Monday, May 30, 2011

2011.05.30 Time to Remember (Memorial Day)

I remember summers on the farm in Ancramdale NY.

On the farm I learned everything I ever needed to know about life, death, love, terror and courage.

I saw a horse birthing a colt, feet first. I saw a surgeon slash open one of a cow’s four stomachs, heard the blood splash onto the concrete floor, smelled the stink of gastric air that rushed out, cringed as the gloved arm of the surgeon plunged in and pulled out a piece of hardware the cow had swallowed. God knew how. The cow ate during the procedure.

I rode my pony bareback into the swimming hole, buried my face in his mane and felt safe as large water rats sluiced by. My friend and I on our ponies herded the cows back to the barn to be milked each evening. One cow was missing. We found her and had to watch her sink to her death in quick mud, the last bellow, the last reach of one nostril snatching at life as it disappeared—while we stood by helpless.

There were rats in the old farmhouse. We stuffed old newspapers into their large holes. Rats once chewed the flesh off a baby. The father a farmhand caught as many rats as he could and burned them alive nose down on a hot stove burner. He had to hear them scream like his baby had before she died.

Even sex. The bull mounted the cow and hopped around while she bellowed—then she resumed eating. My mother told me it was the way they made babies, that she and Daddy did that too, and that it was the most beautiful thing two people could do. There’s only so much a six year old’s imagination can bear.

I learned the freedom of wind in my hair, dirt on my face, and bare feet pounding and toughening on dirt roads. I learned that cornfields whisper and, like Godde, hold all secrets sacred.

Once I watched my father, along with Farmer Kurt and another hand, herd a raging bull onto the back of a truck using pitchforks. It wasn’t enough protection. What if the bull killed my Daddy? I knew what bulls could do. My father was city not country. This wasn’t something he knew about. I saw the fear creep into his eyes. But he stuck it out. He did his brave part. I was proud of him.

What I remember most though was how much I loved him for his answer to my question, “Daddy were you afraid?” He said, “Yes I was, my darling.” Then he hugged me and planted a kiss on my forehead. My Daddy, so brave and so scared all at once. A hero.

Isn’t that what Memorial Day is all about?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

2011.05.25 Death of God?

Godde doesn’t die but ideas about Godde do. They come and go according not to whim but to the particular spiritual needs of the times.

The Godde spelling is an example. It came about because Christian women, feminists and libbers and just plain confident blossoming women, cared deeply about being known and valued as women. They saw themselves as comprising half of the divine image.

The divine name in English, God, sounded harsh, was always attached to masculine pronouns, and needed a tweak. So they started a tradition of spelling the divine name GODDE. It is open-ended and has a soft sound. I like it.

That sounds as if Godde is a change artist? In a way, yes.

Godde is simply and always loving and desiring to be known by those who desire to be equally known, known to the roots of your sweet soul. Why wouldn’t Godde want to be known in ways people in each age can understand?

According to the late great writer Grace Paley: “Change is a fact of God. From this no one is excused.”

Not even Godde!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

2011.05.22 Close to Nature in the City

It’s odd that we live closer to nature now that we live in the city than we did in the burbs. In fact we are embedded in the beauty of nature, close enough to practically reach out the window and touch the heavy blossoms on the trees or grab a squirrel‘s tail as she skitters along on a nearby branch, or breathe scents as we fall asleep, or watch the day by day construction of a robin’s nest.I feel wrapped and sheltered.

I actually saw two robins doing it, or what I imagined to be it. They flew by upright beak to beak wings slapping the air and keeping them both steady, suspended in love. Amazing. A kiss in flight.

Bluejays it seems don’t stop to love or linger much. They are swoopers who light, give me the eye and swoop off.

Chipmunks are scarce and shy. They zoom.

And on clear nights we can say goodnight moon to Her Majesty. I feel as secure as the millions of children who like that book read to them nightly as I close my eyes and fall safe into Godde’s great womb, murmuring thanks as I drop.

Am I getting sentimental in my old age or is this kind of appreciation part of the territory, a gift?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

2011.05.18 Covenant Daughter

I know a wondrous girl who is smart and clear-minded. She will be a good business woman some day. She is already a daughter of the God who makes covenants agreements with faithful people to establish and assure the steadfastness of mutual promises of faith and grace.

After meeting the man her divorced mother had been dating for the first time she told her mother that she liked this man.

Later she summoned her mother to her room to announce that she had made a contract.

Her mother asked what for and the girl replied that it was a contract with the new man.

The contract read: “If you break my Mommy’s heart I will break yours.”

This girl has a voice with heart.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

2011.05.15 Paradoxical Metaphor from Biology

2011.05.15 Paradoxical Metaphor from Biology

We have so many wars we don’t know what to do with them all. Worse than old Mother Hubbard!

The latest is the war on infections, a bacteriological war, a “good” war. Still, I wonder if germs will ever befriend their destroyers or if we will ever accept death as part of ongoing life.

Don’t misunderstand me. I fear infection and bacteria and impotent anti-biotics, too. And I want to live healthy for as long as I can.

In the May 12 Boston Globe I read about “persisters.” Persisters are “bacteria that evade medications by slipping into a zombielike state, then mysteriously reawaken to cause new infections.” (Carolyn Y. Johnson, A1) Know any people or groups like this?

What awakens persisters of the bacteriological kind? Sugar. Imagine!

But in people a degree of tenacity and persistence is a good thing. It’s all in how you persist and for what? Life lived is risky.

The strategy of “persisters” is to play dead and evade the good guy anitbiotics’ detection. Clever indeed. Persisters don’t fight they just dissociate. This is how some children survive in families. They are good and quiet; they escape notice and maybe a blow or a slap or a curse. Clever—for a time.

The paradoxical metaphor is the more asleep you make yourself the more you miss— of BOTH good and evil.

I know a woman who lived dying like a clam until bacteria awakened her to illness and she came alive, discovered people loved her, chose life, then died quite alive.

Awakened, you could come out of your coma and face possible danger; or you could stay alert enough to see life in whatever tiny manifestation it might present itself. And choose it.

Which I believe is what God, according to the biblical deuteronomist, had in mind with this wisdom: “See! I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life... that you may live.”

Would that we could choose life for everyone, even bacterial types. We might perhaps have chosen to put a dent in our American persistence and brought Osama bin Laden to trial and justice instead of death.

Impossible vision? Persist in it anyway.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

2011.05.11 How Good Godly Was Good Friday?

Haven Kimmel in her memoir, A Girl Named Zippy. Growing Up Small in Moorleland, Indiana, writes with the illuminating candor of a young girl child with an independence of spirit and a love of life that challenge and humbles the overly intellectual or anxious about naked human feelings.

Here’s what she as a child of about 8-10 has to say about Jesus:

“I wanted him to be my boyfriend. My feelings about Jesus didn’t alarm me at all, because it appeared that everyone around me was flat-out in love with him, and who wouldn’t be? He was good with animals, he loved his mother, and he wasn’t afraid of blind people. I didn’t buy the bit about his terrible death and resurrection for a minute. I knew, beyond any room for doubt, that nothing in the world is both alive and dead. And this was the thing I most wanted to say in church: if you want him to be alive, you’ve got to stop hanging him on that cross.”

Is it a word of wisdom to Christians who obsess with the cross? Is it too much Protestantism as some would say? Or is it just a kid wondering?

Myself, I think the Episcopal Church strikes the right balance between life and death in its liturgies, provided of course we get rid of the atonement idea that someone up there sent someone down here to die in order to assure us we are embraced in God’s love.

Where there is real love there is always some sacrifice for its sake, is always sacrifice, and that truth inspires. But to set it up as a demand, requirement, or guarantee of divine grace forever?

For me? No thanks. Not for my boyfriend Jesus.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

2011.05.05 Another "Happy" Ending?

Today is el Cinco de May, May 5th, when in 1862 Mexicans in the Battle of Puebla defended themselves and defeated mighty French forces. A David and Goliath story. A day to commemorate unexpected reversals.

That is hardly the case in the Bin Laden death. I make no defense of terrorists or their tactics which seem to me to be insanely desperate, but ................ we are Goliath, for gods sake, not David!

I was disturbed to see front page photos of Americans waving flags and cheering about the death of Osama bin Laden, terrorism master mind.

The President spoke of justice. I understand the idea but for me it makes no sense in the face of so much tragedy.

People imagine this a happy ending?

I am a Christian;I do not cheer for anyone’s death. The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel tells us that God “desires the death of no one.”

As a Christian too I know that death is an opening to new life.

Osama has been a source of great fear in this country post- 9/11 but I feel cautious about too much hoopla of joy or relief. The apparent victory could encourage more resolve in terrorists, inflame their religious culture that honors martyrdom. The passion to serve God by being a martyr is not an impossible outcome of too much cheering too soon. Hardly a “happy ending.”

A Muslim woman, originally from Pakistan, Naila Baloch, spoke wisdom at our recent clergy conference. Naila is one of a group of Muslims who pray their Friday noonday prayers at the Episcopal cathedral in Boston.

She said, “Osama is more a symbol than a person. We have lived in collective fear for a long time. I hope we can start to feel safe again, that this death will be the symbolic death of our fear.”

I pray and hope so.

May we refrain from a lot of ill-timed celebration. Instead let’s breathe fresh spring air and befriend our Muslim neighbors.

Let’s talk, get to know and understand each other, pray together.

It’s all the same to Godde and Allah.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

2011.05. 04 Royal Happy Ending

It’s paradoxical that the governmental phenomenon we Americans overthrew for independence is now for many a glittery attraction provoking comments like “We don’t have anything like this in this country.”

I refer of course to our fascination with all things British, especially what is royal and especially what advertises hopes for happily ever after.

There’s nothing like a royal wedding to get our glands going. In the USA we celebrate celebrity divorces. Not as sexy.

People seem to be filled with exuberance, perhaps we long with all our hearts for happy endings.

Or perhaps the high spirit is wanting to make up for Princess Di’s tragic early death, the last princess? No wait!.....there is one more.

The Christian idea of resurrection identifies Godde as the provider of happy endingsm especially ones that are happily ever after.

I put my trust in that and also go gaga over the royal pomp, glamor, and promised bliss.