Ch-ch-changes

In one month, I start law school. This means that everything in my life, including this blog, is going through some changes (don’t worry, posting will remain as infrequent as ever, ha). I’m moving from a duplex to a room, from a small town to a mid-sized city, from a nine to five to the grueling schedule of an L1. It’s going to be a different life.

So I got a new planner.

I love planners. I love writing everything down in neat boxes and pretending that the color coding will stave off the chaos of life. I like keeping relevant information in a central place. I like feeling in control of my life.

My go-to planner is the Passion Planner, calendar year, compact size. It took me years to find a planner that met all of my needs, and the Passion Planner is it–it features both month and week views, days are divided into half hour increments from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm, there is space for task lists and notes, and the entire planner is focused around goal setting and achievement. It is the best planner I have ever used.

But a calendar year, compact planner is not going to cut it during my first year of law school. It’s time to bring out the big guns. So I ordered an academic Passion Planner in the classic size (8.5″x11″). Same great organization, more room to plug in my syllabi.

My new planner arrived yesterday, and I spent two hours in a cafe with the planner and my multi-colored pens and highlighters. I may be nervous about law school, but my planner is ready.

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God is…Wrath?

Emails have a tendency to accumulate. I am on email lists for stores I only sometimes visit and organizations I am no longer a part of. This week, I received an email from a church I haven’t attended in some time, describing a new class they will hold over the summer. I usually move such messages to trash without reading them, but I opened this one on a whim.

The class is set to cover a topic that was drilled into me during my childhood. The title is “Accepting the ANGER of God” [sic]. In keeping with the habits of this religious tradition, the verdict is stated before the study begins:  “The reasoned conclusion is that the anger of the Almighty is really a demonstration of the Almighty’s holy love!”

Wait, what? Continue reading

Libraries Cultivate Community; or, Please Vote on Tuesday

[This post ended up much longer than I intended, and a bit more blustery. But libraries are important. Living in a city that values knowledge and community is important. Searcy only has one used bookstore, and no independent or chain stores for new books. Our current library was built in 1966 and hasn’t been updated since. Those things say a lot about our town’s priorities.]

I grew up in a solidly middle-class family. I never had to forgo basic needs, and, to be honest, I was spoiled. But there is no way my parents could have supported my reading habit were it not for the local library. The library fed my intellectual hunger and allowed me to learn about whatever interested me (at times horses, folklore, space, and archaeology, among other things).

For some people, the library is all the access they have to books. For some, the library is the only place they have access to the internet and its many search engines, which many people argue should take the place of libraries (they forget that not everyone is privileged enough to afford internet capable electronics).

Access to books is important. But libraries are more than books. Libraries are places of community engagement and learning. When a library is properly funded and staffed, it can be one of the most valuable assets a community has. Continue reading

Resurrection Sunday

Why do you seek the living among the dead?

On Sunday, the women went to the tomb. The women who had followed Jesus around the country, had invited him into their homes, had financially supported his ministry, were now approaching his grave for the final hospitality:  spices in hand, they went to anoint the corpse of their teacher.

But he wasn’t there. Only angels in dazzling robes, informing the women that their ointments would not be needed.

Were our hearts not burning within us?

Two men walked the seven-mile stretch to Emmaus, their hearts heavy with the events of the weekend. Friday had come with the bleakest disappointment:  the one they had believed would redeem Israel was executed, and their hopes died with him.

But they met a stranger on the road who accepted their invitation to break bread, and his blessing opened their eyes.

My Lord and my God!

The other disciples claimed to have seen him, but stress does strange things to one’s mind, and even if they saw someone, it never takes much guile to trick a person into seeing what they want to believe. Thomas was skeptical.

But his master appeared and was solid and real and alive.

I have seen the Lord!

The story of the resurrection is the story of hope penetrating disappointment. It is the assurance of not only the power of God, but of the willingness of God as well. And it is a reminder that even when God is clearly visible, our expectations sometimes cloud our recognition.

Demonstrating Love

I attended my first demonstration Sunday.

I’ve never really considered myself a demonstrator — It’s always been my opinion that most of the attendants of any given demonstration want to feel as though they are doing something without actually doing anything. I still think that, really. And I don’t want to march, pat myself on the back, and not do anything productive for the causes I care about.

But lately, I’ve started wondering if the show of solidarity is by itself worth marching for. I’ve been reading Rev. King’s speeches lately, and he seems to see a purpose to marches. King was certainly more wise than I am. So I started rethinking. All the ugliness that we’ve swept under the rug is crawling back out, and perhaps the act of showing up is worth something.  The ban imposed by the new management’s executive order is xenophobic, illogical, and wrong. But so many people in our country hold a deep fear of otherness. I needed to show solidarity with the Muslim community here, let them know that there are people who care about them, even here in a deep red state. I needed my representatives to know the same thing.

So I went to a demonstration Sunday.

I went alone–drove an hour to the city, parked half an hour away from the State Capitol so that I’d have a nice walk back to think things over (and, let’s be honest, I knew there would be free parking in that lot), and walked to the rally.

It was an interesting experience. I didn’t have a sign, but there were several poignant and witty signs present. There were several speakers:  immigrants, children of immigrants, leaders of the religious communities in town (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity were all represented), and state representatives. We chanted (“Tell me what democracy looks like.” “This is what democracy looks like!”). People sang “We Are the World.” There were some friendly dogs.

It was nice.

I’m still mulling it all over. I can’t vouch for the efficacy of my presence there, or of the demonstration as a whole. I’m not sure if productivity is the point, though, so much as emotional uplifting. I don’t know if I will attend more demonstrations in the future, but I am glad I went to this one. Regardless of whether I attend rallies and marches, though, I will continue my civic involvement:  volunteering, donating, attending civic events, and calling my reps. Perhaps we need a balance of productive and emotional involvement.

Do you march? What do you think it brings to the table? In what other ways are you involved in your community?

New Year, Same World

I’ve seen many people express the sentiment that if we can just make it a few more days, just pull through past midnight on December 31st and bring in the new year, everything will be better. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t reset  when the calendar does. And I must admit that I’m not optimistic about 2017–we’ll be in a world in which many of our artistic heroes have died, and many major nations of the world are in the throes of nationalist and populist movements (not to mention the world leaders/leaders elect flexing their political muscles just because they can).

More than ever, we need good people. Continue reading

Holy Night

The religious tradition in which I grew up emphasizes the omnipresence of God. We focus on the existence of the holy within the vulgarities of everyday existence. Our attention stays on the God who became flesh and dwelt among us, God incarnate in a feeding trough, God touching lepers and sinners alike. While I believe this is an accurate portrayal, I don’t know that it is a complete one. I think that we focus so much on his existence in small things that we neglect his holiness. And forgetting the sacredness of the Almighty God is to see him as smaller than he is.

On Christmas Eve, I went with some others in my church family to a candlelight service hosted by a congregation of another tradition. The service was a good reminder of the balance between approachability and set-apartedness of God. 

I seek that balance, and I haven’t found it yet. It is difficult for me to hold both aspects in mind at the same time. How do you reconcile a creator whose glory is so great that one cannot see it without dying with a savior who reaches out and touches people? Logically, I grasp it, but in my devotion, I tend to wobble, sometimes focusing on one, sometimes on the other. My worship is a constant cycle of evaluation and adjustment, an intensely human endeavor.

Christmas encapsulates this duality of the nature of God. The miracle of the virgin birth, complete with angels and stars and magi (oh, my!) is juxtaposed with the housing of Christ in a stable, complete with animal slobber and feces. Both aspects–the holy and the inclusive–are married in this story. This is the facet of Christmas that stands out to me, and the part that I hope to carry into the new year.

What is your favorite perspective on the Christmas story?