20 December 2012

Bless this mess.

Well, the thinkable happened. Our dear, dear, dear and only organist went home forever in September and my heart is still broken. Also we don't have an organist any more.


No, really, we don't. But after Dad has begged everyone for miles around, I'm the person he comes home to. So I have to play this Sunday and now my stomach is also broken. I can manage the service um, serviceably, in a room with a piano by myself. If I hear my neighbor's car door, not only my fingers but also my elbows and shoulders and intestines turn to spaghetti. Never was a show more unready for the road, much less the house of Almighty God. Kyrie eleison. (At least that one's easy--and yet I can screw it up! :P )

More than enough about me. The point is that as I practice and practice and practice, all the while thinking miserably of my brothers and sisters here whose ears I will soon offend so grievously* and in such malapropos surroundings, my only comfort is that they ARE my brothers and sisters. Our parish is a family not in some feel-good spiritual metaphor. Behold, I tell you no mystery: we put up with each other's cooking and eat the leftovers until they're gone. When it's someone else's turn to clean, we let them do it their way even though they do it all wrong. We work like maniacs at screwy schemes to generate some cash and keep this operation operational. We make sure no one else could use something we'd rather just throw away, and we do our best to wear hand-me-downs with more thanks than pickiness. We put up with that awful racket because she's the only fake organist we've got and, who knows, maybe she'll get better if she keeps at it? Everyone is always invited, the bratty kids and the jerk chicks and the crazy dudes and the grumbly grandmas, because this place is our Father's house and our home. Smile for the camera, everybody.

Oh I miss Bonnie so much.

*this is not fake modesty here. I am truly terrible, and I feel truly terrible about it. :(

18 December 2012

Deck the blog

Oh, look, guys. Another bubble baby.

16 December 2012

Why is it that when I say "unmedicated" in my head it always sounds like "unmitigated"?

Funny article here, and it got me thinking about the time my doctor hustled into a prenatal checkup late. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting," she said. "I was at a delivery. First time mom, no drugs. She did it." "Oh, good for her," I said without thinking. But what did I mean by that? I did NOT mean that this newly delivered mother had achieved something better than she would have if there had been drugs involved. I do not believe that load of purest bull at all. What I meant was that I was glad that she knew. She knew she could do it. That was what she wanted: to know.

Childbirth is something one is either physically able to do or not, and a mother finds out into which category she falls when her child (each child, individually) is born. The unmedicated childbirth question is not who can and who can't (although we now usually have the luxury of providing some alternative to death or horrible maiming to those who fall into the "can't" category). The question some women want answered is, "If I'm someone who can, can I do it without asking for help?" It is not a question of physical strength but of will. It is a game of chicken, and as such it has a large component of silliness, and sometimes foolhardiness. It is as silly as being a strongman or climbing Mount Everest or running a marathon. Everyone knows those tasks are undertaken not in the service of humanity, but as a challenge to the one who undertakes them. Most of us are content never to make the effort. Those who are physically unable to do so would be unreasonable to think less of themselves for their physical incapacity.

The strongman or the Everest aspirant or the marathon trainer is certainly to be respected for his strength of will and the painful discipline to which it drives him. But at the same time, any of these trainers who cannot also laugh at himself a little and see that his goal has no inherent value is a bit uncentered. The lifter or climber or runner who becomes a bore on the topic is no stranger to any of us, and for those of us who must keep running in birth circles, the childbirth bore is every bit as familiar.

Perhaps the hippies will forgive me for pointing out that homebirth is a bit cheaty on this front. ;) At home, one can't ask for an epidural, or at least, one can't get it. One increases her chances of "succeeding" by eliminating the possibility that she could get any real help. A runner can always quit a marathon, and that is what makes it so hard. This is the only reason unmedicated childbirth has become a big deal (although making a virtue out of the hobby is a cherished and profitable endeavor). When there was no possibility of getting real help, it was no unique accomplishment to deliver a child without it. Now that there is, some women have proven that "the urge to perform feats of strength for no good reason is deeply embedded" not only "in the male psyche." 

So when a pregnant lady seeks to answer the question, "If I'm someone who can, can I do it without asking for help?" she faces another question also: "If I can do it without asking for help, can I maintain my perspective, recognize the accomplishment for exactly what it is and isn't, and not become as insufferable as my friend who's training for a marathon?"


PS--some of my best friends are training for marathons.

11 December 2012

Let's be clear about one thing.

Cleaning with vinegar makes your house smell like vinegar. Not prelapsarian freshness. Not naturally clean. Vinegar.

04 December 2012

Shut those selfish jerks down.

Step 1: Read

All families with fewer than three children should be combined such that all the children be placed under the care of one set of parents. The other set of parents will be released from parental obligation.

Larger families are able to use resources more efficiently via economies of scale. Children in large families naturally learn better to share, to be patient and delay gratification, and to make good use of their time and resources. They are more independent and better problem solvers and initiative-takers. They develop stronger internal motivation and work ethics. They are less spoiled and indulged. In large families, the children's individual skills are cultivated, valued, and called upon for authentic tasks; they are true assets to the family and derive from this a sense of organic responsibility. Large families are more diverse and the children benefit from contact with siblings who have different gifts and interests. Children of large families also have more opportunities to acquire sensitivity to and serve the wide variety of needs to which they are exposed.

The parents who are not given the care of the children will be better able to serve society since their interests will not be divided. They may wish to devote themselves entirely to their previous extra-familial duties, which will enable them to contribute more to society since their assets will not go toward an inefficient model of family maintenance. Alternatively, they could provide foster care to or adopt groups of three or more children. Perhaps, drawing on their (albeit inadequate) parental experience, they could also seek part-time employment in an auxiliary capacity or volunteer for a [proper] family.

Some families are simply too small to benefit society. It is selfish of both parents and children of such families to insist upon existing autonomously. This insistence is stubborn, greedy, unneighborly, and sentimental. Any families with fewer than three children who do not want to be restructured should have more children.

Step 2: Multiply all numbers by 10. Replace family with congregation, children with parishioners, parents with pastors, and society with Our Beloved Synod.

03 December 2012

"At least he's liturgical."

Sometime during my husband's excellent adventure/bogus journey through seminary, there was a panel discussion among a WELS pastor, an LCMS pastor, and an ELCA pastor. The WELS guy wore a sport coat and tie. The ELCA guy wore clerics with a sharp suit. The LCMS guy was the horrific hybrid of both we all know and love. I was a fly on the wall for some discussion of these telling facts and remember hearing someone say of the ELCA guy, "At least he's liturgical."

I am not so sure about this. It seems to me that a guy in clerics who chants the liturgy AND thinks it's fine for a chick to do the same because he doesn't think God really said thus and such is not on the side of the church or the liturgy or clerical dignity or any good and blessed thing. He is a burlesque of every good and blessed thing. He is not closer to being right and he is not at least a little bit on the right side. He is the lie that is so much stronger because it is mostly true.

Vestments and liturgy and ceremony originate rightly in Scripture, the holy catholic and apostolic Church, and humility; they prefigure the marriage feast of the Lamb. Where Scripture is interpreted through the whims of the world and the flesh and the devil, where the holy catholic and apostolic Church is mocked and defamed, vestments and liturgy and ceremony make a shameful parody of Jesus Christ and his holy Bride. It is a strange tradition which cherishes external forms while scrambling the substance from which they arose (cf American Christmas). In fact, scrambling the substance renders the forms merely accidental, and when the forms are accidental, phylacteries are broad and the borders of garments are enlarged and no room is too uppermost.

Please, church-resembling entities in the habit of choosing your own Bible adventure, stop being liturgical.

“If anyone saw you now, they’d think you were Aslan, the Great Lion, himself.”

Expert opinion

Here you may read a graciously sympathetic post from the Anchoress, who kindly takes the time to consider what the life of a mother of many young children is really like, and a vision for a program of care to such mothers. Also included is this link to a writing from a Roman Catholic mother who is upfront about a hard fact of perpetual parturition: it places extreme demands on a marriage (NFP or not), even a strong marriage, even a strong marriage between two people equally convicted about the catholic teaching on marriage. The writer told her husband,

The worst part is, I blame the Church. I blame the ban on birth control, the fact that NFP doesn’t work for us, the reality that I will never, ever have a chance to get a handle on things because I’m constantly pregnant or nursing. I can’t crawl out from under the pregnancy-and-postpartum rock because the rock follows me everywhere, just waiting to smash me again. Intellectually, I believe the Church. I understand the arguments against birth control. I agree with them, even. I just no longer think I’m a good enough person to follow the rules.

There are many reasons people use contraception, and no one understands them better than people who don't. I have no use for the faux-debaters who will bellow forever about binding consciences, the first and last refuge of the lazy Lutheran. The loyal opposition I DO respect is comprised of those who are honest enough to say: "The church might really be right about that, but we just can't do it. It's too hard." They're right. It IS too hard. :P

The Anchoress' vision is unlikely to become a systemic reality anywhere. It may happen in individual Roman Catholic parishes where someone with a "heart for that ministry" undertakes it. Much less will it happen in our Synod where anybody with more than four kids is a caricatured joke, the lowest of the evangelists and the blandest of persons. The Republican Party at Prayer will never stop secretly wanting us all to be Michele Bachmann (physically attractive, kid count in the high-reasonables, bonus good-personism, successful career, and of course "conservative"). I can only be thankful for the dear people in my parish who are kind to me and help me as they are able simply because we are sisters in Christ, not because they share an interest in my personal pious cause. Developing a fantasy about some kind of formal support system serves merely to depress; my recommendation is don't bother.

BUT--I will remember what this is like. When these years end for me, I will try to be the loving presence; the listening, understanding, forgiving ear; the willing hands for any young mother who needs them so much, who is so disrespected and alone, beginning with the mothers of any grandchildren God should see fit to grant me.