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TRAINING THE BRAIN
January 9, 2008
 
At last I have unearthed our missing collection of decent gloves and mittens. I had packed them carefully in a sturdy zippered bag of shiny clear plastic and put the bag in a safe place -- so safe, in fact, that I no longer knew where I had put them by the time the first cold day arrived. We've been making do with mismatched gloves, or none at all, for weeks now.

I only came across them at all because I was helping my granddaughter look for the two suitcases I said I'd lend her. Those seemed not to be under either bed, nor were they in the attic or in the basement. We finally found one of them, and now I am wondering if we really ever had two, or if I just made that part up. Or maybe it's not really true that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Maybe that's just an ugly rumor. But I did find the gloves.

Still missing is the stamped envelope I carried downstairs with the express purpose of putting it out for the postman. It isn't out in the mailbox and it doesn't seem to be anywhere else, either. It is entirely possible that I threw it away -- putting something in the trash is a little like putting it in a mailbox, in a way. A logical mistake.

Every morning I find the crossword puzzle in the newspaper and complete it, in the hope that doing so will make me sharper. What I really need to do instead, my daughters tell me, is the Sudoku puzzle, which involves making strings of numbers all add up to the same thing. This will exercise parts of my brain that don't get out much. Doing a crossword puzzle is too much like being a writer, they say, which I already know how to do and which won't exercise my brain as much. You have to keep doing new things if you want to exercise your brain. And find your mittens.

Of course, it is old things we love to do. We love our habits: making the tea always in the same way, setting the table always in the same order, walking to the train station always by the same route. We rely on our homely traditions to calm ourselves, as if they had power against whatever damage we imagine the winds of change might do us. We become adamant about them, militant about preserving things that don't amount to a hill of beans; small changes symbolize larger ones, and they bring our fear closer.

In the book of Isaiah, God talks about doing something new. Faith must be radically new, must be willing to follow the spirit into places we have never been. But we falter in the face of all this newness. We fall back, and try to say that any new thing is really old. We don't want to do anything we can't find in the book. We won't let God do a new thing, either.

We'd best be careful about this conservative tendency of ours. We might become absent-minded.
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January 26 at St. Philip's Episcopal Church, Joplin, MO.
Barbara Crafton will address St. Philip's 100th Anniversary luncheon. Call St. Philip's for information and reservations, 417-623-6893.
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Register Now for Two Teleclasses with Barbara Crafton
Feb 4 Forgiveness: What It Is and What It Isn't

Are there unforgivable sins? What does it mean when we say God forgives us? Is there someone you cannot forgive? Or is there someone who cannot forgive you? Do you have trouble forgiving yourself? This class is for people with serious questions about forgiveness. Join us for a time of presentation, exploration and discussion of this key element of our faith.

Join Barbara and others in a conference call discussion of one of life's biggest spiritual challenges. Monday, Feb 4th, 8pm EST Program fee $14.00 Class limited to 12 Register at www.eministrynetwork.org/teleclasses.htm.

March 10 Writing the eMos: the Craft of Devotional Prose
Devotional writing is deceptive. Don't you just write down what you believe? Well, not really: writing for publication is communicative, not therapeutic; the reader is more important than the writer. Its spirituality is that of the preacher or the officiant at a liturgy: you are there for the other and not for yourself. And this is a paradox, since the content of this kind of writing is the most personal one can imagine.

Join Barbara and participants across the Church in an exploration of these and many other mysteries. Program fee $14.00 Class limited to 12 Register at www.eministrynetwork.org/teleclasses.htm.
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