Monthly Archives: April 2009

Being Poor

Written by John Scalzi

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.

Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they’re what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there’s not an $800 car in America that’s worth a damn.

Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.

Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours.

Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won’t hear you say “I get free lunch” when you get to the cashier.

Being poor is living next to the freeway.

Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching that box of Raisin Bran you just bought and trying to think of a way to make the kids understand that the box has to last.

Being poor is wondering if your well-off sibling is lying when he says he doesn’t mind when you ask for help.

Being poor is off-brand toys.

Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house.

Being poor is knowing you can’t leave $5 on the coffee table when your friends are around.

Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt.

Being poor is stealing meat from the store, frying it up before your mom gets home and then telling her she doesn’t have make dinner tonight because you’re not hungry anyway.

Being poor is Goodwill underwear.

Being poor is not enough space for everyone who lives with you.

Being poor is feeling the glued soles tear off your supermarket shoes when you run around the playground.

Being poor is your kid’s school being the one with the 15-year-old textbooks and no air conditioning.

Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.

Being poor is relying on people who don’t give a damn about you.

Being poor is an overnight shift under florescent lights.

Being poor is finding the letter your mom wrote to your dad, begging him for the child support.

Being poor is a bathtub you have to empty into the toilet.

Being poor is stopping the car to take a lamp from a stranger’s trash.

Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw.

Being poor is believing a GED actually makes a goddamned difference.

Being poor is people angry at you just for walking around in the mall.

Being poor is not taking the job because you can’t find someone you trust to watch your kids.

Being poor is the police busting into the apartment right next to yours.

Being poor is not talking to that girl because she’ll probably just laugh at your clothes.

Being poor is hoping you’ll be invited for dinner.

Being poor is a sidewalk with lots of brown glass on it.

Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk.

Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.

Being poor is your kid’s teacher assuming you don’t have any books in your home.

Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.

Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.

Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually stupid.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.

Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.

Being poor is never buying anything someone else hasn’t bought first.

Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that’s two extra packages for every dollar.

Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you made when you were 14 years old.

Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.

Being poor is knowing you’re being judged.

Being poor is a box of crayons and a $1 coloring book from a community center Santa.

Being poor is checking the coin return slot of every soda machine you go by.

Being poor is deciding that it’s all right to base a relationship on shelter.

Being poor is knowing you really shouldn’t spend that buck on a Lotto ticket.

Being poor is hoping the register lady will spot you the dime.

Being poor is feeling helpless when your child makes the same mistakes you did, and won’t listen to you beg them against doing so.

Being poor is a cough that doesn’t go away.

Being poor is making sure you don’t spill on the couch, just in case you have to give it back before the lease is up.

Being poor is a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.

Being poor is four years of night classes for an Associates of Art degree.

Being poor is a lumpy futon bed.

Being poor is knowing where the shelter is.

Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

Being poor is running in place.

Being poor is people wondering why you didn’t leave.

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Top Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained

I’ve seen this in several places around the internet.  No idea where it originally came from.

10. A man’s place is in the army.

9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.

8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work.

7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.

5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.

4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, and maybe even lead the singing on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.

1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

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Treating the Name of God with Reverence

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name–Exodus 20:7

In his commentary on the book of Exodus, John Durham writes, “In general terms, this commandment prohibits a lack of seriousness about Yahweh’s Presence in Israel, demonstrated through a pointless, misleading, or even false use of his name.”

In my experience, most of the teaching we do about this commandment focuses on the frivolous exclamations of teenagers–the unfocused “Oh my God” born of excitment or tragedy–or the profane utterances of grown men in carpentry accidents who call upon the Lord to eternally condemn their wretched tools. Both of those are appropriate targets of our sermons, but they are far from the most troubling instances of misusing the name of God.   There’s a lot of things that churches, even conservative churches, approve of (or encourage!) that seem to me to violate the intention of this commandment.

Like this:

God Speaks Marriage Counselor billboard

God Speaks Marriage Counselor billboard

You’ve probably seen this billboard, or one like it.  It’s from the “God Speaks” campaign.  The whole series was very popular with most of my Christian friends and acquintances.  Other signs included:

You think it’s hot here?

-God

Big bang theory, you’ve got to be kidding.

-God

Have you read my #1 best seller? There will be a test.

-God

Don’t make me come down there.

-God

These are wonderful ads, provided that you assume that there actually is no personal, powerful holy God who can and does speak for Himself.  If “God” is just the fictional mascot for a massive non-profit organization that provides religious goods and services, then this could be a very effective campaign.  But if there is a personal God, then it’s probable that He wouldn’t take kindly to people attributing inane or annoying comments to Him.  Especially if a specific prohibition of such friviolity was number three on his list of ten critical words of instruction.

This one is deeply ironic:

keep_using_my_name

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What I Learned After Four Days of Visiting the Intensive Care Nursery

This was written a month ago when our newborn son was in NICU.  He’s home and doing well now.

20090312 Aidan-2

1) Don’t believe the signs that say the hospital parking garage is full. Loser move. Those signs are intended to thin the herd, sending the less-determined to the even-more-inconvenient clinic parking two and a half blocks away. Just sail into the garage with faith that a spot will appear. It will, and probably near the elevators.
2) To get your baby’s information over the phone, you must give them your pre-assigned four digit code. But if you want to walk in and actually see the babies, all you need to know is one of their last names—which are posted with little sticky notes by the reception desk. They don’t check i.d.’s or anything. Just say “I’m baby McNamara’s dad” and you can step right in–unless they happen to remember what Mr. McNamara looks like. But if you come in at the very start of the shift you can minimize the chance that they’ve seen him recently. This seems like pretty poor security to me. Although it is probably difficult to abduct babies with all those tubes and wires going everywhere.
3) Every nurse has a different idea about whether you can hold the baby. If the day shift nurse says that you can’t hold him because he’s sleeping and needs to rest, try not to act surprised when the night shift nurse says, “Go ahead and pick him up while he’s sleeping; that’s the best time.” Subjectivity is built into the system.
4) No matter how good the news is, when you walk out of NICU you should try to keep a neutral to somber expression. Someone else is getting bad news. If you can pull off a constant expression of polite but unprying concern, even better, but that one has a high technical difficulty level. Probably safer to just go with the slightly furrowed brow.
5) This is not easy. A lot of Aidan’s roommates are really struggling. The simple truth is that some of these babies aren’t going to make it.

Sometimes it’s hard not to feel a little embarrassed that Aidan is big and basically healthy, when he is surrounded by tiny, struggling babies. A couple of days ago I was holding Aidan, and the parents of the baby right beside him were visiting their preemie. The dad’s eyes opened wide when he saw us. “That’s a big baby.”

“Nine pounds, 12 ounces,” I said.

“Ours is finally up to two-seven.”

My kid was born four times bigger than the weight his baby has reached after three weeks.

Yesterday, I was visiting again and I saw that their baby’s heart rate was going up and up. The nurse came over to check and found the source of the problem—a large (for a preemie) blob of mucus blocking one of his nasal passages. She pulled it out and called the respiratory therapist over to take a look. It’s just surreal to see alarms going off because of a booger.

And then there’s last night. I noticed when we came in that part of the room was closed off by a kind of movable curtain. A sign said “Quiet please! Minimal stimulation.” We’ve done the “minimal stimulation” routine with Aidan before, so I didn’t really think anything of it. We got the update on Aidan (still feverish, but stable; blood pressure and respiration fine without assistance), and looked in on the two and half pound kid, who seemed to be well and booger-free. Then we started taking turns holding our son.

It was Sandy’s turn to hold him when the parents of the little girl behind the curtain burst out of the room, in tears. I watched them leave. It was a couple I had met before, briefly. On my first day to visit they showed me how to scrub in—I had never used a pedal-operated sink before. At the time they seemed nice enough, but perpetually distracted–like every parent around here. When they rounded the corner I glanced over at their daughter’s monitor. Flatlined.

Sandy’s eyes started welling up. “Did that baby….?”

At first I just shrugged, like I didn’t know. But I did. And after a minute, I slowly nodded.

A man came in and asked what the exact time was.

“I think I should go home now,” Sandy said. So we handed Aidan back to Nurse Emily and slipped away, brows furrowed, past the families in the waiting room.

After that, stepping back in NICU feels like tip-toeing over the gates of Sheol. We are so close sometimes.

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I Thought Only Protestants Could Be This Cheesy

Guess I’ll hold off on converting to Catholicism.  Time to take a closer look at the Orthodox church.  Seriously, could we treat our faith like it’s holy and mysterious, not just a gimmicky PR enterprise?

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Seven Stanzas at Easter, by John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

Continued here

Analyzed here

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