Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mr. Mom Chronicles 6

Resourceful or Wrong?

As Kathy is gone and she is the one who does homework with Eric, I have taken on that responsibility for this week. Among Eric's regular tasks is something called "Numerals" where a letter is assigned to sets of math equations. I assume that each student works at their own pace and advances through the sets which are assigned letters of the alphabet.

Currently Eric is on "K" which has added the equations 6+2, 2+6 and 9+9. In an earlier blog I noted how astonished I was at what Eric was learning in Kindergarten, but today I wondered seriously at whether or not Eric was really learning; hence the subtitle "Resourceful or Wrong?"

What I mean by that is that this particular homework task has a set of 80 math problems on the sheet, 40 on the top and 40 on the bottom. The idea is that the student is supposed to "practice" with the first 40 and then be timed to complete as many as possible, on the bottom 40, in a certain amount of time. What I noticed today, as we were working on his homework ahead of Wii time was that Eric was not necessarily memorizing the correct answers (the title of the worksheet is titled "Mastering Math Facts - Addition) as much as he was simply looking for a corresponding equation to fill in the appropriate answer.

What has me asking "Resourceful or Wrong?" is that part of me is glad that Eric is resourceful enough to look for the other equation so that he can fill in the correct answer, but where is the line between being resourceful and cheating; where is the line between learning and simply passing a test?

A few days ago I was amazed that my six year old was learning addition and today I began to wonder if he was simply fulfilling his part in some societal need to pass tests.

Am I just being an over-worrying parent or what?

Mr. Mom Chronicles 5

A day of rest and redemption is what I am hoping for today.

On the "rest" front, in just over a half an hour I hope to have Eric safely on the bus and headed for a morning of Kindergarten while I look to drink coffee, read some Brian McLaren and possibly doze off while doing so.

On the "redemption" front, I went a little overboard last night with Eric. You see, he has been a good phone conversationalist for some time and knows how to chat it up with grandparents or whichever parent happens to be out of town. So it came as a surprise last night when I handed the phone to Eric to talk to mommy and within sixty seconds he handed it back to me not once, but twice which caused me to probably look like some sort of monster in his eyes yelling WHY!!!! The second time his eyes watered up, and I could see his little body tremble and all of a sudden the bigger person in the room was not the six foot three two hundred plus person supposedly called "Dad".

Now I'm sure I could justify things by saying that I was up most of the previous night with a wracking cough and that we had just finished another very successful four hours of LOGOS and that I just didn't want to deal with anything else. But then again, he is my son and he was tired too and missing mommy and there is no way that he did it intentionally. And this morning when I apologized again, he said, "I think my ear was turning the phone off". Again, the bigger person in the room was just over three feet tall.

So this afternoon I hope to work on a little redemption with my son by helping Eric with his homework and then venturing into Lego Star Wars and Mario Kart and trying our hands at some Wii Sports.

Thanks to all of my friends, family and church-family who are concerned and prayerful that my persistent cough subsides and that I regain the patience to be a good dad over the next four days. I so appreciate all of your kind words and offers of help, all of which not only make me want to be a better dad, but a better pastor and person.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mr. Mom Chronicles 4

We survived day three without mom, but just barely. Thankfully Kathy had set something up with one of Eric's schoolmates for after school baby sitting so I was able to have a very productive day of prepping a draft of Sunday's sermon, prepping materials for this evening's LOGOS and putting together Sunday's bulletin. All that I was able to get done between dropping Eric at the bus stop at 8 a.m. and picking him up from the baby sitter at 4:45 p.m.

So what made it "just barely"? Well, the head cold that I have been struggling with moved to my chest and so I spent most of Tuesday, into the night and the wee hours of Wednesday morning hacking my way through some pretty intense coughing. That and Eric's time at the baby sitter was far from stellar but not too bad. Then when we got home, just about every half-hour he wanted to know when we were going to play the Wii when all I could think about was taking some nighttime cough medicine and going to bed.

Somehow, though, we managed to get through homework, dinner, a bath, Legos Star Wars and a story before bedtime so that I could settle in for a little TV and bed. Unfortunately, as I have said, I did spend most of last night coughing, so I'm a little groggy and not looking forward to day-4.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mr. Mom Chronicles 3

We got through the homework just fine. Eric is really enjoying math--addition in kindergarten blows me away as well as "sight words" for a six year-old is really quite something to me. But then again I may not be up to date on where kids should be educationally, but it still seems amazing to me and not just as the parent of a little boy who is doing addition and adding to his vocabulary.

And so we played Legos Star Wars on the Wii for about an hour. Eric is finally getting the hang of what it means to play these games and not just what he conceives as the goal of playing those games. So we were both happy as we played and enjoyed working together on the quests set before us by the Wii.

We also enjoyed a wonderful gathering of "Cooks Night Out"; a group of two-dozen or so church folks who gather once a month or so at local restaurants. We had a delightful dinner at a local Italian establishment. And throughout the two hour dinner and fellowship time Eric did a beautiful job of interacting with Jack Miller, Al Smutny and others. He really was the perfect little gentleman and so when we came home, no matter how tired I was feeling at the time we once again donned the Legos Star Wars personalities that we selected and fought the good fight for "the force".

All in all it really was quite a good day, even though we both dearly miss our wonderful and caring mother and wife--Kathy.

Mr. Mom Chronicles 2

Well I should have figured that after an afternoon long Wii-marathon that today's return to normalcy would be a little hard on Eric. You see, normally he has to do homework to earn Wii-time, but yesterday with mom being gone we just went Wii-crazy, so today after Eric thankfully had a "Green Light" day at school and with up to six inches of light fluffy snow on the ground I shouldn't have been surprised when I greeted Eric at school and he said, "Dad, I was thinking; we should play the Wii all afternoon until it warms up."

Well it hasn't warmed up, nor have I warmed up to the idea of doing homework so that we can return to the world of Wii, but I guess I'll have to put away my fuddy-duddy-daddy attitude and warm up to doing some "Rocket Math" "Sight Words" and other kindergarten homework so that Eric and I can fight another battle in Legos-Star Wars or race around the track one more time in Mario Kart. It really isn't that bad, I guess I just am getting a little tired of the snow and weeks-on-end of fog and greyness: basically the winter blues have me down.

So maybe a little work with my boy and some laughter with the Wii is just what I need, even if I'd rather curl up and take a nap.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mr. Mom Chronicles 1

Eric has settled into a meal of fish sticks, mac & cheese and corn on this wintry, snowy evening in southern Idaho. As it is a New Year, Kathy is on a new trip, this time to the much more temperate climate of San Antonio, Texas for the annual gathering of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE).

Eric and I have enjoyed an afternoon of deli sandwiches from Fred Meyer's and Sponge Bob Square Pants after worship. Worship, by the way, went beautifully as Darlene Annen, John Bonnett, Harry Geist, Ginny Riffle, and Ann Vogt gave five very different and moving testimonies as to what "The Year of the Bible" meant to them. It was truly a glorious and powerful morning of worship at FPC, Twin Falls; even with Eric well behaved in the pews with Judy & Doug Pollow.

So it was a joy this afternoon to come home and get ready for an afternoon Wii (Legos "Star Wars", Mario Kart, Wii Sports, and Wii Play have all been a part of our wintry mix of an afternoon. So, fortunately this has been a grand day of dad and Eric together, as mom has made her way--thankfully safe & sound--to Texas for the annual gathering of Presbyterian and other Church Educators.

May the rest of this week go so smoothly and gloriously.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Shack Night

Thank you to all of you who showed up last night at Pandora's in old-town Twin Falls for an "open conversation" on William Young's first novel, "The Shack." I hope you all had as much fun as I did discussing our reactions to God as Papa, Jesus as Jesus and the Holy Spirit as Sarayu. We also managed to touch on forgiveness, the quality of the book, God's "plan" and other topics. Mostly it was simply a joy to hear a group of two-dozen people doing theology in a space outside of the church.

After all, our world needs to see us (that is Christians) outside the safe and comforting walls of our churches once in a while, don't they? Otherwise those who are skeptical or downright hostile to Christianity can safely say what they want, because they just don't see us freely talking of God all that often. So, I don't know if there will be other opportunities for such discussions, you'll just have to let me know. But it really was a joy and a privilege to stand among you and wade into the waters of faith and mystery last night.


Monday, January 19, 2009

On the Eve of History

This 19th of January we sit on the eve of a tumultuous time in our nation's history. Whether you voted for Barack Obama or not, are there really that many people out there who want to see him fail? With our nation's economy teetering on the brink and with the world responding in extraordinary ways (like China passing a several hundred billion dollar stimulus package) are there really all that many people who wish for Obama to fail?

Of course, for success to happen we all have a lot to consider, don't we? It's kind of like a question I heard posed on one of the New Programs, that is: "To what are we going to recover to?" It is a deceptively simple question, but at it's heart is something really important. That is, do we recover to the conspicuous consumption of the last decade or do we recover to something more proportional? Do we recover to a world where, like Warren Buffet, the wealthy live in homes like the rest of us or do we recover to a world where the wealthy flaunt their circumstances and decisions in a way that make the rest of us feel lusy?

I don't know where this will all end, but I do know that we all have a lot of soul searching to do. We all have to ask ourselves; on the eve of history, as our nation once again passes the torch of leadership peacefully--who is it that we are becoming; who is it that we want to be? Who are we and where are we headed as a people and as a nation?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Beginning

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. -Genesis 1:1-2

In the beginning, God. It doesn't get much simpler than that, and not much more profound. While we can debate the "Origin of Species" (Darwin) or the "Intelligent Design" (contemporary Christian fundamentalism) what really at stake in these first lines of the Bible is whether or not we acknowledge God as the primary actor in all creation.

It really is, or should be a humbling thought that despite our advances in technology and rhetoric that God still stands as Creator-Father-Gracious Parent over all matter and all beings. The details, which we so enjoy poking eyes out over may matter, but what stands at the beginning and runs throughout the witness of Scripture and Time is God and God's desires for God's creation and creatures. Maybe if we began with that thought at the beginning of our discussions, conversations and debates over the Beginning then we would have a different outcome; would we not?

And maybe if we began our day or our daily tasks or our first listening opportunities with those whom we love and those with whom we come in contact throughout the day with the words "In the beginning, God" stuck somewhere deep and ever-present in our mind and heart; maybe then all the interactions we have throughout the day would be full of more of the Shalom of God instead of all the rest. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy Epiphany!

What, you don't know what Epiphany is? Well, in a nutshell, it is the holiday where we celebrate Jesus as King and God and Sacrifice, to quote the words to "We Three Kings" often misidentified as a Christmas Carol.

This day, always January 6th, is the day we commemorate the arrival of the "Wise Men from the East" who visit Jesus, the first gentiles in the Bible to "pay homage" to Jesus. They do so by bringing gifts of gold (to signify Jesus' royalty), frankincense (signifying his divine nature) and myrrh (foreshadowing Good Friday). And so when we sing of Jesus as King and God and Sacrifice we are really singing as well about the three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

So how will you honor Jesus as King, today? How will you follow our Servant-King this day?

And how will you carve out time from your busy schedule of tasks and expectations and procrastinations to bend the knee (literally or figuratively) and worship to Jesus as God?

And how will you follow the example of Jesus as Sacrifice; who so willingly gave of himself for others? Whom do you need to sacrifice for, today?

Happy Epiphany one and all!

Monday, January 5, 2009

John 15:12-14 "Love"

12"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. John 15:12-14

This is my commandment.... To Love One Another! What does that mean in the world in which we find ourselves? How is it that we, who follow Christ, are to respond to these words of our Savior in the midst of the geopolitical world in which we find ourselves?

Are Israel and Hamas bound to these words? Are Governor Blagoiavich and his appointee Mr. Burris bound to these words? Are President-Elect Obama and the financial wherewithal of this nation bound to these words? Are those of us who have wronged our spouses or children or family bound to these words? Are we who do not love as God has loved us bound to these words?

Is this not one of those New Testament passages that make us squirm as much as anything that we find in the Old Testament? I mean, at least for those who are uncomfortable with the Old Testament can claim that the blood and gore of the OT is much more "black and white" as the high standards to which God calls us in the New Testament, especially when we are commanded to LOVE others?!? Isn't that just Jesus' job?

Of course, we are asked to think about who it is that we are to love; especially when we remember that Jesus died for all of us, despite and in spite of who we are. So maybe, just maybe this passage is one of those that, when we follow it, will make us into the people whom God has created and called us to be. Just think on that a little while as you reread this daily-lectionary passage.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dances with Wolves

I was pleased to see, as I made my way through the on-screen TV guide that the 1990 classic "Dances with Wolves" was on the Country Music Channel. I was relived because, as a pastor I don't get to spend a lot of time with family during the Christmas, New Years, Epiphany Holidays and when I saw that Kevin Costner's masterpiece was on TV it was like, Wow, I can watch a piece of this movie with MY SON.

I say that because, in 1990 when "Dances with Wolves" came to the big screen I wen to see it with my dad and here I am, sitting in my living room and my son can't wait to see what happens when Kevin Costner first meets the "Indians" on the plains and here I am choking up with the memory of seeing it with my dad.

I don't know what the overall critical response is to "Dances with Wolves" but it is a movie that I love, if for nothing else than the memory of going to see it when it first came out on the big-screen with my father and now I am able to share some of that fatherly memory with my son, Eric.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Praying for Peace

God of the ages,
we watch the images,
we hear the words,
we see the articles,
and our hearts break,
our souls ache,
our words falter.
We yearn to respond,
to reach out to Israelis and Palestinians,
all our sisters and brothers.
Show us ways to show our care.
Guide leaders of nations and people
to break the cycles of violence;
to seek the ways of peace;
to do justice; and
to walk humbly with you.
We pray in Jesus’ name.

This prayer is offered by the Presbyterian Church in response to the violence coming our of Israel/Gaza. I pray that all of you fervently offer this prayer on behalf of the soldiers of the I.D.F. (Israeli Defense Forces) and those whom they are engaging in battle. May all whom are touched by the violence facing Gaza/Israel be granted the "Peace of Christ" as we move into this New Year.

Conflict in the Land of the Prince of Peace

What are we to say, as people of faith, about the ongoing violence in Gaza? Are we to say that any democracy is right? Are we to say that Israel is always in the right? Are we to say that Arabs are always wrong? How are we to respond to the news coming our of the land where Jesus was born?

This is the perfect storm for America's media outlets, isn't it? After all, aren't the Israelites always in the right and the Arabs/Palestinians always in the wrong? But when you think about it, even if the terrorists (read Hamas/Hezbollah) have perpetrated wrongs, how is it that Israel, through their vastly superior military are responding in a proportional way? I mean, how many rockets fired into Israel would it take to equal the FORCE shown by the Israeli "Defense" Forces when they drop so many tonnage on Gaza?

When will the rest of the world ask both sides to withdraw? When will we all not wonder aloud about the disproportionate response to rockets fired with fighter jets and satellite guided bombs? Are not both sides responsible for unjustified deaths? Are not both sides guilty of over-reacting? When will we say "Enough is Enough" to both Israel and their enemies?