Friday, April 30, 2010

Presbyterian Boot Camp?

Around the turn of the milennium, the Presbyterian Church (USA) did a study to see how frequently their pastors and church members read the Bible. As one would expect, the answer was: not often. So they created this thing called "Company of New Pastors," where Presbyterian ordination-track students in their final year of seminary commit to doing some daily devotions and scripture reading, and meet once a month for worship, fellowship, etc. Well, a professor suggested to me I might do that, and I thought it sounded like a good idea.

We had our first meeting today. They passed out these prayerbooks with prayers for morning, midday, and evening services, and a special 2-year lectionary plan, with four scripture readings and a selection from the Presbyterian Book of Confessions for each day--and I was sitting there, thinking, "I'm not going to do this. Do they really expect us to do this? This is simply not going to happen." I thought this especially when it was made clear that we are expected to continue these daily devotional practices for the remainder of our careers.

I've tried to be spiritually disciplined in the past. It's always turned out badly. So eventually, I decided to lower my expectations, and set myself a reasonable, attainable goal (read some scripture, and pray for a bit, every weekday at lunch time). I was thinking "daily devotion and scripture readings" meant something like, working through a curriculum that would include one scripture passage and some kind of supplementary material for each day. But three times a day, reading through a substantial liturgy and multiple readings--my gosh! That really sounds burdensome--and unnecessarily so.

The more I think about this, the more I think it is completely unrealisitic. I feel like I unwittingly signed up for a monastic vow. And monastic vows were designed for unmarried persons. I suppose if I were single, living alone, then I could do this sort of thing.

But I would hate to back out now--I suppose I can find some way to make this work for me. It will be a challenge, that's for sure. And I guess that's a good thing. Though I'm not yet convinced, even of that.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Another Pointless Rule?

As I was brushing my teeth last night, I noticed the Band-Aid box says on it, "For medical emergencies, seek professional assistance." Under what circumstances would this advice be helpful?

Person 1: I have been mauled by a puma! I am bleeding profusely!

Person 2: Oh my God! [Runs to the bathroom, returns with a box of Band-Aids.] Oh no! The Band-Aids are too small for your severe lacerations! What shall we do?

Person 1: Read the Band-Aid box. Perchance it bears valuable instructions.

Person 2: No! There are no instructions!

Person 1: I ... grow dizzy ... and faint.

Person 2: Wait! Yes! Here, it says, "For medical emergencies, seek professional assitance." How do I do that?

Person 1: Call ... 9 ... 1 ... 1 ...

Person 2: 911? Is that an area code? What is the rest of the phone number?!

If a person does not know that Band-Aids are insufficient to deal with a medical emergency, will they know what it means to "seek professional assistance"?

Are the instructions intended for young children? If so, why are they in such small print?

Do other brands of band-aids carry the same advice? Is it an industry standard? A legislated requirement?

Aha! A plausible explanation. Perhaps all medical supplies are required to carry these instructions, due to someone coming up with an idea that sounded good, but was not thought out very carefully.

I can think of some reasons why people would not seek professional assistance in a medical emergency: 1) they are undocumented immigrants 2) they have an irrational phobia of doctors 3) their injury resulted from illegal activities 4) they are freaked out by the prospect of medical fees 5) they did not recognize they were having a medical emergency.

In none of these cases would the advice on the packaging of medical supplies be helpful. Is my imagination too limited? Am I overlooking a plausible foreseeable situation in which the advice on the Band-Aid box would actually help someone?

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Last night, for the first time in my career as a student (having made it to the last quarter of classes, my third year of graduate school), I thought to myself, "I could drink a caffeinated beverage to help me stay awake and alert to write the paper that's due tomorrow morning."

I've always known that that was something other people do. And it's not as if I had made a decision to avoid caffeine. It simply had never occurred to me that I myself might use caffeine to stay awake.

It worked beautifully, until I finished writing my paper and wanted to go to sleep. Then it was not good at all.

So I think now I will intentionally avoid drinking tea at night.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Review: Shutter Island

Shutter Island is not a great film (i.e. it's nothing new or original), but it's a good film, which employs the elements of its genre well, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. But then, I've long been fascinated with mental illness, so just about any movie set in a mental institution would automatically pique my interest.

I would have to partially agree with some of the critiques--that because the primary protagonist (U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels) is so closed and defensive a character, a certain emotional involvement is lacking. So I found myself impatient to get to the end.

But now that I know the ending, I think it would be even more fun to watch the film a second time. Although, unfortunately, knowing the ending is not sufficient to explain every detail of the plot. There are some scenes that don't make a whole lot of sense, even in retrospect. Some kind of commentary from the director would be helpful.

So, anyway, those are my thoughts ...

Friday, April 16, 2010


I remember Grandma’s garden
her, patiently, peacefully
holding the hose
the water
running in rivulets, pooling in puddles
Sunny afternoons
cool in the shadow of the house
she would clip a few roses
I watched, she broke off each thorn
and handed me the bouquet
color, loveliness
for the dining room table

when Grandma came over
rustling plastic bags of
pink curlers, crosswords
cartoons and cookies
we spent calm, quiet evenings
munching cheese puffs, “oriental mix”
watching Batman and Speed Racer
She presided
at the table with her magazines

Grandma was adopted
an outsider
her roses grew in plastic bins
on crates, on concrete
tended well, and well contained

she wanted peace, and now
She rests

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Sita Sings the Blues is going to be re-released in theaters April 23rd! I don't remember how I heard about this movie, but I've been wanting to see it for the longest time. I hope it is as good as people have made it out to be.


The question is, did I enjoy Iron Man so much because of its intrinsic merits, or was it more because the day we went to see it, I had just finished the first draft of the first book of my children's/young adult fantasy series, and I was already kind of euphoric about that? I hope someday the stories I write will bring as much joy to someone else as the movie Iron Man brought to me ...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Added to Blogroll: Hyperbole and a Half

Check it out: Hyperbole and a Half. Some of these are a little too sick for my current tastes, but others are stinkin' hilarious.

I used to like really disturbing humor. When I was a kid, and my grandmother read me that part in Genesis where Joseph interprets the baker's dream, and says he's going to be impaled and the birds will eat his flesh--I thought that was just too funny.

Maybe I've changed because now I'm too aware that any imaginable horror has been actualized, or equalled by some other atrocity, multiple times in human history--and is likely to be repeated--which is a very saddening thought.