Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jobs. jobs, jobs

I keep running across the theme of the "better-than-expected job." Shawna's job at McDonald's comes to mind, as does a recent article I read in the New York Times about a freelance writer who took a part-time job in retail sales to keep her "sanity" and ended up loving it more than she imagined. And then there's me, enjoying my college English teaching much beyond expectation.

The recession seems to be a time when people are reevaluating jobs, probably because they have to. I've heard adjunct college teaching touted as a great job (not really, unless you can live without benefits or job security) and plumbing (can't be outsourced to a foreign country) as long you don't mind spending time around the toilet. What about you? Have you or are you working in a job that's surprisingly less odious than you imagined? Are you contemplating such a move? Do you know of people in "unusual" jobs?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

wonder and withitness

I'm still having the access-my-own-blog problem, so I'm not checking in or writing as often as I'd like. (Remind me to get a new computer soon!)

Anyway, just thought I'd share this thought:

"One of the greatest risks, I think, of living in a secular world ... is something I might call the Woody Allenization of everything. Too much reason. Too much self-awareness. Too much blah-blah. Too little wonder, and marvel and faith ... " Judith Warner, New York Times, 12/23/08

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On Miracles: Reading the Bible in One Year

QuakerRanter Martin Kelly has fallen a couple of days behind on his one-year Bible read, which brings to mind that two years ago, I embarked on the same journey, and I too fell behind. It took me 20 months to complete a 12-month Bible devotional.

All the same, reading the Bible straight through, as one big sequential story, illuminated it for me in surprising ways. It was a remarkable undertaking. Here are a few things I discovered, which I will cover over the course of several days:

On Miracles

1. We tend to overrepresent the miracles in the Bible. Yes, there are miracles -- but more often than not, we read long, dismal stretches of history when we long for a miracle. Anything to lighten the bleakness. But no miracles occur, just a slow spiral into darkness.

2. The miracles tend to cluster around short, special periods, most notably the period of exodus from Egypt and the period around Jesus’ life. These are also, incidentally, periods that changed world history. Hhhmmm.

3. Even in the periods of miracle, the miracles aren’t as plentiful or magnificent as they could be. Frankly, they're fairly spare and austere. God parts the Red Sea and gives the Israelites their daily manna from heaven, but he doesn’t flood them with feasts or build them jeweled cities. Likewise, Jesus feeds the five thousand bread and fish, but not a sumptuous feast. God seems to give his people just enough miracle to get by and no more. Plain miracles. Almost dull miracles. I thought about this when I toured a mosque with a Quaker group. One of our tour guides, trying to stress the similarities between Christianity and Islam, told us the story from the Koran of the baby Jesus speaking at a few days old to rebuke people who were accusing his mother Mary of being a woman of ill-repute. It struck me that the Bible contains no similar fantastic stories of a talking infant Jesus. In fact, according to the biblical account, the only remarkable thing Jesus does as a child is to display wisdom in the temple at age 11 or 12. Notable, but hardly miraculous.

4. To me, the long stretches without miracles and the austerity of those that occur lend credibility to the miracles in the Bible. In the context of the whole Bible, they stand out like beautiful gems. You appreciate them more because they are rare. And although some people say the Bible is a fairytale, if you read it straight through, it’s much more a story of suffering, punctuated on occasion by the sparing but sparkling presence of God. While there are a few trickster tales and fables in the Bible, it’s mostly a depressing story of people who most of the time can’t get right with God and couldn't grab on to a miracle if it hit them over the head. If the "Bible" writers were going to “make it up,” you think they’d come up with something a little more entertaining.

So what do you think? Why do you think so many people are so "down" on Biblical miracles?

Friday, February 13, 2009

web addicts

Hi everyone.

I picked up the passage below from Peggy, and it speaks my mind. I think most of us struggle with the balance between the Internet and the rest of life, which is why I'm (almost) glad when I sometimes go "dark." On the other hand, as Peggy says, the Web is a source of support and friendship. Here's Peggy:

Like Jamie (and so many others), there is a virtual community that lifts and supports me that stands in the gap of what does not exist in my face-to-face reality. I have learned that I need to be more restrained.

But I find that I am able to be more restrained as the sense of “starvation” abates … for I have been many years in a very desert kind of place, a dry land where there is little to refresh and nourish. For me, to have turned away from the oasis that the Holy Spirit has provided in my virtual community would only have hurt me more — like the traumatized one in shock who pushes away the hands of those come to help and heal.

These hands have lifted me up and brushed the sand from my face. I admit, in those early days, I was a bit like those who gulp the water in such a way as to splash more than is swallowed … and the starving who forget to take small bites and chew thoroughly.

But I’m recovering from that and the strength is seeping back into my weak limbs … and I can now do things in the physical realm because of the strength received from the virtual.

I too have had that sense of being spiritually starved and then nourished, through the grace of God, on the Web, and I felt moved by Peggy's words on that topic and her honesty. I think sometimes we can be open with others on the Web in a way we can't face to face, and that we can find spiritual friendships that are a blessing with people we otherwise would never have a chance to meet. I wonder if the best of the Web is a taste of what heaven will be like. But I do understand all too well how the computer can also pull us from real life. What do you think? I think we all struggle with the tension of the web versus "real life," but how do you handle it?

Monday, February 9, 2009

(Re) Emerging me

Has it really been a month?

I'm emerging from hiding--actually, I haven't been hiding as much as unable to get to my blog because of computer troubles! Safari won't work for me, and Firefox crashes every time I try to load EmergingQuaker. Plus, I've been busy and made a deal with myself that I would do a few bureaucratic things it would be really easy to put off before I started blogging again.

Yesterday, I broke through to the site itself--actually, Roger broke through-- by using his machine to post a photo of Will, Nick and me. I had been wanting to do that! I don't know that we chose the world's best example of photography, but it's up, it's up!

Several surprising things: I am enjoying teaching English 151: Introduction to Writing and Rhetoric, at Ohio University! I was expecting to "get through it," not like it, so this has been wonderful. I have a great class. I'm also enjoying the transcribing I'm doing for a Lilly project on religion-- another job I held my breath and took because of worries about the, what else?, economy--didn't expect to like and now am finding fascinating.

My review of Kay Chornook's book Walking with Wolf appeared in the February Friends Journal and ma review of a reissued George Fox biography will appear ... I don't know when ... but I will let you know.

Roger and I went to Pittsburgh yesterday for the first time since we arrived here, so that was fun. We toured the Frick, which includes a car and buggy museum.

Anyway, I hope to be back on more consistent basis. How is everybody?