Saturday, February 28, 2009

learning pronouns

Espen's been learning to use pronouns lately. It's kind of humorous, since he has only heard us refer to him as "you," so he calls himself "you" and his things "your." So for example he says, "Play with your toys please?" Or if he hurts his foot he says, "Your foot hurts!" It's pretty cute. (By the way, we just launched a new blog for pictures of Espen, and perhaps stories that don't fit with the main thrust of either of our blogs, so if you want to check it out, click here.)

It got me thinking about a) how confusing pronouns are, especially since I'm trying to learn them in German, and b) the fact that by teaching him pronouns we're actually socializing him quite a bit. I'm learning in my youth ministry class about child development. (Actually, I'm re-learning it, since psychology was my major in college, but it's a much-needed refresher!) For the most part, I like Erik Erikson's stages of development and think his work seems to explain what happens developmentally with most Americans. I also like that Erikson has a fairly good opinion of humanity in general. Erikson gets some of the bases for his theories from Freud, but Freud's theory assumes all people are completely messed up and neurotic, while Erikson assumes that most people will develop fairly normally if given a healthy space in which development can occur.

Anyway, so Espen is in the "Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt" phase. He has passed through "Trust & Mistrust," where he hopefully learned that there are trustworthy people in the world, but there are also things (and people) not to be trusted in the world. The virtue developed in that phase is "hope," so if he passed through that stage healthily, he will be able to have a good measure of resiliency in life: hope in the goodness of other people, the world, and his own place as someone who is loved.

Now he's working on potty training, which hopefully will give him a sense of autonomy: he has control over his bodily functions, and no one can make him go (or not) except himself. (He hasn't quite reached that stage of mastery yet, leading to many messy experiences the last several weeks, but he's doing a great job learning! He has #1 down pat, and even goes on "big potties" when we're in public places now. So we're making progress.)

Part of this phase is complete separation (individuation) from his primary caregivers, in terms of learning that he is an individual that is in no way dependent on anyone else as far as ego and physical boundaries go. This is where the social training comes in. I'm sure in every culture, people learn that their bodies are their own and no one else can control them, but it is a hallmark of our culture that we emphasize "autonomy" or individuality so much.

It is even embedded in our language!

In order for Espen to learn to speak English, he has to learn to use the pronoun "I" (and me and mine and my...). I've heard that in some languages there really isn't a word for "I." That seems completely strange, and maybe it's not true. At least in cultures that are more collectivist, perhaps words that are singular--especially possessive--aren't used as often. So by teaching Espen pronouns, I'm teaching him about individualism.

Is this a good thing? Is there any way around it (since I don't speak any other languages that don't use this kind of thinking)? I don't know. I think it's OK, it's just interesting thinking about how much we're teaching him about "the way life is" through our language. It's amazing how much culture and language are intertwined.

Hopefully we're able to teach him to think beyond singular pronouns, especially possessive ones, and to live a more communal life than most Americans. Hopefully we're able to model that, too!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

arnett: emerging adulthood

I did preach today, and it seemed to go well. I subjected them to about 30 seconds of silence, which was kind of a fun experiment! I didn't get a whole lot of feedback, besides that my professor was on a kick about really wanting us to make our structure show. He said that to everyone but one person (who literally said, "First...second...third"). We were supposed to preach a three-point sermon, but I think enough of us have heard enough boring three-point sermons that we don't want to make it really obvious that we're preaching one!

For another class I'm taking, Theological Foundations for Youth Ministry, I'm reading a book this week called Emerging Adulthood by Jeffrey Jensen Arentt. It's an excellent book, and I think his research and conclusions go a long way in explaining this confusing (and confused) generation of 18-20-somethings or more. I have to turn in a reflection paper on the book and how it influences my thinking about youth ministry, so I figured I'd share that with you all.

Arnett's work in this book is tremendous. He gives a candid but compassionate reading of “emerging adults” in the new millennium. I appreciate the title he uses for this age group, because “emerging adults” cannot be viewed as adolescents, but they also are not exactly adults by their own (or most other people's) definition. They have qualities of adulthood, but tend to avoid full adulthood like the plague.

I personally fit well within his categories. I'm in my late twenties, so at this point I feel more adult than “emerging” adult, although I still have some of the characteristics of the emerging adult stage. I'm still in school, therefore not totally financially, geographically or vocationally stable. But I'm married with a kid, so I definitely have a different outlook on life than an adolescent, or even than most young emerging adults. I feel like I'm just on the cusp of “young adulthood,” especially if I decide to be done with school after I finish my MDiv in May! I find that for myself, there is that mental checklist of what I need to accomplish before I can really call myself a full “adult.” Although marriage and having a child were major milestones, I still don't feel like a “real” adult because I've never held a “real” job or lived in one house for more than a year or two since leaving for college 11 years ago. In some ways it still sounds nice to have the freedom of choosing where to go and what to do next, of having plenty of options. But it's also beginning to sound nice to just pick someplace and stay there for the long-haul, to build relationships and community, to find consistency and a sense of belonging and place. So I think, at least in my own experience, Arnett describes this stage very well.

I appreciate that Arnett gives this stage a compassionate reading, although I might be a little more critical of “emerging adults” in the general population. Although for me, emerging adulthood has meant moving around a lot, financial instability as I pursue a master's degree, and an interest in experiencing new things, I don't think this stage has to be one of irresponsibility. I wonder if giving young adults a “moratorium on responsibilities” is a good idea.

It seems to me that the rise of the stages of adolescence and emerging adulthood have occurred in the last century or two because of a lack of purpose given by society for those in their teens and twenties. In agrarian and even early industrial societies, young people were necessary components of their communities, helping with farm work, doing industrial jobs, helping run a household and care for children, and so forth. These young people didn't necessarily have a long life expectancy and probably had little free time, but at least they had a place in society and a purpose. They had a clear path to what they would do when they “grew up.” Although this isn't totally positive, it did have the positive aspects of stability, purpose, community, and participation in meeting the needs of others. I think teenagers and young adults flounder around in our society, looking for something that “fits,” and acting out negatively or irresponsibly in the meantime, because they have no purpose. No one needs them. No one expects much from them. Yes, they get to enjoy a time of “freedom” in which they can work to meet all their own needs without much thought for others, but most teens and emerging adults want others to journey with, on whom to be mutually dependent (even if this shows itself in less-than-positive ways like gang affiliation).

As the church, I think we should expect more from teens and twenty-somethings. We should provide places in our communities where youth and emerging adults can use their gifts to do things that wouldn't be possible without them. We should expect them to be responsible and help them live up to that expectation. We should help them see something to live for. This “something” shouldn't just be a nice community to be a part of, but participation in something that is so real and so true, so life-shaking, that one cannot help but be involved and give one's life to pursuit of God through love of others. Of course, in order for this to happen, the “adults” in the congregation have to have this kind of passion as well. Or perhaps the adults need to listen to this passion in their young people and encourage and fan it, rather than turning young people away by dismissing their ideas and energy.

Most reform movements in the history of the church (including Quakerism!) began with people between the ages of 15-30, I believe. Many of these caused church splits because the adults who were more “settled in their ways” could not see the God-given passion of their young people to truly live the call of Christ. Perhaps the church is turning young people away, disillusioning them, at an early age, so that they become cynical, irresponsible and sensationalist. What would happen if churches focused on hearing the prophetic call of Christ through their young people? Maybe this age range would continue to be part of the community, rather than leaving in exasperation, and returning only when all hope of making a difference in the world has faded with discouraging years.

So there is my little rant for the week. Hopefully this is sufficient for a reflection paper!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

preaching on luke 6:1-5

I'm preaching tomorrow for my preaching class. It's kind of humorous, since this is my last semester of my MDiv and I've done both my internships where I've preached many times, and I've preached a bunch in my job as Peace Ed Coordinator for Northwest Yearly Meeting, and preached in meetings wanting to hear about my experience in Israel/Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams, and a few times "just because," or for "pulpit supply," so in some ways this class feels unnecessary. It's just getting official credits.

At the same time, I feel like it is good for me to have to take this class, because I am learning some things about structuring sermons that is helpful. I think I already do what they suggest unconsciously, but if I make it more conscious and intentional I think it will help me communicate messages I feel called to share more effectively. I definitely still have a lot of work to do in this area, so I'm looking forward to seeing what I learn.

But then there's the issue of the point of preaching. That should probably be a separate post, but to put it briefly, I think the point of preaching is speaking what God tells me to speak at a given moment to a specific group of people. This might be prepared in advance, knowing that a group will be gathered at a specific time and God wants me to share something with them. It will hopefully then be well-researched and stated in a way that draws people in and does not distract people with its mode of delivery and so forth. But for this class, we're supposed to imagine we're preaching to a congregation rather than to the people in our class. We're supposed to imagine the people in front of us are "normal" people (as opposed to seminarians, because God knows seminarians aren't "normal"!), ones we might preach to in our denominational and geographical context. This is good in that it is useful to try to connect meaning with those who don't have the same level of education on all this biblical stuff as other seminary students do. At the same time, to me it's hard because it seems like this totally misses the point of preaching. One can't practice preaching just by trying to say something intelligent, witty or engaging, or by delivering it well. This isn't preaching--it's rhetoric.

But rhetoric is good to learn, too...and it will be good to hear critical feedback on my style and delivery, which will hopefully help me to communicate what I hear from God in a way that people can hear and understand more easily.

So here goes. The text is Luke 6:1-5. Here is my translation:

1 One Sabbath, [Jesus] went through fields of grain, and his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands and ate them.
2 Certain Pharisees asked them, “Why do you do what is against Sabbath law?”
3 Jesus replied, “Have you not read what David did, when he and those with him were hungry?
4 He went into the house of God, took the Bread of the Presence, and ate it. He also gave some to those with him. This is not lawful for anyone but the priests.”
5 And he said to them that the Son of Humanity is Lord even of the Sabbath.

I wrote out about a 15 minute sermon, but we only have 5-7 minutes. I want to use 5 and then have 2 minutes of silence. We'll see if that happens! We're supposed to do a 3-point sermon in whatever form we want to make that. We have to give all three points during the 5-7 minutes, but we can just mention one or two of them and elaborate on one more fully. It's hard to even mention three points (as well as an intro and conclusion) in 5 minutes! I don't think I've ever preached less than 20 minutes...probably much to the chagrin of those in attendance!

Anyway, one of the helpful structures we've been taught in the class is to think of the form, function and focus of our sermon. So I've listed those below, as well as an outline of my three points. What do you think? (Just say you like it, because by the time I read your response I will have given the sermon already. =) There are some queries at the end that I probably won't use in the sermon, but that you can ponder if you want.

Focus: The Son of Humanity is Lord of the Sabbath, and Sabbath is not about following particular cultural practices, but is an every-day, moment to moment process of birthing God's rest into the world through our obedience to God's call to the law of love. (Side note: "Son of Humanity" is actually a more literal translation of the Greek, and the Hebrew it came from in the case of this term. Greek uses the term "anthropos," which means human being, as opposed to "aner," meaning male person/man.)

Function: The hearers will experience a recognition of the call of the Holy Spirit in their lives toward creative action that might include breaking human laws, both legal and social, in order to live in obedience to God's law of love. Hearers will undoubtedly find this challenging and scary, but hopefully will also be encouraged to live out God's truth in radical ways because they are part of a community who is listening to God together and struggling to live out what they hear.

Form: 3-point sermon shape in the logical format of Promise-Current Practice-Challenge

Introduction: story about praying when my husband's computer broke and I was surprised when it “worked.” Do I really believe God is Lord, “even of the Sabbath”? Do I believe God has authority here and now, over things as small as plucking heads of grain, or computer problems?

*Put the text in its context in the midst of a cycle on true discipleship and questions of Jesus' authority and identity

Point 1: “The Son of Humanity is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Discussion of the true nature of the “Sabbath” in present-day context

*To live out the Sabbath means bringing God's Sabbath rest into the world in accordance with how we are called to live moment by moment
*Sabbath is not a particular day, but a way of life: a way of life that lives out *Jesus' mission in the world from Lk 4:18-19

Point 2: The problem is, we want clear-cut laws of how to live, because without specific guidelines about what to do (or not to do), we feel lost in a sea of relativity

*This is how it can feel, but it is not that we are completely antinomian. Instead, we are living out the law of love and wholeness.
*This will look different in various contexts, but it will always promote life, love and healthy relationships with God and others (as well as all creation)

Point 3: Each day we pour out the new wine of God's Spirit, the Good News, into the lives of those around us.

*Will we try to pour this into the old wineskins of “the way we've always done it,” or the cultural traditions we've decided our lives should conform to?
*Or will we let go of our comfortable, familiar old skins and allow God to give us daily new wineskins?
*Truthfully, I'm afraid of not being able to find any new wineskins, so I hang on tightly to the old ones, “just in case.” But then perhaps I don't look hard enough for how God is calling me in each new situation.
*These will not be completely different from the old ones: they might look just the same as the old ones did, only they are fresh. Or perhaps they look different depending on the culture and time in which we live. But they all serve the same function: they are vessels in which the Spirit can be poured into the world and can ferment to maturity, producing wine of a full and mature quality, not just seeping out and coming to nothing on the floor of the wine cellar.

Conclusion: To do this we must take time to listen to God, as Jesus did and encouraged his disciples to do.

*When I am surprised that God answers prayer by “healing” a computer, what does this say about the authority I give God in my life? Am I not living as if the “laws of nature” are the most powerful?
*This is only one small example, one that is not particularly important in my spiritual life. And yet, if I do not trust God with even such a small thing, what is truly happening (regardless of what I say I believe) in the larger areas of my life: where I will get enough money to live on, the jobs I take, the ways I treat those I meet each day, the standard of living I expect I am entitled to, and the list goes on.
*Let's listen for a minute now to the Present Spirit, who is still Lord even of the Sabbath, attending to the ways we have fallen back into the comfort of old wineskins rather than listening from moment to moment about how the Spirit wants us to enact love for such a time as this.

Laws are our comfortable “old wineskins” that have become brittle and are beginning to crack.
*How do we resist the temptation to give authority to these traditional ways, and yet still follow the same God as our forebears?
*How do we listen anew in each situation without getting so lost in relativity that we cannot find our way?
*Can we trust God to give us new wineskins each day, rather than trying to rely on those found and used by others previously?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

mother of a 2-year-old & checking in

After writing 100+ pages for two papers in December and January, I guess I felt like I needed a break from writing for a while. I've been THINKING a lot about blogging, but not getting to it. I'm being a bit of a slacker this semester. I'm a senior, but I don't think it's senoritis--I think it's just because this semester feels relatively easy (at this point, anyway!), so I'm not too stressed and not really working very hard. This could be bad in a few weeks, but hey, I'm enjoying it while it lasts. I'm spending a lot of time with my boys (husband and son), and sleeping almost a whole 8 hours per night! (Besides the times the boy wakes up!)

I will (presumably) graduate from my MDiv in May! So my husband and I are trying to figure out what comes next. Graduate school? Move back to Oregon and work for a while, and give his amazing photography business t and space to become even better-established? (He does destination weddings, too, so if you're reading this and need a photographer...check out his site! Check it out anyway, though!) We don't know. So if you'd pray for us/hold us in the Light as we make this decision, we'd appreciate it.

Also, our son had his second birthday a couple weeks ago! It was a great day. If you want to see pictures click , and a 4 minute video can be viewed here. (Joel also put that video together. What can I say--he's way more talented than a majority of the population!) Our kiddo knows about birthdays through books, so he knew there should be cakes and decorations and party hats and friends. He was excited about it for the week beforehand, from the moment we mentioned it to him. He couldn't stop talking about how he was going to have cupcakes. He still hasn't stopped talking about the cupcakes! His relatives sent us money for birthday gifts, and I got to go shopping. It was about the most mom-ish I've ever felt, shopping at Toys 'R' Us and for party accoutrements. He didn't really get any presents that were open-able at Christmas because we were in Oregon and had to fly back on a plane and then take a train to our house, carrying luggage and an almost 2-year-old. So it was fun to have presents he could open this time. Then we went to meeting, and one of the people there had a butt on that says, "Birthday boy Espen" for him to wear. He still wears it whenever he sees it. Friends came over for a party and a good time was had by all, I think.

It was kind of funny putting so much effort into a birthday he won't even remember, but at the same time, he remembers it now, so that makes it worth it. And hopefully it will carry through as an impression of being loved and made to feel special.

Now our days are filled with potty training, reading books, playing with Duplos and trains and his little house, and listening intently to figure out what he's saying. The potty training is going well (especially for a boy) and when we're at home he almost always goes in his potty chair when he's awake, after 2 weeks of training. There are fewer and fewer messes each day... =) He gets chocolate chips for going in the potty chair. We haven't quite figured out how to get him to go when we're out, because he doesn't like sitting on normal-sized toilets, and plus he gets really distracted by whatever we're doing and does NOT want to have to stop just to go pee. But all in good time, right?

He's speaking in sentences, which often have all the elements of a sentence but in the wrong order. I can relate completely, since I'm taking German, and I'm sure I sound very similar in German as he does in English! (He's also learning a few German, French and Spanish words from Dora and other books.) I think every parent should take a new foreign language while their child is a baby, because it gives one such empathy for the steep learning curve, the necessity of talking slowly, and the difficulty with figuring out word order, etc. It's amazing how fast and how much he learns each day.

Some of his favorite foods and drinks right now are "steamy milk," cashews and dried cranberries. What kid even knows what any of those even are??? I think it's hilarious. We have an espresso machine at home and usually make ourselves a drink each day, so he gets his little demi-tasse fully of steamed milk. When we go to a coffee shop he gets a few ounces of steamed milk as well. Every day he wants cranberries and I will refrain from telling you why we can't give him too many, but suffice it to say they're kind of like prunes. And cashews? Well, who doesn't like cashews? We got a bag of them a few weeks ago and now he wants some every day.

Well, hopefully you don't mind the break from my usual discussion topics, but I wanted to let you know how that aspect of my life is going.