Saturday, February 26, 2011

beware the power of a hot dog

My granddaughter told me this, "I decided I was going to be a vegetarian and was going to announce it at supper, but we had hotdogs that night."

I can't count how many times some impulse or decision of mine has been forestalled by something as silly as a hotdog.

I was going to start eating healthy food but someone gave me a cupcake.

I felt that I should visit her but it started raining.

I was about to say thank-you but someone else started talking to me and I forgot.

The things that keep us from accomplishing our goals are often very small, very surmountable problems/things.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

a Sunday in February

The morning began around seven with my cat Walter waking me by walking all over me, purring and trying to get some affection. I got up and coffee was made. I started the day on our old couch reading a biography on Gerard Manley Hopkins, a 'small, childish looking, yet like a child-sage, nervous and very sensitive, with a small ivory pale face' kind of man. I hated to put the book down, because it was so beautifully written and interesting to me. He was a Jesuit and a writer, and hard on himself. He struggled to find peace:

My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; to live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst's all-in-all in a world of wet.

Kind of dismal ... but he had a sense of humor, too. When a young writer who had not suffered much asked him why he became a priest he replied, "You wouldn't give only the dull ones to the Almighty God!" I like that. Give some of the complicated, confusing, conflicted and hilarious ones to the Almighty God. He will find them admirably delightful I think.

And then I drove to church and managed to not be overwhelmed for more than an hour. The sermon was refreshing and given gently. That is something good for me.

The day continued with a pretty good lunch of pancakes and chicken sauce, the death of a large wolf spider in my bathroom - it is that time of year! - and A Prairie Home Companion on the radio. Steve was searching the internet for solutions to some of our needs. I brought him a map from my car, the most helpful contribution I can make. Unlike most of the world (apparently), I do not enjoy the computer as a source of information or entertainment. I read. More of Gerard Hopkins.

Two friends dropped by with a gift of diet coke from McDonald's and I laughed at our companionable bickering. Gifts are not my love language but someone doing something small for me makes me feel loved. And food. I think maybe food is my love language. I consider myself a 'foodie', but recently I read some comments on foodies that made me cringe. According to this article I am not a real foodie (very unlikable folks) - I just happen to love the art and craft and conviviality of food. I think I can own this without shame, having spent much of my first adulthood in the kitchen, creating miracles and messes and sometimes just playing. I am with the Israelites: 40 years of one type of food, even if it drops from heaven, is a trial beyond bearing. If only there had been just the odd container of pesto or an occasional creamy pie the people of God may have been a lot less cranky. And maybe braver. I know I am braver when I have eaten something delicious. My mouth is drooling - but no, I must not go there.

As I do every Sunday I went to an evening Jazzercise class and worked my body. (It is a wonder I don't look like Jane Fonda, for all the exercise classes I fit in. Imagine what I would be like without them! My German peasant genes are always fighting to be free and make me into Greta the cow maiden.)

And then I made tea, put red Duck Tape over the broken light fixture on the back of my kid's car, and picked up the book on Manley, which I continued to read in a tub full of bubbles. I think a Sunday hot bath is one of the luxuries of modern times. That I can turn on a tap and soon have the hottest bubbling water to sink into - this is the stuff of royalty.

The day has ended with a conversation with my son who has decided he wants to go back to church. We talked about the 'communion of saints' and how I take such great strength from the great cloud of witnesses - not the crazies, abusers and bullies, but the true saints who have gone before. How their lives give mine meaning and convince me of a future beyond this life. And we talked about death and I told him my secret - that I overcame deep personal fear (and all fear is at bottom, fear of death) by embracing death and learning to truly love life. It was a good conversation.

And because it is Sunday and tomorrow is the beginning of the next lap, I am off to bed. Steve has tried to seduce me with an episode of Doc Martin, but no, I am about to crawl into my firm, yet soft bed, pull up a quilt made by my friend, after which Walter will jump on top of me and make her nest in some curve of my form.

Who says life is not beautiful?

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Prodigal Mother

“What woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one…does not… sweep the house, and search carefully until she find it?” Luke 15.8

Like David belting to fight Goliath,
Miriam at market tightens her girdle
to haggle with the rabbi’s wife,

who asks too much for her black beans.
She’s so righteous – you’d think
she sleeps with Moses. At home

Miriam places ten Yehud drachmas
on the counter, each with Caesar’s Roman
nose full in her Jewish face. All at once

only nine Has she dropped one?
With her bramble broom she sweeps until
she finds it near the woodpile.

A lost silver coin’s not nothing
in her house. To raise a cup for finding
what was lost, she calls across

the fence to the tanner’s wife and the shepherd’s
wife. They've shared her wine before.
Like the year her rebel daughter, Sarah,

ran away to a far country with a tavern
stud: chest of black hair, pimp roll,
and a camel driver’s come-on smile.

Sarah’s a fire-cat queen with claws,
no home girl. She likes clanging bracelets,
ankle bells, the danger of strangers.

The brave man gave her trinkets,
beat her black. Swollen jaw,
a cut above her puffy eye, she came

hacking back, a discarded consumptive
from his stable of harlots. Through the window
Miriam sees her three vineyards away.

She'd know that slouch anywhere, the way
Sarah shuffles. Out of the house Miriam
charges, runs down the road like a demented

lion to gather in her wounded cub.

Kilian McDonnell OSB

Sunday, February 6, 2011

women's wisdom

"Women have the capacity to know with their bodies and with their brains at the same time, in part because their brains are set up in such a way that the information in both hemispheres and in the body is highly available to them when they communicate...[When a woman] begins to learn to appreciate how intimately [her] thoughts, emotions and physical body are connected, [she] begins to reclaim her full intelligence. It is staggering to realize how many highly intelligent women think they are stupid because so much of their intelligence has been undervalued. Dr. Linda Metcalf said, "Women think that their intellects are a male construct sitting inside their heads." (Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, Christiane Northrup, MD)

Northrup is not saying that men do not have this ability to integrated knowing. She makes that clear. So this is not a man vs woman issue. Just want to put that into the conversation. However...'s true. I don't know how many times I have been in a class or room with a majority of men, listening to the conversation and my thoughts are completely other than what is being expressed. In those instances I didn't put my thoughts into the room because I really did think they were 'too womanly.' That is the phrase I have had in my head. These are woman thoughts. They do not matter. And I have tried to translate my knowing into a male construct to have it be 'real' or intelligent or something. Maybe other women are not like me - but I have consciously had these discussions inside my brain, alongside my thinking.

Where did I get that idea? And it isn't just an idea - it is IN me. Somehow I know it - not like I read it in a book - but I know it in the biblical sense of it penetrating me.

What wisdom I have is staggeringly integrated. It is mind and body, it is words and blood, it is 360 intelligence. I wonder how much wisdom has been lost because women kept silent.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

... watercooler

The idea of writing something 'important' or 'meaningful' is lost to me. I am on a quest to write what is real. Perhaps these two might converge somewhere.

The thinking I am doing on formation is bringing me a few conversations that are worthy. Today I talked with a friend about grace, and the Wesleyan idea of participating with grace toward holiness. That last sentence is a bit much. Sorry. But basically we were talking about this - is the human person basically full of value, or is the human person hopelessly lost. Do we retain the image of God on us or is it a long gone characteristic, sullied entirely by sin. Does the work of God within us restore us to the essence at the core of our being or is there nothing there to restore.

Questions like these are not philosophic fantasies. They make all the difference in how we see others, ourselves, how we view God and holiness and hope, even. I have come to believe each of us stands out to God like my kid Ben stands out in this crowd in Indonesia. We are beautiful. Even when we are broken. Life is a miracle and we are beautiful.

Better Minds - Prayer is not work. To breath is to pray.

We are 'unfinished' humans until we consent to the power of the Spirit and are drawn into a wholeness of being... Christian spiritual masters through the centuries have ha different ways of describing that process. All... say that it involves a relationship between God and humanity that we call prayer. For us to pray is to intend to hear God and to respond to God. God is absolutely present to ALL people. Prayer does not make him present. Prayer is not a work. It begins with our consent, grounded in the expectation that God speaks and we can hear. That expectation is what is meant by faith. (A History of Christian Spirituality by Urban T. Holmes.)

Prayer as expectation and intent to listen. I like that. I have done prayer as work, and there is a labor in some kinds of prayer. But the prayer that transforms us and keeps us alive is our soul breath.

How about this for a great verse: Malachi 3:16 "Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard."

So much for saying a prayer at the end of a conversation to tell God what we talked about. Our conversation IS our prayer. As is our joy when we see a friend, our impulse to help someone in trouble, our laughter over a meal conversation and our walk through the corridors of malls and offices and schools - when we walk expecting to hear and willing to respond.