Tag Archives: Bible

Fiction Friday, On Saturday

This week my students read a couple of texts that are worthy of note: “The Women Men Don’t See” by Alice Bradley Sheldon and the Old Testament book of Job. I’m not saying they are both fiction, but we’re studying the bible as literature, so we discussed how Job is part of the wisdom literature tradition. I’m not really going to say much about Job, except for that it was interesting watching church kids really read that text and try to figure out why their ministers or youth ministers had never mentioned Elihu…

“The Women Men Don’t See” is a strange story that, at first, seems to be your run-of-the-mill adventure story where some folks get plane wrecked and some of them wander away to find water or help while some of them stay at camp just in case they might be rescued. However, this story gets stranger and more awkward as it progresses, because the two people who wander away to get water find some other folks out there in the wilderness. The man, Don, hurts his knee on a weird mangrove root, and then it appears as if he also gets stabbed by one of the other folks, though the way Sheldon describes the stabbing is much similar to the way she describes his knee pain, so I wasn’t sure if it was a new injury or the same, just inflamed. At any rate, Ruth, the woman who is also questing for water, makes friends with the others, who turn out to be aliens that look like tripods. The intriguing part of this is that Ruth can understand their alien language, but Don can’t. In the end, Ruth takes her daughter Althea and leaves with the aliens, dumbfounding Captain Esteban and Don and leaving them there by the plain wreckage. See, it’s weird.

My students had an amazing discussion about the way the women in the story are described throughout the story as aliens or others, so they weren’t bothered by the fact the women could understand the alien language. In fact, my students were interested in the ways in which that then turned the tables and marked the two men in the story as other. Since through the first two thirds of the story women are described as interchangeable (Don can’t remember one of his secretaries from another), Other (as opposed to men), or mundane (they behaved by the manual). Once Ruth meets the aliens, the men then become the Other; they can’t speak the language, nor can they understand the customs. And as such, the women leave the men. I was bothered by the fact that the women only ended up having partial agency, because they were able ot then step out of their “manual” interchangeable roles, but only by the empowering force of the aliens. The students loved the idea that language can help turn the tables. Still, the text was a good one, and we’re going to discuss it some more this week.  They did an excellent job of using the de Beauvoir theory to discuss the text as well; let’s see how they do with “The Cyborg Manifesto” this coming week.

Cultivate Joy: Part Two (St. Bernard)

I am slowly coming to realize that joy is not necessarily an outwardly expressed, chipper, I-am-so-happy-because-everything-is-fine type of feeling or attitude. Joy is an inwardly felt, deep, intense, I-am-so-connected-with-Jesus-I-can’t-help-but-feel-any-other-way-(at this moment)-and-I-can’t-help-but-share-this type of feeling or attitude. And, it seems as if everything I read about joy indicates that it’s cyclic. Of course, the goal is to be in a permanent state of joy, but because we have other human emotions, the permanence is varied depending upon the presence of those other emotions.

For example, according to an article by Sylvie Supper titled “Spiritual Joy in the Works of St. Bernard,” St. Bernard believed that joy is one of four inner movements. The other three are sadness, love, and fear (361). Supper quotes Bernard’s own writing: “If sadness follows fear, it brings despair. If joy comes after love, it brings laxness. Let joy then some after fear, for fear dreads what is to come, whereas joy finds happiness in what is present and possesses the object of a prudent security. Joy must therefore put fear to the test. And a tested fear is nothing but prudence. Sadness must follow joy, for whoever remembers sad things will embrace joyous things with moderation. Thus sadness must balance joy, and a balanced joy is nothing but moderation” (361-2). The part of this statement that resounds with me is this: “Joy must put fear to the test. [. . .] Sadness must follow joy, for whoever remembers sad things will embrace joyous things with moderation.” I find myself telling my students that bad things happens in order to help us recognize the beauty and grace that surrounds us every day, but St. Bernard says that remembering sadness will help us “embrace joyous things with moderation.” What that says to me is that if we remember sadness, we’ll realize that joy is temporary and subject to change. We won’t let ourselves be swept away by joy, but we will realize the beauty of that joy, because we remember the sadness we’ve experienced as well. On this earth we must recognize there will be highs and lows. We should expect them, and remember each to temper the other. Now I feel like I am talking in a circle: joy, sadness, joy again, sadness again.

In order to illustrate the various types or levels of joy, St. Bernard sets up an excellent metaphor involving drinking: a taste is the joy of God we can experience during life, drink is the joy that is experienced by the souls of the saints, and inebriation is the experience of joy at the resurrection of the body (364). In this life, we can only taste; we can’t become inebriated. He quotes Psalm 35: 9, but I think both 9 and 10 help to better explain this idea of the inebriation of joy: “Then my soul shall rejoice in the Lord, exulting in his deliverance. All my bones shall say, ‘O Lord, who is like you? You deliver the weak from those too strong for them, the weak and the needy from those who despoil them.'” It’s as if the speaker’s entire body is steeped in deliverance, and why would that not bring an intoxicating, inebriating joy? “All my bones shall say” I am filled with the joy of the Lord. How many times has my whole body said, “I am inebriated with you, Lord”? Not yet. Not here. St. Bernard, much like John Wesley from the last post, says that inebriating joy will come later, that it’s not this-worldly.

Jubilus cordis is “the very music of the heart,” which is only found when our hearts experience “the deepest and most intimate joy of the soul united with God” (366). This intimacy is given to us through the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, and it is felt as if from an intimate couple, such as two individuals who marry or who are deeply, intimately bound. Supper says that this intimacy “is a certain experience of God that communicates to the soul [God’s] sweetness and the joy of [God’s] presence” (366). This reminds me of the song “You Are So Good to Me” by Third Day. The chorus says, “You are beautiful my sweet, sweet song,” which seems like a version of this intimacy with Jesus that’s prevalent in Song of Songs.

Finally, Supper explains that though St. Bernard focuses on the inner workings of joy, joy cannot help but radiate our from us. We should have a desire to share our inner joy with others. So, for Bernard, as for Wesley, this inner attitude becomes an outward attitude. Something we just can’t help but share. I suppose first you have feel joyful inwardly, which is my difficulty. I’m not sure if I should expect this joy that can’t help but radiate to be a knock-me-down kind of joy, or just this occasional sweet, peaceful, sort of pukey feeling I get in my soul when everything seems to be right with God. I think it’s the second one, because it seems to be tempered with fear like in the first part of this post, but I also think St. Bernard thought it was the first one, too. Joy is subtle and joy is blatantly obvious. Basically, joy boils down to, again, a relationship with God. Joy is part of the fruit of that relationship. It’s a part of the fruit I wish I could taste more frequently. I want to be inebriated with joy. Here. Now. I don’t want to have to wait for it. I’m the Veruca Salt of the spiritual fruit: I want it now.

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Supper provides a nice little glossary of terms St. Bernard uses for joy:

  • gaudium: signifies all kinds of joy
  • laetitia and exsultatio: signify the exultation of those who have found God, opposite of bitterness; confiteor: the praise of whoever gives thanks to God
  • hilaris: one who gives joy, the radiation of the face
  • jucundus: someone who leads another to joy
  • congratulatio and congaudere: shared joy
  • alacritas: fervent and driving joy
  • delectare: delight found in resting in God
  • jubilus: the inner song of the soul united with God

Several Versions of Freedom and Whole 30 (Later)

I was supposed to spend today grading, but I decided to spend the day doing things I love, instead of the one thing I have to do that I don’t necessarily like to do. I started the day with a bike ride with a good friend and colleague. When we started riding, there was an almost non-existent mist that slowly turned into a full-on ice-cold rain. By the time we parted ways, we were drenched. We had great conversation and so much fun. It’s good to be adventurous, even if that only means two grown women riding bikes in the rain. Freedom.

After the bike ride, I took a nice, long, hot shower to warm up. I savored the warmth and the smell of my coconut body wash. Sometimes the smallest things make me smile. Mint shampoo and coconut body wash. Smiles. I won’t be needing the mint shampoo again any time soon, because I cut my hair.I just couldn’t take the fluff and stuff anymore, even though one of my high school students just told me on Friday that my hair was bad ass. I could be the queen of bad-assery, but it was also annoying, so the hair had to go. And, as another friend just commented on my Facebook page, maybe my this will “shave” a little time off my swimming laps! Freedom.

March 5: Mohawk

April 14: No Hair

After my hot shower, I put on some sweatpants and a sweatshirt and went out on the porch. I sat there watching the rain fall. I prayed the morning prayer for April 14 from Common Prayer. I read from Exodus where the Israelites are beginning to make the tabernacle in the desert and from Thessalonians: “We had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others […]. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.” (2:3-8) I love the last little bit there: sharing the gospel and our own selves.Is it freedom to share yourself?

Right there, early this morning, I was challenged to think about the ways in which I may share the gospel, but not necessarily share my own self.

I was forced to ask myself: how can you share the gospel and yourself?

I also spent a little time reading from Reluctant Pilgrim, and I ran across this passage, which so eloquently explains how I feel about communion, or the Eucharist: “I wish I could string together random beads of words to illustrate what it means to me to take Communion. Each time I walk up  the aisle to the communion servers, I always feel like I am walking up to meet Christ. And there’s a weird mixture of awkward embarrassment, longing, joy, relief, and anxious impatience swirling around my insides. I feel terribly unworthy, greedily hungry, and deeply grateful all at once.” Yes, that’s exactly how it is. Such a humbling experience. Tangible grace. Palpable peace. Freedom.

Throughout the day, I made guacamole and lemon-coconut chicken soup with kale, spent time with Bec grocery shopping, took a nap, and then cooked dinner. We had minimally-processed grass-fed sirloin steaks, broccoli and cauliflower, and salad. I had an Angry Orchard Ginger Hard Cider to drink, which wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t delicious. I give it a C. I love cooking the steaks on the grill, and we’ve been using nice hardwood charcoal in combination with some hickory wood, so the steaks taste like they’ve been cooked over a campfire. These steaks were particularly tender and juicy. Delicious.

Angry Orchard Ginger Cider

Yummy Din-Dins

Finally, I have decided to wait until school is out to try the Whole 30. I just can’t have the stress of no sugar and no alcohol on my body while I am in the most busy part of the school year. I know the end result will be much less stress on my body, but I’ve cut things out before and known the way it can fuck with your normal, every day bodily functions, and I don’t want to try to deal with all of that while grading, planning, and trying to discipline for the next to last month of school. I know it will be good for me, and I know my body will thank me once it’s cleansed, so I plan to spend the month of June detoxifying my body. I am hoping to lose another 40 pounds over the summer by eating amazingly well, organic, fresh, local, and all that. But I also hope to do two-a-days, running and swimming in the morning and in the evening. Not as punishment or even as “training,” but just for fun. I love using my body for the purposes it was intended for, and summer always seems to make me feel so much more alive. Freedom.

Lent Day 19: Well Just Like That

My spring break is over. I have never understood why Ball State’s spring break is the first full week of March, nor will I ever. It was mostly cold and yucky, and now this week it’s supposed to be in the 70s all week. My brother’s school doesn’t have spring break until the first week of April! I’m not complaining. I just don’t get it, nor will I ever.  Now, as far as I’m concerned, summer can’t get here fast enough.

I don’t really have anything to say today. Well, I have a lot to say, but I’m old, I’m tired, and I still have a lot of grading left to do before tomorrow. So instead of writing my own reflection, I’m going to send you over to my friend Kimberly’s site to read her post on baptism. It’s beautifully written and it touched my heart. Baptism is one of my biggest theological interests, so I was pleased to read such an interesting take on it. And, since I recently wrote about it, I was especially intrigued when I saw the title, “Beaches, Bikinis, and Baptism.” Seriously, go there. Read it. You won’t be sorry. And, while you’re there, nose around. There are too few women who write some decent feminist theology, or who share their specifically female spiritual thoughts. Not to knock you men out there, but sometimes women just have a different row to hoe. We sometimes need to speak to, and for, our own, as do you.

Lent Day 17: Nearing the Death of Little Blue

Today on my way to Anderson to meet my brother, I noticed that the temperature gauge on my dashboard was way up at the red line above the H. This compounds the problem that Little Blue’s engine has had recently. When I idle at a stop light or sign, the engine revs and slows, revs and slows, and I worry that my little car may just decide to stop right then and there, leaving me stranded wherever I am. I’m not afraid to have my car die in the street and have to walk, but for some reason I have become afraid of the idea of being car-less.

I forget that having a car is a privilege for me, not a necessity. I live less than two miles from my place of employment, and there are three different bus routes that go within a quarter of a mile of my house. Not having a car is not a hardship for me, but over the past couple of years, I have become accustomed to being able to go on small trips at my own will. I know I will get used to having no car again, but I also just bought my super cool Indiana Youth Group license plate, so having my car break down is a little heartbreaking.

On my way home from Anderson, I had to pull over at a gas station to let my car cool down before I could continue the trip home. I was sitting there feeling pretty sorry for myself about my car, when I decided to listen to my voice mails. A friend of mine had called to tell me that these reflections were meaningful for her this Lent, and I immediately began to think about how blessed I am, and about how for the first time in a while, I actually feel as if I am allowing God to use all of my gifts and talents. I am teaching English, which I love, and I am spending a considerable amount of time thinking about spirituality and theology, which fills me.

I live under no delusions, though. Just because my spiritual life has taken a drastic turn for the better within the past few weeks, I know that doesn’t mean that everything is coming up roses all the time. I know it doesn’t mean that every time I feel sad or doubtful, God will send an affirmation that I’m doing the right things. And, it doesn’t mean that everything will always work out the right way. But I know it does mean that I have a much better perspective about how to deal with adversity, or at least I am in a better head space. Being in this better place helps me have an assurance that God is with me.

I feel like Asaph in Psalm 73:

When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,

I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

This Psalm resonates with me in so many ways. I want to be continually in a place where I think the “earth has nothing I desire besides [God].” I want to be confident that “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” This sort of goes along with what I was saying yesterday, but it’s a bit different. This struggle of knowing I should desire God constantly is bound by my ability to do so, because I am human. I am bound by my body, by my place in culture, by the necessity to live in the world. My desire should be for the best for my neighbor and the best for my God. I mean, there’s a reason that Jesus said there are only really two commandments: “To love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” And, of course, these two commandments sum up my every struggle, everything I’ve ever written about here or anywhere else. How can we, bound by our earthly bodies, focus so heavily on entities outside of ourselves? To love God with our whole heart and to still have love left over for our neighbors as much as ourselves? Honestly, it wears me out. Sometimes it wears me out even to think about it, let alone do it. Peace.

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This is how I woke up today with a cat in my face:

Spazabella: The Disgruntled Cat

After morning prayer, I went downstairs for breakfast:

Bacon, Eggs, Strawberries, and Rooibos Tea with Raw Honey

I spent the rest of the day with my super-amazing little brother:

At BD's Mongolian Grill

We went shopping at Old Navy (again with the unethical practices), and I bought some smaller-size clothes, down two sizes from the last time I bought clothes there. We also went to TJ Maxx and Whole Foods. I can’t help myself. I love Whole Foods.