Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011.01.26 Old is for Love

Damn, it’s hard to get old, even harder to admit you’re getting old and you can’t do it all like you used to.

When your kids were young you were afraid to drive and get lost, you terrorized them to be absolutely still, without a move or a word or a whimper even if they had to pee, while you found your way to your city destination.

Today you terrorize them without meaning to by forgetting to put the phone tightly back on the cradle so one of them thinks you’ve fallen, or worse dropped dead to the floor, and comes rushing over to find you smiling. What’s the matter, dear?

So darlings, it is time for you, and me, to be sensible. (Hate that word.) We’re powerless over our beloved aging flesh.

Let them help you as you once helped them even if it means changing you like a baby—the ultimate in intimate embarrassment. I did it once for my mother, both of us looking miserable, wan smiles, whispered thanks, and it’s okay Mom.

This generation swop is also the perfect imitation of the humility of God Herself when She came into our tissue paper flesh, loving enough to let us change, bathe, feed, swaddle, cradle, and in the end take Her down from the death bed cross, to bathe one more time, then anoint and kiss good bye.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

2011.01.23 Prayer to be christs in Christ

Many people I know, love, work with and care about are on the lip edge of great expectations, great hopes and great fears. This is true in church, nation, society, world.

Most will try hard, give all their smarts, energy and commitment to their visions, and still, much may not come to pass despite our best efforts, and so, we will suffer, surrender and trust Godde as Jesus did. We will be christs in Christ—or so I pray.



Oh Jesus, we wanted a rescuer and we got a lover.
We so wanted success and we got failure.
We wished and prayed and got smart and organized.
And still............................
We know many things will not work out, even with our best efforts.
Jesus, weep with us.
Be a Spirit of living failure in us.
Help us to fail with grace.
Help us to stop trying so hard, hurrying and scurrying,
clicking and forwarding.
Help us to let ourselves be loved, simply loved.
Help us to be you—whole heartedly you.

Bless to us the gift of humility
in our humiliations.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2011.01.17 Martin Luther King/Jonathan Myrick Daniels

Most everyone knows of Martin Luther King but few know of Jonathan Myrick Daniels. King, after much lobbying, has his day on the national calendar. Daniels has his place of honor on the Episcopal Church Calendar commemorating holy men and women. ( We don’t make saints.)

Daniels, 26, a seminarian at Episcopal Divinity School went in 1963 to Alabama to help King and others march for freedom. He went because of his Christian faith. King organized the movement because of his religious faith.

King was assassinated. Daniels was shot outside a store just after he and 16 year old Ruby Sales were released from jail for their activist activities. Daniels fell onto Ruby and took the bullet that took his life.

Religious faith has been under assault on and off for centuries. Religion is a set of beliefs, values, and practices that both holds us together and stretches us. Religion names and tries to follow the Divine mystery no one understands but many people experience and bear witness to all the same.

I have been reading a book called “In Defense of Faith. The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity” by David Brog, Executive Director of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) attorney and former chief of staff to Senator Arlen Specter.

I am not a fan of Brog's organization's pro-Israeli politics in relation to the Palestininan situation but I like the way he frames the struggle to create and insure a society in which the sanctity and equality of all humans is respected. I would hope he would include Palestinians under this umbrella rubric.

One of the baptismal promises in the Episcopal prayer book is to respect the dignity of all human beings. (I include the whole created order.) Daniels lost his life fulfilling that promise.

Belief in the sanctity of humanity and equality, or at least equivalence, of human beings is what Brog calls the Judeo-Christian idea, stemming from biblical wisdom and lying at the center of both religious traditions. (Not that such an idea isn’t a core value for all religious traditions.)

Religion and faith in God have been blamed for hatred, war and bloodshed. Brog chronicles history to disprove this accusation, and further to prove and document its opposite: the Judeo-Christian core value/idea has been responsible for leading the fight to save not destroy humanity.

The Christian influence, impetus and passion fueled the Civil Rights movement but that is only one example. Brog quotes James Reston writing in the New York Times, August 29, 1963 about the marches on D.C.in support of the Kennedy civil rights legislation.

IT IS NO GOOD WAITING FOR A POLITICAL REACTION IN CONGRESS, FOR IF THERE IS NO EFFECTIVE MORAL REACTION OUT IN THE COUNTRY, THERE WILL BE NO POLITICAL REACTION HERE.

THIS WHOLE MOVEMENT FOR EQUALITY IN AMERICAN LIFE WILL HAVE TO RETURN TO FIRST PRINCIPLES BEFORE IT WILL “OVERCOME” ANYTHING. AND AS MORAL PRINCIPLES PRECEDED AND INSPIRED POLITICAL PRINCIPLES IN THIS COUNTRY, AS THE CHURCH PRECEDED CONGRESS, SO THERE WILL HAVE TO BE A MORAL REVULSION TO THE HUMILIATION OF THE NEGRO BEFORE THERE CAN BE SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL RELIEF.


I find Reston's wisdom compelling today. Where and for whom is our moral revulsion being stoked? How, in King’s and Daniels’ memory, will we fulfill our religious creeds and moral ideals?

(Perhaps demand action to integrate immigrants, or the mentally ill? We all desire freedom and safety for all? And the Earth must breathe!)

Wake up religion. Time to tune in and step up. Time to cooperate with like-minded seculars for the common good.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2011.01.12 Redeeming the F Word?

What I said this morning as I looked out on mountains of snow was, “ Oh F..k, it’s beautiful!”

I first heard the offending word from a neighbor Doris Nichols, 11 to my 8. I asked her how to spell it. I went home to ask my mother what does f-u-c-k mean? She blanched, told me never to say it, and our discussion ended with me not knowing what it meant. Taboo.

The F word is more intense than my usual choices of spiritual lemons, those things that we condemn that God blesses without making lemonade. But this lemon has more zest than some, and more ambiguity. It makes some people curl lips, turn away, shudder, cringe noticeably, think the one who said it is a bad filthy person. It makes other laugh and feel as if they've really said how they really feel.

I suppose it has become a curse, a violent word, a hate word, frightening word, one associated with sex for violence not love. A profanity. Why?

No one really knows how this word got abused, though a billion theories abound. There’s even a town in German named F . . . and a book called F Book. Really! And it sells. What’s the lure?

People want to say this word though. It’s a forceful modifier, for good or ill. People want to say it so much they re-invent it and say “friggin’” or “freakin’”, just F., or #!@*! But everyone knows what word is there. And pay attention. Many laugh.

The dictionary, usually to be counted on for an unelaborated definition, simply says for noun and verb alike: the act of, or engaging in, sexual intercourse. Last I heard that was not taboo, or dirty.

So I wonder if, without losing its charisma, the f-word could regain respect if it’s returned to its proper meaning: the most powerful fleshly experience of love human beings can have together.

If used as invective it can be quite effective; if used for true love-making even more so.

(Don’t erase me from your click list, just color me a wry provocateur.)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2011.01.09 Best Practices

Even though, according to the latest research on good care, we can get ice cream or whatever whenever we want if we get alzheimic, the best practice for retarding brain aging is exercise. It's an incarnational practice aka Love-in-the-flesh.

Eating berries, taking all sorts of supplements, medications, crossword puzzles, even vegetarian/vegan diets, yes and all the alternatives are good— but exercise works on muscle, sinew, joint, blood pressure, heart, lung, digestive system. ALL of it stimulates brain to keep up so to speak. (See this week's Newsweek with cover of a floral-sprouting head on it.)

It's a duh!

The other practice with fairly high brain marks is meditation, or what Christians call contemplative prayer. Stop, sit down, shut up and gaze.

(Nicotine also works but not smoking it. They are experimenting with a nicotine patch. Who knew?) Maybe they'll come up with an alcohol patch to improve or stabilize moods.

I would include here the exercise involved in good thoughtful reflective stimulating and loving conversation—with listening in between talking. Also sleep. And I'd add creativity, and Love aka Godde-in-us or Christ. You know you don't have to be a Christian to be a christ, or divinity in earthly form.

I skipped community church today and just took a long contemplative introverted time for myself. It included sleeping in, stretching, prayer, reading, also mopping the floor and a sweet breakfast with the soon to be relic called a newspaper in paper form. And finally to the computer to write to friends and continue to create anew my own memoir story.

That's church in the company of the silent invisible saints—and Jesus.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011.01.05 Brenda Starr, Girl Reporter

On some Wednesdays I will let this blog have a little more length than the promised shortie post.
**********

One of my childhood heroes just died. Brenda Starr, Reporter has just been discontinued as a syndicated comic strip syndicated. She was born just two years after I was.

I remember reading the comic strip. I waited for it to appear on Sunday in full color and read it even before Dagwood, mostly because I didn’t think Blondie was a very strong or dramatic woman of power.

Brenda Starr had mounds of flaming red hair and an hour glass physique. She could be glamorous, shapely, sexy—and also smart, sassy, and assertive with her talents. She wanted to be treated like the men. She fought for her place in the newsroom dominated by male reporters, all thought to be more capable than a woman at deciding what news was and writing with accuracy and flare.

Brenda Starr wanted a desk, good assignments, and the same money for her work as male reporters. I was gaga and imagined myself, pencil behind my ear, notebook in hand, and carrying a large camera with an enormous flash to catch the action shots.

I’d always loved to write and kept little diaries under lock and key. Perhaps I one day hoped that my writing would be public, would be paid, would be read and loved.

It’s funny that the things that attract kids are often attached to their gifts, vocations even. I mean how many 14 year olds read the Bible from cover to cover? I was looking for dating advice and got more than I bargained for. But what was I really looking for that I didn’t quite admit? (If one of my kids had been so compulsive about reading a lengthy document she couldn’t understand I might have suggested therapy!)

Brenda Starr was less complex and it was easier to get a newspaper job than to get ordained. There were no Brenda Starr look-alikes aspiring to be priests in the late ‘70s.

My first post-domestic job was as a reporter on a local weekly. I started attending boring town meetings, the worst being the Planning and Zoning Commission—easements, wetlands, little drama.

My inner Brenda came alive when I got assigned to do features. I wrote about daring feats like hang gliding from a local mountain, taking pinch hitter flying lessons in a small prop plane, tubing down the rushing Farmington River. Of course to be authentic like Brenda I had to do all these things and get someone to photograph me leaping off cliffs, standing next to a small plane or glider, encircled by a huge inner tube ready to follow the river’s twists and, incidentally, get my ass bruised.

The most fun was soaring, soundless flight viewing the terrain from heights manageable enough so I could see tiny houses and cars. Thrilling. A chief ingredient of the experience was to trust the pilot while having no idea in the world how he would bring this giant white skybird safely down—not on top of a tree.

A little like having a God’s eye view and somehow trusting without fear. Brenda wouldn’t have been afraid, and it is completely beyond me why I wasn’t. She didn’t give up on her self and her cause despite passionate dalliances, divorce and a daughter to raise. Neither did I. I found God, got ordained, wrote two books of midrashim, and now am tenacious about publishing my memoir.

Rest in peace Brenda Starr, Woman Reporter. You are remembered. Your guts and brains live on.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011.01.02 Lost in God Like Silk

In 2011 I’m going to try the discipline of brevity: shorties—fewer words, many not my own, an idea here and there. A good enough good. It will be hard for a wordy last-wordy person like me, and I may fail. But failure at discipline is small offense compared to not trying at all.
* * * *

It’s Sunday, the day after the first day in a new year, 2011.

Today I went to church to worship God, because I’m sick of worshiping myself.

But today I sat with a small community, everyone there for different personal reasons, all to focus to catch grace, to fall into a power greater and deeper than themselves.

You have no idea how soothing it was to shed anxious self-concern, sink in a pile of words and music, smoke, bells and sweet communion. It all flowed over and through me like bathing in silk.

I hoped it would massage my cramped, critical soul. It did.