Friday, January 24, 2014

Torque Curve

This post and the next link to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

that kind of car, but not that kind of burnout

Catechists, other church volunteers, and paid staff always run the risk of burnout. You know, knocking yourself out for Jesus until you're punch-drunk from stress and disappointment. It's nicely treated in a piece at Team RCIA, which prompts this post. On cars.

Generally speaking, when people say their cars are powerful, they're really describing their engine's torque, not its power. As my father's college textbook Internal Combustion Engines says, "power is a measure of the rate at which work is done," while "Torque is a measure of the ability of an engine to do work". People like what's called good tip-in, when a car pulls smoothly and quickly away from a stoplight at the first press of the accelerator; or being able to pass or go up a hill without a downshift. All that is torque-related, that is, how easily the engine does the work.

Intuition says that the faster the engine turns and the more gas it burns, the greater the torque. But that's usually not the case. Maximum torque is typically produced at a moderate RPM. Let's look at this graph of my Camaro's LS1 V8:

The light blue line is the torque curve. You can see that max torque of 330 lb-ft is available at about 3900 rpm. But if the engine revs beyond 5000rpm, less torque is available. Less ability to do work. Less durability.

This is how I understand my own productivity, especially when I volunteer. I think of myself as an engine. There's a point where my ability to be productive is maximized. It's not when I'm relaxing, and not when I'm overstressed. I always aim for that peak of productive stress and avoid going under or over it. With respect to volunteering, the best way to stay at the peak is to know when to say no, and then actually say no. As the Team RCIA post says, "We tell ourselves that we are sacrificing for the sake of the church or the people or Jesus." And that is true; but the point of volunteering isn't to sacrifice, it's to build up the church. So don't run too fast, and don't run too much, and you may run for a long, long time.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pitchers 19

Second Board, January 22, 2014

1. Loaves & Fishes just like in prior years. Jesus gives thanks to the Father and effects a food miracle. Grumpy apostles mediate between Jesus and the people.

2. Plan of church shows same relationships: Father>Jesus>food miracle>ministers>people.

3. Triangle shows divine power flows through Jesus; then it's mediated through a small group of authorized agents to everyone else. It's a lateral hierarchy; but hierarchies are usually laid out vertically. So...

4. Triangle rotates to become Mount Sinai. (The kids already know how the Old Covenant works.) We see the same pattern in blue as described in Exodus: Israelites at the bottom, Levites halfway up, Moses in the Shekhinah cloud at the top connecting with YHWH on behalf of the others.

5. Same hierarchical pattern in blue is fulfilled and perfected in the Church in green: the faithful, the ministerial priesthood, Jesus at the top connects to the Father per Hebrews & Revelation.

It'd be virtually impossible to discuss these connections with 12-year-olds with words alone. But with a few pictures, the kids don't just learn, they think and draw conclusions.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Class Stuff

This post and the next link to RAnn's Sunday Snippets
you must have a detailed lesson plan

 Some stuff about the last couple of Catechism classes:

We finished the Jan. 8 class by spending about 20 minutes on the Healing of the Paralytic: acting, drawing, discussion, Bible-reading, the usual. This week among other things, we covered Jesus healing a man's withered arm on the Sabbath; a leper; Jairus' daughter; the woman with a hemorrhage; and the centurion's servant. Every story involved a little skit, with kids obliged to think on their feet about why the characters acted as they did, and draw conclusions. We ended with Jesus blessing the little kids, which sets the stage for next week's Loaves and Fishes miracle.

But these healing stories aren't just treated as disconnected snippets of Jesus Is So Nice; like all Bible stories, they are explicitly connected to Catholic themes, both individually and also as a group. From the Paralytic to the Centurion I emphasized these concepts:

1. Having a physical encounter with Jesus is the normal way to get a miracle. Nobody just stays home and prays if it's at all possible to engage Jesus both spiritually and physically. People will make a hole in a roof if that's what it takes. Nobody ever got a miracle in the NT without having a physical encounter with Jesus or one of his authorized agents.

2. Having a physical encounter involves an act of faith which anyone can see. That is, by what people do their faith can be seen.

3. Jesus will do someone a favor if someone else acts in faith on their behalf. That's intercession, and it still works.

4. Jesus can work a long-distance miracle; but the miracle is still initiated though a physical encounter.

5. Jesus can work miracles through physical stuff just like the Moses and Elijah, as when the woman grabbed his tassel: boom! Healed! Who touched me?

6. Faith by itself is good; faith in action is better. We comprise a body and a soul; so our bodies acting in harmony with our souls just makes sense. If ya ain't doin' ya prob'ly ain't believin' either.

7. Jesus has a body and a soul, too. That's why everyone was so excited: to be able to access God physically was a big deal.

8. It's still the norm to have a physical encounter with Jesus. That's what sacraments are for, especially the Eucharist and Confession. Eating God is a big deal. But just like the centurion, you have to believe without seeing.

9. Healing physical sickness matters; but healing spiritual sickness matters more.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Viva la Caccia

an ascending graph

We spend a lot of time on the first two chapters of Genesis in Wednesday Night Sunday School, especially these marriage bits:

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." 19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him.

1. Man on his own is alone, and that is not good.
2. Man has dominion over the other creatures, as shown by Adam naming them instead of God.
3. An animal isn't a good helpmeet for a man.

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; 22 and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he built into a woman and brought her to the man.

1. Man is incomplete without his rib.
2. Woman is formed from the missing rib.

 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.

1. Man is complete when he gets his rib back.
2. A man may have to leave his family to get his rib. The rib has priority. The rib doesn't come to the man; he goes to the rib.
3. He holds tight to her.

We have fun with this in class, partly because my own marriage has followed this story line. I bring some authenticity to the topic. I was alone and it was not good. I was incomplete without a wife; my life had been a frothy joke. I chased my future wife, not vice-versa (I had to ask her out three times; but having a cast-iron ego, I was not discouraged). I got my rib back. I cling to her, not vice-versa. And we become one flesh.

By the way, she had other suitors. And although she is nothing like Scarlett O'Hara or Marilyn Monroe, here's how I remember the competition:

or this:

or maybe this:

 and we have a winner

A couple of other bits of Genesis further remind of my marriage. F'rinstance, consider the process of creation:

1. Dead stuff: light, sky, land, water.
2. Living stuff lacking animation: vegetation, plants, trees.
3. Basic life forms: swimming and flying creatures.
4. More sophisticated life forms: wild animals and cattle.
5. Man, made from a dead thing, dirt.
6. Woman, built from a living thing, a rib.

An ascending line, if you graph it. The later the creation, the nearer to God. And nearer the top is the woman. No wonder Man should put Woman up on a pedestal, look up and admire her. No wonder that Woman should be comfortable there. But there's also the one-flesh business, which is illuminated by this last line of Genesis 2:

And they were both naked: to wit, Adam and his wife: and were not ashamed.

That's like my life too; well, like my marriage, which I understand as a life-form made of the next highest two, a man and a woman. So even if the woman is on her pedestal, the man and the woman together forming a marriage are higher still.

Finally, because no-one wants to read the full-blown story of our courtship, this video condenses the whole saga into 15 seconds: 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hadley's Legs

 these precious days I spend with you

I read a lot of Hemingway in my teens and twenties. Purely by coincidence, the last thing I read was also the last thing he wrote: A Moveable Feast, a patchwork of memories from his years in Europe between the wars. It's not as well-regarded as his other stuff, but I liked the sense of affectionate retrospection; regret; and sadness for things lost. And I was moved by the elegaic notion of Hemingway, now an old man, writing this book as a prelude to letting go of life. The book doesn't make that point explicitly; but it's the same gentle, if reluctant, acceptance of death expressed in these verses by Hermann Hesse, later set to music by Richard Strauss:


The garden is in mourning.
Cool rain seeps into the flowers.
Summertime shudders,
quietly awaiting his end.

Golden leaf after leaf falls
from the tall acacia tree.
Summer smiles, astonished and feeble,
at his dying dream of a garden.

For just a while he tarries
beside the roses, yearning for repose.
Slowly he closes
his weary eyes.

Speaking of men and mortality, Rembrandt likewise regards his own flawed life in this final self portrait:

feeling a lot like Hemingway at the end

So men grow old, and reflect, and regret; and appreciate.

Getting back to Hemingway, the thing he best remembered from his Paris days wasn't the cafes, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Gertrude Stein; what he remembered best was his first wife, Hadley. I wasn't married when I read A Moveable Feast, but I was beguiled by Hemingway's spare yet winsome depiction of their life together with their little son Bumby. And from then on I longed for a wife like Hadley, someone who made life wondrous in a quotidian sort of way. Now Hemingway has a direct, even flat, way of writing; and was never florid in his descriptions. So when it came to Hadley, it's through this quote about skiing that I imagine her: "..she had beautiful, wonderfully strong legs, and fine control of her skis, and she did not fall."

A few years later I married my very own Hadley. One day we were hiking up Table Rock in nearby Pickens County, my wife was in front. As I watched her shapely calves flex at each steep step, I imagined Hemingway's Hadley hiking up the mountains in Austria, and saw those same "beautiful, wonderfully strong legs" on Janet. Since that epiphany on Table Rock, I like to tease Janet about having beautiful strong legs like Hadley's; and how like Hemingway, I was smart to pursue a woman a bit older than me. Janet's riposte is that she doesn't mind having Hadley's legs as long as she doesn't have Hadley's husband.

My life's about three-fourths done; now I anticipate death. I too reflect and appreciate. Unlike Paul Anka, I have a thousand regrets. But marrying my wife isn't among them.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Healing the Paralytic

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Acting it out with Q&A at OLR's Youth Retreat last September:

The paralytic's friends have just plopped him in front of Jesus (yes, they literally carried him in). Even though there's not a lot of action in this impromptu skit, there's way more audience engagement and participation, simply because it's live and physical. The difference between teaching this story from behind a lectern and getting down on the ground with a volunteer is all the difference in the world.

Photo by OLR Youthgroup maestro Mikael McKinney