What's on my mind.

30 November 2007

Church, part 4 (final installment)

On to the biggie - The Nature of God.

Warning: Logic and internal consistency may not exist in the following. I'm OK with that.

So, I believe that God exists. That's as far as I can get with certainty.

Is he eternal? Sort of? Only to the extent that the universe if infinitely old (to our reckoning) and will exist infinitely long (by our reckoning). But the universe isn't actually eternal, it had a beginning and, if I'm up to date on my astrophysics, will end one day. Did God exist before the universe? If not, how'd he come to being? I don't know. I like to imagine him a mad scientist who created the Big Bang and has watched the development with great interest.

I don't think God directly controls things. Maybe he got bored with the dinosaurs and decided to see what would happen if he tweaked gravity just enough to pull a comet into our orbit; maybe not. I believe he is capable of controlling every atom in existence but doesn't. I have a friend who believes that God's plan is absolute and we can not deviate, we think we are in control but He knows what is going to happen. I think, why would He do that? It'd be much more interesting to watch events unfold. (Yes, I want God to be like me and anthropomorphize Him a lot. It is only human to do so.) I'm not always sure God realizes we exist here. He does have an entire universe to look after. But I think he does, most of the time.

If God doesn't follow our lives in detail and doesn't make the world run, why pray? Because prayer is for us. By asking for God's help, we often remove the burden from ourselves. And he may whisper in our dreams helpful hints and words of encouragement. Because admitting our own faults allows us to acknowledge them and move on. Because giving praise lifts the spirit. (Can you not smile while singing "Joy to the World"?) God's not going to heal someone because you asked but you will feel like you have helped. I don't believe in praying for material or small stuff. When I pray for someone (or myself) I usually pray for peace of mind, strength, acceptance and the like. Not a good hair day, good parking space, etc. OMG, He has better things to worry about and so do you.

Finally - God is not male or female. He has no face, no body. She is everywhere and in everything you see and feel, especially the good things.

Church, part 3

Warning: Logic and internal consistency may not exist in the following. I'm OK with that.

So on to more complicated issues.

Is there an afterlife? I don't know. I like to think that there is something but it isn't like what, I think, people usually think of. I don't really have any firm beliefs on what heaven is, mostly what it isn't. I don't believe it's like this life only without bad stuff. I don't believe you can earn heaven or wings or stars for your crown by trying for it. God gives us forgiveness and grace, we can't earn it. If you get stars, they are for the little kindnesses that you do without thinking and just to be nice. I don't think anyone is condemned to Hell forever, or if it exists. I've never understood how God could pick some people and not others. I am not personally ready to go to heaven and meet Hitler but I believe he may be there.

Salvation and grace are gifts. I think some times we are not ready to accept them but God still gives them to us. I may officially be Presbyterian but I'm not sure having water sprinkled on you means you are going to heaven. Baptism is a symbol of your, or your parent's, faith and desire to live a good life, but not a get out of hell free pass.

I think we should try to live Christ-like lives. As recorded in the Bible, he was a really good dude. He taught some really good values and LIVED them, too. He was fairly consistent with his story. It all boiled down to the commandment he gave to his followers: Love one another as I have loved you. Not that that is an easy thing to do. Loving and respecting everyone you meet (and don't) for who they are warts and all is HARD. Jesus knew it, too. He knew that we wouldn't be perfect but wants us to try. He also wants us to take the two greatest commandments of the Old Testament (Lev. 19:18 and Deu.6:4-6) and step out of the box.

I think, from my readings, that a lot of the Old Testament rules and regulations were directed to specific people. Like the reason everything was a capital offense is because a semi-nomadic/subsistence farming population can't afford jails. (There was a fairly high standard for applying the death penalty, too. But that's another topic, another post.) Prohibition of pork and seafood makes sense when food preparation was iffy (e.g. several pig parasites can infect humans); separation of meat and dairy, again, makes sense when living in biblical times. They don't make sense now except for religious reasons. Jesus' teachings tend to be more universal - don't judge, everyone is your neighbor, what comes out of your mouth is more important than what you put in it, love. (to name a few) These things apply across time. They also don't lend themselves to legalistic enforcement. At the time Jesus lived the Pharisees went around saying how they followed all the Mosaic laws and, gee, weren't they good Jews. They claimed to follow the letter of the law but didn't follow the spirit of the laws. Jesus was rebelling against that. We all should.

(Almost done, one more post should cover it all.)

29 November 2007

Church, part 2

Warning: Logic and internal consistency may not exist in the following. I'm OK with that.

What I believe? Let's start with the easy stuff:

The Bible not the inerrant Word Of God, completely true, accurate, historical...whatever; it was written and translated by men (possibly inspired by the Spirit, mostly with the best of intentions, but still men); it is not internally consistent (Don't you think God could manage to be consistent?); it does contain some useful suggestions for how to live and interact with one another; and the King James version (translation errors and all) contains some beautiful poetry which the New King James version generally manages to keep (with a fewer errors).

Creation did not take place in a week, certainly not in the way we experience time. I read a book (well part of it, got tired of it about 1/2) where the author put way too much effort into using relativity and time-dilation to explain the 6 days thing. It was forced, he was a physicist who desperately wanted the first chapter of Genesis to be accurate. I have no problem with Genesis 1 being a creation myth; it's just a plausible as Gaia being created out of Chaos, creating Uranus and then the two of them having babies. "Believing in" evolution does not, for many, people, require a lack of a God. (Evolution doesn't actually require "faith" in anything except facts, so I'm not sure one really "believes" in it; one agrees with the facts and the conclusions drawn from them.)

Church attendance is not required to be a believer. God does not actually require his faithful to get up early on the one day a week when most of us could sleep in, finally, and catch up on the sleep debt. It can be enlightening, pleasant, and uplifting; it can also be boring, guilt-ridden, and a pain in the rear (figuratively and literally).

That's enough for now. I'll write up some of the more complicated stuff later.

Church, part 2.5

I forgot this.

Church music is often awesome (listening to an album of hymns now, wishing I had one of Christmas hymns). Apparently people get pretty inspired when writing music in worship and praise of God. Christian rock and contemporary worship music often sucks eggs.

28 November 2007

Church and Public Life

Early today I was driving a co-worker and two visitors out to our project site. I was running late and never properly introduced to the visitors, so I'll just refer to them as the Kingsport guys. (Their office is in Kingsport, TN.) We got talking about being in the Bible-belt. And how public religiousness isn't confined to the traditional Bible belt anymore. Then KG#1 says that he didn't like that they had stopped having invocations/prayers before football games and such. He understood why you couldn't have prayer in the classroom but seemed to be saying that a school football game is different and if the majority want it then it would be OK. What harm is there? seemed to be his point. Luckily, my co-worker is a talker. He jumped in with comments about how uncomfortable this can make the religious minority and how arrogant it is to assume that it isn't a problem to make someone else sit through your prayer. KG1 agreed that American Christians are often arrogant and assume they are in the majority and that a little humbleness could go a long way. I don't think, in the 2 minute conversation, he changed his mind about public prayer.

Now I would never suggest that one can not pray in public. Or that one can't pray out loud in public; or that one can't pray in groups in public. But we were talking about public school functions - that means the government is, in some small way, sanctioning this prayer.* All the non-Christian spectators and participants have to listen to the blessing. No one can force them to join in the prayer but there is strong peer pressure to stand and bow your head. Can you imagine a lone Muslim football player not kneeling and removing his helmet for the prayer? I'd be very impressed if he didn't, that would take some serious balls. I joined the circle when the marching band clasped hands to pray before going out for the pre-game, at my Alabama high school. The time I was too shocked not to join in. It had never occurred to me that a public school group would have teacher lead prayer. The rest of the season, I just was too much a wimp to not join in. (The director, in addition to everyone's safety, would pray that the band had a good performance. Like God doesn't have bigger fish to fry!)

The school system I grew up in was diverse. We didn't have "Christmas Break" it was "Winter Break." The idea of having a elementary school class concert in December with out the dreidel song, is completely foreign to me. When we were sending a jazz combo to play at a Toys for Tots collection site, our HS band director said "You guys know these tunes." (carols) and the sax player said "not really" under his breath. Non-Christians weren't free of Christian symbolism at school but they were also exposed to other faith's symbolism, too. If you decorated your door with a cross, there had better have been a menorah and/or Star of David, too. And possibly a crescent. Prayer before a football game? Are you insane? (But everybody stood, removed their hat, and faced the flag for the national anthem. Something I don't see all the time here.)
(Kinda' belabored the point, sorry.)

Because of where I grew up, I think I have a different view of the issue than a lot of Alabamians I've talked to about this. Religious diversity isn't a moot point, it is real to me. I'm aware of the minority and have been taught to take their feelings into account. I also like what my former Sunday school teacher said about it: "We won't be the majority forever. If we cram our religion down their throats, they'll cram their down ours." Unfortunately, she didn't say this to our whole class, just me.

I am amazed, along with several other co-workers that we have a blessing before the meal when we have a pot luck. There isn't even an attempt at being ecumenical with the blessing, it is definitely a Christian one, and usually pretty Baptist sounding, too. A co-worker of mine is shocked we have a Christmas party; I'm more shocked by the Christmas tree that goes in the lobby. At least the meals and party are for employees (and families) only. The lobby is public space at our government office. But that's Alabama.

*Yes, I know sessions of Congress open with prayer, doesn't make it constitutional. I also know that most (if not all) 50 State Constitutions mention God, that does not make it OK either.

It's all in the lighting.

Monday Photo Shoot: Show us light in a surprising way. Long exposures, interesting reflections, the play between light and shadow -- anything that calls attention to the light itself. This is very open-ended, so I'm curious to see what you all will come up with.

These first three were taken Tuesday at the project site. The first two are basically the same but using different settings on the camera. (I don't remember what, sorry.) Obviously different exposure lengths. In the third I was trying for the maximum color spots. I like how the refraction of the light colors the trees.

This one was also taken Tuesday. I picked up the camera because the sky was a really cool color but, since I was inside, I couldn't get a picture of it. Instead you get the reflection of my office on top of the view from my office window.

19 November 2007


So a while ago I mentioned my beliefs and said I'd write more later. It's only taken me a few months to get back to this.

A little personal history first, maybe? (or maybe a lot)

Dad was raised Roman Catholic. Ate fish (or some other non-meat entree) every Friday of his life (at least) until he joined the army, mass every Sunday (or sometimes Saturday, when he was a teenager), and nuns for elementary school teachers. All of his siblings are still practicing Catholics, most of my cousins are, too, as far as I know. Dad's first wife was also RC and his older kids were raised in the church. I think Anna was the only one who still went. Dad was heavily influenced by his Jesuit teachers and basically came away with what I do is between me and God. So he managed to escape Catholic-guilt.

Mom's early church was a Southern Baptist one. PawPaw resigned from the church because he disagreed with some racist policies they had. Granny was too embarrassed to go to church without her husband and Mom thought "woohoo no church on Sundays!" So Mom didn't attend any where for several years. When she was a teenager she went to the Methodist (I think) church with some of her friends, because they had a good youth group. When she was younger she had "walked the aisle" and been baptized mainly to get the preacher to stop bugging her about it. Her older boys were raised in S. Baptist churches, as far as I know. One sometimes attends mass with his wife; the other is Baha'i. Mom isn't sure there is a God.

I didn't grow up in a church. I liked going to mass with Grandma when she visited and kind of liked all those wedding masses I went to for my cousins. (Except for the one in Latin. I don't think the priest really knew what he was saying, but you could tell who'd been an altar boy pre-Vatican two.) I went to church/Sunday school sometimes with my friends, if I spent the night. I'm sure both my grandmothers, anyway, worried about the fact that we didn't go to church. At least, Grandma knew I'd been baptized.

Someone gave me a comic book version of the Bible. I kinda' wish I still had it. It was much better than a children's Bible I read one night while babysitting. Yes, I read about 3/4 of that "Bible" in one evening. That one glossed over a lot of the sticky bits. (For example, Jacob was sold into slavery by his BROTHERS because they could make money off him, which they wouldn't have made just KILLING him. The whole averted fratricide angle was not mentioned.) In fact I think the Old Testament portion was actually shorter than the New Testament. It also glossed over the inconsistencies of the 4 gospels....

A few years ago, when Nettie was about 2, Mom decided that she really need the social network that a church provides. She knew Dr. Charlie through work and thought if Dr. Charlie could preach there 1st Pres couldn't be all bad. So she and Nettie started going. And I started going. I even started going to Sunday School. I got fairly comfortable in my class, but not enough to talk much. I joined the choir. I really enjoyed choir. I joined the church. I like the traditional style church service and choir. I find Sunday school interesting; I like learning about how other people think. (Liked my lit classes for the same reason.) But never felt like I quite fit in. When I dropped out of choir because I was too exhausted to go to Wednesday evening rehearsal, I lost all interest in getting up for church on Sunday morning. So, now I go on Christmas Eve and Maundy Thursday.

Tune in later for some on what I actually believe. (I promise it won't be three months from now.)


Your Monday Photo Shoot: Show something you're thankful for this year. It doesn't have to be the thing you're most thankful for; even the little things count. But of course, picture whatever you'd like.

What I am thankful for? Gosh there are a lot of things. Here's one.

I hate washing dishes. In addition to the usual reasons for hating to wash dishes, sinks are about a half inch to short. If I stand there washing for a while, I find myself leaning over just a hair and my back kills me later. I also am thankful for the timer feature (you can almost see the red light), so I can run the dish washer while I'm asleep. For some reason, pretty much no matter what I do I can always smell the dish detergent, unless I'm upstairs, so I don't like being around when the dishwasher is running. And it's noisy. (OK, I got the idea for this from someone I used to go to church with, but I am thankful for this.)

Here are some others:

Awesome Sister! (yeah, again)

So my little sister's best friend in the whole entire world, J., had to clean out her toys. Her paternal grandmother is coming for Thanksgiving and her mom said clean it up, sort out what goes to charity, or toss it. (MIL have this effect on people, I don't get it.) So J and her sister sorted through their old toys and came up with a box of Bratz dolls to go to the thrift store. When my Dad and Nettie got to their house to pick of J (after she'd finished cleaning her room), J asked Nettie if she'd like some of her old dolls. Nettie said sure and brought the box home to pick through.

The eight dolls were all naked, had ratty knotted hair, and no feet. (Instead of little shoes the Bratz dolls have interchangeable feet. At least they don't have to wear high heels all the time.) Nettie didn't think they looked very good, certainly not good enough to give away.

Sunday afternoon she gave each doll a bath and washed their hair. (Granny had a special Downy solution recipe that works wonders on doll hair and stuffed animals.) Each doll got her own little cupful of rinse so her hair would untangle. Then her hair was combed smooth. Then Nettie, out of her limited selection of Bratz clothing and shoe-feet, found an outfit for each doll and feet for all but one.

Mom encouraged her but the idea for the bathing, etc. came from Nettie. She is so awesome. (most of the time;))

P.S. This is my 101st post!

16 November 2007


Weekend Assignment #191: Show us, or tell us a story about, change.
A before and after picture of the street where you grew up, a story about meeting an old friend after many years, two pictures of yourself separated by a number of years, a tale about changing your life, or showing or tell us about something in the process of changing itself. Any of these is good. And doesn't have to be a negative, because sometimes change is a good thing.

Extra credit: Do you feel that you are changing in some way right now?
So this one day I went over to the drink machines across the street (we don't have any in our building) and the damn machine was sold out of Cherry Coke and wouldn't give me my money back. I didn't have enough more change to get a drink. And one time I hit the change return and even though I'd put in a bunch of nickels and dimes, I got quarters back!

Oh...you mean the verb 'to change' not coin money.

Seriously, here are some puppy pictures at a day old, one week, two weeks, and three and a half weeks old.

You can't tell in the 2-wk old pic but their eyes had just opened. They are three of the cutest little handfuls you will ever see. Anyone want a Chihuahua-Feist puppy for Christmas? They'll be 8 weeks old the Sunday before. Please. My sis and bro-in-law really need the cash and I'm not adding any more semi-permanent residents to my house. If a puppy stays my BIL will have to move into his truck. (Actually...hmm...well, my sis might not like that option.)

Extra Credit: No. A lot in my life has changed in the last 10 years or so but mostly I feel just like I did when I was 20. In someways this is a good thing, in someways it isn't.

15 November 2007

I care.

So I got this email the other day (for at least the second time, from the same friend) where a woman goes on about why she doesn't care if we violate some one's human rights, violate some one's civil rights, offend them....because it was Arab, Muslim terrorists who attacked us.
When I hear that a prisoner, who was issued a Koran and a prayer mat, and fed "special" food that is paid for by my tax dollars, is complaining that his holy book is being "mishandled," you can absolutely believe in your heart of hearts: I don't care.
Well, I'll delete it and certainly without passing it on because I do care. I think we, as citizens of a country that holds itself up as the greatest in the world, should behave better than terrorists and thugs. If the US wants to put itself up on a pedestal and say we are better than you to countries that don't hold democracy and freedom dear, than we need to act the part.

I think the rule of law, while not perfect, is one of the most important things about the US. We have a Constitution, that everyone has to follow (even you Mr. President!). We have rights granted us as citizens that have to be respected by the police and the government. (I think those rights should be extended to everyone, as I believe they are part of the founding principles of our country.)

If we don't follow our own rules why should anyone even listen to us?
And so the day isn't a complete downer: Puppies! (I've added more pictures to the album.)
Puppies and more

09 November 2007

Bloo-oo-ooo Grass!

The other day Sarah wrote about how boring her life was. Well, last night was my first "real concert" (non-orchestral, I wasn't playing in it, had an opening act). This would be the first time I've gone to hear a band play that didn't involve some other activity (arts festival, drinking,...). I think much of the audience was dead. I was about 2/3 of the way back and saw very little seat dancing. Some whooping and whistling, though. I think I like hearing bluegrass in outdoor settings better, it's a more relaxed atmosphere. That way I can stand in the back and dance a bit without feeling as stupid. Maybe I should have sat on the back row, then no one would have seen my head bobbing and swaying. On to the performers:

Ruby Jane, the opener, has some mad picking and fiddling skillz. Wow, just imagine what she'll be doing when she can drive. Her voice is young but I heard potential in it.

Claire Lynch's band members all have fingers of gold. Well, Claire herself may have fingers of silver (on rhythm guitar) but she has a voice of gold. I heard a few years ago at Kentuck. She was, I think, even better last night. (Except for the more staid audience.) Missy Raines is an awesome bassist. Jim Hurst is great on guitar and banjo. Jason Thomas was excellent on the fiddle and mandolin. They could have done two sets, or three.

It was the best reason I've had for staying up late for a long time. Hate it for all of you who missed it.

07 November 2007


Is the such a thing as sub-pathological body dysmorphic disorder? Can it be a disorder if you think you look better than you do? I ask because....

In my last post I said I looked fat in a picture, now I know part of that is the camera angle, clothing, etc. but part of it is my image of myself. Most of the time when I look in the mirror I see myself basically they way I've seen myself since I was 17 or so. A size 12/14, pale, with bad acne. That's what I expect and if I don't look too hard it's what I see. Sometimes when I look at the mirror I see myself as I am now or maybe even a little bigger (for measurements see this post). When that happens I think "I fat!" or "This outfit makes me look huge!" (usually followed by "oh well, I'm dressed now.") But most of the time I barely notice my waistline, just whether or not my clothes still fit it.

With my skin it's even weirder. I know my acne is WAY better than when I was a teenager (Look at the before pictures on a Proactiv commercial, that was me.) but I got kind of numb to it so I still don't notice my skin much. Years ago, I'd have to concentrate on what I saw in the mirror before going to the dermatologists to decide if it looked "better, worse, or about the same as the previous three months" (the doc asked that every time). I usually could not have given a accurate answer; I always said 'about the same.' This morning I really looked at my face for a minute because it was a little dry/tight and it made me think about it. But most days I just see 'my face' and don't see the details. When I put on make-up or pluck eyebrows, I'm only concentrating on a small part at a time so small flaws stand out or I just discount the good. I know other people often can't see the scar in my left eyebrow but it jumps out at me (line of no hair, not really a flaw just an oddity.)

I guess this is why it is good to see a picture of yourself every once in a while. Because most of us don't see ourselves as other do, at least figuratively and some of us literally.

P.S. I'm still pale.

05 November 2007

Weekend Roundup

Warning: Long and rambling post follows.


On "Splendid Table" one of the callers asked about how to spice up meatloaf. This discussion started me thinking about 2 things. One - where could I get meatloaf for dinner? Two - Dad's forays into meatloaf.

Dad will get on kicks and cook the same thing over and over for weeks. Try pork chops 3 times a week for a month or rice pudding. Sometimes good, sometimes not so much. Years ago he decided to make meatloaf (I think it was the first one either of my parents had made my entire life.) and he kept making it for about 6 months. Luckily we didn't have it multiple times a week. He never made the exact same recipe twice; he kept trying new ones. Well, one time he ran out of bread crumbs and he had some leftover popcorn from lunch, so he substituted popcorn for about half the breadcrumbs. Then he thought mozzarella cheese would be good in the meatloaf. But he didn't shred it, he used the string cheese in the fridge. The resulting meatloaf, while tasting fine, was a little weird looking. It was medium grey and the slices had lighter spots where the cheese slices were. One of my brothers, his wife, and kids were staying with us at the time. The kids didn't even try it; they went straight for the peanut butter and jelly.

After "Splendid Table", APR airs "Travel with Rick Steves". One of his callers talked about how wonderful it was to travel with his son. His family had been to Europe 14 times with his now 19 year-old son and it had been great for his education and broadened his horizons, etc. This made me think of a funny story from an uncle and aunt of mine.

My Uncle Danny was a french teacher and they went to France several times while my cousins were growing up. One summer they went to southern France, including the beaches. If you've never been to Europe you may not know that going topless on the beaches is pretty common and women don't necessarily cover up before leaving the beach. (Similar to going to the Walmart in Panama City Beach and there being girls shopping in a bathing suit and towel, only less.) My cousins were a pre-teen and teenagers on this trip. Just the perfect age to see topless woman walking nonchalantly down the street. Their jaws hit the ground when the first lady walked by. Aunt Judy just looked at her boys and said "You say one word and I'm doing it." The threat of seeing their mother topless was enough to keep Jonathon and Robbie in line.

Saturday afternoon Ellen and I took Honey and Izzy to the park. Izzy was tuckered out from the mile long walk. We would've eaten at Roly Poly's but they were closed, "gone to the game." So we sat at Ken's next door. The next restaurant over (New Orleans Bar and Grill) was, apparently, the place for all the LSU students without tickets to hang out, in the outside seating. They had been drinking since at least kick-off and when we got there, towards the end of the 2nd quarter, several were getting loud. And the first half didn't go their way. Note: The f-bomb really loses its punch when it is every other word out of your mouth.


If you want service go to the Centerville McDonald's. They had more people working at late lunchtime, at a small store than the Micky D's in Taylorville ever has. Didn't make them terribly fast with the iced coffee, because they were out of cups, but they gave Mom two apple pies for making us wait. After picking up Nettie, we went riding. Patches was a bit of a snot. He settled down for me, but kept giving Nettie trouble. She did an awesome job handling him. She made him back-up by accident a couple of time, but did really well. I think part of the problem was she has to use these extra stirrups (which were a little short for her) and the regular stirrups were bouncing a bit on him so Patches was getting some mixed signals.

(My hair looks weird and, God, I look fat. Don't know why Nettie looks so serious.)

Then I had to come home and scrub out the dryer so I wouldn't get candy or gum or whatever that purple stuff was on my clothes.

Oh, the puppies eyes are open (They are two weeks old.) and Ellen started a new job Friday.