Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Facebook Haggadah

Mazel tov!

The Facebook Haggadah

Doin' the DO: March 31

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him." Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." He said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped him. Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind." -- Gospel of John, the 10th chapter

The Gospel of John's story of the man born blind is one of my favorites; maybe because it speaks to anyone whose conversion to, or reconnection, with faith has resulted in abuse from the faith community itself. How many of us returnees, for instance, have ever in our darker moments wondered, And I came back to the Church for what, again?

I know that in my own faith life, whenever I lose a Christocentric focus and instead start paying too much attention to Christians, things go south for me. And that's when I inevitably feel that tap on the shoulder, and hear that reminder, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dog on the Run

How do two middle-aged broads keep up with the high- energy entertainment needs of an active young dog?

We have learned that keeping Miss Gertie happy and un-chewy means taking her out to run. We do this almost every day. And now that she has finally learned to come when called (call me stupid, but I credit her weekly date with Cesar Milan and The Dog Whisperer with clueing her in on what the humans want), these outings are fun, not frustrating.

One of Gertie's go-to places is the county recreational area near Cold Comfort Cottage. It provides her with numerous trails for running, natural obstacles for doggie steeplechase and wildlife for tracking.

Gerties' favorite workout area, though, is home to a different sort of resident: Gertie loves cemeteries -- so much so that we have to spell the word "cemetery" so she won't get too excited beforehand. She loves zig-zagging between and occasionally jumping over the headstones, then heading at breakneck speed for undeveloped sections, banking the curves around the field. (For any readers concerned about maintaining the sanctity of the cemetery...Gertie has an uncanny, untaught tendency to go off to some nearby open space away from the gravesites to do her doggy thing.)

If there are any unquiet spirits haunting these places, I like to think they enjoy this very lively blur of a dog leaping like a gazelle in their midst, so happy to be there with them.


One of the reasons I've not been blogging regularly has been a family kerfuffle starring Fellow Traveler's increasingly infirm aunt and uncle; those of you on Facebook know the story, and I won't bore those of you who aren't other than to say that we wound up spending the better part of the weekend attending to the situation, and have now passed that baton on to FT's cousins.

But before this whole thing happened...we went to Dow Gardens in Midland, to see the annual buttefly exhibit in the Conservatory. We hit it, I think, just the right week, when the most species were out and about; as soon as we opened the Conservatory door we were met with a rainbow of fluttering 'flies.

It wasn't until this morning that we reviewed our photos. We got some great shots, made possible by the sheer number of butterflies and all the lovely host flowers arranged in the conservatory for them. (I kept thinking, Butterfly rancher...what a great occupation to have.)
Any Michigan readers might consider making a trip to the gardens within the next three weeks while the butterflies are there.

We're Ready For the Final Four at Our House!

Doin' the DO: March 30

Reading Morning Prayer today I found the story of the man born blind, in the 9th chapter of John's Gospel, juxtaposed with Paul's comments on predestination in the 9th chapter of Romans.

I like Jesus' take on theodicy in the Gospel text -- which is less of an explanation than an invitation to be a part of God's redemptive, healing work in the world; in other words, instead of standing off to the side of a misfortune asking "Why?", be a part of the solution, as God's hands and heart in the world.

Paul, on the other hand...I've said before that if I ever met Paul at a church convention I'd probably scurry to the opposite side of the room as quickly as possible. He thinks too much and talks to much...and this is coming from the Mayor of Overthink, in a tradition that tends to place Paul on a special pedestal among the saints. The comment about the pot backsassing the potter, "Why did you make me this way?", certainly rings true to numerous conversations with the Almighty I've made over the years. But he should have stopped there. Who, other than an old-school Calvinist, wants to consider the possibility that s/he has been specifically preordained to be a disposable "object of wrath"? Damn, Spanky...that's harsh.

But it seems to be a sentiment shared with folks like Ted, a Southern Babdist antagonist on Beliefnet -- who usually lives down to my most pessimistic, Falwellesque broad-brush cariacature of that persuasion -- who loves, really loves, talking about how God is going to thump all the Bad Other People Over There. The other day he wrote this:

"No one is born a child of God it is something that is gained when we are born-again. When we receive the birth of the Spirit. You have apparently confused creating with parentage. God created all of the wild beasts of the field but He is not their Father. Peter even explains that those who refuse him are, in God's eyes, just like the wild beasts of the field...'But these men (those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority) are blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like brute beasts they too will perish.'

So, get the picture! All those who refuse God's offer of mercy, and it is mercy because all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory and therefore under the law deserve death, will be destroyed just like dogs and cats and birds and horses and elephants and rhinoceros and mice and squirrels and lions and jaguars and the list goes on and on. God made all of them, too, but He is not their Father. They were made for our pleasure and each has a purpose in God's creation, but they are not His children."

Of course, though, in Ted's theology Ted is God's child; one of the special ones. He couldn't possibly be an "object of wrath." Thumpers never include themselves among the number of the thumped.

Frankly, if this is how it goes I'd rather be in Ted's zoologically hyperbolic list of beasts. (Among other things it would mean not having to spend eternity listening to either Paul or Ted.) Even if God doesn't love me in this scenario, I'm still God's Useful Idiot; and you know we Lutherans, as Garrison Keillor points out, live to be useful.

Okay. I'm confused, and I'm pissed off. (Which may in fact be a sign of a successfully engaging encounter with Scripture.) If anyone has any insight into Paul's discourse on pottery and predestination that I am missing in my confusion and pissed-off-ness, please share!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

In the Garden

You can take the girl off the farm, but you can't take the farm out of the girl.

Spring is making a very tentative appearance here in mid-Michigan -- I'm watching sleet falling into the back yard as I write this -- and my thoughts are turning toward yard and garden.

Last weekend I put several straggly inherited weigela bushes on the south side of our house out of their misery and claimed the newly empty space for a rhubarb patch and new herb garden. I've since done some soil amendment and planted three "Victoria" rhubarb crowns at one end of the bed.

Rhubarb requires some significant space between plants. It also, the gardening books say, benefits from members of the onion and mint families; so I'm going to be intercropping with perennial scallions, and planting a patch of catnip for Mollie between the rhubarb and the rest of the herbs. Meanwhile, a knot of mixed sages and thymes I transplanted to a driveway-side flower bed at The Big House last fall (even before I knew I was going to sell Cold Comfort Cottage) have miraculously survived the winter, even after being run over by a snow plow blade, and will be moved to their new home shortly. (Alas, transplanted parsley and lavender did not fare as well.) We really do use our herb garden -- almost daily during the growing season -- so we are going to be generous in our plantings.

For some reason I'm taken with perennial vegetables this year, so in addition to the rhubarb and evergreen bunching onions I am going to plant Good King Henry, a perennial relative of spinach that has been used as a potherb in England for centuries. We don't have much of a spring to speak of in Michigan, and regular spinach just doesn't do well here, so we have to be creative with spinach-ish substitutes; it will be interesting to see how this vegetable, if the seeds take hold and I can baby the plants through a Michigan winter, will compare to New Zealand spinach, our more common, reliable spinach analog. Hmmm...should I try seakale? (Very iffy in our Zone 5 climate.) Skirret? Some other edible garden relic?

My other magnificent garden obsession this year is tomatoes. While I'm banking on boughten plants for most of my tomato harvest, I am trying to grow a few heirlooms and open-pollinated imports from seed: "Nepal"; "Purple Plum"; "Silvery Fir Tree." Russian and other Eastern European varieties are currently en vogue among heirloom tomato fans, which is great for those of us in the Upper Midwest because these tomatoes tend to be more cold tolerant and faster maturing -- and they're all kinds of cool shapes and colors.

Our plow guy, who's also our landscape guy, has been on vacation for two weeks, but he's due back this week, and we're going to have him rototill a vegetable garden for us. My criterion for choosing veggies and varieties for this garden-to-be has been to select things that we like to eat but that aren't easily/cheaply found in our local supermarkets or farm stands. I figure this will either be a lawn-defiling, time-sucking debacle or an excellent adventure resulting in produce that would make Alice Waters green -- rim shot! -- with envy. (And I will give a shout-out to two great seed companies, Fedco Seeds in Maine and Bountiful Gardens in California, that sell an awesome array of open-pollinated/heirloom seeds.)

And, in case this isn't enough to keep me busy in between my studies...Fellow Traveler has wanted a rock garden since forever. She originally pictured a sunny rock garden on the west side of our driveway...but thanks to previous homeowners we have an ugly raised azalea bed, complete with moribund azaleas, in a shadier part of the yard that I realized can be rehabbed into a rock garden spotlighting woodland species and maybe a few dwarf conifers. We also have some rocks in the woods around our home that I think can be fairly easily moved to a new home.

So that's what I'm doing on my summer vacation.

It's The End of the World As I Know It...And I Feel Fine

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

I couldn't help but read a little subjective, non-contextual meaning into this verse from today's Gospel lesson this week.

For one thing, I've started to plant some of my garden seeds indoors in flats: leeks and cutting celery and scallions. I'm worse than a kindergartener when it comes to starting seeds; it takes a great deal of fortitude for me to not fuss with the plantings as I impatiently wait for new life to sprout; to have faith in the process of burial and resurrection, when it comes to seeds.

That's one thing.

And then we were chatting after church Wednesday evening when one of our venerable "church ladies" told me, "I was just remarking the other day to someone how happy and relaxed you look since you've quit your job. You smile all the time now!"

This is about the fourth person, in different social contexts, who's told me the same thing. Which gave me pause; I didn't realize how pitiful my expression and even my posture were pre-quit.

But I can't tell you how much better I feel -- emotionally and even physically, as the natural rhythms of my body have gotten back in synch.

I'm also rediscovering my self-confidence as a competent adult; something that had been eroding daily at my job.

Fellow Traveler told me that I act like a freed hostage after a long time in captivity.

But it took "dying" as an employee of my former employer, to get me to this point. And at times I'm still antsy, although not in a frightened way, about getting to somewhere better, professionally and otherwise. Sometimes I have to remind myself to leave myself alone, in the same way I have to remind myself to leave my seeds alone in their flats.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Five: Blogarhythms

This week's RevGalBlogPals Friday Five is short and sweet -- name five blogs we visit regularly.

This gave me an opportunity to revisit my blogroll, which to my horror is so outdated that about two-thirds of the blogs listed have gone to the Great Host Up in the Sky.

File maintenance is not my strong suit.

Anyway...here are a few non-RevGal/Pal blogs that I do visit regularly. They're not particularly theological; just of interest to me.

101 Cookbooks . Healthy, interesting recipes.

La Vida Locavore . This where I get my food activist on.

Retro-Food . One of my favorite childhood pastimes was pouring over my mom's collection of cookbooks -- her "big green cookbook," her church cookbooks, her old Michigan Consolidated Gas Christmas cookbook and numerous little booklets she collected from various food and appliance manufacturers in the 50's and early 60's. This blog spotlights a lot of the recipes that recall the last half of the last century.

The Daily Dish . No, this isn't about food; it's Andrew Sullivan, Atlantic columnist, commenting on politics and society.

Crunchy Con Rod Dreher is like the anti-Andrew Sullivan. I find Dreher's "crunchy" posts, and those exploring his own experience as a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, intriguing reading; the "con" ones not so much. His obsession with/fear of all things gay, and tendency to cherry-pick news items featuring the most dysfunctional gay people in the world -- sort of like my finding particularly prurient stories of heterosexuals behaving badly and using them to bolster an argument that there's something seriously wrong with you straight folks -- drives me absolutely batshit crazy, and his sky-is-falling hysteria regarding the imminent fall of Western civilization has I think now achieved self-parody level; but if I had to spend eternity in a locked room with Dreher or with, say, Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh, I'd pick Dreher in a heartbeat. (If nothing else we could entertain one another with gardening advice.) And reading people with whom I disagree, and disagree strenuously, is a way of keeping myself honest.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Student

After various life interruptions, I've finally been able to begin my online webmastery course.

I wish I could say that this project has lit a spark of heretofore unknown technical aptitude or creativity in my soul. But I can't.

It's just damned difficult, made more so by the solitary, distance-learning context.

I have to really pep-talk myself into reading the text, which is about as dry as vaccuum-cleaner lint. The hands-on exercises are more interesting and rewarding, since they actually provide a visual confirmation if you're doing things right; but I've been having a hard time finding stuff, like visual enhancements for the practice webpages, in my downloaded class materials...many of which I'd actually failed to download, it turns out, because I missed a tab at the top of the Introduction to the Course page. Oops.

The watching-sausage-being-made phenomenon is also at work. I find that now, every time I surf new websites, my heart sinks as I think, My God -- how could anyone ever figure out all this coding?

Working in my favor, though, is my fierce hatred of not understanding things -- feeling stupid is an absolutely intolerable condition for me -- and the realization that this course has immediate practical applications, and the faster I can learn it the faster I can use it.

That's what I'm telling myself, anyway, sitting here about to embark on a do-over of my first assignment (see comment about failing to download needed materials), trying not to think about amending the soil of my new herb garden plot, making soup for the Lenten supper and shampooing the carpet.

The New Lutheran Study Bible

We got our copies of the new Augsburg Lutheran Study Bible this week.

I'm not discarding my New Interpreter's Bible anytime soon; but I think this study Bible is a great resource for laypeople who are afraid of the Bible or who need to be nudged out of a first-grade-Sunday-School-picture-book understanding of the Bible with helpful, easy-to-understand footnotes (which have been moved to a sidebar format, with icons indicating the type of information they're providing; kewl, especially for the Internet generations). The sidebars also provide regular questions for reflection/discussion.

I have to admit I've learned something already: that the venomous creatures starring in yesterday's Old Testament "snake on a stick" lesson are called by the same Hebrew name as the seraphim mentioned by, say, Isaiah. Which has updated my previous mental picture of vipers clinging to the extremities of writhing Israelites, to something approaching a Mini-Me version of the Aerofalos in Link's Crossbow Training.

Some of the reflection questions gave me pause. While flipping through the Pentateuch I saw a question relating to the Levitical prohibition against tattoos...something along the lines of, "What do you think this means for us today?" Maybe this is a result of suffering through many utterly appalling lay-led Bible studies, and I'm sure my spiritual father Dr. Luther would have his foot up my fanny for saying this, but...I don't have a lot of confidence in the discernment skills of the untutored, even with a good study Bible; think the "Follow the shoe!" scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian , or a congregation of cottonmouth-waving snake-handlers, for my honest opinion of what happens when you hand a loaded Bible to people with no context in which to understand the contents. I'm sure some will walk away from that particular question with the new conviction that tattoos are Of The Devil, because The Bible Tells Me So, and Why doesn't Pastor ever talk about things like this that we need to know? But that's just me.

But overall I find the Lutheran Study Bible very user-friendly, with a genuine potential for wooing the tentative into personal reading and group studies; worth the purchase price.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Five...and Another Friday Five

I present to you not only Friday Five, but Friday Ten...I'm doing a makeup Friday Five from last week:

This Friday's five questions first. RevGalPal Songbird writes:

My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. Song of Solomon 2:10-13

In the late, late winter, as the snow begins to recede here in Maine, we begin to look almost desperately for signs of spring, signs of hope that the weather has turned and a new day is on the horizon. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Easter and Spring twine inextricably, the crocuses and daffodils peeking through the Earth as we await the risen Christ.

Share with us five signs of hope that you can see today or have experienced in the past.

1. This week I witnessed the year's first turkey buzzard and first pair of sandhill cranes. Yeah, I know, a turkey buzzard doesn't seem like a sign of hope...but it's nice to see the annual return of all our migrant birds, even the relatively unlovely ones. (And vultures may be unlovely up close, but high in the air they are poetry in motion.)

2. The tulips around our backyard wishing well (the clever disguise built around our household wellhead)are just starting to peek above the ground.

3. I have experienced some really quality fellowship moments in our church over the last couple of weeks. Our Gaelic-speaking friends talk about the good craic of a gathering, when there's a kind of positive synergy happening; that's kind of what I was feeling. Our congregation has its ups and downs from year to year; I've lately felt a bit of "up" sharing supper and worship with our people.

4. Our house is -- slowly but steadily -- rising from the winter of chaos into a springtime of order and potential, as we tackle a room-by-room sorting/cleaning/integration of our household belongings.

5. Vocationwise, I'm also feeling the power of potential, after several weeks of detoxing...the excitement of learning new things, with a little positive restlessness thrown in, and a rediscovery of my intelligence and competence as an adult.

Makeup Round

From last week's Friday Five:

1. Did you give up, or take on, anything special for Lent this year?
I've taken on the daily discipline of the Daily Office, and gave up the "giving up." I've also made readjusting my attitude toward a frustratingly antagonistic individual a Lenten project.

2. Have you been able to stay with your original plans, or has life gotten in the way?
Yes; which is to say, I have been much more gentle with myself about seeing Lent as a journey, not a to-do list.

3. Has God had any surprising blessings for you during this Lent?
I am beginning to be better able to remind myself of the humanity of the aforementioned antagonist. I'm also happy to be reconnected to the practice of using a breviary, even in my admittedly casual way.

4. What is on your inner and/or outer agenda for the remainder of Lent and Holy Week?
If anything more, an internalizing of a daily fixed prayer practice, so that I "just do it" every day.

5. Where do you most long to see resurrection, in your life and/or in the world, this Easter?
Living as we do in an area of the country that has been "recessed" and "depressed" long before our current financial troubles, I would love to see not only a collective feeling of hope and new beginnings here, but also a change in individuals' and families' priorities as they learn to navigate in a new era. At the risk of falling into cliche', we have an opportunity to become either better or bitter; I hope that, like my parents' generation, we become better because of our shared experience.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

At Loose Ends

I'm getting ready to do my studying today...but first I have to decompress. I am absolutely verklempt because I can't find 1)my cell phone...again; and 2)a fairly significant piece of paper that, pre-aunt Marian's death and funeral, I was absolutely sure I'd put in a certain "safe" place.

I can't tell you how nuts this kind of thing makes me, and especially now that I don't have the busyness of an office job to blame for forgetting stuff.

Whenever something sudden and dramatic happens in my life, it's as if my brain short-circuits and a sector of my brain cells melts away. The same thing happens when my brain is working on a problem, and then I'm interrupted with a question or a noise or something else catches my attention -- the whole thing disappears. It's like being tased.

Frankly, I worry about what I'm going to be like when I'm 70 or 80.

We make fun of Gertie for her tiny, "Ooh -- shiny!" canine attention span, but I'm not that much better. Maybe I need to be like the Twin Peaks guy and constantly narrate my life into a recorder for future reference.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Doin' the DO: March 18: Bending the Knee of My Heart

From the Morning Prayer today, from the Prayer of Manassah:

O Lord and Ruler of the hosts of heaven,
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
and of all their righteous offspring:

You made the heavens and the earth,
with all their vast array.

All things quake with fear at your presence;
they tremble because of your power.

But your merciful promise is beyond all measure;
it surpasses all that our minds can fathom.

O Lord, you are full of compassion,
long-suffering, and abounding in mercy.

You hold back your hand;
you do not punish as we deserve.

In your great goodness, Lord,
you have promised forgiveness to sinners,
that they may repent of their sin and be saved.

And now, O Lord, I bend the knee of my heart,
and make my appeal, sure of your gracious goodness.

I love that phrase: "I bend the knee of my heart." It's the image of radical trust.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Dog Ate Our Vehicle Registration

That is what Fellow Traveler had to tell the sheriff's deputy who stopped us en route to the VA this morning.

FT has been feeling sick for at least a week -- sneezy, sniffly and very fatigued. On Thursday, she spent almost the entire day asleep. After rallying a bit over the weekend, she began suffering from severe abdominal and leg cramps yesterday -- a sign that her potassium level was down, which is an ongoing concern for ostomy patients because of their limited ability to absorb nutrients. After anxiously nursing FT through a couple of these spells with V-8 and Gatorade, I nag--- strongly encouraged her to call her primary care provider...whose office said to come in this morning.

FT was feeling better at daybreak but nonetheless followed up with the appointment. But she got a little lead-footed en route, and shortly after crossing the county line we saw flashing lights in the rear-view mirror. Uh-oh.

The deputy was very young and very polite, and didn't become impatient as FT nervously sputtered answers to his standard questions, and told him we were trying to get to a doctor's appointment at the VA. But then he asked for her license and registration.

"Oh, no," she moaned as he went to call in FT's license number and we both sifted through the glove box and stowaway compartment under the armrest. "I think Gertie ate the registration that time she pulled all the stuff out of the armrest. I don't think I remembered to get a replacement." Which appeared to be the case, because there was no registration anywhere.

So we had to tell the deputy that the dog ate our vehicle registration. Perhaps the presence of said dog in the back seat, surrounded by shredded toys, fast-food styrofoam and seat belts, convinced the cop that we were telling the truth. Or perhaps he gave us a pass for having the lamest excuse ever for not having proper documentation in a vehicle. But we did not get a ticket; just a -- um -- strong encouragement to get a replacement registration ASAP.

This was only the beginning, it turned out, of an Awful, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day at the VA. We arrived late (although I called FT's provider's office to let them know what was going on); we got stuck in the lab for almost a half-hour; we finally got to the appointment waiting room, where we had to wait some more...the provider was aghast that her office hadn't told her about FT's phone call and their last-minute appointment -- "If I'd known I would have had you go straight to the ER!" -- and then the lab informed FT's provider that they'd mislabeled her blood tests, and that she'd have to come downstairs and have blood drawn all over again. And that was before FT's provider gave her a drill-sergeant-worthy dressing-down for not seeking medical attention sooner.

FT, it turns out, has had a bout of flu, and the loss of fluids involved in that are what led to her potassium crash. She isn't contagious anymore, but her immune system is shot, and she has to stay at home for the next 10 days -- no dealings with the public, no being in crowds. She has to drink lots of fluids, particularly V-8.

"At least we know what's going on," I pointed out to the glum FT afterward...just as I'd pointed out to her earlier, "Not getting a speeding ticket was a gift."

"Yes, Polyanna," she mumbled affectionately.

But wait -- there's more!

Provider's warning aside, we were starving -- especially FT, who'd fasted in preparation for her blood test -- so we stopped for a burger on the way home. When we emerged from the restaurant an ominous white paper was stuck under our windshield wiper.

"You have got to be kidding me," groaned FT.

Turned out the township traffic cop had written her a ticket for parking in a handicapped parking spot. Which she is allowed to do, because she is a disabled vet, which the cop would have realized if he'd bothered to read the "Veteran" and "DV" on her license plate and do the math.

When we got home, FT promptly went to bed. Do you blame her?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spiritual Direction Connection

Well, it's taken...how many years since I started blogging?...but I may have a lead on a spiritual director.

I was surfing through the website of an Episcopal church in the general area when I noticed that it was offering spiritual direction appointments once a month. Hmmm, I thought.

I e-mailed the church. I got an e-mail back. I can reserve a slot for the beginning of next month.


Doin' the DO: March 15: General Observation

Rather than picking a lesson or other element of the Daily Office today, I'd rather make a general comment:

If Christianity is a multicolored quilt whose beauty as a whole is dependent upon the contribution of its component pieces, then the Anglican tradition should be praised for its wonderful contribution of the Book of Common Prayer.

And the folks behind The Online Daily Office need to be recognized for a wonderful help in the spiritual lives of many...certainly mine.

I love having ready access not only to the lessons of the day, but the rotation of prayers...prayers that I might want to pray, but that I might very well not bring to mind except for the petitions provided.

Praying the Daily Office is one of those practices that is so beneficial to me -- in ways that I can't even articulate really, other than to say that it puts me in a prayerful and peaceful mood throughout the day no matter what else might be happening -- I don't understand why I sometimes have to make myself do it; I suppose it's that old Pauline that-which-I-should-do-I-fail-to-do dynamic. But I'd strongly recommend to any readers who are having a hard time developing a prayer life around spontaneous prayer -- try fixed prayer; the Daily Office or any denominational equivalent. Just try it for a week or two and you'll see what I mean.

The Toughest Job

I wasn't going to go into too much detail over my Lenten discipline this year, but I'm going to break my own rule and tell on myself today.

One of my personal projects for the last couple of weeks has been to love a hater.

This person is a journalist. He is also a homophobe; he has an obsession with the issue of homosexuality that is out of all proportion to its importance as a topic of public discourse.

And this is too bad, because he's a good, intelligent writer, in the spirit of the old, Buckley-era National Review, which one would have to be to make me want to read a religious and political conservative on an ongoing basis. I read his blog and other writings, frankly, as a reality check to my progressive Weltanschauung.

But he feels compelled, every few days, to drop an H-bomb on his blog. It's usually some example of egregious, salacious gay or lesbian behavior, delivered with a tone of "See? See how they are?"

In the past I have called him out -- in a calm, reasoned way -- on his blog a couple of times. Others, even people sympathetic to his religous and political viewpoints, have also gently suggested to him that he has an unhealthy preoccupation with the issue of homosexuality To his credit, he didn't censor our posts. But I don't think he hears what we say.

So...this guy is my project for Lent. Not to change him; to change my reaction toward him. To try and understand him as something other than an enemy. To -- using the metaphors of his own religious tradition -- understand his behavior as an affliction, not a wilful transgression, and just another variant of the disease we all share as sinful human beings who have a hard time getting it right in our relationships with God and with one another.

What I'm finding is that it's fairly easy to reform one's thoughts regarding an entire group of people, because groups are largely abstractions. Individuals, not so much. It feels less like the happy-clappy Coke commercial about teaching the world to sing, and more like High Noon.

How do you love someone who, not knowing you, hates you? Who hates your partner and despises your relationship with one another? Who uses his position to promote scorn and revulsion toward you and other people like you? How do you give up the knee-jerk urge toward self-defensiveness and anger and "back at ya"?

How I'd love to retreat to a "safe" Lenten discipline like tinkering with my diet or throwing an extra prayer into the schedule.

But, for some reason, I feel called to live with my internal disquiet over this individual for the time being.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Minister of Food?

I had a bug put in my ear this past week that "someone" -- maybe someone with all sorts of free time, nudge-nudge, wink-wink -- would like to help coordinate a bulk food buying program a la Angel Food Ministries at our church.

Surprisingly, given my foodiness...I'm not so much interested in this. I can't get all worked up about Angel Food Ministries; I don't see that much of a savings for consumers, I don't care for its underlying theological subtext, and it's not a program that partners/helps local farmers and growers, something that is a compelling interest of mine. I know it's not all about me...but it's hard for me to promote food that we generally don't buy at our house. It's like saying, "Well, we enjoy fresh, organic, locally grown food at our place...but here's some bulk-ordered stuff from Food-R-Us for the rest of you people over there that I'm sure is good enough for you." Or maybe I'm being too scrupulous. But -- I don't see the wisdom of taking on a project that is only going to save people the kind of money they'd probably save simply by shopping more judiciously in their own hometown supermarkets, without improving upon the quality of food offered by same; know what I mean?

One of my church friends who loves to garden and can talked about having a canning/freezing day at church where the people who know how to do it can teach newbies how to preserve food themselves so they can buy fresh produce in bulk and save. I think this would be more up my alley. Or teaching people how to make meatless meals once in awhile, although I think my enrollment for such a class would be right around zero. I'd also be game to re-encourage our parish to share garden extras, excess eggs from the backyard chicken coop, and so on; that worked out pretty well last year although we did have problems with parishoners bringing in non-food junk for our giveaway table, and with one stereotypical bossy Church Lady telling another parishoner -- someone who I'm sure needs all the food help she can get -- that she was "taking too much" and needed to put some back. (Fellow Traveler overheard this conversation and, to her credit, went back to the second woman with the retrieved produce in hand and said, "Just take this. You know what you can use at your house.")

I don't know about becoming Minister of Food. I'm angsty enough thinking about my bread and soup contributions for our Lenten supper.

Dare I Ask the Question...

The blogosphere has recently fallen into a tizzy about a recent study finding Americans growing less religious.

My question: So what?

So there's less societal pressure to identify as a Christian or indeed as an adherent of any particular belief system. So people are more honest about their spiritual self-identification.

Why is the sky falling in some Christian circles?

Why is it that Christians who seem to derive an emotional benefit from their self-perceived marginalization and rejection by the dominant society are getting all upset to learn that, indeed, they're losing ground demographically? Maybe because, deep-deep down, they really want to kings and queens of the hill after all? D'ya think?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fight For Local/Sustainable Food!

(I cross-posted this on my food blog.)

Legislation alert for anyone who cares about locally, sustainably grown foods:

Two upcoming pieces of legislation threaten to put small-scale farmers and growers out of business and make consumers more dependent on Big Agribusiness for our food. (And we all know what a great success that's been...)

First of all: There is a move afoot to mandate what's called the NAIS, or National Animal Identification System, in order to better track the sale of livestock and the source for outbreaks of foodborne disease. NAIS would require all farmers to implant an ID chip in each animal -- this to the tune, I've been told, of over $100 per head. This would effectively put a lot of small and hobby farmers -- the kind of folks like my friend Farmer Ken who sells me beef and pork -- out of business. And it also fails to address the real root of danger in our food supply, to wit huge centralized factory farms and agribusiness processing plants.

Another scary piece of legislation out there is HR 875, the so-called Food Safety Modernization Act. This would require all farmers' markets and small-scale produce growers -- again, people like the local folks with roadside stands where we buy a lot of our fruits and veggies over the year -- to register with the government and be subject to countless fussbudgety regulations. Isn't it odd that the spouse of the Connecticut legislator who introduced this bill in the House is an executive with...Monsanto; and that it's supported by other Big Ag businesses.

There are very few issues that get folks on opposite sides of the political divide working together, but I think both crunchy-granola folks and libertarians who detest big government can find common ground in opposing this legislation.

Please, all of you who read either of my blogs: Contact your legislators and let them know that you are opposed to both these attempts to regulate small farmers/growers out of existence. (The fact that you're online now means that it just takes a few clicks to get to your legislators' webpages and zap them an e-mail expressing your concerns.) And let your friends know about these shenanigans going on in Congress. If you belong to a food coop, let your fellow coopers know. If you do business with local farm and garden stores, let the people there know. If you're on Facebook, there are Facebook groups opposed to both legislative proposals -- search them out, join and invite your Facebook friends to join. We need to support our farming and market gardening friends in the face of this attack -- for their sake but also for ours and for all consumers who genuinely care about food quality and food sustainability.

Holden Evening Prayer

We had a very nice Lenten supper and service last night at church.

We have a rotation of folks bringing soup, bread and dessert for a light meal. (As light as it gets in Lutheran circles, anyway.) We enjoyed the conversation around the table, which included some good-natured razzing of one of our confirmation-class kids who is suffering from a major crush on a lad (not present) named Nick.

After supper we moved to the sanctuary, where we worshipped following the Holden Evening Prayer liturgy. I enjoyed it very much, particularly in the context of living with the Daily Office for a couple of weeks now.

Sadly, counting the pastor there were only two males in attendance. We tend to have more gender equity in our congregation than in most, so this was especially discombobulating -- but the fact is, the fellows in our congregation who actually still have jobs are working longer hours, or farther away. But we still managed to draw almost 30 people, which is a healthy number for our Lenten worship.

Fellow Traveler enjoyed the service a lot as well. We're sorry we missed the first one, and plan to attend the next ones. We're also hostesses with the mostest for the last Lenten supper before Holy Week.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Doin' the DO: March 11: Righteousness and Honesty

Today's Online Morning Prayer can be found here .

Two thoughts as I prayed the Morning Prayer today:

First: In reading Psalm 72, it struck me how we have distorted the term "righteousness" over the years, turning it into a conceptually puny, largely self-serving chest-beating declaration of personal piety. Look at what the Psalmist has to say about righteousness -- about looking after the interests of the poor and needy, who have no one else to advocate on their behalf.

Second: The morning's texts, particularly the Old Testament and Epistle lessons, have been speaking to me about the importance of honesty and integrity in our relationships with God. The texts seem to say, "Just get real; just drop the pretense and acknowledge the ways in which you disrespect God and your neighbors." Or as my 12-Step friends might put it, first you have to admit you have a problem.

Skit-tish in Church

The recent seemingly random church shooting in Illinois is, of course, a sad and shocking thing.

Something that struck me as more than passing strange, though, were the comments by worshippers that, when the gunman started shooting, they initially thought they were witnessing a skit.


What sort of wacko church would stage a fake mass shooting as a skit?

Does anyone else find this expectation bizarre?

I know I live in a fairly tidy little Lutheran coccoon -- stand, sit, gather, send, "And also with you" -- but what do other people do in church, exactly?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Doin' the DO March 10: Signs and Wonders

Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, 'Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.' The official said to him, 'Sir, come down before my little boy dies.' Jesus said to him, 'Go; your son will live.' The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. -- John 4:46-50

I'm always intrigued by Gospel texts where Jesus comes off rather badly -- surly and impatient. I'm trying to wrap my head around this encounter. I don't know about you, but I'm with the dad here -- I mean, if it were my child you'd bet I'd be front and center trying to get Jesus' attention on behalf of my son. I want to say, "Hey, Jesus -- it's not about theology right now -- it's about saving this kid's life."

What do you think the author of John's Gospel had in mind by framing this encounter with Jesus in such a way?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Who's Intrinsically Disordered, Again?...

Let's see...if you're the mom of a nine-year-old who's repeatedly beaten and raped and becomes pregnant and you arrange an abortion to protect the life of the girl, you and the attending physicians are bad, but if you're the child-molestor/babydaddy, then not so much?

And these are the people telling me I'm "intrinsically disordered"?

Tanten and Tabbouleh

Fellow Traveler's aunts are the antithesis of stereotypically rigid elders who won't try anything new, who avoid the "foreign" and exotic. So when we picked up dinner for us all at Whole Foods in Ann Arbor Saturday evening we included some tabbouleh from the deli. We like tabbouleh a lot. And we figured if The Aunties didn't care for it, it would simply mean more for us.

Little did we know that our modest container of marinated bulgur wheat would become the hit of the weekend. "What is that called again? It's so good. It's so healthy. Where can we get some more -- do they only have it at Whole Foods?" They were thrilled to find out that tabbouleh is pretty widely available these days.

As we were packing up on Sunday afternoon Aunt A asked us, "Now, what was the name of that salad again?"

Here's my general recipe...as I noted on my food blog, I've been known to leave out the mint, or to improvise with dried mint to taste. A goal for my herb garden is to develop a big enough bed of parsley to become parsley self-sufficient for recipes like this.

1 cup bulgur
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
3 green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup olive oil

Place bulgur in bowl and cover with 2 cups boiling water. Soak for 30 minutes; drain and squeeze out excess water.
In a mixing bowl, combine the wheat, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, parsley, mint, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil. Toss and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Toss again prior to serving.

Save Dora!

This story just frosts me:

Mattel and Nickelodeon are planning to "update" the character of Dora the Explorer -- you know, that plucky, adventurous little gal who teaches kids geography and other stuff, or at least used to back in her beginnings in educational television -- to extend the brand's appeal into the tween years.

Apart from the flawed premise behind this idea -- What? No new kids are being born and entering into the Dora demographic? -- is the subtext that being smart and curious is okay for little girls, but once they grow out of toddlerhood they need to be sexed up and dumbed down in order to be "cool."

The only thing stupider than this attitude is that of parents who, lemminglike, buy into that, literally. And I'm sad to say that you see it a lot here in the hinterlands. I was in Ann Arbor this weekend, and it's interesting to note the sartorial differences between children in Whole Foods and children down the road here at the Stop and Shop. And it's not as if age-appropriate, classic kids' clothing is out of financial reach of parents here; I can go to the local dollar store and find decent clothing I'd dress a little kid in. No; on some level rural parents are choosing to dress their little girls like hookers in training. Any sociology grad students reading this who want to explore the issues of class, dress and gender attitudes in rural America, have at it.

Anyway...if you would rather that Dora the Explorer not be morphed into Sluttina the Tween Airhead, you can sign a petition here .

And after we've solved this problem we can attack the same corporate mentality that tries to turn smart, curious, adventurous little boys into dumb, lazy, disrespectful slugs whose asscrack-hugging jeans are perpetually glued to the sofa as they play antisocial video games. Watch out, Diego...R&D is coming after you next.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

I'm Baaaaack...

But I am so tired I can barely type.

As I suspected, spending the better part of two days with two lively 90-year-olds has left us all -- Gertie the Wonder Pup included -- barely conscious.

For an enjoyable no-cook supper tonight we had wine and cheese courtesy of Whole Foods in Ann Arbor -- a handful of cheeses from the "no-commitment" remainder bin and some chardonnay. (For any cheese fans out there, try asiago fresco -- that's baby asiago, before it turns into the hard cheese we grate onto salads and pasta; it's soft and sweet but very flavorful -- and a harder, earthier Alpine/Teutonic some'in some'in called Hirtenkase, which we liked a lot. We also tried a very soft, mild and nutty Brie-like cheese with a yellow-tinted rind...it was called, I think, Le Brun Daffnos, which I couldn't seem to Google...and a hard Italian cheese that was a bit like Parmesan but with a fuller, less sharp flavor.)

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we bid you all adieu as we collapse in the comfort of our own home.

Friday, March 06, 2009

DO Hiatus

Just a note that my daily off-the-cuff comments on the Daily Office will be put on hold over the weekend, while I go on an excellent adventure co-delivering Fellow Traveler's Aunt H downstate for an overnighter with her sister Aunt A. (She was the one who gave me a Christmas present this year with a little note attached saying, "May I be YOUR Aunt A too?") Aunt A hasn't had anyone stay at her house since the death of her husband. Aunt H had been thinking about this a lot, and how lonely it must be some nights for her sister, and suggested that we might like to have a big pajama party -- "just us girls."

Now, you may wonder what sort of pajama party one might experience with two nonagenarians. But I'll tell you -- these ladies will run us ragged. I have visions of FT and me snoring away in the living room while the two sisters keep going through the night like Energizer bunnies, catching up on family news and reminiscing about their childhoods.

Gertie will be accompanying us on this journey, as will Bear, Aunt H and Uncle P's little dog, just to add to the fun and games.

Anyway...LC will return in a day or two. Have a good weekend -- we think we will.

Doin' the DO March 6: Create in Me

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
-- from Psalm 51

Many years ago when I was, as my pastor likes to put it, out in the weeds -- after I had not only dropped out of church but had become antagonistic toward Christianity altogether, and thought myself entirely over the whole thing...this was one of the liturgical snippets from the old Lutheran Hymnal of my childhood that used to plague me. I'd be driving in my car, or drowsing off to sleep at night, or zoning out at work...when the music and words would just pop into my head, apropos of nothing.

Where did that come from? I thought irritably. Stop it.

But it didn't stop.

Nor did the Agnus Dei. Nor the Sanctus. Nor "This is the Feast" from the LBW.

Stop it, I kept telling myself. Just stop it. Right now.

I still chuckle when I think about it.

Friday Five: Puddinhead Edition

I love it when the RevGalBlogPals get their foodie on! This week's Friday Five is all about...pudding.

1)First of all, thumbs up? or thumbs down? Do you like pudding?
Jello Instant Pudding: Thumbs up.
Jello Cooked Pudding: In adulthood, thumbs up; in childhood, thumbs down...the pudding skin, beloved of some children, made me gag.
Canned/institutional pudding: Thumbs way down; nasty stuff.
Tapioca pudding: Thumbs up.
Rice pudding: Thumbs up if it is baked and if it does not contain raisins. (For any readers traveling through Cadillac, Michigan -- Herrmann's Deli and Bakery has the best baked rice pudding in the world -- it's solid enough to cut into squares, yet creates its own pool of creamy golden vanilla-cinnamon goodness as it sits on your plate. And no raisins.
Steamed puddings: Not so much...especially if they contain suet and/or dried fruit.
Indian pudding: Thumbs Up. (For those of you unfamiliar with this -- it's a Colonial-era baked pudding made with cornmeal, milk, eggs, molasses and spices, with a taste akin to pumpkin pie.
Bread Pudding: It depends on the recipe. Again, Herrmann's Deli makes some of the greatest bread pudding around -- it contains bits and pieces of all manner of their sweet baked goods as well as their breads, so with each bite you might be enjoying recycled croissant or muffin or cinnamon roll.
Long-extinct 1960's-era chemically laden packaged puddinglike substances, ranging from Shake-a-Puddin -- you poured water or milk in a cup of powder and literally shook the mess into pudding -- to Whip-n-Chill, to the magical Jello 1-2-3 layered dessert mix: Thumbs up, in memoriam.

2) Instant or cooked? (Does anyone make pudding from scratch?)
See above. Yes, I've made pudding from scratch -- I believe from the recipe in the old Laurel's Kitchen cookbook, back when I was young granola-crunching lass. As I recall it turned out pretty well, although my bemused, un-crunchy mother wondered aloud, "Why would you go through all that Klarrei when you can just buy a box of pudding?"

3) If you had to choose, would you prefer corn pudding or figgy pudding?
Corn pudding, hands (or spoon) down.

4) Have you ever finger painted with pudding?
Um...no...why do you ask?

5) Finally, what is the matter with Mary Jane?
Obviously she has been served rice pudding with raisins in it.

Bonus: Share a favorite recipe that includes pudding!
I will share not one but two. I can personally vouch for the yumminess of the tapioca pudding recipe, which is also tasty with chocolate added (amp up the sugar to taste if you add melted unsweetened chocolate). I myself prefer the separated-egg version of the recipe, where you make the actual base of the pudding with the egg yolks, then add the whipped egg whites to the mixture at the end to fluff things up. Now, I have never made the second recipe, kheer, but I enjoyed it many times at the now-defunct Indian restaurant where I used to go with my mom, and later with Fellow Traveler. Yes, there are raisins in the recipe; but they're golden. And the liquid nature of the pudding tends to send them to the bottom of the bowl, so those of us with equivocal feelings toward raisins can leave them there. You can find food-grade rosewater in the Middle Eastern section of large supermarkets or specialty food stores, or in either the food or health/beauty section of food cooperatives. It's a venerable food flavoring in both Eastern and Western cultures; it's what our great+ grannies used to put in cakes and puddings before vanilla became a pantry staple. And you can also do girlie health and beauty stuff with rosewater. Anyway:

Classic Tapioca Pudding


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Doin' the DO March 5: In a Grace Place

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.
The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever;
the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,
sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.
By them also is your servant enlightened,
and in keeping them there is great reward.
ho can tell how often he offends?
cleanse me from my secret faults.
Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me;
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.
-- from Psalm 19

This is one of my favorite Psalms, because to me it paints a picture of someone who is in a grace place -- who is in the zone, so to speak, of a living, honest relationship with God.

I know we Lutherans, because of our obsession with the tension between Law and Gospel, tend to get the heebie-jeebies whenever we read anything positive about the former. But the Psalmist here gets it right: when by grace we're in a right relationship with God and our neighbor -- which is what "the law of the Lord" is really all about -- it's a good thing. At the same time, the Psalmist is honest about his limitations -- not only his unintentional failings, but also and especially his "presumptuous sins." (Ouch.)

If I had to pick one Psalm to adjust my attitude for the beginning of each day, I think this might be it.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Stupid Christian Alert

My only comment: Oy veh.

Christian Salt Seller Hopes To Shake Up Market .

I Do Believe It's Getting Better...

Almost immediately after my Aunt Marian's funeral I came down with a bad chest cold -- bronchitis, even; heavy chest congestion, uncontrollable coughing, fever and general misery. I developed an annoying canker sore on my tongue; more evidence that my immune system was shot.

About two days into this latest episode of life drama I woke up on the sofa, where I'd exiled myself for the night, coughing...and felt a familiar twinge in my abdomen.

"Damn you, Aunt Flo!" I muttered, truding to the bathroom. "Of all the times to come around!"

The good news is: I'm feeling quite a bit better today, after some enforced rest by Fellow Traveler.

I don't want to get too cosmic about this, nor do I want to engage in TMI by enumerating all my various physical symptoms and changes over the last week. But it's as if I'm detoxing. In some strange way I feel as if my body let down its guard temporarily precisely to get all of the accumulated "ick" of anger and anxiety out of me. It's as if it's even oozing out of my pores. Something is being purged, and this is a positive thing.

It would be really interesting right now to have a shaman as a next-door neighbor. I think s/he'd tell me that something necessary and good was going on.

Doin' the DO: Righteous Indignation

I am filled with a burning rage,
because of the wicked who forsake your law -- Psalm 119

This struck me the wrong way this morning, perhaps after reading that article a few days ago about righteous indignation as a self-reinforcing addictive behavior.

I think maybe the world needs fewer people whipping themselves into a "burning rage" over the behavior of other people and more people who can become constructively and proactively indignant over their own unloving, unjust behaviors. I wish that were me. I don't wish I were the Psalmist going all Taliban over other people's perceived wrongdoing.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Canceled Due to Lack of Interest...

This is pretty sad: A couple of weeks ago I signed up for a course on Christian spiritual practices through the ELCA's Select Multimedia Resources. This was, in fact, a featured course in Select Multimedia Resources' marketing of late.

I just got the notification that class was being cancelled due to lack of interest and that my money would be refunded.

This is the second time I've signed up for this class, and the second time it's been cancelled due to lack of participants.

Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm wrong to think that Lutheran spirituality should encompass more than Christ in Our Home and "Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest" intoned over the Sunday pot roast.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Doin' the DO March 2: Defend Us

Defend us, your humble servants, in all assault of our enemies...

-- from the Book of Common Prayer

When my paternal grandmother was having a very bad day, she was known to exclaim, in Low German, "Come here, Devil! I'll take you by the neck and choke you!"

I'm sure it sounded more impressive in the original. And even though my grandma would have had to strain to reach five feet in height, she was a strong and scrappy lady, and I think had Old Scratch shown up in a puff of sulfurous smoke at her frustrated invocation, he would have had a real fight on his hands.

This morning, as I embark upon The First Day of The Rest of My Life while laboring under the wheezy heaviness of bronchitis, I am feeling angry...and impatient...and contentious. Kind of like Grandma P. But my perceived locus of control is shifting back and forth -- at one moment I am ready to visit my outrage over my illness upon the "devil" of bronchitis with an arsenal of medicine, Vitamin C and positive thinking, and in the next minute I'm whiny and contrite and placating: "I'm sorry if I brought this on myself, God -- please make me well."

It's that old "Life is difficult" thing again.

I know it's politically correct these days to like verbal bellicosity and war metaphor in our Godtalk, but frankly this morning I needed to invoke God's protection against the "assault of my enemies" -- even viral ones; even whatever psychological ones sent my immune system into the tank.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Doin' the DO March 1: Life is Hard

Remember the long way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. The clothes on your back did not wear out and your feet did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a parent disciplines a child so the LORD your God disciplines you. Therefore keep the commandments of the LORD your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him. -- from the Book of Deuteronomy

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. -- from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians

I remember opening up M. Scott Peck's book The Road Less Traveled, when it first came out. The very first sentence of the book: "Life is difficult."

To which one might say, "Well...duh."

Life is difficult. And what both Old Testament and Epistle lessons in the Morning Prayer seem to be saying to me this morning is that the difficult places -- times when we have no control of our circumstances, when we're in want, when we lack power or insight -- are where God shows up.