Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I got the coolest email today. Ok, maybe not the coolest, but in the top 25 probably.

I go to the Hunger Site every day to click on their “give free food” button. You can also click to help out with literacy, breast cancer research, and all kinds of stuff. It’s really quick and easy and awesome. So today, I got an email from Sharon, our fantastic new communications director, with a link to FreeRice. The way it works is, you get little word quizzes like “maze means: copy, argumentation, detergent, labyrinth”. You guess correctly, you give one grain of rice, then it gives you a harder word.

Now, before you give up in disgust at how nerdy your priest is, I’ll have you know I donated 240 grains of rice in about two minutes. That’s at least a couple cups (though I’ve not sat down and counted it out in my spare time). Think about how simple it is to make a difference in this world. Think about how easy it can be to begin to feed the hungry around the globe. We (and by “we” I mean everyone everywhere) have enough food to feed everyone well—it’s just not in the right places. Our grocery stores are overloaded with choices while many areas have nothing at all. Something like ¾ of the world’s population subsist on rice and beans. If that.

At FreeRice, you’re feeding other people while feeding your mind. It’s a lot like the church community at its best: we come because we are fed and because our presence feeds others. Participating in the community can be one of the most powerful relationships you’ll ever have. But only if you commit to it, only if you find creative ways to participate. We can’t sit around waiting for hunger to go away. We can’t sit around waiting for someone to invite us to participate at Redeemer, in CORe, in the faith. How are you being fed in your life? How are you feeding others?

Maybe you’re already doing this stuff. Maybe you already knew about those cool websites. Keep it up—we can’t stop until everyone is fed.

apocryphal history lesson

At Bible study last night, someone asked me, "So what is the Apocrypha anyway?" Wedged into the middle of the Bible, between the Hebrew Testament and the Christian one--is a whole other book. It's got more prophets, apocalypse, history and historical fiction, wisdom, letters, and a dragon. That's right, there's a dragon in the Bible. These writings aren't canonical; that is, they're not officially part of the Bible and not authoritative the way we consider the Hebrew and Christian Testaments to be. However, they were once.

In the 3rd to 1st century BCE, a group of seventy scholars got together in Alexandria, Egypt to translate the Hebrew Testament into Greek, that text eventually called the Septuagint. The story goes that the seventy each translated the entire thing individually and every one of their translations was identical to the next. Whether or not that happened, the list of books they translated was different than the list we currently consider the Hebrew Testament. A similar thing happened when a similar (but not identical) list of books were translated into Latin to form the Vulgate in the early 400s CE. The books that didn't make it into either one were still canonical to some Christians, regardless of whether the church considered them so. Eventually they were collected into the Apocrypha and smooshed into many versions of the Christian Bible.

The word "apocryphal" means many things, from the negatively charged "of doubtful authorship or authenticity" to the more mysterious and positive "hidden things" (from the introduction of The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 2001). Scholars are still in disagreement about what it means and just why these books got the name. The key is to remember that though they are not canonical, they are still of great worth.
In the current struggles in the Episcopal Church over human sexuality and authority, it might do us good to remember that, though we disagree violently, our brothers and sisters are still of great worth.

Monday, November 26, 2007

book thoughts--abbreviated version

Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker

Sarcasm? Check
Cynicism? Check
Wit? Check
Awesomeness? Check

[oddly, she references Oberammergau twice]

in praise of homemade soup

I don't often make soup, but when I do, it is glorious. It's not that difficult--cut up a bunch of stuff, put it in liquid, add spices, cook until tender--but the result exceeds the effort. The root vegetable soup I made this afternoon [while waiting for more information on the flat tire that became a $1000 repair--long story] has parsnips, rutabegas, carrots, leeks, potatoes, onions, turnips, fennel, celery, brussel sprouts, garlic, and butternut squash in a base of chicken stock and chardonnay. But it tastes deeper than that. It tastes of comfort, of breathing out, of earth. Mostly, it tastes of hibernation and of curling up in the warmth of a loved one.

It's interesting how such ordinary things can have such resonances. A certain pillow or the way someone styles their hair, or even a mangled autumn leaf can create a whirlwind of emotions. What is that? Is it the primeval chaos hiding just under the surface of things, poised to pounce? Is it our own willingness to cling to what we know? Is it the presence of the holy in the universe, revealed in glimpses?

When Philip Newell talks about the "glory of God" I believe he means this resonance. All things were not just created by God but contain the residue of the Creator. The simple stuff of our lives, both natural and human-made, is filled brim-full with our memories, with challenge, with beauty and pain, with connection to everything else. Even the blasted, broken car reminds me of laughing with band members, road trips with Loving Husband, and the smell of rain in a sculpture garden. Soup, made of plants taken from the dirt, is glorious because of its connection with God.

Monday, November 19, 2007

pastoral demographics

We're revamping our narthex (fancy church word for lobby) at Redeemer and I had to put in a plug for the youth. Yeah, I know, everyone and their sister is wanting space in the re-design for their ministry and their stuff, so how am I any different? I'll tell you why. I don't see the youth as an isolated ministry like the Freestore or the Bread Ministry. The youth are a demographic.

Having come from a meeting about this very thing, I'm suddenly aware of demographics in the church. Who are we pastoring to? How are we pastoring to them? What do couples who are experiencing infertillity issues need, spiritually and practically? How do we take seriously the needs and concerns of veterans? And this is one that kicked me in the stomach this afternoon: how are we pastoring to fat people?

Please forgive the bluntness, but I just read a mention in my daily blog reading that thousands if not millions of people experience weight discrimination in their doctors' offices. Some of the stories at First, Do No Harm are truly heartbreaking. Women told for years that nothing can be done for their chronic pain, amennhorea, or infertility until they lose 20-50 pounds. Now, let's be honest here, people. It is certainly true that our culture is enamored of sweets and fats and lazing about watching reality television. We are an unhealthy populace to be sure. And I am sure that losing weight can be necessary for some treatments. HOWEVER, the inhumanity with which these brothers and sisters are treated is unacceptable. The jokes, the disdain, the disregard for information patients repeatedly give their doctors--this is a sad state of affairs.

There is a theory that Jesus was fat. In the gospel of Luke, Zacchaeus "was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature." (NRSV) Who was short in stature? Zacchaeus? Or Jesus? And, lest you think I'm being flip, it's ambiguous in the Greek, too. What if Jesus was short and overweight? If he was God created human, would he really be tall, dark, handsome, and buff? Would he not be more likely to be average, slightly asymmetrical, a little overweight, with a raucus laugh? Or maybe gawkily skinny with big ears and weird mannerisms with this hands?

My point is, we are all created in the image of God--this is one of the first things we know about ourselves. We are in the image of God and we are beloved.

there ain't no party like a youth room party cause a youth room party don't stop

Would you believe we had 15 Junior High youth last night to watch Batman Begins? Fifteen! And several I'd never even seen before. Good times.

This was our inaugural occasion for movie-watching on the new giant-screen TV in the youth room. It's like 3 feet by 4 feet of pixellated glory. The boys were all about Bruce Wayne learning the ways of the ninja and wailing on bad guys BUT at the end when he and the love interest looked like a kiss was immanent, they all predictably lost interest and started murmuring among themselves. The girls, of course, all squealed.

So, what was it that got 15 kids there last night? No homework? It is a holiday week, but would teachers not assign anything? Was it my phone calls to all of them after church? That hasn't worked so well in the past. Was it just good timing? This is the normal Monday-morning question for me--why did they come?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

come away with me

The young adults of Redeemer (CORe, if you'd like to check us out a little) just returned from a lovely night out at Molly Malone's. We dined on fish and chips and shepherd's pie and cheese sandwiches and bread pudding. We acquitted ourselves well in the pub quiz, living up to our name: Team Moderately Awesome. We talked a bit about God and church politics but mostly just hung out and had a good time.

Thursday, Loving Husband and I host the Hyde Park youth ministers at stately Connor Manor. Several of them have mentioned, after committing to the evening, that they have meetings to attend that evening. I get that--don't we all have important things to do? Time doesn't stop on your day off. But don't we also have a responsibility to let go every now and again?

After the first seven days of creation, God went walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze. Isn't that lovely? I can just imagine God strolling barefoot in the twilight, the sun's gone down but it's still light, stars are appearing, and the light breeze lifts God's hair and caresses God's cheek. Simply put, God enjoyed creation. One of the first things we know about God is that God enjoys this world. Shouldn't we?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

you know what i wish?

I wish cookies had the cold-fighting capabilities of orange juice and zinc.

I love cookies. I mean, really love them. Loving Husband calls me "Cookies for Dinner." I just ate 6. They were small, but still. And I had some for lunch, too. Cookies are just delicious--it's a fact, people.

And speaking as a person who has had two entirely separate and distinctive colds in one week, I feel justified in demanding preventatives in my sweets. I eat carrots and oranges like they're the healthful, semi-tasty items they are and I eat cookies like, well, cookies, so why not help a sister out?

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Today is Thursday and thus my day off. Thus far, I have eaten breakfast, read some Dorothy Parker, updated my blog, and sat around in my PJs. I plan to pray some, sit around some more, maybe make something with fabric, and relax. Good times.

memory unlimited

Had a drink and deep conversation with the nooma people yesterday. Nooma's a spirituality series for young adults--and before you run screaming into the other room, it's pretty good. This one was about how we're all wounded somehow and how we deal with those wounds. Like, do we try to exact revenge and does that work? Or do we just lay down and take it? Or do we forgive? And what does "forgive" mean, anyway? It was interesting to hear the guy say that sometimes forgive doesn't mean forget, it means remember. An abusive relationship can be forgiven but only if you get out and remember the situation. An alcoholic can be forgiven if she and you remember the effects of excess. Forgetting isn't always the way.

Loving Husband and I saw The Darjeeling Limited last night which is as awkward and broken as you'd expect a Wes "Life Aquatic" Anderson film to be. The brothers are on a spiritual journey, forced though it may be, and their clinging to their dead father's ridiculous orange Vuitton luggage is so evocative. Mom tells them that the past is over and done with, that they need to forget it. Francis says, "We can't." And, in their isolated lives, they shouldn't. There's an undercurrent of camaraderie among them--you believe they are estranged brothers--and in order to have any real relationship, they can't forget their pasts.

The prophet Isaiah says "I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins." There is joy in forgetfulness and in letting go. And sometimes there is an aching need to remember.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

how do you know?

Leading preschool chapel is akin to weeding. There's a lot of frustration and plodding work and then a sudden moment of enlightenment. In my back yard, it's pulling up a milkweed plant by the roots, satisfyingly whole. In preschool chapel, it's when a three-year-old asks, "How do you know when it's God talking to you?"

Saturday, November 03, 2007

moment of zen

Having just come from an edgy art gallery in the West End and driving down the interstate, my dangling and broken side-view mirror tucked safely inside the gaping window, the frigid cold breeze in my hair, and "Every little thing she does is magic" on the radio, I couldn't help thinking, "What a beautiful world."

levity makes the world go round

This is too funny. And, O, how I wish it were true!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Book Thoughts

Oberammergau: the Troubling Story of the World's Most Famous Passion Play by James Shapiro

The story goes that in 1633 the German village of Oberammergau was (mostly) spared from a plague. To celebrate the miracle, the villagers did what any red-blooded German of the seventeenth-century would do: they vowed to reenact the last week of Jesus' life every decade for ever. Fascinating as these "passion plays" are on their own, Shapiro is much more interested in the attitudes towards the Jews that both the play and the performers had. It is problematic, to say the least. Adolf Hitler was one of the play's greatest fans, applauding its take on the "mire and muck of Jewry." The Jews in the play wear horns or horn-like hats and are one-dimensional villains, set only on evil. One of the most interesting aspects is how a story of a Jew martyred by the Roman government becomes in performance the story of a Christian killed by Jews. For centuries, after almost any passion play or even during and after Holy Week (traditionally for Christians, the week leading up to Jesus' death and resurrection), Jews went into hiding, fearing for their lives as Christians sought them out to beat and kill them. Did the plays themselves help foster anti-Jewish sentiment or did people produce and attend them because of that sentiment?

And, yes, the Oberammergau play is still being performed. The current version of the play has been revised significantly. Jews no longer bear the guilt for Jesus' death in perpetuity and their characterization has improved somewhat. Still, the play suffers from more structural anti-Semitism. Can it be saved?


This past summer, we embarked on our first ever Junior High Mission Trip. It was a great success!

Just a week or so ago, we returned to the Dayton Street house for our first volunteer date. At the end of our YouthWorks mission, when I asked them what they were going to "take home" from the trip, the teens unanimously agreed that the Community Land Co-Op was amazing and that they wanted to go back and help more (one of the conveniences of doing mission in your own town). After a little more conversation, one teen T.K. volunteered to write up the paperwork for a mission grant from Redeemer if the group thought they could get the people-power to make a difference. She and I have begun that paperwork, making this the first youth-led mission initiative we've ever had.

And now we need your help. From the beginning, the seven teenagers on the mission trip wanted this to be an all-ages opportunity. Yard clean-up, wall demolishing, sheetrock hanging—these are not just for the youth but for our entire community to pitch in. If you can hold a trash bag or if you can hang cabinets, we need you! Parents, grandparents, singles young and old, and all the teenagers—be on the look-out for announcements and a sign-up sheet in the narthex. Our next volunteer date is tentatively scheduled for December 1 from 9am to 1pm. Throughout the winter, we will offer monthly opportunities for you to make a difference in exotic Cincinnati. Come join the fun and make a difference!