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26 December 2010

A Christmas Prayer

Holy Christ,
As the world commemorates your birth, 
I am pondering some things in my heart.
Holy Child of God,
The mystery of your birth bears witness to the power of God. 
Your Incarnation in the Virgin's womb changed 
life, death, space and time for all time.
This I know. This I believe.
Yet in many ways, the world is still the same.
Most Holy Woman-Born,
You came to us  and come to us in ordinary and extraordinary ways.
I still see you at work in the ordinary and the extraordinary.
Yet I would have much more of the extraordinary.
Holy Son of God and Son of Woman,
Your Incarnation, life-teaching and teaching-life, death and Resurrection
changed life, death, space and time for all time.  
Yet in many ways, the world is still the same.
Holy One of Life and Light,
Help me to see more of your power and presence in the world.
Holy One of Earth and Sky,
Help me to see the world beyond the world.
Help me to see the good that you see.
Help me to see the beauty that you see.
Holy Teacher,
Let me read your word 
in earth and sky, water and winter, hope and hurt.
Holy Shepherd and Shelter,
Let my work be your work. 
As you change the world,
let me be an agent of your change.
Let me see your work in this world.
Holy One of Love Incarnate,
Let me know your love for me at all times,
especially in times of doubt and fear.
Let me see your love in the world, in all the world,
especially in the places that seem most God-forsaken.
Let me be a vessel of your love to myself and to all the world.
Holy One of Old,
May the days between this Christmas and the next
find the light of your life in every dark place,
even in the corners of my heart.
Amen.

25 December 2010

Christ Mass: for Christ is born(e) of Mary

Did the woman say,
When she held him for the first time in the
dark dank of a stable,
After the pain and the bleeding and the crying,
"This is my body, this is my blood?"
(Francis Croake Frank, excerpt from Did the Woman Say) 
One child. One miracle. All children are miracles. All of life is miraculous. But this was a different sort of miracle. Different than all the other miracles of birth that day, that night. Yet at the same time, not so different.
A make-shift community in a make-shift shelter. Searching for light and life, for a reason to hope that things will not always be as they are. Even if it takes another thirty years, rooted in the conviction that hings will get better eventually, but not quickly.
Meanwhile others watch and wait, coveting their own power. What is the life of one more Palestinian/Jewish child? If seven pounds of dying flesh on the end of a spear would secure a crown and throne, why not just kill them all?
In life we are in the midst of death, from the smallest to the greatest, with every breath we draw, from our first to our last.
Was there ever a silent night? Was there ever a moment's rest? Quick! Up! To Jerusalem! To the temple. Only eight days to make the journey. (What of the Virgin's aching, bleeding body?) Then on the road again.
The tradition would have us believe that a December Christ-Mass occurred on the heels of Hanukkah. Imagine celebrating the liberation of the temple from the Greeks while the Romans still control it. 
Can this birth have any effect on the legions of Rome? Or their descendants? What of the empires in our days? What of our own empire? What has the Bethlehem Babe to do with us and with our world?

23 December 2010

The God of Elizabeth Edwards

Mary Elizabeth Anania Edwards
3 July 1949 ~ 7 December 2010


"I have, I think, somewhat of an odd version of God, I do not have an intervening God. I don't think I can pray to him -- or her -- to cure me of cancer."

"The God I wanted was going to intervene. He was going to turn time back. The God I wanted was -- I was going to pray for good health and he was going to give it to me... Why in this complicated world, with so much grief and pain around us throughout the world, I could still believe that, I don't know. But I did. And then I realized that the God that I have was going to promise me salvation if I lived in the right way and he was going to promise me understanding. That's what I'm sort of asking for . . . let me understand why I was tested."

I know the God of Elizabeth Edwards. But I confess that I hope for, long for, a God who answers prayer. Sometimes. Unpredictably. And there are times when I experience that God. And it is enough.

22 December 2010

Turning Away from Darkness

With the passing of this night, more light embraces the world with each sun's rising, 'til the cycle comes full circle.


19 December 2010

Light Edging Darkness (Advent IV)

The circle is full of light.
There is seemingly no  room for even one more candle.
(Yet soon one more candle will indeed find its way to the heart of the circle-wreath.)
Now the complete circle of light shines light in all directions.
And at the far-flung edge of that light, the darkness waits, circling the light like a halo.
The light of the Bethlehem star extends far, but only so far.
The lights of Epiphany will come to blaze, then dim.
At the turning of the world one sunrise will commemorate an epoch-changing victory of light over darkness.
Yet there is still darkness in the world.
At the edge of the light, encircling the light, the darkness waits it own Advent. Soon, the darkness will return, gaining strength.
I long for the Advent that will banish all darkness, healing the world and all her broken souls.

16 December 2010

All Endings Aren't Beginnings

I'm coming to an end which should have been a beginning.
There is no open window adjacent to every closed door.
This door is more than closed.
It is locked and barred and barricaded.
I long for the day when I will no longer see even the outline of that door,
when not so much as a breeze blows under or through its frame.
I will not turn around.
I will not look back.
I remember Lot's wife:
hardened,
perhaps shattered,
and blown away;
only remembered
for one awful moment.
I will not look back.

12 December 2010

Velvet Darkness (Advent III)

In the velvet darkness of the blackest night, burning bright, there's a guiding star, no matter what or who you are. There's a light (over at the Frankenstein place). There's a light (burning the fireplace). There's a light, light, in the darkness of everybody's life.

~ "Over at the Frankenstein Place," The Rocky Horror Picture Show motion picture soundtrack

We are at the darkest point of the year. Before we got into the habit of chronicling each day, month and year in almanacs, I can imagine that ancient peoples were not always certain when the tide of darkness began to turn. 

Expressions like "it's always darkest before the dawn" only make sense in retrospect. But in the velvet darkness, I can't tell whether more dark is coming or the light is on the way. There is a period of sojourn in the dark where our eyes cannot see whether the dark is deepening or the light is brightening. Until - the moment it becomes noticeably brighter.

The third candle of Advent adds just a bit more light to the first two candles. But it is enough to turn the tide. The light in the circle (of the wreath) is now an order of magnitude brighter than it was just moments before. The light in the world is growing too. The passing of the solstice  is a turn into the universal light of the sun. 

The fire of heaven bathes the earth in warmth and light. Spring will come and bring with it new life from the heart of the dark, cold earth and, flowering life planted in and by entwined bodies making and sharing their own heat and light in the winter's cold.

09 December 2010

Price of Dreams

I can see so clearly 
the world 
as I would have it.

The Torah of love would be fulfilled.
The only debts, love-debts, paid in full
with a superfluity of abundance.

I can't afford to dream anymore. 
Or perhaps I simply can't afford these dreams.
They are too expensive;
their currency is much more than tears.

Pain on waking; pain in waking.
Ragged wounds from trying to hold disparate realities together.

I cannot make the realities I conjure come to pass.
Each effort costs something more;
more than I can pay.
This is expensive magic.

There is power in imagining.
But the power is not mine,
I don't have access to it.
Yet I see it so clearly.

I continue to dream...

07 December 2010

Alternate Universe

I believe that the universe is larger than we can imagine. I'm also a fan of science fiction and like the idea of alternate universes with some parallels to our own but key differences.
And I have been wondering...
What would have happened if Hillary Clinton won the White House?
In the aftermath of the inevitable financial collapse and other international crises, I am certain that she would have faced the same venomous rhetoric - but with a key difference - the hateful rhetoric would not have been racist. After all  Hillary Clinton shares and benefits from white privilege.
There was a lot of sexist hate-speech during her campaign. I image that it would have proliferated as has the racist vitriol.
Given that right-wing politicians would not be able to "other" her racially as they have President Obama would a new wave of sexist public discourse emerge? Would the need to "other" and subordinate a white woman POTUS give rise to sexism on the scale of the racism we have seen in the past two years? And how would that righteous right-wing retro-sexual sexism affect Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman and the other emerging female (but certainly not feminist) leaders - or wound-be leaders - in the Republican Party?
Where would we be as a nation? Even in an alternate universe, I imagine our public discourse would still be uncivil, but just in a different way.
There real question is, is there a universe in which our public discourse is civil?
Now that might only exist in science fiction. How sad.

05 December 2010

An Explosion of Light (Advent II)


This week the light doubles itself
and halves the darkness.

Each week following this one 
the single new light will add 
less and less light to the gathered light.

But this week's light is powerful, dazzling, dizzying.
And still it coexists with the dark.
The dark recedes but never disappears.

The darkness surrounds and pervades the edges of the light.
Soon there will be so much light
that the darkness will cower in corners.
But it will dot die, or flee or fade.
It will remain, waiting for its turn.
And its turn will come.

The darkness has its own season ~
a dark advent
and that is coming too.

But this week the light doubles itself
and halves the darkness.

02 December 2010

God-Wrestling: Bruised and Blessed

I will not let you go until you bless me!
Bless me dammit!
As we grapple, my breath quickens with exertion - 
I cannot, will not let go, let you go.
I will never have another chance like this.
I don't know if I really know who you are.
Tell me who you are!
But if you are who I think you are - if it's possible -
then I won't let go; I can't let go.
You might kill me.
I'll take that chance.
I need what only you can give, 
what I believe you can give.
I do believe.
I am wrestling with my own faith and the object of my faith and devotion.
And I will not let go.
You are crushing me, breaking me, tearing me - 
but I will not let go.
What is that I hear over my ragged breaths?
Did I hear those words? 
Did I imagine them?
Time will tell.
I will never forget this place, 
the place where God broke me.
I will carry these scars forever.

28 November 2010

Miscarried Hope, an Advent (I) Reflection

To what will this season give birth?
For what (whom) am I waiting?
For what do I long?

For hopes and dreams miscarried by disappointment.
The end of some lives, some hopes for life
washed out in a bloody painful flux.

Where is the promise of new life to take root and blossom,
in scarred wombs convulsing with the pains of miscarriage
parodying the pains that give birth to life?

And what of the empty wombs of barren women?
For what do they long and how will this holy season give birth to and for them?

Can the youth and fertility of one otherwise insignificant girl child restore us all?
Redeem us all?
Give life to us all?
Save us all?

I wait in the eclipsing darkness
shadowed by the light of a single candle
the deepest night with all its terrors is behind me
I feel its breath on my neck.

Before me is that single candle
and in its shadow
another
waiting.

What will the next explosion of light reveal?

23 November 2010

Bread Not Stone

I asked for bread, not stone.
I am breaking my teeth on the rocks in my mouth.
The sharp edges of the gravel are tearing my throat.
I cannot digest these stones.
If I survive their passage, I will not be stronger.

I asked for a fish, not a poisonous serpent, scorpion or snake in the grass.
The poison fills me as soon as I open my mouth to shape the word "no."
There is no nourishment for my body or soul in this most unwelcome meal.

I am still hungry.

21 November 2010

George Herbert's Prayer

(I am at this point of my life wrestling with and in prayer and with - and perhaps in - God.)



PRAYER. (I)       


PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
        Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
        The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner's towre,
        Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
        The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
        Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
        Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

        Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
        The land of spices, something understood.

Herbert, George. The Poetical Works of George Herbert.
New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1857. 61-62.

18 November 2010

Guest Post by Charlie Brown

I know I'm a joke.
Why don't I just give up?
Lucy is never going to let me kick that football.
I can't explain why I want it so much. Why I need it so much.
I just do.
I'm not unreasonable in my expectations.
I don't imagine that I will kick a game-winning field goal or even that I'll score.
I don't imagine that the crowd will chant my name or that the team will carry me off the field on their shoulders.
I don't imagine that the coach or my parents will be proud of me or that people will suddenly respect me.
I just want to try.
I just want to see what will happen.
If I fall and fail I want it to be because I fell and failed. On my own.
Not because you set me up to fall and fail. Again.
Or because I trusted you. Again.
And I keep trusting you. I keep falling for you. And I keep falling.
I keep getting back up because each time I believe this could be the time.
I'm not an optimist.
I'm a fool.
A desperate fool.
I just want a chance. An honest chance.
But Lucy will never give me one. She will never change. She will never be worthy of my trust.
I will always be the butt of her joke. People will always laugh at me.
But this time, she promises it will be different.
I have to trust her again, against all evidence to the contrary.
She's the only one who's even ever pretended to give me a chance.
All I want is a chance to try, to fail on my own, or maybe, just maybe...

17 November 2010

Control Freaks

I've been watching some truly heinous church politics along with many other in the Episcopal Church - the rage at Bishop Charles Bennison in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. People are enraged. The rage has been building for years, since his election and the promises he (allegedly) failed to keep. There have been a perpetual stream of failed attempts to remove him from office. The last one worked, for a little while. In our time, invoking the specter of a child sexually abused by a priest is sufficient to turn the tide in most cases. And so it was, for awhile, in spite of the fact that this young woman and her horrific experience were used in a long-standing (and simmering) vendetta against her will - again! And when the torturous legal process had run its course, the verdict was unacceptable to many. Then things got really interesting.
It is incomprehensible that to many that the final ruling went in support of the Bishop. The Church has affirmed and reinstated his ministry. And for many this is untenable. He must go. He must be made to resign. And in the best of the worst tradition of proof-texting exegesis, biblical missiles and missives have been let loose: "Let such a one be to you as a tax-collector." "Jesus preferred the company of tax-collectors." Bishop Bennison has been told, cajoled, begged and bullied. And he has chosen to stay.
As I watch the failed attempts at public shaming I am struck that some will never be able to accept a verdict with which they do not agree or an outcome that they cannot control. Control is at the heart of this sorry affair: control of the diocese, control of diocesan property, control of diocesan funds. No one can control this bishop. And the extremes to which his opponents are going to try and make him do what they think is right tells me that they covet his control and that of the church and that of God.
I am also struck by the intersections of wealth, class, race and gender in this struggle. I see it in part as a conflict of privilege. The very nature of white male privilege reinforced by wealth and class makes it essential for the self-identity of each side to dominate, subdue and ultimately control the opposition.
That the justice (just?) processes of the church have made a determination is irrelevant. Someone (else) has got to take control of this situation/bishop/diocese and make him/them do what I/they think is right. Because I/they speak for God and I/they should speak for everyone else as well. Why won't they/you listen to me/us/them?

16 November 2010

Turning a Page

Today I threw away some things that I had treasured:
words mostly, and also hopes and dreams and  unanswered prayers.

14 November 2010

A Heart's Desire

"The heart wants what the heart wants."
Can a heart be retrained?
Can it be taught not to want what it cannot have?
Can a person excise - or exorcise their own heart?
Can I live without my heart?
I cannot live with the one I have.

09 November 2010

We Are Job

We are Job. We suffer.
We have suffered and still suffer.
We have experienced unimaginable horror.
Why? God? Why?
A heavenly craps game is as good a reason as any.

There is so much brokenness, devastation and grief in the world.
The shrieking sounds of an ear-splitting lament cannot voice it.

The ancient Job demanded God give an account, testify, face justice, do justice.
I have different demands of the Whirlwind.

No more. I can't take it anymore. Stop. Leave me alone. If this is how you're going to treat me. Then abandon me. Neglect me.

Emmanuel. You are with us. In everything. In every thing.
What are you doing? While you are watching, what do you feel?
You know what we feel. We tell you. With and without words.
You hear us.

I keep waiting for the world to change.
I keep waiting for my change.

Job's God, where are you and what are you doing?

04 November 2010

I Dream A World

If my dreams are prayers...
If my dreams are prayers then I dream a world in which my deepest longings have come to pass.
But that is not all.
Some of my dreams are nightmares.
If my dreams are prayers then I also dream a world in which that which I fear most crashes through the safest space I can imagine.
Yet the world in which I dwell is neither the world of my hopeful dreams nor my frightful nightmares.
It is somewhere in between.
And I, I continue to dream.

02 November 2010

Prayerful Imagination

I did not know that my imagination could be a fruitful space to cultivate my prayer life. (Yet I dream and daydream all the time!) I was blessed with an invitation to use my imagination and my memory to create my own prayer space wherever I am. A prayer companion and spiritual director introduced me to an Ignatian practice of prayer.
It is amazing how visualizing a particular space calms me and opens me and soothes me.
I look forward to learning to pray all over again.

26 October 2010

A Prayer for Healing Body & Soul

אל נא רפא נא לא
אל נא רפא
אל נא
אל
Hear Holy One, hear and heal.
Hear Holy One, hear.
Hear Holy One.
Hear.

22 October 2010

Can I Tell You How I Really Feel?

There are all sorts of currency in relationships.
There are all sorts of ways to be used and spent.
And there is a poverty that transcends money.

20 October 2010

Shattered Dreams

I have dreamed a dream...
And now that dream is gone from me.

13 October 2010

Sanctuary and Solitude

I crept into the sanctuary in the waning light. One small votive before the patron saint flickered in the side chapel. High above the holy place a sanctuary lamp glimmered through its scarlet jewel casing. There was just enough vesper light to gently illumine the windows. The holy dark of the church was warm and welcoming.
As I fell to my knees to say my prayers I was so grateful for the place and space to pray. Alone. In solitude but not in loneliness.
I know the life and work of the church is in community. And that very few are afforded the privilege of having an entire sanctuary to pray in empty of other souls and voices. Yet I could hear the sounds of the world grounding me in prayer.
I would taste this banquet again.

07 October 2010

Choosing Enmity

You shall love your neighbor as your self.
Who is my neighbor?
Let me tell you a story... Who was the neighbor to the man in need? Go and do like wise.


Pray for your enemies.
Who are my enemies? How did they become my enemies?
Is enmity a choice? What choices did I make? What choices did they make?

As much as lies within you live at peace with all people.
How do I do that when others are choosing the path of enmity daily?

I don't want my enemies to be my footstools. I don't want them to be humiliated. I just don't want enemies.

Is there anything I can do to help someone else choose peace and reconciliation?

One thing I have learned is that forgiveness does get easier when it is repeated on a daily basis for daily offenses.

14 September 2010

A Marian Gospel

Since it is true that:
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  (John 3:16-17)
It is also true that:
The Ever-Blessed Virgin Mother so loved the world that she gave her first born Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, the Virgin Mary did not birth her Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

05 September 2010

Today's Torah

Once upon a time there was a lone apple tree amidst a forest of oak trees. One night, the little apple tree looked up and saw the stars through the boughs of the oak trees. And it looked as though the stars were hanging from the branches of the oaks.
The little apple tree prayed, "O God, I really want to have stars hang from my branches like the oak trees." God told the apple tree, "You have your own gifts."
Spring came and the little apple tree grew and blossomed. Not only did her leaves fill in but she was covered with beautiful blossoms. People walking through the forest exclaimed in delight when they found her. They sat and rested and feasted and made love under her shade.
And at night the little apple tree prayed, "O God, I really want to have stars hang from my branches like the oak trees." God told the apple tree, "You have your own gifts. Look at how much joy you bring to everyone who sees you and comes beneath your shade."
Harvest time came and the little apple tree produced bushels of sweet apples. People came and picked her apples. They were so delicious that many ate all they could first and had to start picking them all over again.
That night, the little apple tree prayed, "O God, I really, really want to have stars hang from my branches like the oak trees. Please give me stars. It would make me so happy." God told the apple tree, "You have your own gifts."
The next day, a wind swept through the forest and knocked apples off the tree. Some of the apples hit the ground so hard they burst open. God called down to the apple tree, "Look inside your own apples, you have your own stars and you have had them all along."
[If you want to see the star in an apple cut it horizontally through the mid-line.]
Dear God,
Help me to see my own stars. Help me to be satisfied with the gifts you have given me. Help me not to focus on what others have - or what I mistakenly believe that others have. Help me to love all that I have within and relinquish all desire for that which is without. Amen.

04 September 2010

Of Lost Love

I am remembering
a long ago broken heart
More than the anguish
I remember
the love and hope
and our dreams.

I remember.

I am so surprised
to find these memories
climbing out of their boxes
running free
running wild.

The tearing pain
has faded.
No longer
even a dull ache.
The sadness remains
diminishes and diminishing.

I remember.
And I am grateful
for the memories.
I will never forget.

02 September 2010

Karma

Karma isn't a bitch. 
She's a righteously angry mother Goddess 
defending her children.

Have you not read the Scriptures? 

"Touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm." 

Honey, I'm trying to help you here.

25 August 2010

Praying to and through the Saints

Hail Mary full of grace! 
The Lord is with you. 
Blessed are you among women. 
And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. 
Holy Mary, Mother of God, 
pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our deaths. 
Amen.
The Ave is one of my favorite prayers. It was most recently re-inscribed on and in my heart as the only words of prayer to bring me comfort during a particularly painful medical procedure.
Yet I remember being exposed to Protestant communities that sneered at catholic religiosity as papist or pope-ish - and these were not good things.
I also grew up in churches that piously affirmed the communion of saints using the Apostles' Creed. And it has always puzzled me that some Christians affirm the eternal life of the holy dead and affirm the gospel that "God is not God of the dead but the God of the living," and yet balk at nurturing and maintaining their relationships with their ancestors and saint (prophets and martyrs and all the host of heaven...).
I wonder that folk who will ask the earthly living to pray for them will not ask the heavenly living to pray for them. I imagine that the saints and ancestors are more faithful in prayer than we are here and that their prayers are purer and more direct than ours here. I also note how many folk talk to their departed, particularly at grave sites but do not consider that prayer.
I think people do not know what is prayer.
Pious protestations that prayer is reserved for God alone aside, prayer is simply conversation.
It seems that the former meaning of the word pray - simply to ask - seems to have morphed into to speak only to God, with no thought of what we are saying or what we mean.
I am so grateful for those whose live are eternal who whisper my name in prayer.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, 
pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our deaths. Amen.

15 August 2010

Blessing the Virgin (A Repost)


15 August,
The Blessed Virgin Mary, BVM,
Ever-Blessed to me, Ever-Virgin to others
Mother of a Jewish martyr
Mother of God, Mother of Salvation, Mother of Redemption, Mother of Christianity
Her body, the intersection between Judaism and Christianity
Her womb a fountain of living waters
Paragon and archetype

I like to think that she was assumed in to heaven
In the scriptures, Enoch, Elijah and Jesus ascend
I like to think that she too tasted eternal life without the bitterness of death

It saddens me that so many have lost sight of the gift that is her life and witness. Accepting her as a human woman, with no supernatural element in her conception or birth – no immaculate conception – allows us to see her as fully human, fully woman. Not denying her sexual intimacy makes her more like us – we know that Jesus became like us but he was so different in so many ways from his conception to his life-after-death, we are not yet quite like him. There is, of course one way in which we cannot be like her, but none of us are exactly like another. We may not all be women, wives, mothers, or single parents (no one knows when or to where Joseph disappeared, but he never came back), but there is something compelling about her life and choices. And there is her love, the great love she shares with her son who loves us so dearly.

Elizabeth, the pregnant prophet composed the first lines of this prayer, another added the ending. These words give me peace and comfort in a way few others do:
Hail Mary, full of grace
the Lord is with you
Holy Mary
Mother of God
Pray for us now
and in the hour of our death. Amen.

In her own words that became the Word of God:
All generations call her blessed.
I do.

14 August 2010

My Body Broken

Looking at Frida Kahlo's broken body
and counting my own bones...

I remembered this poem (from an episode of Cold Case of all things):

Tired, nickel-colored night
You can take my blood and keep it,
I ain't need it no more,
use my broken teeth to pave your street,
my splintered bones stomped for sand,
if this lead-footed man should once again leave me dead,
my body broken,
my soul would find a way,
oh, night, to dance with his girl again.

11 August 2010

A New Twist on the Tree of Life

Or Eden Revisited

Phyllis Tribble writes about the garden in the Song of Songs as the redemption of the brokenness in the garden of Eden.
Ilona Rashkow asks where is the mother goddess in the garden of Eden? Her parable points to the Tree of Life herself as the Mother of All.
In all of their readings, like the primary biblical text God is an incorporeal actor.
And the serpent is, well tricky, or perhaps tricksy.
The serpent has gotten such a bad rap through the ages that it's hard for even a die-hard feminist to redeem (him? her? it?).
I'm imagining another story altogether, one in which the serpent and tree are lovers entwined in an eternal sinuous embrace. Snakes are after all warm to the touch, the side effect of being cold-blooded. The snake would protect the tree from invasive pests and the tree would share her fruit.
So what would these ancient and eternal lovers think about the new born-of-clay partners with whom they now share their garden?
Perhaps the Divine instruction - if there was one - was for the new lovers to learn from the old lovers how to live at peace with one another and their environment.
Perhaps the human-man coveted the sweet fruit of the tree-goddess. Perhaps he blamed her lover for tempting his lover. Perhaps he imagined an invisible all-powerful God who denied him his deepest desire.
Something dies in that garden. Not the humans - not yet, not the Tree - she is there waiting, not the serpent - he has been transformed into something nearly unrecognizable.

08 August 2010

A Litany Against Fear

A Litany Against Fear:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

These words were crafted by Frank Herbert as part of his Dune series of award-winning science fiction writing. They have stayed with me. I am not ashamed to say that I pray them.


Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear - From Frank Herbert's Dune Book Series
© 1965 and 1984 Frank Herbert
Published by Putnam Pub Group
ISBN: 0399128964

03 August 2010

Hesychasm

I may have become a hesychete.
I have recently begun the practice of keeping a prayer on my lips and in may heart at - if not all times then - as many times a day as I am prompted by the spirit to pray.
I pray versions of the Orthodox hesychastic prayer sometimes called the Jesus prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ 
only son of the Sovereign
have mercy on me
a sinner.

Holy Child Jesus
son of God
lamb of God
have mercy on me 
a sinner.

Lord Jesus
son of the living, loving God
have mercy on me
a sinner of your own redeeming.

There is something about these words that have passed through the gospels and been reified by the Church. I can't let them go.

01 August 2010

Andrew Cohen wrote posted a blog that touched me deeply where I am living - or perhaps where I want to live - right now:

I want to thank her, mostly, for rescuing me from hopelessness. When we met, back in the spring of 2005, I was nearly 40 and had been dating off and on for two years following an unexpected divorce. I had lost faith in relationships. I had given up on love. She arrived, unexpectedly, and showed me what was possible. She raised me up from the emotional dead. She drew out of me the poison of divorce and betrayal. Eleven years younger but already more mature than me, she was dazzling, brilliant, funny, and sweet; she both gave and taught me patience and devotion and sacrifice. No woman before or since ever made me feel as desired, needed, beloved, appreciated as she did. No one has yet made me want her more. Some men live their whole lives without this kind of love. At least I had it for one brief, shining moment...
I want to thank her for making me laugh, at her and myself, and for making me swoon whenever she walked into a room. I want to thank her for the advice she gave me, and for the soothing tone of her voice during times of trouble. I want to thank her for completely changing my outlook on life. Before I met her, as a single father, I never would have considered having another child. Although it took more time than it should have, I came to realize through her love and devotion that there would be nothing more I would rather do in the world than have a child with her. How many poor souls go their whole lives without the heart-string pull of such emotions?

Read the rest here.

Mr. Cohen, thank you for reminding of this kind of love. Hers for you and yours for her.

21 July 2010

Lamentation

Ay. Ay-ya-yai. Ay-kah!
Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow...

A day of weeping and lamentation. A day of fasting and remberance.
Today, millions mourn the loss of the temple in Jerusalem. Tradition has it that the Romans razed the temple on the anniversary of the day the Babylonians ravished the temple so long ago.

On this day Israel's children's children sing the blues, chanting the book of Lamentation in a solemn trope. Lamentations, the very sound of the word (in Hebrew) is a lament: Ay-kah! 
Ay. Ay-ya-yai. Ay-kah!
For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my courage;
my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed.

Zion stretches out her hands,
but there is no one to comfort her;
the Sovereign God has commanded against Jacob
that his neighbors should become his foes;
Jerusalem has become a filthy thing among them.

It is virtually impossible I think, for modern peoples to comprehend the sense of abandonment the Israelites had at the loss of their temple in 567 BCE and again in 70 CE. (And this was after Antiochus desecrated the rebuilt Second Temple in 167 BCE.)

The book of Lamentations is a book of raw anguish. And blame. It is God's fault. But because a just god cannot be blamed; it is the people's fault for provoking God.

The Holy God has become like an enemy and has destroyed Israel;
   
God has destroyed all its palaces, laid in ruins its strongholds,
    and multiplied in daughter Judah mourning and lamentation.

It was for the sins of her prophets
        and the iniquities of her priests,
    who shed the blood of the righteous in the midst of her.

The text ends with a cautious hopeful plea: Restore us to yourself, Holy One, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old. But one can never be certain of an inscrutable god. The final words: unless you have utterly rejected us, and are angry with us beyond measure. Ay. Ay-ya-yai. Ay-kah!

What temples shall fall in this new age?
What blues shall we sing?

19 July 2010

Under Pressure

I have felt as though I were made of lava these past weeks.
The ground shifted beneath my feet.
My foundation buckled and steam began boiling upward and outward.
I thought that I might explode.
But I may have vented just enough.
There is a crust forming over the molten torrent.
It is still there, slowing into plasma, waiting to be stirred.
Explosions no longer seem imminent.

15 July 2010

Seeking A Seven Day Kiss

Somebody come and carry me
into a seven day kiss
Somebody come and carry me
into a seven day kiss
Somebody come and carry me
into a seven day kiss
I don't need no historic, no national,
no family bliss
I need an absolutely one to one
A seven day kiss - help me now

I can read the daily papers
I can even make a speech
but the news is stuff that tapers
down to salt poured in that breach
I have been scheming about my people
I have been scheming about sex
I have been dreaming about Africa
Nightmaring Oedipus the Rex


But what I need is quite specific
terrifying rough stuff and terrific
I need an absolutely one to one
A seven day kiss - help me now

Somebody come and carry me
into a seven day kiss
Somebody come and carry me
into a seven day kiss
Somebody come and carry me
into a seven day kiss
I don't need no historic, no national,
no family bliss
I need an absolutely one to one
A seven day kiss - help me now 

 
June Jordan © 1980, Beacon Press 

Come, my beloved,
let us go forth into the fields,
and lodge in the villages; 
let us go out early to the vineyards, 
and see whether the vines have budded,
whether the grape blossoms have opened 
and the pomegranates are in bloom.
There I will give you my love.
The Song of Songs 7:11-12

I will give you my love and it will taste like a seven day kiss.

11 July 2010

Water of Life

Water of life, gift of heaven
pours ~ 
rushing sweeping, cleaning, soothing, filling, nourishing, sustaining.
Speaking in liquid tongues, whispering, roaring.
I do not speak your language, yet you speak mine.
I hear you call my name.

10 July 2010

Living in the Moment

Dear God,
Help me to be fully present to the present moment.
Don't let the hope, fear, promise and joy of the present be eclipsed by the hope fear, promise and joy of the future.
Let me savor this moment with all my faculties: it's sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes.
For once hold the reins on my imagination.
Let me sit with you.
And be.
Amen.

21 June 2010

Earth, Wind, Water and Fire

This is what it means to be grounded~
Lying on my back in the sand
Feeling the pounding waves shake the earth under my body
Sounds of sea and shore swirling 
Waves of wind whirling 
Across my body
Healing rays of light 
Caressing my skin
My breath deepens as each breath lengthens
And I am healed.

17 June 2010

Earth Lament

2 Esdras 10:7 Zion, the mother of us all, is in deep grief and great distress. 8 It is most appropriate to mourn now, because we are all mourning, and to be sorrowful, because we are all sorrowing; you are sorrowing for one son, but we, the whole world, for our mother. 9 Now ask the earth, and she will tell you that it is she who ought to mourn over so many who have come into being upon her. 10 From the beginning all have been born of her, and others will come; and, look, almost all go to perdition, and a multitude of them will come to doom. 11 Who then ought to mourn the more, she who lost so great a multitude, or you who are grieving for one alone? 12 But if you say to me, ‘My lamentation is not like the earth’s, for I have lost the fruit of my womb, which I brought forth in pain and bore in sorrow; 13 but it is with the earth according to the way of the earth—the multitude that is now in it goes as it came’; 14 then I say to you, ‘Just as you brought forth in sorrow, so the earth also has from the beginning given her fruit, that is, humankind, to God who made her.’

I have literally been at a loss for words to respond to the oil spill in the Gulf. It has broken my heart. It has broken God's heart. It has broken the heart of our earth.

This story in 2 Esdras seems to be about Esdras (Ezra) giving really bad pastoral care to a woman who has lost her long hoped for son on his wedding day to an inexplicable accident.
Ezra pontificates that the earth and even the holy city Jerusalem - and by extension God - have all suffered more than she.
But the woman was the city, in a vision sent by the Archangel Uriel. Uriel teaches Esdras the value of one woman's suffering, the suffering of earth and God who made her.
For those who will not hear the cry of the earth, perhaps they will hear the cry of her creatures:
Job 12:7 “Ask the animals, 
and they will teach you;
        the birds of the air, 
and they will tell you;
8 ask the plants of the earth, 
and they will teach you;
        and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
We are destroying our earth and we have no other home.

02 June 2010

The Occupation of Gaza

I am writing to to those who are outraged by Israel’s attack on the humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza, to those whose support for Israel is unflinching, to those who seek a just peace among all nations and to all who are affected by the political instability and cycles of violence in lands that are revered as holy by billions of people around the world.
I begin this statement with an affirmation of the right of the state of Israel to exist and to act in its own defense. I begin with this affirmation because many of our desired Jewish and Israeli conversation partners interpret all critique and dissent as ant-Israel and anti-Semitic. It is my desire to promote peace and justice between, among and for all peoples including and particularly Palestinians and Israelis, Arab and Jewish Israelis, Christians, Muslims and Jews in Arab and Persian nations and around the world.
I write as a committed partner in theological education with Jewish faculty and seminarians and inter-religious dialogue with Turkish and other Muslim communities who seek to further understanding, respect, compassion and peace between all peoples.
I am deeply saddened by the loss of life and injuries among the Turkish-led international humanitarian coalition attempting to supply the long-suffering people of Gaza with relief supplies. And I am saddened by the injuries sustained by the members of the Israeli Defense Forces. I am deeply concerned with the plight of the people of Gaza, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
I recognize the complexity of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And I recognize the deep pain of the Israeli people and Jews around the world as a result of the Shoah, tho Holocaust, and continuing anti-Semitism in the world. I respectfully submit that the legacy of those horrors had led some Israeli politicians to adopt a policies that permit any action against any person or people including those deemed immoral and unethical as legitimate defenses of the Jewish state. I want to call our Israeli and Jewish friends, colleagues and conversation partners to our shared scriptural mandate of love of neighbor and stranger.
Specifically, I call for an end to the blockade of Gaza, and all policies that subject Arab Israeli citizens to apartheid-style governance, particularly in East Jerusalem. I caution that there can be no peace build on a foundation of occupation, segregation, ethnic reservations or apartheid. I urge the nation and people of Israel to work with the legally elected leaders in the West Bank and Gaza to work for a true and lasting peace between the two, sovereign and secure peoples.
I recognize that there is justifiable fear and anger on all sides and that there is no solution that will please everyone. I acknowledge the substantial and enduring sacrifices and losses that have occurred on all sides and know that they cannot be compared or sorted into a hierarchy of suffering. I know that all those who have already sacrificed, and lost and grieve those losses will have to sacrifice even more. I hope that the next round of sacrifices are intentional, peace-making and corporate.
I pray that we will live to see peace in my lifetime.

31 May 2010

Thoughts on the Trinity

The One is many: one, two, seven, twelve, 1001, a number beyond numbering, One...a metaphor that has become an idol. ~ https://twitter.com/prophetite

24 May 2010

Seeking Shalom

Seek the Shalom of Ir-Shalom, Jerusalem, and


pray for the peace of Palestine.
A proposal for peace:
If I had one, I'd offer one. I am neither stateswoman nor diplomat. (Nor the daughter of a diplomat.)  don't have a specific plan. But I do have some ideas about the conditions for peace, the environmental factors necessary for peace to thrive.

There can be no peace without justice.
An absence of violence without justice is not peace.
Apartheid is not peace. Segregation is not just.
Genocide and ethnic cleansing are not solutions.
There can be no peace in or with a nation formed entirely of one ethnic or religious identity by the exclusion, expulsion or extermination of another.

I believe that the only path to peace is the way of compromise.
True compromise is not merely voluntary nor simply choosing the most palatable options from a buffet. Compromise is painful.
A true compromise will leave both sides unhappy. In fact that may be the measure of the justness of a proposal - the degree to which it is unacceptable to both sides.
There can be no quantification of suffering. There is no valuing of the suffering of one community above the suffering of another.
All have suffered and are suffering. More will suffer.
There will never be enough vengeance to assuage all of the hurts of all of those who have been hurt.
Each community will have to forswear violence and revenge.
Each community will have to accept a remedy that is less than they would have desired.
Individuals who have stakes in specific pieces of ground will have to accept that they may find themselves on that piece of land in a different nation.
Arabs and Israelis, Jews, Christians and Muslims must learn to live in peace.
We can't wait for someone else to capitulate.
There will be no ultimate victory for one at the expense of another.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

22 May 2010

What Makes a Wo/Man?

I've been listening to discussions on masculinity and responsibility in the context of fatherhood in the black community. And it strikes me that what is being identified as emblematic of mature masculinity is not gendered in anyway that I can see.
Responsibility is an often repeated key word: parental responsibility, social and sexual responsibility, fiscal responsibility. Even among those who have a hierarchical view of gendered relationships there is no suggestion that women should not be parentally, socially, sexually or fiscally responsible. So then, how are those forms of responsibility masculine?
Granted, there are those who say that women should not have to support their children financially or parent alone. But the single mothers who successfully parent their children - even when they are referred to as mother and father - are generally not stigmatized as less than feminine.
Are there characteristics of a well adjusted adult that are gendered?
On as essential level, I have always believed that women are born and made (with a nod to Simone de Bouvoir). We are socially shaped by our families of origin and the culture in which we live. That shaping is based on the implications of our bodies in our cultures.
People who are born with a particular genital configurations (or variations based on it) are categorized as female. People who live like (socially constructed) people who are identified as female are themselves identified as [trans] female without regard to their genital configuration.
So, some of us are identified as female by our bodies and the world at large. Others self-identify and are affirmed by some of the world at large. But in neither community have I heard a definition of woman (or even female) that is ubiquitous to the gender or distinguishable from man or male.

14 May 2010

Knowing Her Place

I've been listening to Laura Bush's recent interviews with interest. She has publicly disagreed with two of her husband's (and his administration's) signature stances on critical social issues: same sex marriage and abortion rights.
Some pundits have questioned why she did not speak up earlier (like Cindy and Meghan McCain). I don't believe that George Bush would have been able to gain and maintain the support of the conservative patriarchy if his wife espoused unacceptable social, political and theological positions.
Laura Bush's choice to support her husband's political ambitions over her own conscience suggest to me that she values patriarchy and the privileges she accrues from submitting to it more than justice for God's children.
Women like Laura Bush are the incubators of patriarchy. It couldn't succeed without them.

08 May 2010

Superheroes, Saints, Gods and Angels

I love superheroes. (Yes, I just saw Iron Man 2.) I love the X-men and the Avengers and Spiderman and Batman and the Black Panther. I grew up in the Marvel universe.
Now that I'm a practicing and thinking theologian, I wonder, what's behind our love of these extraordinarily gifted women and men?
Are superheroes modern saints? Gods? Angels?
Are they symbolic of unrealized human potential?
Are they our way of proving that we can and will save ourselves without any supernatural interference, thank you very much?
Are they a form of sour grapes - we are our own salvation because God isn't saving us on a day to day basis?
Maybe it's not that deep.
All I know for sure is that I love them and I want to be one.
I'd be Dark Shadow, part of the Judith Squad. A group of women warriors who rescue women and children from physical and sexual abuse. And beat, kick and stomp the shit out the men who use and abuse women and children.

05 May 2010

True Diversity

As important as is racial, ethnic, gender, orientation and ability diversity - and it is crucial - ideological diversity seems to be rarely invoked. I have noticed that some communities are happy with visual diversity as long as there is no theological, philosophical or ideological diversity. You are welcome as long as you think like the dominant culture (even if you don't look like them). Physical diversity has become for some an opportunity for self-congratulation, proof of liberal/progressive identity and/or fetishism. Frequently the basis for accepting visibly different bodies into a community is the degree to which they accede to the values and beliefs of the majority culture.
I do not suggest that communities - particularly believing and worshiping communities - have no right to theological, philosophical or ideological boundaries. I do wonder how much space there is - and ought be - between confessional communal identity and individual theological convictions.
My experience has shown me that my black woman's body is acceptable when it performs, preaches, teaches and worships in the image of whatever community I'm in, even if it is my own. Tension, rejection and rebuke arise when my theological commitments, perspectives, beliefs and practices are divergent.
How hollow is that diversity which is only as thin as a photograph of variably colored people!

20 April 2010

I Don't Want Your Leftovers

I don't want your leftovers. I'm tired of people offering me the most well worn parts of themselves, the parts they have leftover from the commitments they value most. How dare you think I would accept your sloppy seconds. Your inability to see value in me in no way affects my self-perception or self-esteem. Keep your leftovers. I don't want them. And I don't want you.

17 April 2010

A Resurrected Flesh

The wounds of crucifixion are not erased by Resurrection.
~ Luke Powery, Associate Professor of Homiletics at Princeton Theological Seminary
Resurrected flesh is scarred flesh, transformed flesh, but still scarred flesh.
The marks of torture never disappear.

16 April 2010

Progressive Biases

There is nothing so dangerous as person who thinks that their progressive social and political values make them bias-free. There is no racism like liberal racism and no sexism like progressive sexism.

05 April 2010

The Church of Rome and Its Children

The rampant physical and sexual abuse of girls and boys by Roman Catholic lay women and men, vowed religious sisters and brothers and ordained clergy - deacons, priests and bishops - and the intentional obfuscation of those crimes against God and human society have given rise to renewed scrutiny of that church and its hierarchy.
The focus of that scrutiny is frequently the sexual abuse of boys by priests, who in that system are always and only men. This focus on male clergy sex abusers and their boy-child victims is called for by the available data: Boys make up the majority of the victims and priests were and (still!) are the majority of the perpetrators and may be occasioned by the greater access to male potential victims. While there are female students in grammar and high schools, seminaries admit primarily in some cases (and only on others) men. And historically, attendants at the altar were only and always male, with the addition of altar girls a post Vatican II innovation.
The phenomenon of men sexually abusing boys in such numbers have been accompanied by accusations blaming the abuse on gay priests, the suggestion (and sometimes claim) that forced celibacy causes pedophilia and by calls to expand the Roman priesthood to married men, and possibly to women. These ideas are linked for some by a false understanding (intentionally so) of homosexuality.
Lesbian women and gay men who seek partners - and all do not - seek partners among adults. And, the overwhelming majority of men who sexually abuse children are heterosexual, even when they preferentially victimize boys. Child rape and sexual abuse are not about sexual orientation.
While the scriptures acknowledge the gift of celibacy, they (especially Paul) are clear that it is a gift. It is a violation of God's revelation and our incarnation to force celibacy on anyone as a price for living out their God-given vocation. The evolution of the practice is entirely post-biblical - Peter the rock on whom some say the church is founded was married; Jesus healed his mother-in-law. The Roman Church decreed compulsory celibacy because of their own corruption - placing their own bastard sons on the Vatican throne. Their corruption endures today.
Opening the priesthood to married men and women (even when limited to heterosexual as is the regularly unspoken understanding) may bring priests into the church who will not prey on children by reducing the church's dependence on any and every male body it can scrape from the gutter, including those who have no business bearing the name of Christ to the children of God.
Opening the priesthood to women would require recognizing the scriptural witness of women from the women prophets - Miriam, Deborah, Huldah and more - of the ancient scriptures to the  women disciples of First Century scriptures - the Blessed Virgin, the woman at the well, Mary Magdale the Apostle to the Apostles.
I write as a priest whose vocational icon is the Blessed Virgin, the Theotokas, she who first offered the body and blood of Christ to the world.
If the church would serve God by serving God's children - and I hold out the hope that this is the desire of some - then the church must end its abuse of and discrimination against those children. The church must first repent and do penance by putting an end to scapegoating innocent gay men and demonizing all homosexuals and the church must condemn, imprison and disavow the predators in its midst - and those who facilitate their crimes.
Then and only then will the church be worthy of the sacred trust of the children of God.

25 March 2010

Holy Mary Mother of God

The word of God to the Blessed Virgin and to us...
Zephaniah 3:14 Sing aloud, daughter of Zion; 
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice daughter and exult with all your heart, 
daughter of Jerusalem!
15 THE JUDGE OF ALL FLESH has taken away the judgments against you daughter,
and has turned away your enemies daughter.
The sovereign of Israel,  
THE RULER OF THE HEAVENS AND EARTH,
is in your midst daughter; 
you shall fear disaster no more daughter.
16 …Do not fear daughter, daughter of Zion; 
do not let your hands grow weak.
17 THE EVER-PRESENT ONE, your God, 
is in your midst daughter, a warrior who gives victory;
Who will rejoice over you with gladness daughter, 
and will renew you in love daughter;
Who will exult over you daughter with loud singing
18 As on a day of festival, I will remove disaster from you daughter, 
so that you will not bear reproach for it daughter.
19 I will deal with all your oppressors at that time daughter.
And I will save the lame and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

17 March 2010

Queer Church

Recently, I had the great privilege to minister in a MCC church. The Metropolitan Community Church is a denomination that was founded in part in reaction to the exclusion, abandonment, excommunication and rejection of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians and their families. It has become a sanctuary for all those on the margins, their families, friends and allies regardless of gender, gender performance, sexual orientation, HIV status, race, ethnicity or any other category used for divisive purposes.

In that congregation I found elderly nurses who had served on the front lines of the AIDs war in the '80's who wanted a spiritual home in a place where those for whom they card so deeply were not only welcome but cherished. I found former addicts and sex workers who were welcomed into the congregation before they made life affirming, altering or sustaining changes in their lives. I found retired Roman Catholic priests living out their days in a space that afforded them integrity that they could not find in their home denomination. I found the parents and siblings and children of queer folk who had finally found a congregation where they could join their loved ones in receiving the sacraments. I found retired protestant pastors and their wives who sought and found a sacred space where "love" was not a cliché and hate was nowhere to be found. I found scholars of religion who were not ashamed to cast their lot with an upstart gay church. I found heterosexual and homosexual Christians who were passionately committed to their church, their God and each other. There were also folk who were profoundly grateful for the opportunity to serve in any capacity in the house of God. Their faith, joy and sense of wonder were achingly beautiful. And I found suffering souls who had never been in a holy space where people like them made up the overwhelming majority.

I found God in that place and loved her fiercely and was loved fiercely by her in return.

01 March 2010

Envisioning God

She's got the whole world in her hands.
In the year of the great earthquakes, I saw the earth, high and lifted up, resting on the palms of God.
I saw the hands of God, many armed, each hand framing, supporting, blessing this fragile, tearing, earth island. Our Mother is a fierce Protectrix.
I saw myself curled and resting in her hand, on foot dangling from her fingers, swinging over the edge of the abyss. I was safely unaware of anything outside of her hand.
I looked and saw other souls safe in her embrace: on her forearm, shoulder and lap. Where first I saw one, I saw a thousand and then a number without counting. A world of people, kept safe in the divine embrace. 
And I went back to sleep.
May that peace envelope all the homeless, frightened, shaken souls crying out in pain.

25 February 2010

The Jihad of Lent

I've forgotten how to fast, or at least that's how it feels in the jihad - holy struggle - that is my Lent.
My previous practices of self-denial have become so habitual that  they no longer seem worthy.
My new attempts are fledgling, flailing struggling, halting.
Have a holy lent.
Prayer. Check. More prayer. For a while.
Fasting. Trying. Successful. For now.
Introspection. Moments of clarity. In between and in-and-around the business of life.
Study. Yes. More. New. Different. Will it last?
Have a holy lent.
The big announcement - even if only to myself - this year I will do this, every day, every week, every month, for the whole season seems destined to failure.
Can one fail at Lent? Can one be too legalistic? Can one make an idol out of Lent?
Or are those excuses of a flesh that does not want to be denied.
Have a holy lent.

19 February 2010

Being Human

What is a human being? What does it mean to be human?
All of creation is crafted by God. Everything that breathes, כל הנשמה, is breathed by God.
How then are we different, if we are? Unique, if indeed we are?
Imago Dei is both how we are what we are and what we are.
We are God's image in our capacities: to love and to choose.
Part of being human is the capacity to transgress. We can choose to do that which is injurious and evil.
And, part of being human is the capacity and ability to transcend our own humanity.
We can choose.
We can change.
We can transgress.
We can transcend.
And we bear the mark of our maker along with all that has been made.

15 February 2010

Entitled Embodiment

A study in carnality: Americans take up a lot of space; and some more than others. I remember news stories discussing how the increased size of American bodies cut the margins of freight and weight on airplanes. I remember reading that the amount of fat on the American buttock was interfering with the delivery of intramuscular injections.
What fascinates me now is the entitlement that comes along with the super-sized bodies. This is not true for all plus-size, queen-size or diva-sized people. I’m just thinking and writing about a few – more than a few – folk I have encountered over the years.
From airplane seats to theme-park rides, I watch people unapologetically taking up some or all of the adjacent seat – even if it is occupied. I confess I have had to endure the horror of a stranger’s thighs and belly rolls pressing against me from the side.
Most recently I have watched people demand that the world accommodate them: redesign seating in theaters, on planes, household furniture; slow to their pace; reshape the very terrain if it is too much for their overburdened knees. And all at someone else’s expense, it ought to be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The problem of their mobility or fit are someone else's. Everyone else's. And god help you if you point out that breathing, joint pain and mobility problems in some cases just might be weight-related.
Human bodies can be beautiful at any size. Fat is beautiful even when it is unhealthy. And inflated egos can inhabit any size body. And sometimes there is a direct, proportional relationship between the size of the ego and the size of the carcass.
Since I wrote this, actor/director/comedian Kevin Smith was just booted off a  Southwest Airlines for violating their "customer of size" policy. He says it was because he was too fat. However, he admits that he bought two seats per their policy and then shifted to an earlier flight on which there was only one seat available. That's when the captain removed him. I wonder was there another passenger whose seat he was sharing without consent?
 

10 February 2010

Righteous Rule

May your righteous rule envelop the earth
Not: Thy kingdom come.
We need no more broken hierarchal, kyriarchal, patriarchal, colonial systems.
The idea that God is a bigger and better king than any we have known (or will know) is as impoverished as our imaginations.
For yours, and yours alone is all sovereignty and ultimate authority, 
all power on earth and in heaven, 
in sea and sky from this day until the day without end. Amen.

06 February 2010

Christian Kidnappers

There is so much wrong with the Christian missionaries who claimed to be relocating orphans from Haiti to the Dominican Republic, that I scarcely know where to begin.
1) The children were not orphans and they knew it and they lied about it.
Parents have come out of the woodwork saying that they entrusted their children to the missionaries out of their desperation to provide for their children. In some cases, they were convinced by brochures they were shown with swimming pools and and other amenities. The place in the brochure was not their destination and by their own admission they had not yet built their "orphanage" or even hired personnel to work with the children.
2) Taking children from loving parents simply because they are poor does not help children or their parents.
The assumption that the children would be better off apart from their parents and in the custody of white Americans is racist, classist and imperialistic. These missionaries showed no interest in Haitian people, culture or society, and have no interest in strengthening Haitian families - counter to the so-called family values trumpeted by social and religious conservatives.
3) There was no orphanage in the Dominican Republic.
The missionaries lied about taking the children to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. They had not built or staffed an orphanage, had hired no child care specialists, no one certified to treat traumatized children, or (as far as I can tell) had any medical personnel whatsoever. They had simply rented space in a hotel.
4) The missionaries knew that a letter of permission from a local pastor was insufficient to cross a national border.
The missionaries were told at every turn not to try to take children out of the country without passports and visas. The missionaries knew that they needed passports and visas to cross borders, but claimed white privilege in Jesus' name to kidnap those children - illegally transporting those children under false pretenses and attempting to cross a national border.
5) Neither Jesus nor Haiti needs those kinds of Christians or their dubious help.
Children are the most vulnerable and most impoverished people on this planet and that is particularly the case in Haiti. Helping the poor and disenfranchised, especially when they are children in a central tenet of Christianity. Breaking up their families because their families are poor and desperate and profiting of of children - whether financially or not - is an abomination.
They neither know nor care about the cultural context of Haiti. Their actions actually deepen the problem of restavec children, children who are sent away from their homes to wealthier people, sometimes relatives, in hopes that they will have a better life, at the price of broken homes and frequently broken bodies. Restavec children are regularly physically and sexually abused.
6) These white Christian missionaries demonstrate an unmitigated disdain for black families and culture.
These white Christian missionaries demonstrate the links between white supremacy and Western Christianity. They believe that they have the right to do anything they want with black bodies based on the written word of a white man. They completely disregarded the legal authority of every black Haitian authority who told them something contradictory to their imperialistic desires.
7) White Christianity sanctifies white imperial desire.
Since they decided that what they wanted was good and God-sanctioned, every opposing opinion has been demonized. So the missionaries justify their lies, deceit and crimes in the name of Jesus under the sacred canopy of good intentions and clutch their bibles in their jail cells singing hymns.

I want to know if they would rescue/traffic all of the poor children in Haiti. If they are so committed to poor black children, what are they doing with/for the poor black children in the US? What is their mission plan for the families, parents and sexually active young adults of reproductive age? Will they put an end to sexual reproduction after they have depopulated Haiti of children?

I believe that these children were trafficked, that they were going to be made available for adoption under false pretenses for a fee (based on CNN's reporting). I am horrified by their actions and hope they rot in an underfunded Haitian jail in this life and in hell in the next. And I don't even believe in hell. But for these Christians, hell just ought to be an option.

Update: Eight of the jailed missionaries slipped a note to an NBC producer claiming they were lied to by their leader Laura Silsby. All of the evidence CNN has uncovered points to duplicity and deception on the part of Ms. Silsby. It appears that she misled her own people. She sounds like the worst kind of zealot. Not content with risking her own life, she has endangered the lives and cost the freedom of her trusting co-religionists as she schemed to steal black children to sell adopt. Allegedly.