Thursday, December 31, 2009

Parenting Tips in Literature

I don’t know how many people feel that an essential part of preparing for child birth is the re-reading of their favorite childhood books. Don’t get me wrong, I have spent hours poring over Dr. Sears’ Baby Book; What to Expect When You’re Expecting; Real Boys; Gender Matters; and The Happiest Baby on the Block. I am nothing if not practical and I want to get “it” right—whatever “it” is.

However, on this the last day of 2009, I spent the morning smiling and crying over the adventures of Anne of Green Gables. And, through the lens of impending motherhood, it occurred to me that my desire to spend time immersed in the worlds of authors such as Kipling and Montgomery comes from a place of dreaming and hoping for this baby. I want him to weep over the death of Matthew and feel the tension as Anne walks the ridge pole. I want him to laugh over silly elephant child and the cake crumbs that itched the rhinoceros so terribly.

I have found myself fretting over how to raise this child with the kind of love, gentleness and appreciation for beauty (and story) that I feel important. I have also worried myself over teaching him graciousness and “good manners”—as well as everything else he needs to know. I make rules: about bedtime and screen time, about washing up and dinner prayers. There is so much he will need to know and so much we will need to teach—I want to bring him up well and I want him to be a credit to himself and to his family. I want him to love God and his neighbor and to nourish kindness in the cradle of his being. A daunting task…

But, in my reading I came across a parenting tip from the quiet and unassuming Matthew Cuthbert—“As it was, he was free to “spoil Anne”—Marilla’s phrasing—as much as he liked. But it was not such a bad arrangement after all; a little “appreciation” sometimes does quite as much good as all the conscientious “bringing up” in the world.”

So my prayer for 2010 is that I will be able to embrace the role of appreciator as well as bringer upper—that I will laugh and cry more and that I will learn what I need to allow this child to grow into exactly the person God means him to be. And, yes, we will spoil him in exactly the ways a child needs to be "spoiled".

And, now, I need to learn how to bake a birthday cake from scratch before this baby comes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Biblical Curse Generator

For those of you who aren't quite as creative as John the Baptist this biblical curse generator might help!

God's peace and blessing on this third Sunday in Advent.

Reverend Joy+

Friday, December 11, 2009

Advent, the f-bomb and me...

So, I've been contemplating the propers for this coming Sunday (the third Sunday in Advent). And, in the Gospel we have good ol' John the Baptist calling the crowd a "brood of vipers!". It's a rather abrupt start to the good news on a wintry Sunday and it leads to some unusual homiletical cud...

When my sister and I were teens (13 and 16) my mother began to use swear words in addressing us. And, it wasn't just mild swears--she used the f-bomb with frequency and sort of evolved from there. When I complained about her language she claimed that nothing else worked to "get our attention". While I'm still traumatized by the amount of cussing my mother continues to engage in (having gotten into the habit) I am also intrigued at the idea of how she felt that she needed to go to this extreme to get us to listen to her. So as I contemplate John's fiery language it occurs to me that it is, perhaps, a rhetorical device used to get their, and our, attention.

Was this device effective? Was cursing the crowd the best way to begin the relationship and spread the good news? Perhaps, perhaps not. And, as scripture tells us, they didn't actually start to wonder if he was the messiah until he enjoined them to live with justice, mercy and compassion. So, it wasn't the anger or cursing that kept them engaged and made them wonder if the world was on the brink of being transformed. Rather, it was his emphasis on the need for change and transformation as they prepared for the arrival of the true messiah.

But, his opening curses are still ringing in our ears and we find ourselves listening--reading on to see what this emphatic and unusual man is about. God does go to such extremes to get our attention, no?

Where is God trying to get our attention this Advent season? Where are we finding ourselves brought up short by unexpected encounters with truth? Where has the miraculous been brought to our attention?

For me, it's the movement within and the combined joy and fear I experience as I contemplate the baby on the way It's a glaringly obvious, for me, experience of the fear/joy that Mary must have experienced with her own pending birth. And this pregnancy serves as a reminder of the depth of love God has for all of us in God's willingness to become vulnerable to the reality of human suffering.

It's a season of already but not yet incarnation. And, I am in the thick of it.

(completely unrelated...who on earth thinks it's okay to tell a pregnant woman that she's looking "fat"! I'm just kind of wondering what planet I was on when I was told this by someone who knows that I am pregnant!!!)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Winter Evensong

Today is a day of sharp contrasts--of light and dark, warmth and cold, of stillness and wind. The sense of change in the air has made the dog nervous and he licks his lips as the wind howls through the trees. I brace myself in case of tree and limb fall—the wind carries with it the possibility for destruction at the same time I nudge the thermostat up a degree and curl my toes beneath me. The puddles ripple in the wind and I know that, come night, they will turn to ice. I dread the coming cold and the already cold. The cold that penetrates through to the bones and the night that seems to come earlier and earlier each day. Yet, the sun broke through the clouds and I remember last year and the year before—all years in which I began to believe that I would never be warm again. Years in which the dying grasses and fallen leaves seem to possess an unrepentant barrenness. New life seems impossibly far off and the storm perches like the silhouetted cormorant above the water. The contrast of life and death is suddenly all too real. Winter has come.

Advent Paradox

God we cry out to you
For love
For redemption
And that is the promise you have given

We didn’t take into account
Love and redemption
Do not eliminate suffering.

Rather, they accompany it.
And in the midst of suffering,
We find that you are there
The weeping, suffering Christ/Spirit/God

Whose love can only witness
To the true hope
That awaits us only
In death.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"The Womb of Advent"

Last year, at this time, I was angrily putting away the book The Womb of Advent written by Mark Bozutti-Jones in which we uses his own family’s pregnancy and impending birth as a foil for reflecting upon each day of Advent. I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t read about the joy (and fear) of pregnancy and child birth when my own heart was so broken and my own womb so empty.

What a difference a year makes…and now I get it. Now I understand what I didn’t last year (altho’, for no good reason, I’m still a bit angry at the aforementioned author!) that anticipating this baby is like anticipating Christ--terrifying and joyful—fearfully and wonderfully made—within but not without, yet. But, I am sensitive to the reality that my own joy is another's pain and was once my own. So this Advent I pray for those who long to become parents yet find themselves still waiting, watching and hoping.

At the same time, this joy that was so (seemingly) long denied brings me full circle. This new awareness of Advent is rather like my first spring after my first long, cold winter. When I saw the first snow drops bloom I accepted that it would (despite all evidence to the contrary) be warm again and that life would return to the landscape. With that realization everything I’d ever intellectualized about the resurrection burst open. I suddenly felt the resurrection with a sharp awareness of grace that I still cling to each February/March when I begin to feel the despair of the coldness clinging to my bones.
And, now, I feel the impending birth in a way that goes beyond the ability of the mind to comprehend. Preparing a place for this baby in our lives and our home consumes us—much as I am sure the impending birth of the baby Jesus consumed his young mother.

I did not and do not want this to be a “pregnancy blog”, yet perhaps I need to accept that in the midst of pregnancy there is little else it can be. Perhaps this peculiar consumption is what I need to get my head around the reality that things that once were are no more and things that are not will be? Attempts at rational thought may occur—but realize that they are mere attempts—for the irrational part of me is contemplating the kicks felt yet unseen and pondering what motherhood will mean for us both.

For, just as Advent warns…this is truly the end of all that we have known and the beginning of a new life for us all.