day.  Jim did quite a bit of work on his Jubilees project and I have to admit that I napped daily.  We tried to do things with one or more children when all were home and we helped with laundry and dishes and cleaning up.   It's a busy life with four little children!  I am so grateful we could spend the time with them and have the energy to enjoy them.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Scanning and Inducting

Every Wednesday morning  you can find me  "scanning and inducting" at our local public library.  If you look inside your own borrowed books, you will see a little white patch-- an amazing gadget that gets read by a scanner.  It recognizes that your book is returned and checked in and sorts it into bins for fiction, non-fiction, juvenile picture books, and several other categories.

My job is pretty mindless.  I get the books and audio-visual materials from the outdoor check-ins, place the item on the reader and then wait for the monitor to say "Please scan" and then "Please induct."  l push the item forward to the conveyer belt.  Sometimes I lose my rhythm and get ahead of myself and get an error message.  Sometimes the book or CD is not from our library and I get another error message.  And sometimes I get distracted by an appealing book jacket and the machine has to stop and wait for me.

But that is my reward for my work.  This morning I came home with five books from the library. Two of them were previous requests; the other three were serendiptious finds as they passed through my hands through the process after which I quickly retrieved them from the bins.
I did pull out a few books that I decided to leave for others.  I resisted A Child's First Book of Trump but did photograph it to share.  I loved the four blurbs all stated by Trump himself on the back of Trump Revealed.  I decided I'd wait for some other time to check out a Danielle Steel book and see why she is so amazingly popular.

Our library has been a source of much enjoyment in reading for me.  I request books that are newly published or at other branches and there they are with my name on them waiting for me within a few days.  Scanning and inducting is an opportunity for me to give back.  Plus I get 2000 steps on my Fitbit walking back and forth--and I come home with some great finds.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Beach and the Bees

239 step up Mt. Pisga
 We are home after a week at a cottage on Lake Michigan north of Holland State Park.  We entertained Jim's siblings and spent a day with my sister and her husband. I swam almost every day and biked several times.  Jim got in his 10,000 steps each day and I did too on some of the days.  Jim golfed twice.  I read four books and Jim read one just for fun when he wasn't doing the Jubilees work that always comes with us.

Every night we were treated to a magnificent sunset.   I would take photos every few minutes because the sky kept changing.  The morning sky over the water was also beautiful.

Yet that beautiful water could be very dangerous.  Two teenagers drowned Wednesday night at Holland State Park.
 Swimming off the pier when there are rip tides was fatal.  We heard the sirens and then saw the helicopter and police boats looking for their bodies on Thursday morning.

We came home Thursday evening and when I walked into the hall, I said, "Jim, we have a problem."  I saw hundreds of dead bees on the floor.  It got worse when I walked into the bathroom.  The floor was covered with dead bees (and a few still wiggling) and there was a hole in the ceiling they had created to get through.  We spent the next hour cleaning up and plugging the hole with duct tape.  Two days later I was still finding single bees in odd places--like the toilet brush container or the window sill.

How awful it would have been to have come home to live bees buzzing us and threatening us!  Dead bees were an ugly sight but not frightening.

So there is yet another home repair awaiting us.  A financial planner told us to spend our money and enjoy it!   We are spending our money in large amounts but just for necessary mopping up after the "1000 year rain" and now ceiling repairs.  That's not what he had in mind!

We're thankful for the good memories of a week at the beach--and for the means to recover the losses at home--and to do it together in our 50th year of marriage.