Guess Who Came to Dinner

June 18, 2010

Sr. Wantabee is in LA! She flew in yesterday, right before the tornado was predicted for her home area and before the earthquakes here. Oh, that’s down in San Diego, her friends said as they walked after all their work together. After walking together to support one of them who needed to walk a half hour a day for a work place competition, they went home and then reconvened a half hour later with others for dinner with Sr. Wantabee. How special is that! These friends and Sr. Wantabee had gotten married the same year back in the 70’s and had stayed connected through her years in Africa and so catching up on kids and family dynamics was definitely on the chit chat agenda.

Sr. Wantabee commented that where she is now, seldom to people get together for dinner nor do the churches have a strong enough middle aged or aging couples group that merits this kind of friendship and so part of coming to LA was to connect socially and be fed. We chatted about the change in church dynamics and social dynamics in our lifetime. Was it because of our new digital TV’s that we cannot figure how to get register with an antenna? Was it the breakup of the family? Was it women working? Was it evangelical vs mainline mentality? It was a roaming conversation through the decades and the changes in social dynamics.

Tonight she will go to one of the couples homes where they host a movie night on Fridays for whoever wants to drop in. They’re following a Alfred Hitchcock theme right now. What fun! Sr. Wantabee is wondering who will come that she can touch base with. Fill my cup Lord and let it overflow!


June 17, 2010

Sr. Wantabee sitting here in the Denver airport, pretending she is important and pulling out her computer like everyone else. sighhhh She flew out before the midwest tornado could set down and after the S. California earthquake. Ye ole earth is struggling. She finished ESL teaching last night, a testing night. How many will pass and go to the next level of learning English, a transition. When she returns she will have a new teaching schedule, teaching different nights, a transition. By the time she returns her daughter will have finished her driver’s ed class and be ready for behind the wheel experience on the road, a transition.

Transition times bring memories of other similar times, teaching her other children to drive. It is not a time to race through, she explained to her daughter, but a time to enjoy the process of learning and being “not quite.” Soon enough the next phase comes with all it’s responsibilities.

Sigh, loading is begining. Must go and lean into this transition.

The Pharisee

June 13, 2010

Today Sr. Wantabee got to give the children’s sermon at church. The story is Luke 7. Everyone is talking and trying to figure out who Jesus is. The youth driving in her car were chatting. “I like that Christmas Jesus but if he was a carpenter, why wasn’t he making chairs and supporting himself?” Who is this guy that one story before in the same chapter raised the dead son of a widow and who three stories before cured the sick servant of some Centurion? The Pharisee decided to invite him to dinner to check Jesus out personally. She related it to the World Cup going on now and everyone watching their TV and wondering who is going to win. All the gossip was about this Jesus at the time, trying to figure out if he was the new prophet to free people from Roman rule.

In any case, the Pharisee prepares a meal, Jesus arrives and shortly after a party crasher comes in. A woman of the night. How do you deal with party crashers she asked the youth. Let them have a beer, avoid a scene, and hope they disappear, right? But the lady in red did not disappear but started sobbing and crying until tears covered Jesus’ feet and she used her hair to dry them and poured perfume over them. Can you feel the social tension in this scene? This is not a cute little Christmas story. This is Jesus sitting between a Pharisee checking him out with some lady wailing at his feet and the room watching. What did he do?

As usual, he deflected the tension with a story. A banker had a visit from two customers. One owed $5 on his account but had misplaced his card and couldn’t pay but perhaps by the weekend. The Banker waved the fees and gave him an extension. The next guy came in and his house was to be forclosed on. He was unemployed and could not guarantee when he could make the next payment. The banker made an executive decision and told the man he would not forclose. Who would be forever grateful to the banker, the man with a $5 debt or the man who still had his house for his family? The youth knew for some of them live in that dynamic. The man with the house would be forever grateful to that banker that helped him.

Then Jesus turned to the Pharisee and pointed out that since he came to dinner, no water was given to wash his dusty feet, no kiss on the cheek, nor lotion for his head by the Pharisee. The woman of the night, though, had washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed his head with her perfume.

Sr. Wantabee challenged the youth, was Jesus concerned about social protocol? She did not think so. Jesus was saying that the woman who was forgiven much had engaged Jesus personally. The Pharisee who probably felt he had little to be forgiven of, had not engaged Jesus in his person but sat back and evaluated him. Likewise the audience – the disciples and other guests watched the encounter like many people today. If Jesus won the debate, pat him on the back. If the Pharisee won the debate, join his side. If it is convenient and to our benefit to present as Christians, we do but if it is socially embarrassing, we melt into the woodwork.

And so the challenge is who we identify with today during the Pentecost season: the Pharisee checking Jesus out but forgetting the basic social protocol/sins of omission, the woman of the night caught in blatant sin, or the uncommitted bystander? For any of these people, Jesus was in the room wanting to engage with them!

You Gotta Stay Happy!

June 12, 2010

The 83 year old patient pointed his finger at Sr. Wantabee’s nose and vehemently said, “I’ve learned you gotta stay happy!” Catholic born but not one for church, his story gradually unfolded. His leg had just been amputated below the knee due to cancer. His first wife was diabetic and had bumped her foot, ignored it until the pain was too great. She finally went to the doctor and agreed to an amputation to relieve the pain. The operation went well and they parted for the evening. The next morning he arrived and greeted her, “Hello Sweetie!” No response. She had suddenly died as the nurse had just seen her alert. So he was a bit skeptical coming in for his operation.

He married a younger woman a year and a half later and raised his son and her children. Somewhere in the story he broke his back in the early 60s and so was animated that he had never earned more than $3 in his lifetime but he had made it!

He couldn’t work but had a 30 acrea home, had a golf cart he could climb into off his porch and travel his home, hunting and caring.

He had a long history of operations, successful bouts with cancer, miraculous cures and healings but now he, too had hurt his foot and was forced to adopt a three wheeler and now an electric wheel chair. But without his leg, how would he function? How would he keep his wife happy and busy? Maybe he should just cash in his chips! No, you gotta stay happy to have the strength for tomorrow and he would.

Sr. Wantabee gently probbed him about his faith journey during this times and how faith shored up his happy attitude but those comments were deflected. He did agree to prayer. As she left the room, she glanced back and thought she saw a man fighting the tears that happiness could not hold back. Is happiness truly an act of the will she wondered.

Avatar and Habbakuk

June 11, 2010

Sr. Wantabee has suggested to the pastor of her church that a summer community discussion group be run by her during July. If God doesn’t get to take a vacation from caring for us, why should we take a vacation from adoring and thanking Him? Early church to avoid the heat and then an intergenerational share time to talk about Avatar and perhaps compare it to Habbakuk.

Habbakuk is a minor prophet in the Old Testament who bemoans God’s absence during trials and distress, not unsimilar to the Na’vi distress at seeing Home Tree destroyed. How can disaster like this befall us. A commentary Sr. Wantabee read this week offered a two point response to evil offered by God in Habbakuk. First, evil will eventually burn out and be destroyed by its own methods. The evil general in the end is speared and dies. Secondly God and good will eventually prevail. In Pandora when it looks like evil is winning the pseudo-rhinoceroses coming charging through with their body plating that cannot be penetrated by bullets and set the military to flight.

The group could ponder whether our good Avatar, Jake Sulley, was really a Christ figure. What is the nature of connections – to see the world through another’s eyes or to control, how does prayer work? There could be a discussion on the mechanistic vs the naturalistic view of reality. As youth, is there a similarity to the sheroe who refuses to fly her helicopter to kill the Na’vi and eventually dies. “I had hoped there was a way out of this that did not involve martrydom!” There are many good hooks for conversation beside the obvious Western vs Hinduistic faith stances. The role of the saints-sacred memories or active agents?

Let’s do it!


June 6, 2010

Sr. Wantabee watched Avatar three times this weekend in phases with different children while running back and forth to her daughter’s concerts in a neighboring city. WHEW. For an old Trekki from the 60’s the concept of flying to some unknown planet to set up communication with humanoids who structure reality differently was actually much more intriguing than she had anticipated. In fact, it was delightful. the scenary was enchanting with all energy field, neon light sort of affects, and the idea of setting up communication with other life forms through your pony tail was fascinating. Absolutely delightful but one of the scenes that captivated her was during the crisis at the end when the hero kneels to pray at the holy tree to invoke aid for the battle that is about to unfold. His “chosen woman,” the next high priestess comes from behind and says something like, “The Great Mother does not take sides. She only maintains the balance in life.”

Sr. Wantabee has often puzzled thinking of the Christians on both sides of whatever war praying to God for victory. Or perhaps both teams on the football field pray before the game. Does the “will of God” only find meaning in end times theories as we seek to make sense of the catastrophies of our lives and the suffering in our world?

The people on Pandora, the planet where the Avatars interact with the natives have a reality that is a deeply interconnected energy field where the memories and lives of the ancestors are absorbed into an eternal ebb and flow of energy. The alternative and the contrast in the movie is the very Western, scientific, mechanistic, militaristic, fight terror with terror “aliens.” They are totally undesireable in their sell out to greed, hatred and fear. The viewer cannot help but be repulsed by their obtuseness to other life forms, lack of respect for the environment, and total utilitarian approach.

As a Christian, I believe the “Great Mother” spirit has personality and will. God does not exist to maintain balance. Sigh, I see through a cloud darkly and it is bedtime. I shall have to ponder some more.

Bring on that Positive Energy!

June 4, 2010

Tuesday Sr. Wantabee met a patient at the hospital pacing the halls, waiting for her operation at 12:30. She wanted a cigarette but knew that was not possible and was a baptized, confirmed Lutheran turned Buddhist so did not desire prayer but was “open to all the positive energy I can get!” Sr. Wantabee raised her hand and waved blessings her way as she oft does when she brings greetings from Christians in Kenya to Christians in America. We did not pray but a kind of comradery was formed. Thursday Sr. Wantabee checked in on her to see how she was recovering.

Mz. Positive Energy was now antsy in her chair by the bed, waiting to be released and bored to tears with TV. She was ready to go! She had picked up a bacterial infection during her first operation and was hoping this operation would correct the complication of the second operation BUT the infection showed longer than insurance covers after an operation and her work place was all aflap about her possible infecting of the product they worked with and so life was not right. Mostly life was wrong.

Sr. Wantabee moaned and groaned with her about the complications and then leaned against the wall and asked nonchalantly, “Tell me about your journey with Buddhism. I’m curious how you went from Lutheran to Buddhist.” The woman’s whole demeanor relaxed, she started smiling and laughing about how in another city she had found a Temple and three little Buddhist monks and she had chanted and one had given her a mantra and taught her to meditate. She assured Sr. Wantabee that she had read the Bible from cover to cover in search of God, taught youth groups as a college student, and had investigated various churches. Her father had headed to the golf course on Sunday mornings while his wife took the kids to church and was always present to receive the donuts that were brought home. And of course he said those long Thanksgiving prayers to make sure the patient’s food was cold before the “amen.” Her present boyfriend was taking her to one of those huge mega-churches, a “hatch’m, batch’m, match’m and dispatch’m” operation – convert, baptize, marriage, and funerals is the good of a church. In contrast, she preferred the quiet meditation of Buddhism. Prayer is just asking God for stuff. When distraught with the problems of her life, she would call her Christian friends who would tell her she had to pray and wait for God to intervene and do a miracle. As far as she could tell “you need to get your but off your chair and do something.” We bantered back and forth, laughing at her pithy summaries of her perspective on how Christianity functions. Sr. Wantabee agreed that certainly us sinners who make us the church are not the God whom the church worships and that prayer is more than asking. “What do you do with the Jesus person?” she asked. “Ahhh, he’s a good guy!” Whew, we agreed. Sr. Wantabee shared her journey with doubt, TM experience, UCLA class on comparative religions and coming to the conclusion that there is a creator and a creation and the Jesus person is the best explanation of how the seen and unseen are able to communication. Prayer is not just asking but is a form of meditation and centering on the truths of what Jesus said, ignore us silly sinners that can’t make the mark, that’s what this is about. She thought. She agreed she was not the Creator and listened. Sr. Wantabee wished her the best on her journey (and search) and encouraged her to meditate on the truth of Christ’s words and not the sinfulness of Christ’s servants. We parted with a smile and a laugh.

Sr. Wantabee left sad. The monk has taught the patient to realize that every time a car on the highway offended her, it was “an opportunity to practice patience and not a personal insult.” She was better at calming her nerves but did she have the positive energy of knowing she was forgiven and in relationship with the God of the universe who does not treat us as puppets to be manipulated but as his children with whom he walks even on rainy days.

“I wish I were thin!”

June 3, 2010

Last night Sr. Wantabee was teaching ESL to level 3 beginners. The class is composition. The unit was on change.

The first week we wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper about a change we would like to see take place. The students were quite clever comparing the traffic in their former traffic to traffic here. The streets of America are almost as nice as the streets of Saigon! Why not park in the malls and then have rapid transit to the city center to unclog parking? Nice essays.

Last week we wrote about changes in housing, the differences between the homes in our former country and our homes now. Things were “too” tiny or not “spacious enough” as we compared.

Last night, though, we tackled the past tense used in a present “wish” statement. Sr. Wantabee wondered what goes on in American thinking that a wish automatically throws the conversation into the past tense. A wish in the present necessitates an action in the past which makes the present wish conceivable. She could be thin now if she had dieted properly then. Wishful thinking in the present draws thoughts from the past which make a dream for the future. I cannot say “I wish I will be thin.” I must say, “I wish I were thin.” “Hoping” can be followed by the future tense but “wishing” is followed by the past. It says something about how we see reality.

Theologians Go To Sunday School

June 2, 2010

Sr. Wantabee is still reflecting on where theologians play if English majors play on radio and the thought occured to her that theologians play in Sunday School. We are able to step into another world of adventure, magical interrelating of the seen and unseen world, and hope. We pull out scissors and paper, puppets, and plays. We sing songs and dance dances and are free to ask questions and plumb the depths of reason. As a youth teaching vacation Bible school, Sr. Wantabee was asked by a 5th grader, “Why did God make us with hands on our shoulders and legs to stand on and not the other way around?” Wouldn’t we all look funny walking on our hands? Yes, Sr. Wantabee, reflected. Theologians do have fun and that is probably why she loves the classroom as much as the sanctuary!

In two weeks she will have an opportunity to share in the sermon at her church. It is the story of Jesus being invited to eat at the home of a stuffy Pharasee who forgets to even offer to wash his feet while a woman of the streets interrupts the party by crying over his feet and drying them with her hair. The person who has been forgiven much, loves much. Sr. Wantabee is going to call the children forward to act out the story three demensionally and end with singing, His Banner Over Me is Love. Then on Monday she gets to act out the story on the Memory Care Unit. That will be fun because just like children, little ole “people say the darndest things.”

He Died

June 1, 2010

About a week ago Sr. Wantabee visited a patient right before he was headed to ten hours of surgery. It was a very poignant moment as the wife offered to read the 23rd Psalm, the daughter cried, the parents bowed their head and Sr. Wantabee shared of the presence of the Holy Spirit that would be celebrated Sunday. The fulfillment of a promise by God given long ago in the Old Testament, fulfilled on Pentecost, and true today that the Holy Spirit does not leave us but walks with us during the shadow times. She had just shared Psalm 23 with her little ole people and it was true for this patient too. We prayed, he cried and beamed and thanked me for the encouragment. After the surgery, he lingered in intensive care for a week and was thought to be improving. One evening last week, late at night, he got quite anxious and started having trouble breathing. He said, “I’m going to die!” coded and was passed. Sr. Wantabee’s friend was called to be the chaplain to give comfort to the shocked and distraught family.

A young father in his 50s with a loving wife and teenage daughter. Sr. Wantabee grieved today and thanked the Holy Spirit for its presence and comfort but she felt very sad.