Thursday, December 29, 2005


I haven't had this blog for very long, and yet it's that time of year when we look back, review what's gone on in the past and make predictions or wishes for the future. There are a lot of these things going on in magazines, television news shows, etc. so I'll keep mine limited to things I've talked about here in the blog.

First we had the judicial council decisions - the event that stirred me enough to begin this blog in the first place. Looking back a couple of months, I admit that I'm not as passionate as I was when I first read the decisions and began writing here, BUT I'm still ticked off enough to wonder if/when something is going to happen from the judicial council or any major body of the United Methodist Church outside of the letter the Council of Bishops wrote immediately following the decisions. It's been months and there have been hundreds, even thousands of United Methodists writing letters, signing online and handwritten petitions, and in general having conversation about what should happen or what needs to happen. Have these conversations had any effect outside of the local church level?? I haven't heard anything especially encouraging, but I also know that the process is usually a slow one and we'll likely have to wait for General Conference 2008 to truly experience the fall out from this one...

Thanksgiving was an interesting experience for me ths year - I cooked a turkey and ate dinner with staff at a local hospital, most of whom I didn't really know. Yes, my partner was among them, so it wasn't like I had no business being there, but it was a very different picture from the Norman Rockwell image that several local grocery stores have been selling the past couple of months. I used to dispatch and take 911 calls for a metro area city (police, fire and EMS were all dispatched from the same room, also where all the 911 calls were answered by those same three dispatchers) so I know what it's like to "get stuck" working on a holiday when it seems like the rest of the world is having the huge dinner with all the family members. Some people remember the police officers or firefighters, but how many think of the dispatchers or the people cooking in the hospital cafeteria? While next year's Thanksgiving will not be at the hospital (she'll be working Christmas next year), I hope that I remember to thank and acknowledge some other people who will have to working that day.

Christmas has just passed, and I'll be honest - I'm still not done giving or receiving presents. As much as I dislike the consumerism of the holiday, I admittedly take part in it. I know some people felt I was a little harsh in my comments, and while that may be so, please don't think that I'm advocating giving up on it all together. I just hope to make people think about why we do things and perhaps become a little more mindful about the people around us. We shouldn't spend money we don't have to try to tell people things we should be telling them all year anyway. We shouldn't get sucked into buying a certain item just because it's "the" thing to give this year. It's entirely possible that we shouldn't be giving more "stuff" anyway - how many of us really need more stuff to display in our homes or store in the basement/attic? I love when people donate to organizations that I support in my honor for the holidays (some of my favorites include Habitat for Humanity, Heiffer International, CoopAmerica, and UMCOR). I did that for a few people on my list this year, and hope people will do it for me more in the future. It says that you know them enough to know which causes are important to them and love them enough to support it for them, yet it doesn't require space to store or contribute to landfills (if you just write it in a card, the paper can be recycled). I know, I know, it's not as much fun to open a bunch of cards as it is a box of clothes or candy, but come one - how many orange sweaters or pooping penguin candy dispensers does a girl need? (Love ya, honey!)

So now we're at New Year's Eve, getting ready to begin 2006. I have no idea what I'm going to do for "the big night," especially since someone has to work the next morning at 7 am (which suggests no champagne toast at midnight even IF we happen to be awake at the magic hour). Drinking alcohol and watching Dick Clark on tv have been what I experience in some form or another on most every New Year's of my life (I turned 30 years old this year - Dick Clark's been doing this longer than that!) but I don't think I'm going to miss it this year. Perhaps it's because I'm getting "older" (I use the term loosely since most of my seminary colleagues and relatives laugh at how young I am), but those things just don't seem to be a big deal anymore. I've been drunk and watched other people be drunk - neither is especially entertaining at this point. Dick Clark is coming back after being absent last year for a stroke, but I didn't miss him last year. I don't think I really watched tv last year until Conan O'Brien came on, and since New Year's Eve is Saturday, my only hope is Saturday Night Live which will either not be shown at all or will be a repeat. Oh well. Watching a movie and going to bed early will be such a special treat for me, it actually sounds like the best option for this year. However you choose to spend it, please be careful of other people and stay safe. May all your hopes and dreams (whether for yourself, your family & friends, your church, your country or the world) work toward becoming a reality this coming year....

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Just wanted to thank everyone who has been reading and making comments - either on line or in person around campus. It's finals week - the stress is finally easing up and everyone is breathing a sigh of relief!! Now that papers are written and classes are done meeting (at least until January 9th for many of us), we can actually participate in the Christmas festivities. I've barely begun to write my Christmas cards (so if you've gotten one from me already, be thankful you were at the top of the list before the major end of semester stress put that to a halt) and still have several people to get gifts for.

It's interesting, with my "inlaws" we don't exchange gifts. This was something we started last year with the intention that rather than buying gifts for Christmas, birthdays, anniversary, etc., we would give one gift at another time of year when it felt "right" rather than obligatory. The idea was also that instead of giving "smaller" gifts that we didn't really need, we would be able to justify spending a little more on the gift to get something that was going to be more useful and appreciated. Interestingly enough, that never happened. We never bought anything for them and never received anything from them. I don't know why it worked out that way - we talked about it a few times, but decided that the time wasn't right or that we couldn't really afford what we wanted to get them at that point in time. We've talked about it again this year and decided that we're still not going to do gifts for Christmas. We still send cards and talk on the phone so we know that we're thinking of each other and remember the special days in each other's lives, but no "things" to clutter our homes and our lives. On the one hand, I'm proud of our decision, but on the other hand I question the practices. Why didn't we give anything all year? Perhaps the point of Christmas is that we finally show the appreciation for the people in our lives - but do we need to give "things" to show our love and appreciation? I know that I personally love with food - I cook for people and want them to enjoy the food I prepare. But how would you feel if someone told you that for Christmas, they were inviting you to dinner? Would you think that was enough? I suspect that while many would want to say that it is, deep down there would be some disappointment that it wasn't a DVD, XBox or gift card to Starbucks. I know that I feel guilty for not getting gifts for Angela's parents while we're still getting gifts for her sister, but haven't really figured out where that comes from or what that means.

In the end, I'm just glad to be done with the semester. Despite anything that's been said anywhere in this blog, I really do love Christmas. It is and has always been a favorite time for me. December 23rd marks the 4th anniversary of my dad's death in a motorcycle accident. While it's still hard for me, nothing can change the fact that at Christmas time I feel more appreciative, peaceful and reflective than any other time of the year. I have reading to do for my January class (which is United Methodist history so there should be some interesting blog entries in the future...) but will take the time to enjoy the beauty of the season and hope you all will too. Love and Peace to all....

Monday, December 05, 2005

Merry Consumption

It's been a while since I posted, partly because I'm nearing the end of my semester and partly because it's that time of year when we all have way more things to do than time to get it all done. It's the Christmas season, and if you want to believe the retailers, it actually started more than a month ago, before Halloween! Every year many of us take the time to do all the appropriate activities - buying gifts for family & friends, Christmas parties (at work, school, church, clubs, etc.), decorating our homes inside and out, baking cookies, and sending Christmas cards - often to people with whom we've had no other contact throughout the year. Why do we do it all?! Some people honestly take this season to reflect on the people in their lives and want to do something to show appreciation and love, but I honestly wonder if that's the majority. I wonder if most of us don't just do these things every year because it's tradition - something we've always done and will continue to do without really thinking about why we are doing it. Do you know why you crawl out onto your roof to hang lights every year? Is it for some great purpose or is it to compete with the neighbor down the block? Or, gulp, is it to proclaim ourselves as Christians to the rest of the world, or even to show how much of the Christmas spirit we have?
People talk about having Christmas spirit, but what does that mean exactly? Does it mean feeling love for our fellow man or does it mean we buy things for peeople? Does it mean that we really care about the suffering other people may be going through or does it mean we do some charity and consider it checked of our list for the next year? What is the Christmas spirit? I recently saw the KC Repertory Theater production of A Christmas Carol - a Kansas City tradition from what I've been told, and I liked it. I didn't love it though, and everyone else was raving about it. Why did I only feel mediocre about it? I've been trying to figure it out and decided that it's not really about the theater company and the way they performed it - it was really an impressive production. Rather, I think it's a problem I have with the story in general. I know it's a classic, and I admit that I watch it every year, but I'm starting to question the legitimacy of Scrooge's conversion. I'm a little wary about even talking about it, because the story is highly regarded in our culture, but what was it that really motivated Scrooge to change his ways? Did he finally understand his own broken spirit and learn to heal or was he simply scared of dying alone? Did he learn how to love and be loved or just how to fit in with people so they would show up at his funeral?
Questioning this story and Scrooge's motivations also makes me questions other conversion experiences. Do people really believe in God and Jesus because they understand the love that is shared or is it because of fear of hell if they don't? I'm always leery of people who preach hell and damnation because I'm concerned that conversions that come out of those experiences are based on fear rather than of love and acceptance. They are still in a selfish mode of thinking, professing belief because it will mean a reward for themselves, rather than helping people here and now in this world simply for love of the other. I have to stop here and get on with the rest of my life, at least for the next two weeks of school, but I hope this has at least caused you to think about what you do, what you say you believe and why. I also hope that when you're buying Christmas gifts and doing all the other holiday things, you take time to appreciate your life and think about you need vs. what you want vs. other people's needs and wants. I also hope you all have a Merry Christmas - whether you buy into it or not.