God in the Pond

A Theology Thursday post.

Yesterday when I went to check on my next Moodle assignment for my Systematic Theology class, I was genuinely overjoyed to find that this was it:

Your church has asked you to teach a Bible instruction class to a group of 7th and 8th graders.  When you come to the doctrine of the Trinity, how will you approach the subject?  What will you say?  What will you not say?  What analogies will you use, if any, to clarify the doctrine?

Cover detail from A Priest's Tale by Lindsey Llewellyn

Cover detail from A Priest’s Tale by Lindsey Llewellyn

I know. I’m ridiculous. I mean, my heart actually leapt. Then, even though the post due date isn’t until next Wednesday, I went ahead and posted something today. Yeah, it was the first post up. What are you implying?

Look. It’s not like I think I figured out the secret of the Trinity and can now expound it in such a way that even the most skeptical skeptic will fall down in worship (of the Trinity! not me!), although I wish I had and could. It’s just that I’ve had a lot of time to mull it over, and talking about it seems to be what I do. Second theology class I took as an undergrad, I had a group assignment which was essentially, “Figure out how you would explain the Trinity to a Muslim,” and it’s been all Trinity all the time ever since. Three years after that I spent a big chunk of time trying in earnest to explain the Trinity to real Muslims. Then I tried my hand explaining it to atheists (which is trickier, because if you can’t even get past the existence of God issue, it’s hard to make sense of anything else), and now I work for a church and teach a confirmation class of–usually–eighth graders. So, maybe I don’t entirely know how to explain the Trinity, but I’ve sure had a lot of practice trying. I use different analogies for different audiences, but this (with some edits because I’m already blabbing on and on) is how I answered my assignment.

Trinity by Jeronimo Cosida

Or . . . you could look at it this way, I guess?

I get the idea that most of the youth of my church have absorbed some sort of impression that Jesus and God are different entities, even though ostensibly it is a Trinitarian church. So when I talk to them about the Trinity, my main goal is to get them to see how Jesus is one with God. Another relevant detail is that our church has a camp property in [Boondocks, New England]. It’s on a pond. This is what I usually say:

“How many of you have been to Camp? You know [Boondocks] Pond, then. You’ve been boating on it and swimming in it and stuff. Did you know that, in order for you to be able to do those things, someone has to take a water sample to a water testing plant so they can make sure the water’s safe?

“When the testing facility tests the little cup of water, they can tell everything they need to know about [Boondocks] Pond–even though it’s just a cup of water! When Jesus came to earth He was like [Boondocks] Pond in a cup. Everything that was true about God was true about Him. It’s why when, right before Jesus was going to die, and His disciple Philip said, ‘Jesus, show us the Father,’ Jesus was like, ‘Hello? See me? You’ve seen the Father.’ Jesus is God just as much as the Father is God. Jesus showed people everything they needed to know about God.

“Now, what about at camp in the mornings? You know how the mist rises off the pond? That’s still [Boondocks] Pond, too. That [Boondocks] Pond is a little like the Holy Spirit, because you breathe it in and it gets inside you. The Holy Spirit can live inside you, too. He isn’t you (sorry–no matter what you may think, you’re not God), just like the vaporised water of the pond isn’t you, but He can be in you.”

I prefer this analogy to the traditional ice-water-vapor analogy because all three “manifestations” of [Boondocks] Pond can exist simultaneously. I recognise, however, that there are some drawbacks. The analogy of the Holy Spirit is a little weak, in particular, I feel. (The Holy Spirit actually empowers us to live God’s way, where as inhaling water vapor is just sort of–passive on the part of both the vapor and the one inhaling it.)

I’m also aware that the personal element gets lost in this analogy. For seventh and eigth graders, however, I’m sort of okay with that. I think, given where most kids are intellectually at that stage, their hang-ups with Trinitarian ideas are going to be more spacially conceived than personally conceived. Although I haven’t tried this, I have a hunch it would work better to say, “Now, imagine [Boondocks] Pond has a personality . . . ” and “sci-fi-ing” it up from there, than to start talking about remembering God, knowing God and loving God (Augustine’s idea). Frankly, I’m not sure I even really understand that one–it sounds more like the progression of a relationship than “three persons” to me. Once I tried using CS Lewis’ construct about dimensions: we live in a spacially three-dimensional world but have “one-dimensional” personalities, whereas God, being more than we are, has a three-dimensional personality. But when I said that, some kid said, “So God’s got multiple personalities?”

I’m curious to see which forum gets the most dialogue going. What did I miss? Skeptical Skeptics? Describe your skepticism. True Believers? How would you explain the Trinity?

photo by Donna Dunn 2012

One way or another, reveling in the grandeur of God

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Look It Up

A Wordy Wednesdays post.

Once upon a time I took a lengthy career assessment test and met with a counselor to discuss it afterwards. I only remember one thing about the test itself, which is that every time “paid vacation” came up as an option in questions about my preferred priorities for the workplace, I selected that one. I also only remember one thing about the time with the counselor afterwards, and that was that in spite of the results of the test, this man was convinced I needed to be in a research job because secretly I loved research. He thought I was resistant to admitting this because my mother really does love research and I had issues with my mother. (At one time in my youth I did have issues with my mother, but I’m pretty sure I was basically over them by the time of this interaction. This is Exhibit G of why, though hypothetically I see the value of counseling as a profession, in reality I am very skeptical about it. At the time I was studying to go into that field, and this was one of a multitude of reasons why I quit.)

I hate research.

I am not lying–to you, to myself, to anyone. I tried to have an open mind about this counselor’s assessment and went into my then research projects with optimism, only to discover at the end that . . . I really hate research. I don’t mind writing up or acting on the results of the research (although sometimes I still drag my heels over that, too). I just don’t like conducting the research. If I could afford to hire research assistants for . . . everything . . . I would.

Unhappily for me, getting published requires research. Never mind the research I might have to do for any given story–if I want the story even to make it to the corner of the public eye, I have to search out likely publishers (someone who publishes only nonfiction books about, say, the workings of elevator shafts, is probably not going to look twice–or even once–at Favored One). Then I have to find out how they want to be approached. Some publishers don’t want to be approached by authors at all, but will only consider you if you’re mediated by an agent. Some publishers will accept query letters and/or proposals. You just don’t know until you research it.

In spite of my love/hate relationship with modern technology, I have to say this is one area where things have improved for the wanting-to-be-published Research Hater. It used to be that you would either have to fork over biggish bucks, or head over to the library, to find a copy of Fiction Writer’s Market or something like that. This is an enormous hardbound book with the approximate shelf-life of an Encyclopedia Britannica (What? You don’t know what that is either? Stop making me feel old!), and you’d have to wade through pages of super-tiny print and copy down the publishers’ details that interested you. Or you could use the photocopier, but I never had change on me. Sometimes the submission details were sketchy, so then you’d have to write to the publisher and request a catalogue so you could see what kinds of books they published in order to discern the likelihood of their publishing yours. Sometimes you also had to request submission details yourself.

Now, thanks to the ubiquitous Internet, publishing companies all have websites. Prominently on the website will be a listing of all their books, and descriptions thereof. Less prominently, but still somewhere if you’re willing to do a little digging, there will be a page that delineates their submission guidelines. I haven’t, um, researched this, but I suspect the less prominent the submission guidelines, the less friendly the publisher is to unagented work, but . . . I have nothing to back up this hypothesis.

The thing is, you have to carefully peruse the guidelines–of both agents and publishers. Some of them just want a query letter. Some want a query letter and the first three chapters of your manuscript. Some want a full-on proposal, complete with a book summary and then a summary of each individual chapter and some individual chapters. Some refuse hardcopy submissions, only wishing to be contacted by email. Some refuse emailed submissions, only wishing to be contacted by paper.

I prefer the email submissions. It ensures I actually submit, because it’s quick, my files are already right here on my computer, ready to attach, and besides, emailing doesn’t require a trip to Staples for a big manila envelope, or to the post office for stamps. Besides, my printer and my computer are not on speaking terms right now. Reworking the network connexion is a complicated and annoying hassle. Kind of like research.

from Stefani McCune

Pick one!

Prehumous

This post is brought to you by Memory Mondays.

You know those adults who make up your life’s scenery when you’re a kid? Most kids have some sort of parental figures (good or bad, they directly affect our lives by their presence or absence), and if we’re lucky we have a few other adults who take a positive interest in our lives and sort of help bring us up, and then there are other adults that are just sort of around, but you get used to having them there?

When I was eight, my family moved from Honduras to New England so my dad could plant a church. Everybody we knew when we first got here seemed to have something to do with churches, and I kind of lost track of where we knew everybody from, but one couple around my parents’ ages that were “around” from the very beginning of that time were Wally and Linda. Wally and Linda had, ultimately, eight kids, though I don’t think they had that many yet when we met them. Some of their girls were around my age. Sometimes we would play together. I didn’t really know Wally and Linda, but they were always really nice, they always talked to me, and they were kind of comforting people to have in the background. You know. You’re a kid. You kind of take adults for granted, but sometimes it’s nice to know they’re there. I wish, though, that I when I moved back to Massachusetts in my 30’s, I would have grown up enough to take them out of that category. They reached out to me a few times, but they were always my parents’ friends, and for some reason it never occurred to me they could be my friends, or mentors, or something, too.

Wally has cancer.

It’s not like my cancer was. Apart from a legit miracle, this cancer isn’t going anywhere, and he isn’t going to survive it. He just found out his chemo isn’t improving anything, so he opted to quit. Today, the church he is currently serving had a tribute service. They must have invited all of New England. The place was packed, and for over an hour, people shared their memories of this remarkable man. I thought, I could have learned so much from this couple. I also thought, People should do this for every good minister. I know, clergy don’t have a very good reputation anymore, but I come from a family of good ones, and grown up in circles of other good ones. And let me just say that church work? Can be a pretty thankless job.

Wally and Linda had some tough times, even before the cancer. I never knew specifics, but these “tough times” lasted for ages or kept coming back or something. Maybe both. They hung in there, though, and hung in there, and hung in there some more. I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of them not smiling. Still, as someone who has worked for churches on a lesser scale, I can’t imagine they didn’t have times where they wondered why on earth they were in this profession, and if it was doing any good and if anyone cared. I don’t really know how Wally felt, but as I walked into the church, from a parking lot away because the church parking lot was full, I myself got teary and wondered if he ever had any idea that he was important to this many people. And I thought how lovely it was that, this side of Heaven, he could find out.

The Joys of Shopping

courtesy ShutterstockThis post is brought to you by Family Fridays – defined loosely.

Here’s how great my husband is. A couple of Sundays ago, we each came home from our respective churches (we go to different ones) and he tossed a flier at me. “Here,” he said. “Do you want to go to this?”

This, it turned out, was some sort of couples-y, Valentine-y thing with food (yum!) and music (yay!) at his church on the Saturday night before Valentine’s Day. I’m kind of new to couples-y, Valentine-y things of any variety, and so part of me still sort of wants to show solidarity with my single friends and scoff at such goings on, but most of me thought, A date! With my husband! For Valentine’s! So I said I’d love to go.

Then a couple of days later, a little more tentatively, I said, “Um, if I can find one for under $40, can I have some money to buy a new dress?”

This is kind of a departure for me, too. When we went on our honeymoon last March, on the first day my Paul said, “Here, you want some spending money?” and thrust a few bills in my hand. This was our honeymoon and I knew we had to eat and stuff, but in my family of origin, we never bought anything on trips. We would just go to all these really cool places and see historical landmarks and window shop and then go home, having spent as little as possible. Pretty much the world was our museum. Look, don’t touch. The idea of accepting random money from someone, even if that someone was my new husband, was kind of a shock. I still basically adhere to the If possible, spend nothing, and the money you spend must be your own subconscious mantra of my birth family, but I don’t have a lot of dressy winter things and so I thought, just maybe it would be worth asking.

Last week, armed with $40, I went to some local shops and discovered . . . shopping isn’t what it used to be.

I would hereby like to blame the current styles. Frankly, I think I have great legs (so does my Paul); however, I am also now Middle Aged, and I just don’t think it’s appropriate to wear “skirts” that only just cover my posterior. And sheath dresses? Come on now. I’m sorry. Who has a stomach flat enough for sheath dresses?

Oh, except I used to be able to wear sheath dresses.

I went from store to store, grabbing things off racks one to two sizes larger than I’m accustomed to wearing, in hopes that something, somewhere would flatter my increasingly rectangular figure and bemoaning to myself the fact that I used to have a waist and, apparently, have one no longer. I wrote this post not even a year ago, and I have to admit to myself, “You’ve [gone] a long way, baby.” And no. I’m not having a baby. It just looks like it.

I drove home with the $40 still intact my my self-esteem completely shattered–and further devastated by the fact that not only did I no longer have a shape, but I also appeared to have turned into one of those women who go on and on about their glory days. How obnoxious. Let’s face it. I’ve always had a tiny pot belly. It’s just that . . . it was tiny before, and more easily disguised by shapewear.

I went home and unloaded my angst on my husband, who probably had been hoping to avoid all that by letting me do my shopping myself, but gamely endured the whinging and then looked up my BMI online so we could learn that there are still 72% of American women who are in worse shape than I am. I’m not sure I was exactly comforted (I don’t feel good about American obesity in general, either), but it was nice to know my husband still loves me. I was no longer convinced I’d find anything to spend the $40 on, but he also wasn’t about to take it back.

Then last weekend we went to Ocean State Job Lot and, on a whim, I ran down to the JC Penney at the end of the strip mall and tried something on. And took it home. It was $14. It was also a sheath dress.

The Pitch

This post is brought to you by Wordy Wednesdays. We’re still waiting to find out what that means.

One time I had the opportunity to pitch a novel to a publisher in person, and because it turned out we had some crazy (like, really crazy) connexions, he told me he really wanted to see my book. I pushed myself to finish it and send it to him, and never heard back.

I’m still trying to pitch the same book, but I feel like, although the book has gotten significantly better, my pitch has gotten worse. I finally broke down and forked over some money to Chuck Sambuchino to have a professional edit of my query letter, and it might be good that I went in and edited it immediately after receiving his response, without saving the original, because then I would feel obligated to post it here, and that would be embarrassing.

Mr Sambuchino’s methods for editing a query are . . . interesting. I’ve done some freelance editing myself in the past, and usually I would work with a Word document directly on the computer, using the Track Changes function. Admittedly, I occasionally had issues; before I had a Mac, sometimes people would send documents to my PC from their Macs, and then when I switched over, occasionally it turned out to be the other way around. Often there was a lot of reformatting on one end or the other before I could actually do my work so that the writer could see what I had edited. So the fact that Mr Sambuchino edits a query letter directly in the body of an email makes a lot of sense.

I guess it also probably makes sense that he doesn’t write his edits in other colours or fonts or in, say, bold, because then he’d have to keep turning on the alteration every time he wrote something.

So what he does instead is . . . yell at you.

My query came back in an email saying,

HI JENNIFER. SEE MY NOTES BELOW IN ALL CAPS. THANKS FOR REACHING OUT TO ME. PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF ANYTHING I SAID IS UNCLEAR. AND PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF I CAN DO ANY MORE EDITS FOR YOU.

THANKS AND GOOD LUCK! PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU FIND AN AGENT. I LOVE ALL SUCCESS STORIES.

THANKS
CHUCK

Nothing wrong with that. Very polite and professional–hopeful and encouraging, even–except that the caps kind of remind me of when Grandma M used to send emails and not notice that she left her caps-lock on. For an entire email. Then again, she also had cataracts, so the caps may have helped her. As, I guess, they help Mr Sambuchino–only differently.

It’s just that–and this isn’t his fault–I was already feeling uncertain and sometimes downright fragile about this letter (I haven’t even sent out the book yet!), so when we got to the end of my query and his in-text comments and he said,

THE PITCH IS DESIGNED TO EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENS IN THE BOOK. ALL WE KNOW ABOUT “FAVORED ONE” NOW IS THAT ADONAI VISITS MIRYAM AND ACCEPTS TO BEAR THE MESSIAH. THIS TELLS US NOTHING NEW; BUT YOUR BOOK PROMISES TO SHOW US A STORY WE’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE. SO WHAT HAVEN’T WE SEEN BEFORE? TELL US! YOU HAVE TO SHOW MORE PLOT (MOVE FASTER) AND TELL US WHAT HAPPENS IN THE BOOK. QUICKLY MENTION STORY BEATS OF WHAT WE ALREADY KNOW (THE MESSIAH, ETC.), BUT TRY TO SHINE LIGHT ON THE PARTS THAT WILL PROVE THE MOST UNIQUE AND INTERESTING BECAUSE WE *DIDN’T* KNOW THEM. MAKE SENSE?

. . . I wanted to curl up in the foetal position with a binky for a few minutes or something. (Stop shouting at me!)

Like this. Only moreso.

Like this. Only moreso.

I didn’t, because we were watching the last episode of Game of Thrones and the people in that show have way bigger problems (and usually far fewer clothes) than an actually helpful and constructive query letter edit is. Also because, as I thought about it a little more rationally later, I realised Mr Sambuchino was exactly right. That was when I discovered that, along with all the other issues attendant on pitching a genre-unclassifiable novel, blah blah blah, it’s also hard to write a synopsis highlighting the “differences” in a story that everybody knows or thinks they know. Obviously I left too many blank spots in my original pitch, but then again, I don’t want to dumb everything down to the point of insulting the publisher or agent to whom I am writing. How do I write a synopsis of plot that follows the Biblical trajectory and yet prove I’ve got something interesting and “different” to say?

So here, The Readership, is what I came up with. What questions do you have about Favored One, having read this? If you have successfully queried a book (or if, by some fortune, you are an agent or editor), what would you suggest to upgrade this query letter further before I start sending it out?

Dear [Publishing-Related-Person]:

When I read in your submission guidelines that you “are looking for is something artfully written: the way the story is told is as important – if not more so – than the plot itself,” it might be dramatic (and cliché) but probably not an exaggeration to say that my heart leapt. Favored One is my completed manuscript of a novel about Miryam, the mother of Yeshua (more commonly known as Mary and Jesus, respectively).

The story is familiar to many and comes loaded with preconceived ideas both from people who take the Biblical accounts of these two characters seriously, and from those who do not. This fictionalized account follows many of these preconceptions but challenges others. The Bible tells us certain details about the life of Yeshua, but little about his family. What it does tell us indicates that all was not perfect in the home of the Son of God. Favored One imagines how younger siblings reacted to a famous but controversial brother who abandoned the family carpentry business; what Miryam did while her oldest son was gallivanting about the Judean countryside; how she reacted to his choice of friends; what she really thought she meant in the first place when she told the angel who announced her unplanned pregnancy, “I am the servant of Adonai, may it be to me as you have said.” This book seeks to explore what might have been happening behind the scenes among the lesser known followers and detractors of Jesus, as well as what was happening in Miryam’s own mind as she watched her son grow into his role of “Savior.”

Favored One follows the basic trajectory of the Biblical accounts: the announcement of Yeshua’s birth to Miryam as a young woman, his birth, his baptism and ministry, his crucifixion, resurrection and return to his Father in Heaven. The difference in this telling (besides its not being considered Holy Writ—by anybody) is the voice of a mother—beginning as a young girl afraid even to be a mother, maturing to a middle aged woman deploring her son’s choices, and transforming into one of the first female disciples of her own surprising son.

I have a published children’s novel (Trees in the Pavement, Christian Focus Publications 2008) and freelance writing and editing experience. Favored One is my second book.

The Aftermath

This post is brought to you by Family Fridays – another variation on the Jenn stories.

I finally took our Christmas decorations down last Saturday.

I usually try to take them down the weekend of Epiphany, and sometimes even New Year’s Eve. When I was single with roommates and lived in a house with a deck far above the ground, I would undecorate the tree earlier that day, and then we would have a New Year’s Eve party with our friends, and at the stroke of midnight, hurl the dessicated thing off the deck, ostensibly into the woods behind the house, though it usually never made it that far and in the spring I’d have to go out and haul it back there.

This year? I was two weeks later than that little tradition. Which might have been okay, except that I also bought our cute little table-top tree, just the right size for our little table-top house, the day after Thanksgiving. Which was a week early last year. So I guess we got our money’s worth out of the thing. Only by the time I started taking decorations off of it last Saturday, the needles were pretty much being held on by nothing, and looked like this:

photo by jennwith2ns 2013

So much for “evergreen”

So then, when I would take an ornament off, the needles would slide right off with it:

photo by jennwith2ns 2013

It almost had a satisfying quality. Like bubble-wrap.

Shemp lay on his memory-foam dog bed in it usual spot next to the trunk where the tree stood, looking mournfully tolerant while the needles fell down around and on him, like rain.

photo by jennwith2ns 2013

Needling Shemp

I thought I got all the ornaments off before I carried the tree outside, devoid already of most of its needles, but as I opened the storm-door to the deck I heard a clunk and a clink and realised that the plaster Santa Claus on the plaster reindeer had become a casualty of my belated undecorating. It’s okay. I don’t even remember where I got that one, and I try only to have ornaments with stories. I trotted the Thing Formerly Known as a Tree off the deck and to the back where our burn-pile is, and then picked up the newly lamed Santa-reindeer combo and tossed it in the trash.

Now it was time to take all the other stuff down. You know those glass-ball ornaments that are very fine and fragile and full of pieces of potpourri? Well, there were two of those. One of them at least has accompanied me to every place I’ve lived and spent a Christmas since college, which is pretty miraculous, so I guess the fact that it met its demise last Saturday when I tried to take it off the curtain-rod finial on which it had been hanging, was still far greater longevity than I should have expected of it. But it was the prettier of the two, and its hanging-ribbon caught on the final curve of the finial, and yanked it out of my hand. It flew up in the air and fell straight back down, shattering with a decisive but disheartening pop, right next to where Shemp was lying.

He jumped up and out of the way immediately, and I, uttering a few curses totally unbefitting either Christmas or a seminary student, dragged out the vacuum cleaner. I mean, I was going to vacuum anyway. Half the tree was still in the house–all over the floor. But there’s always something anxiety producing about shattered glass, particularly when there are small children (which there weren’t) and animals (which there were and always are) about. Plus, I really liked that ornament–far more than the Santa one–and this seemed like a really stupid way to have broken it (though I’m not sure I can think of a not-stupid one).

I vacuumed and vacuumed, and apparently hadn’t done that since much after setting up the tree in the first place, because along with the piles of needles and shards of broken glass, there was about one full dog’s-worth of Shemp’s hair everywhere. I had to empty the Dyson canister three times, and our house is only 650 square feet. I know–it’s disgusting. Don’t tell me.

It’s a good thing no one was home while all this was going on. By the time my Paul and Alicia came home from the store, the ornaments and lights were boxed and stored, the garland was down and the floor was vacuumed. I was also done swearing. That was when Alicia started dropping stuff. Sometimes it’s just the day, I guess.

What’s your favourite Christmas (or other event–or nonevent) ornament? Why? When did you get it? Where did it come from?

The Good Book

This post is brought to you by Theology Thursdays – simply one variation of Jenn-story. Don’t worry. It’s just on Thursdays now.

Before my parents thought I was emotionally sturdy enough to handle watching Fiddler on the Roof, let alone both halves of it, when it aired on television on Thanksgiving and the night after, respectively, I was already able to quote songs and dialogue from it. My parents were right to shelter me from it for a while, too; when I finally did see the whole thing, I sobbed my eyes out–and loved it from the bottom of my heart. It probably helped, though, that they had been quoting Tevyeh for years before that. One of the best things about Tevyeh was his running monologue with God and his quotes from the Good Book. The line my parents always laughed about was when he starts telling God Himself what the Good Book says:

The Good Book says [pause, chuckle] . . . why should I tell YOU what the Good Book says?

The Good Book says . . . why should I tell YOU what the Good Book says?

Tonight a group of my classmates and I are going to be engaging in a debate about the Good Book. The Good Book including the bit that Tevyeh wouldn’t have acknowledged, where the Messiah has already appeared and stuff. Our class spans two campuses, and so last night our debate team had a conference call to talk about our arguments. We’re the first debaters in the class and some of us (such as myself), while we may have argued before, have never debated a day in our lives. To complicate things, some of us have to argue a position we don’t even hold. The students from the New England campus are arguing that the Bible, while it may have been inspired, wasn’t inspired in every detail, nor is it without error. The students from the D.C. campus are arguing a more orthodox view.

Interestingly and refreshingly perhaps, I am the only non-Latino white person in this group. One of our texts for class made this interesting observation:

. . . the African-American church tended rather reflexively to acknowledge and therefore submit to the Bible as the word of God. The debates over inerrancy largely played out in white American Christianity. It’s not that the African-American church took inerrancy lightly. On the contrary, African-American Christianity had such a firm sense of biblical authority that the challenges to inerrancy that flourished in many places on the American church landscape never even gained a hearing (Nichols & Brandt).

This is proving to be true in our group. One of the African-American women said, “I thought these were arguments from a long time ago–like, not more recently than the beginning of last century. I didn’t realise people were still talking about this today.”

White people: not the first ones to break the word of God

White people: not the first ones to break the word of God

Oh yes. We in the white church, not content to take anything at face value, particularly not something which we have so taken into our culture that we mistakenly think that thing is white, are definitely still talking about this. In Now Church, Pastor Ron and I would both say we believe the Bible–even that it’s God’s Word–but what we mean when we say that is something often entirely different from the other person’s meaning.

Our Latino brother in the group, who is helping to argue against the idea that the Bible has no mistakes in it, said last night, “I feel kind of guilty arguing from this perspective. Like–I feel bad even saying this stuff.” Which sentiment not only highlights his belief in the Bible as the exact Word of God, but also kind of exhibits why: if he, a mere human being, doesn’t want to say anything false, surely God Himself wouldn’t have spoken words of error.

As for me, well–I’m white, and I’m in a primarily white semi-liberal church, and I have “progressive” (that’s the new thing now, right–it’s not “emergent” anymore?) Christian blogging friends whose opinions and insights I value, and I’ve recently been in discussions about the nature of the Bible with some of these friends because, in spite of my new classmate’s surprise, for some of us, it is still a live topic. Tonight I will be arguing from these progressive friends’ perspectives, but I’m finding that, rather than feeling guilty for saying this stuff out loud, I’m feeling clarity. Somehow saying them with my mouth is highlighting to me that these arguments miss the mark in a lot of ways. I understand the critical thinking and quite often the genuine compassion that fuel these arguments against plenary inspiration and total inerrancy, but . . . I’m finding that bringing them into the light of day makes them look a little shabbier than they did when they were just batting around my head.

Wanna know why? Engage me in the comments. Debate me. I’m not very good at it, but it could be fun.

This might have happened. (Actually, you know what? I think it did.)

This might have happened. (Actually, you know what? I think it did.)

New Year, Newish Blog

See? It's basically blank. No resolutions. But there ARE some 4-leaf clovers for good luck.

See? It’s basically blank. No resolutions. But there ARE some 4-leaf clovers for good luck.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.

That’s why, when I made one in December, I had to think of something else to call it. Unfortunately, I never did manage. I didn’t manage to keep it, either. One resolution. That I wasn’t even calling a resolution. This is the actual reason I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Here is what I didn’t officially resolve–or actually do: I will send out one query letter a week until I get a publishing deal for Favored One.

I did, however, just this week, manage to write a query letter, and send it to Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest to edit for me. I’m already three weeks behind my initial goal, but you have to start somewhere. With interactions like this one, I just finally realised I wasn’t going to figure out how to pitch this book without disclaiming the whole thing away (and I actually do think it’s a good book) and therefore without some professional assistance. I’ll let you know what he says. Unless it’s soul-crushing. Then I just might not tell you anything for a long time.

Anyway, with one New Year’s non-resolution already unresolved, and with that whole thing about not believing in them, this is probably a really foolish time to start revamping the blog, but the Readership? Dear as you are and always will be, you are dwindling. And I miss hearing from you. Everybody who blogs and tweets and knows about these things says, “You know what will really get you a platform? Relationship building.” I like to think I’m pretty good at relationship building, but I’m pretty bad at asking questions, which is something They tell you to do to help build relationships–so bad that I usually don’t ask any, and when I do, hardly anybody’s around to answer them anymore. (Thank goodness for people like Wibble who just showed up here yesterday and started answering my rhetorical questions anyway.)

I’ve been thinking that the few of you who remain are going to start wandering off soon, because now I’m in seminary again and I’ll likely have even less time to write anything, but I could post what I’m thinking about various theological conundrums, since that’s what I’ll be working on anyway. Which then will probably reduce my Readership to one (I predict the Dutch Missouri-visitor, because he recently asked me if I blog anywhere else about theology). So I’m starting to wonder if, in spite of my resistance to the idea since, oh, 2007, I maybe need to have regular types of postings at regular intervals. Like–Theology Thursdays. Most of my classes will be on Thursdays. Theology is kind of going to be extra on my mind on those days–plus, I likely will have already written something theological for those days, so I can just post it (or something like it) here. And, if it’s Thursday and you hate theology, you’ll know to stay away from my blog that day, but that it’s safe to show up here at any other time. It’s a good plan, right?

But here’s the deal. I want to know what else (or what instead) you come here for? What do you want to read about? I don’t think I can blog more than three times a week, reasonably, with the other stuff going on, but I’d like to try to maintain a schedule of blogging at least that often. Family Fridays, in which I write amusing observations of family life or more charming stories of domestic mishaps? Saturday Snippets, in which I write slightly-longer-than-tweet-length random observations? Um . . . Writing Wednesdays, in which I confess yet again that I still haven’t sent out any query letters? Memory Mondays, in which I regale you with nostalgic tales of my childhood and well-spent youth? (Alliteration was the first literary technique I ever learned–at the age of five. Things stick, when you learn them that young.) Something else?

What do you want me to write? What do you want to read?

Welcome to the Crazy World

I have a confession to make: because they live halfway across the country and I rarely see them, I kind of forgot that I was supposed to be wondering when the new little baby in the BroFam was going to make his first appearance. We don’t even get to skype that often, so it’s not like I’ve seen pregnant Sister-in-Lu all that much or anything. Today TheBro called me at work and said,

“So I have a little baby lying on my chest.”

Oh!

This new little arrival doesn’t have a blog nickname yet, but he has an awesomely cool actual name . . . which TheBro probably doesn’t want me plastering on this here blog, so just take my word for it, okay?

Why do people say things like, “I’m an auntie again,” by the way? Or a grandma again, or whatever. When TWCN was born, I was all, “I have become an auntie!” But when Smiley Guy was born, I wasn’t like, “I have become an auntie again!” Because I was still an auntie from the last time. I don’t get the “again” thing because it’s not like I stopped being an auntie at some point in the meantime. But I could be persuaded to say I’m now extra-auntie, having a niece and two nephews. So I wrote on Facebook, “Auntie times 3! Welcome to the crazy world, [Little Guy]!”

Today I was going to blog (belatedly) about the fact that I arrived at the seminary dinner last week with my sketchily packaged cornbread, only to discover that the contest was off because of lack of participation. Except for one lady who bought baked beans and so won one of the prizes by default. (She might have won anyway, though. Those were some good baked beans.) Presumably I could also have entered my corn bread and won a prize, too, but . . . you know. I tucked the cornbread away in a corner, took it home after class (which was . . . astonishingly fun), and ate some for breakfast. Then Alicia came over and liked it so much she took the rest of it home with her.

I was going to write about that. But the New Nephew is way better.

Ohhh Lucy . . .

photo credit unknown. photo lifted from findagrave.com

Domestic goddess

If I am to be honest I would have to say that real, honest-to-goodness, that-kind-of-ludicrosity-could-only-happen-to-you-Jenn, Jenn stories have been kind of thin on the ground here at the Jenn Stories, lately. (Yes, I think I might have just made up ludicrosity.) There’ve been all these big ideas, and stuff about writing, and bragging (or just lazy posting of a free blog post) about mediocre blogging statistics, but not so many of those misadventures I promised you.

Well, sigh no more, Fans of Other People’s Faux Pas. Have I got a Jenn story for you.

Tonight, before my first class of my third attempt at a seminary education, there is a dinner for students and faculty and their spouses, and this dinner involves chili and cornbread contests. I signed up to bring cornbread. Five minutes ago, I sent the Centre Director an email running thus:

I am bringing cornbread tonight, but can it please NOT be entered in the contest? On account of I didn’t have time to buy cornmeal so it’s made from a mix, and also, I was having some oven issues today? Heh. Thanks.

If only it were as simple as that.

I feel like this guy and I have a bond, after all this.

I feel like this guy and I have bonded now…

Not having time to buy cornmeal was only the teeniest of tiny problems, although it was also true, and was a problem. But fortunately we did have a box of cornbread mix on hand already, so all was not lost. The oven issues, however, started last night when I was attempting to make quiche–and forgot to put a cookie sheet under the pie plate to catch the overflow. There was a lot of smoke.

There was so much smoke that I thought surely all the overflow that had overflowed onto the bottom of the oven would have burnt off after all that, and plus our stove is new (to us) and I wasn’t sure how to clean it apart from the self-cleaning option which I was pretty certain was going to take more time than I had. So this morning when it occurred to me that, limited time regardless, I would have more time to make cornbread before work than after it, I turned the oven on again and mixed up the box of Jiffy cornbread mix.

You know what? Jiffy is a good name for that company, because mixing that stuff up took less than 30 seconds, and baking it would have been pretty quick and painless, too, except that I was wrong about all the quiche leavings having burnt off the bottom of the oven. The oven, when I opened it, became completely obscured by the billowing, acrid eruption of smoke into the rest of the house, which proceeded to smell like the oven for most of the rest of the morning. I did not feel I could safely, or appetisingly, put cornbread in there, so after all that (which included two extended rounds of flapping a seed catalogue at the smoke alarm, opening the kitchen window, opening the kitchen door, and Shemp’s running outside to escape the madness), I turned the oven off. I wasn’t defeated though. I work in a church. Churches have kitchens. I cling-filmed that raw cornbread and threw it in the back seat of the car, along with my computer and purse and lunch.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m going to say the cornbread spilled out of the clingfilm and got on my computer or all over the backseat or something. It didn’t. It did slide over to one side of the pan, however, and get stuck to the clingfilm, so that even after I let it sit for a few hours to sort itself out, quite a bit of it still got lost when I took the clingfilm off. I baked it anyway.

Only–have you ever actually tried to cook anything in a church kitchen? It can be done, but usually the equipment is archaic and has idiosyncrasies which only the most frequent of church cooks knows how to navigate. I am not entirely sure what the church oven quirks are. The cornbread was not done in the middle when I took it out. It looked like probably the edges were, though. I left it in for another minute and a half, and was then afraid we might have a church-version of what had happened in my house this morning, so I took it out.

I guess it might be a little dense and not totally cooked, but it’s probably also going to be simultaneously dried out (i.e. really thick leather), because of course, since so much of the batter had stuck to the clingfilm, I had had to throw that piece out. Therefore, I had no clingfilm easily accessible. I unrolled about three paper towels and wrapped them around the bread in the pan. Now it looks like this:

photo by jennwith2ns 2013

Top

And this:

photo by jennwith2ns 2013

Bottom

It might still be edible.

There’s nothing like a first impression.