Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Theology of Potty Training

I was reading this parenting book that Lara had read and found helpful, and it sparked some theological thinking. The passage read as follows:

“If guilt is an ice cube, shame is an iceberg: it’s in the same basic category, but it’s bigger, goes deeper, and can do a lot of damage. Guilt goes along with remorse, and tends to be associated with a particular act of misbehavior. Shame, on the other hand, tends to pervade the entirety of the person in question. Shame goes along with disgrace and humiliation. Whereas a person feeling guilty can rouse himself to make amends, a person feeling shame has a much more difficult task.

Shame has to do with a feeling of being wrong, stupid, bad, inept. Shame is the hot potato of mental states: No one wants to be left holding it for long. No sooner do we find ourselves with it than we set about to find some way to hand it off to someone else. There is no wrong without right, stupid without smart, bad without good, or inept without competent. IF you are to get rid of shame—itf you are to feel right or smart or good or competent—then someone else has to be assigned these other, less desireable qualities. As such, shame tends to travel from person ot person. It gets handed off.

(Dana Chidekel, Parents in Charge: Setting Healthy, Loving Boundaries for your Child. New York: Citadel, 2002, 206.)

That got me thinking about Christ taking our shame at the cross, the most shameful way of dying that was available to the God-man. After dying in humiliation, even uttering an unanswered plea to Elijah, he is buried with the shame of the world, and he leaves it there. We can turn over our shame to God, because God has willingly taken it. 1st Peter 2: 6 says “For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." We can put a halt to the endless “passing” of our shame to others by giving it up to God. God fully takes that shame in the form of a cross, and rises from shame and death to show us our potential as “re-born” beings. Chidekel states that “Babies do not feel shame.” And then makes a good case for tying shame, which kicks in during the toddler years, to a legacy of toilet training.” As for the soteriological aspect of the freedom from shame, We can be re-born into the world, free of shame…like an infant. We can be saved from shame by yielding this one most private and personal emotion to God

Chidekel states about shame,

“Shame seems to be hard-wired into humans. While someone can certainly set out intentionally to make you feel ashamed, shame will arise in the absence of another’s conscious intent to inspire it within you.”

The author says that shame is seemingly “hard-wired” into us. Perhaps the concept of shame and the concept of the “original sin” are the same. The story tells us that after eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve cover themselves “in shame.” God’s action in the cross is said to be the “equal and opposite reaction” of the shame that is inherent in the human condition. God is offering us a freedom from our shame by taking that shame from us. The only way to stop the cycle of shame, to stop perpetuating it onto those whom we love, is to yield the shame to God and understand that we’re not created to bear it. It is alien to our core as Good Creation.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Poem from the Christian Century: As I sleep

This caught my eye and then my soul.

Turning as I sleep, I take
Across my eyes the silent words
Sung by our old sun's golden birds--
They hope I will awake.

Learning, I have longed to shake
An apple from the sacred tree
That sings sleep into unity--
Before my true day-break:

Yearning, at the end, to make
My entrance in a gown of light
Woven of day, woven of night--
Hearing, at last, "Awake!"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Treehouse Rock

I've been on a treehouse kick recently, I suppose, since I blogged about the treehouse chapel idea yesterday. Couldn't get enough of browsing thru treehouse images, and came across the world's largest treehouse in Alnwick Garden, in Northumberland. Looks like a good vacation destination for the future.  The Alnwick Garden in England has the world's largest treehouse.

6000 feet would be big enough for a whole college religious life center! The frame of mind that treehouses inspire would just seem to lend itself to a place of worship, dontcha think?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The church I'd build

I came across a note I had made to myself some years ago when I used to carry around a day planner. It said, "Chapel Idea--small chapel built in a tree. A treehouse chapel. Icons Painted on Walls."

What a good reminder. I haven't built a treehouse chapel yet, but I had a dream not too long ago that I do someday. What better place to worship than a treehouse? The loftiness, the views, the unique feel of the closeness of the structure to the tree (with the best treehouses incorporating the tree in the interior of the house, in my opinion.) to me engenders a natural feeling of the soul's closeness and being infused by the Divine.

Doubtful this would ever fly in Oklahoma though--maybe the Pacific Northwest would be a good home for a treehouse chapel. I think in the dream it was in Florida.

Since then, I bought a book called Remarkable Trees of the World, and found that it has actually been done in France. The Chapel Oak in Normandy, built in 1696 (the Oak was a sacred relic for centuries before that) . I like elements of all the other treehousese pictured too, and the chapel would likely be a combination of all of them. Haven't decided if I'd use stained glass, only clear glass, or a combination.)

Perhaps the idea comes from my early experiences at Fay Jones masterpiece chapel in Eureka Springs, AR--Thorncrown? It's tree-housy, and incorporates the landscape around it, no?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Revenge of the Little Cups

Some time ago,
I gave you a little taste of why I regretfully preserve the custom in this church of using little plastic shot glasses of juice during communion. This past Sunday they came back to bite me again. If you're keeping score here are the list of pros and cons for little cups:


  1. Destroy the symbolism of the sacrament messing with the image and words related to "one cup."
  2. Aren't found in scripture.
  3. Look silly when I hold up a little cup or a tray of cups while saying, "and after supper he took the cup."

Okay, so many in my church would add "are sanitary" to the list of pros (which in their mind would outweigh the 3 strikes against) but still--this is my blog, so the little cups have a running tally of -3. And today we make it -4.

4: You have to either over-estimate how many are coming to take communion, or scramble to get another tray in the midst of the worship service.

From now on, we will over-estimate.
This past Sunday, with about 10 left to serve at the chancel, and with a family of visitors just kneeling there for 5 minutes, my ushers had to do the "little cup scramble." My communion server turned to me with wide open eyes after I had gotten to the end of the chancel distributing bread, and I saw my trusty usher at the back getting ready to head to the kitchen. "Get the big cup," I mouthed to him while gesturing in a chalice type motion. He misunderstood what I was asking for and brought me the "little cup filler" thing with the bulb that Wesley likes to play with. We hadn't given him a tray to bring in the little cups, so this is what he had to do. Un-beknownst to him, I had put bleach in the little cup filler before the service to try and clean the mold that had accumulated in the bottom of it. However, in the heat of the moment, I'd forgotten this little tidbit of information. The juice had a strange look to it, like purple kool-aid instead of juice. "What--are we out of juice?" I thought as I began to fill up some little cups on the table. My next thought was--"hmm....what is that smell? Bleach!" I'm glad the Spirit opened my nose to smell or else we might of been like another kool-aid swilling church. So, I turned around again and simply said to the usher, "we're going to need the chalice." Chalice to the rescue! I gave the 10 or so who hadn't yet partaken another piece of bread, and they dipped them in the chalice. Communion accomplished. I explained to the congregation what had happened (because some of the folks who had been the last to receive the little cups were visitors who had been kneeling there for like 7 minutes while we got the whole thing straitened out, and I didn't want them to think communion regularly included such theatrics.) Even so, this isn't a change I'll be making soon--most of the people are just a little too skittish about it, and I want to encourage a welcoming stance toward communion. On every other Sunday we offer communion in the chapel after church by intinction, so....