Friday, February 27, 2004

This weekend, I'll be going down to Blackstone, VA, to the Virginia United Methodist Assembly Center and taking the introductory course in Lay Speaking (link is to a PDF document). Lay Speaking Ministries seek to serve God through "Caring, Witnessing, Leading, Serving Others, Preaching and Interpreting our Heritage." After taking this course, I will need approval from my local lay leadership committee and Pastor, and then I will be a local church Lay Speaker. This would allow me to fill the pulpit, if necessary (highly unlikely at my church, with 3 ministers on staff!), but will also help me to lead, teach and serve in the congregation. If I choose, I can then take an advanced course and apply to the district Lay Speaking Committee. If approved, I'd become a certified Lay Speaker and would thus be able to lead worship and serve in other ways throughout the district. It's a further step I'm taking to discern my Calling and the ways I can serve the Lord. I'll report back next week on the course.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Book of Job is full of surprising, difficult and curious passages. On my latest reading, though, the one that struck me most comes almost at the end of the book. In Chapter 42, verse 15, we are told that Job gave his daughters "an inheritance among their brothers." This is obviously unusual enough an occurence to the original readers that it would bear mention. Matthew Henry speculates that perhaps his daughters had some unusual merits or holiness that deserved such treatment. Clearly, though, the text doesn't tell us that this is so; indeed, the text doesn't at all explain why Job gave them an inheritance, only that he did.

It seems to me that this is the great example of grace in the book. That God restores and increases Job's riches and blessings is certainly an act of grace; I don't believe in any sense that Job "earned" them back by learning his place in the cosmos. But Job has gone through much, and blessings on such a man would not be unexpected in Old Testament stories. All we know of the daughters, however, is that they were fortunate enough to be born after Job's trials and not before. And yet they are blessed with names--when so many daughters in the Bible are left nameless--and an inheritance--when one would not have been expected or even hoped for. How different is that than what Paul describes in Romans? We don't deserve to be heirs with Christ, but he has made us so. Grace, as always, comes to us without merit. Living after the resurrection, though, we are not--like Job's daughters--without hope for our inheritance. Instead, hope is a part of our inheritance.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Everyone will tell you that you should not visit Ireland in February. Guide books, friends who have been there, the Irish themselves all say the same thing. But we were lucky. For the 4 days I was there, the temperature ranged between 45 and 55 degrees, so the jacket we wore out in the morning was perfect for the entire day. The skies were partly cloudy, imparting just enough definition to the sky to add character to photographs and give the still waters something to reflect. The only rain we saw was on the window of the airplane as we pulled away from the gate at Shannon airport upon departure. Everyone we met mentioned how astonishing the weather was.

Galway is a nice, growing city, and a weekend is the perfect amount of time to spend there. You can see everything that is of real interest in that time and still have time to sample the local music scene, browse the bookstores and sweater shops, and take a walk down to the beach at Salthill. We took a bus tour one day that went through the area to the south of Galway, through County Clare, that was worthwhile. Several people recommended the tour to the north, through Connemara, but we didn't have enough time. If my wife hadn't had to work the first day I was there, we probably could have fit that in as well. Alas, we didn't have the time...I guess that will be our excuse to go back!

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

My entry into blogger_idol-1.gif week 5 of Blogger Idol is my take on the Conde Naste Traveler monthly contest, "Where are you?"

You are standing approximately 200 meters above sea level. Below you, the waves crash into the rocks, but you are so high up that you cannot hear them at all. To get here, you travelled through a lunar-like landscape composed of rugged limestone. Dotting this unique landscape are dozens of burial mounds erected by prehistoric settlers who lived in this area over 5000 years ago. More recently, some of this land has been cleared for grazing cattle and sheep, but it is the dramatic coastal landscape, looking out toward some nearby islands where sweaters are now manufactured, that is the chief draw of this area.

So, where are you, anyhow? Click here for the answer.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Well, almost ready to head off to Ireland, so don't expect anything in this space through the weekend. Looks like the weather will be nice in Galway, a bit warmer than home. I've got some requisite Irish literature--At Swim-Two-Birds, by Flann O'Brien--and a hankering for some fine Guinness Stout.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

I voted this morning in the Virginia Democratic Primary. I was the 41st voter in my precinct. I haven't lived here long enough to know how slow that is, but there was no line and only one person in the precinct when I arrived. Two more were arriving as I left. I expect turnout to be very light.

I'm not particularly interested in sharing my vote, but I will say that I found it difficult to decide. For me, it came down to 4 candidates: Among the leading candidates, Wesley Clark is the only one who has not resonated with me at all, and I never really considered voting for him in this process.

If you are reading this and are in Virginia or Tennessee, I hope you'll consider voting today. I admit that I don't think voting in primaries is as important as voting in a general election, but I think one should try to exercise the right to democracy as often as possible.

Monday, February 09, 2004

My contribution to Blogger Idol, week 4. blogger_idol-1.gif

My oldest child had some minor complications at birth, and spent about a week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The first few days he spent in one of those plastic bubbles that provides light to battle jaundice and heavily oxygenated air. This meant that much of our first few days as parents were spent peering through the plastic and touching him with the respirator's built-in gloves.

At one point, the nurse came by to change our son, and I offered to do it. So reaching in through the awkwardly spaced glove holes, I undid his diaper and gently lifted his rear.

OOOOOooooooopppppps. He wasn't quite done yet.

Scrambling like a waiter about to lose a tray full of glasses, I hauled his rear higher, snatched the diaper I had just removed and slid it beneath the gravity-accelerated droppings. It was a catch that any center fielder would be proud to make. As my heart beat returned to normal, I heard some gentle clapping. All the nurses in the NICU were applauding. "Nice catch, Dad," said one. Since then, I've had other near-misses, complete misses, and other diaper-related failures, but none was quite so memorable as my first diaper as a dad.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

I finished Rilke's Book of Hours (translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy), and I come from it with mixed feelings. Though it is impossible to be sure after a single reading of a single translation, I think that my negative feelings are almost entirely due to the translators. The poems have all of Rilke's vibrant images and startling statements. His vigorous openings are amply present, and his concerns with the natural, the poor, and people's place in the world are all in evidence. The poems are focussed on God, but it is a god that is at times clearly the Christian God, at times a god that seems influenced by Eastern religions, and most often an idiosyncratic, Rilke-imagined god.

All of these points are to the good. I have some genuine issues with the translations, though. I should say these aren't problems I have after having studied these poems long in the original--this is my first exposure to them. I also don't have much problem with the theory they used of translating with shorter lines and unusual stanzaic breaks that is more reminiscent of contemporary poetry. I was a bit taken aback that this book is not Rilke's complete Book of Hours, but a selection. I can forgive that (though I think the publishers should put such things prominently on the cover).

I do object, though, to the violence they have done to some of these poems. I don't use that term lightly. Not only do they select which poems to translate, they have chosen which parts of certain poems. It is not unusual for them to say in their notes that they omitted a few lines--or even a dozen or more lines--from a poem. I give them credit for pointing such omissions out in the notes, but often they have left a poem less than half the size of its original. In such instances, can we even say it is a "translation" as opposed to a poem "based on" the original? They also talk in their notes of "harvesting the fruit" of the poems and of "sparing the reader" images in Rilke's original. In other words, they have taken it upon themselves to edit Rilke which is not, to my mind, the job of a translator.

On the other hand, these poems are not readily available in another translation that I am aware of. There are some truly memorable passages, and I think Barrows and Macy are right that these poems can speak to a culture that is interested in an idiosyncratic God such as Rilke presents. Perhaps their work can be an impetus for someone to do a fresh, full translation of these largely unknown poems.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

It's funny how life presents us with unexpected activities. My wife recently took a new job so that she could have less travel. Upon leaving, she received a veritable deluge of contacts who were interested in booking some of her time (they were either unwilling or unable to afford her previous employer). So she has had the pleasure of bringing a fairly substantial amount of work to her new employer. But at least in the short term, she's still travelling a bit.

Next week, her travels are taking her to Galway, Ireland. Since this puts her in Ireland the week before Valentine's Day, I am going to fly over a couple days before, and we are going to spend the holiday weekend in Ireland! I am very excited--though recent terrorist concerns also have me a bit worried--and in the midst of trying to figure out what we should do and see. I know we will spend some time at Kenny's Bookshop, but I'm not sure what else we'll do. If you have been to western Ireland, I have a few questions for you:
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, February 02, 2004

I finished Hedda Gabler over the weekend. I don't know that I found it quite as subtle as A Doll's House (the only other Ibsen I've read), but I imagine it is more dramatic on stage. This comes from the fact, I think, that there aren't many likeable characters. A couple characters are pitiable, and Hedda and Brack are certainly interesting, but no one is a "protagonist" in the normal sense of the word.

The most interesting thought that occured to me while reading this is how interesting it would be to stage the play in the antebellum south. The names would appear out of place, but I don't know that most of the issues the play deals with would seem all that foreign in such a context.

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