I just have to point out that I received something like 20 hits this week from people googling "bow-legged economy" and "copulating inanimate objects."
I am pleased with myself and because I am a twisted individual, I will post a link to the #1 hit for "copulating inanimate objects." I mean, what kind of world is this when we can't leave our picnic tables alone?
I watched the old Spencer Tracy movie "Judgment at Nuremberg" yesterday. I also saw footage of a woman in Zimbabwe and her four-month-old baby who are both certainly near death from cholera. (Cholera. Cholera? I've never even heard of someone contracting cholera.)
I woke in the night and couldn't expunge these images from my mind.
This morning, I'm left with the question of how we cope with witnessing this kind of horror. My grandfather (we think) participated in the liberation of Dachau. But I can't even see 70-year-old footage without losing sleep. After visiting the camp all of these years later, I lost sleep for nearly a year. I am haunted. In a true sense. The unanswerable question gnaws at the corners of my mind: did He forget them? Can He forget me?
How do I put this to bed in my mind? How do we continue to live and eat and breathe and have babies knowing what kind of world this is?
What do I do now?
These are honest questions. I can't but despair in finding their answers.
"I was as helpless as the female victim of arranged marriage who, upon seeing the horrible visage of her chosen mate, shrieks in vain."
"His world was filled with copulating inanimate objects and people getting their faces ripped off."
"The mortgage traders emitted such evil vibes that I carved a wide loop around them every afternoon...They were known for hurling phones at the heads of trainees and were said to have installed extra-long cords to increase their range."
I generally pretend not to notice when I get tagged to participate in blog-games like this, but this request came from Tony (Sand in the Gears), who I strongly suspect is a bit of the Real Deal and so I happily comply.
Here are the rules:
Link to the person who tagged you.
Post the rules on your blog.
Write 6 random things about yourself.
Tag 6-ish people at the end of your post.
Let each person know he/she has been tagged.
Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
1. My favorite smell right now is Carrie's breath. I can smell it when I go into her room and it makes me feel very deeply contented. When she was in the NICU, her nurse changed her clothes and stuffed her little froggie pajamas into a cubby under her crib. I found them and held them to my nose and smelled that little new baby and wept and wept and wept.
2. My favorite hobby right now is making up answers for the question my father-in-law will undoubtedly ask me when I see him at Thanksgiving. So, what ARE you going to do with this degree? Right now, I plan to say "Well, I've always wanted to live in an Airstream trailer," because the more of a non sequitur my answer is, the better to elicit that flummoxed expression of which I've grown so fond.
3. It occurs to me that the best things in my life (except for Carrie) were used and discarded by someone else.
4. Every time I see her husband I think she got what she deserved.
5. My husband brought my coffee in my Santa mug this morning and it was a greater expression of love than any jewelry or expensive gift could ever convey. (Especially when he covered Santa's eyes and said "Where's SANTA?!" And I said "THERE he is!")
6. I am learning to tend my own fire. And trying to tend to other people's fires is the number one thing I confess each week before Holy Communion.
I don't know if I'm allowed to link to all of these people, but I tag:
David (David has been including some of his market-color as of late. He is brilliant. And he is mine.)
I've a string of random thoughts running through my mind this morning. Half of them are remnants from the conversation I had with myself this morning at 4 am when I sat in the dark, nursing my baby and feeling grateful for my grandmother's fuzzy white house-shoes and her black-and-white chair both of which I still use when I'm nursing my baby at 4-am.
I read Eugene Peterson's "The Contemplative Pastor" yesterday. (There is a lot of time to read when one nurses a baby in the midst of a growth-spurt.) This is the primary question I have for Mr. Peterson: When did our pastors start to hate us? To read his words is to be impressed that his congregation sits in the pews Sunday by Sunday spitting sunflower seeds in the floor and farting smellily while he tries his best to exegete some truth into their thick and unrefined headspaces. He also completely misquotes not only Herman Melville, but Ralph Waldo Emerson as well compounding his error by referring to him only as "Waldo." And so, I leave doubly offended, both as a church-member and as a student of American literature. Please, if you ever write a book, don't quote something you haven't read. Because rest assured, someone has and they will beg you return so they may taunt you a second time. And perhaps even catapult a cow in your general direction.
My second random thought revolves around the sweetest (non-religious of course) words I think I've ever heard at church: "We need some more men in leadership." These words are made sweeter by the able men who stood up to volunteer. When men and women work together good things happen.
And now, this session of head-emptying must come to an end as the baby is hungry. Again. Amen.
Alabama has famously tricksy weather. Every September, just as you start to believe that the scorching heat of summer has begun to submit to the soft hands of autumn, the temperatures reverse and you find yourself slogging through a pumpkin patch in eighty-five degree heat in a sweater and jeans. But this is my thirty-second Alabama autumn, and I won't be fooled again. I am on to you Alabama. I am as wily as leviathan and you can't catch me.
My roses are blooming again in the cooler weather. Two climbing red Don Juans are exploding on either side of my porch steps as I speak. My rambunctious Sir Thomas Liptons are putting out leaves and fragrant white blossoms. Two Marie Pavie shrubs are making clouds of soft pink flowers that smell like heaven and my lone Cecile Brunner is trying to keep up. A yellow climber has shot up past the baby's window and out a hole in the eaves. It's blooming on the roof giving my cottage a kind of elegantly ramshackle appeal. How I perceive this particular effect depends entirely on my mood. When I'm confident and happy, it's the epitome of shabby chic. When I'm depressed and tired, it's just a hole in the roof. Nevertheless, I'm happy that the baby can look at those happy flowers as she drifts off to sleep.
It's quiet in the house. In fact, I've been studying quietness. It's a lesson coming to me. I perceive it with my spiritual rabbit-ear antennae and I am swaying and twisting in the window to shake off the snow of distraction and fatigue to get better reception. (Silly Literary Device. Metaphors are for poets.)
In his commentary on First Thessalonians 4, Matthew Henry writes that it is a most desirable thing to have a calm and quiet temper and to be of a calm, quiet behavior. Satan, he writes, is very busy to disquiet us and we have it in our own hearts that which disposes us to disquiet. I'm afraid that in the wake of the worries aroused by the current economic difficulty we seem to be experiencing (or more accurately, in the wake of all the Media Coverage of the current economic difficulty we seem to be experiencing) and the lack of confidence we seem to have in the pair of boneheads running for President, it is more difficult than Henry could have imagined to ward of the disquiet of our souls. (One word of political advice: when faced with a pair of boneheads, choose the one who isn't a Communist. I'm just saying...) Surely, William Wordsworth would recognize all of this insanity as the revenge of the "Savage Torpor" with which we have been overrun.
But I feel it, nonetheless. It's an urging and a pulling of the Holy Spirit to be quiet. To be calm. Not of speech, perhaps, but of nature. I'm perceiving the message in various places and I raise my aerial high on the rooftops of my mind. (That was even worse than the first one.)
Suffice it to say, the internets isn't getting my best writing these days. I need a break from the whole buzz of this particular blog scene. It makes me tired. And I need a break from you, dear readers. But just because I can, and just because it isn't often a girl can present the world with a photograph that would have captured all her adolescent hopes, I give you this representation of the life I'd always hoped I would lead. (Thank you jd wilson.)
My contribution to the Greater Birmingham Community this year was to show what a girl looks like after an emergency C-section and a week in the hospital. Sitting for the photograph was not as brave as say, storming Omaha Beach, but it was my Iwo Jima.
I have spent more of my life being lonely than not. Maybe that's why I love lonely places--summer camps in September, empty sanctuaries, the beach when school started Monday and a hurricane is coming. And that's where I find myself today. Nobody is on the beach. Nobody is in the restauraunts. Nobody clogging up the shops. And I like it. But it feels a little lonely.
I have a friend with a new baby (newer than mine by a month) in the NICU at Children's with an infection spread by some nurse who didn't think it worth his or her time to wash their hands before handing a little baby too new to be home from the hospital. I'm angry about it. Is that not the first friggen thing you LEARN in nursing school?
Having a baby in the NICU is the worst thing that can happen to you short of not having a baby in the NICU. I can't fathom this. I can't understand this. And I'm sad about it.
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
To strive to seek to find and not to yield.
I put this quote from Tennyson's "Ulysses" on my family site. There aren't a lot of critics looking Tennyson or at the old thrice-named "Fireside Poets" these days, and I'm inclined to believe it is because of the influence of some of the post-modern critics. They've sucked the cool right out of celebrating the human spirit. It's better, they say, to try to find some meaning in the unintelligible. And no one has taken the time (the risk?) to say that makes not one damn bit of sense. But, and herein lies the proverbial rub, human beings haven't moved past the era of needing to celebrate the noble aspects of their character. I know that I haven't, and that's why I relish this quote almost as if it were scripture.
These days, I feel my strength diminished by the events of my life. I'm not who I was in this picture. I'll never be that person again. To be honest, that used to scare me. It used to scare me a lot, actually. But then I started taking inventory of my life and realizing that in my early 20's, I made decisions with an aim to keep my options open. I didn't want to do anything that might keep me from doing something else. And then, I got married and in one day closed down many of my long-cherished (but little used) life options. I realized after a while doing so allowed me to focus on a profoundly meaningful and rich relationship with my husband. We both sacrificed freedom to be with each other for the rest of our lives. We're not so broad in our acquaintances anymore, but we run deep. And that's a good thing. Take that same principle, ratchet up the ante about 100 percent, then add it to the concept of making a baby...you see where I'm going with that. I have (maybe) three things in my life that are important to me these days and I don't have time for much else. What I lack in variety I more than make up for in richness. And that, I believe, is what your 30's are about.
So that's why I love this quote. I'm over needing the glory. I'm beaten and broken and tired and older. But I'm brave. And I'm not finished here yet.
I woke up this morning feeling lonely. The first real boyfriend I ever had always laughed at me for announcing my feelings like some sort of overly emotive train conductor abusing the loudspeaker. I don't think I've grown out of that habit because as soon as I had identified the disquieted feeling I woke up with, I cried out "I'm feeling lonely!" and D. abandoned his Wall Street Journal to come and see what new pregnant weirdness I had to share today. As I'm writing this, I realize what a basic need is met when you can cry out into the void (even if the void only gives way to your kitchen table) and have someone answer. It keeps you sane in a sense. They say that you should never ignore the cry of a newborn baby because that baby somehow needs to know that you're going to respond. After nine months of never being separated from their mother, they don't understand what it is to be alone. I think that after being created to enjoy the constant presence of God, we don't understand loneliness either.
All of this made me think back to one of the few times I've ever felt absolutely alone and the desperation I felt to connect with someone, something. The sad part about it was that I couldn't manage to do it. My mind jumped from topic to topic so fast that I couldn't carry my part of a decent conversation. I didn't understand my own feelings well enough to share them. I couldn't even manage to find comfort for my physical body. My favorite chair, my bed, my sofa all felt foreign and uncomfortable. I ended up sleeping wrapped in a quilt on my floor. I even stopped bothering to turn on the hot water in the shower. When it was all over, I had a little kerosene lantern light of understanding to illumine the nature of human desperation and what it does to make us unravel our lives in search of one ounce (or gram) of comfort even knowing it to be short-lived and ultimately destructive.
And then, I thought of her. Some of my long-term readers might remember the story of my neighbor who I watched disintegrate from being a single mother with a good job to being arrested for prostitution and possession several times over the course of a spring and summer before she was finally extradited to Florida to face a drug charge.
She is, it occurs to me, a perfect example of loneliness and what it can do to derail a life. The last time I saw her, she was coming out of a Southtown housing project stuffing something into her pocket and looking around anxiously. The need for heroin must be that intense. Once, I saw a man sit down on the curb across from the downtown post office and cook up not even bothering to pull his fix through a ball of cotton to filter out visible impurities before he tied up and nodded off into the gutter. He licked his lips when he hit a vein and saw the blood register and threw his head back in satisfaction before rolling into the street. And I think it's loneliness. I think it's that kind of crazy loneliness that doesn't even respond to human interaction, but crowds out every memory of past pleasantness all the while screaming for some kind of chemical satisfaction in the face of certain destruction. I know that kind of loneliness and there but for the grace of God I go. Wasn't there any grace for her?
Every now and then, I try to find her online, just to see if she's clean or if her name shows up on internet logs of local newspaper crime blotters. For a while, I didn't find anything. But last week, she was arrested for passing a counterfeit $50 at a water park. When the police searched her motel room and found another $50 with the same serial number, she admitted to having received the money in exchange for sex. I'm heartbroken for her if not surprised. But the thing that I can't get out of my mind, despite my desperation to articulate something deep and meaningful about this happening, is the literal life lesson inherent in this fable. She traded herself for something, and got paid in fake currency. And that, it seems to me, is the root of Evil in the world. The seduction of something sweet that takes your life and demands more only to satisfy its debt with worthlessness.
Where is mercy?
Maybe I can make something of that when it isn't so fresh.
Looking at my class schedule for the fall, I start to feel excited in a new-pencil, fresh-notebook, starting over kind of way and I remember a yellow lunchbox with a picture of a brown horse. I remember autumn and the idea that good things happen in the fall. I am always beginning the world.
I had some calls this weekend asking about how things are going. I think we scared some people last week with our drams, but we seem to be past it now. I'm on my left side a lot these days (most of the time) but I'm doing well. C. is a trooper. I have to take things day by day so that I don't absolutely go out of my mind in anticipation of making her acquaintance. And being that I'm bored and riddled with natural impatience, that's not so easy. I don't know specifically what to pray for, so I'm just asking God to take care of us and I feel like he really is. I covet your prayers. We need to make it another two weeks or so. I am starting to go blind with anticipation.
I feel so loved by my church family. I've never experienced anything quite like it and I find it so humbling that it makes me weep. I am so grateful. I am so grateful. Sometimes, church doesn't suck. And if you know me at all, you know that's a big deal for me.
I probably won't blog for awhile because I've got some other fish to fry, so Peace Out for the time being internets friends.
This is a beautiful morning in Birmingham. The usually smoggy sky is clear providing something like a stage backdrop for the dancing green leaves growing on the old hardwoods still populating the neighborhood. Last summer, a Ford F250 of urban foresters came through and cataloged all of the old trees, what condition they were in, and their suspected ages. Winged Elm (ulmus altata) split like praying hands to accommodate power lines, common Chinaberry looming protectively above my cottage. Actually an Ent, I believe.
Derrick and his mother came down the street now accompanied by a new baby in addition to the sister. Corduroy growled. That, said Derrick's mom, is not a nice dog. I wanted to come off the porch and do something aggressive. Later, the Holy Spirit said What was it you were going to do, huh? Toddle off the porch and waddle around her a few times? And I laughed. And now I'm laughing at the startling familiarity I have with a God who makes fun of me from time to time. My God. The binder of quarks and the ruler of worlds. Amen, hallelujah.
A few weeks ago, I walked past Derrick's house and saw a bloodied and blistered muzzle pressed through a hole gnawed through the front steps from the dark basement below. A dog left to gnaw his way to sunlight from the dark basement where he lives. His pink nose sniffing fresh-aired freedom greedily as if it were a rare steak just beyond the scope of his reach. Several calls to the animal cruelty office of the BPD and I haven't seen him again. I hope he is ok. I hope the children are ok. The front porch is littered with discarded toys, trash bags, food containers, broken baby equipment. The house is overrun with clutter.
As un-Christian as it is, I think I hate this woman. Gone are the lofty ideas I had for loving her and the hopes I had that her burden would somehow be lighter so that she would feel the freedom to stop calling Derrick names and start being a good parent.
Now, I'm left to consider the cold possibility that rather than working-class stress, her inability to function at a basic level is the result of a not-so-rare-but-not-so-very-politically-correct-to-mention combination of selfishness, commonness and stupidity. In some ways, she's a metaphor for the slow death of my own idealism. I came to this neighborhood for a no-longer neighborhood church that I don't attend anymore with some kind of half-baked hope that I could make a difference here. I recognize the ingredients of that hope now: three parts Wendell Berry, two parts Tim Keller, and half a part each of white guilt and arrogance. My hope fell like a chocolate soufflé baked in a basketball gym.
I didn't expect to be here by now. I didn't expect for God to make a way for my family to thrive here. But he did. And here is where I am. If it's possible, I love this place more than I did before. I love the quirkiness of the city. I love the green of the leaves. I'm learning to love a new church community. And I am grateful for my unanswered prayers. Slowly, slowly, slowly, I'm growing into a new kind of hope for my city that settles not on the vain philosophies of poetry and big-city wisdom dripped down the Mississippi past the Mason-Dixon, but on the notion of the Sovereignty of a God who was and is and is to come. His ideas of urban renewal haven't changed. His ideas of what it means to be a Christian haven't evolved past what I recently heard referred to as "the kind of Christianity that deals with obedience." We've changed. And maybe not for the better.
But now I see that this is the place where I don't pretend I don't hate my neighbors. And this is the place where I don't deny that I'd rather be left alone. And this is the place where I don't try to convince people that it is safe to live in this neighborhood or that I don't feel intimidated when I see a car with tinted windows cruising slowly down my street.
Here is the place where I put to death the hatred and the ungodly introversion, and the fear and exchange them for a raw kind of obedience that does what it should when it doesn't want to. I put death to judgment, to condemnation, to hatred. Of myself and of my neighbor. And I get on with the business of being a Christian planted in an unfamiliar garden, at least for awhile. I repent for now. I'll be back to do it again before lunch.
I had an opportunity to talk to one of my favorite people this afternoon about some strange phenomena she has experienced in her house lately. People like to talk to me about such things because I do, at least by popular definition, live in a haunted house. I've seen a few strange things and experienced one really frightening thing, but that's not really the point of this post. I guess I just want to think some of this through. And if you've got an opinion, I'm interested.
I've heard the theory that particularly strong emotions can be "imprinted" as energy on wood, stone, and concrete and that the events surrounding (or perhaps invoking) these emotions can be replayed over and over again like a movie for people to see. This might explain, says the theory, what people are actually seeing when they see "ghosts" walking up stairs or down the sidewalk or whatever. Energy can also be replayed as sound. I don't know about all that, but I do wonder (and tend to believe) that our emotions do remain in a place we've inhabited for a long time. Our prayers, love, attitudes, and hopes might well remain as energy that can be perceived by others long after we're gone.
I think I have a little of that going on in my house. The family who lived the longest in this little bungalow raised five children here. The husband sold men's shoes at a department store down town for almost all fifty of the years they lived here. I imagine him taking the streetcar down 20th Street almost every day for that long. They undoubtedly saw their grandchildren here and they might have even died here. I can't fathom how much love and life and emotion they experienced in this little house. It's always felt like a particularly peaceful place and people often comment that they feel welcome here. I have to wonder if that has something to do with all the love and care the Park family put into this house. I think so. I was interested to find out that after Mr. and Mrs. Park died and the house was sold, their daughter Susan (really, can't make that up) bought back the house and lived here for several more years. The really weird stuff that happens here, however, I can't explain. I don't even have a theory.
That being said, I truly perceive some danger in "ghost hunting." The scriptures contain several fairly unambiguous warnings to avoid psychics and mediums and fortune-tellers and I happen to believe that God knows that we might inadvertently come into contact with a really wicked spirit rather than the long lost relative we mean to contact. If the devil is the "father of lies," than I can't expect demons to be much more truthful. Might it be possible for a really evil spirit to tell you that it is Aunt Pat? I think maybe. So, it seems foolish (and frankly, probably sinful being that the scripture prohibits it) to use a ouija board or try and record E.V.P.s or to visit Lady Esmerelda down on Bessemer Super Highway.
This seemed to be a fairly popular topic of conversation in certain Christian circles back in the '80s. At my Christian school, I even had a teacher tell us about an encounter he had with what he thought was a demon as he slept! (Do you remember that C.C.P.?) It scared me for years. Anyway, Corrie Ten Boom wrote a book about such matters that I always found interesting. As a Holocaust survivor, she had ample opportunity to see how Evil can affect human beings. So, all this to say. I'm kind of caught up in processing these issues.
You remember those '80s movies that so often starred Matthew Modine and were about this rebel graduate student and all his friends and there would be this one older student who everyone liked, but who could never do anything because she was either incredibly pregnant or already had a small child and she would have this supportive yet quiet husband who everyone also liked but nobody really got to know very well because he was busy working to pay for his wife's graduate school and also the baby they were about to have or the small child? (Think Gross Anatomy.)
There are a lot of things I'd like to write about today. I've got a lot on my mind. I need to spend some time writing for real—and not just for blog—about these things, but it might prove helpful just to make a short list and work on it as I can. Here goes (in no particular order):
C.S. Lewis was a most devoted Angl0-Catholic who went for regular confession with his priest. I am not exactly that kind of Anglican, but I wonder about confession and if I would find it helpful.
I realize that the main reasons I tend toward being politically conservative are that I want to be left alone and that I don't believe the government is smarter than me. But mostly, that I want to be left alone.
I am sad about the condition of the Presbyterian Church and I haven't a clue if what I'm seeing is something new or just something I'm seeing because I'm not Presbyterian any more. As much as I've gained from being a Presbyterian, it was never the room off the hall of Mere Christianity I chose for myself. (To borrow Lewis's metaphor.)
I am secretly (well, not so secretly anymore) glad that the economy is tanking. We, as a society, need to feel some pain before we can make some positive changes in the way we manage resources natural and otherwise. I hope that the government won't send us any more stimulus money, but I think they probably will. And we will hide it in a jar in the backyard just like they don't want us to. (Can't they just, I don't know, lower our taxes for Pete's sake?)
I miss school. I miss school a lot. What am I going to do when I actually graduate?
I'm making new friends and they are not typically the kind of friends I would choose for myself. And this is a sign of progress. And it is also somewhat scary.
I have an urge (that I won't follow) to get some kind of tattoo or something. I think I'm in the throws of some kind of rite of passage that I'm trying to commemorate. Maybe I'll just burn some sage and dance around instead. I would regret a tattoo almost immediately I'm sure.
I often pass a mentally retarded woman waiting for the bus at the stop at the end of our street. She stands near the middle of the street, her face eagerly fixed in anticipation of the bus to come careening down the hill (narrowly avoiding disaster with parked cars and pedestrians) and pick her up. I always smile and wave. She smiles up innocently....and gives me the finger. True story. Never fails.
I read something this week—actually, I read it several times—that has been digging into my mind for days. I have to stop and examine this and try to determine why I can’t stop rolling it over like a fallen log to see what kind of squiggling truths will emerge from underneath.
Here’s what I’ve come up with:
I believe that I’ve apprehended my calling in life based upon the situations in which God has placed me. The three primary spheres of my life—family, church, and “career” for lack of a better term (artreer maybe?)—are the arenas in which I’m called to function according to my personal bent. I know this for sure because, in the immortal words of Buckaroo Bonzai, “Wherever you go, there you are, Man.” But to understand not only that you have been called but to what even before it happens is an extraordinary act of faith and I am stirred up and excited by it. I believe this is the Holy Spirit telling me that there is an opportunity to see him working if I’ll pray and pay attention. A vision is soon to be born. I feel it. And I find it somewhat thrilling.
There’s also no lack of conviction that comes to me as I read these words, either, but it is the kind of conviction that comes with hope. To me, this is the distinctive of conviction brought by the Holy Spirit as opposed to guilt brought by Evil. If we can be convicted and hopeful at the same time, we’re on to something true. I’m convicted that I don’t regard my life as a calling more. I’m convicted that I don’t participate as a supervised craftsman to bring my own vision into being and I’m going to work on understanding exactly how to engage with that task.
Something about this whole thing, both the original work and my musings about it, shout that I’m on to something here. And I’m excited.
(But to be honest, I am somewhat concerned that this post has taken on the tenor of some kind of radical homeschooling housewife And I'm not really excited about that. Cause I'm not. Really. Not a pair of Keds or a denim jumper to be found.)
I want to eat a watermelon. Like right now. And I'm gonna.
David wore the empathy belly last night at class and I realized that he already had a lot of empathy. He didn't pretend it was easy to roll out of bed, unlike all the other dads who were jumping around squeezing the boobies and saying "why are you always complaining then?" You should never put a redneck in a suit with big boobies. This is a good lesson for everyone. They have some kind of reflex that makes them incapable of humane interaction with others when faced with such over-stimulation. But they are funny nonetheless.
I miss school and I'm ready to get back.
I'm already tired of elastic pants. (I never ever thought I could tire of elastic pants! Who woulda thunk it?)
It's cheaper to go to the hospital and get cut open than it is to take a Golden Retriever to the vet. By quite a lot, actually.
And I realize that this is the most I've written about my adventure to date. Don't expect much more.
The weathermen are frantic. On every channel it’s the same. Middle aged and balding, they flick back and forth between satellite images like moths banging against lightbulbs. We can’t even have the pleasure of a good storm anymore. They ruin everything. I am fortunate that the rabbit ears on the television don’t function well in a storm and I am thus provided with a good excuse for being ignorant. Should I blow away and end up dazed and naked in a field somewhere in Georgia, it won’t be my fault.
I remember the second summer I lived at Camp Greystone. We, being the lowest-ranking staff members, shared a cabin that usually had running water and electricity, but often behaved like the 90-year-old man it was when the worst summer storms rolled over Grandfather Mountain and into camp. Fortunately, when the storm was bad enough to shut down the well pump, it was most often raining and we could stand on the porch under the drain-spout deluge and brush our teeth and wash our hair and get some water for the teapot. The rainwater was undoubtedly as clean as the water coming up from the well. It wasn’t unusual to have to run the tap for a few moments to flush out the peaty leavings in the pipe before filling the kettle or the tub. The water smelled like Lake Summit, that is to say, ancient and earthy like water probably would smell if we didn’t chlorinate and fluoridate it to kill wee beasties and cavity creeps. We lived like this in 12-week stretches for $125 a week.
Yesterday, I waddled into the strawberry patch and picked three buckets of strawberries for jamming and eating. I like to pick them myself because I know which berries are ripe enough for my jam. The key is to get them fully ripened and jam them soon. I hope to get to that Sunday afternoon sometime. I had a hard time picking berries this spring!
From the patch, I could see several acres of farmland spread out underneath the blue sky. Two turkey buzzards patrolled a far pasture. A tractor lumbered across a mud road. The berries hung small and red underneath their green leaves. A honey bee with pollen-swollen back legs worked between amid the white blossoms. (I am thankful that the Alabama department of Agriculture functions better than the rest of the state agencies assuring that we still have honeybees here!) The green berries emerged like little fairy hats from underneath the spent blossoms.
This is Alabama. I love the fruit and the vegetables that grow here. I love the pickup trucks and farmers. I love the weirdness of this state, the smell of foundry in the city, the beach, the mountain. I want to take Alabama and make it part of me. I internalize it and save it for later in case it succumbs to the Atlanta influence and become another faceless city-state like all the others surrounded in highway cloverleaves built to facilitate ego trips. There's something to this that makes me realize that loving Alabama despite its faults is something akin to loving myself. I'm learning that you can't run from what you are. It follows.
Last night, I presented my final paper for graduate seminar. It was about some of Wendell Berry's poetry and Barry Lopez's small book of stories from Field Notes.
I don't quite know how I feel about Wendell Berry now. Well, as a student, I don't have to feel much of anything, but as a reader I'm required to come up with something profound to feel about his work. I've got nothing. But, I'm afraid I don't love it anywhere near as much as I think I'm supposed to. I'm not sure we'll be reading Wendell Berry 20 years from now with the same gusto. Well, Certain Christian communities will read his work forever, I imagine. I'm absolutely astonished how much his philosophies have shaped some churches. Wow. The First Church of Wendell Berry. I'm not sure I want a part of that. One of the papers last night was about the Buddhist themes of his Sabbath poems. It was very interesting. You can make a very strong case that he's a Buddhist and not a Christian after all. (I don't know what he is.)
As I drove away past Flower Hill and the ancient oaks, past the crickets that make the quintessential sound of summertime, past the little houses and fields I realized how I've come to love this place and how it has come to love me. It means more to me than a graduate degree. It means redemption and hope and the chance to prove to myself that I'm not as stupid as I've been told. As I write this, I realize that it's been a long time since anyone made me feel stupid. And that's progress.
I'm proud of myself. This semester was hard. I never would have imagined how hard. But, I did it. And I'm thankful. It is, as my friend Amy would say, a B.F.D. for me.
I realize that the person who left class last night in my body, even though I'm registered to come back in the fall, won't be the person who comes back. It's a sad and a happy thought. I'm not my own anymore. My vision of how being a graduate student would be has been drastically altered. I'm grateful and excited and nostalgic for what might have been. I think that nostalgia comes from not fully understanding what will be.
So, for now, I'm home. I'm going to finish (or start) getting the little room cleaned up and ready. I'm going to cook. I'm going to walk the dog. I'm going to read what I want to read and I'm going to go to church. I'm going to garden and plant tomatoes. And I'm going to wait.
I hate earning it. (Not that I've done that for awhile.) I hate not earning it. I hate spending it. I hate saving it. I hate wasting it. I hate keeping up with the ways we haven't wasted it. I hate having the stuff it buys. I hate not having the stuff it buys. I hate how anxious it makes me. I hate how obsessed people are with it and how they use it to measure their worth. I hate the bank. I hate cash. I hate my checkbook. I hate my credit card. I hate my mortgage. (I love my house.) I hate all of my bills. I hate the stupid budget software. I hate the budget. I hate not having the budget.
I hate money. I hate money more than I've ever hated anything else. And having experienced both from time to time, I can honestly say that I hate the having as much as the having-not.
I don't have time to write this post. I've got my final research papers due this week and a research presentation to complete by tomorrow night. This is some very important work for me because it will be the last time I have an opportunity to be in school until after I finish the "project" I'm hoping to complete this summer. (The "project," by the way, is giving me heartburn and very much joy.)
When I was a child, I attended a very conservative Christian school for about 9 years. It was a difficult experience in many ways, not the least of these was that I was constantly made to attend to matters of Theological Importance often presented in inept and unkind ways. Honest debate between teacher and student was prohibited in most cases, and to attempt to engage in such debate was a punishable offense in many others. The teachers, you see, having adult brains with which to engage those of children, can easily nail you for such nebulous infractions as having a "bad attitude" or being "disrespectful." I, having been punished for each of these crimes at one time or another, have come to realize that they each boil down to asking questions. But you can't exactly punish a kid for asking a question in school now can you? (Or, can you? Insert sinister snicker here.)
Surprisingly, many of the students to be extruded from this sausage factory of education came out pretty well. Not surprisingly, many of the ones who appear to be doing pretty well are actually pretty damaged. Especially the ones who don't think so.
I don't usually think about this experience too much, but I'm recently reminded of how narrow the margins of "acceptable thought" can be in some Christian communities. Especially educational communities. I am dismayed that some institutions still don't allow honest questions. I am dismayed that the Christian educational community which was, let's face it, the Mother of All Educational Communities can be so, well, un-educational.
I don't even know what to say about this as I face the daunting fact that the educational choices we can pursue for our "project" are going to be limited to Dogmatic Christian Fascism and Radically Leftist Socialism. And that's if we're lucky enough to be able to pay for them. If we aren't, we'll always be able to turn to those schools run by the Federal No Child Left Behind Act. And that doesn't seem like a good choice either.
I am dismayed. Maybe I'll just buy myself a denim jumper and some Keds and do the job myself.
I saw the priest from the Orthodox parish down the street playing football with some children in the yard beside the church. Father! Father! Over here!Father! Look at me, Father! I'm open! His unruly vestments flapped joyfully behind him as he avoided the tackles of a dozen small hands and ran in a touchdown. I felt the laughter of Jesus resounding through the city, bouncing off the hospital, down the streets of the housing projects, across the Interstate, into the heart of God.
Today is Maundy Thursday. This is the day we celebrate the institution of the Last Supper and remember the time Christ spent with his disciples in the Upper Room on the last night of his life.
Lately, I have taken stock of the blessings Christ left us when he left his physical body and ascended into heaven. Holy Communion is one of those blessings. I am so grateful for anything that gives me the opportunity to remember Christ and his passion for the remission of my sins. I am grateful for anything that blazes the trail to Him.
I am grateful for the liturgy. I am supremely grateful for the opportunity to read the scripture in my own language and for the people who gave their lives to present this gift to me. I am grateful to live in a country where I can attend a religious service without fear of reprisals. I am grateful that I can pray to God at any time of the day or night and expect an audience on the authority of a crucified Christ. I am grateful that I can stand up in a liberal university setting and say who I am and what I believe and not have the credibility of my work come into question.
I do not believe that we as Gen X (and younger) Christians realize the freedom we have in Christ, yes, but also in society to practice our religion boldly. We neglect praying for one another even though it is the lifeline of our very beings. We neglect the scripture even though it is easy to obtain and to read. We neglect Holy Communion even though there is no consequence to taking it. We neglect the opportunity to make simple confessions of who we are without evangelizing or making head-on attempts to convert. And we can. We can do it fearlessly! We must not neglect these things because when we do, we do so to our own detriment.
The devil (and I believe it was the devil) has laid a burden of guilt on our heads for what has been wickedly done in Christ's name in the past. Most of the people reading this blog know what I mean. Many, many of us have been crushed by the wickedly religious actions of a few spiritual "authorities." I know I have. But to reject the opportunity to practice my religion in freedom and boldness does not atone for those sins. In fact, it deepens their influence by making me a silent bystander instead of a bold worshiper who would seek to lay claim to the truth purchased with the blood of the reformers, of the martyrs, of Christ.
Oh, what a sin I have committed by hiding the truth of my life. The truth of my life is that I am a Christian. I won't say "follower of Christ." I won't say "truth-seeker." I won't say anything that would keep me from having to embrace that ancient insult that marked my forefathers and foremothers in the faith. I am a Christian. I believe in the authority of Scripture, I believe in the power of prayer, I believe that Jesus Christ himself is present in the bread and the wine. I believe Christ is the Way. And yet, despite this freedom to publish this confession for thousands to read, I am humbled by this admission. Who am I? Gentile child. Female, too. Rejected by others, loved by Christ. Who am I to lay hold of the power of an Almighty God to reach down and save me? Nobody. Praise be to God.
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
Tonight D. and I are attending Maundy Thursday service. I'm not going to publish where I go to church because the amount of traffic on this site has started to freak me out, but e-mail me if you want more information.
1. Television. Well, internet television since we don't really have a television-television. Weeds, Big Love, and ghost-hunter shows.
2. Chick-fil-a on my way to Tuesday night classes. (Guilty because I've been known to either entirely forget David's supper or leave him leftovers.)
3. Phish Food. (But, the milk fat is good for baby's brain development, right? I don't know what excuse I used before I had this one.)
4. Notebooks (because I have too many and a desire for more)
5. English pub glasses full of milk.
6. Letting Corduroy out on the porch when the lazy woman from up the street walks her children home from school and lets them pick the leaves off my rose bushes. Corduroy is an 80-pound monster who barks as if she'd gladly eat your face off, but won't leave the porch. Every time I do it they run up the street shrieking. This gives me pleasure that I justify by remembering that they shouldn't be allowed to pick rose-leaves. (Right? I mean come on.)
7. Seeing the weird things that people in my neighborhood do. Yesterday, I saw a man make sweet, sweet love to a fire hydrant. I also enjoy Mr. No Pants who loves to walk up the street in a tiny t-shirt sans pants and giggle maniacally when passers-by see the Full Monty. I realize this is deviant, and even dangerous behavior, but seriously. It's funny.
Is this the real price? Or is this just bankruptcy? Financial landslide! No escape from CNBC.
Open your eyes and look at BSC highs and see I'm now a poor goy. Mortgage Backed casualty Because i bought the high, watched it blow. Ratings high... value low. Any way the Fed goes does it really matter... too me.
I took Corduroy Dog for a walk the other day and passed a man, about the same age as my dad, loaning his cell phone to a woman on the street. She was probably my age, but she looked like she had at least twenty years on me. Her face was wrinkled. Some of her teeth were broken or blackened. She was as thin as anyone I've ever seen. I imagined that her bones could break through her skin. She wore the tell-tale signs of crystal meth use on her body like a garment. He was driving a Lexus. Shelby County tag. White laundered shirt and khaki pants. Braided belt and loafers with tassels. His white hair was coiffed and his nails were manicured. He had a thick gold watch on his wrist.
Corduroy Dog let out a long low snarl like she does when she knows something's wrong. The hair on her back stood at attention. And suddenly I knew what it was I was seeing.
When he saw me walking towards them, he grabbed his cell phone, jumped in the car and drove away. She pulled her hood over her face (it was warm outside) and hurriedly crossed the street. If shame has a spirit, I saw it that day. If shame has a voice, I heard it.
I gave him the finger as he drove away. And that was probably wrong. But it felt right.
Tonight, all through the city, in this neighborhood, women are selling themselves or being sold for drugs and money. Women who were born into vulnerable situations. Incestuous situations. Alcoholism. Neglect. And this is where they come to do what they do. And this is where the sexual predator finds them to victimize them for the thousandth time and then drive home to wife and children. He thinks he's better than her. He thinks he has a right to use her, to exploit her. His lust has made a prisoner of him.
I think of Jesus speaking to the prostitutes. The woman at the well. Women the world left on the dungheaps of society to die. Jesus cared for them. Jesus called them to travel with him and learn from him. He equated them with his male disciples as he allowed them to wash his feet, to sit and learn from him, to eat with him, to work with him. In a society where the distinctions between men and women were infinitely more pronounced than they are in modern America, Jesus broke the rules of orthodoxy to reach across gender lines and love trashed women. Jesus did.
Tonight in the city, women are trafficked like drugs. Women are forced into sexual slavery and prostitution. Here, in this city, tonight. Sexual trafficking isn't something that exists only in Southeast Asia or Latin America. Here. Tonight. This is happening.
Our churches are having meetings to decide who can be a deacon. What women are good for. When it's appropriate for women to speak in church. And somewhere, a woman is sold for her body. And I can't believe that Jesus approves of our priorities.
Today I am grateful for the tender new leaves on my rosebushes. I'm grateful for renewed stamina and energy. I'm grateful to be strong enough to engage my life and the lives of people around me. I'm grateful for the promise of a new life to care for. I'm grateful for the red pie-bald pony in a sunny green pasture that I pass on my way to school. He's fat and sleek and well-loved. I'm also grateful for the small herd of Black Angus cows that graze and ruminate contentedly in a sheltered pasture bordered on three sides by a clear stream, and for the man who brings them hay when it is cold.
And I am grateful, perhaps most of all, to have a church again. To be part of a church family again, to have a priest who likes me, to take communion again, to tithe again, and to worship God again. I've missed it in ways that I didn't even understand. I've wanted to write about this process of healing and forgiveness for a long time, but I never felt that I had all of the pieces of the puzzle. It's obvious, if you've read my recent posts which were in some ways even a surprise to me, that I have great reservations about the church and church leadership. I've considered coming here and really spelling that out. Really elucidating the whys and wherefores of that to make it plain and to spell out what happened and how I got damaged. And I don't think I'd be in the wrong for doing that. It might be cathartic. But now I realize that it just doesn't matter to me anymore. I've come to think of doing that as a chore more than a catharsis.
But this much I'll say: I got sold out and misappropriated by the leadership of my church. And it wasn't right and it wasn't justified and there isn't any way to soften it. I lost many of my friends. I had to leave my church family and my church community. And it felt like a death.
And in the years leading up to the decision to leave that church, I sinned by forgetting the most simple and fundamental elements of my faith. I forgot the means of grace exchanging them for license. I worshiped church and not God. I said and did things for which I am ashamed. And I am responsible. And there is no way to soften it.
But you see, I believe that God, in his desire to reach me with mercy despite the consequences to my personal comfort and security, routed my sin with the intention of delivering me from it. In this year I have learned something of God's sovereignty that I didn't know before. I've learned something of what it means to trust God and to hope for his deliverance. And I've learned something of the mystery of what it means to forgive.
Lent has brought me the crushing knowledge of my sin and the glorious realization of what it means to be forgiven. It's something I had a notion of before, but not to this degree. Lent has brought me a love of Scripture and an understanding of the importance of worship. Lent has brought me the understanding of my need for mercy and the courage to ask for it frequently.
Every Sunday in this season, we've sung a song about mercy and repeated from the liturgy what I've come to regard as a fundamental prayer for Christians: Lord, Have Mercy. Christ Have Mercy. Lord Have Mercy on me. Every week we sing it and every week I need it. At first, I said it for myself and wept. And then to that I added a prayer for mercy for those in my small congregation who need to be delivered from all kinds of sickness, pain and shadow and wept. And then last Sunday as I sang it, to my memory sprang the faces of the people who have wounded me and I prayed for mercy for them and for their church and for the wreckage of their vision. I prayed for mercy for those who I really wasn't sure I would be able to address civilly should I see them. I prayed for mercy, but it was God who gave me the desire for it. It was God allowing me to pray mercy for them and in turn, pray mercy for myself. It was one of the greatest turning points of my life.
I felt the Holy Spirit unshackle me from the chains of hurt and hostility. I felt that as I prayed for them, God was answering my cry for mercy for myself. This is enough, he seemed to say, this gets buried now. And I feel, for perhaps the first time in more than a year, peace. I feel free to leave it behind me and progress into the life he has planned for me and about which I am so excited. It's over. And I think that my writing is going to reflect that. I think that my dealing with other people is going to reflect that. I think that the way I worship God is going to reflect that. And I am grateful to be relieved of that burden. I will try to remember to run to Jesus for mercy frequently and with abandon because perhaps more than anything else, I have learned that grace prompts the asking, but mercy covers my flaws and rights my course.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. I Peter 5:10
*To the candidate who is Barack Obama I sing this song with all my soul He was born humble without pretension He began in the streets of Chicago Working to achieve a vision To protect the working people And bring us all together in this great nation Viva Obama! Viva Obama! Families united and safe and even with a health care plan Viva Obama! Viva Obama! A candidate fighting for our nation It doesn't matter if you're from San Antonio It doesn't matter if you're from Corpus Christi From Dallas, from the Valley, from Houston or from El Paso What matters is that we vote for Obama Because his struggle is also our struggle, and today we urgently need a change Let's unite with our great friend Viva Obama! Viva Obama! Families united and safe and even with a health care plan Viva Obama! Viva Obama! A candidate fighting for our nation
Something that I have enjoyed immensely about being married to my husband has been the opportunity to meet a few of the people he works with. They are some of the most unique and delightful individuals on the face of the planet. It seems like his would be a starched-shirt, Brooks Brothers suit kind of gig, but in reality the people who do the kind of work he does show up with the hems ripped out of their pants and mustard stains on their shirt. (I learned that they have to eat really fast 'cause having food or drink on the floor will get you a $200 fine.) But they've kind of got a "be casual, be smart, work hard" kind of attitude that I really appreciate. No pretense. (My husband, for the record, does not work with the hems ripped out of his pants and mustard on his shirt. Just for the record)
Anyway, I've learned so many cool words from both D. and from some of the people I've met. Words like "chubbed out." That might actually be a little profane, I'm not sure, but I sure do like to use it. You use it like "That position will get him all chubbed out." (Do you think that's dirty? Kind of sounds really dirty.) I've also started saying things like "Thanks a lot for #$&*ing nothing!" I got that from a guy who once said, after hearing an announcement from the Fed, "Thanks Bernanke, thanks a lot for #$&*ing nothing!" It amused me greatly. I say it often. They also have a tendency to send really really funny e-mails from which I benefit tremendously.
Here is a case in point from a guy who works for a firm you've heard of. I love it. Sing it to the tune of Sir Mixalot's epic masterpiece "baby got back." (If you don't know it, I can't believe I know you, but check the video below.)
I like Rate Cuts, i cannot deny! You other Dealers are scared to buy. And when my TradeWeb dings with no bids in place and Salesman in my face. I press "Done".... Then mark it back some!
Ohhhhhhhhhhhh! Deep in a hole I'm goin. My bonds they just keep on blowin.
Ohhhhhhhhh baby!, I just want a picture. Cause I'm sure gonna hit ya. My Risk Manager just started yellin, "Those bonds you bought... you best be sellin!" BID THAT BOND BACK!
I hesitate to write posts like this sometimes because when I feel so strongly about a particular issue, I use strong language. And I hate to do that knowing that some people who read this only know me from what I write here. I feel compelled to be level-headed, or, at least kind. Unlike many bloggers, I think you probably can know me (at least a little) from what I write here, but I don't want anyone to see the part of me I like least: my snarky anger. So, trying not to be angry or snarky and trying to proceed with humility, I'm going to write about something I care very very deeply about. You might disagree. And I'm ok with that.
This morning, I read Mandie's post about Mark Driscoll's sermons (if you don't know who Driscoll is, now is a good time to Google) and her reactions to them. I'm home today with a terrible virus graciously given to me no doubt, by some hygienically-challenged undergraduate, and so I had some time to watch one about birth control.
Now, despite what I think might be some shared ideas between us, I think Mark Driscoll is, well, kind of a likeable jerk. One Seattle blogger asserts that he actually expressed the desire to punch two elders in the face during a sermon. And while I can understand his desire put out the lights of the ordained, it's probably not too indicative of a great deal of wisdom or restraint to admit it in front of your congregation (assuming that he actually did). That being said, I see some things in his teaching on this matter that I respect. And some that make me uncomfortable to say the least. Perhaps I should start with those things in the "respect" column.
Mark Driscoll likes women, from what I can tell, and he requires a lot from the men in his congregation in the area of personal responsibility. He also gave the most technically accurate description of birth-control methods that I have ever heard any religious person give. This is quite important because I fully believe that most Americans know little to nothing about the birth control methods that they are actually using. And I think pastors/priest should have an opinion about these matters and maybe, if the Holy Spirit gives them the freedom to do so, they should express them to their congregations. He also smacked some "home-school legalists" in the face in a pretty bold way. And it was funny. And maybe useful.
But he also said something tremendously scary. In a lengthy diatribe about "idiot" husbands (one that lent considerable credibility to the Seattle blogger) he said that the elders of a church are a higher authority over a woman than her husband. Yikes. In the interest of personal disclosure, I'm not a traditional "submit to the man" kind of wife, but I'd certainly rather submit to my husband who knows me and who has a vested genetic stake in the welfare of my child(ren) than to an elder who doesn't much care what happens to me. (Can you tell this is kind of an issue for me? I admit it. It's a stone-bruise.) Frankly, my husband and I know that one of us can't be well-adjusted or happy if the other isn't. We're just a symbiotic system, I guess. So, my welfare is important to him as is his to me. That gives him some rights, I say. The idea of submitting to anyone over my husband (who I don't really submit to very well at all, actually) is frightening enough to me as to elicit quite an emotional response. Cause, at least my husband likes me. Almost all of the time.
The other thing about this sermon that bothered me was Mark Driscoll's obvious dislike for feminists. Now, feminism is about as broad a pool as the Atlantic Ocean and there are many many different branches of thought. Some are irritating and profoundly anti-man and family and some are not. I could write more about that, but I won't. Suffice it to say, I do consider myself to be a feminist. And I hope not the irritating kind. (I like both men and family quite a lot.) So, I think Mark Driscoll shouldn't be so quick to pour the sea into a Dixie cup. I shan't rant about that any further.
Finally, (wow, this is disjointed) I think about my own feelings about birth control. I'm not opposed. I can see some good reasons to hold off on the making of babies, but at the same time, the idea that a woman should take a pill to "chemically fix herself for sex without the requiring anything from the man" (as Frederica Matthews-Green* says, more-or-less) is icky. Our society wants us to think that it is a feminist action to control our own reproduction by disrupting a beautifully functional and healthy system of the body. But that idea has to be one of the most anti-woman notions of the past Century. No one is asking that of men, I notice, and I think it valid to ask why.
*Frederica Matthews-Green read my blog once and I've never gotten over the thrill.
Human beings do not perceive of things whole; we are not gods, but wounded creatures, cracked lenses, capable only of fractured perception. Partial beings, in all the senses of that phrase. Meaning is a shaky edifice we build out of scraps, dogmas, childhood injuries, newspaper articles, chance remarks, old films, small victories, people hated, people loved; perhaps it is because our sense of what is the case is constructed from such inadequate materials that we defend it so fiercely, even to death.
Rushdie, Salman. "Imaginary Homelands." The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. Eds. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, Helen Tiffin. London: Routledge Publishers, 2006. 428-434.
In this article, Rushdie writes about the fragmented identity of the British-Indian writer. He refers to our memories as the pieces of broken mirrors. Each piece is valuable, but they don't often make a unified whole. Over the past months, I've become aware of how fragmented my perception is, especially in terms of how I understand and interpret Scripture. My mind is small and incapable of sussing out all of the understatements and subtleties of Salman Rushdie's work. And that's something being that the sussing out the understatements and subtleties of literature is what I do the best. If this is true, I reason, how much more incapable of understanding Scripture am I? Surely, the Holy Spirit guides me and provides meaning, but to be frank, that's why I'm good at interpreting literature. The Holy Spirit enables me to do it. Why? I frankly have no idea. But he does. It must serve his purpose. How thrilling it is to know that God's purposes aren't always practical. Sometimes, he just goes for aesthetic pleasure. Amen.
But all that is beside the point. My point is that I still believe Scripture is God-breathed. But, I can't wrap my mind around it. Surely, I accept what must be my responsibility to try to learn and understand and apply, but at the end of the day, I'm just not able to do it completely. When I read T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, and especially when I try to teach it or explain it, I feel comfortable understanding something. Making meaning of something. However so small. It is understood that it really isn't possible to understand it as a whole. This is true of Scripture. To understand this and to try must be faith.
The application of all this to me is the undermining of spiritual pride. The idea that one individual, or group of individuals, can corner truth is the idea that prevents truth from being fully expressed in certain congregations. I shudder, for this reason, at the thought of ever again pledging to place myself under the discipline of a group of elders. I think doing this as an adult was a serious mistake on my part. I feel that I didn't, at that moment, understand that it is enough to submit myself in humility to all of my brothers and sisters as the scripture commands. I think to submit myself to a small group of men was idolatry. I really do. I am sorry that I did it. I am glad I could undo it. (This is such a hard issue for me. I don't pretend to fully understand what I think I'm figuring out. I just know that it feels really creepy and wrong. But then again, fractured memories and all that.)
Because, at the end of the day, our understanding of Scripture is subject to all of the abuses of which our fragmented minds can conceive. We see, as Paul said, dimly as in a mirror. How can we truly be in positions of leadership unless we are on our faces before God daily begging for mercy? Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy on me and on my priest who is worthy of my respect and who I believe to be called of you, but is at the end of the day, made of dust. Not many should presume to be leaders. Yet many do. Some things we can know. Yet many more remain hidden.
My prayer is that my confidence in Christ will be tempered with his humility and that I might speak the truth I know boldly, yet shrink from speaking my presumptions lightly.
You have two minutes to get off the crazy train before I come over and put a drumstick up your nose hole.
I'm trying to study over here.
**update: David reminds me that they have never once sold heroin out of their house. We have actually had neighbors to that, so I guess this isn't so bad. I'm feeling calm now. (Serenity NOW!) And you're not that stinkie, you're actually not so bad.
Last night, I dreamed that I saw my grandmother in a blackberry thicket. She was about 18 years old and was wearing jeans and a faded work shirt. She she showed me an enamel bowl full of thumb-sized blackberries. Everything, she said, is so delicious here. I called my sister this afternoon to tell her. (This is not the first time my grandmother has come to me in a dream.) She had a similar dream last night and my grandmother told her that she had to go to Jesus, but not to be sad.
I think this is God wanting to comfort us and let us know that our grandmother is safe in heaven and waiting for us. I love the idea of heaven being a place with thumb-sized blackberries and 18-year-old grandmothers in old clothes. (It's funny though, because my grandmother was beautiful and quite a clothes-horse.)
This morning, I remembered that if our baby is a girl, we're going to name her after my grandmother. Wonder if that is a sign. I am so excited to find out...
So, me and David and our good friend Jason "Boom Box" Harmon went to see the implosion of the Parliament House Hotel this morning at (yes really) 6:30. Here is a video taken by some people standing directly beside us. You can see "Boom Box" pretty well and you can see David and me crossing the street if you've got a really good eye.
So, when I got home, I found this on Obama's website. Which makes me feel better about Obama, but much much worse about his supporters.
(Except for you, Twilleys. And Judee. Well, maybe this just makes me feel worse about this dumb lady.)
"This is a volunteer office that is not in any way controlled by the Obama campaign. We were disappointed to see this picture because it is both offensive to many Cuban-Americans -- and Americans of all backgrounds -- and because it does not reflect Senator Obama’s views. Barack Obama has been very clear in putting forward a Cuba policy that is based on one principle: freedom for the Cuban people." -- Obama Campaign
This afternoon, I'm leaving for Savannah with David to present a piece I'm writing (I know. I'm STILL writing it) on the creative process of the writer for a workshop at the SWCA conference. I'm nervous. I'm worried that I'll make my team members look bad. I'm worried that I'll make my professor look bad.
I hope I can do a good job. God has to make this work. (And that's always what I say, and he always comes through.)
When I sit in the obstetrician's waiting room, I try not to make eye-contact with the other women. I don't, however, try to avoid eavesdropping on their conversations. I am always amazed at the great number of people some women bring to their appointments. Today, I saw a woman with her parents, her husband's parents, and her sister. I wouldn't have been a bit surprised if they had spread out a picnic basket and broken out a bucket of chicken and some Lone Star. I overheard another woman with a daughter in her twenties filling out paperwork. The mother had the clipboard on her lap and was asking her daughter questions like "When was the first day of your last cycle? What? You don't keep track of that? You should. You need to be able to answer that question. Make sure to tell her how irritable you've been and that you're constipated. When are you going to tell that boy about this?" I found this incredibly odd. If her mother had followed her around with that clipboard for her entire life, she probably wouldn't have found herself in the obstetrician's waiting room with her mother. (I'm just saying.)
People are weird. Pregnant women are weird. I think this is just how it works. I find myself getting weirder by the moment. I think this might be irreversible. Today, it took the obstetrician a few minutes to find the baby's heartbeat. In the past, she's found it pretty quickly, so I began to worry a little bit. Don't worry, she said. He's probably just a stubborn baby boy. And I thought, if David were a fetus, he would without a doubt hide from the thing trying to hear his heartbeat. And then I thought that this baby is going to be a carrier for both of our genes and I laughed out loud. I know he will come into the world with a personality of his own, bearing the mark of God in his own way, but he will also come into the world with Irish passion, German logic, and plenty of Weird. I imagine him floating around in his amniotic fluid, with his beard and his glasses, listening to his i-pod and reading the Wall Street Journal. Just a little longer until we can know if he is a boy or a girl. I'm excited.