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31 March 2011

Failing at Lent

Is it possible to fail at observing Lent? When I'm feeling particularly theologically astute I think that my struggles with Lenten disciplines are reminders of my humanity and the frailty of my incarnation. Today I just feel like a failure. I'm doing well with my added spiritual disciplines. But my sacrificial disciplines are a mess. And the contentment I feel in the former does not compare to the angst I feel for the latter. I am trying to have a holy Lent. Right now it feels wholly holey. And so do I.

27 March 2011

A Working Sabbatical

Is a working sabbatical an oxymoron? Am I out of my mind for agreeing to do anything including preaching which I love and writing a book that is practically writing itself? Right now I don't want to do anything but sleep and eat. And I need to exercise. Don't get me wrong, I have been resting and engaging in copious amounts of self care. I have been having lovely comforting, soothing prayer time. I'm even watching lots of tv. But right now I am exhausted. Weary. And I don't know why. And I'm getting a good night's sleep every night. Now I'm just breathing. One breath at a time. And then another...

25 March 2011

An Annunciation (Passover) Theology

God has shown strength with God's arm;
God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
 and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things, 
and sent the rich away empty.
God has helped God's servant Israel,
in remembrance of God's mercy, 
according to the promise God made to our ancestors,
to the descendants of Abraham through Hagar and Sarah and Keturah forever.

"God has..."
The Virgin proclaims that God has already done all of these things, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, in spite of her present reality.
God has shown strength with God's own arm at varying points throughout Israel's history, and the memory, witness and testimony of their ancient scriptures and new psalms to God's strength, willingness and power to save in those times is enough for the present moment. In the face of the mighty Roman Empire, what God has already done is enough.
God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts in the songs and stories of old enfolded into the scriptures of Israel. Herod's arrogance goes yet unchallenged but God has unseated the proud from their thrones in their hearts and halls before and it is enough.
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones inside and outside of Israel, whether or not they were enthroned with God's blessing. God has deposed other gods from within their own realms. Caesar or any other would-be god, it matters not. God has done it before and can do it again. And that is enough.
God has lifted up the lowly time and time again. In spite of the biases of Israel's story-tellers and scripture-writers, the God of Israel visits and blesses women and children and slaves and foreigners. A peculiarly pregnant girl-child and her post-menopausal cousin with her own pregnancy predicament may be beyond the notice of Rome, but not God. And it is enough.
God has filled the hungry with good things in the before times and every once in a while in our time. People still go hungry, people still die in squalor, taxed to death by Rome and Romanesque imperial imitators, but God still provides unexpected and unimaginable blessings. Our people will not be starved to death and pass out of existence on God's watch. Some of us will survive and that is enough.
God has sent the rich away empty in our stories and songs and scriptures. The glory of Rome is not eternal. Ask the Egyptians, ask the Assyrians, ask the Babylonians, ask the Persians, ask Alexander the Great, if you can find him. God has done it before and that is enough.
God has helped God's servant, in our faithfulness and in our faithlessness. God has been faithful. In our history, in our memories, in our scriptures, God has been faithful and it is enough.
God has remembered God's promise and will keep it. Our prophets Miriam and Moses taught us to hold God accountable to God's promises. They bargained and argued with God and never let God forget God's promises to our ancestors or to us, their descendants. Even when the promises have not yet been kept, God remembers and that is enough.
Dayenu. "It is enough." This is a Pesach (Passover) theology.
Dayenu, is the refrain and title of what may be the most familiar and popular Passover song. The song says that if God had only... and lists the miracles God performed for the ancestors, if God had only done one and not these that followed, it would have been enough. Dayenu.
In 2011, the Feast of the Annunciation precedes Pesach, by less than thirty days. In some years they have overlapped more closely. And it occurs to me that the theology that the Ever-Blessed Virgin named for Miryam the Prophet of Exodus is proclaiming is Dayenu, Passover theology.
The Holy Mother of the Word-Made-Flesh is herself a Torah-sage and she teaches us. Her perspective on the yoke of Roman oppression that strangled her world is framed by the memory of what God has done for her people and her ancestors. And by what God is doing to and through her: Kedushat haShem, sanctifying the Divine Name. 
Kedushat haShem, sanctifying the Divine Name would come to be the way in which the actions or martyrs were expressed. For me, the Mother of Sorrows is also the Mother of Martyrs. And there have been enough. Dayenu.
Truly all generations call you blessed.
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 
for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of God's servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;   
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, 
and holy is God's Name.

15 March 2011

Methadone Dreams

I fight to let go of the past 
but it haunts my dreams
I cannot relinquish this addiction on my own.
There is no sequence of steps, no support group, 
no ritualized speech for dreamers.
There are only these dreams
day dreams which pale against the dream I had.
They take the edge off the ache.
Perhaps soon I shall need them less and less.
Yet even methadone is addictive.
I don't want to wake from these dreams.

12 March 2011

Somebody Almost Walked Off Wid Alla My Stuff

Somebody Almost Walked Off Wid Alla My Stuff
For coloured girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf
Ntozake Shange

[A favorite that I had the honor of performing in college.]
somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff 
not my poems or a dance i gave up in the street
 but somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff
like a kleptomaniac workin hard & forgettin while stealin
 this is mine
this aint your stuff
now why don’t you put me back & let me hang out in my own self
somebody almost walked off wit alla my stuff 
& didn’t care enuf to send a note home sayin 
i was late for my solo conversation
 or two sizes to small for my own tacky skirts
what can anybody do wit somethin of no value on
a open market
did you getta dime for my things
hey man 
where are you goin wid alla my stuff
to ohh & ahh aboutt
i gotta mainline number 
from my own shit
now wontcha put me back
& let
 me play this duet
wit silver ring in my nose
honest to god
somebody almost run off wit alla my stuff
& i didnt bring anythin but the kick & sway of it 
the perfect ass for my man & none of it is theirs 
this is mine 
ntozake ‘her own things’ 
that’s my name
 now give me my stuff
i see ya hidin my laugh
& how i
s it wif my legs open sometimes
to give me 
some sunlight
& there goes my love my toes my chewed 
up finger nails
wif the curls in yr hair
mr. louisiana hot link
i want my stuff back
my rhytums & my voice 
open my mouth 
& let me talk ya 
throwin my shit in the sewar 
this is some delicate 
leg & whimsical kiss 
i gotta have to give to my choice
without you runnin off wit alla my shit
now you cant have me less i give me away 
& i waz 
doin all that
til ya run off on a good thing
who is this you left me wit
some simple bitch 
widda bad attitude
i wants my things
i want my arm wit the hot iron scar 
& my leg wit the
 flea bite 
i want my calloused feet & quik language back
in my mouth
fried plantains 
pineapple pear juice 
sun-ra & joseph & jules 
i want my own things 
how i lived them

& give me my memories 
how i waz when i waz there
you cant have them or do nothin wit them
stealin my shit from me 
don’t make it yours 
makes it stolen
somebody almost run off wit alla my stuff 
& i waz standin
lookin at myself 
the whole time 
& it waznt a spirit took my stuff
waz a man whose 
ego walked round like Rodan’s shadow 
waz a man faster
n my innocence
waz a lover 
i made too much 
room for 
almost run off wit alla my stuff
& i didnt know i’d give it up so quick 
& the one runnin wit it
don’t know he got it 
& i’m shoutin this is mine 
& he dont 
know he got it 
my stuff is the anonymous ripped off treasure
 of the year
did you know somebody almost got away wit me
me in a plastic bag under their arm 
danglin on a string of personal carelessness 
i’m spattered wit
 mud & city rain 
& no i didnt get a chance to take a douche
hey man 
this is not your perogative 
i gotta have me in my
to get round like a good woman should 
& make the poem
in the pot or the chicken in the dance
what i got to do
i gotta get my stuff to do it to
why dont ya find yr own things
& leave this package 
of me for my destiny
what ya got to get from me
i’ll give it to ya 
i’ll give it to ya
round 5:00 in the winter 
when the sky is blue-red
& Dew City is gettin pressed 
if it’s really my stuff
ya gotta give it to me 
if ya really want it 
the only one 
can handle it

09 March 2011

A Lighter Lent

My little Lent, Advent, was so dark and so penitential that my actual Lent cannot help but to be lighter. From the dawn of the Christian year until now I have been keeping the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. (BCP)
What more can I do?
There is always room for more self-denial! I have so much, do so much, want so much.
Yet this is a year of Sabbath for me, a personal and professional Yovel (Jubilee).
How can sabbath-keeping and Lenten discipline co-exist?

07 March 2011

Feast of Saints Pepetua and Felicity

On this their Feast Day:

  Mothering God, Sovereign, Sustainer and Shelter of all the saints and we who are sinners, you strengthened your sun-kissed daughters of Africa, Perpetua and Felicity and their companions to confess your Name, encouraging one another  in their time of trial: Grant that we who cherish their blessed  memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with  them the everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who  lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever  and ever. Amen.

06 March 2011

A Blessing for Those Who Study Torah

I love Torah (and torah). And while there is torah in Torah, not all Torah is torah.

I bless the source of life.

As I bless the source of life, so I am blessed. 

May my heart be lifted, my spirit refreshed, 
my understanding deepened by the study of Torah.

And may the words of Torah be sweet to me 
and to those who come after me,

And to all who follow after the God of Israel.

05 March 2011

A Quranic Prayer

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
All praise belongs to God, Sovereign of all worlds,
the Compassionate, the Merciful, Ruler of Judgment Day.
It is You that we worship, and to You we appeal for help.

Show us the straight way, the way of those You have graced...
Al Fatihah 1:1-6

03 March 2011

Mother of God, Hear Our Prayer

The Ever-Blessed Virgin Mary is a shining light that illumines my faith. Her communion brings me comfort and grace.

Mirror of justice, pray for us. Seat of wisdom, pray for us.
Cause of our joy, pray for us. Mystical rose, pray for us.
Tower of David, pray for us. Tower of ivory, pray for us.
Gate of heaven, pray for us. Morning star, pray for us.

Because sometimes, I can't even pray for myself.

01 March 2011

A Faithful God

A simple, prayer; a simple creed:

Blessed are you, O God, our Sovereign, Ruler of the Universe, 
who remembers your covenant, 
is faithful to your covenant, and keeps your promise.

Of course, the ways in which God chooses to keep God's promises are frequently inexplicable and unfathomable.