Sunday, March 1, 2015

To Bee or Not To Bee...? (A Theological Question)

Having been deeply involved for most of my life in a religious tradition most people would probably classify as "hyperspiritual," I have made it a point these last few years to try to examine spiritual phenomena through as objective and reasonable a lens as possible. Now engaged in studying History, I found one of this week's lessons particularly interesting. It was an excerpt from Laurie Winn Carlson's book A Fever in Salem, in which she hypothesizes that the physical complaints prevalent during the Salem Witch Trials were plausibly caused by an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica. She goes so far as to list side-by-side the symptoms from the trial documents with those of a 1930s encephalitis epidemic. Allowing for discrepancies in terminology, it seems the manifestations of the symptoms would have looked the same. Here is a duplication of Carlson's list:

1692 SALEM                      1916-1930s ENCEPHALITIS EPIDEMIC
fits                                        convulsions
          spectral visions                    hallucinations
mental "distraction"             psychoses
pinching, pricking                myoclonus of small muscle bundles on skin surface
"bites"                                  erythmata on skin surface, capillary hemorrhaging
eyes twisted                         oculogyric crises: gaze fixed upward, downward, to side 
inability to walk                   paresis: partial paralysis
neck twisted                         torticollis: spasm of neck muscles forces head to one side
repeating nonsense words    palilalia: repitition of one's own words
Whether Ms. Carlson's suspicions were correct, I do not know. But I do know that because of scientific discoveries, people's interpretations of "inexplicable" events change over time (as explanations become accessible). This knowledge caused me (a while back) to begin questioning what I had always taken for granted to be true about the (hyper)spiritual world. I began to question the validity of demon possession, and even instances of supernatural revelation (i.e., God "speaking" to someone, which claim so often leads to...um...let's say "non-positive" ends...).

WHERE THE BEES COME IN...

In one of my undergraduate courses, our professor had previously been a missionary in the Philippines for a while. He told of an individual who used to roam the streets there, crying out that bees (which were visible to no one but himself) were stinging him. But here is the clincher: he had visible stings.

Upon hearing this story, half (or most?) of me believed it an obvious proof of demonic activity. Another part of me wondered if the marks on his body were psychosomatic manifestations of whatever mental illness the man was experiencing. (Now I wonder if he might have had encephalitis too!) I guess I'll never know.

ON THE SWEETER SIDE OF THE HONEYCOMB...

Yesterday on Facebook, a very good friend of mine who, with her husband and two children recently moved to Hawaii where her husband is now the pastor of a church, posted this:
So thankful to the Lord for his protection our house caught fire last night while sleeping her a popping noise woke up and looked out window and back end of house was on fire . This is where [Daughter's] room is located [Husband] ran to put the fire out and I ran to get [Daughter] her room was filling with smoke got her out thanks to a helpful neighbor and then went to get [Son] he wouldn't wake up his room was full of smoke started dragging him down the hall he woke up then and got ou...t. I'm so thankful I know the Lord woke me up if not within a minute or two [Daughter's] room would of been engulfed as I got her out within a minute her window blew out. Thankful the Lord gave me 2 verses to pray yesterday over my kids and I told [Husband] the verses. My mom calls this morning telling me she felt a spirit of Death and the Lord gave her the Exact two verses to pray yesterday over her family. Thankful for my God!!
In a comment underneath, she later wrote:
Thankyou all for the sweet comments our pool pump caught on fire which is connected to the house. [...]the verses the Lord gave me yesterday were For he has given his angels charge over thee and in thy pathway is life no death. Also No evil will befall me neither shall any plaque come near my dwelling. I thought it was odd to pray over my children at the time but I did and laying here this morning the Lord reminded me of praying this and then my mom calls I don't tell her the scriptures and the exact two the Lord had her pray yesterday over her family. God had his hand on our kids and I'm so thankful. 
Things like this...just completely do a number on all my reason and objectivity. I KNOW these people; they are my very dear friends, with whom I have worked, spent holidays, and all but lived. I have known things like this to happen with them before (the freaky "knowing" part). I have known it to happen with other close church friends, too, just somehow "knowing" things, usually during times when they were in prayer. Yeah, you can chalk it up to intuition, I guess...but does intuition span so many miles...? Is it always so accurate...? What is intuition anyway?!

I don't know. I just can't explain it all away! I guess this is why, despite my changing beliefs about Jesus' mission and message, God's will and Being, and a host of other things, I still consider myself "Pentecostal". I still believe in the (not-so-hyper)spiritual. I still believe in the Holy Spirit.

Do you have any explanations or experiences you would like to share? Please do!
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Coming Out, and Coming Into Myself

A couple of my Facebook friends shared this article yesterday, wherein Matt Moore describes how for years he plead with God to make him straight. Though I do not affirm his moral conclusions on the matter, I think it is a thoughtful post, and in fact quite gracious (from a Conservative viewpoint) to those who may be in the Church and experiencing same-sex attraction - it doesn't discount it or degrade them for their plight. Moore concluded, however, that his prayers to God were based not on a desire to be "right" with God, but on a desire to "fit in" or be found acceptable to other Christians. He cites the Romans 1:18-26 anti-homosexuality clobber text and states,
"Homosexual desire – and all other sinful desire — exists in the hearts of people because worship of God doesn't. ...So why didn't God answer my prayer to rid me of my homosexual desires? Because homosexual desires were not my main problem. They were a problem, for sure. But the root of my problem was that I didn't love God or worship Him, and my homosexual desires were just fruit of that, so to speak. God's desire was to fix the root of my issues."
He says a few more things and then this:
"Am I now straight? Am I now normal? Am I now free from same sex desires and attracted solely to women?
No, no and no. ...
But even now, in this messed up damaged flesh, I have experienced some change in my sexuality over the past four years. I can't deny that. And the shifting in my sexual desires is a direct result of my grace-given love for God. I've grown in my disgust of homosexual relations because I see what a twisting and perversion it is of the image of God. And I've grown in my desire for women (specifically, one woman.… I wrote about it here), and maybe even in my desire for marriage, because I see how a one man + one woman marital covenant so beautifully reflects the image of God."

I love it that Moore is so honest in relating his very real experience of same-sex attraction, and his desire to please God is obvious. I don't know Moore or anything about him. But as I read the last paragraph I quoted above, especially his language in the lines I bold-faced, I saw a young man whose psyche has been covered with the fingerprints of well-meaning(?) Christians intent on helping him to see the "truth" of their interpretation of Scripture. Maybe I'm wrong...? But I don't think so.

I've got my own experience to go on.

I loved God. I worshiped him. As a teenager I wore skirts to school and carried my King James Version with me all day to all of my classes, in case I got a few minutes to read it here and there. In fact, I read through the entire thing in study hall one year. It wasn't because I was "cool" for doing these things (believe me!! lol), but because I couldn't get enough of God's Word, and the skirts...well, I was taught that was what God required of me, so I did it.

As a teenager, I spent my free time listening to Jimmy Swaggart's radio station, finding church services in the area to attend as many nights of the week as possible, praying, and fasting.

Oh, and begging, begging, BEGGING God to take away "unhealthy" sexual desires and habits. Not because anyone knew about them, or because they made me not "fit in," but because I believed they were displeasing to God, and wanted MORE THAN ANYTHING to please God. I LOVED Him. I believed I could really, truly know intimacy with God, and I absolutely sought it. It was not shallow or part-time for me: it was everything my life existed for.

But...those desires and habits and nagging feelings did not ever go away. In fact, I was almost always a little more physically attracted to women than men. And I was definitely always more emotionally attracted to women. But I chose not to think about it. I told myself I was just longing for a best friend, not a girlfriend. And honestly, yes, there were two or three guys I was really interested in dating during my time. But nothing ever happened with any of them. I never had a relationship before the one I am in now, with a woman, that started a little over a year ago (when I was 31!), and that just happened.

When I entered my current relationship, I felt like several people felt like I had deceived them, and covered up my sexual orientation. It simply is not the truth. I had never admitted it to myself. But now I can't believe I never did. It was simply a fact that was there all along, but I was conditioned to believe it was not possible that someone could be attracted to the same sex without being possessed by a demon. So I never allowed myself to believe I was LGBT.

I haven't said a lot about my experience in this last year - I have been thinking about it and finally looking honestly at it in terms of the whole spectrum of my life, and I think I am at last coming to understand what I have always known (or at least experienced, without allowing myself to admit).

It is so difficult to realize truth can be different from what you have always believed, or been taught to believe. When you seek God like I did, with my whole heart, for so very long, it is difficult to come to the place of realizing incongruence in what you are experiencing and what you think you know. I still love God. That hasn't changed!! But my perception of God is completely different than it used to be, and not nearly as paint-by-number clear. God is a wonderful mystery. I think we can still know enough about God to trust and love God, but I no longer think God looks like some extension of me and my ideals.

So...there's a beginning little bit about my experience over the last year.
 

Friday, January 23, 2015

What I Think About Chickens and God

When I was in the first grade, I discovered one of my classmates lived right around the corner from me. She became my first unrelated friend. We lived in rural Northwest Ohio and spent the summers riding our bikes and/or walking down the freshly tarred back road she lived on. Maybe three quarters of a mile away, past nothing except a neighboring farm warranting its own traffic signs

(My sister kindly went and took these two shots for me today.) :)

and fields growing corn taller than we were, we would visit a drainage ditch with two tunnels under an even "backer" road. We called this magical place "The Bridge".

I introduced my brothers and cousins to The Bridge right away. My older brother almost stepped on a snake there once. My youngest brother liked watching two small otters that played there one year. My cousin David caught a crayfish, a.k.a. the strangest-looking creature I think I ever saw outside of a zoo or a science book. Me? I would lie on my stomach in one of the tunnels really still and suddenly spring my hand to try and catch minnows in the small pool of water below the tunnel's edge. I never succeeded. But I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Whenever my hand moved in the water, the pool became murky and I would have to be still and wait for a while until I could see what was happening with the minnows again.

I've noticed this makes a good analogy for how my mind works. As I input information on a subject, it seems I can't think clearly about that subject for a very long time - like my mind takes time to unconsciously make up itself, with only data entry required by me. Also, my emotions and thoughts seem to be bound together somehow, because when I can't think, my emotions seem to make up the murky stuff I can't see through. It's akin to a snow globe sitting on an ever-shifting base. The confetti of my thoughts and emotions always seems to be in a blizzard through which I can only glimpse at what lies beneath it.

But every once in a while things settle and all of a sudden, for a few moments everything feels calm and I can actually articulate what I believe about things. Things like God, about whom my sense of perception is constantly evolving. I had one of those moments about 4:00 this morning. It was a welcome experience, because I have felt so completely ungrounded lately. I would like to articulate my thoughts here as a point of reference for my thinking in the near future.

In spite of often bordering on doubt as to whether God even actually exists, I confess I do still believe in a fundamental part of who I am. I do not know who, what, where, why, or how God is. As for "when" God is, God was, is, and will be; God is eternal and always. I have an inkling as to who and what God is, which informs my understanding of who and what I am as a human. God is my Creator, and God is love. The expression of God's image in me, therefore, is in the giving and receiving of love. And this informs the "why," as in, "Why are we here?" and "Why does God put us here and allow evil to dwell here with us?"

"Heaven," or "where" God is (according to traditional thought), is supposed to be perfect, with no pain or injustice. But in such an atmosphere, how would the God-likeness in us (the imago Dei) ever know expression? I believe evil and injustice and lack break the heart of God; but they serve a purpose. What would break God's heart more? Perhaps a perfect void of love (a.k.a. "hell")? In the face of cruelty and poverty and oppression, individuals have opportunity both to give and receive love, whether is be in the form of a blanket, a refuge, a smile.... Just as people grow in knowledge and maturity in so many other areas, they also grow in "the Spirit"...which I think "living in the Spirit (of God)" means living as God would (and does) live - in the continual giving and receiving of love. A child may be able to love by sharing a favorite toy. An adult may be able to love by sharing their home with a friend, or even stranger, in need. The greater the darkness, the greater the opportunity there seems to be for expressions of love, such as smuggling/harboring refugees from an attempted genocide.

(unknown source: I saw it on Facebook!)
As N.T. Wright (and others?) has articulated so much better than I, perhaps our longing - for home, peace, justice, etc. - is an echo of something we know deep inside of us exists, somewhere, sometime. Do I understand it all? NO. Do I believe? Yes. Something in me just won't let go.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Boxing Day (Recycled Post)

Link Here to Bloghop at DL Hammons

[I originally posted this during the A to Z Challenge in April 2013, but recently it has been getting some hits, so because people seem to be interested, here is a timely review of Boxing Day.]

December 26 is a national holiday known as Boxing Day in Australia, the UK, New Zealand, and Canada. Many people do not really understand the historical meaning of this holiday (kind-of like Christmas and Easter!), believing it to have arisen from the need to empty the house of empty gift boxes the day after Christmas. Rather, from what I can tell, December 25th was traditionally the date upon which people exchanged gifts with their equals – family and friends; while the 26th was a day for alms – when people gave gifts to those subservient to them, such as employees, servants, and the poor.

Honestly, I think Boxing Day has a more applicable meaning than our current translation of Christmas Day to the true spirit of Christmas. Christmas honors the historic moment when God became incarnate in human flesh, as the epitomic act of unearned favor, to live and die a human life in order to offer humanity true compassion and the gift of reconciliation with Him. As it plays out, though, Christmas is more often a time of exhaustion, overspending, and ungratefulness. (Don’t get me wrong – I actually really love the Christmas season!)

Wouldn’t it be better to honor God’s greatest gift…one which could not possibly ever be reciprocated…by giving with no strings attached to those less fortunate, as is the traditional habit on Boxing Day?

But then again…

During Easter I had a chance to partake of Communion. As I sat there holding my cup and cracker, I thought of how many people now and throughout the last two millennia have participated in this sacrament. I felt like God was saying to me, “Melody, you are a part of this. You’re included.” And really, isn’t that the whole point?

What did Jesus do for us? He changed our status. No longer do we receive our gifts on Boxing Day…no longer are we just the poor beggars down the street, mostly forgotten, but for this one time of the year…but we have been brought into the “in” group that exchanges its gifts on Christmas Day. Through Christ we have all been made equals. As Christ’s, we understand that each person is precious to Him, and all are invited to the same table of celebration.

I want to begin to recognize Boxing Day as an annual tradition, by volunteering in some service to my fellow humans. But more than that, I want to live each day in the attitude of Christmas – loving my neighbors as myself and, more importantly, as Christ.

“…For whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine [the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned], you did for Me” (--Jesus, in Matthew 25:40, NIV).
(When I went to save this picture to my files [found via Google images], I was going to call it simply “poor hands” but found it was already called “giving hands”. I think I like that better – giving hands, though often dirty, are beautiful, don’t you think?)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reading Through 2014; and Some Comments on Consolmagno's "Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?"

After completing my graduate degree coursework in September 2013, I decided to use 2014 to catch up on my reading for fun (instead of primarily for assignments)!! One of my year-long goals was to read at least one book per two weeks. I am now in the midst of my twenty-sixth, so...CHECKMATE! ;) I even caught up on a few classics I'd never had time for. Overall, I'm very satisfied with my year of reading.

Here are the books I read this year:

1) The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson
2) A Better Atonement by Tony Jones
3) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
4) The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
5) Dorothy Parker: Complete Stories
6) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
7) Wicked by Gregory Maguire
8) Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler
9) Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
10) Three Lives by Gertrude Stein
11) The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
12) Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen
13) Southern Living: Easy Gardening (Spring 2010)
14) Russian Fairy Tales
15) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
16) Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
17) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
18) World Systems Analysis (Okay...this one was for a class....) by Immanuel Wallerstein
19) Democracy and Social Ethics by Jane Addams
20) Mission at Nuremberg by Tim Townsend
21) Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit by Joel Chandler Harris
22) Hollow City (Miss Peregrine 2) by Ransom Riggs
23) The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Pat Rothfuss
24) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
25) Outlander... Diana Gabaldon
And the one I am reading now: 26) Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? by Guy Consolmagno and Paul Mueller

I linked to the ones I blogged about while reading - relatively few! I actually blogged twice, though, about both Anna Karenina and Mission at Nuremberg. I think Mission at Nuremberg was my favorite of all. The Miss Peregrine books were really cool, because they were inspired and illustrated by old black-and-white photos found at thrift shops. What a great writing prompt, eh?!

The one I'm reading right now is pretty great, too. Written by an American research astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory, it examines various questions by lay Christians regarding the intricacies of the relationship between faith and science.

Right now I am on page 56 of 286. The authors have been having a discussion about religious fundamentalists who insist on a literal interpretation of Scripture...and also scientific fundamentalists who also insist on a literal interpretation of Scripture, and dismiss it altogether based on its incongruity with scientific discoveries.
"After all, what is a 'fundamentalist' but someone who has a flattened, one-dimensional view of the subject, and who thinks that if his view of the universe is true, then necessarily all other views must be false? When you think that the 'fundamentals' are all that's important, or that knowing the 'fundamentals' is enough by itself, it's like seeing only the dots of paint in Seurat's [pointillistic] painting [Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte]." --Consolmagno
"And, what is worse, it leads you to try to use the 'fundamentals' of one topic to solve te issues of a different topic. You're using the wrong tools to try to answer questions they were never designed for. It's misguided to ask whether the Big Bang theory would provide evidence for or against a scriptural story of Creation; the Big Bank Theory is a scientific theory, concerned with physical causes that are proximate and contingent. And it's wrong to ask whether a scriptural story of Creation would provide evidence for or against the Big Bang theory; scriptural stories of Creation are concerned with ultimate origins and with humanity's personal relationship with God. Those are the wrong questions for the tools at hand." --Mueller

(The authors then begin a discussion of what are the right questions.) They have already talked about the progressive development of discovery, both in science and theology, and point out the necessity of living in tension knowing all things have not yet been discovered, and so Christians must have faith in the ultimate unity of truth. (I'm sure you've heard the saying "all truth is God's truth." This idea expresses the same sentiment.)

This semester in my Macroeconomics class I learned the fallacy of composition, which states that it is a fallacy to assume that something is true of the whole just because it is true of one or some of the individual parts. In other words, because an economist understands the microeconomics of a situation, he or she does not necessarily understand the macroeconomic picture. For instance, the real estate market in Iowa does not necessarily reflect the state of property values or trade in the nation as a whole.

Just so, scientific discoveries can enlighten how we interpret Scripture, just as scriptural understanding can help us interpret scientific data to discover things about the God whom we believe created the universe. Advances in neither, however, cancel out the validity of the other discipline as a whole. If there are differences, we must hold our rationality and faith in tension and believe that ultimately, each will be fully revealed in such a way that neither conflicts with the other.

I trust in the ultimate unity of truth.

Monday, December 15, 2014

An Advent Lesson on Loving the Not-Particularly-Lovable

There comes a limit to my compassion, my understanding, my friendship...my love. Especially when it seems someone kicks and screams against it...or misuses or takes advantage of it.

In my entire life there have been MAYBE 10-12 people with whom I have particularly not meshed...people toward whom, for some reason or other, I found it difficult to live out the love of Christ. Or even just my own love. I'm a pretty loving person, after all...generally speaking.

But yeah, there have been times when, though I didn't not love someone, I chose to be selfish rather than giving...perhaps the person needed me and I chose to be lazy or self-serving rather than go the extra mile to do something for them. I have a couple of regrets in this area, in fact. But I'm talking about the people against whom I would rather take revenge. Someone from whom I would like to withhold love, in order to punish them, or at least in order to just "be done" with them in order to protect myself from more anger and/or hurt.

This Advent I am faced with a choice on how to act toward one such person.

My prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for the love You have shown me, and continue to show me, even when I don't particularly warrant it. Thank You for Your patience, and Your example of Self-abasing love. In this season, please help me to be conscious of every person as a soul that is precious to You - and especially help me to regard this person with whom I am in conflict as someone YOU love. Help me, when my love and patience and goodwill grow thin or even completely run out, to love this person with Your love. Thank You for trusting me with this opportunity to grow.

Friday, December 12, 2014

7QT - Creepy (and not-so-creepy) Thrift Store Finds, Advent Reflections, and Endings




---1---
I have not done 7QT in so long...but I have been collecting snapshots for a little Take I've been planning on CREEPY THRIFT STORE FINDS:

Hunchback Santa or South Park Santa?


Take your pick here....

I thought the PeeWee Herman costume was the creepy thing
about this photo, but now that I see the ceiling, I think I was mistaken.

There is absolutely NO CHANCE this doll will come to life and
kill you in your sleep if you take it home. Money-back guarantee.

Glowing, smiling rabbits in a rusted-out amusement park ride cage.
The thrift shop people really are trying to give the children nightmares.
 
---2---
Speaking of thrift store finds (but non-creepy ones this time), I learned a little more about my icon egg.
 

 
I discovered (from the Cross on the back of the egg) that it is Russian Orthodox in origin, and through a little more digging found that it is Our Lady of Kazan, or Holy Protectress of Russia. One Internet source said it was a tradition for mothers to present this icon to their daughters when they became brides, as a Protectress for the new couple's home. It made me like it even more that I acquired it :).
 
---3---
I posted on Facebook a couple of months ago:
I realized it was about this time last year that I was struggling SO MUCH, and no one knew. I was trying to pay my bills and live, but I had been paying rent, car insurance, a ridiculous buy-here-pay-here car payment, phone, and utilities, and living on ramen lol, all on a barely-more-than-minimum wage. I had applied for jobs ALL SUMMER. Finally got hired about mid-July to be a s...ubstitute teacher, but because of training and the slow moving process of getting hired to work for a school district, the job didn't actually start until well into September. By then it was too late. I was 4 weeks late on my car payment, and they came and took the car. My phone was shut off, my electricity was shut off, and I consequently ended up losing the second job, all within a two-week period!! Things are so much better now. Thankful that though the hard times definitely come, they also go. So grateful for those easier seasons, and for a good friend or two who come along to help you through the rough ones!!
Along those lines...lately I have taken a step in the right direction to get back on track toward my future career goals (teaching), and gotten another position as a substitute teacher for a school district nearby. I am loving it. On my way out of one of the schools last week I saw this bell in the schoolyard:
 

It reminded me of another bell that used to sit on a base across the street from where I lived from ages 12 to 14 or 15 near Sycamore, Ohio. It marked an old cemetery, mostly from the late 1800s, and I think it was a remainder from a church that had once stood there. But we, being very respectful and awed by historical artifacts like kids often are, would crouch behind the septic tank in our front yard and aim our bb guns at the bell. (I was a pretty good shot for a girl and all ;).)
 
---4---
Speaking of Advent...
Well...
Wait.
No, that is what we should be speaking of, isn't it?!
Okay. We will, then.
 
This poem by Luci Shaw was posted on Modern Mrs. Darcy this last Sunday, and it really struck a chord in me:
 
It seemed too much to ask
of one small virgin
that she should stake shame
against the will of God.
All she had to hold to, later, 
were those soft, inward 
flutterings
and the remembered surprise
of a brief encounter – spirit
with flesh.
Who would think it
more than a dream wish?
An implausible, laughable 
defense.
 
And it may seem much
too much to ask me
to be part of the 
risky thing – 
God’s shocking, unconventional,
unheard-of Thing
- to further heaven’s hopes
and summon God’s glory. 

Much as I hate to admit it, I know precious little about Advent. Oh, but I know all kinds of stuff about God. And despite all that deep, theological stuff I know, sometimes I still have the audacity to wonder if He's really even real.

So this season, despite how little I know about liturgy and Advent, I decided to do a little bit of intentional observation. I tune into an online Lectio Divina practice on Wednesday nights when I can (called Thin Places, by Extravagance UCC). I read Advent-themed blog posts. I am even reading through a daily devotional (of course, I miss about as many days as I hit on this). I'm even keeping a brief little journal of my reflections each day this season.

And this poem.... "...to ask me to be a part". To ask me to believe and risk ridicule and head wagging because I as a reasonable individual dare believe and stake my hope on an archaic fairy tale....

I seem to be learning a lot from Mary this Advent. From imagining the Nativity and her actions during the story, both told and what possibly went on that wasn't written word for word, to pondering on this poem and the things people must have thought and said about her, being pregnant and not married...and if she dared to tell anyone that she was a virgin. But she did it. She allowed God to use her in the most important of His acts toward humanity - giving us His Son. She faithfully obeyed. Maybe I can faithfully remain.
  
---5---
Yesterday (Thursday) afternoon I finished my last final for the semester! It was actually a 5-7 page essay for the class "History of the American South." Here was the essay question: "A variety of historians and other scholars have stressed the importance of the invention of the cotton gin, the Civil War, political reformers (Populists, Progressives, New Dealers), the invention of the air conditioner, and World War II to the history of the American South. Explain the importance of each of these items in terms of its impact on the South (economically, socially, culturally, politically, etc.). Rank them 1 through 5 and explain your choices." Whew! I really did like the class, but gosh, I'm glad it's over!
 
On Monday I had my World History 2 final. That professor did his exams in essay form, too, but the essays were shorter, and you didn't know what he was going to ask until you showed up (the American South was a one-week take-home paper). I didn't know half of what he asked about, so I filled in and wrote essays about other stuff we studied during the last half of the semester, hoping maybe he would give me some credit for learning, even though I apparently didn't learn the right stuff. We'll see.... :/
 
---6---
 So, in celebration of finishing the semester we went to dinner at the Whole Hog CafĂ© (inexpensive, good bbq), and then to the cheap movie theater to see Nightcrawler...which was good, but quite strange. And tonight we plan to finally put up the Christmas tree! I've been picking up a few Christmas ornaments here and there as I thrift shop. I'm happy with my little collection of classy, country-style decorations. They make me happy. :)
 
---7---
Jennifer, I must admit I was sad to see you relinquish the Quick Takes, but understand. You have so much on your plate. And really, this isn't good-bye, my invisible little Internet friend. I'll still follow your non-Quick Takes-hosting posts and continue to be inspired by the spectacularness of your life's mundanity :). Thank you for sharing it with us! And thank you for introducing us (or at least me) to Kelly! I believe this is the beginning of another beautiful virtual (imaginary? O.o) friendship!!
 
 
For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum!