Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lovely Fields

Okay. Another sermon draft per request. Still pretty rough.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In today's gospel (Mark 6:30-32, 53-56) we have two stories which seem to highlight differing themes. We start with the need for rest…and quickly, very quickly move to equality, that lack of distinction as to whom Jesus and his disciples feed, heal and speak.

Mark 6:31 ..”and Jesus says, Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile” Only, the while never happens.

I wish I could tell you ways to find rest. I recently found this great quote. It said simply, “Have gone to the fields to be lovely. Be back when I am done blooming.”

I was challenged to put the note on my door at work.(which, by the way is ridiculous I don’t have a door where I work just lots of children)..but nonetheless I was challenged to put this note on the door and leave the Boys and Girls Club for a day or two. And although this wasn’t even remotely realistic, I loved the fantasy of it.

So instead of putting this note up and just taking off for a couple of days. I put it on my facebook. Facebook being my computer social network..where things don’t always have to be real. I simply stated. Nicole Bates has gone to the fields to be lovely. Be back when I am done blooming.” ..and then I pretended that my back deck was a field of lilies instead of mosquitoes. When I came back to my computer 20 minutes later. Two other people had asked to join me.

We all fill our days with something. While we may not be able to spend days “fully blooming.”,we can come to our relationship in Christ for a few moments here and and there as we remember to walk with him through the rest of our day.

When our boys were younger. Like 1, 2 and 4…Brian and I used to argue about who got to go to the grocery store. “It’s my turn.” We would tell each other. We would rock/paper/scissors..or flip a coin. It was not because we did not love our children. We simply wanted a break. We wanted that 5 minutes in the car to quickly catch our breath before entering the store. Because once we entered the store there was always something else.

Many of our neighbors were without cars, so we would often help drive other families home..or someone would ask us to take them to a doctor the following day..or for Brian..they would ask him to fix the broken car in their driveway. We were still serving others when we reached the grocery store. We were still providing groceries for our children back home. The car was simply a small break between types of service..and we usually came back recharged and glad to be home.

Many of us do not have the luxury of days in solitude with Christ. That is okay. Apparently, neither did the disciples. We can, however, take 5 minutes somewhere/ think, to pray, to reconnect.

The Disciples return to Jesus on the shores of Galilee. They begin to recount to him all that they have seen and done. Recognizing their need for rest Jesus states, “Come away with me to a deserted place and rest”..and before they have even eaten they are found. The disciples become busy…and begin feeding the multitudes.

In the words of biblical story-teller Philip Ruge Jones…Mark will show us Jesus feeding the multitudes and teaching them God’s ways. For a moment, we are part of that crowd. We’re caught up in the momentum of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee; immediately going here, immediately going there, immediately, immediately, immediately. And everywhere Jesus heals….

But that’s not all. Jesus also insists on going places he should not go. The storyteller says that Jesus made the disciples go to “the other side” again and again, and each time I
know that he is crossing boundaries between Jewish lands of Galilee and those of the Gentiles on the other side of the sea.

He cares for both without distinction.

So I take a close look at myself to see what boundaries I may be creating in my communities today. Do I find myself interacting/ministering/serving with the same respect those who identify themselves as Republican/Democrat..or anything in between..the same? Do I find other ways to label and create barriers? the rich and the poor.. homosexual or heterosexual..documented or undocumented.

I ask you to take the time and sit with Christ to help break down some of these distinctions. In other words come to that deserted place (however briefly that may be) and center ourselves in our relationship with Christ before reaching out to all people.

I would like to end with the servant’s prayer of St. Francis of Assissi.

"O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light, and Where there is sorrow, joy.
Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Austen and True Life

Austen was recently sent a series of questions from MTV's True Life. Actually, both boys were, but Cody refused to play.

It appears they are trying to do an episode on homeschoolers. We have no idea if Austen will be one of the three kids shadowed. I have many mixed feelings about the whole thing. But Austen wants to give it a shot, and see where this leads. So far..we have been playing lots of phone tag with one of the producers. So, who knows?

As I read Austen's essay to MTV, it reminded me how I went about deciding whether to homeschool or not. I read books, went to conferences, etc. But what I really wanted was the perspective of the kids themselves.

I asked Austen if he would mind if I printed his essay on the blog. He was busy playing some alien game on the computer so he grunted "I don't care!". I asked him if he even heard me. He responded with, "huh?". I asked him again. A smile followed by, "I don't care."

So while it is really tempting to fill in details or clarify many of Austen's statements in his essay..I am going to refrain. This is Austen's homeschooling "story" in Austen's words:

My name is Austen Bates. I am 15 years old. I live in a very small town in the TX Hill Country.

I think my life could best be described as "busy but fun".

I have been homeschooling since I was 6. My brothers and I have a lot of say in what we want to learn. I spent most of elementary school playing and listening to books.

In junior high, my mom took a job working full time at the local Boys and Girls Club. My brothers and I spent most of our time at this Club. We read books, practiced instruments and played math games until the schooled kids arrived. Then we helped read to the little ones and helped serve snacks. After that..we played, played, played with the other kids.

My mom cut back to part-time work. At this point, my older brother and I started more structured learning in the mornings. We were now later junior high and high-school aged. I write every day, work on a problem set from the Saxon Math series and read for at least two hours a day. I have some learning differences so the math and writing have been sort-of tough for me.We are usually finished by noon, giving us plenty of time to play. (yes, again with the play..I like to swim in the river in my back yard and ride my four-wheeler). Truth is I am usually busy helping at the Club, working on Odyssey of the Mind problems and with Civil Air Patrol.

While we do have a set time to study, what we read and write about is pretty much up to us. We do belong to a homeschool co-op that we prepare for weekly. Last year we studied Ancient History/Lit (Socratic Discussion), Biology and did Octa-Tetra designs. This year I am starting a two year Integrated Physics and Chemistry progam. My friend Mandy and I asked for culinary arts(cooking) and jazz ensemble. Rumor has it we will begin in the Fall.

This summer I am working at the Boys and Girls Club and reading some books for World History. Oh and playing (yes..still) a lot. What I like about the way we learn is I have a lot of time and a lot of freedom. I'm not sure what is tough about this lifestyle. This is what I know.

I guess I would really like to have the chance to study cooking more formally. I hope to open a cyber-cafe one day and would like to learn more about cooking now, not when I'm in college. My dad is a good cook..but my mom..not so much. She's the one home the most.

I'm not sure about challenges and goals for the next 3-4 months. I would like to get further on the gyrocopter I hope to build. It would be really nice to be on an Odyssey of the Mind team that makes it to World Finals. I've made it to State about 4 times. I'd like to make it to the next level.

Thankyou for your time.

Austen Joseph Bates.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Midlife musings

It is Monday night..and I am in shock that I am still awake. Why? Because I am getting older. I work outside and we are in a heat-wave/drought here in the Tx. Hill Country.
Meaning? I have been going to bed around 8pm (no joke!) and I'm amazed at the things that my mind thinks I can do and my body says "hey..what are you thinking!!". This constant fatigue and soreness has led me to dwell on what it means to be aging..and mid-life transitions.

I look at how my friends and family cope with mid-life transitions. Some change careers, some have affairs. Okay. Just one that I know of. Brian has purchased a Corvette and found a chicken fettish. My friends Carol and Susan have just received tatoos. (Cool ones I might add). I wonder, what does this part of my life bring? I have no desire for a tatoo. I don't like pain. Cars do not interest me. An affair? Nope. Chickens? Nope. I really don't feel the need to change anything.
At first I think this apathy is because I just don't have time to dwell on this much. Even now, as I type, our dog Shadow is barking at me because it is past her bed-time. Shadow thinks I need to go to bed so she can sleep. I have disrupted her universe. Austen keeps asking me to listen to a bass drum that is beating loudly outside our house. Mason wanders through with laundry..and I hear David Letterman commentaries coming from the living room. Who has time to ponder mid-life? I can't even remember what I am typing! Oh geez, apparently my memory is going too.
I know that lack of time is not a just reason for mid-life apathy. All of my friends and family are busy.I realize that it is not that I am not concerned about where my life has been, or where it is going. I am content. I realize today..that I am content because...well...I never grew up!

I mean this almost seriously. Yes, my understanding of life, relationships, spirituality, etc. are much different now than when I was a child. Hopefully, more mature. But if you look at what I do on an actual day. Nothing has changed from when I was 9!
..and that is the honest truth.
Let's take today. I start with pretend Yoga. It's not real yoga because I learned it out of a book, but it helps me stretch, breathe and feel better. This is just like when I "learned karate" out of a book when I was 9.
I head to work at the Boys and Girls Club to skateboard. I skateboard with one of my mentoring kids on Monday a.m.'s because that is the only time she talks to me. From skateboarding I go to drama,wherewe play games. See. yoga, skateboard, games. Are we beginning to see a pattern here? It's still just like when I was 9.
After games I teach tennis. I eat lunch and then walk to the pool and back 3 times with Club kids.

I come back in time to read. I read aloud to the kids. Today we read Aladdin, Two Friends and Sponge Bob.

Do you realize I just got paid to spend the day like a 9 year old? I go to visit some friends. (So yes..I am still playing)..and pick up ice-cream on the way home. I am planning to heat up left-overs for dinner when Brian sees me with the bag of ice-cream and grins.

Are we having ice-cream for dinner?!

Brian and the boys seemed quite pleased with this arrangement. I don't have the heart to say
No, left-overs it is.
Instead I hear myself saying Of course! As we pass out pint of ice-cream and spoons.

We finish our ice-cream dinner just in time to see Elliott's Cutco Knife Demo. I like the knives they are sharp and you can toss tomato's in the air and watch them slice. We buy a sandwich spreader.
I realize that buying the sandwich spreader was the only adult-like thing I have done today. The rest of my day was spent doing pretend yoga, skateboarding, playing games, playing tennis, walking, swimming, reading, visiting friends, eating ice-cream for dinner and playing with knives. Apparently, this Peter Pan Syndrome of mine IS my mid-life crisis.
It sure is fun!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Summer Alphabet

A quick word-association game for our household this summer.

A: ants, Austen, adventures, Antique Mall, Around the World in 80 Days
B: big ants, Brian-Scott, Brian, broken cars, broken stuff, bananas like "Go bananas, go go bananas" (the song), Boys and Girls Club, bicycles, books, build
C: Cody, chickens and more chickens,Corvette, Costa Rica, chicken coop.
D: desert, dessert, deck.
E:eggs..all two the hens have laid! EuroTrans mercedes repair., European Cars
F: Flying L. Water Park , fruit, facebook, fence-repair, friends
G: Gyrocopter, Gatorade, guitar, garden
H: hot, hot, hot
I: ice water, ice
J: juice
K: kitchen
L: laundry
M: Michael and Mason, mariachi, movies, man cave, mosquitoes
N: news and night-time rats (aka Justin, Travis, Devin, Austen, Cody and Mason), New Orleans
O: oh dear...
P: Pina Coladas, parties, popsicles
Q: quacking ducks on the river
R: rain, maybe, possibly, please?, rope swing
S: swimsuits, swimming, soccer, sun, Shakespeare, steak-nights, sillyness
T: tea, trumpet, t.v. , tennis
U: umbrella (I think I'm funny)
V: vans, violins , vacation, visit
W:wasps, wind chime, work, walks, Wii games
X: x-ray
Y: youth gathering
Z: catchin' some zzz's