Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Opposite of Magic

In the church I grew up in, the pastors made a special point, it seemed like at each instance of celebrating communion or baptism, of saying, "Now, there's nothing magic about this bread (or water). This is just something we do in obedience."

Something in me always rebelled against that. If there was nothing special about it, why go through it? Why would God order meaningless actions? But, no, I didn't really believe in magic bread or water, so I let it lie.

Over the past couple of years, as we've explored sacramental churches and stepped back and then explored again, I've come to realize that a sacrament is the opposite of magic. Magic is an intangible action--a word, a gesture, a symbol--to generate a physical result. But a sacrament is a physical action to transmit a spiritual reality.

We are physical beings. And we are spiritual beings. In the sacraments, God promises to meet us on both levels. And as we began to acknowledge it as such (and recognize that God had indeed been present to us, in that way, all through the years of being told that there was nothing special but we were going to do it anyways), we've begun to see a whole lot of things differently.

We've begun to see that salvation isn't something that rests on the fervency of our own faith, or the complexity with which we can articulate doctrine. It rests simply on the work of God in Christ. It is not a deal to be signed by those who have reached the age of consent, but a meal to be shared with all who come. And looked at that way, it no longer made any sense to keep from sharing it with our children.

Which is why we celebrated this Easter by having all four of the children baptized and receive first Communion.

Do they understand it all? Neither do we. When was I "saved," after all? Was it the first time I prayed the prayer, hiding in the grass as a toddler? Was it when I was seven and wrote it out in my Bible? Was it when I was baptized at eight because my older siblings were? Was it when I was twelve and the enormity of God dying for me hit for the first time? Was it when I wrestled with and walked through doubts as a teenager and young adult?

Or was it all God the whole time? Did it matter how clearly I understood or simply whether I received? Did Jesus, who commended us over and over to the faith of a little child, really mean to tell us that their faith didn't count?

So today we recognized the gift of faith in them and permitted them to receive God's grace through baptism. The older ducklings can answer catechism questions with the best of them, and the twins know that they belong to Jesus. Will they have doubts? Surely. Will they have a crisis of faith, of wondering if it is really theirs or just something inherited? Very likely. I will probably have a few more crises of my own. But that won't change what God does, nor do I hold back from receiving His grace now because I might not take advantage of it in the future.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

In Which I Type Up A Bunch of Stuff

I'm typing with my laptop hanging off the edge of the loveseat, the battery about to die, wishing I'd brought a book instead of a computer. Except I probably would be done with the book by now, too.

I really wish I had my Nook. I've been saving up for it for months and I finally have enough, but no time to go to the store and get it. (Yes, I could order, but I want to look at it and feel it first.) I have thought of a thousand times it would be handy to have. I'll probably break it in three weeks.

The reason I can't move is because there is a small head with closed eyes resting on my other side. D4 interrupted the morning preparations for church by throwing up. I stayed home with him while DOB took the others out to church. So there is no one to send for a book. We watched Bob the Builder and then a video of old family movies. A lot changes in forty years.

DOB had his first trial last week. He got a decent verdict. (It was public defense of a civil commitment--the fellow was undoubtedly crazy, but he got to keep a few key rights rather than having a complete guardianship.) DOB had a wonderful time objecting and cross-examining and then came home and wished he could just die and get it over with. I think he should be over the adrenalin detox in a few days. He's feeling happy to get back to estate planning and other boring stuff.

We have a contract on a house and are moving forward with it. It's a great location and price and a huge lot, but the house is currently pretty small and plain (two bedrooms, one bathroom, and a mysterious toilet in the back entry. Also a basement). We have plans for a massive expansion in a couple of years. But right now we'll just be happy to get moved. And we hope it comes through, because we're putting a bit of money into it in advance of closing so that we don't have to get a construction loan.

Now I'm getting the Low Battery warning. The end is near.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Maybe good, maybe not

D3 has been a compulsive finger-sucker since she first discovered that she had them. She's not just a situational finger-sucker, either. No, anytime the fingers are not actively employed in handing food in, they are in the mouth. They always look white and shriveled and smell like stale saliva.

So I'd been thinking about when and how to break her of this, and always, when the peaceful sound of focused sucking signaled that naptime had begun, come to the conclusion that now was not the best time.

Sunday, right as the church service was starting, she started whimpering over a cut finger. I had to quickly rummage through the back of the church for the first aid kit (fortunately I knew where it was owing to the events of my first visit to the church). I found a small round bandage and we persuaded her it was enough for now.

Not until we got home did we realize the horror of what had happened: it was one of THE fingers. And not until I tried to get her to take a nap that afternoon did I truly realize the full horror. She had no idea how to go to sleep without them.

"Try sucking your thumb," I suggested "Many people enjoy thumbs. Or what about your left hand?"

"They don't work!" she wailed. Nor would she put the finger in her mouth, with or without a bandaid.

Finally I gave up, being in desperate need of a nap myself, and called in the reinforcements. DOB finally managed to rock her to sleep, at great cost to his own afternoon.

Fortunately by bedtime she was so tired that she fell asleep rather quickly. But the same pattern has repeated all week long: no nap (which usually means she wakes D4 up after 45 minutes, instead of the blissful 3 hours we had been enjoying), then conking out at bedtime. One would think that tiny cut would have healed by now, but she insists that it still hurts.

I would be happy that we have found a way that at least is not my fault to be rid of the habit, except today I realized what is replacing it: she's sucking on her lower lip. Now she's got a red rash all along the underside of her mouth.

There's no winning this one.