Sunday, October 26, 2008


We had our annual "fall festival" at the church tonight (i.e. - our sterilized version of Halloween).  Here is Wyatt dressed as a pumpkin and myself as "an open book." ~Wes

Friday, October 24, 2008

Rowdy Cousins

Here's a riddle for you: When does my surname become Wyatt's playmate?

Answer: whenever Wyatt's cousin, Kendall, comes to town.

That has been the case yesterday and today.  My mom and her husband came down for the weekend, bringing my niece with them.  The result of their visit (today alone) has produced:
  • One billy goat eating corn out of Wyatt's and Kendall's hand
  • Six sample cups of apple cider consumed Wyatt
  • Two wonderful meals
  • Four donuts (three consumed by me)
  • Five dramatic falls requiring consolation from mom
  • One band-aid
  • Two stories (The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood)
  • Two paint jobs (a bathroom and a hallway)
  • One kid bottom brushing up against said paint 
  • Many "I almost bit someone's head off" moments by Anna
  • One trip to the Democratic headquarters leading to an encounter with a church member (to which she replied, "this is like being caught in a bar.")
  • One trip to the Court House (only to discover that Kentucky is the only state in the entire union where you cannot obtain an absentee ballot without written permission from your parents ... check.  Make that:  "only state or commonwealth ...")
  • One screwed up home accounting system and subsequent befuddled bookeeper
  • One bottle of wine
  • Two dark chocolate truffles from Donaldson's
And, to boot ... some great pictures of the orchard experience.


Thursday, October 23, 2008


This past Sunday, Wyatt rode his bike by himself for the first time.  I was so excited for him, I could hardly stand it.  Since then, I've been trying to think of ways to celebrate special events in the life of our family...I read somewhere that in Europe they have a 'red plate' tradition where the recipient of the celebration gets to use a special place setting at dinner.  I love that idea and think it would be a fun way to celebrate "firsts," special occasions, etc.  I just wish I would have thought of it on Sunday! 

In other news, my 29th birthday brought a very exciting addition to the art room in our house. Wes commissioned the following work space from a guy at church, and helped out when and where he could. It's perfect in that it's highly functional, streamlined, easily dismantled for portability (something to think about these days), and every part of it is adjustable to achieve a custom fit for whatever happens to be my project of choice for the month.  The desk itself is about 5 feet long, but the 'wing' where my sewing machine now sits can be attached anywhere on the desk, and eventually another could made for the other side, ends, etc.  As you can see, I'm already putting it to good use!  


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Professional Care

I had my six month check up today at the dentist, which afforded me plenty of time to think ... well, thinking is a relative term at the dentist.  It's hard to contemplate relativity or the general course of our nation's economic situation when the hygienist commands you methodically, "and spit," as he or she pauses for a moment only to delve back into your mouth with a miniature mirror and pick axe.  Yes, most of the time I simply think, "really this will end soon ... right?"  ... [several minutes of tongue gymnastics] ... "Please gums, just don't bleed" ... [crap, gums are bleeding] ... "Were you trained as a dentist or in the fine, persistent art of archaeological excavation?" ... [out comes the flouride football mouth guard with horrific suction device crammed into last remaining space] ... "I will do better at taking care of my teeth" ... 

But, the other thought that passed through my head many times today was this realization:  the dentist cares a great deal more about my teeth than I do.  Yikes.  This immediately put me in an uncomfortable position:  penitent nincompoop.  

As the dental hygienist methodically worked her way through the exam, I imagined her revulsion:  "Seriously, it's pretty simple, pal.  You wake up, walk to the bathroom, put a little toothpaste on a toothbrush and brush, brush, brush.  Do the same at lunch and dinner, and use some floss every once in a while.  We can train monkeys to do this."

And, if that wasn't bad enough, I knew she was just a minor minion in the hierarchy of blaming.  Soon to follow would be the dentist who would (in usual fashion) scald soberly and gravely, pointing out in detail what the hygienist already informed me of.  Isn't this some form of double jeopardy?  

They are right to call it an examination.  Inquisition may be more appropriate.

I think this is the closest thing in my life to going to confession.  The humiliation and embarrassment of committing wrongs and not doing enough good, the coaxing to attend more faithfully to healthy habits, the subtle, demeaning reminders to do better next time:  I'm paying the dentist to serve as my oral priest.

Which also makes me think ... anytime I (or you or we) start paying someone to overlook my own responsibility (whether it be dental hygiene or spiritual formation), I am stepping on a slippery slope.  It's very easy in our world to step right onto that dangerous place.  For it is the professionals now who have the knowledge and the know-how, the instruments and training, the classification and certificate to "attend" over us.  Besides, if we were interested in attending to our own health, where would we ever begin.  And, on top of that ... well, I am paying them.  And so it goes.

Anyhow, I've decided to start charging more for my pastoral services.  Maybe someone will wake up and realize that they're paying too much for something that they can exam themselves.


Sunday, October 05, 2008


I never completed my minor in chemistry.  I completed four classes in two years.  I have no idea how I got that far.  I think I wanted to prove that I could master something difficult once in my life.  But, when I finally realized that I would not become an expert in four years of undergraduate work, I left off the journey, deciding to replace the study of microscopic collisions for the more enjoyable and visceral collision of ball and pins at Alex Alleys on Friday afternoons.  Can you blame me?

I'll say this, though:  I have not stopped in any way trying to figure out how things work, how this affects that.  In fact, I'm back to the slow, methodical work of hypothesis and experimentation, of arduous note taking and occasional exam.  I want to learn the system, the system of relationships.  And the system teaches me this:  the laws of chemistry are an excellent basis for building a theory about God and humanity.  

There are three laws of chemistry particularly worth noting:
1.  In any system, conservation of energy is always sought.  Systems demand homeostasis.  This  is not damnable in itself, but is so given the second law ...
2. ... that all life includes friction and the dissolution of energy, what we call entropy.  Entropy acknowledges that without some kind of outside, generating force, things run down.  Because of entropy (i.e. - stress), all things begin to lock themselves up, which leads to the third law ...
3.  ... that even if a system has no generating source, it will resist becoming entirely inflexible ... that is, becoming frozen.  I would call this grace, that only by God's involvement do we resist becoming entirely frozen in the friction of our sins.

But what is really attracting my attention is how the basic assumption of chemistry - that reality is determined by how individual components react and are affected by one another - also holds true for human relationships.  I have been rereading Edwin H. Friedman's work Generation to Generation again, and he emphasizes this "systems" approach to life.  Friedman's work is particularly interested in how family systems influence pastoral work and relationships.  If you're looking for a foundational work on family systems, though, your best bet is probably The Eight Concepts of Bowen Theory by Roberta Gilbert.  Or, you can go right to the source and read Murray Bowen's Family Therapy in Clinical Practice.  Good luck with that.


Thursday, October 02, 2008


I'm listening to the debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden currently.  I have not yet decided if this is the epitome of comedy or just plain sad.  Sarah just gave an answer regarding sub-prime lending, but (here's what worries me) ... it's the answer I would have given.  

I'm thinking this has got to be very hard for Biden.  You know what it's like to try and play basketball with a third-grade kid while your friends are watching.  You know you've got to win, but you can't just pull out your "Peyton Manning" (what a great SNL sketch that was) and dominate like this.  

But, I digress. Here's the real debate ... which Vice Presidential Nominee has a greater opportunity to be parodied on Saturday Night Live?  Now, I know many think this is a no-brainer with Tina Fey already hitting a home run doing Palin.  What about, though, a brand new sketch involving the great "Sam the Eagle" playing Joe Biden?  Check this out.

You see.  There are some good opportunities here for voice-overs.  Come on -- now that's a good idea.  Even better:  for the next Vice Presidential debate ... let's have Tina Fey and Sam the Eagle do the debate as Palin and Biden.  

America.  Listen, to me.  It's high time we "do" entertainment and politics together.  It's the only thing we do well anymore.  We can't make anything.  We can't even keep our banks open.  But, listen to me, we can entertain the world and we can talk politics until the cows come back to roost.  Er, I mean, we can talk politics until we go red, white and blue in the face.  I mean ... do you feel me?  Let's hear you if you do.  Okay.  Alright.  Good.  Let's go.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Idiot

Here is a funny thing.  I love Dostoyevsky's works.  Well, that isn't quite the funny part.  The funny thing is that when I read his books, I really don't understand them until I'm probably two to three hundred pages into the book.  I didn't even comprehend Crime and Punishment until I read the last chapter!  Then it all fell into place, and I instantly loved it.

Not surprisingly, it has taken me a great deal of time to work my way into The Idiot.  In fact, I started The Idiot three years ago, got several hundred pages into it, then finally put it down because I was entirely lost.  Mostly, I couldn't keep up with the characters (the story introduces probably a dozen and a half characters in the first hundred pages, and each character has two or three different names).  

But, hearing someone else recently finished the book, I decided to give it a go again.  As I trudged into it, I was overtaken by vague remembrances - like I was walking through one of my childhood homes:  recalling bits and pieces, struggling to put the whole together again.  But, most of my memory was tied to one scene:  Prince Myshkin ("The Idiot") encounters a painting in a dark hallway.  It is the painting titled "Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb" by Hans Holbein, which is pictured here.

As Myshkin stares at this painting, an adversary (Rogozhin) declares that he likes looking at this very picture.  Myshkin responds:  "At that picture! ... At that picture!  Why, that picture might make some people lose their faith."

This line comes at a critical turn in The Idiot.  And in typical Dostoyevsky fashion, he uses art as an entry into theology.  

Dostoyevsky's writing - in total - is intent upon answering the questions posed by theology:  who is God, who are we, what do we have to do with one another?  Frequently, his characters are poised and created to answer those very questions, to determine who wins the conflict of life:  God or devil (anti-God).

Admittedly, then, it takes a certain type to enjoy Dostoyevsky, and not surprisingly many of his fans are pastors.  In fact, my search for the title of this painting also led me to a sermon given by a pastor in Wales during Holy Week, which you can find here.  The sermon has some wonderful quotes, including a classic one by Brueggemann.