Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday

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.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

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. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bear Stearns Rhapsody

Another bond-market ballad from the Singing Trader (click here to see some of his other handiwork.)

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.

And the original:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Parental Advisory: This Post Contains Graphic Images

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.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Lesson For Lent

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

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

For Gene (Cause I'm voting for McCain, but I still like the song)

*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

*This translation is a little off.