Thursday, December 23, 2004

An Exmember's Lament

Above is a link to a some new comments under the Levity Ahead topic. (Readers, please post under the latest topic if you want others to see your post. Don't worry about being off-topic . . .talk about anything you want.)

I just started "The God We Never Knew" by Marcus Borg, a writer recommended by my pastor. So far, so good. Have any of you read it? What did you think?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Cardamom and Tchaikovsky

This week I baked pulla using some ground cardamom that must be, um, 15 or 20 years old. Oops. It gave no flavor whatsoever. I gave the bland pulla to my husband to bring to work (his coworkers will eat just about anything) and vowed to use pods next time. My mother knew a Finnish woman who would crush the pods and blow away the chaff in her hand. Charming.

A cardamom memory: I was 9 or 10 and couldn't sleep one night. My dad was awake, too, and made me some hot cinnamon milk "just like his mom used to do." In the morning, mom asked why the cardamom was out on the counter. We had a good laugh.

Did you know that cardamom is a mild stimulant? I wonder if coffee and cardamom are effective against Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Today is the shortest day of the year, so the light is returning, bit by bit. Happy advent.

I hope you, dear readers, are enjoying the sacred and secular delights of the holidays. Today our four-year old and I are going to the Nutcracker ballet, with its delightful sets by Maurice Sendak. Not long after I left the OALC, a wonderful woman for whom I was babysitting introduced me to her Christmas traditions. The Nutcracker was one of them, and I am eternally grateful.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Flowers, Paintings and Pants

These intriquing comments, posted at http://lefttheoalc.blogspot.com, are from a member of the Finnish church:

"It is true that there are some dissensions here, in some localities the situation is actually quite distressing. There is disagreement about the position of the so-called Elders of the Swedish Lapland (supreme authority or not) and certain practical things in a Christian's everyday life. There has been also some disagreement about the doctrine of baptism (regeneration or not) and about the communion (is the communion in the Lutheran state church according to the new service books OK or not). And there is also disagreement about whether there is salvation outside of the Firstborn Laestadian/Old Apostolic Lutheran system."

"The things I was referring to as practical things in everyday life is probably what you meant when you asked about the different things that are taught to be sin. I'm not using the word "sin" here because you often hear people say that "it is inappropriate" or "it has been preached against", without actually saying that it is directly sin."

"The practical things that there is disagreement about include, among others, the following things: music (listening to music, playing instruments, singing in choirs), flowers (is it ok to have flowers at home and church), art (is it ok to hang paintings on the walls), women wearing pants (e.g. is it ok for girls to come to young people's gatherings at the church wearing pants), tv (is it ok to have tv in your home), watching movies (is it ok to watch movies at home or at a movie theater), Christmas tree, scarves, hairstyles. You name it... "

"I think the vast majority of the Firstborn Laestadians in Finland accept musical instruments, listening to hymns, singing in choirs (by the way, just a couple of weeks there was a concert of a Firstborn Laestadian choir with hundreds of Laestadians and even some preachers in the audience), flowers, paintings and pants, while tv and movies may not be as widely accepted, but many people do that too. Most people have no problems with a Christmas tree if you have it in front of your house (even many preachers have it), but it is not so common to take it inside the house."

I've read the "sin lists" somebody wrote either on this blog or some other blog, and I was actually amazed by some of the "sins" because I never heard about them before. I think some of the mentioned things are local and might not be considered bad everywhere in America either. There is some local variation in Europe, too.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Dead Faith

Thank you, exoalc, for your informed comments. I found this by googling "laestadius dead faith" . . .

Melvin Riutta
The Daily Mining Gazette 4.9.2001.
Church hostages?
To the editor:
The Apostolic Lutherans and all the other churches of the Laestadian movement, regardless of which faction, teach it was their ancestors who brought true Christianity to America in the 1870s.
And now it is their church alone that has the power and authority given from God to proclaim sins forgiven, and all other churches are of dead faith! This teaching distorts the very nature of God and manages to poison relationships and divide families. This is evidenced by the more than 30 feuding factions that make up the Apostolic Lutheran Laestadian movement today.

Woohoo

Yesterday the children and I were shopping for fleece at Fred Meyer (for the homeless men and women who use our church as a shelter) and we ran into Pastor Carol, who was doing the same thing. The kids, who had been restless and whining for a treat or toy, perked up. They adore Pastor Carol and wanted to chat.

Looking at their happy faces, I had a woohoo! moment. The contrast between my childhood and theirs stuns me.

As a child, did I babble with happiness when I saw a preacher? Not likely.

Was the preacher ever a woman? Ha.

Did I participate in helping the poor? Never.

The poor, if mentioned at all, were dismissed as lazy -- or cursed. Charity was a hand-out, and good works were ridiculed as the futile attempts of the faithless. Christians were obligated to give only to Christians.

WHAT? It takes a very selective reading of Scripture to elevate buns over alms, but the OALC manages it. Next time you drive by an OALC church, check out the parking lot. Row upon row of shiny new SUV's. Those are the toys of children who have been poorly instructed on the use of their mites. Am I wrong?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Lutheran Christmas Tree

I've never understood the OALC ban on Christmas trees. So it amused me to read recently that is was Luther (according to legend) who brought us the lighted Christmas tree.

"Luther was returning home one wintry night when he saw the stars twinkling in the sky through the tree branches. Luther was amazed by the sight, and when he arrived home, he was eager to tell his family about it. To help them understand, he went to the woods and cut down a small fir tree. Luther brought it indoors and decorated it with candles, which represented the stars he had seen."

Annual Visitation

The family visit went just as predicted. Well, almost. We decided to take advantage of a promotion at the Heathman Lodge so the kids could swim. Located near the Vancouver Mall, the Lodge is a suburban version of the rustic Quinault Lodge, which has the enormous advantage of being on Lake Quinault. Setting aside, all was excellent -- great food, comfy beds, nice pool -- until three in the morning. That's when the painfully loud bleating of the hotel's fire alarm propelled us out of bed and into the dark and damp. Fortunately there was no fire and we were soon back in bed. The next day, the Heathman not only gave us a refund, but breakfast and another night's stay. (We'll most certainly be back.)

I really enjoyed seeing my clan again. Many familiar faces, a few new ones. (Next year I will insist on name tags.) While our children are used to "passing the peace" in church, they were suddenly bashful and tried to hide in our shoulders. It wasn't long before they ran off to play, however. Ensconced at the dining room table, eating familiar food, surrounded by familiar faces, I felt such affection for my family. Watching their aged faces, hearing their wry comments, I felt a sense of time, gently sweeping us all along, carrying us away from each other and back again. All these different personalities and vocations and ideas, but we share in common a love of family.

After dinner my husband brought out the pinata we'd stuffed earlier at the hotel. In order of height, the children took turns whacking the paper star with a croquet mallet, which broke in two, to the delight of the little tough holding it. Eventually the goodies poured out and there was enough for everyone -- bubbles, toy cars, plastic sunglasses, bouncy balls, whoopie cushions, balloons, play-dough, markers. The children were SO well-behaved. Perhaps too well-behaved! Earlier, conversing with a group of girls upstairs (while our daughter jumped on the bed and sang about princesses), I was struck by how STILL they were, how demure, how alert. It was like pulling teeth to get someone, anyone, to say what she wanted for Christmas. Well, I was that way as a girl, too. Very self-conscious. May our daughter escape that burden even if (sigh) it is inconvenient for me. Jump away! Chatter away! Be silly and free!

Soon it was time to go. We were due at a local restaurant to celebrate a "wordly" nephew's birthday. It was an opportune moment -- the hymnals and scarves had not yet appeared. But I wished I could stay and sing, and catch up with each brother on their latest news. I hadn't learned the names of the all the new babies. I wanted the recipe of the pink jello salad that our daughter was lapping up. But we were running late, and although I was momentarily tempted to say individual goodbyes, in the OALC tradition (which can take a v-e-r-y long time), I sufficed with a few embraces and a Merry Christmas to all. "See you next year," I said.

Later at the restaurant, I was amused by the differences between the celebrations. Not as many as you'd think. Both featured babies, food and small talk. However, at the "worldly" one, we went on to discuss religion and politics and history and travel, moving easily from one to the other without fear of judgment or need for consensus. Oh, and there were other races present. Maybe those are pretty big differences?

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Real Women Wear Pants!

This weekend we'll be driving south to attend a Christmas gathering with my OALC relatives. There'll be lots of small talk, loads of carbs, sweet new babies to cuddle, a few verses of Matthew and a couple of carols (sung at a pace that would surely disconcert their composers).

The little tikes will stare at us like the oddities we are, but we'll have a pleasant time and eat way more than we should. At least one little girl will say "why are you wearing earrings?" The children will adore their cousins and their aunties -- even the ones they haven't met, because there is something familiar in the shape of their brow or the smell of their skin.

Soon it will be time to go, and our relatives will encourage us to visit again, ANY time (it is understood that they "don't like the city" so they can't reciprocate). Then we'll leave in the dark and the kids will sleep on the way home, and we'll marvel at all the family resemblances, and I'll feel a little sad and a great deal relieved, that I have found my way.

Oh, my sister called to ask what I planned to wear. Sweater and pants, I suggested.

She laughed, and I remembered: pants not okay! Well, I love to wear dresses and heels, and dress up regularly for church and the opera and whatnot, but give me a break. There isn't anything Biblical (or practical) about pantyhose in December.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Happy Advent

Last week the children made Advent wreaths: wood rings adorned with pinecones and four white candles for the four Sundays of Advent. They are thrilled to begin the holidays and I become like a child again, seeing the wonder and beauty of the season through their eyes.

What are your memories of Christmas in the OALC?