Monday, August 14, 2006

the artist's other interests

Evangeline llast week received recognition from the Nova Bastille Free Public Library that she is a skilled writer.

As part of its summer program, the library solicited essays from city children on the subject of how to take their pets with them on a trip to colonize the moon. Essays had to show an understanding of a pet's needs, and ways that a zero-gravity environment would differ from the Earth.

I helped her engage her thought processes, but Evangeline on her own wrote how her dog Sandy could eat, drink, sleep, exercise and go to the bathroom in space. (She neglected to mention that Sandy died last year.) Her innovations: a food dish with a small hole so the food gets out in small amounts only, a dog-size water bottle, a cage with heavy padding so Sandy doesn't get hurt when she floats during her sleep, magnetic shoes so she sticks to the floor, and a vacuum cleaner to clean up everything.

As a sci-fi sort, I was proud that she suggested saving Sandy's waste to terraform the lunar soil -- and even prouder as an organic gardener that she stipulated the waste was not for soil where crops are raised.

But as an award-winning writer, I was prouder still that she received recognition for her own writing. Just shy of second grade, she wrote a better essay than I was accustomed to getting from many of my seventh- and eighth-graders for much of the school year back when I was a teacher.

In other education and learning news, Evangeline also has been busy reading reams of poetry by Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost and a few others, including some poems from my Norton Anthology of English Literature, such as Lewis Carroll and even William Shakespeare. She's been learning folk songs and mastering the rest of the multiplication table.

She's also been learning to ride a bike (with training wheels), play baseball, and jump rope.
Her theology continues to develop, as she notices disparities between her own experiences with God and the way the Bible depicts other people's experiences.

On Saturday night she asked me if God speaks to people like he did in the Tanakh, and when I explained that the direct quotes in the Bible most likely are a literary device intended to represent the more standard prayer experience of hearing God speak to our hearts, she asked me how we can recognize when he's talking to us and when we're just imagining it. She also wanted to know if I had ever heard God speak out loud.

That was the night we read the chapter in 2 Samuel where David decides he wants to build God a Temple instead of leaving the Ark of the Covenant inside a tent all the time. I tried to explain, without getting into the priesthood of Melchizedek or anything deep like that, that the Temple system was a shadow of what was to come in Christ, when the Holy Spirit would live in our hearts. And that prompted her to ask when the Holy Spirit comes into people, if tongues of fire still appeared on their heads when he did and so on.

I think she's intrigued by the admittedly dramatic image of people with flames dancing on their heads, speaking in unknown tongues, and she wanted to know if I had ever seen that happen. (Nope. Not even in the Assemblies of God.)

So I had to explain not only about biblical inspiration, but about the Abramic covenant and Mosaic law being forerunners and types of the relationship we now have with God in Christ, the difference between the indwelling and baptism of the Holy Spirit, and then I had to note that the day of Pentecost was the only time in the Bible when tongues of fire appeared on people's heads as they began to speak in tongues. (And she amazed me with the amount of detail she remembered about that story, that the Christians were speaking all sorts of languages they didn't know but everyone else did, that people thought they were drunk or crazy, and that thousands of people became Christians as a result.)

I can only imagine how late we would have been up if I had started talking about Melchizedek. (And let me note that when we read that chapter of Genesis a few weeks ago, she noticed that Melchizedek and Abram ate the same stuff that we use to celebrate the Last Supper.)

I love it when she asks these questions, because it jolts me out of my own complacency, and forces me to rethink some of my own suppositions about God. How do we know when it's really God speaking to us, and we're not just imagining it? If God's quotes in the Bible are a literary device, what other things could be literary devices that I'm not recognizing as such? As is usual, she left me with weighty questions to ponder while I left her to consider my own inadequate answer to her question.

And lastly, Evangeline is asking for a little brother. She is not just asking us, I have heard her asking for one during bedtime prayers.

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