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Messy Prayer

This morning I went to pray, something I will confess I do not do enough, when I noticed how messy the area around my family altar was. There was a vacuum cleaner under Augustine, a basket of things for Goodwill hanging out under St. George, and to the right of Nona a bunch of crap that my kids left in the hallway and never picked up. Looking at the picture I snapped of it all, I just noticed a crack in the wall. I wonder how that got there. It was probably the kids, though I am sure none of them will have any idea how that happened.

I thought about cleaning up the mess before I prayed, but there is something about the vacuum cleaner and Goodwill basket being part of that space that seemed right. In her book The Quotidian Mysteries Kathleen Norris talks about finding spiritual meaning in the ordinary. Housework itself can become an act of prayer. I have tried to remember this as I pick up after my children. It is very easy for me to bark at them about the messes they leave about, or worse yet to make them feel guilty. “You say you shouldn’t have to pick up a mess you didn’t make, but I pick up messes I didn’t make all the time.” Poor me. Dad the housekeeping martyr. At times I have found myself thinking, “If you loved me, you wouldn’t do this.” I am not proud of those thoughts, but they come at times when I am feeling sorry for myself. Lately I have been trying to reverse it, thinking, “I love you, and so I am doing this.”

I pick my daughter’s boots up off the floor and chuck them into her room and quietly pray, “I love you.”

I pick up the scattered candy wrappers my son left in my favorite chair. “I love you.”

I empty Gallifrey’s cat box, a job they promised to do when I agreed to adopt him.“I love you.”

I pick up my youngest’s bowl of milk leftover from his morning cereal, milk I keep asking him to drink so it doesn’t go to waste.“I love you.”

Yesterday we read from the Gospels about Jesus saying to take up our cross and follow him. A litter box is not a cross, not even close. Christianity demands sacrifice. One must die to one’s pettiness. There is no salvation without sacrificing the inner child, much like how Abraham laid Isaac upon the altar, killing him in his heart before he could receive him back. If I cannot raise the knife above the whiny brat in my own heart, then there is no hope for me. The kingdom of God is not for the petulant. Or on second thought, maybe it is. Jesus said we must come to him as a child, did he not? So perhaps there is hope for me yet. Perhaps God treats us the way I know I should treat my children. We leave our stuff lying around, we make cracks in creation, and God says to us, “I love you.”

That is why I chose to leave the crap lying around my family altar. Prayer is messy, just like life. Prayer is not about a presentation of artificial cleanliness. Prayer is, so to speak, ugly. Or at least it is not always pretty. Prayer is interrupted by our children, our spouses, or our own thoughts. Though we pray in the church about setting aside “all earthly cares” before we receive Communion, I cannot help but hear that prayer with a kind of irony. More often than not we are unable to lay aside our cares. We have to push through them, like a child pushing its way through a crowd of grownups, hoping we do not get lost along the way.

So I left those cares right in front of my face this morning. I have to vacuum the living room tonight, and I really do need to remember to take the stuff from that basket to the thrift store. I will do all that later…or, to be honest, I may not. All that quotidian stuff that is a part of my household is also a part of my prayer life; it is part of what I must learn to make a living sacrificing, laying it, like Isaac, upon the altar of my own petulant heart.


I tweet stuff like this, and other quotidian things, at @DrDavidJDunn. Thanks for following and sharing.

 

Real Life: The Great New Board Game Nobody’s Talking About

I just had a great idea for a new board game. It would be called “Real Life.” It would be kind of like Monopoly, except instead of starting from the same place with the same resources, players would draw Birth cards that would determine the circumstances of their birth. Then a set of Parent cards would determine players’ first 18 moves. After that, they get to use whatever educational and financial resources they have so far accumulated to make decisions about the spaces they land on. The last player left alive wins.

Naturally, to keep it real, the vast majority of the Birth cards would involve lack of food, clean water, medical care, and adequate education. So unlike Monopoly, Real Life would be a very short game.

If this is your idea of justice, you’re a terrible person.


UPDATE: After writing this post, I discovered that this game actually exists. Next time, I will Google first. There goes my retirement plan.

My Daughter is a Smrt-ss

Der Reder,

I cn’t use the letter. It’s mking me relly upset. So now your job is to find…

Yesterday my daughter participated in Vanderbilt’s WAVU program. She took a creative writing course. One of the exercises she was assigned was to write a brief letter, but she could not use any words that contained the letter “A.” So naturally she wrote this: Evernote Snapshot 20170304 193239.png

Der Reder,

I cn’t use the letter. It’s mking me relly upset. So now your job is to find out wht letter I’m not using. It should be reltively esy. nywho, I’m smrtlic so of course I was [sic] gonn do something like this. I’m lwys finding loopholes. Who sid it had to be rel words.

This is what I’m up against people.

Every. Dy.

Reflections on the Wise Words of Cartman

Preach!

Last summer a friend of mine from work laminated this for me. It sits behind my office desk now, and I try to look at it everyday. It’s been nearly a decade since I watched South Park. (I have less of a stomach for raunchiness now.) But the episode from which this quotation was taken has stuck with me. Cartman decides he will take it upon himself to enforce traffic laws, and when he feels people are not showing him proper deference, he starts hitting them in the shins with his nightstick.

Why do I keep this poster by my desk? To remind me of this… Continue reading “Reflections on the Wise Words of Cartman”

Freelance Educational Consulting

The other morning I got up to write, but I ended up spending 90 minutes helping a friend write instructions to his students for a class project. It was a complicated game he brilliantly called Leviathan. We had been hashing out parts of it over the past few weeks. He wanted a kind of simulation that would help his students think more critically about the writings of Thomas Hobbes (the war of all against all, and all that). The idea we worked out riffed on a popular camp game called “Assassins,” but with lots of complicated rules intended to keep the students engaged and the professor (my friend) out of trouble (rules that involved not making university officials ask questions). I ended up having a lot of fun thinking about this thing off and on over the past few weeks, and then in the 90 minutes it took me to try to make the rules of a pedagogical LARP into something his students could understand easily.  Continue reading “Freelance Educational Consulting”

Rescinding Letters of Recommendation

I came across an article in Inside Hire Ed that tells of a teacher who was suspended for revoking a letter of recommendation she had written for a student. The young man in question had displayed a swastika in his school. The article deals with the ethics of rescinding a recommendation from the perspective of its impact on the student. This seems wrongheaded to me. What they need to be thinking about is the impact that recommendation would have on the teacher.  Continue reading “Rescinding Letters of Recommendation”

What the Hell is Happening???

I woke up this morning to find that the Trump administration had fired Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General, because she refused to defend his refugee ban in court. Screw the independent judiciary.

Two days ago I learned that the Department of Homeland security was defying court stays of Trump’s executive order banning refugees.

A few days before that I saw a rich white woman talk about the threat of bear attacks in schools, and today she is poised to be approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions later today.

Oh! And did I mention that a white nationalist with no experience in national security is now sitting in on every National Security Council meeting?

The past few days have convinced me more than ever before of two things.

  1. Americans desperately need to revive a liberal arts education. Focusing on education as a means to earn an income has left us bereft of critical thinking skills or the kind of historical knowledge that would help more people to recognize the serious danger Trump poses to democracy.
  2. American Christianity is bankrupt. The fact that many good, church-going people voted for this man, even though they had serious misgivings about him, proves that far too many Christians do not know the difference between being a disciple of Jesus Christ and being a Republican.

I have never felt closer to principled conservatives than I do today. I desperately need them to step up, which they are beginning to do. The conservative public needs their leadership.

I have hope for Bob Corker, my senator from Tennessee, if for no other reason than that he has always struck me as a decent and reasonable human being.

There is political opportunity to be had here as well. The first Republican senator to hold a news conference denouncing Trump’s demagoguery will be the next GOP presidential frontrunner. Assuming we make it that long.