Friday, February 29, 2008


I have never thought Garfield was funny. Even when I was a small child, ostensibly delighted by a mouthy orange cat obsessed with lasagna, the back of my brain said, "Why are you reading this? It's not funny. It doesn't even make sense."

Enter "Garfield minus Garfield". This blogger has removed Garfield completely from the strip. It's reminiscent of another internet phenomenon wherein folk remove Garfield's thought balloons; Jon becomes a sad, single guy who talks to his cat. "Garfield minus Garfield," however, introduces an entirely new level of misery. Jon wanders around his empty house being alternately wacky, explosively angry, or quietly despairing. It is oddly beautiful.

Monday, February 25, 2008

book thoughts

Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster

A careful and heartfelt exploration of the spiritual life, it covers the disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. We cannot expect to recognize our experiences of God, much less understand them, without effort and sacrifice on our parts. God certainly acts in our lives and we, from time to time, see it happening, but we don't know what to do with it. Foster suggests that to deepen our relationships with our brothers and sisters and with God we must be intentional in our practice, both sacred and quotidian. This is the discipline of the title.

I have said for years that I don't fast well--my body doesn't accept the lack of food and I feel ill and miserable. I thought this was a legitimate thesis. And I suppose it can be in some cases. The natural result of fasting, however, is feeling ill, hungry, and kind of empty. The whole point is the discipline of it--getting through the misery of the early stages (and sometimes the middle ones as well) can lead to significant insights into what we hunger and whose we are. Having the discipline to continue in the face of difficulty is what sets the mature apart from the immature. An acquaintance of mine simply doesn't get this in even the simplest of terms. His attitude is that if something is hard or painful, it must therefore be bad and not worth doing. So he doesn't.

Many of you may remember Dumbledore's words to Harry: "The time is coming when we will all have to choose between what is right and what is easy." The Christian life to which we are called is not easy and is not something we can take for granted. To truly change the world and to be transformed ourselves, we must take intentional action. We must discipline ourselves like soldiers or professional artists to do what needs to be done. And there is joy beyond our expectations in that discipline.

Friday, February 15, 2008

v-day post

So, what does the deliriously happy yet appropriately cynical and modern couple do for Valentine's day? I don't know about them, but we drove to the north end of town ("God's country") to the Brazenhead for burgers and scotch, then to Target to buy a new printer, yet another set of plastic bins for comics, cheapo but cute sneakers, and fair-trade chocolate.

Flowers and romance? Pshaw. Nothing says love like a new USB cable.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

why i love julie taymor

She thinks this is beautiful. She also thinks abandoned, broken-down docks in New York are beautiful. She thinks the mostly-blank brick wall Jude and Max can see from their apartment in Across the Universe is beautiful. She sees the elegance and the pain in everyday things and elevates them--they're not pretty in a conventional sense, but they're beautiful.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

snow day

I don't so much get snow days. Loving Husband does as he's a school teacher. Here's a little secret: teachers are just as excited about snow days as the kids. I'm home this morning in the warmth, spending time with LH, eating a late breakfast, watching special features on Across the Universe, battling gnats--you know, the usual.

Will brave the elements (which aren't so bad as everyone says) in an hour or so. Makes me more concerned for those who have no shelter--how do they deal with the cold? with the wet?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

book thoughts

Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor

BBT is one of the most gifted preachers of the 21st century--I heard her preach in Washington, DC once and her words both convicted and raised me up. She writes about her journey as a woman and as a priest towards/with Jesus without hiding the blemishes and without glorifying her own triumphs. It's humanity longing for God at its best. Ultimately (and given the title, I don't think this is a spoiler), she leaves the church she had been pastoring, her patience with human structures fractured but her love of God undimmed. She writes, "After twenty years of serving Mother Church at the altar, I have pitched my tent in the yard, using much of what she taught me to make a way in the world" (222).

We can't give up on the things we struggle with. Sometimes we're on the margins, feeling rejected and unwanted. Sometimes we're in the center, wondering what all the fuss is about. We can never be content with where we are but listen to where God is moving. "Much that is certain at the center," says Taylor, "is up for grabs in the wilderness, while much that is real in the wilderness turns out to be far too feral for the center" (172). It's about balance, about knowing what's enough right now, about feeling the moment when change is necessary.

Taylor asks in her final chapter, "What is saving your life now?" (225) What gives you strength and hope? Who is the presence of God in your life?

Friday, February 08, 2008

how life is like a hangnail

As Charlie was preaching on Ash Wednesday, I realized I was worrying a hangnail on my thumb--rubbing it back and forth, every now and again picking at it half-heartedly. It was nervous energy focused on a tiny thing that, if I could smooth it out, fix it, all would be right with the world. It was the same with the Shrove Tuesday Auction. I was very ready this year--all ducks in a regimented row--and Monday night I lay awake, my thoughts racing over miniscule details. I created short To Do lists so I wouldn't forget in the morning, going over and over them, trying to smooth out things out so all would be well.

And of course all was well--the event was wonderful. But that's the point, isn't it? Worrying something means going over and over it with your hand or in your mind, memorizing the flaws until all you can see is the flaw. How could it possibly go well with so much wrong with it--O God, how did it come to this?

The worrying of a sore doesn't help. It fills my desire to do something but that's it. More often than not my worrying a hangnail leads to blood and pain. But how to get away from the need to worry? "You cannot by worrying add to your life a single day" says Joshuah bar-Joseph. But how to stop?

In worrying a hangnail, my finger is the sole focus of my mind. I am in the midst of a crisis--there is imperfection, there is roughness, there is challenge--which must be met. The world narrows to this one thing. It's no different with a work challenge or a personal worry--the thing which gives us pain or frustration becomes the locus of everything we do. There is no distance, no space to gain perspective--the worry is all. Centuries of Christian writers have said the answer is Sabbath. We need a moment separate from our daily worry to see things as they are. Easier said than done. We are commanded several times to take a day off yet, as Richard Foster writes in Celebration of Discipline we cannot convince ourselves that it's important enough to find the time. Sabbath seems like slacking off because we don't have anything to worry, because we don't have anything to keep us busy.

The thing that worries me is not all-consuming. The thing that worries me is not all-important. The thing that worries me is not an idol. The thing that worries me will pass.