kindness at the waterpark

We have waterpark season passes for our 3rd summer. Yesterday we met my spouse at the waterpark when he got off work. It was a great way to live through the 110+ temperatures. It felt downright cool as we floated around the lazy river, bobbed in the wave pool, and sped down slides. We also felt the heat as we stood in line for those slides, and we saw the smoke from a nearby vegetation fire. By the time we left, there was ash falling on us. I checked. That fire is now out.

Two things stood out for me at the waterpark.

1) We were trying to get into the lazy river. They discourage people from congregating around the steps and blocking the entrance waiting for tubes, so I was trying to hustle the kids in, but there was some small commotion and much blocking. A woman was just in the river, blocking the entrance, messing with a tube, and I couldn’t tell what she was trying to do as she pushed the tube further onto the steps, making it impossible to navigate. I looked over at the lifeguard with an appeal on my face (I’m sorry we’re standing here on the steps; we’re trying to get in), and then I looked down, and about three teenagers, goofing and joking in the water seconds before as they tried to get out were steadying the tube so the woman could climb onto it. They held it for her, helped her launch into the river, and went on their way, teasing each other a little, embarrassed about this intimate act of kindness. They saw what needed to be done and did it.

2) Kristin writes about the welcoming statement her church council has approved. She wonders this:

As I reflect on this statement of welcome, I think about how easy it seems to welcome LGBTQ members of the community–but to genuinely welcome people with mental issues that are presenting in disruptive ways? That might be harder.

We were standing in line for the water slide, clumsily holding big double tubes. The teenage boy behind us, maybe 15, tall, a little awkward,  was clearly developmentally different. He was not with a parent, though responsible adults were around, and he was eventually joined by a younger boy. He was loud, excited, and inquisitive. He shouted down the tower at people he was with to ask questions and let them know where he was, and to get the attention of the boy who eventually joined him. He told them he had a green raft. Several times. Every few minutes, He asked us how many people were in line ahead of us, and then counted aloud for himself and agreed with our number. He called out to every lifeguard we passed as we climbed several levels to the higher slides, “I’m doing slide 7 this time.” “I have a green raft!” He prodded people, loudly, when they didn’t notice a space in the line and move forward. I only describe this to say that everyone was fine. The lifeguards gave him thumbs up and encouraging words. The people in line answered questions and chatted with him. No one needed to be hovering over him or taking care of him, and it seemed everybody was watching out for him. After we had slid down, while the girl child and I were waiting for the boys, I watched his grown-ups waiting for him, camera at the ready to capture a picture. I could see his behavior being disruptive in some situations, and I wonder how the collective we would react then, but in a waterpark during a heatwave, everyone was able to be the loosely knit community that one becomes standing in long, awkward lines waiting together for a few seconds of excitement.

The local waterpark on a Monday afternoon during a heatwave. It was a good place to be.

Posted in Community, Family | 1 Comment

presbygeek: not just a ruling elder

Saturday we got a first coat of paint on the boy’s walls. Since the kids have been taking karate, Computerguy and I have wanted to show them our formative karate movie: The Karate Kid. Online, I found a set of 4 discs for $4 (new, legit): Karate Kid 1,2,3 and the new one (the Jaden Smith one, alas, not the Hilary Swank one). So we watched Karate Kid Saturday night while I followed the Twitter feed for #GA222 moderator election. (The PC(USA) biennial General Assembly, our highest governing body, led by equal parts Teaching Elders (Reverends) and Ruling Elders (congregational governors), elected by Presbyteries.)

Since I have been following and admiring Jan Edmiston (A Church for Starving Artists) for years and Denise Anderson (SOULa Scriptura) more recently (but probably also years, just not as many), I was pleased with the outcome. One of the things I have liked about Edmiston is her support for and stance on ruling elders. She continually calls us to remember that we, too, are called and ordained. Deacons, ruling elders, teaching elders, all are called and ordained. There is no hierarchy of ministry. Ordained or not, we believe we are all ministers. In the Rev. Edmiston’s world, every ruling elder would have a sermon at the ready in case someone needed to step in at the last minute, every ruling elder would be practicing pastoral care, every ruling elder would have a vision for moving the Church forward, every ruling elder would live into that calling.

The Rev. Anderson, too, understands this. She writes eloquently in There’s a Woman in the Pulpit about the limbo of serving as pulpit supply and as an associate in a church during the limbo time between graduating from seminary and receiving an ordain-able call, a time when she had all the credentials, but not the title, and may have been considered “less than.”

Most places, Edmiston’s vision is not reality. There is Anderson’s feeling of “less than” for those who have not been ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament (an old title, replaced by the General Assembly by Teaching Elder for just the reasons I am enumerating, but still in common usage). I’ve written about this before. There is a divide between teaching elders and ruling elders. Some teaching elders, intentionally or not, believe this and set up a “some-elders-are-more-equal-than-others” structure, particularly perhaps those who come from other denominations and cultures. Perhaps more problematic, many ruling elders don’t see themselves as the leaders of the church. Many presbyterian ruling elders don’t feel they have the scriptural or polity knowledge to have that kind of authority. So the teaching elders become overburdened because they are supervising everyone instead of working in partnership. It’s a culture that is difficult to change.

So I was disappointed reading the twitter feed to hear people talk about the one Ruling Elder standing for co-moderator making just those disparaging kinds of statements about himself. “I’m just a ruling elder” (evidently repeatedly) “I’m not a minister.” You are standing to be the face and voice of the denomination, to lead the people; if you don’t think you are an elder, period, and also a minister, why are you standing for moderator and why are you giving that message to all the ruling elder commissioners who have been charged with leading the denomination (not to mention the handful of us who are following from home)? It’s disappointing. The now-former moderator–Heath Rada, #GA221–was a Ruling Elder Moderator. He preached the sermon at the Saturday opening worship service and stood with a teaching elder behind the communion table (so she was presiding, but he was co-celebrating). This was the example we had, but the culture of “just a ruling elder” pervades.

Because it has been on their radar, I am hopeful that this is one of the things the Revs. Edmiston and Anderson will influence as they see visions and dream dreams with our church the next 104 weeks.


Posted in Church, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

youth sunday part four

This was my fourth year to guide the youth toward a Youth Sunday Service. This year in youth group, we have had 5 stalwarts with a few drop ins. None of the drop ins came to Youth Sunday preparation, so we were our 5 faithful. 3 Girls: 8th, 9th, and 10th grades and 2 6th grade boys.

They came up with the theme: Ask, Seek, Knock, and wrote every part of the service. They divvied it up, challenged themselves (Liturgical Dance! Scripture Reflection!) and did the thing. It has been one of the great gifts of my position to help guide the Youth Sunday services.

We did recruit a youth group alumni to play the guitar and several others to sing with us. It gave the kids more confidence and filled out the song, but they were fine, they would have been fine, even without their older friends. The choir director, who had been skeptical, gave them high praise afterward.

And a kid who hadn’t been a part of it said to me, “next year…” so that gives me hope. But next year I take a back seat to the youth ministry coordinator because I’ve done this for four years and we don’t want anyone to think I’m the only person who can do this. This is our chorus this year. We are all ministers. Let’s do this thing together.

And my kid got to play the piano. She’s been waiting for the opportunity, ever since a different kid got to play the prelude at the children’s service and then got to play again during Advent(!) even though I told her she would have the next chance (his parents requested it and we worked it in, but my kid said, “I know that same song in that same book. Why wasn’t it my turn?”). So I’ve ben watching for an opportunity, and when one of the youth wanted to dance, I suggested my kid could play “Ode to Joy” and that would be a great song to dance to. It worked out, and the dance was beautiful, and Word Girl finally got to play the piano in church. Amen!

youth sunday

Our Faithful Five are in the front with some college kids backing them up.

Posted in Church, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

friday five: school days

Hard for me to pass up this Friday Five though I am late to the party.

So, as students wrap up their years or maybe their academic careers, let’s reflect upon our school days in today’s Friday Five:

  1. Favorite class during your many years of schooling

Undergrad: Emily Dickinson. We studied her poems and her letters for a whole quarter. Best class ever. I did a presentation with my roommate. We got my mom to let us tape her singing our poem to the tune of “Yellow Rose in Texas”. Fun stuff. I still love Dickinson. (Also, the only class in my undergrad for which I earned an A+.)

Graduate School: Shakespeare and Film. It was a great class and I wrote about 10 Things I Hate about You and Never Been Kissed. A year or so later, talking about possible dissertation topics, I opined about wishing I could just follow up on that paper and my friend Young Jim said, “why not?” And I thought, “yeah, why not?” And so I did. More or less.

  1. Toughest class you have taken

Computers for the Liberal Arts Major. It wasn’t. We had to learn programming. Shell programming. I still have no idea what I was supposed to do in that class. On the other hand, I learned about newsgroups and connecting from home via modem and spent a whole lot of time reading ST:TNG newsgroup posts (and that was the term the Great Bird of the Galaxy passed out of the galaxy (Gene Roddenberry dies), so it was quite poignant). But I didn’t learn a thing about programming and it was a singularly unhelpful class for this liberal arts major.

  1. Class you would love to retake

Hard to say. I would like to have done better at some of my GE classes, but that doesn’t mean I wish I could retake them. Probably one of the English classes I was too busy to do all the reading for. More than “retake” I would like to be able to go back in time and take the Shakespeare Comedy class in my undergrad. It was taught by the woman who was eventually my committee chair and dissertation advisor for my Ph.D., but I never had her as an undergrad.

  1. Favorite seminary or theologically-themed class

I’ve taken 8 classes in my Certificate in Ministry Course. 5 have been excellent, 1 fine, 1 mediocre, and 1 poor. Not a bad average. I am enjoying the Worship and Preaching one I am taking right now because that’s what I am doing, and I get to wrote what amounts to more or less a poem a week, but I am pretty well ahead of the curve in this class thanks to great opportunity and mentorship. The surprising ones have been the Pastoral Care class (who knew you could do that online) and the Church Leadership class. Those were terrific!

  1. Dream class – if you could design the ultimate undergraduate/graduate course, what would it be?

Literature and Ministry. Not sure what it would look like, but I think at minimum we would read Gail Godwin, Marianne Robinson, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, William Shakespeare, and Jane Austen. I could write the syllabus right now. I want to teach this class. I’d start with The Winter’s Tale and move on to Mansfield Park. Then A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Then Gilead and Evensong. Maybe some Vicar of Wakefield in there and a few episodes of the Vicar of Dibley and Rev thrown in. It could be a really fun and thoughtful class. (other suggestions?)

Posted in About Me, Friday Five, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

friday five: transitions

3dogmom has lots of transitions happening, and wonders about our own:

My life is overflowing with transitions at this time: losing a beloved family homestead, welcoming a new grandchild, starting a new call next month, packing up our home in anticipating of a move 1000 miles away… Those are the markers that are easy to identify. Inner transitions are taking place, too, which leads me to offer this week’s Friday Five:

What transitions are taking place in your life? Consider physical, vocational, spiritual, psychological, educational, geographical… you get the idea. Please share five transitions that are most present with you at this time in your life.

We have smaller transitions going on, but transitions nonetheless.

  1. We are clearing out the guest room to give the kids their own rooms. I am excited because with a little more space, I think we can limit the chaos of things everywhere and we can move some of their things from the common living spaces into their rooms. They are excited as they think about having their own space and what they will do with it. The big drawback is, we lose a dedicated guest room and it has been nice giving my parents a place of their own when they come and stay (not to mention any other guests we may have). I am sure we will work it out, but it complicates things a little. (We are waiting until my folks next two visits are complete to make the move.)
  2. Related to (1), the guest room has also been our storage space, especially my academic book space, so I am going through my books and trying to figure out what I may or may not need in the next few years. Some are easy. About others I am really torn. What if I do teach literature again? I have some nice Norton Critical Editions of things that are actually in my area. The internet has made some of it much easier. Reference books are easier to send on their way knowing that 15 years ago it was nice to have them handy, but now, I would go to the computer for that information first even if I did have the book. There is that thing, though, of looking something up in a book and getting caught up in other entries. However, I suppose it’s not unlike looking something up on-line and suddenly having 5 tabs open from links.
  3. My work at the church is transitioning a little. I am working more on my own, developing worship series and planning regular–not special–worship services. I’m trying to figure out what and how much I should be doing and if there are some things I should back off from as my role continues to slowly change and become.
  4. I am looking to apply for composition jobs at community colleges this year. I know I have said that before, but last years’ sudden work at the state college put that on hold. I think now is the time.
  5. Health: I gave in to my own stubbornness and downloaded MyFitnessPal and am using it to track what I eat. I’m only 10 days in, so I am reluctant to claim much, but the age-old wisdom of just keeping track, just writing it down, seems to be helping me to make good choices and be healthful. I’m also using my phone to keep track of my steps and trying to get to that magic 10,000 a day number. Part of me wants to join the fitbit train and part of me wants an apple watch, but for now I’m just trying to always keep my phone on me.
Posted in About Me, Friday Five | 4 Comments

happy deathday william shakespeare


“Shakespeare knew everything” –Vincent, Beauty and the Beast

Shakespeare died 400 years ago today. So… Seems like I ought to write something. I am, after all, one of those people who would claim that Shakespeare is simply the best writer in the English language (and maybe all of the languages).

Claire at Part-Time Priest writes a lovely essay about how she first encountered Shakespeare and what his plays have meant to her. I have been thinking of my own story since I read her post this morning. In the end, I studied Shakespeare (as in “subject of my dissertation”), but I kind of came to it kind of late, accidentally, by way of an outstanding teacher of Shakespeare: Me.

It’s not that I didn’t like Shakespeare.

When I was in 5th(?) grade, the high school put on Much Ado About Nothing. In my mind, this was my mom’s favorite Shakespeare. My mom read us the Lambs’ Shakespeare version of the play–a couple times I think–and we went to see the high schoolers. The single thing I remember most were the costumes. I still have a vague picture of the dresses in my head, and I was fascinated by the fact that the “couples” wore matching costumes. I don’t remember if I understood any of the words, but thanks to my mom and Charles and Mary, I understood what was going on, and my memory of the experience remains strong and positive.

In high school we read Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and probably Macbeth (because I know it was in the curriculum. I have no actual memory of reading it). I was not caught by any of them, though I enjoyed reading West Side Story (which we did in conjunction with R&J) and being fascinated with the parallels (shades of future interest).

My freshman year in college, we read 1 Henry IV in the English Lit survey class and I took and thoroughly enjoyed the Tragedies, but in my undergrad, I was more taken with metaphysical poetry and Emily Dickinson and creative writing classes for which we received English credit. (side note: I had the same professor for both of those classes, and he may have been my favorite professor ever. He was old-fashioned, but always learning what was new. He called us Mr. Smith and Ms. Long. He had us read aloud in class. He was brilliant. He loved teaching at UCR and living in the community. He was fabulous, and he was still teaching–not emeritus; he never retired–at age 82 when he died earlier this year. I had the privilege of being able to make it to his memorial service.)

And then I became a high school English teacher. And I taught Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and Macbeth. And I was good. Suddenly, as I taught the works, Shakespeare came alive to me. The artistry of Romeo and Juliet where the prologue is a sonnet, the rhetoric of Julius Caesar, the perfect form of Macbeth, these are the things I discovered as I read these plays with students, as I taught them. I taught them differently than I had been taught them. We read them together, as a class, discovering them as we went along. And it turned out that I had a knack for close reading, for helping students understand as we read, for pointing our words and images and themes as we heard them, for teaching plays and poetry. When I finally got to teach AP, we would read Macbeth for its perfect form and I would add another Shakespeare depending on the personality of the class, Lear or Midsummer. I’m not a fabulous teacher of novels. I get bored when something takes that long to read, and I don’t know what to do with it when they have to read it on their own. I did okay with short stories with the 9th and 10th graders because we could read them in class. But my forte was reading poetry and plays and talking and interpreting as we went, and that’s when I discovered how amazing Shakespeare really was. There’s nothing like reading something twice in a day, for 7 years in a row, and never growing bored of it, to figure out that there is something special about it (and I could say the same thing about The Importance of Being Earnest, but that another story).

There’s always more to say about the Bard, but, for Me and the Bard, I think that will do for now.

Posted in About Me, Shakespeare | 1 Comment

happy birthday beverly cleary

I read an article a few weeks ago about Beverly Cleary turning 100, and it caught my fancy. We celebrate authors’ 100th birthdays, and 200th birthdays, and 500th birthdays (Shakespeare!), but how fun to celebrate an author’s 100th birthday and know that she is celebrating, too (evidently with a piece of carrot cake in her assisted living residence).

The kids got to wear pajamas to school today for a Drop Everything And Read day. The cnn article I read said that Scholastic was encouraging schools to do this. Our school has such a day every year around this time, so we’re not sure if this is coincidence or planned, but it works out!

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 8.11.22 AMThe girl child reached the 1,000,000 words club this week, and got to sign her name on the poster in the library yesterday. The reward is Pizza with the Principal at the end of the year for all the kids in the club. She’s not so sure about the reward, especially since all the other kids in the club are in higher grades than she is. She does somewhat know one girl in 4th grade who is almost there. If S makes it, she will be happier about the prize.

Part of her million words was a mad dash through Beverly Cleary books. Bezels, Ramona, Henry Huggins, Ribsy, Ralph S. Mouse continue to entertain. Kristin writes more about them, and the ordinariness of them (when she was small, Cleary was disappointed that none of the kids in the books she read were just normal kids. So she wrote her own books about normal life and normal kids.)

So Ramona lives on and Beverly Cleary can enjoy knowing that she has made a difference in a whole lot of ordinary kids’ lives. How fun is that!?!

Posted in About Me, Books, The Kids | 2 Comments