Sunday, December 25, 2005

Holding promises

In fourteen years of being an ordained minister I have never preached a Christmas sermon. Yes, that's right, I am a virgin when it comes to such matters (quite fitting, don't you think?) yet I have been ready to conceive of such a sermon by the Holy Spirit for years. So come out of your post-holiday stupor and pour yourself a tall nog, snag the last Christmas cookie and join me here by the virtual fire for a Christmas meditation.

One of my many pet-peeves is the saying "Children are our future". Bah, humbug! Ever since I gave birth to the first of two, I have known with all my heart, soul, mind, and especially body that they are our right now, this minute, can't wait any longer. Forget that Hallmark nonsense about today being a gift that's why they call it the present. Usually having children is nothing like a Hallmark card. If it were, they'd sell them ripped and torn, with greasy fingerprints all over them, and when you opened it, an explosion of dirty laundry and the sound of milk bubbles being blown through a straw would greet you.

The beauty of the Christmas story, whether you believe it really happened that way or not (and it probably didn't), is that the One who set this universe and you and me in motion revealed the power of love in a tiny, helpless baby (and thus every baby)--right now, this minute, can't wait any longer. We hope and pray that our children will take care of us when we are older, but we know the truth is that they saved us from the moment we knew they were on their way to us. And they save us each day of our lives. They save us from being self-absorbed, greedy, depressed, angry, and lonely. If nothing else, Christmas reminds us of this as we attend a birth in a mean and lowly place.

Christmas is a salvation story as much as Easter. Toward the end of the birth story in the gospel of Luke, a priest named Simeon holds the baby Jesus in his arms and proclaims that he is now ready to die for he has seen the salvation of his people, the promise of God. Jesus hasn't done a thing yet but be born yet he has saved this old man from despair that he may die in peace.

Hearing the birth story of Jesus (which is easier for my children to believe than believing their parents were infants once) reminds us of all the children who need saving right now, this minute, can't wait any longer: children being conscripted into armies; children orphaned by AIDS, war, floods, earthquakes, and last year's tsunami; children sold into slavery and prostitution; children who need nutrition, health care, education, and a home; in some cases, a legal marriage for their parents. In short, children remind us that we are all worthy of love, simply because we draw breath.

Simeon told Mary that a sword would pierce her soul. Yet I would bet that Mary already knew that the moment she looked into her son's eyes. What we don't realize is how often that sword will drive home its dual edge of pain and love. Our world needs to have its soul pierced, to see that we still practice child sacrifice of the worst kind--the kind we choose to be blind to.

We are our children's future. We are the ones who create policy, social structure, decide what is truly valuable and what is just dust in the wind. The trouble is, we spend more of our energy chasing after that wind than on what is right in front of us, right now, this minute, can't wait any longer. God is watching us but through the eyes, ears, hearts and minds of our children and they are taking copious notes

Friday, December 23, 2005

Are you ready?

Yesterday in the grocery store, a friend asked me that question. I answered her that no, I was not ready for Christmas and all its attendant shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, etc. but that yes, I was (and am) ready for Jesus.

Does that mean I've got all my spiritual little ducks in a row? If you've been reading this blog, you know the answer to that is "hardly". Being ready for Jesus means that, despite my spiriutal little ducks running all over the place, quacking their heads off, I'm ready to stop chasing after them, thinking that I have some kind of control over any of this. I'm ready for Jesus to save me from me.

At least, I'm ready today. Tomorrow may be a different story.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Noble Laureate

On rare occasions, a playwright can be a prophet.

Harold Pinter's Nobel lecture "Art, Truth, and Politics"

A prophet in the Hebrew scriptures was one called by God to see reality in all its starkness and then, with brutal honesty, tell the people of Israel the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, with the help of God. And for the U.S., the judgment day is coming and swiftly.

Harold Pinter won this year's Nobel prize for literature.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Thanks, from the bottom of my shoe

(I received this e-mail today. It pretty much sums up the past year of forwarded e-mails that have been passed on to us...whether we liked it or not. The only good thing that could have come from this is that urban legend websites may have seen more action than usual.)

My heartfelt appreciation goes out to all of you who have taken the time and trouble to send me "forwards" over the past 12 months. Thank you for making me feel safe, secure, blessed and wealthy.

Extra thanks to whoever sent me the one about rat crap in the glue on envelopes cause I now have to go get a wet towel every time I need to seal an envelope. Also, I scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.

Because of your concern I no longer drink Coca Cola because it can remove toilet stains. I no longer drink Pepsi or Dr Pepper since the people who make these products are atheists who refuse to put "Under God" on their cans.

I no longer use Saran wrap in the microwave because it causes cancer. I no longer check the coin return on pay phones because I could be pricked with a needle infected with AIDS. I no longer use deodorant - since it causes cancer, even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.

I no longer go to shopping malls because someone might drug me with a perfume sample and rob me. I no longer receive packages from nor send packages by UPS or FedEx since they are actually Al Qaeda in disguise. I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a number for which I will get a phone bill with calls to Jamaica, Uganda, Singapore and Uzbekistan.

I no longer have any sneakers -- but that will change once I receive my free replacement pair from Nike. I no longer have to buy expensive cookies from Neiman Marcus since I now have their recipe. I no longer worry about my soul because at last count I have 363,214 angels looking out for me.

Thanks to you, I have learned that God only answers my prayers if I forward an e-mail to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes. I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl who is about to die in the hospital (for the 1,387,258th time). I no longer have any money at all - but that will change once I receive the $15,000 that Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special e-mail program.

Yes, I want to thank you so much for looking out for me that I will now return the favor! If you don't send this e-mail to at least 144,000 people in the next 7 minutes, a large pigeon with a wicked case of diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00 PM (EST) this afternoon. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbor's ex-mother-in-law's second husband's cousin's beautician.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Not Yet

Christmas lights up and on
the end of November
as if we’ve had the
Advent ultrasound.
We know the sex,
his name. We call
the baby while still
in the womb of waiting.
I long for sparse nights
dark with the unknown
disturbing what I think
I know.

Have we lost our
capacity for Christmas
surprise? We expect
to see baby Jesus resting
comfortably in the crèche
candles lit, congregation
hushed, humming “Silent Night”.
But have we looked for him
beforehand, with the light
of only a star, in the face of Herod
or magi or angels or poor migrant
shepherds or a cranky woman like
me who wishes
we could wait until after
Solstice to put up the lights
when the days
begin to lengthen again.
We rarely give the darkness
a chance to reveal her
truth which will set us free,
fracturing our safely
constructed lives.
What is Christmas for
if not for this?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Walk on the Left Side

Sometimes it's the little things you remember about a person that speak volumes about their character and personality.

Fifteen years ago, in another lifetime, I was walking down a busy street on a very narrow shoulder with a good friend of mine, Andy, the afore-mentioned "Improbable Bostonian". He made a point of making sure I walked on the inside, near the grass, while he took the more dangerous position on the left. I asked him about this gallant gesture and he replied that his mother told him that a guy ("a gentleman") always puts a girl, "a lady" as his mother put it, on the right when walking on a street.

I could tell several things from this one exchange. One, he listened to his mother and put into practice the things she taught him. Two, he put my safety ahead of his own. Three, this was not merely a gesture but habit. And four, it was one of the rare glimpses of his serious side.

It was one of those small moments when reality is cracked wide open and we see ourselves as cared for, companioned, given hospitality, and we are humbled by it. It doesn't take as much as we think it should to make a difference in someone else's life. A kind word, a touch, an apology or the acceptance thereof, a smile, a hug--all these can become habit when we practice them often enough.

And before I existentially ooze all over the place, Andy is also one of the few persons I can be totally irreverent with and not have to listen to the refrain, "But you're a minister!!!" It's important to have friends who knew you before you became you. He's also one of the few with whom I can wax lyrical about "Star Trek" and all its incarnations without rolling his eyes or letting them glaze over. He's been able to become a grown-up without losing his sense of humor nor the ability to let lose and have fun; in fact, it's become more acute over the years (if you haven't been to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster website, one that Andy directed me to, it is a must, especially if you like Monty Python). Besides all that, he's one of the two or three who actually reads this blog! A true test of friendship if ever there was one.

Live long and prosper, my friend.

(Andy: two points if you can name the movie from whence came the title for this blog entry!)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Intelligent Response

This is directly out of the "Centurymarks" section of The Christian Century (Nov. 15, 2005): "Also testifying in the intelligent design court case in Pennsylvania was John Haught, Georgetown University theology professor, who argued that science asks how whereas religion asks why. He noted that there are different ways of explaining boiling water. One could say that water boils due to rapid vibration of water molecules (the how question). Or one could say that it boils because someone desires a cup of tea. Both are legitimate accounts. But it is a mistake to bring up the subject of wanting tea when studying molecular movement, just as it is wrong to say 'It's the molecular movement' rather than 'I want tea'." (York Daily Record, October 1)

It would seem that if public schools could stick to the "how" of things and faith communities do their job of establishing "why", we would all receive a very well-rounded education. Apparently, for some, the "why" of evolution threatens their "how" and the "how" of evolution threatens the others' "why", the meaning behind evolution. Which would indicate a certain amount of fear on both parts, a powerful force which influences most of us, believer or not. But we're all so busy being passionately gripped by our own point of view (another sign of fear) and poking fun at others (an attempt to assuage the fear) that we're not available to listen compassionately to those whose fears rankle our own.

We're all guilty of fundamentalistic thinking: right and wrong, black and white, "us" and "them", absolutely sure ours is the way. There is a choice that needs to be made but it's the one between loving, forgiving, and not. And I know that on any given day I could do much better at those, that I always fall short, that I am more of a goat than a sheep (all wisecracks, refer yourselves to the gospel of Matthew, ch. 25).

The only intelligent response is not more headgames, more jokes, more expert research or knowledge, but love and forgiveness. And you don't have to believe in God to be capable of that. But you do have to be capable of loving someone or something else more than you love yourself. Anyone can love as much as they are loved in return; some get by with doing less. But if you really want to change things, love more. Henry David Thoreau said, "There is no remedy for love but to love more."

How can I love more and why is that a needful thing for me to do? This is our mission as human beings living in community.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Unchained Gang

God, how I love the seminary I attended!

Joe Hough, President, Union Theological Seminary, and Nick Carter, President, Andover Newton Theological School, have issued a statement condemning the political actions of the IRS against All Saints' Church in Pasadena and are calling upon all persons of faith to join in the demand that the pulpits of this nation remain free and unfettered.

View the Call to Free and Unfettered Pulpits and sign the Call if you feel so moved.

Incidentally, fetters are restraints chained around the ankles or calves to prevent a prisoner (or a slave) from escaping. The apostle Paul in his letters referred to the feet of those who preach the gospel as "beautiful" (Romans 10:15; Isaiah 52:7). The letter to the Hebrews (12:1) likened the journey of faith to a foot race to be run with perseverance. Ironically, the restrictions of the First Amendment are borne by the government, not the Church.

I am a proud member of the class of '91, Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, MA.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

An Inconvenient Woman

Remember "Church Lady" and the way she would twist her lips, tilt her head, look directly at the camera and declare "Well, isn't that convenient?" Where is Church Lady when you need her?

All Saints' Episcopal Church in Pasadena, CA investigated by IRS

The former rector of the church preached a sermon two days before the 2004 election criticizing not only Bush, his tax cuts, and the war in Iraq but also John Kerry as a candidate for president. He urged congregants to vote their conscience in light of their faith and the teachings of Jesus. He did not specifically endorse one candidate or the other. Now the church is in danger of losing its tax-exempt status, and it's not the first time they've gotten into trouble.

According to the government it's okay for the Church to be prophetic as long as it doesn't criticize the current administration. It's okay for the Church to have faith-based initiatives so long as they don't challenge current social structures. It's okay for priests and ministers to preach the gospel as long as it doesn't apply to the current political scene.

Isn't that special?!

The Church is at its best when it is inconvenient to the status quo. It was the Congregational church that led the way in the abolitionist movement right here in Connecticut during the trial of slaves aboard the Amistad. Antoinette Brown Blackwell was the first woman ordained in 1853, in a small Congregational church in South Butler, NY. William Johnson was the first openly gay man ordained in 1972, in the United Church of Christ, of which the Congregational church has been a part since 1957. The Episcopal Church has its own rich rebellious history with the "Philadelphia 11", the ordination of Barbara Harris as the first female bishop, having the good sense and wisdom to ordain my college friend, Anne, and most recently ordaining the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

It's not very PC anymore but there was a time when the Church was called the Bride of Christ. Though the terminology may be distasteful to some, the relationship is right on. We are wed to Christ, bound by a covenant in which we are Christ's body in the world. When FDR became relegated to a wheelchair, his wife Eleanor said that she would be her husband's legs, and she went into the coal mines to see for herself what a miner's life was like. We, the Church, are the hands and feet and mind and heart and yes, the voice of Christ in the world, speaking as best as we are able, the truth of justice, peace, and love that is so desperately needed.

Finley Peter Dunne said about a hundred years ago "The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable". Journalists today may disagree with that but whenever the truth is proclaimed, comfort and discomfort arise. Most of us have been comfortable for too long.

So to All Saints' Church in Pasadena: You go, girl!

Now, isn't that inconvenient!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Rebel with a cause?

Well done, good and faithful knight! I might have known Andy Peterson (a.k.a., the Improbable Bostonian) would not only know the correct answer but also have a plethora of details (see comment for Nov. 5 entry). As promised, I will write a blog in honor of said blogger, the title and subject of which is yet to be determined.

And yes, I will be kind.

I just had to devote a blog to dear old Guy Fawkes because it was the 400th anniversary of his
thwarted plot. The only reason I know of him was because of some friends of friends in college, Westfield State ("Wastefield State", Camp Westy) in Westfield, MA. I was invited to a Guy Fawkes party off-campus, complete with an effigy of Guy doused with lighter fluid and set aflame while he hung from a baseball backstop. The only reason I went was because one of these friends of my friends was cute...and interested in me. The only reason they had the party was to have an excuse to drink beer, invite girls over, and burn something. Heck, they were Jewish.

But now Sir Andrew informs me that there may be more myth than fact in the "Gunpowder Plot". Historical figures in nearly every culture have been given almost godlike status, usually with disastrous after-effects, i.e., we don't get their story straight, we don't learn from their mistakes, and as an ancilliary benefit, at least in our own country, we view current leaders through the same rose-colored glasses. What I find interesting is that we Americans revile and barely remember the names of treasonous traitors who tried to destroy our way of life; the Brits have holidays in honor of such efforts. Such light-hearted treatment of national criminals (after they've been adequately punished) is surely a product of farsightedness, having a longer history and a keener memory of it.

But who knows? Perhaps a few centuries from now our nation will celebrate "Scooter Libby and Karl Rove Day", "Michael Brown Day", (fill in your own nominee).

Saturday, November 05, 2005

A man of his time

Now I have a game for you.

Who is this man? What is his signifigance in history, bearing in mind today's date? And it's a big anniversary for him too.

The first one (out of the two or three who read this) who answers correctly will gain my high esteem as a blog-renown historian and yes, a blog written in their honor.

Hint: The piece of architecture in the background is highly pertinent.

Good luck!

Friday, November 04, 2005

A real life

(Yeah, I write poetry too.)

There are times I question the whole thing
Is there a God
Was there ever
a real life
in which God was clothed
all earthly, vulnerable
in our human aloneness of being
What if Jesus never was

On the edge of that precipice
I am humbled
by one thought
I would rather be a fool
A companioned
voluntary fool

Thanks be to God
for this life within a life
that Word made flesh
mundane and fragile
for which I am indeed
happily foolish

Even though faith is a gift, it is also a choice. Most days I choose to hang full weight with the apparent insanity of faith. Like love I must choose, I must decide whether or not I will believe, whether or not I will love, forgive, serve, be the Word in flesh as best as I am able. Madeleine L'Engle once said, "I dare you to believe" because most people settle for religiosity. Having Jesus as your best friend is like inviting Gandhi over for a black tie steak dinner: you're going to have difficulty changing some things that you really don't want to, no matter how much you love the guy. At a young age my imagination was captured by stories of Jesus, and what can I say? He just got under my skin in such a way that now I feel his claim upon my life, a life that he saved in a very real way, by giving me a life within this life.

Monday, October 31, 2005


Each week on Sunday evenings I help lead a junior high church youth group. Though many are intimidated and even frightened at the prospect, I for one am grateful for such an opportunity.

One summer during seminary, I worked as a counselor at a private day camp on the South Shore in Massachusetts. My charges were the CITs--counselors in training--ranging in age from 12-15. Since they were usually busy with their own projects, I was often assigned to help out other age groups. One day when I was with the preschoolers someone asked me if it was any different. I said no, they're just shorter.

I had forgotten how childlike a middleschooler can be. We play amoeba tag, all of us holding hands, none of us too cool not to play. This past Sunday during a Halloween-themed meeting, they bobbed for apples, getting their hair soaking wet. They sat in the dark as one of the other leaders read ghost stories by candlelight, eating doughnuts and drinking apple cider. And they still have that need for acceptance and attention from those older than they while at the same trying to reject it and strike out on their own.

But they can also be maddening as hell when they gravitate toward their individual selves like a star that's about to go supernova. They wheedle and cajole us grownups, trying to eke out any advantage that they can. Sometimes they can be cruel when they exclude the more uncertain and different ones of the group. Most Sundays after our meeting is over I wait for the Sr. High group to finish so I can talk to them and remind myself of what those middleschoolers will grow out of and into.

I also think about my own daughters, especially the oldest one who just turned nine (this is just not possible). Soon it will be time for "The Talk" and the sunset of her childhood will begin. I hope that I will be able to glimpse those childlike moments in her when she is in middle school and be able to play with her yet let her go at the same time.

When twelve-year-old Jesus got left behind in Jerusalem, he answered with typical preadolescent arrogance: "Where did you think I would be but in my Father's house", as in "Duh, Mom!" Perhaps Jesus was born old but I'd like to think that he derived some perverse preteen pleasure out of outfoxing his parents, while at the same time wondering when they were coming back for him.

I sometimes wonder if we aren't all 'tweens, proud of our self-sufficiency to the point of arrogance while at the same time just wanting to be held and loved and have time to play, living between the now and the not yet, between the dark mirror and face-to-face.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Actions speak louder than bumperstickers

I like to have reading material available while I'm driving. I'm talking about those 2 1/2" x 11" pieces of plastic (and others in varying sizes) that some folks use to boldly declare their convictions, loyalities, or peevishness. BUT...

Bumperstickers are only as true as the cars to which they are affixed.

Case in point: "Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself." (Chief Seattle) This was on the bumper of a midsize Toyota SUV. Plus a "Save Tibet" sticker.

Then I saw a "Bush/Cheney '04" sticker (hello, the election was over a year ago) on a Volvo stationwagon. Go figure.

My all-time favorite: "Frisbeeterians: When you die, your soul lands on the roof of the garage and stays there."

Close second: "Somewhere in Texas there's a village missing an idiot."

But I have seen these two only in catalogs. I have yet to see a vehicle with the cahones to display them.

But then, what kind of car would be able to carry them off as true? Hmm...

Comment with your suggestions and/or favorite bumperstickers of your own.

Great place to find stickers, buttons, T-shirts for those progressives who piss everyone off:
Northern Sun

Monday, October 03, 2005

It's a Small World, part 2

October 2 was World Communion Sunday, the day when Christians are mindful that though we worship separately and in many different ways, it is Communion that binds us together. At my church we had people from the congregation read the words "These are the gifts of God for the people of God; come, for all things are ready" in Dutch, Swedish, Spanish, and Armenian.

Earlier this summer I spoke at the funeral of the mother of a member of the church that I was serving. The mother was Catholic so the funeral was held at her parish. The monsignor of the parish informed me that since Communion would be celebrated I could not sit up front with him nor could I or the mother's daughter and her family receive the sacrament. The odd thing was this did not seem to cause him any sadness or any need to apologize. From where I stood we were looking at each other across the gulf of history, a history that included the need for ritual cleansing when a Jew came into contact with a Gentile. Yet Christ ate and drank with Gentiles, and visited with them in their homes because God's love knows no barriers. However, this irony appeared to be lost on my colleague, my brother in Christ. And so during Communion I prayed Jesus' prayer in the gospel of John, "that they may all be one".

The highest court in our country may make a big deal about the first Monday in October but in the Church, the first Sunday in October is a huge deal. Different languages, different traditions all proclaiming the same truth: This is the body of Christ broken for you; this is the blood of Christ shed for you; do this in remembrance of me. Strangely enough, Christ's body is still broken into Catholic and Orthodox and so many Protestants we need more fingers and toes to count them.

Yet the new physics that is slowly becoming a part of our consciousness tells us that we don't have to be in the same room in order to be connected with one another. Once two particles have been associated with one another, no matter where they are, they behave as though they are still related. They behave as though they were the same electron. The reality we conceive as many is really and truly one.

There's a group of scientists at Princeton who are studying
global consciousness . They propose that human consciousness and volition can affect the material world, especially events of deep meaning, like New Year's Eve, natural disasters, a call to national or even global prayer, and September 11, 2001. Events that bring us together as a human family, that have a depth of emotion and focus, seem to be able to affect the results of random number generators, producing curves of numbers that suggest a coherence of thought and will.

The hope of Communion is that one day we will realize that we are one, not only with other Christians but with all people and all of creation; that our participation in this simple meal will affect our material world in such a way as to reveal our coherence, the delicate yet resilient web that we are all a part of.

My almost 6-yr. old daughter calls this sacrament "Community". From the mouths of babes.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Out of Africa

If you haven't seen The Constant Gardner, go see it.

If you have, read on.

I recently saw Africa referred to as "the world's orphan" in a blog by
Jeff Huber (see posting "The New World Order"). In this movie based on the novel by John le Carre that's exactly what you see. Though this work may be a piece of fiction, the northern hemisphere's attitude toward the dark continent and her people is not. What scientists hypothesize as the birthplace of homo sapiens has now become the backwater ghetto of the human race. These people are plagued by famine, sickness, and death while we go on and fight our war on "terrorism". We know nothing, really, about true terror. Except for those who fight this war, those who die in it, and those who lose loved ones every day. On both sides, if there are only two.

Is this how a "Christian" nation, how a civilized hemisphere, treats its southern sister and her widows and orphans, what Christ called "the least of these"? Yes, we have problems at home. Yes, we have a Gulf coast to rebuild. But we cannot afford an economy based on war anymore. Enough of "The Empire Strikes Back". Enough pain and suffering; why do we need to make more?

Our African brothers and sisters need our mercy and compassion, not our indifference or our 15 minutes of caring or our polite gift of money. The global community giving what is needed in Africa--with the U.S. leading the way. Now that's what I call a faith-based initiative.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I Blog, You Blog, We Blog

Confession: In the past I have had a rather negative view of blogging.

It seemed to me a self-adoring mirror for one's ego, operating under the delusion that strangers or even people I know would want to read what I had to say about anything. Even worse, a lame attempt at being "published". ( And if you know what "I bop, you bop, we bop" means, then you understand the title and what I consider to be the ultimate purpose of blogging.)

So, am I a convert?

Not entirely. I still keep some of that cynical swill flowing through my veins to help keep me honest about why I blog. So, why?

Because I stay home with my children I am not in the habit of writing sermons on a weekly basis. I supply preach, which means I step in for pastors when they are on vacation or have to be away for a Sunday. I usually get about 10-15 gigs a year, which means my writing skills don't get the workout they need to stay in shape. And I just finished a four-month stint in a nearby church while the pastor was on sabbatical and vacation. I wrote a sermon every week; now that I am no longer working I have lots of time to reflect and to write.

When I was in seminary I had a weekly report I had to hand in while I was working at a local church for the purpose of learning theological reflection. Simply put, I wrote about what I did that week and asked of myself, "WWJD?". But it was more than that. It was an exercise in seeing my role in God's activity in the world: was I resisting, avoiding, going with the flow, engaging those around me? Was I bringing the presence of Christ to the situation or was I standing in the way? Was I seeing God, the great "I AM", within me and in the world around me? This is the skill I hope to nurture with this blog.

And yes, I like to see my words staring back me on the screen. My very own op-ed page with no editor (or a reading audience) to bite me.

For a funnier reflection on blogging, see
David Bouchier's public radio commentary on the subject. As for finding his blog, see Writer at Work on this very website. It wasn't hard to find at all, which goes back to the whole ego thing.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Can you hear me now?

How ironic.

The nursing home in New Orleans where 34 residents drowned was named St. Rita's.

St. Rita is the patron saint of desperate, impossible causes.

Now Hurricane Rita is bearing down on the Florida coast.

Perhaps there is a message here.

There's no such thing as an accident

If you haven't seen the movie Crash, go see it.

If you have, keep reading.

Possibly the best movie I have seen in a long time. The Grand Canyon of the new millennium. Another movie about the racial divide; not the canyon between the races, but the gaping maw of fear and anger within each of us that we think will keep us safe somehow.

One of the many pivots the movie turns on is a St. Christopher dashboard statue. St. Christopher is the "Christ-bearer". Not only did he carry the Christ child across a river but also the massive burden of sin that he bears. The meaning of this has been watered down by making good ol' St. Chris into the patron saint of travellers, to protect them from harm.

Ironically, in this movie, everyone collides with everyone else and ultimately with themselves. The collisions are the vehicle through which grace is able to work its way into the big and small bits of each character. Of late, I have understood grace as removing obstacles between us and the divine. In this movie, obstacles are the divine: God getting in the face of each character as if they thought they could avoid what angers them and fears them the most. From what I've observed, the second we try to avoid something or someone, a tiny thread of light ties itself to us and the object of our resistance, pulling us closer together until wham! what is staring us in the eye is not an obstacle to grace but the very key to our salvation for that particular day, hour, minute. And usually what we are being saved from is ourselves.

What St. Chris teaches us is that we are to imitate the one who bears our burdens by bearing up one another. If we won't do it willingly, we may just crash into that one we've been avoiding and be offered another chance to choose mercy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It's a Small World After All

You've probably seen it before:

If the earth's population was represented in a village of 100 people, this is what the village would look like.

This is the 2002 version:

Miniature Earth

They say it takes a village to raise a child. What kind of children are we raising based on this version of Village Earth?

Here's yet another illustration of just how small we are, how vast the neighborhood we live in:

Large Gamma Ray Burst Discovered

In the movie "Grand Canyon", Danny Glover's character talks about how it made him feel to sit on the edge of that big hole in the ground, like a flea on the rump of a cow as it's chewing its cud, next to a freeway going 70 mph. Small.

Yet we are as precious and rare as we are insignifigant. Like grains of sand that together make a beautiful beach; something more than the sum of its parts.

God said that a nation would be made of the descendants of Abraham and Sarah, as numerous as the stars in the heavens. Through a particularity God would reveal the infinite.

Each one of us is a particularity, a doorway, an entire world of our own (but not only for our own sake), through which the infinite may be known in some way. Gerald May, God rest his soul, once said that the most important endeavor of his life was "practicing God's Presence".

What kind of village raised you? How do you reveal the infinite in your particular life? What creates awe in you? Practice the presence of the Holy every infinitesimal chance you get.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Change of Habit

I've started driving the speed limit.

I strive for an average of 60 mph on the highway. I figure if the speed limit is either 55 or 65, the cops are gonna love me.

Even on back roads and city streets I am driving slower.


Two reasons: the price of gas and my spirit.

When I drive the speed limit, I get better gas mileage. I've also been condensing my trips, trying to get to several destinations in one jaunt. And I question whether the outing is even necessary. I try to squeak as much mileage out of a tank as I can.

But I've also noticed that when I drive slower, I'm more relaxed. Not as frenetic, harried, crazed. Maybe old people are old and drive that way for a reason.

Actually, there's a third reason: sacrifice. Because we are at war, because the Gulf Coast is underwater, because gas prices are up, and my life is largely unaffected, I have decided to affect my life with sacrifice: as solidarity, as thanks, as prayer. The word sacrifice has its roots in the word sacred. When we make a sacrifice, we are making our lives, and the lives of those our sacrifice affects, sacred. We realize that life is sacred and deserves our attention, our care, and our love.

There was a Star Trek episode from the 60's that depicted two planets at war with each other but the culture still thrived, the government and society were intact, people still had homes and families and livelihoods; there was no decay. Instead of using conventional weapons, the war was fought with supercomputers. When a "hit" was made on a certain area, the residents of that area reported to disintegration chambers as casualities. They sacrificed their lives but nothing else that war usually destroys. Thus, life had also become only a commodity rather than something to be treasured. Kirk and the boys destroyed the computers on one planet, which forced the other planet to use conventional weapons, as per their agreement. Needless to say, peace talks began immediately.

Many others are sacrificing on our behalf; not only the military, but relief workers, emergency personnel, health care professionals, and ordinary citizens volunteering their time and livelihood. As a wealthy nation, we have sacrificed the poor to support the lifestyle to which we have become so accustomed as to believe it our birthright. Christians believe that Christ sacrificed his life for all, including the poor, on the cross. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others made the ultimate sacrifice for what they believed in. Usually, that moves one to some sort of action, some sort of sacrifice on our part.

What are you doing to make your corner of the world sacred?

Friday, September 09, 2005

You are what you eat

Today my daughters' pediatrician gave me a big pat on the back for saying "no".

"No" to soda and sweets, most of the time. "No" to vegging out in front of the TV (now there's an oxymoron). "No" to McDonald's, except once a month. "No" to dessert, except for Saturday and Wednesday nights.

Yes, there are exceptions. I'm no Major Domo, whoever he was. Life is meant to be enjoyed but not choked on either.

My girls are healthy, within their weight range, with great blood pressure and a zest for life. It helps having a pediatrician who's also an endocrinologist. She's seen a lot of overweight and obese kids. She calls it an epidemic. She says a lot of parents have abdicated their role in what their kids eat. I'm glad she said that because sometimes I worry my kids are going to have an eating disorder because I'm always telling them to slow down when they eat; don't just shovel it in, enjoy what you're eating; eat only as much as you're hungry for; don't eat just because you're bored. Silly me.

On the way to the doctor's appointment, I saw a young man, high school, maybe college, walking his bike uphill and smoking. I wanted to stop and tell him that if he really wanted to be health conscious, if he really wanted to make it up the hill, he probably could if he quit the cigs. The cancer sticks.

Someone once told me that it's really easy to raise a brat. Just leave the word "no" out. Don't set limits. Let them make all their own choices. (shudder)

Just like it's easier to not preach the gospel, whatever good news you're sitting on, and then live it. You are what you eat, what you breath, what you read, what you choose. Bread and wine, blessed and broken for you; books that make you think and feel, including the Good Book; how you spend and give your money, what you do in your leisure time, how much of yourself to give away: it's not just about us but the world we live in.

What are you hungry for? How are you going to give back once you've been fed? That's why, when you give thanks for meal, they call it "grace".