A snowless Christmas, the close of a weird year. On hope and entering my 40th year.

Baxter visiting the nursing home.

Baxter visiting the nursing home.

A year ago I was on my way to Wisconsin from St. Paul, MN (where I live) where my dad’s left foot was turning gangrene and he was facing a leg amputation. Life for for my parents as they knew it, with an existence together in the country house they built in 1989 on land we lived on since the early 70’s was ending… dad would leave on New Year’s Day and never come home again – the amputation being final enough that he can’t be without 24 hour care – and my parents existing solely on Social Security (while they constantly decry anything having to do with Obama or “socialized medicine”…).

It was an unexpected turn for them – my dad having onset dementia for a long time and my mom not knowing – he wasn’t getting the medical care he needed for years… and now my mom is in her mid 70’s is living her life alone at a house and property that is way too big for her to afford or maintain. She’s never been alone in her whole life. She’s stronger than she knows -but life is bitter for her now.

Dad is in good spirits – for the most part. He gets angry sometimes and has cursed the nurses out about the difficulties of getting him to the toilet. He’s mostly pleasant and has been spared the hardship of having to have his wife be his caretaker… She visits him most days of the week – and he has his own little room that we finally put some family pictures up this past weekend – after a whole year of sitting there with the ceiling light on and no decorations. I was glad to bring him a fake wreath from Target clearance, and a small 10$ pre-lit xmas tree with some ornaments i found at Walmart. It cheered the place right up.

Goodbye 2014. I had my own health stuff going on this year – i’m on better medication for my depression now, which has helped me with my focus, motivation, dispositon, overall mood, and hope for life. There were some months lost this year – and maybe in future seasons when I get a handle on what the heck did or didn’t happen there, i’ll tell the world more about it.

I’ll be graduating after like 7 years of seminary studies this next spring and trying to figure out how to begin paying off the largest mountain of student loans which give me frequent nightmares. I’ll be turning 40 too – in September, which I’m actually excited about.

We didn’t have snow in Wisconsin when I visited my parents for Christmas, this last week. Totally brown – even mild weather in the upper 40’s. Not a Christmassy feeling at all. My family is all fractured – there’s 5 of us kids and half us don’t speak to others and only 2 of the 5 have contact with my parents… blah blah, it just makes us normal, i guess, but it’s still sad that family Christmasses have seemed to come to a close. I’m an introvert, so mostly i don’t care. I’d rather read a book or walk the dog.

Happy to come back to MN where we got several inches of snow while I was gone and I’m observing the 12 days of Christmas with my pup and my lit tree.

God is good – not just because sometimes times are good. God is good. His mercies go on and on – and his faithfulness is great. My faithfulness, your faithfulness – isn’t so great. But God is good and I am thankful for the yuck and the brown and other things that happen to cause me to look up. Here’s to looking up. 🙂

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Faith And Science – Oil & Water, or Stew?

Hubble Mosaic of the Majestic Sombrero Galaxy

We only have 2 weeks, but i’m going for it, regardless.

In January, the confirmation ministry I help lead will be tackling the beginning discussions of faith and science. This has been a goal of mine for years but I’m so glad to serve a congregation where it’s easily possible.

We typically have 4 weeks to explore a non-catechism topic. This year, because Lent arrives so early, we have to cut things short.

In speaking with 2 of our presenters yesterday, I learned of an interesting and helpful metaphor in how people approach this topic.

1. CONFLICT – like oil & water

2. INDEPENDENCE – like apples and oranges

3. DIALOGUE – like a fruit salad

4. INTEGRATION – like a stew

One of the re-occurring themes i’m seeing in some of our students who have “completed” 4 years of confirmation is that the cultural beliefs that religion, and Christianity in particular, is a closed set of beliefs that is influenced only by dogma.

How do you think most teens today, even from mainline churches think about faith as it relates to science? My assumptions have proven wrong… many think they fall in the #1 or #2 section.

Even in a church that boasts a liberal and open viewpoint on almost all “social” issues, we still have students believing that we read the Bible literally. I’m learning that unless we expressly say something over and over, such as “we believe same-gender couples have the same rights to marriage and family as anyone else… and God blesses it,” or “You do not have to take Genesis 1-11 literally to be a faithful Christian…” we will have students who don’t know any better and even walk away from their Christian heritage, thinking they can’t leave behind their brains so they have to abandon God.

This is a helpful packet for youth workers who want to have some framework for dialogue and want to give students permission to think critically.