Sunday, December 30, 2012

Culturally and Historically Specific

"In 2008, the elders at Irving Bible Church produced a twenty-four-page position paper on the role of women on the church, which argued that the biblical passages restricting [women] from teaching 'were culturally and historically specific, not universal principles for all times and places' and that the Bible presents 'in ethic in progress leading to full freedom for women to exercise their giftedness in the local church.'" -- from A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

I have a hard time following the Bible's teachings on all things; it was not "written by God" so much as "inspired by God and Jesus" and "written by people who wrote in a way that was culturally relevant to a specific time and place." The Bible was written over a period of years, at a time when there was no scientific knowledge, when gender equality was simply nonexistent, when there was no education to be had in the same way there now is. Using the Bible to explain evolution, the age of the earth, or other scientific matters, or to use it as a means of excluding a population from serving equally within the church, does not take into consideration the specific historical and cultural norms of the time. 

We should be using the Bible as a guide to show us how to love and care for others. We ignore the parts of the Bible that endorse slavery, or stoning, or other means of cruelty, yet many continue to use Biblical "teachings" to exclude women because "Jesus' apostles were all men." In Catholicism, women cannot be ordained because, although they could publicly pray and propesy in church (1 Cor. 11:1-16), they could not teach or have authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:11-14), since these were two essential functions of the clergy, nor could women publicly question or challenge the teaching of the clergy (1 Cor. 14:34-38).

Of course, now women are teachers all over the place. We can teach in the academic and other professional spheres (I hope, otherwise I'm damned); we can teach catechism (I hope, otherwise I'm damned); but we can't teach other adults about religion (which is too bad; I wonder if that means we can't have private discussions about religion with non-Catholics). I also wonder about definition of "publicly questioning or challenging the teaching of the clergy," since I've questioned my priest both privately and in RCIA, and have blogged about religious issues with which I disagree or otherwise question.

God gave me a mind to use; I intend on using it. I can't understand everything, and I do believe that there are things that are not ours to understand, but that will not stop me from questioning why some of these teachings that are based on a 2,000-year-old Middle Eastern culture are not reexamined to reflect a more modern cultural and historic awareness.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bronwyn's Senior Recital

My cousin Bronwyn is graduating from the Berklee College of Music this semester, having majored in Violin Performance. (She focused on Irish, Cape Breton, Scottish, and American folk music - our grandparents were Irish immigrants, and our great-grandmother Angela Cregg Houlihan was apparently quite a fiddler herself.)

On December 6th, she performed her Senior Recital.

"Out of the Maze" is an original composition.

The Saga of the Couch

A few weeks - months? - ago, we decided we needed a new couch. The couches we'd bought previously, a year or so ago, turned out to be a real piece of junk (to borrow Ed's phrase); the loveseat we didn't really use, so that was still in good shape, but the larger one, which included two sections that extended out, had parts that broke (one side multiple times), which means the couch had to be rigged so we could still extend the thing. Plus one side's cushion got completely crushed merely by sitting on it.
So we finally decided that we had had it, and we did some couch shopping. We went to Crate and Barrel, and IKEA, and probably a few other places I can't remember anymore, but we kept mentally going back to one of the first couches we'd seen at Crate and Barrel, a sectional that we could customize by choosing the fabric and configuration we'd like. We were told it would probably come in late January or February, that it would take about 12 weeks, since each couch was made by individual craftsmen.

We were surprised to get a call about two weeks ago, telling us that our couch would be delivered this past Saturday, which meant we had to figure out how to get rid of our old couches. They're big and heavy and there's no way I could even help, but unfortunately, there was no one else could help, either - Alex was off flying and we don't have any other guy friends in the area. Renting a moving van and/or a couple of moving guys simply to help us move the couches from the living room to the garage, or to the local charity drop off, would have cost nearly $400, and for about 30 minutes of work, that seemed a bit ridiculous. Fortunately, with some finegeling and the hand cart, Ed was able to move the couches out of the house.


We're leaving the couches in the garage until such time that we can arrange for either Catholic Relief Services or Deseret Industries to come pick them up. Whomever we can get to pick them up will probably want them on the sidewalk, but I'm hoping that we can either slide them out of the garage to the sidewalk (perhaps ten feet), or, even better, they'll just come in to the garage to get them.


Meanwhile, for a night or two, our living room looked really empty. We felt like newlyweds (more than we already are), moving into our first house and getting our first furniture. At least we were able to vacuum up all the crumbs and dirt that had been collecting under those couches for over a year, but for two nights we were relegated to watching TV while sitting on our dining room chaits, which are comfy for dinner, but not for watching TV.


But bright and early Saturday morning, our beautiful new couch was delivered! We'd been told to expect the delivery men between 9 and 11 a.m., but at 8:15 a.m. they called telling us they were on their way, and 15 minutes later, they had arrived. They were really friendly and professional and effecient, and we're really pleased with our new couch, which includes a sofa bed. It's really comfortable, and we're happy with how it looks (the floor model had a different fabric). Slowly we're developing our own sense of style - such as it is: Simple, clean lines and colors, and comfortable.
The couch could be all one piece, but we left a little space open so that a table and one of the speakers could be between them.


Monday, December 3, 2012

How Not To Screw Up

A blogger who's been twice divorced recently wrote a list that included the 31 ways in which he blew his marriage. I'd say that most of these things are pretty spot-on (in my inexperience of having been married for just over a year and a half).

Ed and I made a semi-conscious decision not to scream or yell at each other, not to hurl epithets (or other things) at each other, or otherwise say hurtful things while extremely upset. Yelling makes me really anxious; it causes my mind to shut down, to not be able to respond, so if I'm really upset (which hasn't been too much of an issue at this point), I'll go upstairs, close the door, and really think about what's bothering me for a little while. It doesn't usually take me too long, but it allows me to calm down and sort through what the problem is, and think about the way I'd like to resolve it. No throwing dishes, no saying something I can't take back, no hurting the person who loves me most and whom I love best.

One that I especially liked from The List:

When we were first married, we would see my family all the time and her family almost as much. We spent almost every Saturday at my family's house, and a lot of weeknights and weekends at hers. We spent nearly every holiday with our families. And every special occasion, too. And while family is usually great, it really kept us from developing our own working family dynamic, our own traditions, and our own strengthened way of living and doing things. It drug us into unncessesary drama. And most of all, it kept us from learning to lean on each other during our rough patches instead of on our parents or siblings.

IF I COULD HAVE A DO-OVER: I would move far away from both families for a year or two. I wouldn't come back until we'd been through at least a few big marital challenges on our own without the involvement of any family at all. That way, when we did come back, we'd be strong on our own and our families would be great supplements to our marriage instead of major players.

BONUS! When you make your own traditions, you can finally add things in that your parents weren't cool with. "And after we open our Christmas pajama...everyone has to eat a pound of chocolate. And then they have to stand on their heads while screaming. And then they have to jump on their beds." Stuff like that.

I love my family, and I like Ed's, but I don't feel the need to go "home" for every holiday. First of all, it's not "home" anymore. It doesn't feel like a vacation; I don't feel the need to revisit my childhood and share my childhood with Ed. I like visiting my family, and I had a really great childhood; I'd be happy to sometimes going back east for holidays. But my home is with my husband now, and I'm more eager to create our own traditions and have folks visit us once in awhile. (This is hard to do; we live far away from everyone, which is why I'm hoping that occasionally the family can trade off on holidays: One year it's in one place, another year it's in another.) Having people over and planning doesn't stress me out, and it's a joy to be able to share my home with others.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas Tree & Table

We're going out of town for Christmas this year, so it would be a bit silly to get a full-sized tree (I refuse to do a fake tree; there's no reason for it, since neither of us is allergic), but I did want to have something festive, so I sprang for a prelit balsam tabletop tree which now sits atop our new dining room table.

And it was time for us to get a new table; we'd wanted one that could sit more than four people comfortably. A few weeks ago, we'd made a trip to our local IKEA, where on a previous visit some time back we'd seen a dining room table we'd both really liked. Fortunately, it was still in stock, so last weekend Ed put it together, and this weekend he put together three of the six chairs we got to go with it. We got a larger version of this table, which will seat 10-12, in the color shown (antique stain). It's a really nice table; it comes with two leaves that are stored directly under the table.

For our wedding we'd gotten some beauful white place mats and matching napkins; last week I ordered quilted chair pads, and I have some table cloths on the way (one in blue and one in white). We're becoming quite fancy, here in the Szetela household.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Mama Kit and a Bicycle

Last month I decided that on the first of each month, I'd make a donation through ChildFund. I wish I had more to donate; I see quite a few opportunities I wish I could donate money to, but it's just not possible. But because I'm donating something every month, I can choose a few different things each month.

In November I was able to feed 30 orphans for a week at the Namma Makkala Dhama orphanage in India; I was also able to provide fresh milk for one month for 30 children, also in India.

This month, I focused on girls and women: I donated a a Mama Kit for a pregnant woman in Uganda ("The Mama Kit contains supplies for a pregnant woman to use during and after delivery. The kit is combined with education to equip women for safe birth under the care of qualified professionals.") and a bicyle ("Girls in India and Sri Lanka struggle to continue their education ebcause they have to walk such long distances to school. A bicycle will help a student stay in school because it won't take her as long to get there,and she will have more time to apply to her studies.").