Tuesday, November 22, 2011

dear wendy, the holidays

I have an article on Dear Wendy today!  I am very excited, but a bit .... intimidated, maybe?  There's a great community on DW, and I hope they like the article.  I read her advice columns all the time, but I usually read posts after all the discussion has ended, so I don't often comment. 

In other news, it's Thanksgiving week and I have no idea what happened to this month.  We are heading to Shreveport tonight to have dinner with our good friends at 2 Johns, then on to Houston for Turkey Day festivities.  Gates' aunt and uncle are hosting Thanksgiving dinner...We are supposed to bring a pie and two bottles of wine - easy enough!  We will also be selling Gates' Jeep, going through many boxes, and visiting Ikea.  I am hopeful that we will also get by Nadeau, a fun furniture store.  We got an end table at the New Orleans location a few months ago, then we decided we need another one.  But of course they were sold out....maybe there will be one in Houston! 

sermon from October

I forgot to put this up when I preached it....but perhaps better late than never?

        A few months ago, Gates and I had our first meeting with a financial advisor.  We brought all of our tax and retirement information, and we left with a budget worksheet.  We were supposed to fill out the worksheet with all of our expenses and bring it back.  This was not the most exciting activity we had ever contemplated, so we put it off until the night before our second meeting.  I put the amounts of our paychecks in the columns, and then Gates and I talked through amounts for our expense lines. The goal was to create a zero budget, and once we had accomplished that goal, I hit print and tried to think about it too much. 
         The next morning we sat with this very nice Presbyterian man, wondering if we had grossly under or over estimated any expenses.  As we went down the column, I realized that there was a zero in the little box where I was supposed to list my pledge to my church.  I immediately realized how awful that appeared.  He knows that I am a priest, I have no pledge on paper….embarrassing right?  I then started to explain, probably over-justifying the situation, considering that there’s a simple explanation.  You see, my pledge to the Cathedral is a payroll deduction.   My pledge gets taken out of my paycheck before it gets deposited in my bank account, just like my taxes and Social Security.
         Luckily, my financial advisor seemed to believe me, and the awkwardness that I felt passed away pretty quickly.  But later that day, when I had some time to think about it, I realized that the money that I give to the church had become a non-factor in my life.  That amount of money never makes it to my checking account, so I don’t have to write a check or approve an automatic bank draft or really do anything at all.  Paying my pledge is just like paying my taxes each month. 
I winced a bit when I realized this, because who wants to equate a gift freely given to God with taxes?  Not me.  Taxes are mandatory.  They are usually more than we want to pay.  Most of us don’t really know where all of our tax-money goes.  My donation to the church, on the other hand, is given out of gratitude, I got to choose the amount, and I know exactly where that money goes.  I see the homeless men and women that eat breakfast here, the children that get scholarships to camp, the community groups that meet within our walls, and the employees that make it all happen.  Taxes and pledges are not the same.   
         It would appear that our gospel reading this morning is making the same point, though in a different way.  Jesus tells the disciples of the Pharisees to give to the emperor what is his and to give to God what is God’s.  Now for us, this sounds like an endorsement of the separation of church and state.  It sounds like Jesus is telling us to pay your taxes as well as your pledge.  The problem though, is that the separation of church and state was not a familiar concept in Jesus’ day.  The church and the state were inextricably intertwined.  So if it’s not about the separation of church and state, then what’s the point of answering this question?
If you read any amount of commentaries on this section of Matthew’s gospel, you will find that Jesus is making the point that the world and all the things within it belong to God.  Sure, they could give the emperor what is his….but what really is the emperor’s?  Nothing.  Everything we have now and will ever have comes from God.
         We affirm this belief every week at the seven-thirty service when we raise the collection and say, “All things come of thee O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”  It reminds me every time I celebrate Rite One that all things are God’s.  We are only stewards here on earth.  We are here to take care of the things we have while we are here, knowing that we will not be able to take them with us. 
Every once in a while, we get a chance to hear from someone who truly lives a life of stewardship.  This summer I watched as some of our youth participated in an open question and answer with a Catholic nun.  She explained their vow of poverty and their understanding of possessions.  She actually answered a few questions I have always had, by explaining that everything in her home is not hers, but the property of her order.  The car she drives, the house she lives in, even her clothes and family photos belong to the Sisters of Mercy.  It all, every single thing, belongs to her order.
I have got to say, that is a hard life for me to imagine.  I have lots of things that I would not want to share with other people.  Some for practical reasons - my shoes.  Some for sentimental reasons, like the quilt my great-grandmother made.  And then there are the things that I just like having.  I like knowing that some items are in my house, should I ever need them or want to look at them again.  My collection of Baby-Sitters Club books from childhood.  My extensive collection of cake pans in fun shapes.   Even if I never read those books or make a beehive shaped cake, those things are mine.  There is some amount of pride in ownership.
But what if all of those things are really God’s?  Well then, I may need to reconsider some items.  It may be time to release some things out into the world, to let them find homes where someone needs them, instead of just liking to have them around. 
The same goes for my money.  As I continue to consider the ways to spend my money that will most glorify God, I am quite sure that certain priorities on my budget spreadsheet will shift.  It is so easy to carry on without intentional thought about what resources I am tending for God.   It is easy to just check the online bank statement here and there to make sure things look okay.   But like so many other things in this Christian life, we are not called to do what is easy.  We are called to do our very best with what we have.  We are called to be intentional with our resources.  We are called to give God what is God’s. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why I am voting no on MS 26

Here are the two major reasons I am voting against MS 26:

First, I don't trust the system.  I don't trust the system to ensure that women with ectopic pregnancies will be allowed to have necessary, life-saving and fertility-preserving treatment.  I don't trust the system to ensure that women who have miscarried will not be investigated for attempted murder.  I don't trust the system to properly advocate for the children that are placed into foster care after being born to mothers who would have used birth control.   Voting yes requires the voter to trust the system, because the language of MS 26 does not address any of these situations.

Second, I fundamentally disagree with the idea that a fertilized egg is a person.   I don't have a problem with hormonal birth control.   I do not think that hormonal birth control is the same as murder.  I don't have a problem with IUDs...I just don't think using an IUD is the same as murdering someone.  My thoughts on abortion are far more nuanced.  Frankly, if we were voting on abortion, then this post would be far longer and more complicated...but we aren't voting on abortion.  We are voting on what we consider a person to be.  And I don't think that a fertilized egg is a person. 

I know, the second reason should be the first - after all, we are voting on personhood.  But either way, the result is the same.  I am voting against MS 26.

Monday, October 10, 2011

politics, MS 26

As a rule, I am not one to talk about politics on public forums.

It's not that I don't have opinions - I do.  But I have never felt it necessary to share those opinions with the public at large.  Ask me what I think about something at a cocktail party, and I'll probably tell you.  Post a survey to my facebook wall and you are guaranteed to receive no response. 

But there's an exception to every rule, am I right?  And MS 26 is officially my exception.  Here's the summary:  "Initiative #26 would amend the Mississippi Constitution to define the word 'person' or 'persons', as those terms are used in Article III of the state constitution, to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof."


Sure, on first glance this may appear to be about abortion. But notice that the language does not specify abortion at all.   The consequences of this initiative - specifically, the effects on birth control pills, IVF, IUDs, ectopic pregnancies....go on and on and on.   And please do not get me started on the awful reality that with the passing of this initiative, mothers that have miscarried could be investigated as attempted murderers.  I can't even think about my dear friends that have lost children being visited by law enforcement without my head threatening to explode.  

So...y'all read about this one before you vote, okay?  Make sure you know exactly what the law will say and how it might impact the women (and, indirectly, the men) that you care about.     

Sunday, October 9, 2011

literary mash-ups

Most weeks we play Pub Quiz (a group trivia game) at Hal and Mal's.  One of the regular hosts is out sick at the moment, so I got to co-host last week.   One of the rounds I wrote was based on combining the names of books by overlapping syllables.  This idea was totally stolen from the aforementioned regular host, though he usually combines movies.  For example, "Crime-fighting dog roams the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn on the hottest day of the year" = Scooba Doo the Right Thing.  

Do you get it?  It's pretty fun.

So, since I hope that everyone is most curious, here's my round (if you have to take out the word "the" to make it work, that's just fine):

1.  Domenico Clericuzio, an aging mafia boss, tries to help his family enter the legitimate world before retiring to La Mancha and going on quests, starting with an attack on nearby windmills.

2.  Winston Smith lives in the dystopian Airstrip One and rebels against the Party until he is re-educated by Thinkpol and sent to Segovia, where he must help Robert Jordan blow up a bridge during the Spanish Civil War.

3.   Andrew Wiggin is trained at the Battle School and helps defeat the Buggers before going to the kingdom of Westeros and fighting seven families for control of the throne.

4. Guy Montag lives in a future American society where reading is outlawed and firemen burn books when he reads the multi-generational story of the Buendia family from Macondo, a metaphoric Colombia.

5.  Marty Preston lives in West Virginia and strives to protect an abused beagle. He moves to Nebraska and meets Alexandra Bergson, a Swedish immigrant running a farm at the turn of the 20th century. 

6. Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice and is a symbol of rebellion when she becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall and falls in love with her employer, Edward Rochester. 

7. An unnamed African American man tells of his unseen life in American society and then as a redheaded orphan living on Prince Edward Island with Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert.

8. Harry Potter is in his sixth year at Hogworts when he befriends two boys that are identical, though one is royalty and the other a peasant. 

9. George Milton and Lennie Small are displaced migrant ranch workers during the Great Depression in California, trying to understand gender relations in the 90’s using a planetary metaphor. 

10.  This play details the romances of two childhood friends, Leontes the King of Sicilia and Polixenes, the King of Bohemia who travel on London and Paris before and during the French Revolution, when it was both the best and worst of times.

It was a lot of fun to put these together, though it did require an unusual amount of time spent searching on Amazon. 

The answers are below, just highlight the empty space.

1.  The Last Don Quixote
2.  Nineteen Eighty For Whom the Bell Tolls
3.  Ender’s Game of Thrones
4.  Fahrenheit 45100 years of solitude
5. Shilo! Pioneers
6.  Mockingjayne Eyre
7.  The Invisible Man of Green Gables
8. The Half Blood Prince and the Pauper
9. Of Mice and Men are from Mars Women are from Venus
10.  A Winter’s Tale of Two Cities

P.S.  They are having a benefit for Donovan next Sunday - check it out on facebook.
P.S.S.  the Hague is a literary mash-up wonder.  Call her if you ever need help coming up with these.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

E is for Elliott.

Last September, Design Sponge had a DIY entry on making a letter-shaped lamp.   Design Sponge always has neat ideas, but this one stuck with me.   I really wanted that lamp.   For the front of my house. 

But there were a few problems.  Or, really, one big problem:  I knew that I couldn't make that lamp.  At least half of the steps included a material or process with which I am not familiar.  So...I was going to need to find a ready-made E.    But what are the odds of finding that?  This project got put in the "that would be nice if it worked out some day, sigh" pile. 

It stayed in that pile for a whole year until.....two weeks ago!  When we went to the Flowood Flea Market* and found ourselves a big plastic E!!

It used to be part of a sign (the O is still available if anyone is interested). 

Converting it into the outdoor light fixture I've always wanted took a bit of prep, but it all got done pretty quickly.  I spray-painted it green, took off most of the old hardware, found an appropriate outdoor string of lights, and drilled holes for the bulbs.

It's pretty awesome...check it out:


*  If you are ever lost on the way to the Flowood Flea Market, don't stop by the airport to look at google maps on your phone.  The authorities will not be impressed.

well then, back again.

So, obviously regular blogging is harder than I thought.  It seems to be one of those things that can very easily fall by the wayside if I don't stick to a routine.

Summer got a bit crazy, and absolutely routine-less.  Plenty of things got done, but the various trips and projects absorbed whole weeks. 

I'm so glad that it's fall.  So very glad.