Personal

Personal reflections, comments about things I've been doing, etc.

Writing and Thinking - Fiona's First Day at Simon's Rock

There were times around the dinner table when my eldest daughter would say, “I think I feel a blog post coming”. It was the world they grew up in, a world where we talked about life, education, religion, politics, music, poetry, and grasshoppers. These discussions helped shape all of us.

Now, my daughters are scattered. The eldest is currently working a doctorate at Doshisha University in Japan. The middle is building a community of artists around Boston and the youngest has just started at Bard College at Simon’s Rock at the other end of the Massachusetts.

Besides the discussions around the dinner table, we have sought to give all our daughters educational opportunities to nurture and develop a lifelong love of learning. They have been brought up in families where this lifelong love of learning is multigenerational. It is in their DNA.

At the break of day Saturday morning, Kim, Fiona, and I set forth from our home in Connecticut. I am working on a Masters of Divinity degree from Church Divinity School of the Pacific. So, as my wife and youngest daughter mostly slept, as I listened to The Vocation of Anglican Theology by Ralph McMichael on my Kindle. What is theology? How important is it for theology to be systematic or critical? What makes a theology ‘Anglican’? How do we think about other forms of theology? Reformed? Roman Catholic? Eastern Orthodox?

It isn’t so much about learning new information. When did St. Augustine of Hippo live? it is about being transformed by what we learn. What will Fiona learn at Simon’s Rock? How will it change her? How am I being changed by my studies at CDSP?

We went through all the check-in processes and then started moving Fiona into her dorm. We had a great lunch together and then headed off to the opening convocation. The sky opened up pouring down tears of sadness as parents prepared to say goodbye to their children and tears of joy at the prospect of the adults these students would become.

The students went of to their first writing and thinking workshop and the adults stuck remained in the auditorium. I whispered to my wife that the kids would probably have a better time that we would. I suspect that many of these students are apples that have not fallen far from the tree and their parents would love writing and thinking workshop.

To my pleasant surprise, the adults were given the opportunity to do a little bit of a writing and thinking workshop themselves. I thought and wrote about education. I will need to write a paper about this for the Postmodern Christian Education class I’m taking this fall. What is my theology of Christian Education? My current teaching philosophy? My learning goals for the semester?

These are great questions. Some I have clear thoughts on, others are more vague. I am influenced by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. My thinking follows the shape of a rhizome; interconnected without a clear starting point or endpoint. My goal is transformation, and I’m open to being transformed into something unexpected. I hope my daughters are seeking similar transformations.

Later in the afternoon, we all returned to Fiona’s dorm to finish off the unpacking and say our goodbyes. Fiona spoke about a poem they read, which Miranda immediately recognized, Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day which ends asking,

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I look forward to seeing Fiona’s wild and precious life unfold at Simon’s Rock. It made me think of Robin Williams telling his students, Carpe Diem, Seize the Day. It is my hope that Fiona will seize the day at Simon’s Rock. It is my hope that Fiona will “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” as Thoreau says in Walden.

At the end of the day, (yes, another metaphor our schedule gave us), after we left Fiona at college, we headed off to visit my father in a nursing home. Much of his short-term memory is gone and he’s had a rough few days. We got there and one of my brothers was visiting with him. Despite his health issues, he was lucid and coherent. We had a pleasant discussion, often returning to the same topic. In the background there was another patient who simply repeated “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” from Cinderella. It had the feeling of a strange absurdist play being performed at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

On the way home, we received a text message from Fiona about “Air Traffic”. We didn’t have the context and weren’t sure what to make of it. We found out it was a reference to the book, “Air Traffic: A Memoir of Ambition and Manhood in America” by Gregory Pardlo.

It is hard to face our mortality, even if it comes simply in the reminder to seize the day. It can be harder to face the mortality of our parents, especially if our relationship with our parents is complicated, like Gregory Pardlo’s was with his father. Do I see Gregory’s father in my father? Do my daughters see Gregory’s father in me? These are perhaps some good questions for us all to think about but may also be beyond the scope of this blog.

This morning as I was preparing for church, Fiona messaged me asking my opinion about St. Augustine of Hippo. It is hard to go into details over Facebook Messenger, especially without knowing the context. I noted his important role in church history and his writings about grace. I am reading Christian Theology, An Introduction by Alister E. McGrath. McGrath focuses on Augustine’s view of grace, salvation, and original sin. He contrasts this to Pelagius in an either/or, black/white sort of way. It reflects a common view in Christianity that talks about Pelagianism as heresy. However, it seems like often both sides views are exaggerated. I think about the great quote from the Pope in Brother Sun, Sister Moon, “In our obsession of original sin, we too often forget original innocence”.

Fiona and I are also very interested in the Eastern Orthodox church and there is a lot we could explore on various Orthodox views of Augustine, but this is more than long enough already.

Now that my daughters are all off in different locations, I wonder to what extent we can have some of the old dinner discussions in longer form online posts. I am wondering if others want to join in.

What are you thinking? What are you writing about? What are your reactions to these thoughts?

What I Really Want for my Birthday

I’ve always been difficult to get gifts for. As a child, I always wanted something special, something I couldn’t describe or put a name on, and I was disappointed that I never got it. I grew accustomed to that disappointment and came to expect it on Christmas and my birthday. As an adult, I’ve generally not been one for possessions. If I need something badly enough, then I go out and get it. If I don’t need it that badly, in most cases I’d just as soon do without.

At times, I’ve gotten gifts that have been meaningful or have been something I really needed but hadn’t gotten around to getting. I’ve always appreciated these efforts of my loved ones.

However, this year is different. I have received so many great gifts over the past year. My wife has gotten a great new job that she likes and that makes a difference in the world. My eldest daughter got her Master’s Degree earlier this year and has started her Doctorate. My middle daughter is doing wonderful work to reconnect art to daily life. (Find out more and consider donating on the website for Miranda’s Hearth). My youngest daughter is in Thailand learning about rescuing and carrying for elephants. (Learn more at Loop Abroad). Big thanks to everyone who contributed to her fundraising to be able to afford this trip.

I too, have had a wonderful life changing experience this past year. I started seminary last fall and last month went out to my first summer intensive. I have met some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met in my life. At this time when we look at all that it messed up in the country and the world, the people I’ve met and my experiences at Church Divinity School of the Pacific have brought me great hope and joy.

So, what is left to desire for a birthday present? What I want is for each person reading this post to discover how they are called to help make the world a better place, whether it be through advocacy around prison reform, studies around the nature of gender, reconnecting art to daily life, learning how to better care for all of God’s creatures, or wherever my journey is taking me. What I want is for each person reading this post to feel some of the hope, love, and joy that has made this past year so special for me.

Thank you, everyone.

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit.

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. May Day. Happy Anniversary CHC. At the beginning of each month I try to find a little time to look forward to the coming month, remembering the childhood incantation for good luck, Rabbit, Rabbit Rabbit.

It looks like the day with start with rain but get nice out. I continue to plow away through my reading for school. I’ll be preaching this coming Sunday. I’ve got my final projects for New Testament and Christian History to complete. I’m starting to gear up for my summer classes.

My studies are going well and right now, as the semester winds down, they are taking up much of my focus and free time.

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit, Lion and Lamb

Another month starts; March. Does it come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, or is it the other way around? Does the old saying talk about weather, or something more? The current forecast is for a noreaster coming up the coast tomorrow.

I love a good storm. There is something beautiful, awesome, and yet terrifying about a storm. As long as we can watch the storm from safety, it can be great, but if we, or others are in danger, it can be a great concern.

Perhaps some of the same applies to our inner storms. May we all weather our inner storms during Lent as we examine ourselves and seek righteousness and justice as we prepare for the Lamb on Easter day at the beginning of April.

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. The Feast of St. Brigid.

O God, by whose grace your servant Brigid, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever. Amen.

Half way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, we celebrate the Feast of St. Brigid today and Candlemas, Groundhog’s Day, and my sister’s birthday tomorrow. Today is also the first of the month, so I start off with the monthly childhood wish for good luck, “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit”.

One old Celtic legend is that St. Brigid was the midwife to Mary when Jesus was born. Exactly how she went from Ireland to Israel is not usually explained in the legend. She is also known as the Patron Saint of Poets so perhaps we should think of her midwifery to Mary as metaphor.

It is a useful metaphor to think about. Who are you helping give birth to something and what are they giving birth to? Who is helping you in a similar manner and what are you giving birth to?

Recently, I got in to a discussion related to this and the idea of spiritual direction. It seems that for many of us, our discernment paths may feel more like we are in long painful labor with midwives assisting us than simply being told what we are supposed to do by a director.

I’m sure that people can spend a lot of time picking apart these metaphors, if that is what they choose, yet the questions remains, what are you giving birth to? Who is assisting you through this process? What are others around you giving birth to? How are you assisting them?

Happy St. Brigid’s Day.

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