Chasuble

I made a chasuble. The one our priest wears has pilled a bit and catches on things, leaving snags. Most chasubles are lined, which is very tricky, trying to make sure the lining doesn’t hang below the outer layer, trying to match all the edges perfectly, etc. He prefers an unlined one, which I thought I could manage.

Here it is with one of his stoles:

IMG_0098

I chose a linen-look polyester-rayon blend, and because it is such a light cream color, edged it in gold satin to provide contrast against the white alb he wears underneath. The gold edging has the added benefit of emphasizing the lovely folds the fabric falls into. I have one of those bias tape makers you pull the fabric tape through as you iron, and was pleased to find that it worked nicely even with something as slippery as satin. Amy has cast her eye upon the shiny gold and asked if I could make a dress for her from the leftovers — I am not sure I have enough for a dress, but maybe a skirt at least.

IMG_0099

The neck was the hardest part. I have never used piping before. My zipper foot is missing a nut, so I wasn’t able to make the piping on the machine; didn’t take TOO long to hand-stitch it. Then I sewed the piping to the chasuble neck opening and trimmed the seam allowances. Attaching the top of the facing wasn’t too difficult, except for the two sides where the pieces of piping overlap — I did that bit by hand with a ladder stitch. The most challenging part was getting the bottom of the facing turned under and pinned smoothly. It would not cooperate. It insisted on buckling in as many ways as it could. After many attempts, I turned to the iron — and the facing’s lower edge breathed a sigh and lay down gently.

IMG_0103

IMG_0104

Our priest is pleased with it and plans to wear it for midweek mass tomorrow evening. I hope this fabric performs better than the other one. I’ll try to remember to bring my camera and get a picture of him wearing it before or after mass.

Utterly safe place

Last year I read Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy. I got bogged down in the first few chapters, but found the rest of it interesting, very challenging, and potentially very hopeful. The basic gist is that if we really think Jesus is the Son of God, we ought to pay attention to what he has said, and try to live by it — and that doing so doesn’t mean legalism, but something more like supported habit-training.

One bit that came up a few times was the idea that the universe is an utterly safe place for us to be, because God is there — here — all around us like the air. And that God is utterly full of joy — not unfamiliar with sorrow and all, but that his joy is so firmly founded that his sorrow can be fully itself in the midst of his irrevocable joy.

I don’t live in this utterly safe and joyful universe.

I would like to. And I am open to doing so more and more, and looking for and practicing that supported habit-training.

I have written before, I think, about Tim Cornwell, the youth pastor I volunteered with when we lived in Virginia, and how he dealt with wiggly distractible middle schoolers. He was able to invite them to step out into the hallway to take a break, get their wiggles out, get their bodies ready again, and then return to the group — in a way that was not a threat, had not a hint of shame, but was a sincere, dignified invitation, an acknowledgment of a legitimate need and an appropriate way to meet that need.

The same exact invitation, same words, everything, can be and often is issued with exactly a note of threat and shame in it — the expectation is that the kid recognize how badly they are behaving and pull their act together, without having to go to the extreme of stepping out of the room.

In the same way, it is easy to take such an invitation, even if delivered the way Tim did it, as a threat, scornful and shaming. I think we are used to it. Threats and scorn and shame are often delivered in phrases that sound polite, perfectly correct, with words that ought to indicate a real opportunity but are really intended as an ultimatum or a “don’t you dare.”

Amy is quick to get on the defensive. Quick to feel attacked, rejected, dismissed, disliked, enslaved, oppressed, shamed, etc. Sometimes no matter how well I think I am delivering certain information — warmly, calmly, lovingly — she will take it defensively. Sometimes she’s right; sometimes my chosen, intentional words and tone of voice can’t cover the fact that I am feeling irritated and scornful. And of course there are also times where I can’t or won’t control words and tone of voice.

And, what seems both odd and perfectly understandable, is that I am the same way.

Coming from a peer, a lot of the things Amy says and does when she is unhappy about something would be serious threats, insults, attacks, and just plain rude — not to mention the unfairness of turning everything back on me (“well YOU shouldn’t / did / etc”). But Amy is not my peer. She’s a little kid. An extremely clever and articulate little kid, but still a little kid. That doesn’t make it okay for her to treat me badly, but it does mean she’s not deliberately malicious — more likely afraid (of not being good enough, of facing her own sense of remorse, of being rejected) or frustrated (having to do what she doesn’t want to do, unable to do what she wants, not meeting expectations internal or external) and her loud and defiant expressions just happen to be the way it comes out.

It also happens that loud and defiant are really really hard on me. As are rude, personal attacks, getting in my face… and even persistent argument and negotiation, and even more, limp sullen resistance.

If I lived in the utterly safe and joyful universe, all of these things could be, without unnerving and provoking me quite so much.

I could handle what Amy dishes out without taking it personally, without being manipulated or cowed or worn down by it, and could respond in ways that would be helpful to her — to provide reassurance against her fears, hope and acceptance and confidence against her frustrations, and guidance to develop habits of expression that will serve her better in her relationships. I could see my own irritation and scorn with compassion and grace, hold them kindly and tenderly, let go of them more easily, with less sense of self-condemnation and pressure. I could see my own depletion earlier, and take steps to replenish myself. And if I could do all of that, perhaps Amy would grow less prone to fear, frustration, and her own defensive scorn.

What does scorn do? It protects against vulnerability to being wounded by rude attacks, including the scorn of others. It withers the opposition, to something unworthy of notice, something inferior, shameful, wrong, betraying frustration. It bolsters pride and a sense of security; betraying fear.

In utter safety and joy, there is no need to fear the scorn of others and no need to resort to scorn ourselves. In Willard’s chapters on the Sermon on the Mount, he talks about the call to abandon habits of anger and contempt and threats and manipulation.

“Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy, for we have had more than enough of contempt…” (Ps 123:4)

I suspect I have written this post before.

Baptism

Yesterday our Godly Play lesson was about baptism.

There were rather a lot of materials to gather for this one! Three white circles for the Trinity, the pitcher and basin for the Father and Creator, the Paschal candle for the Son and Redeemer, and a dove and fragrant oil for the Spirit and Sustainer; plus a baby doll wrapped in white, smaller candles, matches, and a snuffer.

IMG_8216

Lacking small white candles or a big white Christ candle, I improvised. While our breakfast apple crisp was in the oven, I softened some modeling beeswax on top of it, and used some of the yellow to make the cross to apply to the pale green candle — a model Paschal candle, which our church uses at baptisms. For our model baby and for Amy and me, I used the only other candles in the house. Our candle snuffer is a tablespoon. Our vial of fragrant oil was this orange-infused EVOO. The dove was formed from the same beeswax.

Amy, meanwhile, enjoyed making various creations from the other pieces of beeswax. Three people in the back row, and on the bottom row from left to right: Bed, baby cobra, evil eagle, baby, chalice, airplane, and purse.

IMG_8214

After every lesson, Amy wants to do her own presentation of the materials. We don’t have art materials, practical life activities, or other response items in a dedicated Godly Play space — perhaps I ought to consider gathering a few such for each lesson and see if she ever chooses such works for the response time. With just the two of us, I don’t ever get to sit back and observe from any distance — her presentations always require me as audience.

Fixed. Sort of. For now.

IMG_8110

IMG_8108

The zipper on my eleven-year-old dulcimer case finally quit. No matter what I do to lubricate the zipper teeth or tighten the pulls, the zipper stays stubbornly separated. Tired of closing the case with a couple dozen quilt-basting safety pins, I found two long zippers in my sewing supplies, both from bedding packages, and stitched them to the existing zipper. So far, so good. Certainly better than all those pins!

Talking to flat-earthers

As I have been reading political opinions and articles folks have posted on Facebook, I have had a few thoughts.

I will start by stating that I took AP American History in high school precisely because it included neither a government nor an economics unit (if I recall correctly). I did take statistics in graduate school. I am a fairly intelligent person and fairly widely read, but I do not have any expertise or experience in political science, economics, government, etc. And I get all of my news through Facebook. By choice. Fact-finding has become such an onerous task for the non-expert that I am often unmotivated to invest the necessary time and energy at the cost of other things. I apologize… sort of. I feel a vague shame — that I ought to find politics important enough to invest significant time in it. And yet I also feel a vague conviction that spending time with family and friends, cooking and homeschooling, making music, reading, prayer and worship, and various other things are as important — if not more important — than wading through political stuff looking for truth. I understand that I ought to care more, and do more, for people outside of my social circle, perhaps including wider actions designed to have an impact on the systemic level… not sure yet what form that should take at this point in my life, but am trying to be open and willing.

TOLERANCE, RESPECT, DIALOGUE, MODERATION

One of the things that bugs me, and a lot of you from what you post and link to, is the amount of ridicule, intolerance, shaming, name-calling, and dismissing that goes on in so-called political discussion. We want to see everyone treated with dignity — everyone’s opinion heard with respect — everyone given the assumption that they have done their research; that they are acting from good will, in good faith; that they are reasonably intelligent and committed to the truth; that, if Christian, they are faithful to the Bible and to God and that they pray and read carefully. Except we can be so quick to assume that some folks’ opinions demonstrate that they can’t possibly be both intelligent and sincere.

We want everyone to be willing to negotiate and compromise — except we think some things are non-negotiable.

We want everyone to respect the views of others — except we think some views have been thoroughly debunked, some views are obviously and uniquely true, some views are solidly founded on incontrovertible evidence, some views have no support whatsoever.

To take an extreme example — because often the extremes are the easiest things to see and think clearly about, or to avoid — let’s consider the shape of the earth. Pretty much everyone agrees that it is a sphere. Science says so. So no one needs to respectfully consider the arguments of flat-earthers. No one needs to enter serious dialogue with them. There is no need to try to compromise or negotiate about it.

However.

A) Is it okay to ridicule someone for being wrong, even wrong about something so obvious and widely acknowledged? Perhaps the person doesn’t have much intelligence or knowledge, in which case they’re ignorant but not malevolent. What’s actually the most effective way to lead them to learn? Perhaps the person knows it’s wrong and claims it anyway for some malevolent reason. How possible is it to know that? Can we see their heart? What’s the most effective way to invite them to repentance? Perhaps the person really believes some alternate theory with what looks to them to be plausible arguments and interpretations of evidence. Who knows what could lead someone to that point — something plays on their fears or presuppositions and derails their otherwise intelligent approach to things? What’s the most effective way to restore them to clear thinking?

Surely in any case we can emphatically respect the dignity of such persons as bearers of the image of God, and beloved by him. Surely we can call out falsehood and deception without resorting to name-calling. I find it unfortunate that the letters of Paul and the Gospels include name-calling, sarcasm, and hyperbole in addressing opponents. I suppose it was acceptable rhetoric for the times. I wonder if any Pharisees repented because being called a brood of vipers or white-washed tombs confronted them with a reality they hadn’t known before. Or if any Judaizers repented because Paul wished they’d emasculated themselves. If we think the trajectory of Scripture is toward more inclusive loving, why hold onto this form of rhetoric? Why don’t we talk as much about the dignity of every person — even slimy politicians — as we do about the ministry of women or the full inclusion of homosexual Christians? Doesn’t a politician count as our neighbor? Or is name-calling really the best way to love them, to confront them with important realities and call them to repentance? Does loving one group of people justify hating and vilifying another group that oppresses them? In what way is that “loving our enemies?” Isn’t that what’s wrong about many of the psalms? I wish the Bible more clearly distinguished between behavior and being.

I appreciate that quotation that floats around — “be kinder than necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” I maintain that however evil someone may be right now, they didn’t start out that way, and never simply decided “Today I am turning to the dark side.” Even Anakin had a reason — he didn’t simply freely and consciously choose evil. There is always a history, hurts, disappointments, frustrations, that leads down that path. Evil people are not some separate species, some category distinct from “us.”

Maybe you might argue that the slimy evil people don’t deserve or need our love as much as the “least of these,” whether you put the unborn, the poor, the gay, the bullied, or some other group of people in that category. The arrogant, the mean, the blasphemous, the hateful, are also among the “least of these.” Hand in Hand Parenting talks about the importance of the needs of the kids who bully and hit and yell — they are just as afflicted and hurting as their victims. An aggressive kid is a scared and threatened kid. I think that’s true of adults, too, although the fear and hurt and threat is usually deeper, more hidden, and more complicated to parse out than in a child’s case.

B) I am pretty solidly convinced of the spherical earth. Other issues? How am I to know which ones are really obvious, solidly supported, incontrovertible, not worth further discussion or negotiation? When people are involved, there are so very many factors. Statistics CAN be manipulated. Fairly easily. Non-scientists are not equipped to evaluate scientific studies. Media articles about peer-reviewed studies don’t always present them accurately. If an issue involves people on both sides, it seems chances are rather good that it is not as clear as either side thinks it is. The number of people believing or disbelieving something doesn’t determine whether the something is true or not… and yet on some level numbers are useful. There are very few flat-earthers. But there are a LOT of people arguing on both sides of issues around health-care, poverty, foreign policy, and so on. So much depends on your assumptions, especially if you are not aware that you have any. So much depends on your personal experience and the anecdotal evidence you hear from friends. So much depends on which people or media outlets you trust as authorities and experts.