Thursday, January 24, 2008

photographic brilliance

This guy is a photographer with no legs. He travels around the world taking photos of people as they stare at him and he talks about the reactions he gets. Fascinating stuff. After you read his statement, check out the gallery. I believe he's got the Holy Spirit just like my friend Jake has the Spirit when he plays drums.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Cleanliness is next to Godliness, they say. It’s usually one of those “mom sayings” that you think just means to clean behind your ears and put on deodorant every now and again. Or maybe you think about all those rules in the Hebrew Scriptures called the Holiness Code about what animals are clean and how unclean we all are if we touch a woman or wear mixed fibers. The weird thing is, it’s begun to make a lot of sense to me.

When I celebrate the Eucharist, I make a point to wash my hands before the service. The most effective way to prevent spreading disease is to wash your hands; at the same time, it cleans my soul, too. I feel lighter, more focused, cleaner, like I’ve just washed my mind and body. Standing in the Sacristy, listening to the choir, running hot water and soap over my hands is so ordinary yet so sacred—it’s like a deep breath. It also feels like a gesture of respect—I’m coming to the Table clean, not covered in dirt or in all the stresses of the week. There’s a reason that our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters take ceremonial baths before worship.

God has high expectations of us—we’re to be loving and accepting but also not take oppression or self-righteousness lightly. We’re to be holy, clean. I don’t think God expects us to be squeaky clean—we screw up and roll about in the dirt all the time—but trying to see our uncleanness is a good first step. Maybe if you spend some time cleaning up you’ll see God in the midst of that ordinary moment.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

calling to mind

In the Eucharistic prayer, there is a section called the anamnesis which means "remembering" or "calling to mind." You could take it to meant that the Meal is a memorial where we remember Jesus and what he said and did. You could also dig deeper and think of it as re-enacting his sacrifice (which would be mimesis or mimicry). Or, you could think of it as sense memory--a kind of combination of rational remembering and physical action. Anamnesis is a kind of metaphysical participation in the events of long ago in the here and now. It's not just something we do but something that forms us, makes us into new people.

I have to be constantly reminded of who I am. Not my name or my address but whose I am and what I'm called to do. It is so easy to forget, to justify my selfishness, to ignore the push at my back to live into the good news. Barbara Brown Taylor writes, "I pecked God on the cheek the same way I did Ed, drying up inside for want of making love." What we do as Christians is make love with God--interpret that any way you wish. It is not about drying up inside. It is not about simply mimicry, though that can lead you to a deeper relationship eventually. It is not about becoming Jesus either, no matter how much we want to. We are called to a dance of love in which we spin faster and faster, catching sight of the other dancers and not knowing where we end and they begin. We are called to anamnesis not just on Sunday mornings but in every moment of our lives--to remember in a visceral way, in our guts, that we are loved and that we are called to love. It will be messy and uncomfortable and it will be elegant and comforting. Embrace it, embrace God, embrace your neighbor and call to mind.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

the saga of the sink, abbreviated for your convenience

I just spent two days putting a new sink into my bathroom. That's right, two days. It was an odyssey of self-discovery and cathartic frustration. My father and I took four trips to the hardware store, one of which was easily 45 minutes long. We struggled like Titans and swore like sailors. Yesterday afternoon, we declared it finished and turned on the water for the moment of truth. It leaked. All over the place. I called the plumber.

Then my friend Mark came over. Mark, arriving with tool box in hand and a glow about his head and shoulders nigh unto a halo. He came, he saw, we conquered. We took the whole thing apart and put it back together. And, lo, the water runneth and doth not overflow.

book thoughts

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

I love the women in my life. I value their wisdom and their experiences, even when I disagree with them. I wish I had more close female friends. I feel the power of the feminine in my gut. I wish I had a sister. And all of this is increased exponentially while reading The Red Tent.

It's about Dinah who, the Hebrew Scriptures tell us, was so beautiful that a young man fell in love with her, raped her, then asked for her in marriage. Her 12 brothers (Joseph and that lot) were enraged and agreed to the marriage only if the man and his entire city would get circumcised. Then, on the third day and while the men were still in pain from the minor surgery, the brothers snuck in and killed them all. Dinah is property, is raped, and has nothing to say for herself. She disappears between the lines, dying the death of countless women through the ages.

Diamant brings her back to life. We hear her mothers' stories and learn about life in the red tent, the women's shelter for menstruation and childbirth. We hear about their rituals and their unflinchingly difficult lives. We hear about the power of shared female history, about the beauty of menstruation.

I don't know about you, but I feel like I've made apologies for being a woman for much of my life. Certainly things are different and better in 2007CE than 2007BCE, yet I grew up hating that time of the month, feeling embarrassed about what my body was doing, disgusted, mortified that someone would find out about it. For these women, the blood signifies not shame or the end of something but life. Beginning a new cycle of the moon means new life can come. Blood is so primal, so earthy; it connects these women to the soil they till by day and to the God who created it. They say men have feared a woman's menstruation, that she bleeds but does not die, and that is why women used to be isolated from the group. But these women voluntarily and joyfully go to the red tent to sing, to celebrate their lives, to take a couple days off. Later in her life, Dina says, "What can a woman tell a man about babies and blood?" It is so personal to us and yet so universal. Why are we ashamed?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

surprised by joy

I got my first cat-related puncture wound today. I know what you're thinking: "You have a cat? You hate cats!" That I do. Or rather I had convinced myself I hated cats. See, I'm very allergic to their dander--so allergic that I've been known to walk into a cat-infested home and immediately begin sneezing.

Let's be clear: it's an outside cat. Period. No matter how soft-hearted I am and no matter how cold it gets, it will not enter the allergy-free zone of our home. And by "allergy-free" I mean cat-allergy-free zone--we've got piles of dust that have formed interest groups and theological debating clubs. It sleeps on the porch in a make-shift recycling bin bed and I took it to the vet for the first time today. Her name should have been something like Mahitabell or Patricia or St. Swithen but she's ended up as Kit-Kat. I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind. Kit-Kat experienced some trepidation when the crate came out. After a few minutes of the nice method, i.e. my putting delicious food in the crate and waiting for her to go inside so I could close the cage, I gave up and just crammed her in there, legs akimbo and protesting loudly. I got scratched on my stomach for my troubles and then later at the vet she swiped with her savage claws and I began bleeding profusely from three punctures in my fingers. All the while she was either crying piteously or making a small, domesticated cat version of a roar. Very disconcerting. But, she's home, she's had shots and topical applications and has been cleared for spaying sometime in the near future.

And before you ask, I will absolutely NOT be one of those people with "My cat is smarter than your honor student" bumper stickers or cute kitten Christmas cards or any other cat-themed merchandise. Be warned--if it is given, even in jest, it will end up in the dumpster. All that said, I love Kit-Kat. She's surprisingly affectionate. She's beautiful. And I've never had a pet all my own (read: that I have to feed and pay for all it's vet bills).