Friday, November 30, 2012

November-Ending Whimsy: Wouldn’t It Be Funny If . . .

Wouldn’t it be funny if . . .

Wouldn’t it be funny if
God, the divine very creator
of music itself, were tone deaf?

Wouldn’t it be funny if leaves
in autumn flew up instead of

Wouldn’t it be funny if wars
were fought with masking tape
instead of guns?  (Of course, in
churches, they sometimes are –
and it isn’t always funny, even
thought it is)

Wouldn’t it be funny if in old
age we got taller, bigger – giants
would roam the land and younger
folk would whisper in something
approaching awe – she must be
really old?

Wouldn’t it be funny if human
beings slept like bats, hanging
collectively from our cave perches?

Wouldn’t it be funny if Santa took
a gift instead of leaving one?  I wonder
what he’d want from my house?

Wouldn’t it be funny if birds gave
up song for Lent?  I wonder if we’d

Wouldn’t it be funny if cease fire
simply meant that spring had come
and extra heat for our bodies were
no longer necessary – until next

Wouldn’t it be funny if Jesus
came back this time as a girl?

Wouldn’t it be funny if the turkey
trucks crossing the mountains were
taking them on a school outing or
to a concert?

Wouldn’t it be funny if hunger always
and only meant a keen desire for

Wouldn’t it be funny if the next war
or skirmish or battle or fight or conflict
or cease fire violation or police action or
drone strike, the one receiving the order said,
“You said ‘bomb’?  Really?  I thought for sure
you said ‘Mom’?  How do I get all those moms

Wouldn’t it be funny if trees talked in a register
too high for human ears?  “Can you believe she’s
wearing those shoes?”  “I know – hard to believe she
even has a mother – who lets someone go outside
on a day like today without a scarf?”  “Shhhh!”
“Oh, for goodness sakes, they can’t hear us!”

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Reveal

I watch the redolent splendor
the luxury of sleep merging
into wakefulness back into
sleep - the gift of the one who
has nowhere to be at no particular
time – and observe as the satellite moves
across the dawning sky like a north
star in a March Hare kind of hurry
exiting stage right beyond the
picture-frame surround of the
double-paned window, a diptych
homage to the beauty of an emerging
daylight against the constancy of the
ridge line of mountains whose features
remain otherwise indistinguishable
in the still mostly-dark shadows of
the dawning and adore the rose-red
thread of color that expands and expands
into the sky like peek behind the curtain
a proud God pulls back, slowly, ever
so slowly, the magician child proclaiming
to the gathered and expectant family,

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Morning Fancies


There he is
visible only from
the corner of my eye
Tiger, Tiger, burning bright
striding across the morning sky
hunched shoulders in pounce mode
sunlight and clouds creating the pattern
the menace of meaning whenever there is
a tiger stalking the sky – I am no Pi (pie?), sir,
and this is not my life – why are tigers always so . . . hungry?


the crackle and creak
and wrangle and break
that is the sound of my body
in the morning
awakens the birds
I’ll be quieter tomorrow,
I whisper them as I arise

I enjoy a warm cup of morning fog
with the start of my day
here in mountain retreat
where mist settles into
mountain’s belly
and offers itself up
with each new-day mantra –
drink me –

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dangerous is the Color of My Anger

Dangerous is the Color of My Anger

here I am again
having to put on the 
body armor 
yet again
before I travel outside myself
lest the slings and arrows catch me
and I become foolish

do not be misled
I am a pacifist not because
I am good
or because I walk 
such a superior path – 
far from it
I am a pacifist 
(more accurately 
an aspiring one 
or better a lapsed one)
because I know oh-so-well
the violence 
that dwells 
within me
and I would not 
do you harm

weapons are bad things 
in the wrong
(are there any
right ones?)

mine are most definitely 
the wrong hands
my weapons are words
and I know how to use them
with the precision of a surgeon
and the detachment of a serial killer

I continue to wrestle
the angry monster
and she is me

thus far does the weaponry
remain safely in the armory
of my mind

sore provoked,
I withdraw
into silence –
the only safe space
I know to protect
you from me –
and ponder
first things –
important things –
God things –
and recall not
who I am
but who I am
called to be

it will have to do

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sermon Cliff Note: NOKK

(Not Our Kind of King)
(Readings: Revelation 1.4b-8 & John 18.33-37)

Christ the King greets us.  Who is this King?  This King loves (note the present tense) us . . . the real us, not his idea of us, not our idea of us, but as-we-are us . . . And just as this king loves us, we are to love others . . . Just as this king freed us, we are to free others . . . Just as this king invited us into his service, so too are we to invite others . . . This king loves us . . .
And he is coming . . . or rather coming back . . . and everybody will see him, even those who pierced (killed) him . . . and everybody will wail . . .
That doesn’t sound much like good-news love, does it?
But the one who wrote Revelation knew his Old Testament.  “The ones who pierced him” is a reference to Zecheriah 12.10, “I (God) will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that when they look on me (God) whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child . . .”
The injustices of the people in Zecheriah are likened to the wounding or murder of God’s very self!  The result?  A judgment of compassion and sorrow . . . the people will be brought to their senses and they will mourn for what they have done to others, and realize that what they have done to others, they have done to God’s very self.
Zecheriah doesn’t stop there: on that very day (the day the people are filled with mourning and regret for their sins) “a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them. . .”
In Zecheriah, the day the people kill God is the day of their redeeming by the very God they ‘killed’!  And so too for us!
This is the kind of King we serve!  A King who dies that we might live . . . who is captured that we might be freed . . . who is destroyed that we might be created anew . . .
This is the King who appears before Pontius Pilate after he has already appeared before the religious rulers of his time and place . . .
Both the religious and the political find this King not only wanting, but also dangerous . . . so dangerous that killing him isn’t enough . . . this is the Roman Empire, remember . . . killing was something they did well. . . but for this King, killing alone wouldn’t do . . . there had to be a show trial and mockery and torture . . .
What kind of threat could this man of peace have possibly been to an empire?  He asks nothing of Rome.  Maybe that’s the problem: he doesn’t need Rome, but insists that Rome needs him.
Over and over and over again, Jesus tells us that his Kingship is of a very different kind . . . when, oh when, he asks time and again, will we understand?
When will those among us who crave God’s judgment (as long as it’s on everybody else) understand that Jesus came to save, not condemn the world?
When will we understand that when we try to make Jesus into our image, he runs and hides (read John 6.15, if you doubt me: immediately after feeding the 5,000, the people tried to grab Jesus and force him to be their earthly king.  Jesus’ response?  To flee to the mountains to be alone).
Why do we insist that Jesus’ second coming will be so very different than the first?
Do we really believe that the God who came as an infant, who fled from earthly visions of power and glory, who served others even unto death, who sits as a lamb upon the throne in heaven is coming back like a roaring, flesh-eating lion?
It is important that we understand who our King is that we may understand who we are.  The King we serve is who we become . . .
If we are lions, it is because we have no understanding of the Lamb.
If we are destroyers, it is because this Jesus is NOKK . . . not our kind of king.
Lucky for us, the King who so easily recognizes that we are not his kind of people has claimed us anyway . . . taking the hardness of our hearts and melting it into compassion . . . turning us into God’s kind of people after all . . .
Behold the Lamb upon his Throne!
Behold and be changed!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sidewalk Chalk Wisdom

Chalk wisdom
true for a time
it washes away
when no longer 
needed it just 
I wonder
where did 
all this
wisdom go?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Time Measured by Prayer

It used to be that time was measured by prayers.  So, writes Bee Wilson in her book Consider the Fork, reviewed in this month’s Smithsonian magazine, “‘. . . time was measured by prayer. . .’ describing how old-time recipes gave cooking periods in prayers (boil a walnut for two Miserere*). . .”

During my work days, I measure time by task: how long it takes me to do certain tasks is so routine that, if I still had a watch, I would set it by them.

But holiday time – that’s something different – and oh, so special.

There’s early-morning time, when I’m first up, alone in the quiet of a house not yet stirred, the time when I wander and prepare for the coming stampede of feet, the quiet before time.

Then there’s Rowen’s-up time, when my grandson, the next to awake, comes down for breakfast, where he and I sit quietly at the table and chat, each keeping company with the other, to our mutual satisfaction.

Next comes Daddy’s-up time, sometimes happening naturally, like the rising of the sun; sometimes prompted by Rowen’s get-up-Daddy prompting.  Somewhere in between, the coffee will have been turned on and breakfast supplies laid out (well, first breakfast, anyway.  Second breakfast, or brunch, comes later).

Depending on how many are here, the getting-up time can stretch almost to noon, with some sleeping in the living room moving into a vacated bed upstairs to lounge just a bit longer.

The quiet of the morning moves to a burst of activity and levity as the gathered come full awake.  Laughter and lounging go together in my family: we do both really well, especially when we can do them at the same time.

Then there’s stand-before-the-refrigerator time as each forages for lunch or mid-afternoon snack.  One hunger breeds another as we all process in a semi-line to find something to eat, proclaiming there’s nothing on hand that suits as we stand in front of a loaded frig and wonder where all the food went.

Late afternoon is for football and napping.

Evening - supper and coming alive again with laughter and games and more laughter and more games, some being drug into the fun others have organized; some hating games but loving their fellow gamesters enough to play along, a child’s voice moving from the edge to the middle and back out again whenever the next diversion catches the young eye.

Nighttime – back to quiet and talk winding down the day, remembering times past, yearning for the moment to last – just a bit longer.  Sleep.  Awake again and repeat until the final day when the detritus of travel home is thrown into cases and bags and flung into cars and SUVs that head back home from home, with me standing out back waving good-bye, running to the front to catch them again, just one more time, standing and smiling through the tears in the rearview mirror.

Ordinary time resumed, I walk back inside, carrying the missing of them . . . until the next time.

Nothing particularly wondrous or amazing happens whenever my family gathers, yet it is still, somehow, holy ground, a prayer, if you will, this time measured in moments and memories.

*Miserere: from the Latin for “have mercy on me, O God”.  The Free Dictionary  I do not know whether it was a short form prayer or a recitation of the entirety of Psalm 51 from which it is taken.

Friday, November 23, 2012

BethRant7: When is Enough Enough? On Begging, Biographies & Black Fridays

On Begging Every year, without fail, I receive a phone call from a student worker at an educational institution I attended, asking for alumni support (translate: money).  And every year, I have the same question: when is enough enough?

When will the school have reached enough money in hand to not ask for more?  When will its substantial (and I do mean substantial) endowments, investments, and assets be enough?  Really what I am asking is why isn’t what you have already enough?

I am usually misunderstood – while owning that the school does have a very handsome portfolio, there is always another project, a new vision, that requires more – always more.

Don’t get me wrong: I treasure my time spent there; I value the education I received; and I earnestly desire that others may have the same experience as I.  But truly, I want to know: is there a goal of money on hand that will suffice?  That will say we do not have to ask for more, because we have enough and more than enough?

On Biographies Reading my current issue of Smithsonian magazine, I run into a book review of yet another biography on General Custer.

Guidon lists 846 books dedicated in whole or in part to Custer, including McMurtry’s latest entry, the book treated in the Smithsonian review.

I am sure Custer is interesting.  But 846 books’ worth?  Really?  Hasn’t everything to be said about Custer and his ignominious place in the history of the United States been given its well-more-than obligatory 15 minutes of fame?

Aren’t 846 books more than enough to satisfy even Custer’s reputed vainglorious desire for even posthumous fame?

Can’t we move on?

Isn’t enough enough?

On Black Friday If you are ever tempted to doubt the efficacy of marketing (translate propaganda), of advertising’s impact on human behavior, behold Black Friday – best done from a distance, I have to say.

Photo from Doug's Foggiest Ideas
Watch on your television screen the melee at your local Wal-Mart.  Observe shopping turned into a competitive, full-body-contact sport.

My blog profile warned you: I am a curmudgeon.  So, in all my curmudgeonliness, here goes:

(1) It’s propaganda to say that you will find great bargains on Black Friday.  Samplings of goods on offer show that often the price is actually higher than at other times.

(2) It is one short step from a crowd to a mob.  People have actually been killed in the crush to buy.  While it would be sad if these were food lines for the hungry, at least it would be understandable.  But not this.  I keep a list in my head of stupid ways to die: ways I do not want to be the final word about me – ways that make people laugh at my idiocy, greed, or just plain foolishness.  Dying in a rush to buy the next new thing has to be in the top 10.

(3) Black Friday brings out the worst rather than the best in us.  It is as if we believe that we’re engaged in a holy battle when all we’re really doing is indulging our basest selves when we find we’re clinging to one end of a toy while another mother or father clings to the opposite end.  I wonder what Solomon would do with this one?

(4) Time is a divine gift.  I waste mine as much as the next person.  But we each must draw a line somewhere.  Here is one of mine: I will not meet my Maker and have to explain that I spent the gift given me wrestling other divine creations over something as insipid as a computer game, especially one whose content makes my Maker weep.

(5) Black Friday in the United States is the commercial kick-off to the Christmas season, what Christians refer to as Advent.  So I really (and I do mean really) want to know why my friends at Fox News, who can be counted on each and every year to claim that Christmas is being stolen by the government, make absolutely no noise at all about Christmas being stolen by capitalism.  Where is your outrage that your fellow entrepreneurs have taken the time set aside in the Christian calendar for the joyful reflection on the coming of Peace itself to earth and substituted that joy with the frenzy of acquisition?  Why aren’t you more frightened by this than by the removal of a creche from the local court house square?  Why don’t you see the X-Box sellers at Christmas as more dangerous than the ACLU?  I know I do.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Thanksgiving

Gathering with family and eating at Grandma’s house . . .
The food . . .
The smells . . .
Drawing names for Christmas . . .
My first ‘Thanksgiving’ dinner - friends and I were going to New York for Thanksgiving in college, so beforehand, I invited them over and made them a feast . . . my first Thanksgiving away from home . . .
Thanksgivings not-so-traditional and/or away . . . Thanksgiving with my seminary colleagues also working overseas in Scotland . . . fabulous . . .Thanksgiving alone after my divorce . . . Thanksgiving in New York City, separated from all my family, walking from 34th Street to the restaurant in the 80's . . . the parade was fabulous, the dinner, not so much . . .
When I started making the Thanksgiving dinner . . . family gathered . . . laughing, the Thanksgiving box Araka made (I still have it) . . . getting out all the best china, setting the table, appreciating the beauty as well as the food, friends coming over later, after their own feasts . . . my step-son’s Thanksgiving of four(!) meals . . . he calls every Thanksgiving . . . Thanksgiving in my apartment with seminary friends . . . the Saturday after Thanksgiving when I learned my colleagues had been kidnaped . . .
There are no food disasters in my memories . . . there are only memories of family and friends, gathered around the table . . .
It is no accident that in celebrating communion, we first say the prayer called The Great Thanksgiving and that communion itself, in the Greek, is called The Eucharisto (The Thanksgiving) . . .
I never serve at a soup kitchen for Thanksgiving or Christmas . . . those are days I always want to be with family and friends, just us, sitting, laughing and talking, even watching football . . . our togetherness our communion and our thanks . . .

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Cigarettes

It is March, 2006.  I am sitting on a bench outside a quonset-hut type structure at the Mortuary Unit offices at Balad AFB near Baladiat, Iraq.  I am waiting to learn whether I will be given permission to accompany the remains of my colleague, Tom Fox, home (I was not).

In the waiting hours that stretch into a few days, I sit and smoke cigarettes and listen and talk with the young soldiers of the Unit.

One fellow (from Kentucky, I think) remembers Thanksgiving, 2005.  He was there at Balad.  Secretary Rumsfeld had come to heavily-fortified BIAP (Baghdad International Airport) and had a Thanksgiving meal – turkey and all the trimmings – with a select group of military personnel there.  The meal was shown on television back home.

The young man sitting beside me in the dark laughs the bitter soldier-laugh of one far too young for such ‘wisdom’ and tell about how his mother was so excited that he had gotten to have such a fine meal.  No matter what he told her, no matter how many times he explained it, she could not or would not believe that he and his compatriots had not been given the same treat – that this was a photo-op and he was not included.

I remember that moment when and if ever I am tempted to discount the impact of propaganda: there is a mother’s son somewhere whose mother will not believe that he did not have a wonderful, peaceful Thanksgiving respite, for she will believe the evidence of her eyes over the claims of her son who was there, living the reality the tv never showed.

CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams) gave me many gifts; one I was not looking for was the unique vantage of standing at the margins of things.  Even when my team and I were center stage in tragedy, a place we neither sought nor desired, we still stood at the edges, from where we bore our witness.

You learn many things from the margins.

One of my reminder lessons is that most soldiers around the world today or any day, will not be feasting on turkey with all the fixings.  Most of them will be eating some version of MRE’s when in field.  The ones from the US are well fed.  But they’re not at a party.  And neither are their enemies.

The obvious lesson: that whenever you see old men in suits in war zones, know that what you are seeing represents not reality but stagecraft.

The deeper lessons reside in the dark behind lit ends of cigarettes.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgivings Past

Over the river and through the woods, to Grandma’s house we went.  Life was good with Dad at the wheel, Mom beside him in the front, and me in back watching the world speeding by as we drove the 18 miles to Grandma’s.

In the ways of childhood, the ride seemed much longer, much farther, than a mere 18 miles.  We were crossing mountains and entering under the forest canopy, curving first one way then the other, to make our way back from our city house into my Dad’s childhood, heading “out home”.

As an only child, I could barely contain my excitement at getting to see the cousins again.

The food was the food – plenty and good and hot.  So many years later, I have yet to master my Grandma’s skill at getting everything to the table hot.  I mourn that it’s too late to ask her how she did it.

And in our family, long before the retail merchants caught on, Thanksgiving was always the immediate segue into Christmas.  Our last gathering before the big holiday, on Thanksgiving we would draw names for our gift exchange, some of us secretly making trades: you got your Mom?  Oh no!  Of course, I’ll trade with you!

And I’m pretty sure it was on Thanksgiving when I cooked up the ill-fated scheme to have cousin Doug play Santa Claus for his younger sister Lisa, who still believed.  Ill-fated because Doug chickened out at the last minute (or maybe he planned it that way all along; with Doug, you can never tell).  I was probably about 11 at the time, so my concocted costume required lots of imagination – red tights and pillow-stuffed sweat shirt, black boots and a home-made cotton-ball beard looked much more like Santa in my imagination than in real life.

Because Doug bailed, as the creator of the costume, of course it fell to me to jump in, and jump in I did.  And of course, my loving family would memorialize my humiliation with photographs snapped just at the moment when little Lisa asked in her child’s soprano, Why is Beth dressed up like Santa Claus?

I wish I could tell 11-year-old Beth not to sweat it, we were making memories.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


ac·cli·mate  to adapt to a new temperature, altitude, climate, environment, or situation.  Intransitive form: to become acclimated.  Merriam-Webster Dictionary

To acclimate is to become accustomed to change.  To become acclimated is to have external forces act upon in an acclimating way.  The easiest method for acclimation is repetition.  Thus do people living in war zones manage to go to the grocery store and do all the other things of ordinary life, knowing that any time, a bomb could fall from the sky.  Taking that as a given is acclimation.

The beginning of living in war isn’t like that at all.  At first, physical response kicks in, adrenaline surges, and fight or flight reactions go into high gear.  But with enough repetition, the one acted upon becomes accustomed or acclimated to the environment of violence so that it becomes a natural backdrop to existence.

Think not?  Consider, then, events in Israel-Palestine today – right now.  Today, right now, tensions are on the rise at an alarming rate.  From a distance, it can seem puzzling, even for that imbroglio: on-going low-level violence has become the business-as-usual order of things.  The people have become acclimatized to the daily violence.  That is not to say that they find it acceptable; it is to say that they have adjusted their lives to that reality, many, most likely, without any conscious thought.

But in the mind(s) of someone or someones in Israel this week, that has changed.  Sadly, on neither side has it changed in the direction of de-escalation.  It seems that acclimatization has set the floor at low-level daily violence, with the only perceived place to go being up, up, and up, towards ever more violence.

And with the choice of name for the current operation:  Operation Pillar of Cloud (also known as Cloud Column or Pillar of Defense) – an  obvious reference to the Exodus, where God led the Israelites out of Egypt as a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night, Israel National News, a religious element is introduced.  The danger, of course, is the notion of divine mandate.

Thus the question begs to be asked: what kind of a world must some folks inhabit where daily violence is so routine that it’s the norm and any deviation towards peace is beyond imagining.  Perhaps the real question is how people can be acclimatized towards peace rather than violence.

War is not just something that we humans do; it is also something that is done to us.  And like everything else, it becomes habit, normative, when practiced frequently enough.

In this way, a cease fire can be understood as something much more than breathing room.  Cease fire can become a tiny crack in the acclimatization towards war and its own small acclimatizing step in the necessarily repetitive process of peace.

Maybe in a very small way we around the world can help.  Maybe today, even just today, we can stop talking about who’s at fault and who’s violence is the more justified.  Maybe, even just for today, we around the world can speak only words of peace and hope and love to, with, for, around, and about Israel and Palestine.

Maybe, just for today, we could acclimatize ourselves towards a peaceable kingdom.

Peace, salaam, shalom.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Body Ageing

I can almost feel it on the cellular level – this body on loan to me ageing.

I stand at the sink and wash my hands, aware of their morning stiffness, with a prescience of time yet to come when one hand, of necessity, will cradle the other, frozen in place by the vagaries of time.

Where did my ancestors get the courage to get out of bed?

Grandma, walking and walking and walking some more, hoping against hope to walk the pain out; or maybe just needing to prove to herself that in spite of all, she still could – until she couldn’t.  That was the day she died – the day when she could no longer walk.

My people are a moving people.

We may move in place – marking our territory with our pacing.

Or we may travel far.

But we are a moving people.

My mother now travels with her mind in the books she reads and with her fingers with the many family and friends she ‘visits’ across the many lines, tangible and intangible, that now connect us.

It’s true: bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, while bodies at rest, well . . .

Time is a sneaky, creeping thing: there’s always plenty of it . . . until there isn’t.

My body ageing is warning me – don’t believe Sister Time’s lying ways.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mad Days

I have a file of blog posts I’ve not yet posted.  Probably never will.  They’re my really angry thoughts – thoughts like why I am a feminist . . . ponderings on white privilege . . . how I listen and what it costs me . . . why I’m a (striving) pacifist (to protect you from me – the angry me) . . . how politics is a lie-filled waste of time . . . like I said – these are my (really) angry thoughts.

Most days, I’m just not that angry.

But every now and again, the toll of injustice is felt more heavily than others.  And I have no other response than anger to injustice.

Don’t agree with me on how to cook the turkey?  We can fuss over that one (I am right, you know - just admit it), but there’ll be no blows, verbal or physical.

But call yourself or myself a Christian and cheat or lie our way out of a problem?  Hurt someone else just because we can?  Refuse to acknowledge the reality of our collective injustices?  Make our problems be about the color of someone else’s skin or their gender or who they love or or or?  Yeah – those are anger provoking.

But this is not one of those days, so I back away from posting from that special file I should rename anger.

This is not a mad day.  This is a day for rejoicing.  Because little Ella, only 5 years old and already a veteran of open-heart surgery, survived.  Because a dear friend and I were able to laugh and be silly amidst her tears and breaking and broken heart.  Because being a good friend matters.  Because my family is coming for Thanksgiving – well, some of them.  Because I am alive.  Because the sun will rise and shine.  Because Maureen is on her way to do the good work of justice and she carries my heart with her.  Because the cool air and light fog of the mountains refreshes my soul.  Because I have the capacity for anger and outrage at injustice – it would be a sorry world indeed when injustice didn’t register in the consciousness.  Because I finally have an appointment to get my shaggy-dog hair cut.  Because in ways large and small, I am blessed.

May you too find your blessings in this and every day, even and especially the mad ones.

Thursday, November 15, 2012









Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Least Coin

The least coin -
I wonder --
does it know it is
the least?

It spends just the same as all the others
looks just the same

when it leaves
the palm of the least,
it may well end up
in the palm
of the wealthiest

the least coin
and spends
if, like its brethren,
not always

if the value
be in the spending
then perhaps
the least really
is the most

we hold tight to
those big paper
coin of the realm
symbols – but the
pennies – those we
fling into the world

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sermon Cliff Note: Seeing With the Eyes of God

Jesus gives the privileged religious of his day, the folks in the cool robes who get to sit up front and get lots of extra stuff because of their special-ness - well, Jesus gives them a great big verbal smack down – they are attention-seeking, cruel, and unmindful.  They oppress the widows, the very people they are charged to protect, because in that time, the widow was defenseless.  In fact, the word for "widow" in Hebrew carries the meaning of one who is silent, who is unable to speak.
She is one of the invisible . . . and yet, Jesus sees her. . . notices her . . .
In Jesus’ time, women, and especially widows, were invisible in the public sphere.  They were silent and silenced.  This, then, is the story of the invisible among us.
The traditional understanding is that Jesus is complimenting the widow woman for her generosity, giving, as she does, so sacrificially.  And it is often a text preached during the time of stewardship in the church.
With this understanding, the widow in Mark can be contrasted with the widow who meets Elijah in 1 Kings.  Elijah’s widow is given a promise of immediate help and reward if she will be generous with the prophet.  But there is no reward for the widow of Mark.  Uncomfortable with this, some have opined that she knew she had a greater heavenly reward.  But the text does not say that she knew anything of the kind.  To think otherwise smacks of sentimental wishful thinking.  But  Jesus speaks about her and Mark tells her story for a reason.
Is the reason to contrast her actions to those of the scribes and Pharisees of her day?  Probably.  Is the reason for the contrast, simply put, to say that they are bad and she is good?  That certainly is the traditional view.
Author John J. Pilch of Georgetown University has a startlingly different view of the widow’s actions and Jesus’ words in reaction: “Jesus' comment on the widow's donation is not a word of praise but rather a word of lament: "Truly I say to you this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living" (Mark 12:43-44).
“Jesus does not praise but rather laments this woman's behavior”, Pilch goes on to say. “She has been taught sacrificial giving by her religious leaders, and that is the pity. These authorities promised to redistribute Temple collections to the needy. In actuality, they spent the funds on conspicuous consumption instead: long robes and banquets. This is how they devoured the estates of widows.”
Pilch challenges us to understand that Jesus is not calling us to give to God even to the extent of our own starvation.  Yes, we are called to live sacrificially, to understand giving as costly, to challenge and to be challenged in our Christian walk, and even to take risks that might involve our very lives.  But those challenges are not to be done for their own sake.  Rather we are to live and give redemptively.  We are called to honor and glorify God, not to shame him, as if we worshipped a God who requires the food from our mouths.
The shame was not in the giving, but in the teaching that such giving was sought or required by the love-giving, life-saving God we worship.
The shame was and is in requiring everything from those with nothing.
The shame was and is in not even seeing her, let alone seeing her need.
The shame was and is in seeing through the eyes of humanity and not through the eyes of God.
In our world today, there are many who are invisible to us.  We know of them, even if we do not know them.  And sometimes, we ourselves are the invisible ones, walking past people we have known for years, people who see us so often they do not see us at all.
With whose eyes do we see?  Through whose eyes are we seen?
Our own?  Or God’s?
Seeing with and through the eyes of God means that no one is invisible.
Seeing with and through the eyes of God means there is no question of merit – no such thing as the ‘deserving’ versus the ‘undeserving’ poor.  Seeing with and through the eyes of God means that everybody matters . . . everybody.
Seeing with and through the eyes of God means that just being is asking enough.
Seeing with and through the eyes of God means that the widows among us are honored and loved and cared for, not ignored or disappeared.
Seeing with and through the eyes of God means that those in need do not have to ask.

Copyright © 1996 by The Order of St. Benedict, Inc., Collegeville, Minnesota. All rights reserved. Used by permission from The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota 56321.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Jumping Rope in the Sand

Jumping rope in the sand is as hard as it sounds.  And that, it seems to me, is Iraq today -- lots of dust up with precious few measurable results.

Looking at pictures the other day, I came across this one – me in the juba (robe) and hijab (head covering) in the hot sand of the Syrian desert along the Iraqi border, jumping rope with Iraqi Palestinian children, escaped from the madness in Iraq to the safe haven of Syria.

It was 2005.

It would be the last time I would see many of them, these brave souls who crossed a desert through dangerous territory seeking a better life in their own hoped-for Promised Land - anywhere but Iraq.

Today people travel in the other direction, running from the violence in Syria.  But where will they run to?  The violence in Iraq continues.

Although I can read and hear reports on Syria easily enough, to find out about violence in Iraq on any given day, I have to troll the English versions of Middle Eastern news outlets.  The West is silent on Iraq.

Thousands of mercenaries remain in Iraq on the US taxpayer’s dime.  They are controlled now not by the military, but by the State Department.

And astonishingly, nobody outside of government seems to know exactly how many are still there.

But in case we miss the significance,

1. Syrians are now fleeing their own country and seeking safe haven in neighboring countries, including Iraq.  Iraq says it cannot house them.  Whether they can or cannot, Iraq is safe haven for no one.  Kurdpress News Agency

2. Mercenaries hired by the United States of America continue to occupy military bases and protect the ‘oil interests’ of the United States in Iraq, in addition to providing security for State Department personnel.  In essence, we have a private army operating inside Iraq at the direction of our State Department.

3. Violence and bloodshed continue (see link above).  And we continue to not hold ourselves the least bit accountable.  GRIID

4. Oh, I forgot.  The war in Iraq is over.  Except it isn’t.

And somewhere in the desert, maybe another American woman jumps rope to distract refugee children from the fear and the hunger and the danger.  Maybe she too looks up at the sky with the children and promises in her broken Arabic that they will be connected even when she leaves because they look upon the same stars in the night sky.  Maybe she too lifts her juba and makes herself look silly to coax a smile from sad young faces, if only for a moment.

Being Saved - Being Christian - Same? Or Different?

I listen to a sermon in which the minister propounds the question: can you be a Christian without going to church?  While stressing the importance of church, his sermon at the least implies a yes, because of the truth claim that it is Jesus who does the saving – thus can one ‘be’ a Christian without going to church.

Which takes us right back to my question: is being saved the same thing as being a Christian?

I am inclined to say no.  Being a Christian is about being a follower of, and not [merely] a believer in Jesus the Christ.

Church [Greek:  ekklesia] by definition involves the two or more Jesus references as enacting the reality into which he is present in the here and now.

Can you believe in Jesus without the church?  Maybe.  But while you may believe in Jesus without the gathered, you cannot follow Jesus without the gathered – carrying you . . . upholding you . . . believing when you cannot . . . lending its very self to you when you have no other self to offer . . .

We humans are social creatures – we cannot survive without each other.

Think about the implications of solitary confinement:

. . . solitary confinement is a cruel practice which causes permanent psychological damage to those who have been treated in that manner [which] . . . even in the absence of brutality can cause emotional damage, hallucinations, delusions, depersonalisation and decline[d] mental functioning. . . Solitary confinement is banned under . . . the Geneva Conventions as it amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  Amnesty International 

It drives us mad to be forcibly separated from our own kind.  And yet we still argue for our right to go it alone when it comes to matters of faith.

Thus the question:  what does it mean to be a Christian?

Holding fast to the Reformed notion that as to whether any person is or is not a Christian, I am limited in my answer as to only one soul – and that my own, it nevertheless seems to me that we have gotten the emphasis all wrong when we focus on our own ‘saving’, however we may define the term.

When it comes to salvation, God and only God stands center stage.

But when it comes to the Christian identity, is it really merely a question of salvation?

Yeah, yeah, yeah – I get it – I did nothing to earn my place before God – and thank God for that.  But is that what this is really about – my assured status?

To say that Jesus saves is to make a truth claim about Jesus.

To say that I am a Christian is to make a truth claim about myself – that I follow the one who saves.

Both claims are ultimately verifiable.  But they are not interchangeable.

You might come to the garden alone, but you sure won’t be staying there alone.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day 2012

November 15, 2005
Hey everyone!  Just a quick note to let everyone know I'm still alive and kicking here in Iraq. . .  I am unhurt, been shot at and people tried to blow me up, even threatened with a "dirty" bomb (an IED equipped with a nerve gas canister). . . But to put all of your minds at ease this was the last Major operation which we are scheduled for, everything else is just occupation and security and stability ops in which we will be teaching the Iraqi army to take care of this region on their own.  So, no worries.  I'll be back home before you know it, the deployment is almost half over then we're on the down hill slide.
Love you all,

December 17, 2005
. . . In old Ubayti the only shots we've fired have been at feral Dogs coming inside our perimeter, and I for one am glad.  I've heard a few people say they wish something would happen, but I'm not one of them. . .
Love you all!

February 8, 2006
Hi,  I am Steven's mom, Paulette Phillips.  I gathered your names and addresses from e-mails Steve sent me from Iraq.  I am so sorry to have to share this e-mail with you but you were the people he cared enough to send e-mail to during his long haul overseas so I think he would want you notified.  Yesterday, his father and I recieved a visit from the military.  Steve was involved in an accident in which was driving a hum-v that rolled over an imbackment (sp).  Steven's chest was crushed and I'm afraid he is gone.  At this time he is still at the base in Al Quim.  They said they will fly him to Dover, Del on Thursday.  They have to process some stuff there and then he will be flown to Pittsburgh and have a military escort home.  I don't know any arrangements at this point.  If you will send me an e-mail letting me know I was able to contact you, then I will e-mail you back as I know anything new.  He was a wonderful, wonderful son and friend to everyone who met him.  I don't think he had an enemy in the world.  We're holding on to all the great memories we have with him and will always try to honor his memory and life in every way.  May God be with you in your grief.
Paulette Phillips

April 9, 2006
Dear Paulette,
I've been thinking of you and wanted to write to say you are in my thoughts and prayers.  While I was in Iraq, I had the unusual privilege of being on an Air Force Bace (Anaconda in Balad) to try to accompany the remains of a colleague killed in Iraq home.  Although I did not get to come home with Tom, I was able to be there for a few days, getting to know the men and women in the mortuary unit and see first hand how they do their work.  I wasn't able to find out if this is the base where Steven's body was, but if so, I can tell you that they were kind and dealt with their responsibility with a sort of holy awe.  With great respect, they do their work.  I saw them carry Tom's casket onto the plane, where all the soldiers there saluted and bid him a quiet farewell (and he was a civilian).  In such times as these, comfort comes in strange ways.  I hope you find comfort in knowing that all those who dealt with Steven, based on my own experience, were touched by the life that was his as they made his body ready for its final trip home.  God's peace be with you in your tears.
Your cousin,

April 9, 2006
Thank you for your kind thoughts and words.  We are slowly mending.  It's a very confusing time as we know he is in a better place and his time with us was full and meaningful to many, but we still have such great pain in his physical absence.  It is a comfort to know such respect and honor is paid to all who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.  Thanks again.  Take care.  Our prayers are with you as you minister those in your path.

Veterans Day 2012

It’s been 6 years+ since Steve and Tom and so many others died.  Steve and Tom both died in Iraq.  They both were Marines.  They both landed home at the US at Dover Air Force Base.  There, perhaps, the similarities end.  Steve was young; Tom, not so much.  Steve was on active duty with the Marines when he was killed in Iraq when his humvee rolled.  Tom was murdered by persons unknown, after having been held hostage for more than 3 months.  Steve was in Iraq as a soldier; Tom was there with CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams).

Steven was my cousin.  I never knew him, not really.  We never met.  I know his Grandpa, who is first cousin to my Dad.  But I never knew Steve, except from a couple of e-mails.  Steve added me to his list and I him to mine when we found out through family that we were both in Iraq.

Steve died in February of 2006 and Tom just a month later.

Today on the radio I heard a Veteran’s Day story about a man who served at Dover.

I cannot hear the word without tears.


It is a symbol of so much.  Of pain and loss.  Of dreams shattered.  Of war and power.  Of the dignity of the dead.  Of ritual.  Of kindness.  Of young men and women compelled by circumstance to see far too much far too soon.  Of secrets.


The place I was never allowed in.

The place to which I could not accompany Tom in his final trip home.

The place where Steven went.


There are so many Dovers around the world and so many sons and daughters, father and mothers, who wind up in all the Dovers, never having planned such an end for themselves.

It is Veterans Day and I have no advice . . . no wisdom . . . no insight. . .

All I have are tears.


It is a keening word.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Next Small Thing

The next big things in our world may start out as very small things indeed.  The quark is our imagining writ wondrously small; and so it may be with the next ‘big’ ideas.

One that has captivated my attention is Rolling Jubilee.

The idea is incredibly simple (as often truly great ideas are): contribute to a fund which will buy up debt that has been turned over to debt collectors.  Once the debt is purchased, it will simply be forgiven (hence Jubilee).

Personal debt that is in default is often turned over to debt collection entities, who actually purchase the debt for pennies on the dollar, giving the creditor some return on the debt.  The collector is then free to pursue all legal means to collect on the debt, in whole or in part.

What the Jubilee ‘debt collector’ will do is simply purchase the debt like any debt collector, but then discharge (or forgive) the debt.

The debt crisis around the world is not simply the burden of nations and large corporations.  Individual debt is a crushing burden on many with no hope of repaying in these challenging economic times.

Using existing systems to subvert them is as old as time itself.

If you believe that debt and debt structures are inherently unjust, this solution may just be one you can subscribe to.  If you or people you know are being held captive to the burden of unmeetable health care costs, mortgage balances even post-foreclosure, or even the more mundane credit card debt with its exorbitant interest rates, you may find this grass roots approach appealing.

And who knows, maybe you’ve got the next small-big idea.  Take a page from the Rolling Jubilee folks and get together and make it happen.  Sometimes, all it takes to change a world is the will to try.

Friday, November 9, 2012

You're Beautiful Just the Way You Are

Zed Nelson/Institute
I read with horror in this month's Smithsonian magazine about women in Manhattan (and presumably elsewhere) having their toes surgically shortened so that their feet will better fit into their stilettos.  And this is happening today.  Not centuries ago -- today.

I hardly have words for my visceral response to this carving up of self.  And like lots of women, I have crammed my own feet into a fair number of very silly shoes.  So maybe toe surgery is actually more reasonable than the old stuff and cram approach.

But aren't we missing some very basic fundamentals here?  Not for nothing did God proclaim in the Genesis narrative of creation that humanity was (1) created in the very image of the divine and (2) that image was not just good, but very good.

What are we doing to ourselves that a mirror is an enemy?

What are we saying to our young, and particularly our girls, that beauty is more likely found in the operating room than in the skin God gave us?

It's an old argument, this tension between self acceptance and self loathing, writ large on the walls of society.  Why did I see the wrinkles on my Grandmothers' faces as beautiful and yet stand before a mirror and pull back my own wrinkles?

What if I heard One Direction's "You're Beautiful" not as a love song from a boy to a girl, but as an epic pronouncement from the very lips of God?

Maybe that's the problem with mirrors:  when you spend too much time in front of them, worship of self (which is just the flip side of self loathing) is inevitable.  Maybe.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Panning Rise of the Guardians

Santa Clause May Not be a Pacifist, but the Easter Bunny Is!   (Actually, I think Santa Claus is too.)              

There’s a new movie set to be released Thanksgiving week called Rise of the Guardians.  It features an animated Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Sandman, and Jack Frost as the ‘guardians’ of the happiness of the children of the world.

At the risk of entering the saga in the role of Scrooge, I admit that (a) while I love adventure flicks, (b) the previews of this movie bother me greatly.

I am not above some gratuitous violence in a movie, but this is a children’s movie and it uses children’s icons.

Icons are just that: symbols of something.

Santa Claus, derived from a variety of historical and imaginary figures, has his origins in Saint Nicholas, with the gift-giving tradition arising from stories about his many and secret gifts to the poor.

The Easter Bunny probably arises from pagan observances incorporated into Christian practices in celebration of Easter and the resurrection, the rabbit or the hare and the egg long having been symbols of life itself.

In Rise of the Guardian, Santa Claus is a sword-wielding warrior (modeled by the author on James Bond) and the Easter Bunny throws egg bombs and a “mean boomerang” in the battle against evil.

The problem is this: the icons of Santa and the Easter Bunny, distinctly Christian for centuries, are symbols of the nativity, the herald of peace among people, peace being specifically understood to include justice and care for the poor; and Easter is the defeat of death and the victory of life, achieved not by violence, but by sacrifice.

Mythologies teach us something.  There are important lessons brought by these icons:  care for the poor, the blessing of giving, the understanding of Jesus' advent as a gift for all humanity, God cares for children, humility as a way of life, life itself as divine gift, the certainty of the resurrection promise, to name but a few.  The James Bond lesson that the ends justify the means is a problem.

The Christian tradition recounts the battle of good and evil and the triumph of good.  These icons bear witness to that story.  It is the story of life, of courage, and of sacrifice as the ‘tools’ Jesus uses to bring about the triumph of good.

A sword-carrying Santa and a bomb-throwing Easter Bunny?

Not Good News.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An Early Advent Discipline

Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch, but Advent begins early next month and I thought I’d get a head start plus borrow from Lent and engage in a spiritual discipline.  This is one I am revisiting from Lent 2008: I am giving up television news for Advent – starting now.

I confess:  I am a news junkie, especially a political news junkie.  And television news captivates me, as I hop back and forth from CNN to MSNBC to FoxNews to C-SPAN to Democracy Now! to Al Jazeera in English to BBC and back again, remote ever at hand ready to switch whenever I get too bored or too frustrated with one or the other.

I will still get the news, but I will read it.  My only exception is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – that is a sacrifice I am not prepared to make.

So to Soledad and Shep, Rachel and Amy and all the rest, I say good-bye for now.  I can’t say it’s been fun.  I’m thinking we just need a break, the chance to ‘see’ other people for awhile.  I’ll be in touch.  Don’t wait up for me.  Jon, see you at 11.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Good Teacher

I’m still plugging away at my cello lessons and just wanted to give a shout out to my teacher, Gretta Sandberg, who, with the skill of a seasoned professional, knows how to hand out compliments and encouragement like candy into the empty bucket of a sad trick-or-treater.

Her words are always true, which can make it a challenge with a student like me, who is, often as not, sending something terrible and screechy into the airwaves around us.

My favorite Gretta line so far has to be: Wow!  Look at the progress you’re making!  You actually talked to me while you were playing!  You couldn’t have done that a couple of months ago!

Yes, I can chew gum and walk (or in my case, move my bow across the strings and talk) at the same time.

Seriously, I have to admit that the compliment pleased me out of all proportion.

A good teacher reminds you that you really are doing better, even when you can’t see (or hear) it.

Thanks, Gretta!

Love, The One Who Can Talk and Bow at the Same Time

Monday, November 5, 2012

Christian to Christian: Mr. Ryan, We Have a Problem

In a teleconference last night, Paul Ryan, Republican candidate for Vice-President, said, “the path the president has put us on . . . [is] a dangerous path, it's a path that . . . compromises those values, those Judeo-Christian, western-civilization values that made us such a great and exceptional nation in the first place."

I have a problem, Congressman Ryan, with your characterization of President Obama as a destroyer of “Judeo-Christian western civilization values”.  And it’s not a political problem.  It’s a religious one.  You and I are family – brother and sister, to be precise.  So are you and President Obama.  Why?  Because we’re all Christians.

And here’s the thing:

1. Disagreeing with you does not make one a non-Judeo-Christian - shoot, the Nuns on the Bus (professional Christians, you might say), disagree with you on economic policies.  And they disagree out of their faith, not in spite of it.

2. Destroyer of Judeo-Christian values, in the context of the long-standing vitriol, is either (a) most unfortunate or (b) intentional pandering to incipient racism played out in the form of  'he's not [really] a Christian' (translate, he's not 'one of us' - he's a 'Muslim' - which in the US, just as often means 'he has brown skin' as it does anything about one's religious persuasion - and that, not as a compliment.  I would almost prefer to believe it was intentional on your part:  at least then I would know you understand what's at stake with this kind of exploitation of the language of hate, fear and division.  But giving you the benefit of the doubt, I choose to believe that the connection was not obvious to you and was thus unintentional.  One of the challenges of being a public speaker, however, is to try to hear our words as others hear them.

3. As another 'professional' Christian,  I have to say that you and I disagree on many things, particularly about economics and the role of government when it comes to the least fortunate among us.  I am a bit startled to hear you as a fellow Christian characterize my own view as destructive of the very faith I have dedicated my life to trying to follow.

4. Finally, there are MANY things about which I disagree with the President (and Gov. Romney, for that matter).  That disagreement does not make either of them bad men, morally flawed, dangerous, or bent on my personal destruction.  Whether they are any of those things or not is not for me to say.  And what we often forget when we demonize our enemies is the notion of reaping, perhaps best learned as a parent: whatever bad habits  we teach our children, they will use against us.  So too with public discourse: pandering or indifference in public discourse by the few lowers the bar for the many.  Thus unjustified or untrue attacks against you become justified because “well, he said worse”.

People of good faith of all and no political and religious stripes will go to the polls tomorrow.  All of us will, I hope, pray and trust, try to exercise our own best judgement in discharging our duty as citizens.

And next Friday, Saturday and Sunday, many of us will resume our places, side by side, in our respective places of worship, in common cause together to worship our God and take what we receive there out into the world.

I guess I'm just trying to remind you that there is no hierarchy among Christians - as St. Paul so eloquently pointed out, all fall [far] short of the glory of God.

To put it more bluntly and to borrow freely from a wise Baptist minister, responding to a man I once knew who was thinking of leaving that particular congregation because he was unhappy with some things, "Well, Bob, whenever you find that perfect church, do me a favor:  don't join and spoil it for everybody else."

A little humor and a little humility when making truth claims on behalf of God isn't a bad thing, my brother.

Sermon Cliff Note: To the Thirsty I Will Give

To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.– Revelation 21.6
I read and ponder: what will be given and exactly who are the thirsty?

What will be given?  The gift of water – the gift of the source as well as the sustainer, of life.

On this All Saints’ Day, we can marvel at the great faith of the saints, famous and obscure, who have gone before us . . . we can puzzle over the faith of Abraham, who took Isaac to the mountain of sacrifice . . . we can rejoice in the faith of Mary, who said yes to God’s invitation into the mystery and suffering of motherhood as much as into its joys . . . we can remember the faith of our own fathers and mothers, whether it be shining with hope or dusty from lack of use . . .

Faith is the knowledge, as John Calvin said, that “Already the door of paradise is open to us and [already] we live in God with [God’s] angels.”  Faith is “a firm and certain knowledge of God’s good will toward us. . . though we are still sad, we do not cease to taste the goodness of God; when we are terrified, we do not cease to hope in God . . .Faith . . . [raises] us up above all we can conceive . . .”

Dr. Brian Blount’s inauguration sermon at Union Richmond, May 7, 2007, titled Are You Ready? engages the story of Lazarus as a story not of miracle, but of faith, “Jesus knows where we are, knows what we can be, and knows what we can do. That is why, while the bereaved in Bethany are hiding beneath the cover of traditional thinking about life and its limitations, Jesus is doing something dangerous. He is teaching life by letting a man die. Are you ready to come out of hiding and meet this Jesus?”

This Jesus, who teaches life by way of death . . .

This Jesus, whose gospel stinks in the mind of the rational as much as the dead body of Lazarus stank in the nostrils of the living . . .

This Jesus, who demands a faith that is not a Hallmark card, that does not pretend that all is well when it is not.

This Jesus, who is for the weak of will, but not the faint of heart.

This Jesus, who is for the doubter but not the scoffer.

This Jesus, a man very much interested in the faith of the here and the now and not so much the hereafter.

This Jesus, who came for all those who have lived and loved, lost and suffered, feared and trembled, and laughed and celebrated . . .

Are we ready to meet this Jesus?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

10 of My Favorite Quotes

To inspire and aspire, to prompt thought and bring smiles, for comfort and challenge, there’s nothing like the well-placed bon mot – well, that or a box of fabulous chocolates and a good friend.  In any event, here are just a few of my own favorites.  They speak to my faith, my frustration with all things political, my admiration of a well-constructed sentence, my passion for social justice, and my whimsy.  What are some of yours?

1. In the beginning, God . . . Genesis 1

2. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . –A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

3. The fog comes on little cat feet. . .   –Carl Sandburg

4. I have a dream . . . MLK

5. When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist. – Dom Helder Camara, Brazilian archbishop

6. I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in. – George McGovern

7. They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.  --Benjamin Franklin

8. Christianity hasn’t been tried and found wanting its been found hard and not tried.  – G. K. Chesterton

9. . . . after all, tomorrow is another day.  –Scarlett O’Hara, Gone with the Wind

10. Faith is taking the first step even when you do not see the whole staircase.  –MLK

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Feet Pray Best

not my knees
not my clasped hands or bowed head
not my whispering lips
my feet

In seminary, I actually took a class on praying.  It was designed, at least from my perspective, to keep we who studied so much about God focused or refocused on actually being in conversation with God.

We were to dedicate a set time on a regular basis for prayer.  After several ‘experiments’, I found that I prayed best – with the most focus and least wandering-mind disease, while walking.  So I would walk home from class, about a 3-4 miles, and pray.  It was a wonderful time.

Prayer walks, labyrinths*, moving about the house, hanging the clothes out to dry, these are the postures where I am most aware of my encounters with God.

Yep, I have to say, when it comes to praying, it’s all in the feet.

*I think little kids ‘get’ the point of the labyrinth at McDowell best.  When asked what we just did, one shouted, “We prayed with our feet!”  Now whenever Kid’s Klub takes a labyrinth walk, we all shout, “Let’s go pray with our feet!”  Summer is our favorite, when we can actually feel the grass on our bare toes.