February 2nd, 2005


Groundhog Day

I've known about Groundhog Day all my life, though where I come from, we don't get all misty-eyed about the little marmots. I did know one family when I was a kid who ate groundhog, but most people simply despised them. You see, I grew up in a farming community in Southern Indiana, the land of corn and soybeans. Groundhogs destroy crops, so farmers kill them every chance they get, and hang their little carcases on fenceposts as a warning to other such critters.

(I always thought this was giving groundhogs too much credit for intelligence. How could they understand the significance of a dead groundhog on a fencepost? But, maybe they just smell it and shy away.)

One day when I was riding along with my best buddy and his little brother, I learned that a '63 Chevy truck makes an excellent hunting weapon for groundhogs. A groundhog crossed the road in front of us, and Fred gunned it in that direction, almost jumping a ditch as he yelled, "Git 'im!" I don't know if we killed the groundhog, but I was scared almost to death.

But I digress. So, in honor of Groundhog Day, here is a classic tongue-twister from Henry Beard's "Latin For Even More Occasions."

Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?

And the answer,

Tantum materiae quam materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari.


As a Protestant, or at least, as a non-Roman Catholic, I have always taken a natural view of Mary, Mother of Jesus. While I believe in the Virgin Birth, the extra Marian doctrines (Immaculate Conception, Sacred Heart, Assumption) seem to me to be non-Scriptural at best. The idea of her Perpetual Virginity also seems to contradict Scripture, though John Wesley didn't think so (one of the few places where I disagree with ol' John).

However, as a great believer in the ancient traditions of the Church (esp. the doctrines and practices of the first millennium), I have to wrestle with this. The Sarum Mass that I appreciate so much includes a lot of references to Mary, some of which are difficult for me to say. These references are virtually the ONLY things which would cause me or other traditional UMs to blink, if I were to simply slip the Sarum Mass into our liturgy today.

So I went trolling through the documents of the ancient Church Councils, particularly the seven great Ecumenical Councils, to see what they had to say about Mary.

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Hound of Heaven

I took my dog for a long walk (or was it the other way around) today. She must think she's part sled dog, because she drags me most of the way. She's not very big (a mid-sized dog with stubby legs), but she's got power. Since siege moved out, and collinsmom hasn't been getting home till almost 5:00, the only person available to walk Sassafras is Your Humble Correspondent. But I confess it's been good for me. I don't get enough exercise, and having to take care of the dog is getting me in better shape. So she is a blessing in furry disguise.

Sassy is a beautiful dog, but utterly unique. People are drawn to her. And they inevitably ask, "What kind of dog is that?" Since she is a mix of many things, I usually give them an answer, tongue in cheek.

Oh, she's a Cameroonian Cuddlehound.

She's a Variable Hound: in the Summer she's a hot dog; in the Winter she's a chilly dog.

She's an Objet d'Art.
(You wouldn't believe the people who speak French who miss this one.)

And after getting hit by this, they look puzzled for a moment, and then (almost to a man) they say, "Ah. I always wondered what they looked like."

The door swings both ways

Many years ago, a man I had never met dropped by my office. He was an acquaintance of my Dad (professionally) and just dropped by to be friendly, he said. In the course of our conversation, I learned that he was one of the lay leadership of a group that had split off from one of our United Methodist congregations in a blow-up, the details of which are irrelevant at this point.

I realized that I was being chatted up to see if I were interested in the job of pastor of this new, independent church. They wanted a young, orthodox, Methodist-flavored, evangelical, articulate, etc. All I had to do to get an interview (and probably, the job) was to ask the NEXT QUESTION that lay beyond the pleasantries. I could write my own ticket. And I was miserable where I was (for a variety of reasons). It would have been so easy to ask that next question. But I didn't.

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